Monday, February 06, 2006

It's a Girl - I Hope

Saturday we drove to Pajaro to purchase a couple of Rhode Island Reds. The chick sexer is correct about 90% of the time, so we hope we have two female chicks.

We made a brooding box for them in the sauna and placed lightbulbs over their box to keep them warm.

They were hatched in New Mexico on February 1st and shortly after breaking out of their shell, a "sexer" forces an evacuation of their bowels and pulls their "vent" (nice word for rectum) wide open to figure out if they are male or female.

After surviving that sort of rough treatment, they are placed in cardboard boxes and mailed to stores or individuals. (I just learned about this procedure, this weekend.)

You might think this is rough treatment for a newborn animal, but these chicks were lucky because if they were headed for a factory farm, their beaks would have been cut off, they'd be pumped full of antibiotics and placed in stacked cages where (if placed near the bottom) they'd soon be covered in the feces of chickens in upper cages. After about a year of being manipulated to produce a maximum number of eggs, they are burned out and discarded.

Our two chicks were placed in a box for the ride home, but we got delayed along the way by a sick seagull. The gull was limping around on a sidewalk so I got out of the car and tried to approach the bird, but it stayed just out of reach. It's beak was open and it could spread its wings, but didn't fly away. Unable to catch the bird, I called an animal rescue service to come and pick it up.

By the time we finally got our "girls" home, they were very thirsty and hungry and a little chilled. I had sheltered them with my hand during most of the ride, trying to keep them warm, but by today, one of them wasn't feeling well.

I read web sites and called people until I found someone who recommended that I change their diet for a couple of days. They're now eating something called "chicken scratch" and I think the sick one is going to survive.

Overnight, their wing feathers seemed to grow about a quarter of an inch. Is that possible? Maybe it's my imagination.

Rob has them eating out of his hand and they run to us when we put our hands in their brooding box.

Today they are 5 days old and very cute. One has dark marks by her eyes which reminds me of the make-up worn by ancient Egyptians so I named her Isis. The other one, the sick one, is very vocal so I'm considering calling her Gabby. Also in contention is the name "Lady Di" ("Di is for the major symptom of her illness which required that I bathe her nether regions.)

I'm enjoying my role as chicken farmer, could you tell?