Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Potato Farmers

I let all of the big kids out to free range while I harvested potatoes. They thought it was the funniest thing that I was scratching around in the dirt like them, and were constantly underfoot, especially the lavender ameraucana.
Whatcha doing, huh? Huh? Why you digging in the dirt? You want me to help? Am I in the way if I stand right here? Yes? How about now? See how helpful I'm being?

More of the not-so-helpful potato digging staff.

Thing 1 and Fonzie chilling out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who will lay next?!

Amongst the big kids, I have four pullets that have not started laying. Who do you think will lay next?

Carrie the Speckled Sussex

Of the group, Carrie, the speckled sussex, is the oldest. She's suddenly turned very red in the face, and I've seen her checking out the nest boxes. As of now, she is around 25ish weeks. I didn't hatch her, so I don't know for sure.

Thing 1

Next oldest is Thing 1. I didn't hatch her either, but I imagine she's very close in age to Carrie, so I'd guess 24 weeks old or so.

Shirley the adorable mutt
Next up is Shirley, the hen I saved from the eating basket. When I picked up eggs for my final school hatch, the 7th egg was a lovely blue egg, but it was kind of a strange, oblong shape. I worried that it wouldn't rotate correctly in the incubator, so I asked if I could swap it for a different egg. On the counter, she had a basket full of eggs that she'd collected for eating. I chose a pretty brown egg, and Shirley was the result. I think she may be a welsummer mix, or possibly a black sex link. Shirley is 21 weeks old.
Chloe the Coronation Sussex

Youngest of the bunch, but easily the biggest hen I own is Chloe. Cloe is the last to hatch from the batch that Shirley came from, and she was late and seemed to be struggling, so I helped her out. She bled a bit upon hatch, which made me feel awful, that I'd killed her. She also had curled toes that I had to fix. But look at her now! I am so thrilled with how beautifully she's turned out. I have no idea if she's "show quality" or not, but I sure think she's pretty.

I think my money is on either Chloe or Carrie laying first, but I think it'll be Carrie. I think that Thing 1 will be the last to lay.


After losing a couple chickens, I'd decided I wanted to keep my two flocks separate for a few months to make sure that I didn't have a huge outbreak of LL.  However, since a couple months went by with nothing, and the temperatures are starting to drop, I decided to integrate. The idea of buying two water heaters, having two supplemental lights set up, etc. etc got to buy a little overwhelming.

Jones and his fan club
I wanted the two groups to have a couple "playdates" before I took down the fence that separated the two coops. So, while I would be outside working on putting the garden to bed, I'd let everyone out so they could free range together. Everyone seemed to get along really well, so after a few days of that, I took down the fence. It seems to have gone fairly smoothly. My two roosters have been going at it a little bit, I think- both of them have slightly scabby combs, but they don't fight in front of me at all. It's kind of funny though- a couple of Jones' hens will sit there and almost groom his comb and wattles. They remind me of groupies. Jones is the white legbar rooster.

Warren the Black Copper Marans

I will admit he cuts a more dashing figure than Warren, the black copper marans. But, I suspect Warren is going to get better looking as he comes into himself. Even at his best, he's not going to be a very good example of a black copper marans- his color is too dark, more of a mahogany than an orange color. I also suspect his shape isn't great. his tail has some white, which is bad, but that could go away with his first molt.

Meanwhile, poor lonely Fonzie kept escaping from his corner of the coop so often that I finally gave up on protecting him from the rest. I think he's just so desperate to be part of the flock that he's willing to put up with their abuse. He's so small that he can escape through the chain link if needs' be. When I go out there, he comes running, and if I don't pick him up, he tries to fly up to me. Little bugger is growing on me. I can't have a FOURTH rooster, so I'm hoping he either turns mean or I'm wrong and Fonzie is actually a girl.

Everyone is still sleeping in their original quarters though- zero integration at night. Egg laying was segregated until yesterday- I found a marans egg in the other coop. Otherwise, they've kept that separate as well.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Egg Layers!!

I am so excited!  I have three pullets and one rooster from my preschool hatch. I gave the other hen to my sister in law, and sold the other rooster.  As of this week, they are now 26 weeks old.

Two days ago, I found a lovely green egg in the run. It was the same color as my old easter egger used to lay, and the exact same shade as my front room wall. I was kind of hoping it came from the lighter lavender ameraucana in that batch because I wanted Cinderella, my olive egger, to give me a very dark egg.

Yesterday, I went out to check for eggs again. In the time out corner, where Fonzie's been living,  I found my black copper marans pullet (from that hatch). No sign of Fonzie. The black copper marans was not at all happy to be in there, and seemed trapped. Also in there was another green egg.

