Sunday, 24 July 2011

Introducing Betty & Brick

We'd had our chicks for just under a week when we noticed their fluffy yellow & brown down was being interrupted by emerging feathers on their wings, apparently the first place they start to grow.

It seems on some breeds you can determine gender from either the length or growth rate of primary and secondary wing feathers but I don't know to what breeds this applies or whether my information is totally accurate.  

There are a few ways to attempt to determine chick gender, aswell as feather sexing there is vent sexing (looking at their bottoms in some detail) which has to be done when the chicks are a day old and needs an expert to do it; so that was me out!  Then there's the 'sex-link' chicks where males and females are different colours - even I could work that one out! But my chicks weren't one of these breeds so it seemed a waiting game would ensue. This would prove to become a daily examination of any new tell-tale pointers.

At this point they had also acquired names.  Not an easy task for I am terrible at choosing names; I can never decide and there's usually weekly changes during the first few months.  We decided on Betty for the yellow chick & Brick for the brown one.  Betty was named after Betty Page, not an obvious choice for a chicken but a heroine of mine and also a suitable 'old lady' name for a clucky, old hen.  Brick - not a usual name for a chicken or in fact anything except an item of building construction. However,  anyone familiar with the TV programme The Middle will be fully aware of 'Brick'.  The character and our chicken shared similar traits and the name seemed to suit.  Everyone was happy with the names, at least for the time being.

                                   Betty & Brick 

Some further investigation clarified the breed of our chicks.  Apparently, they are Pekin bantams, their feathery bloomers helped in that particular minefield.
Here is a bit of information about the breed, not mine obviously as there is far too much accurate information.

'Pekin bantams are a true bantam, a breed of miniature chicken which has no large fowl counterpart,(also known as erroneously Cochin bantams, although in the UK Cochin bantams are simply miniaturised versions of large Cochin) are round, and their carriage tilts forward, with the head slightly closer to the ground than their elaborate tail feathers. This 'tilt' is a key characteristic of the Pekin bantam. They have sometimes been described as looking like little walking teacosies, or feathery footballs. The cockerels often have longer feathers that protrude outwards from their feet. The range of Pekin colours is extensive, including black, white, buff, lavender, mottled and red - and the list is continually growing. Rarer colours are in great demand, and many breeders spend years perfecting new lines of colours in their birds.
Pekin Bantams are very docile, and with careful and regular handling they will be happy to sit on their owner's lap to be stroked and petted. They make ideal pets for families with younger children for this reason. However, the Pekin bantam cockerels can still be aggressive and defensive of their territory and mates once they reach sexual maturity, but are generally gentle natured and have been known to share incubation of the eggs.
The hens are regularly broody and are known to be good sitters and attentive mothers.'

Pekin cockerel and hen

'Broody' (we've all heard the term used) in chickens involves a fluffy, grumpy hen sat unbudgingly on a nest with an overwhelming desire to hatch a batch of eggs and simply refusing to do anything else.  This can last for weeks if fertile eggs are not supplied or there are methods to break the broodiness and return the hen to normality...looking forward to that then!

Seven days of chick-handling have had positive results.  Betty & Brick are seemingly pleased to see us and enjoy our company.  They like to sit on our laps and enjoy a cuddle but they especially like sitting on the highest point possible.  If the head is out of reach then they will make do with a shoulder, parrot style.

They also like to run around the lounge, a large amount of running and flapping of little wings married with lots of cheeping heralds the first minute of freedom from the brooder.  They do get tired very quickly and will just stop in the middle of some chick activity and fall asleep just like that.  They can be just stood there doing something and then their head is on the floor and they're asleep propped up.  The first few times they do this is very unsettling to a new chick keeper, your first instinct is that something terminal has happened to them, like the first time you find them asleep, sprawled out on the floor in the brooder.  As my husband pointed out rather accurately after his first heart stopping encounter, "They look like roadkill".

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