Posts Tagged ‘buff orpingtons’

First egg

July 28, 2009

I found the first egg today. I am pretty sure it is the first one ever, but not 100% sure. I know that Lula Mae has been making noises for over a week now and that today she was sitting/squatting in the accidental garden, right next to the house. I went out to see what was up and possibly interrupted the egg laying process (is that possible to interrupt it in the same way that a woman’s labor can be interrupted by stress or danger?). All three chickens, including Chicken Joe the rooster, were making lots of noise. That was why I went out to see what was going on. I guess it was as big a deal to them as it was to me.

We also worked in the garden a bit today and picked a couple of tomatoes. One was eaten by the kiddos and one by the chickens when we left it unguarded. Silly chickens! Anyway, more tomatoes are turning red so that is great news. The sugar snap peas seem to be dying off int he heat, which I think is normal. The carrots are finally doing well, but Moira wants to pick one every time we go to the garden, so we don’t really have any to use in meals. I need to plant more carrots for fall and then remember to plant more next spring. The winter squash are taking over the area between the tilled area and the raised beds. I guess they didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to spread into the tilled area? Silly squash!

I will post some pictures tomorrow, as soon as I get them off of my camera. I also have a picture of a dead, half-eaten copperhead snake that Tim ran over with the mower. We left it out and something ate some of it last night. It’s a lovely picture and I know everyone will surely tune in to see it once it is posted. Right?

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

Butchering

June 28, 2009

We only have one chicken to butcher. It’s our surprise rooster, the one that was supposed to be a pullet. We are butchering him because he has turned mean. He attacks the hens for no apparent reason and has also attacked three people. He hasn’t done any damage, but even so, his behavior is unpredictable. I know there are ways to show him who’s boss, but since we have two roosters and four hens at the moment, I am not willing to do the work it would take. Plus, we have at least one Buff Orpington rooster and possibly another. That will give us at least 2 roosters and 23 hens. If we end up with two Buff Orpington roosters we might have another to butcher.

Anyway, that’s all the post for now. I’ll write more when it’s done, but there isn’t really much to write. We are butchering him ourselves because we need to learn how to do it. I’m sure it will be messy and not fun. Honestly, I feel a bit sad and squeamish about it, but I know it needs to be done. I don’t want to ever feel so casual about it that it’s no big deal because that doesn’t fit with my own morals, if that makes sense.

Right now the guys, which today includes Tim’s son, Sam, are trying to catch the rooster. This is not very easy with a free range rooster (though Tom pointed out it would have been easier to do this morning when he was still in the coop). Oh well. We are learning and I am sure we will make mistakes and learn from them. Sometimes that is the best way to learn and figure things out.

Cleaning day

June 16, 2009

Today was the day to clean out the brooder and the movable coop. I haven’t cleaned out the movable coop at all yet, so it wasn’t pretty. However, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been since the Big Chickens have been free-ranging and pooping elsewhere (though my back porch has seen better, less smelly days!). The part of the movable coop where the Big Chickens roost at night is covered in hardware cloth. So this helps a bit with the mess as some of it falls through. The brooder has the same kind of bottom, with bedding on top. I don’t bother with bedding for the movable coop because the Big Chickens are really only in there at night to roost and for a while in the morning while they wait for us to wake up and let them out.

So anyway, the cleaning involves these steps:

  • Move stuff out of the garage so that I can then move the brooder out of the garage,
  • Enlist Tom’s help (usually Tim, but he is out of town) to move the brooder out of the garage, near the movable coop,
  • Have the kids help get the chicks out of the brooder and into the movable coop,
  • Call Aidan over to fend off the Big Chickens, who are wondering what those little punk ass chicks are doing in THEIR coop,
  • Keep putting chicks into movable coop, while telling Mo to be careful with the chicks and yelling for Aidan to come guard the chicks,
  • Let the Big Roosters go in to check things out, while holding a kid’s sized ho in my hand to shoo them out if necessary,
  • Shoo out Chicken Joe because he pecked at a chick,
  • Hurry up and finish moving chicks so I can clean out the brooder,
  • Used big metal dust pan to clean out brooder and put droppings and bedding into a bucket to take to compost pile,
  • Turn brooder completely over to dump it all out,
  • Start cleaning the movable coop out, while Mo plays with the chicks in the run part of the movable coop,
  • Take a break because the sun finally came out and now it is humid AND hot instead of humid and pleasant,
  • Go back out and move the chicks from the movable coop back to their brooder (minus bedding so they can eat some grass),
  • Clean out the movable coop a little more and then put down fresh bedding (forget what I said earlier, bedding will be good),
  • Put water and feed back in brooder
  • Fill up water dish and feed in movable coop
  • Put brooder back in the garage
  • Fill feed troughs and water for chicks

OK, so that is done for a while. It is by far the worst part of having chickens, but on the whole I’d say it isn’t much worse than cleaning a cat box. The coop cleaning is once or twice a year and nasty, but the cat box is ongoing and easy.

