Posts Tagged ‘chicks’

Rainy days and Mondays are still exciting

August 17, 2009

We’re having a lazy, rainy day today. And yet there are still exciting things that have happened. First, we decided to let the little chickens out of their coop. I let them out before I let out the big chickens. The big chickens were none too happy about this, of course. Eventually I went outside with a plastic garbage can lid in had to let out the big chickens. I wanted to be prepared in case the pecking got out of hand. To my surprise, I let the big chickens out and they went the opposite direction, totally ignoring the little chickens.

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Now, at some point there was a little pecking, mostly from Holly. Joe didn’t have to peck too much as I think he is secure in his place as top rooster and top chicken. So the little chickens were out ranging happily and peacefully. Last time I checked they were back in their coop roosting, probably to dry off since the ground is pretty soggy. I’m sure there will be more pecking as the two flocks reorganize into one or more flocks.

The other thing that happened is that Mama Cat went towards the creek. I followed her since I’ve been trying to get a look at her kittens, which were born around August 12. That’s the day she came back hungry and less round looking. I couldn’t find her kittens since they were somewhere near the creek and were hidden by the vegetation. A little while later, however, I spotted her moving one into the garage. I waited a bit to give her time to move them all, then went out to see where they were and try to get a look. I counted 3 kittens. Mama Cat was fine with me looking, but if I tried to reach in the box to move the kittens she would gently paw at me. I could tell she didn’t want me to put my hands in there, so I backed off. I’ll try to get pictures later, mayb when the sun decides to make a reappearance.

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.

Busy

July 8, 2009

I know it’s been a while since I posted and even longer since I posted anything of real substance. ūüôā It’s just been a busy summer and we have had visitors for the past two and a half weeks. So there just hasn’t been a lot of time and there isn’t that much to report, either. The chickens just do their chicken thing. I honestly don’t have a lot of time to watch them even though I would like to. The chicks are growing and are overcrowded and we are debating what to do until we find the time to build a coop.

The garden is growing and I did update the gardening page. So that’s all there is for now. I will try to take more pictures and do some updates next week, or maybe this weekend.

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.

Wanted: Weekend Farmer (in training)

June 15, 2009

Wanted: Weekend Farmer to take care of animals

When: Friday evening through Sunday morning

Where: West Central Illinois

What: Take care of farm animals, including 14 cats, 20 chicks, 6 chickens, and 2 cows.

Details: Animals need food and water in the morning and evening.

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens: The chickens really just need to be let out of their movable coop. Open the screened front flap and prop it up with the piece of wood that was screwed into the frame but came unscrewed. This helps keep the wood from coming unscrewed and helps keep the door from blowing down in the wind. The chickens will rush out and flap their wings and act silly for a few minutes. Make sure to enjoy this part as it’s quite a show. Lula Mae is always the last one out. She’s the pullet with black-tipped feathers near her shoulders (not the technical word, but you know what I’m talking about since you are a weekend farmer being trained by a farmer-in-training). The chickens will range all day long and will put themselves back in their coop. In the evening, you can check their feed and water before you lock them in. Their feed is currently in a Farm King bucket. I will try to put it in a garbage can and label it before we leave.

Chicks: The chicks are pretty easy. They just need feed and water. They have two feeders in the brooder. They think they get special treats in the purple-bottomed one. Please do not let them in on the secret. You will have to check their water. Most likely it will be spilled or totally mucked up with bedding. Either way it will need to be dumped, cleaned out quickly with the hose on the well pump near the house, then filled and placed back in the brooder. Yes it is reddish inside from the iron in the well water. Don’t bother cleaning it as they don’t seem to mind. The silly chicks will most likely knock it over or muck it up before you leave, so you might want to check it again. Their feed is in the brown garbage can closest to the workbench in the garage. I will try to label it before we leave.

Cows: The cows do not need water as they have a big tub with an auto-leveler. Just make sure to leave the handle of the well pump UP so that it will continue to fill up. Their feed is in the garbage can closest to the garage door. There are two buckets in there, to be filled up about 1/4 to 1/2 way. The buckets and the fence tester are in the garbage can with the feed. PLEASE remember to put them back in there as the garage is too messy for me to find them if you put them somewhere else. Proceed to fence while calling cows. I’ve also started to say, “Come on, girls” to get them to come to me that way. If you get here late enough, they will be waiting for you at the fence. Just ignore their puppy dog sad eyes as they are just trying to make you feel guilty for sleeping in. Also feel free to remind them that you are just a weekend farmer filling in for a farmer-in-training. I’m sure they will understand. Repeat in the evening, making sure to check the fence again. If the fence charge seems low, you will need to walk the fence and check for problems. If there are problems, you will have to call Scott the Farmer as fixing the fence is dangerous and you are not getting paid enough to bother with it.

