Posts Tagged ‘cockerels’

It’s like Easter every day

August 26, 2009
Lula Mae's old nest

Lula Mae's old nest

We now have two pullets who are laying eggs. Holly laid her first egg Monday, though she spent at least a week getting ready. I have now learned how to tell when a pullet is getting ready to lay. First, they get noisy – lots of cackling and clucking. The wattles and combs will get bigger and redder when they are near laying. They also start nesting. That sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it? But they will make a nest (assuming you don’t have nest boxes, that is), usually somewhere dark and covered. Lula Mae, the first pullet to start laying, picked a spot in a raised bed that has a pine tree and bush growing out of it, as well as other plants. She made a little hole in the bark in an area that was quite secluded. She laid there for a cople of weeks, then switched spots. She made such a nice nesting spot that the cats thought they would lie there. I suspect that is why she moved her nest. It took us a while to find the new nest, though we had an idea of where it was. It turns out it was in the back of our shed, in a place that only the kids can get to since it has a little doorway leading to it.

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Holly decided the garage would be a good place to lay. She had beein going in there making a lot of noise for a few days. She even found a box that was perfect. The kids and I shredded some newspaper and put it in there, but then the kids (OK, Mo) decided to empty that box out and move it later that day. So we tried to make a different area for her and she seemed interested, but kept going back into the garage. Finally, Tim got that same box ready so that Holly could lay in there. That’s where she has laid her last (and first) two eggs.

Holly's nest box

Holly's nest box

The other 20 chickens, the Buff Orpingtons, have been out ranging for a week or so. There have been no major skirmishes between the two flocks. Anytime Chicken Joe goes near the other chickens, they scatter. Joe is very secure in his position as top rooster. I have noticed the Orpington roosters (3 so far, not sure about a couple of others) fighting a bit and doing the mating dance next to the pullets. The Orpingtons are now 16 weeks old.

So the question that keeps popping into my head is, “What are we going to do when we get 19 eggs a day?” It’s a question that gives me a slight panic. Not a real panic, more of a I-better-figure-this-out-soon kind of panic. Mo suggested we slaughter (her word, not mine!) some. But then the kids thought maybe we should sell them. We can do that, of course, but there are some restrictions about that. Maybe I can just sell them to family and friends? I told the kids it would be a family business. They think it’s fun to collect the eggs since the chickens are day-ranging and we do not have nest boxes. Aidan keeps saying it will be like Easter every day! And he is right.

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Chickens

August 13, 2009

Finally, some pictures of the chickens. The Buff Orpingtons are now 14 weeks old. I took these pictures more than a week ago, so they were probably closer to 12.5 weeks old at the time. They are big, but not quite as big as the New Hampshires. I’m waiting until they are about the same size before I let them all out. Or that is my plan at the moment, anyway. I really, really want to let the Orpingtons out to free range but I am worried the big chickens will pick on them. I suppose that with all that room maybe they will be ok?

Buff Orpington pullet

Buff Orpington pullet

I’m not sure how many roosters we will end up with, but there are at least 4 and I suspect that some others will be, too. You’d think I could tell by now! I suppose some of the others that look like they are getting combs and wattles could be pullets. And I suppose they could be laying eggs next month. Wow! They totally need to be out eating grass.

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington chicks

Buff Orpington chicks

I had planned to name the New Hampshire pullets after my grandpa’s sisters, but that was when we thought we had 5 pullets. It turned out we had 4 pullets and that still worked since my grandpa had 5 sisters and only one is still alive. I figured we would not use her name since she was still alive. Well, now we are down to two pullets, so one is named Lula Mae, after my grandpa’s oldest sister. The other is named Holly. This is not one of my grandpa’s sisters’s names. It is a name the kids picked out when we were on our way home with the chicks. I didn’t want to use it because it wasn’t a name of my grandpa’s sisters…. but now that we only have two pullets I figured Holly works just fine as a name. So, here is Holly Hen. She is much bigger than Lula Mae, by the way.

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

I often say to Chicken Joe, “Who’s a handsome rooster?”

Who's a handsome rooster?