Lots and lots of chickens

June 8, 2009

This chick apparently missed the memo about not roosting on top of the waterer.

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Here are a few more pictures of the 4 week old chicks that I took last week. They are doing well, despite the fact that the bulb in the heat lamp went out sometime last night or this morning. I was totally freaked out, but they are all ok and perked up as soon as I put the new bulb in the lamp. 

4weekoldBO1

Four week old Buff Orpington chicks

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

Here are some of the big chickens enjoying their favorite bush. It provides shade as well as a nice place for dust baths.

Chickens favorite bush

Chickens favorite bush

And finally here is a picture of Swirly. He is a sweety and is my buddy. He has the most beautiful amber colored eyes. He follows me when I feed the cows. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to kill me by tripping me since he weaves in and out of my legs and I really have to watch my step.

Swirly

Swirly

Chicken pictures

May 27, 2009

The big chickens have been free ranging and so far, so good. They seem quite happy, they put themselves in their coop at night, and they haven’t gotten eaten or run over. They liked being under the car or truck the first few days, but then that didn’t work out when we had to leave. So they finally found a bush right by the house that is good for resting and dust baths (the bush is on the left side of the top picture). They like to roost on the split rail fence that runs along one side of the house, too. 

Chickens roosting on split rail fence

Chickens roosting on split rail fence

Roosting Hen

Roosting Hen

The little chicks like to roost, too. We put the roost in the same day we got them and some of them started roosting right away, at 1 week old. Here they are at 2 weeks old in the brooder that Tim made. I don’t think there is such a thing as “too early” for a roost for chicks. They will figure out how to roost as soon as there is something to roost on.

2 week old Orpington chicks roosting

2 week old Orpington chicks roosting

Orpington chicks roosting at 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks roosting at 2 weeks old

Here are a few more pictures of the chickens. These are the Buff Orpingtons at 2 weeks old. I tried to get a picture of all of them, but since there are 20 and they move around a lot, this is the best I can do.

Orpington chicks 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks at 2 weeks old

Orpington chicks at 2 weeks old

And here is another picture of the New Hampshire chickens free ranging. In this picture they are in part of the driveway. You can see that we clearly have two roosters. Chicken Joe is the slightly darker rooster who doesn’t have all the black tail feathers. The hen in the forground with the black tail feathers is the one we’ve named Rosalie, I think. It’s really hard to tell them apart, but Rosalie has a ring of black tail feathers, so that looks like her. I’ll post more pictures of the pullets as I take them.

Free ranging chickens

Free ranging chickens

Chicken breeds

May 21, 2009

When I started this blog I had intended to write a whole lot more about the whole process of getting chickens. I had read so much, including lots of good blogs, books, magazines, websites, etc. One of the things I wanted to write about was the process of choosing which breed to get. We carefully thought about whether to start with pullets or chicks, when to get the chickens, how to get them, how to house them (which we are still debating about!) whether to get layers or fryers or both, etc. I even spent a bit of time trying to figure out which breed to get. Some breeds are really good layers, but they aren’t good at foraging. Some are good meat birds, but again, aren’t necessarily good at foraging.

One of the best resources I found was Chickens, which was a Hobby Farms publication. The chart in the magazine was based on Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart. This chart is super useful in helping choose a chicken breed. Some people just want eggs, and lots of eggs, making the Leghorn a good choice since it has been bred to be a profuse layer (at least the production Leghorns). The chart indicates how big each breed gets, which makes it useful for those who just want meat. It includes a bit of history, the colors, whether the hens will sit on the eggs (broodiness), whether the breed does well in the heat or cold, and whether it is adaptable to confinement, free ranging, or could go either way. 

Some chickens are dual purpose, which means they can be used for eggs or meat. There are chicken breeds that have been bred specifically for laying (Leghorns are most commonly used in the United States) and meat (Cornish Cross). The reason they are popular is that they convert feed to eggs or meat very efficiently, so they are the cheapest breeds to use for those purposes. However, they are not good for every hobby farmer or backyard chicken keeper. 