Indoor cats: There are two indoor cats. Only one, Riley, gets soft food. He only gets a half a can, maybe less if he didn’t eat all his food from the previous serving. This is because Cleo does not like soft food, not because we are mean to her. Riley will meow and meow until you feed him. You might want to do this first unless you can ignore his meows. He also is not starving, as will be evidenced by his youthful figure. The cats might need fresh water or more water. More importantly, they need ¬†reassurance that we did not abandon them for the cute outdoor cats and that we will be back soon to worship them.

Outdoor cats: They will act like they are starving, too. Little Gray might actually be very hungry because she is still nursing her litter. Mama Cat will act as if she is starving, too, but she isn’t. She is mean to the other cats, so when you open the soft food cans you might have to push her away from the other cats so she will not attack them. That is, unless the chickens are around, in which case she is meek and humble and lets everyone else eat first. However, then you have to keep the chickens from eating the food so the cats can eat. This is not easy as they are very persistent little buggers. It might be easier to feed the cats before you let the chickens out, but then ¬†you might have to listen to crowing. Maybe you can block it out. Anyway, the cats get between 3 and 4 cans of soft food. It depends on how many show up for breakfast and how hungry they look and how much food the chickens swipe. Use your best judgment. They also get hard food, which is in the pantry to the left as you enter the kitchen. I usually just fill up the empty soft food cans with hard food. Their water is in a ceramic dish near the well pump. This is the water for the chickens and the cats. Just make sure it is full when you fill up the chicks water for the second time.

All of this should only take about 15 minutes each time, depending on which order you do it. If you let the chickens out first, then you will have to stand guard so that the cats can eat. If you feed the cats first, you will still have to stand guard so that Mama Cat doesn’t eat all the food and then you will also have to listen to the roosters crowing to get out. Really, the cows are the easiest as long as you are mindful of the fence. It is electric and from what I hear, it does hurt. I am scared to death of the fence, so I have not gotten shocked as I am very, very careful.

No worries. My aunt and/or cousins are taking care of the cats and chickens. My aunt has way more experience with animals than I do, so she really should be training me. I have to talk to Scott the Farmer, but I am sure he will want to take care of the cows himself, assuming he has time. Boy, having animals makes vacations hard, doesn’t it?

Friday Sounds

June 5, 2009

Things I heard today while at home:

Cows mooing in the evening and at night (occasionally it might be our cows, but mostly it’s not)

Frogs, lots of frogs!

Birds singing

Roosters crowing and chickens clucking

Chicks peeping

Cats meowing, growling, fighting

Cars on a gravel road

Babbling creek, if it’s really quiet

Big bumble bees and hummingbirds buzzing, which surprisingly sound the same

Kids playing, fighting

Pullets, all of ’em

June 4, 2009

The Buff Orpington chicks are now 4 weeks old. Just as I was thinking that some were getting combs faster than others and I would soon be able to tell which were cockerels and which were pullets, I read this post on Ang.’s blog. When I got them, Ang. said that the store told her they were straight run. However, she had also noticed that one had a mark on its head. I told Ang. that it would be nice if they were all pullets, but I didn’t really think they would be. It turns out that they are all pullets, as Ang. learned last week. This is good because it means lots of eggs and possibly selling some of them next spring. It also means we need a bigger coop than we were planning on. Since we haven’t really started the coop, that’s fine. Tim is going out of town next week so we will have to get busy building the coop after he gets back.

Anyway, I spent the night at my mom’s on Sunday and when I got back on Monday I thought the chicks looked really big. They are getting lots of feathers. When it’s warm enough, we take them outside in the brooder. The bottom of the brooder is hardware cloth, covered with bedding. On Wednesday it was warm and it was time to clean out the brooder, so we put the chicks in the movable coop, cleaned out the brooder, and put them back in it without the bedding so they could eat some grass. When it was time to put them in the garage, we added some bedding. I’m ready to have them outside more, but I don’t think they have quite enough feathers to be out at night, even with a heat lamp.

Now I am contemplating another order for some meat birds, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Maybe this fall will be a better time. If I did get meat birds, I would probably wait until the coop is done and the little chicks and big chickens are all together so that we could use the brooder again. But by then it will be getting hot and I’m not sure I want to deal with chicks in the middle of the summer. I have to think about it and what kind of chicks to get. I don’t really like the idea of the Cornish Cross birds. My reasons for that are probably enough for another post!

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.

Chicken observations

May 20, 2009

I was out watching the chickens the week before last while taking a break from the garden. I watch the chickens a lot, but I am usually mulit-tasking This day, though, I was only laying on a blanket watching the chickens. This is really fun and relaxing and I should do it more often. Anyway, I noticed a few things. We definitely have two roosters (cockerel, really since that is what they are called until they are a year old), and one of them does not stay all that close to the pullets. I’ve noticed this more since then and am thinking this rooster is not a keeper. On this day that I was watching him, he also got freaked out by something and then suddenly attacked one of the hens by biting her near her ear. Not nice, Mr. Rooster!¬†

