Are those chicks ugly?

Hi guys! Two things today, and two things only: First, I need to ask your opinion about something very important. And: I’ve got a pretty astounding chicken-feeding technique that is going to thrill you to pieces. So let’s proceed, shall we? I’ll try not to waver off of this path. Two things. That’s all. πŸ™‚ Short and sweet.

First: Two really cool things happened in the chicken yard this spring: First, there was the spring chick surprise. It’s pretty neat, after all, to have a mama hen show up with 7 chicks one morning, when you didn’t even know that she was sitting on eggs (someplace very cleverly hidden), wouldn’t you agree? And that’s just what Lulu, our white Ameracauna hen did one morning a few weeks ago. I wrote about it, remember? Here’s a picture ofΒ  Lulu and her chicks the day she presented them to the world:


Mama Lulu is just puffed up with pride, and I don’t blame her a bit! Check out those cute little orange feet!

The chicks are growing up too quickly, as chicks are wont to do. Bryan made a casual comment the other night at the dinner table. You know, one of those casual comments made, which is followed by a quick glance to the hearer’s face, in this case–mine. He wondered: what would my reaction be? Yup. You know what I’m talking about. And my answering comment caused him to–well, not to gasp (he’s not the gasping sort)–but at least to open his eyes wide in surprise.

(For the record. I am the gasping sort*. As everybody who knows me, knows. More accurately, the involuntary gasping sort. Which comes in not-at-all-handy when I’m in the car and Bryan is driving, for example, and I remember something annoying but not exactly life-or-deathish, like, for example, I forgot to bring the graham crackers for Sunday School class. I gasp. Of course I gasp. Involuntarily (key word). Bryan jerks and swerves and nearly goes into cardiac arrest, and pulls the vehicle over to the side of the road, turning to face me, veins popping out on his neck. . . sweat pouring down the sides of his face, hair wild and standing on end, and he says, shaking and trembling all over, “What? What?? What’s wrong??!” and at this point I am feeling a bit awkward about gasping. May I remind you, Gentle Reader, that my good husband and I have been married for . . . well, about a hundred years, I think. I’ve lost count. A long time. Forever. Yet I still gasp. And he still reacts violently. *sigh*)

Anyhoo. We were eating dinner. Here’s how the convo went:

Bryan: (cautiously) “Those new chicks of yours . . . they are pretty weird-looking . . . a tad odd . . . ”

me: (blithely) “Uh-hmm. You’re right. I agree. A bit strange, indeed.”

Bryan:Β  (eyes open wide in surprise) “What I mean is,” (emboldened by my assent) “I think they’re kind of . . . ugly.” (Here’s where the nervous, sudden glance at my face occurs. Is he in trouble for this frank assessment of something that I hold very dear, that is, babies in general but in this case my chicken babies?) (I don’t gasp involuntarily at this, just a note.)

me: (chewing on this) “Yup. They are pretty ugly, you’re right.”

Bryan: (coughing–sputtering–gasping–) “Are you serious? I thought you’d say ‘oh they are so cuuute,’ and you’re agreeing with me instead?”

me: (unruffled) “They’re not the prettiest chicks I’ve ever seen, that much is true. I’ve noticed that they are, in fact, a bit plain.”

Bryan was so astonished by thisΒ  conversation, that he didn’t say another word for a solid 5 minutes. Possibly, 6.

And that’s something.Β (The following sentence is meant for you, Gentle Readers, and you alone: nearly all of my children are very talented in the talking-constantly-department, and they didn’t get that gift from me, if you know what I mean.) Now, returning to your previously scheduled programming . . .

Hi honey. I love you. *smooch*


I went out, afterwards, to take a better look at the chicks, to ascertain just why Bryan thought they were so homely, and why (not at all me-like) I agreed with him, for heaven’s sake. AND I took my camera with the telephoto lens along, to take some pictures. I felt just a smidgen guilty, after all, in casting a negative light on these little mavericks. I smile every time I see them, after all. And that’s something, too. It’s really quite wonderful, that something so casual and small and lively and unexpected, can lighten a person’s day so effortlessly, don’t you think?