My requirements for a chicken breed were:

  • a breed that is fairly friendly and docile so I don’t have to worry about them attacking the kids
  • a breed that is dual purpose in case we decide to let our flock grow and have some for meat and some for eggs
  • a breed that is somewhat broody for the same reason as above
  • a breed that is cold hardy as our winters can get pretty cold

I was also interested in chicken breeds that are rare or uncommon, as listed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). I was really interested in the Delaware, because it is rare and is very cold hardy. Delawares were commonly used for meat before Cornish Crosses became so popular. Getting Delawares is a problem because none of the stores sell them, which means you have to order them from a hatchery, which means a minimum order of 25. I was not ready to have 25 chicks when we started out. So, I was left with the choices at Farm King, which were not very good. Then Ang. recommended Farm and Home Supply in Keokuk (she’s also the person I bought the Buff Orpington chicks from). I called them up and they had much better choices. For some reason, though, the stores did not always have on hand what they said they would have. So when I went to Farm and Home Supply to buy chicks, but it turned out they did not have the breed I had decided on after my phone call. Fortunately I had my copy of Chickens and was able to pick out New Hampshire chickens. The New Hampshire is a great dual purpose breed. They are supposed to be good layers and adaptable to free range or confinement.

In hindsight, I think it worked out well that I didn’t get Delaware chicks since they are white. I would be much more worried about them getting eaten by hawks than I am about the New Hampshires. Our chickens have free ranged the last two days and have put themselves in their coop. I’m not too worried about them because it’s hard to spot the chickens ranging when the grass is tall (though it might be easier to see them from a hawk’s point of view). Even so I am sure they do not stick out as much as a white chicken would. I am still interested in the rare breeds, but am happy with the New Hampshires and the Buff Orpingtons.*

 

*New Hampshires are on the watch list and Buff Orpingtons are recovering, according to the ALBC website.

Aidan finds a snake

May 18, 2009

OK, I finally finished a post I have been working on for a week. I have it scheduled to post tomorrow morning. Now, just because I spent a week on it does not meant it is some fantastic post. I hope it is, of course, but mostly it took me that long because I just don’t have a lot of uninterrupted time to sit down and write. So I write while the kids are watching TV or playing video games. I still get interrupted to get them stuff or to feed the cats, or sometimes I just have too many kids and cats on me to do any typing. Anyway, I hope you will like the post tomorrow. I wanted to post something that took a bit more time and that was more than a post about what we are doing here on the farm. I mean, I hope the day to day stuff is also interesting to anyone who reads, but as interesting as it can be, it can still get boring to read yet another post about kittens and chicks.

Having said that, here is another post about animals. The difference is that this one includes a snake. Yes, a snake. We lived in Phoenix for 8+ years and I didn’t see a single snake, even when playing in the washes at the park. We also rarely heard coyotes. Now we are in rural Illinois, which is not a place people associate with snakes and coyotes, and we have seen two snakes and hear coyotes almost nightly. Last week when Scott the Farmer and Farmer Clayton found a snake under a stump that had been lying in one of the crop areas since last fall. Clayton went to move it and there was a snake under it. He said it was a cottonmouth. Then on Wednesday Aidan saw a snake close to the front door (but up the hill, so not anywhere we would normally walk). Tim snapped some pictures so he could look it up. The guys say it is a Northern Copperhead. I don’t really care what it is called. I don’t really want any snakes in my yard where the kids walk barefoot! EDITED on 9/3/09: This is NOT a copperhead snake, but is probably a rat/corn snake.

Snake

Snake

Here is a picture one of the kids took of the Buff Orpington chicks we got last Wednesday. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I have not taken any more pictures of them. I suppose I’m trying not to get too attached to them since they are destined to be eaten. They are still cute, though. We put in a roost that we had used for the New Hampshire chickens when they were little. I’ve seen some of these tiny chicks on the higher roost and it is so cute!

Buff Orpington chicks

Buff Orpington chicks

The pink bucket had a bit of cow feed in it. It looks and is very similar to the chicken feed, so it’s not wonder they were confused.

Chicken in bucket of cow feed

Chicken in bucket of cow feed

Here are the big chickens (the New Hampshires) enjoying some cage-free time. This garden bed was unplanted at the time, so don’t worry! For some reason the kids had dug little holes and the chickens loved it.

Chickens in an unplanted raised bed

Chickens in an unplanted raised bed

The chickens eventually discovered that they could fit into the holes. I think this was the first dust baths we’ve seen them take. They really liked the holes!

Chicken in a hole

Chicken in a hole

This is one happy little chicken! She was even making some happy little sound and was really relaxed when the kids came near.

One happy hen!

One happy hen!