The Gems

When the chicks arrived, two days old, they were fluff balls. They looked either like striped chipmunks or yellow poufs. But now the girls are nine weeks old – old enough so that I can tell them (mostly) apart. Their personalities have developed along with their feathers. Some are calm. Some are skittish. Some are curious. Some stand out in the crowd, some don’t. It’s a peaceful flock. They forage. They flap. They roost. They scratch. They dust bathe. They have so much to do that they don’t hassle each other. The pecking order is there, but subtle.

Early on, I decided to name the chickens after gems, but I waited until I got to know the birds before making final decisions. Here they are. Introducing…

Little Blue Sapphire. She’s the runt, and spends most of her days sitting in regal splendor. No one bothers her. She’s small but has presence.

Pearl is a Splash Cochin. She’s large, fluffy and calm, but not particularly friendly.

There are three golden pullets. They might all be Buff Orpingtons. Or one might be a Buff Chantecleer. Right now they’re interchangeable. Topaz, Amber and Beryl.

The two New Hampshire Reds are also peas in a pod. Garnet and Ruby. This photo of one of them will do right now for both. I think that with time, their personalities will distinguish them.

Jasper, the Welsummer is a beauty, though a bit flighty.

The Barnevelder is active and not one to visit with me. Onyx.

The hen that clearly wants to win “Miss Congeniality” is Agatha Agate. Like my late, wonderful Speckled Sussex, Lulu, she’s curious and friendly. But, unlike Lulu, Agatha is calm and steady. She’s a lap sitter and a hen that wants stroking.

The other two Speckled Sussex are fine birds, but are not people-oriented like Agatha. I’ve named them after famous women geologists. Etheldred Benett (1776-1845) was an early British scientist. This Etheldred has much more white than Agatha.

Florence Bascone (1896-1945) was the first woman hired by the USGS. My Florence is the smallest of the Speckleds.

Lastly, there is Opal. She is huge. Her feet are huge, her comb and wattles are red and huge. And look at that tail! If she’s a he, there’s no sign of spurs or crowing or any other rooster-like behavior. Opal is the shyest one of the bunch. Maybe when she grows into her out-sized feet she’ll gain some confidence. Meanwhile, Opal gallumps around the pen, eats like a meat bird, and has yet to make any friends. I’m hoping she’s a she and she can stay. I rather like her.


  1. im so glad to see a splash cochin named Pearl as thats what I called mine:) unfortunately she was killed last week in the middle of the day by a snake! Anyway we have lots of baby chicks right now too and they are a month old so we are still figuring out which we will keep and which we would sell. babies are so much fun!

  2. Aaaaw! lovely birds Terry!

    A good thing there’s an ocean to cross or Onyx the Barnevelder may just get kidnapped ;-)

    Our Plan B hatching plan is on course for the weekend – cross your fingers that we’ll get some girls.


  3. My lexicon for the namesaked gemstones has just expanded. I will never consider these jewels without thinking about your beautiful hens.

  4. We have a chick that’s the spit image of Opal. I’m pretty sure “Fluffy”(our Delaware) is a rooster. If you can keep a rooster, Delawares are very nice. Our Prince Delaware gets along fine with his friend, Prince Orpington, and they take care to pay equal attention to each of their 8 hens (all of them almost 4 years old).

    We also have 7 Ameraucana chicks and I think at least 3 are roosters but they are quite varied in color and feathering. Makes it harder to compare! These are straight-run chicks from a local breeder. I figure we’ll just have to wait a little longer.

    All these chicks picked by the 8 and 10 yo grandsons with the usual promises of daily visits to care for them! Guess who does the work–but it’s ok, I enjoy them.

    • I know that people have chickens to teach their children about the value of work, etc etc. I’ve never asked my kids to do the daily chores – purely selfish on my part. I like to do it myself!

  5. Hi Terry! LOVE the names and they fit so perfectly! Yes..I believe the Delaware is a hen. Her comb is rather small and that is what leads me to believe that. My Delwares are HUGE and have those same giant yellow feet. I agree with you..I rather like her as well!

    • Thanks for that vote of confidence in Opal! I’ve looked at photos of Delaware roos and their wattles extend further up to their earlobes. I hope I’m not in denial!

  6. How fun! You have really thought about each. I’m impressed you can keep them straight. Being a July baby, I’ll keep an eye on Garnet and Ruby.

  7. All so interesting. I’m with Celia about Onyx — gorgeous hen. Florence and Agatha remind me of one of my (beloved) Latin teachers (maybe it’s just the head on pose?). Jasper looks like dappled sunlight that will be most welcome on a dreary day. And Little Blue is a charmer — what is it about miniatures that fascinates? Looks like you will be spending some extra time with Pearl’s foot feathers after storms.