Those little chicks just fill my bucket, do you know what I mean? When I go outside and see that dock weed that I still haven’t cut down, and the GMO corn being sprayed all around our place, and the dead little trees that got poisoned from something the farmer put on his treeline, and the not-telling-how-many* tomato cages that I still need to put up before my tomatoes droop and break, my bucket gets emptied. But then I see those chicks racing through the long grass, all bent over and moving so quickly on their dear little orange legs, and my bucket gets refilled. Especially if our big old black lab, Ollie, is sitting there watching them. Or if little Mack is giggling and laughing anywhere near.

And those little chicks, ugly or not, are the positive.

By the way: Why, oh why, doesn’t the poison that the farmer-next-door sprays so liberally about, just kill the dock weed, instead of things that I care about? For pete’s sake. πŸ™

After a thorough looksee at the chicks, this is what I decided: Bryan, I lied. Those chicks are actually pretty cute. They’re not ugly at all.Β  πŸ˜‰

See for yourself.

See? Nothing ugly here.

See? Nothing ugly here. “Where’d Mama go this time?”

And see, even from the side and back: Cute–cute–cute.


Check out those dainty orange feet. And aren’t they adorable from the backside? I think they are having a quick chick meeting here.



Β So sweet. You can see the silver laced Wyandotte papa in this one. So CUTE.

And this is, quite possibly, even cuter: whenever our goose, Lucy, can swing it, she hangs out with Lulu and the chicks. When Lulu takes off after a flying bug or something, Lucy stays behind to watch the chicks. I think she fancies herself the favored auntie, or perhaps the nanny of the family. Lulu is certainly a blessed mama hen in this regard.

Gosh, I could have used a faithful nanny to watch over the babies for a few minutes now and then, when I had several in the house at one time. You know?


Lucy, the maiden auntie, with her preferred peeps. This, I believe, you could call a “blended family.”

Okay. So, enough of that. But I do want your opinion, my Gentle Reader: are those chicks ugly, in your opinion? Or are they kind of cute, after all? You can voice your opinion in the comments below, and thank you, in advance. I’m pretty confident that you’ll see it my way. But don’t be afraid to disagree with me. I won’t hold it against you. πŸ˜‰

Second thing: I started soaking the grains that I buy for my chickens this winter. I wrote about it, too. Would you believe it, I’m still at it. It’s not much trouble, and it increases the nutrition of the grains, and the chickens eat the soaked and sprouted grains better than the original dry, hard grain. In fact, they usually clean up every bit. But there are days when I throw out a bit too much, and there is leftover grain lying on the ground of the chicken yard the next day. And it tends to stay there a good long time. I don’t blame my chooks for wanting to eat the freshly-soaked grains, not the hardened, dirty ones left over from the day before. Do you? Even chickens have standards.

Here are the same grains, after a couple days in the sprouting bucket: swollen, fat, and sprouting! They look tasty even to me!

Here are the soaked grains, after a couple days in the sprouting bucket: swollen, fat, and sprouting! They look tasty, even to me!

That might be fun to tweet, eh?

I’m having way too much fun writing this post. (Sorry.)

There were days when I’d look at that leftover grain, and cluck my tongue. I hate waste, don’t you? As a child (you can agree with this or not, but this is the way my generation was raised) I was urged to belong to the “Clean Plate Club” and to finish every bit of my dinner. So I’d gently urge my chooks to clean up their plates, in essence, and the next day I’d feed them less grain. But still the leftover grains would stay on the ground.

And then, one morning, I noticed a very, very cool thing. I think I even gasped in wonder. Involuntarily. I think I also was filled with a kind of chicken-feeding joy of discovery. You know that joy, right? Please tell me that you do. It’s a wondrous kind of joy.

