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New Year, New Chicks

February 1, 2011

So, it has been almost a month since I’ve posted! And a lot has happened in the last month! For one, Jason and I ate our way through a vacation to Beijing and Shanghai with W. 115th St friends Kathy and Raymond (that will have to be another post). But right now, I am utterly consumed in one thing: peeps.

Yesterday morning at 9am, my cell phone rang.

“Hello, is this Harrigan Bowman?”

“Yes, this is she…”

“Well, I’m here at the post office and your chickens are here! They’re waiting for you!”


It hit me. The chickens are here! A couple of months ago, in addition to our current meat chickens that we are raising, Jason and I ordered a selection of heritage breed chicks to be our egg-laying ladies from Murray McMurray Hatchery. They arrived in a little box marked “LIVE BABY CHICKS – PLEASE RUSH.” Rush what? Rush onto the cross-country flight? Rush on the delivery to the post office? Rush from my house to pick them up? I assume yes, yes and yes, but especially rush to pick them up. And of course, that would be the moment that I would get the car stuck in the snow in the driveway. 20 minutes later after trying to dig out (or, depending on how you want to see it, painting my driveway with nice holes dug from my screeching tires–I’m an artist in every respect!) I finally had to call Jason to come get me out. And off to the post office I RUSHED.

Peeps reading the Post


Right now, as I sit in the afternoon sun and the glare of the bright snow, 26 chicks peep, chatter, and scanter around a  box under a red heat lamp in the living room. Wile lies faithfully by, as he has from the first moment I put the peeping box in his seat in the car. (Wile, it seems, has found his purpose in life. This is a running joke between Jason and I, because when we first got him, we took him to the 2010 National Sheepdog Trials here in VA. A woman attending the event who was also a trainer and, ahem, a Border Collie snob approached us, barking at us about Wile’s leash, and demanded, “What is his purpose?” Baffled, knowing full well what she wanted to hear, I responded, “To be a dog.” This was not the answer she was looking for, but rather, “To herd sheep, to help patrol geese, to assist the elderly…” If Wile were all of those things at that time and more, including a mamma-figure to 26 peeps like he is today, I think I still would have said the same thing…”to be a dog.” For what else is more satisfying?)

Wile examining the peep who jumped out of the box to stand in front of the fan on the heater

32 little ones were shipped, 31 arrived alive, 29 were alive by the late afternoon, and after a hard long night, 26 are still with us. Such is the life of a delicate, tiny little chick. She must fight to survive. Even now there are two, the smallest in the bunch, who just don’t have the fight in them. But I’m determined, until they fully leave this world, to fight for them, holding them up and spooning a mush of baby chick feed with water and sugar into their little open beaks.

Depending on who survived, we have some combination of 6 breeds, including the following:



Araucaunas: The “Easter Egg Chicken”, This unusual breed gets its name from the Indian tribe of Chile where they were first discovered. Araucanas lay beautiful colored eggs of blue-green shades from turquoise to deep olive.

Red Star


Red Stars and Black Stars: These are both brown egg layers in the “sex-linked” category. A “sex-link” chicken is one, which at time of hatch, can be sexed by its color. Murray McMurray Hatchery considers both these breeds among their best and heartiest egg layers, laying large brown eggs. They have also turned out to be the heartiest chicks–we haven’t lost one yet!


Columbian Wyandottes

Columbian Wyandotte: These are an unusual and attractive variety. They have the same deep, well rounded bodies and close set comb of all Wyandottes, and are of medium size. Appearance is handsome with white bodies, and contrasting neck, tail, and wing plumage which are black with silvery white edging. The hens make excellent setters and mothers. This variety was first exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and got their name in that way.



Silver Spangled Hamburgs


Silver Spangled Hamburgs: These are one of the snappiest, most alert breeds on the poultry list. Of rather small size, with light but sweeping, graceful outlines, they are elegant and beautiful. They have a kind of bright cheerfulness about them when foraging over open range and they love this kind of situation. Their origin goes back beyond the memory of man in both England and Holland and they were such prolific layers of white eggs that a common name for them was “the Dutch Everyday Layer.” The lustrous greenish black spangles on silvery white plumage give them a perky polkadot look.


Egyptian Fayoumis

Egyptian Fayoumis: These small, active, lovely chickens have been raised along the Nile River in Egypt for centuries, and even though quite common there, are practically unknown in this country. We got our start of this very rare breed from one of the state universities whose poultry department was using them for special studies in genetics. No other breed matures quite so quickly as these do and the young pullets are apt to start laying their small tinted white eggs at 4 to 4-1/2 months while the cockerels will start to crow at an unbelievable 5 to 6 weeks. They are attractively marked with silvery white hackle and white bars on black background throughout the body plumage. Leg color can be either willow green or slate blue.



Of all 26 of our little striving birds, one has turned out to be quite the little pecker. For whatever reason, she delights in continually pecking at her sisters’ eyes! Since the moment she was loose in the box she has done it. Remove her for a time and put her back in, and she’s back at it immediately! So…our solution. We gave her to Wile. Wile is now the sole proprietor of one Little B***ch. (Her name is too inappropriate to put in writing… If you’d like, you can think of her as Little Bird). Little brat that she is, she spends the day in front of her own little heater on the floor, being guarded, loved, poked and prodded by Wile. Although I give Wile the occasional, “GENTLE” reminder with a harsh tone, to my utter surprise I am secure to walk away and leave the two of them alone with complete trust. Here she is with her little debonair head thrown in the air in front of her personal heater. Can you say high maintenance?

Little B's Private Suite and Heater - Here she is reading the Times; too good for the Post, I suppose..

Wile and Little B Chillin

Where Wile goes, Little B. often tries to follow. What has become hilarious is how after figuring out that Wile was in fact, alive, Little B marched up to him and began to poke him in the eye! Wile is a towering giant compared to Little B., and yet she has no fear. Wile, unafraid of such a tiny beak, just closes one eye and continues to lay on the floor while his furry life’s purpose pecks away.

Wile Introducing Little B to his Crate


The adventures of chicks begin. I assume it’s going to be another tumultuous night for the weakest ones, as we continue to try to force feed them mush and water. And the saga of Little B. continues. Will she wisen up her ways and learn to live in peaceful community with her sisters of all colors? Or will she continue to ostracize herself by hurting others? I suppose we’ll have to see. Last night she was happily snuggled up against Jason and I as we watched Grey’s Anatomy. Maybe it’s all a well thought-out plot…


Wile and Little B. in the kitchen

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