Posts Tagged ‘movable coop’

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

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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?

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 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

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!

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

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.

Friday Cuteness

May 1, 2009

I have updated the Who’s Who page to include pictures of the new kittens. Here’s another one of Vicious, which you can see is aptly named.

Vicious the Kitten

Vicious the Kitten

Mama Cat nursing her kittens

Mama Cat nursing her kittens

Little Gray had her kittens either yesterday or this morning. She wasn’t around for dinner last night and didn’t come this morning until Tim went to disturb her in the garage. When she came to eat, it was clear that she had given birth. She was not as round and she had some matted fur near her bottom. So we found the kittens in the garage in a box up on top of a dryer. Here’s a picture, though not necessarily a good one. It looks like there are four kittens in there, two orange tabbies just like Scotchy and Swirly and two grayish ones.

Four newborn kittens

Four newborn kittens

And last, but not least, our 7 week old chickens:

Two roosters or a rooster and a pullet?

Two roosters or a rooster and a pullet?

Enjoying some free time

Enjoying some free time

Chickens in the garden

Chickens in the garden