The chicken yard has been bare of growth, except for the occasional weed, for years. I don’t like that, but the chickens (though they free range a good portion of each day) pounce on and eat anything that comes up in the chicken yard that is green. But. On this day, there was a dainty carpet of fresh green, growing . . . where the leftover grains had been . . .

I gasped. (See above*) I grinned. I almost did a whoop of joy. Do you know what it was? It was those leftover grains, sprouting and growing. Growing something fresh and green, for my chickens to eat. With absolutely no attention from me. I had unwittingly produced a bit of self-sustaining chicken forage, Gentle Readers!

Ever since, my chooks have had a steady supply of fresh greens every day, from those leftover grains. And (it gets better) I figured out a way to sprout more grains and grow more greens from them, by using a large piece of cardboard. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Soak grains (mine are assorted grains, mostly barley and rye, that haven’t been heated and so, therefore, they are capable of growing) in a bucket of water for 24 hours.
  2. Throw grains out on the ground, and spread about in a single layer(ish).
  3. Cover with a large piece of cardboard.
  4. Pray for rain. In lieu of that, keep cardboard damp(ish) for a few days.
  5. Check under the cardboard after 3 or 4 days. With any luck, it’ll look like this:


In the foreground of the next picture, you see what’s happening with the grains growing. Underneath the cardboard is a new batch of grains growing. Cool, eh? See why I gasped now?

growing sprouts for chooks

Here’s what the sprouted grains look like, when I first removed the cardboard: Luscious, by all accounts, to chickens. Heck, it looks a bit tasty to me!


So that’s it, my Gentle Readers. My two cool chicken-related things, nicely strung out into a very long post, indeed. *sigh* I don’t think I can write a short post to save my life.

Hey! I need your input: have you ever heard of growing grains this way in the chicken yard? And (most important, indeed) do you think those chicks are ugly?

ALSO: don’t forget that I’m running a giveaway, for a really amazing garden drip-tape system, kindly donated by the nice folks at Dripworks. Be sure to enter!

*still not telling how many, Gentle Reader* πŸ˜‰

One-more-thing: I’ll be sharing this post with the fun kindred spirits over at The Prairie Homestead, that bastion of self-sustaining living. Come on over!

25 thoughts on “Are those chicks ugly?

  1. rita

    Definitely, the chicks are cute. My friend who gets day-olds every year, has been known to say, “they’re at the ugly stage” often, then I look and I don’t see it.
    I have only two hens left from my original 5 from 3 years ago. One went broody this spring. First I thought she’d get over it. That’s happened before, but not this time. I’ve taken the nest box out but she sits where it was. I’ve closed the hen house during the day but she sits morosely outside the door. And there were no eggs. So, finally after about a month, I’ve given her fertilized eggs to sit on. I opened the door to her nest and after a non-welcoming squawk, she looked around at the eggs I was pushing under her and said, “Yes, they were sticking out. I will tuck them in. Thank you.” In another couple of weeks I will have a momma accompanying her babies around the yard. There’s only one other chicken, so I figure she’ll be able to keep them safe. Fingers crossed. I’ll keep control of the cats and dog. I am SO looking forward to this. It may be a once in a lifetime thing for me.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh Rita, I hope it works out for you and your mama hen, and I also hope that it’s NOT a once in a lifetime thing! It’s too much fun!

