Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hatching a Goose

A little over a month ago, I got a phone call from a friend. She was really, really excited because she'd gotten a line on some really exotic eggs, and wanted to hatch them. She asked if I would be willing to hatch some, since I am really good at incubating, and her incubator wouldn't have room for all.  I said sure, I'll take 7.  I thought it was some exotic breed of chicken.

goose egg on right, chicken eggs on left
She arrived at my house a couple hours later with a big box. Inside the box were what looked like dinosaur eggs. They were ENORMOUS. It turns out they were Sebastopol Goose eggs. After googling "Sebastopol Goose", I was INCREDIBLY excited to hatch. However, I quickly realized my little brinsea could not hold 7 goose eggs.

doesn't fit

I'd been given a styrofoam "Farm Innovators" that was forced air, and I was assured it was wonderful. I took 6 eggs and started incubating.

At day 7, I saw this beautiful egg.  The rest were clear. I was really, really devastated. I normally have wonderful hatch rates. I do know that the people who sold my friend the eggs didn't know how to treat them. They'd been left outside for a while, and when they DID find them, they stuck them in fridge. Neither of which is how I'd prefer a hatching egg be treated. Even worse, my friend was hatching 24 and not a single one of hers developed.

Goose eggs take 28 days to hatch.  Life has been busy, and I had a couple of school hatches going on, so I was somewhat distracted, even though I turned the goose egg a few times a day.

Egg was supposed to hatch on Tuesday, April 29. I candled it then, and it was still alive and wiggling, but not looking ready to hatch. By this time, my Brinsea had been freed up, so I moved it over to that.  The egg was at the school. Friday came, and NOTHING. I didn't want to leave it at school over the weekend, so I decided to take it home. As I checked it before I left, I heard it cheep! I could also feel the goose moving from within the egg. From this, I knew that it had internally pipped. I'd heard that oftentimes, geese need help pipping because their shells are sooooo thick and hard. Do I help or no? Decisions, decisions.

I fretted all day Friday, and had strange, disturbing dreams that night. Saturday, I was going to be gone all day.  My wonderful husband, who tolerates my chicken habit really well, texted me the following picture Saturday.

Now, I had a whole new thing to fret about. Do I help or no? Experts told me not to worry until Monday, so I resolved not to interfere until Monday.

Saturday night, the pip looked exactly the same. I went to bed late, figuring nothing would change by morning.

I was woken up bright and early Sunday by excited children, telling me the goose was about to hatch! I turned on the webcam, and the goose hatched within 20 minutes. I was amazed at how HUGE the chick was. I was also blown away at how much I loved this chick.

Confession: I have never been crazy about geese. I think they are mean. I don't think they look as evil as, say, emus, but I've never been a big fan. But, within 5 minutes of meeting this gosling, I was mentally thinking of adding a pond to my yard and keeping it, even though I'd promised to give it back to my friend.

Not only was the little gosling adorable, but it actually likes people. I was trying to take a picture of it, and it would waddle over to me as fast as it's legs could carry it, wanting me to hold it.

I've since (kind of) come to my senses. I will give it back to my friend because I am an honest and ethical person. It's staying at the elementary school this week, and then will go home this weekend. It's been hanging out with some french black copper marans chicks. At first, they weren't sure what to make of it, but they've come around.

The goose answers to several names, including: Goostav, Gus (pronounced "goose"), Ryan, Princess, and Yellow.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Catching Up

Obviously, I am the worst chicken blogger EVER. I will try to do a quick rundown on how things have been going with my chickens.

At this moment, I have a total of 24 chickens. 23 hens and one rooster. Sadly, I lost my polish rooster, as well as my Legbar rooster. Houdini, the French Black Copper Marans is still alive and kicking and king of the castle. He is truly about the best rooster a girl could ask for.

We had a scary incident in which I lost Indy, the Cream Legbar, and nearly lost Shirley (the mix) and Carrie (the Speckled Sussex). They got into some moldy food and got botulism. They were unable to walk for a good week. I put them in the time out coop, and made sure they could reach food and water, while still laying on their sides. Indy died, but the other two eventually recovered and are perfectly healthy.

