About six weeks ago a box of tiny, fluffy, cheeping chicks arrived; 19 in all, although only seven stayed. Friends went in on the order with us, and our choice of breeds caused some confusion. Of the seven chicks Cherisse and I ordered, four were Plymouth Barred Rocks. The coloring on their fuzzy little bodies was identical to our friends’ four Dominiques. We looked up descriptions of the chicks to find identifying marks, only to discover there was no discernable difference. I emailed My Pet Chicken, where we’d placed the order, and learned that the sole variation (at this early age) was in the comb. Dominiques have a rose comb (which does not denote color, but rather the look, which is broader and flatter). Plymouth Rocks have a single comb, which creates a ridge and has bumps.
All 19 chicks stayed with us for the first 24 hours, which was helpful because even in that short time they changed rapidly. When the time for sorting came, we picked them up one by one and stared at their little faces, trying to decide which combs had ridges and which were flat. Some chicks we put back in the kiddie wading pool we had set up in the laundry room as their temporary quarters. Others went into a box for the drive to their new home.
Now, more than six weeks later, the chicks have grown considerably, with beautiful feathers replacing the fluff. We got three out of four right—I am fairly certain we have one Dominique in the mix. However we have grown attached to her and agreed with our friends we wouldn’t make switches. The chicks moved first to a “halfway” house in the daytime and back to the laundry room at night. Now they are in the chicken coop, although segregated from the older chickens. They can all see each other, but we won’t integrate the flock until the chicks are much bigger. Hopefully this gradual process will ease the final transition. The big chicks have stopped laying for the most part—perhaps the heat, or the proximity of the new chicks have disturbed their routine. The number of eggs had already slowed to about one a day, so clearly it was time to add some younger layers to the flock.
From the beginning we wanted to handle these chicks more, so they would be accustomed to our picking them up. They still squawk a bit, but they don’t really mind, and they like it when we scratch their chests. We’ll be a little disappointed when they are “grown up” and we no longer have to pick them up on a daily basis to move them between their indoor coop and outdoor run.