  2. Mari

    Uglyj?! No by a long shot, I say. Of course they aren’t ugly. On a scale of 1-10, I would rank them an 11 for cuteness. Have you ever seen an ugly chicken – or chickie baby? Never. I love it that they look like Daddy, the Wyandotte, but my heart has a special place for the Ameraucanas. I just love them to death. I think if I were to get more chickens (which I will as soon as I get a new hen house/yard finished one of these days), it will include more Ameraucanas. Now I wonder if they will lay green eggs or brown eggs. That will be fun to watch. Some of them may be boys. Then what? Do you keep boys or are they for the pot?
    BTW, where did those orange legs come from? I have never seen a chicken whose legs are so intensely orange! Love them, love them! They look like a goose or duck!
    So far as the sprouts go, I think it must be the weather. In my bare chicken’s yard, there are all kinds of green grasses coming up – and the chickens just leave it there and ignore it. I think they like the idea of something in their area that is different than bare brown dirt! …and yes, I have two things in the yard that I move around constantly – actually three – and the chickens go crazy when I move them around. I do it to keep control of the bugs that hibernate under there. It is fiesta time when I move the stuff around. I love it that chickens are so easily amused! It is better than a Sunday School picnic, when the yard stuff is shifted. There are bugs, sprouts, and fresh dirt under there. Yippee, says the girls!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh Mari, I love you. I wish we were neighbors. Of course we’d probably not get any work done, we’d just be yakkin’ up a storm. I don’t know where those crazy little orange feet came from–I guess from the papa! You can see that Mama Lulu has blue feet, but every one of those babies has orange feet! And I like hearing about your chicken yard. It sounds a lot like mine. Amazing, really–I just piled all kinds of stuff (branches, brush, weeds, etc.) in the yard last fall, trying for a permanent mulch pile for the chooks, but they really work it down to the ground, working up the bugs and the weeds and so forth. You’d never know, now, that I piled anything in there. I’ve got a pile of wet cardboard that I think I’ll put in there today, and see what they do with that. πŸ˜‰ Oh–about the male chicks–I’ll only tell you this, but I only need so many roosters. So the boys will end up in the soup pot, once they’re grown. But that will be awhile before that happens!

  3. Cynthia Rose

    Any chicks are cute. They may be a bit unbeautiful on the outside but they are so cute on the inside it just spills over. I am looking forward to the day when I can have a nursery and raise some chicks of my own.

  4. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    All baby animals are cute. A scientist will tell us all why babies are cute (maybe so that we won’t kill them after 6 hours of nonstop crying, for example) but the fact remains, chicks are babies and therefore cute. No, I have never seen chicks that aren’t cute. Even when they are competing to rip apart an unfortunate grasshopper that has come too close. But I thought your sprouted grain accidental discover was even cuter. If only I had known that 30 years ago. What a wonderful idea!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      It’s fun to discover something new, especially something that benefits the chickens so much and cuts down on my workload, too. And I agree with you about the cuteness of babies. That’s why, I suppose, we always have too many cats, and have too many dogs, and (honestly) TOO MANY CHICKENS! I have another hen who is sitting on eggs, due to hatch in a couple of weeks. Though our coop is a little full, I’m rooting for her. Watching a mama hen with babies is just so much fun.

  5. Rally L.C.

    Oh, how I love to see your chicks! It remainds me of the farm that I’ve grew up back home. Every year I had a favorite chick which was obviously raised by me and only me. The chick followed me everywhere, we had quite some adventures together. I am missing those times. My dream is to have my own farm some day full of animals. Your chicks are so cute, just look at those orange paws (my grandma use to say that orange paws are a sign of health at chickens), it is so rare to see that nowadays.
    Trully enjoyed this post!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’ve never heard that about the orange feet being a symbol of chicken health! That’s very interesting. It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood experience with that beloved chick!

  6. Julie Crowther

    I am really enjoying your chicken antics. We just hatched 3 little suburban chickens and my daughters are having a blast with them. Daisy, Buttercup, and Orchid are just the lovelies of things (although I am suspecting Orchid may not be a hen after all? ) So my question is….how can you tell? They are 2 months old now….

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Regarding sexing chickens . . you can’t tell, until . . you can tell! After keeping chickens for 15+ years, I can tell fairly early which is which, but sometimes it’s hard to tell until the boys start crowing! In general, though, your young roos will have a leaner look and longer legs–and will be more aggressive, even as youngsters. Hope that helps!

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