In the late summer, Shirley went broody, and I let her hatch a batch of fbcm babies. I sold them when they were a couple months old to an old friend of mine. The lady who bought Sue, the FBCM rooster from me, ended up having me hatch a batch for her as well.

Right around New Years, one of my friends from high school was posting on facebook. They had a Barred Rock chicken adopt them. Nobody knew where it came from. He doesn't keep chickens, so he wasn't set up to deal with it. His daughter fell in love, and named it Phil. I agreed to take Phil in. Turns out, Phil is a young pullet. I'm pretty sure she began laying a couple weeks ago.

Here is Phil just after she got out of quarantine, next to Godzilla, the RIR.

Phil still doesn't really perch on the perch unless I stick her up there.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Feeling Frizzled!

One of my good friends is having some health problems, and decided to get rid of her flock. She knew I'd been coveting some of her birds, so I got the opportunity to acquire some gorgeous new girls.  I am so excited.

First off, I got a bantam frizzle. I don't know if I posted or not, but I got her twin sister a few months ago. So when she came available, I was anxious to get her. Lady Diana (my frizzle) hadn't started laying yet, but her sister not only started laying, but went broody and hatched 3 chicks. Best of all, within a couple days of the new arrival (who I think I'll call Lady Sarah), Lady Diana started laying! I guess the sisterly pressure got to her.

Next, I got a leghorn/Easter Egger cross. I haven't named her yet, but she has given me a couple blue eggs already, and I just love her.

Lastly, I got an Ameracauna Frizzle. She's been quite shy, and hasn't quite integrated into the flock yet. She spends a lot of time in the henhouse. But, I think she'll eventually fit in and be just fine. 

I hatched 4 eggs for the preschool hatch. We got two legbar/FBCM mixes (both boys), a polish/hamburg mix, and a pure blue laced red wyandotte. I was tempted to keep the latter two, just to see how they turned out, but ended up deciding not to.  I have 7 eggs going into lockdown tomorrow morning for the 1st grade hatch. As of Friday, all of them were great. 5 are pure legbar, 1 is a FBCM and one is an olive egger/legbar cross. I'm going to try and have the webcam up for their hatch.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

New additions to the flock

There's been some changes to my flock. First, I had to get rid of my cockerel that I hatched over Labor Day. He was starting to mate with the hens, and that's just too many boys for my girls.  I had someone come to get him who intended to eat him. I'm ok with that. If I were less squeamish, I would've processed him myself. That would I'd know for sure that his end was humane. This lady seemed nice enough, and seemed to be a good person.  Because she seemed decent, I gave her my two sexlinked cockerels from my January hatch.  Down THREE boys! I've had someone offer to teach me how to process chickens, so I think I'll take them up on it in the near future.

Then, a couple days later, I got a panicked facebook message from an old friend from junior high. She had a flock of 9 chickens. She doesn't have an enclosed coop- she lets them wander about her back yard. Her yard is mostly fenced, with a small section between the house and side fence being left open. A day earlier, animal control parked in front of her house, WALKED INTO HER BACK YARD and confiscated two of her chickens. Then they cited her with having two "livestock" animals at large, which includes a fine of $70 per animal. Her husband is an attorney, and talked them down to $15/animal, which I still think is outrageous. They are fighting their city on it. However, legal limit for her is 7 chickens, so two had to go. She asked if I'd take them. Take already laying hens? OK!!!!!!

So, I am the proud new owner of a silver penciled hamburg named Salt.

I also have an Easter Egger, though I can't remember what they named her.

A couple months ago, I decided I wanted to replace Jones, my white legbar. I wanted to get a legbar rooster that was more traditional looking.  This week, my friend brought one of her surplus ones for me. She warned me that I had to pick it up that day because she's not allowed roosters at her home, and he had to go before he started crowing and the neighbors caught wind. So, I headed down to Bountiful to get him.  While transferring him from her pet carrier to my rubbermaid tote, he made a break for it and started running. He is not a tame rooster, and has had very little human interaction. She keeps her birds at a recreational property, so they don't see people much. He'd already had a very trying day, and was really starting to hate people.  It took about 15 minutes of running all over the place, up and down busy-ish roads before I finally got him. I'm sure it was a hilarious spectacle to the casual observer.  He's really a handsome boy though. I have named him "Bolt" after Husein Bolt, the world's fastest runner, and the fact that he bolted away from me.