I also noticed that the hens really look different, but that you have to look closely to see the differences. I was laying there, watching them and writing down notes so that I could tell them apart. I noticed that one has a ring of black tail feathers. You can’t really see the black feathers from the top or the front, but if she is walking around, scratching at the ground, you can see the ring of feathers. Another hen has some black near her hackles. It’s hard to see from far away, but up close is easy to see. This hen is also a little darker than the others. One of the hens is a bit lighter and I think is the chick that was always a bit smaller and lighter in color. So anyway, now that I can sort of tell them apart it is time to give them names. We were planning on using the names of my grandpa’s sisters. I made sure this was OK with him since he reads my blog. He said it was fine and it actually worked out that we have 4 hens. He had five sisters, and four have already passed away, Aunt Hazel being the most recent. So I figured we would name the four hens after the four who have passed away: Lula Mae, Rosalie, Georgie, and Hazel. As soon as we figure out which is which, I will take pictures and post them with their names.¬†

While I was watching them that day, a hawk flew over head. I did not see it at first, but I did notice something was wrong as they were all peering at the sky with one eye and making a sound I have never heard them make before. I cannot describe the sound, but it must be the “hawk” sound that I’ve read about. I looked up in the sky and finally did see the hawk, but it was long after they saw it. They happened to be outside the movable coop (for some reason it seemed that they could not find their way in) in a huddle anyway. So they were not easy to spot and the hawk moved on.

In other news, the chickens are free ranging for large parts of the day. It just depends on what is going on. I don’t like to leave them unsupervised, so Sunday and Monday they didn’t get out much. Then on Tuesday I let them out and I ended up getting bonked on the head by something and wanted to go inside. So I left them out and they ranged all around the house and the garden areas. They seemed very happy about this situation. I wanted a breed that would do well free-ranging or in confinement and New Hampshires are supposed to do well in either condition. The thing that I didn’t read is that once you let them range, they will not be happy being confined. They are not happy being in the movable coop for long. Even if it were bigger, I just don’t think they would want to be in there for very long. They love ranging. The benefits of free ranging chickens are numerous. They are obviously happier, therefore they will be healthier. When they start laying eggs, their eggs will be healthier as well. They are eating lots of bugs and weeds, which in turn means they are eating less feed. This is exactly what I wanted to happen.

I do worry about hawks still, but now that it is spring I can easily see how much shade and cover the chickens have to hide from hawks. The bigger concern is the outdoor cats, but so far the chickens seem quite unconcerned about Swirly or Little Gray. The chickens did have to set their boundaries with the cats, but they did that and now don’t pay much attention to those two cats at all. Mama Cat seems fine as long as I keep her tummy full. I’m sure she will disappear again once her kittens are older, but hopefully not before we can get her fixed!.

Picture Friday

May 15, 2009

I have some serious updates to add, but for now this will have to do. I am working on posts, I promise. For now, here are some pictures and a little bit of an update on the cats. I did post some more pictures of the garden on the May 2009 page and have been updating that almost daily. These pictures were taken on or before Tuesday, so the chickens are not exactly 9 weeks old, but are close. I have a few more pictures, but I need to charge my camera battery. 

Here is a picture of the chickens in the garden area. They mostly leave the raised beds alone, but will climb in occasionally. You can see the covers Tim has made. They help to keep out the chickens and cats, who like to poop in the beds. They also should keep out deer, bunnies, and racoons. 

Chickens in the Garden

Chickens in the Garden

This is just another picture of the chickens in the garden. There is a small hole that Mo filled with potting soil and they are digging around in it. You can see the movable coop, also.

Chickens in the Hole!

Chickens in the Hole!

This is a good overview of the raised bed part of the garden. The two beds with covers are Salad Beds1 and 3. The one between those is also a salad bed (Salad Bed 2, even though it is the third to be planted). The only thing I have in it so far is cauliflower that I transplanted yesterday. The bed in the foreground of Salad Bed 1 is the Pie Bed. It has rhubarb and strawberries in it, and blueberries as of yesterday. It also has a cover over it now. The big bed is the Pizza Bed, which now has tomatoes and peppers in it and will have basil soon. The unplanted bed next to the Pie Bed and Pizza Bed is an Herb Bed. In this picture it is empty, but it now has dill in it and a couple of chives. I have no idea if they will survive the rain today, though!

Raised Beds

Raised Beds

Here is a picture of Little Gray’s kittens. They were born around May 1. She had them in a box that was stacked on some other stuff, then moved them to a shelf under the workbench in the garage. They were behind a bunch of stuff and seemed safe to me, though I couldn’t manage to get a good look. Then on Tuesday she decided to move them again for some reason. I think she may have needed more space. Tim and I interrupted her while she was moving them and she was hissing and growling at us. I only saw three and was a bit worried, but later there were four. That is how I know we interrupted her. So they are all four there in a litter box filled with pine litter. It hadn’t been used, so it was clean and actually makes a decent bed. The only problem was that the kids could easily have found her. Tim ended up moving around the various bags of feed so that Little Gray can get in and out, but the kids won’t see her unless they are really poking around in there. So, here is a picture I took on Tuesday.

 

Little Gray nursing her four kittens

Little Gray nursing her four kittens