Thursday, July 23, 2009

Black Stars - 3 months old

The 5 Black Stars are now nearly 3 months old and hard at work ridding my gardens of bugs, scratching and aerating the soil, providing lots of compost, mowing the lawn and sometimes driving me up the wall. All feather out now, they can be distinguished from one another as they have different manifestations of their parents genes. Three, mostly show the black of the barred cross parent with some neck and chest bling; two display a contrast with lots of NH Red feathering.

With the approval of another Virgo, I named three of the blacks for a favorite childhood poem by Eugene Field [1850-1895] - Wynken, Blynken and Nod. You can hear a beautiful rendition of this here: my choice. or read it here:

The other two with lots of bling, are named Twinkle and Comet. These two stand out from the others as the golden red on their chests is continued into their backs, edging their feathers with gilt so they appear more bronze than black.

Here they are sitting on their favorite outdoor resting place - an old plastic cart that I rescued from the landfill to carry garden stuff in. As you see, they have other plans for it. On your left from back to front are Comet and Wynkum. On your right from back to front are Blynkum, Nod and Twinkle. One of these days the sun will shine and I can get a good pic of the bling that outlines the back feathers of Twinkle and Comet.

The chicks outgrew their brooder in about a month so I transferred them to the hen house with the brooder light set up in one corner that they could run under if they got cold. Then as the weather got warmer, I made an lane from their door to the lawn. Fenced the lane and a portion of the lawn as a corral, with the temp fence I use - you've doubtless seen the stuff around construction sites. It's a plastic mesh and with 5' long, half inch bamboo poles, I could set up a fence in about 10 minutes.

When chicks had chewed that grass up, the fence was moved to another area. After 2 months the temp fence came down and they got most of the whole backyard and were chasing down bugs in one of the gardens with gusto. They also enjoyed dirt baths and it turned out that they are communal bathers. In this photo there are really 5 chickens here, all scratching at the dirt and ruffling it through their feathers.

Mostly, they go everywhere as a flock but sometimes one breaks away and shortly afterwards it starts a game of Marco Polo. Lone chick makes a croaking sound then pauses to listen for the peep peeps answer. Lone chick then runs to the others.

We have had one scary encounter with a neighborhood cat who jumped the fence and scattered the chickens in all directions. Chickens are not silent when frightened - they voice their displeasure loudly and so I was out of the house in time to see the cat going after one of the chicks. The cat saw me and left the yard in a hurry, then I looked for the chick which had flown over the gate and was now in the front yard hedge.

It took some convincing that I was one of the good guys but finally I was able to capture the chick who turned out to be Winkym. She calmed down as I stroked her soft velvet-like feathers and we went looking for the other four that had hidden in the back. They soon showed themselves and everyone got together for an after fright discussion while I tried to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

Until the next report, here are a few facts about free range chicken eggs: Grass and insects can make up about 20% of a chicken's diet during the growing season.

Eggs from free range poultry have been found to have as much as...
●4 to 6 times as much vitamin D; 1/3 less cholesterol , ¼ less saturated fat , 2/3 more vitamin A

● 2 times more omega3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E , 7 times more beta carotene

...compared to supermarket eggs from hens raised in isolation.