I lifted her out and grabbed the egg. I was a little concerned that even though she was SUPPOSED to be a bcm, maybe she was some mix. I didn't think so though. She looked like a hen on an egg laying mission.

Sure enough, a couple hours later, I found a nice marans egg out in the run. Yay!! Two out of the three are laying.
Cream legbar egg on top, Black Copper Marans pullet egg on bottom

I did some decorating of my nest boxes- added carpet and then shavings in the bottom. Then, as a temporary measure, I moved a rubbermaid tote under the boxes so they could hop up there easier. Immediately felt like an idiot because I watched Cinderella, the dark gray pullet from that hatch JUMP 6 feet into the air and land on my storage shelf at the top of the room. I helped her down, and then she hopped into one of my newly done nest boxes. All the other chickens in the hen house started singing the egg song except her.

Cinderella at the top of the chicken coop

After a few minutes, I found that same nice green egg in there.  So, I think I'll have to be working on getting another olive egger in the future. But, this is a pretty color.

Teaching Chickens to use a Nipple Watering System

When I introduced my big buckets with nipple waterers on bottom in the first place, my chickens got the hang of it after a couple days. I just had them watch while I toggled a nipple with my finger, and after a few minutes, they just picked up on it.

I lost Potsy to misunderstanding the watering system (which is odd, because she'd had it in the house and used it with no problems) and nearly lost Fonzie.

I was determined to really watch the new chicks and make sure they got the concept down.  They didn't.  It was maddening. I could tell they were thirsty. I would use my finger to make water come out of the bottle, but they didn't get it. After a day or so, they got all excited when they saw my finger, as they saw it, it was the magical water dispensing finger. Yesterday, at wits end, I ended up squeezing the water bottle. It is soft enough that it forced water to slowly drip out. They saw that, and a light bulb went on. Within a couple minutes, everyone was drinking from the nipple, and all was well.

I've heard of adult chickens continuing to have a problem, and my fix won't work if it's a 5 gallon bucket. I haven't tried this, but it makes sense. Someone suggested using grapes or cherry tomatoes, and carefully sticking them over the nipples. The chickens will nibble at their treat, and by the time the treat is gone, they'll have realized there's water coming out of that strange, silver contraption.

A funny thing happened at the feed store...

So. A funny thing happened to me at the feed store today. As we were driving there, my 7 year old asked if we could get a chick. I said, "Oh honey, they don't have chicks this time of year" ("thank goodness" under my breath).

So we get there, and the manager is telling about how a month or so ago, someone dumped a bunch of hens over the fence into their back lot overnight. George, one of the roosters, decided they were his new flock and was hanging out with them.  A couple days ago, they realized that a bunch of chicks had hatched from these rogue hens. Some customers yesterday caught all but one of the hens. They thought they'd gotten all the chicks, but it turns out there was a broody banty mama with a bunch of chicks. There's also a bunch of feral cats and kittens out there, so she was a bit worried. I offered to help an employee capture everyone. So, we get this tiny little mama captured, and her TEN chicks. As we caught them, we were talking about how we could make a safe area in the petting zoo part of the store for the mom.

We get inside, and the manager announces I'm taking them all home. Ummmm, NO!!!  Another customer was in there, and he was perfectly happy to take them all. I ended up deciding to take one home, because it's such a funny story.

This little girl (?) definitely takes after her daddy. He's a big, dark blue rooster. I think he is probably a Blue Langshan. Mom was a little bantam. I believe she may be an Old English Game Hen. Three of the chicks were yellow, the other seven looked more or less like my chick.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loss and Gains

Sadly, I lost Potsy. Unfortunately, I think it's my fault. I moved the chicks outside a week or so ago. Their water container was changed with the move. Instead of being a clear bottle with a silver tip, it was a green bottle with a red tip. I showed the chicks where to get water, but I got really busy, and didn't really check closely to make sure their water levels were going down. She died a few days later. The next morning, I found Fonzie laying on the ground. Noticing that the water seemed awfully full. I toggled with the nipple and found it to be completely dry, a sure sign they hadn't been using it. I made him drink from the cow trough, and then showed him again how to use it. Within a few minutes, he perked up, and has been drinking from the watering system just fine. I feel bad that I didn't notice Potsy going downhill though.

This evening, I picked up three new chicks. I am so excited!

First off, we have WowWowWubsy (my 5 year old named it). She (?) is a white silkie.

Next, we have Lucy, a Patridge Sizzle.

Last, and my favorite, is Diana, a Wheaton Frizzle.