Wednesday, May 9, 2007


A local chicken owner contacted me the other day with some surplus chicks. She had ordered the requisite 25 from a hatchery, but was limited by Madison’s local ordinance to four hens. So she was willing to part with the extras.

Chicks are shipped in batches of not less than 25 because that number maintains the warmth they need to survive the trip. Newly hatched chicks are the best to ship, because they do not need food or water for the first 24 hours. They are still absorbing nutrients from their gestation, so they tolerate the shipping process without much disruption or mortality.

This chicken owner was getting started with Buckeyes, an impressive American breed named for its color and its origin in Ohio, the Buckeye state. Their feathers are a rich, deep chestnut. The limitations of electronic reproduction can’t do justice to the color in this excellent photo, taken by Corallina Breuer. Make it a point to seek out Buckeyes at the next show you attend and appreciate their color.

One friend adopted four of the chicks, hoping that his broody Cochin would take them on as her own. She started out a bit chilly, but the chicks were following her around. Slipping babies under the wing of a sleeping hen after dark can help the hen and chicks bond.

One can’t help but think about how miraculous such an event must be for a maternal hen. No setting required, here’s your family!

Another contact reminisced about the chickens he helped his mother raise back when he was a pre-schooler, in 1926-27. “I recall how proud the old hen was as she led her new brood across the yard,” he wrote.

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