Who's a handsome rooster?

Here is a picture of Chicken Joe and Captain Gray, who is one of Little Gray’s kittens. We called him Tiny Gray for a while, but then I figured since he is a boy that name won’t fit for long. So Captain Gray it is. UPDATED: Sorry, but this is actually Little Gray, not Captain Gray, as Captain Gray is gray and white, but has very little white on his face.

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

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.

Introducing Rosalie

June 19, 2009

This is Rosalie. She has a ring of black tail feathers. The other pullets also have black tail feathers, but not quite this same pattern.

Rosalie

Rosalie

I took these pictures a while ago, so she has gotten a bit bigger. I am pretty sure she is the top hen. I moved the coop to a new location and they had a hard time finding it at first. One night I was out trying to show them where the coop was. They all figured it out, but for some reason Rosalie was just standing there looking at me. I think she was glaring. I think she was giving me some attitude, but I could be wrong. She was very stubborn about going into the coop and was the last one in (yes, even after the two roosters!). I will have to watch her closely to see if she is the top hen, but I am pretty sure she is. I know who is the lowest in pecking order. I think I will introduce her next.

Rosalie

Rosalie

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?

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 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 8, 2009

It’s Friday, so here are some pictures. I’m thinking of making this a regular thing on Friday. I don’t have more pictures of Little Gray’s kittens because she moved them and it’s hard to see them. She is doing great as a first time mama cat, though. I am a little surprised because she is so young, but she is taking good care of her kittens. The cows are doing well. We’ve even taken the kids up while feeding them. Sweetie Cow didn’t come too close when Aidan was up there, but she didn’t run away. Bullseye was fine with Aidan, but she was fine the very first day, too.

Mama Cat and her kittens

Mama Cat and her kittens

Kids and Chickens

Kids and Chickens

One of the Roosters

One of the Roosters

Mo and the two roosters

Mo and the two roosters

Chickens near movable coop

Chickens near movable coop

Cows grazing

Cows grazing

Two roosters?

May 4, 2009

Last week I got a question in the comments from Kristi who was trying to figure out why one of her Buff Orpingtons looked so different. In trying to help her figure it out, I happened upon How to tell the sex of chicks on the blog Raising Chickens: Keeping Chickens in your Backyard. For Kristi, it turned out that she had a Buff Orpington and a Buff Brahma, which must have gotten mixed together at the store where she got them.

In our case, I am sure that we have six New Hampshire chickens. I’m also sure that we have two cockerels and four pullets, instead of one cockerel and five pullets. Last week, Tim commented that one of our “pullets” looks a lot like Chicken Joe. I dismissed that because I was in denial. I noticed a long time ago that one “pullet” was developing waddles and a comb faster than the other pullets. I thought she was simply developing more quickly. However, the other pullets should have noticeable wattles and combs by now and they don’t. The other reason I was in denial is because the feathers on the other rooster look more like the feathers on the pullets in terms of color and shape. Anyhow, there is no denying it now. We have two cockerels. 

Two chickens with big combs = two cockerels

Two chickens with big combs = two cockerels

I didn’t really need anymore proof, but I got some more today. Tim pointed out our two cockerels to Scott the Farmer, he agreed it looks like we have two. Tim said we’d eat one, but I’m not sure about that! We’ll have to see what happens. I am planning on getting more hens this summer, so maybe it will work out to have two roosters. I’ll have to watch them, the way Hot Belly Mama watches hers to see which is gentler and watches out for the pullets the best. The cockerels aren’t really fighting yet, but I’ve seen them kind of rush at each other with their feathers all ruffled and last night I saw Chicken Joe on a perch with two pullets and the other cockerel on another perch with the other two pullets. As much as I think that was really cute and sweet, I also realize that when they are older, two hens per rooster will not be enough! I am worried that the roosters will fight and that the poor hens will be ravaged because there aren’t enough of them for each rooster. Even if I get 4 more pullets, it might not be enough. So I would either have to get a lot more pullets or eat one of the roosters. If one turns out to be mean, it will be an easy decision to make, even if I don’t eat him myself.