    Do you see any of these taking the “Tillie” role in your children’s visits or is that reserved for a pure white hen like Betsy and Coco?

    I do miss the “after hours” chick cam now that the light is no longer needed.

    • The wonderful thing about the Bantam White Leghorns is that they are petite and gentle – not scary at all, and since I visit preschools, having a non-scary chicken is essential! That said, Agatha would love to be a school visit hen. I can tell already.

  8. Just love a mixed flock like yours, makes the flock very interesting and unique.
    Boy Terry, Opal sure looks like an Opie to me, I hope I’m wrong. Those two long tail feathers usually are not a good sign. That being said no spur growth and no attempts at crowing are a sign in the hen direction.
    Murray a OEG bantam started a squeaky crow at about two months.

    • Ken- I know that tail looks like a rooster’s plume! But I’m hoping that Donna is right. Can’t compare an OEG bantam to the Delaware. Tiny pipsqueak thing :)

      • LOL, yes he his but I haven’t told him yet so him thinks he’s a majestic Rhode Island Red standing 2 feet tall or better ;-)

  9. What fun names. I should really decide on names for mine since they’re over 3 months old. But a couple of my Barred Rocks have never had names because I can’t tell them apart. Shameful, I know. I think I’m going with spice names since mine are warm colors. Your Wellsummer looks different than mine. Hmmmm.
    Agatha looks like she wants to be your favorite and do lots of travelling with you.

  10. My two speckled sussex are the characters in my bunch. The Dominiques are curious, the Barnevelder is shaping up to have a regal, stand-offish attitude, just like her predecessor, and the others are all cute and/or appropriately chickeny.

    But the two sussexes (sussex? sussi?) are absolute escape artists. Every day for a week, my daughter or I would walk out to the barn and see these two side by side, just a few feet outside the fence. I’ve patched, covered, or filled every hint of a hole or opening that I think they might be using. And I still absolutely cannot figure out how they’re getting out. None of the others every follow them. Just these two little stinkers. I don’t generally name my birds, but I’m thinking of making an exception this time, and calling one “Hogan” and the other “LeBeau”.

    They’re easy enough to walk back in. In fact, sometimes, I think they’re just doing it to prove that I still haven’t beaten them. I’m thinking they’re either going to soon be too big to sneak out of whatever secret tunnel they’ve dug themselves, or they’re going to be eaten by some lucky resident of the woods before I rustle them back in again.

    • (Just so my readers know – this Ken is my neighbor I split the chick order with.)
      Does Opal’s sister have huge yellow legs that make her look like Big Bird’s cousin?
      What I find interesting about the Sussex (I don’t think you make it plural….) is that they are all crazy individuals. They don’t seem to have an overarching breed temperament. I can’t tell my older Golden Comets apart, but the Sussex are easy!

      • And if Opal if a boy he will go back to Ken correct ? Or to someone who needs a Delware rooster, if acourse Opal is rooster, and one that behaves himself.

  11. They’re lovely! I do like them at that age.
    I’m probably being optimistic but I think at nine weeks you’d be seeing saddle feathers if she was a he – although those legs do look very sturdy…
    Babbs’s clutch seems to have four cockerels and three pullets. Gladys’s lot too young to tell so far, but she’s famous for hatching girls…

    • Happy to hear you thinks she’s a she. Are you keeping any of the chicks?
      Babs deserves fame on many counts…

  12. Love the names you’ve chosen. (my daughter just graduated with a degree in geology!) The wait to be sure a bird is a rooster or hen is awful. Our white EE, Jemima, who has a perpetual smile on her face and is THE sweetest critter kept us on the edge of our seats until she finally laid an egg last year. Mint green egg- how thoughtful. Anyway, her tail had an elegant swoop that had me certain she was a he. Here’s hoping your Delaware is a hen!

  13. Re Opal – perhaps a girl just can’t help having thick legs?? I’ve got 5 chicks, 4 weeks behind yours, hatched from eggs so NO idea what we we’ve got. 1 x Andalusian, 1 x Arucana/Barnvelder cross, 2 x light sussex and 1 x welsummer. I thought we had 2 boys and named them Rocky (from “Chicken Run”) and Bandit (due to stripes across the eyes) but my neighbour declared both of these to be girls and 2 unnamed ones to be boys… every day I go and watch them and think “you’ve got attitude – are you a boy?” and then change my mind 20 minutes later when the “ones with attitude” go and hide under Mum.. someone else told me that you can only tell when they either crow or lay an egg. Apparently they don’t do both…

    • In the last two days Opal has become aggressive, madly chasing any chicken in her view. Is she a bully? A boy? Still don’t know!