Last Thursday the phone rang at 6 a.m. It was the Oronoco Post Office letting us know our chicks had arrived - could we please come and get them?
We had ordered 50 Freedom Rangers and 15 French Guineas from J.M. Hatchery in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Both breeds are part of Label Rouge, a French program that approves heritage breeds raised in traditional farming methods and which are supposed to have exceptional taste. We learned about these chickens from our friend Judy, who heard about them on "The Splendid Table." (I don't know why they are called "Freedom Rangers" - perhaps that name was applied when they started calling French fries "freedom fries"?)
Guinea fowl chicks are called keets. We only want a pair because they are supposed to be excellent at reducing the tick population -- our dogs have had way too many ticks this year. A couple of our chicken customers have inquired about purchasing guinea hens (for dinner) and the minimum order is 15 keets, so we plan to sell or eat the rest.
As I was readying the chicken coop the new chicks, Cadence headed to the barn to milk LaFonda. She heard peeping inside and discovered a suprise batch of chicks! One of our Buff Orpington hens had secreted a nest in a dark corner of the barn. Ultimately, nine chicks hatched. The hen scarcely moved for three days, calling the exploring chicks to snuggle under her puffed out feathers whenever we approached, and purring happily.
This morning, Mom led her chicks outside to learn how to scratch around the compost pile for bugs and goodies. We rescued one runty little chick, much smaller than the others and unable to keep up and put him in the infirmary - a big box in my office that has been housing another runty keet and three mail order chicks who had been picked on by the others. He keeps trying to snuggle under the other chicks. He is so tiny and still not eating, so I don't know if he will make it.
Other new hens and chicks on the farm include this plant I bought at a neighbor's garage sale and planted in a dish garden
and this clay chicken planter I found at Salvation Army. I filled it with pansies from my friend Cindy.