There are six LHF chicks working the land around the house. Their brooding momma hen returned to her coop by choice after flying out of the chick enclosure enough times to get her point across; these chicks are old enough to fend for themselves. Chicks from Leafhopper have happened once before, with an intensional brood in the coop under a buff orpington (a well known brooding breed). That clutch only had three baby chicks survive, including Alexander, out current rooster. The other clutch hatched that year was a complete surprise from an Americana hen who flew the coop and laid her eggs in hiding, till I found her sitting on a next of 10 babes and several other crushed or partially hatched eggs beneath the overcrowded nest.
This year’s clutch of eggs was fully intensional, and now has a small flock of 6 young birds with wonderful diversity of color and breed, which reflects the adult laying flock and our current bard-rock cross rooster. You can see three of the chicks are bard-rock, while two are more Americana and the red chick in the foreground is defiantly a Rhode Island Red mix.
All five of these chicks are alert, good scratchers (meaning they will be great foragers and bug eaters), and seem easy enough to handle thus far. Today as I was working on apple processing, I could hear cheeping much louder and consistent than normal, and knew something was wrong in the chick coop. Rounding the corner, I watched a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk pop out of the coop and up into the nearest grove of trees. The chicks were running all over the pen, screaming for dear life. I grabbed a second tarp and completely covered the coop to keep out the ambitious young accipiter (bird eating hawk).
I made sure no chick was injured and counted my blessings. The hawk got no one. I sat with the babes until they returned to normal scavenging and pecking, which did not take long. It’s great to see these young birds foraging and hunting through the grass, eagerly fighting with one another for the best catch. I’m still waiting to see what these little birds grow into, hens or roosters. The mystery is ok, as learning their individual personalities and breed related foraging tactics keeps my learning sharp as i observe and note what kinds of chickens are the best fit for Leafhopper Farm.
Egg diversity is important, as the more color range in a carton I sell, the more intrigued and appreciative my clients tend to be. Diversity of genetics in the flock is good, and multi breed also works well for that goal, but consistency of temper and handleability ranges greatly, and Americanas are the worst and tolerating sociability. However, they lay the special “blue” eggs which add a lot of color to the egg mix. They are also the most wild, which is a blessing and curse. They want to go nest out in the bushes, making it hard to gather their eggs. I’m hoping that with more handling and greater attention to nesting box design, I can coax these hens to stay in the coop and become more agreeable to people.