Tomorrow,  Jones will be getting a new home. I talked with a guy named Jack who has 200 hens and looking to start breeding. I think he'll be a very happy rooster.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Miracle Baby

My chicken keeping has become contagious, and several of my friends started keeping chickens after hearing about how much fun I've had.  One of those friends is C.  She's called me with her chicken keeping questions, which are primarily really great questions, with a couple of hilarious ones (Do chickens have periods?)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, C called to say that one of her hens had gone broody, and wondered what to do. I asked her if she wanted to break the hen of her broodiness, or give her eggs to hatch. She opted for fertile eggs, so I gave her 7. Unfortunately, 3 of them ended up getting trampled and cracked by the other hens. The chicken was brooding in the most popular lay box, so it got a lot of traffic, and C would have to get eggs out of that box every day.

One egg didn't develop, but we got to day 19 and had three wiggling chicks inside. I recommended C get a separate place for the broody to be with her babies so that the babies wouldn't get hurt by the other chickens. So on day 19, we set up a second, much smaller coop. While we were doing that, one of her hens kind of shoved the broody out of the way and laid a MONSTER egg onto the nest. Seriously, I'll bet that egg is a triple yolker. It was ENORMOUS. Unfortunately, it landed right on one of the eggs. We peek in there, and that egg was just shattered. I picked it up to see if the membrane was intact, and I found a tiny hole in that, and a drop of blood oozed out.  I just knew it was a goner. And so close to hatching, too.

C looked ready to cry. We took it inside to open it up and see what it could have been.  C peeled the first tiny bit of shell off the top, and we saw the chick moving under the membrane!  We realized it was still alive. So, I ran home and got my incubator.  I put it in the incubator, and cranked the humidity up as high as I could, given that the membrane was showing on a significant part of the egg, and "shrink wrapping" was a huge risk.

We could actually see the chick wiggling around, so it instantly became the most interesting egg in lockdown that I've ever seen. I honestly felt like it only had about 10% chance of survival, but we decided to try.

Here's a video that C took of the chick a couple hours later.

Late Saturday night, about 40 hours after it had been smashed, C excitedly calls me to report that the chick had hatched!  I rushed over there to find a healthy chick. We decided to check the eggs still under the broody and found one more hatched chick, and a big pip in the other.  By Sunday morning, all three were hatched. She put the NICU baby out with the others, and the mama hen accepted her right into the nest.

Here's a quick video showing all three chicks with their mama.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A New Sexlink?

I am still not completely sure, but I think that my babies are a new (ish) kind of sexlink. I'm sure I'm not the first person to do this, but I'm the first I've heard of, so it's very exciting to me.  Some of the chicken experts have said that it's entirely probably because a Cream Legbar has barring in its' genes, which is one of the basis for sex linked chicks. I'm wondering if that, coupled with the autosexing characteristics of the legbar also contribute.

My chicks are all 5 weeks old now. The difference between the two that I pegged as boys and the ones I thought were girls is startling. 5 of the chicks look exactly alike. Then two of the chicks look exactly alike. The two that had the white spots on their heads that I theorized *could* be boys are very obviously boys.

Here's two of the chicks. One of the "girls" and one of the boys.

So, if this theory pans out, then I can make sex linked Olive Eggers. That would be so unbelievably cool!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bull in a China Shop

I'm sure you've heard the term "bull in a china shop" to refer to a very clumsy person. Mythbusters even tried setting up a whole bull in a china shop scenario and found that cows are actually quite graceful, and very few pieces of glasswear got broken.

I'm thinking they must've had an unusually graceful bull.  Or maybe steers (boy cows who will never be able to have babies) are more clumsy?

Whatever it is, I am tempted to say like a steer in a chicken coop.

Last week, I was going out to give my chickens their food and water. CG (cow guy who rents the pasture next door and looks after my two cows) was out there and he stopped me.  Told me they'd had a bit of an adventure. They'd been unloading some new steers, and one of them panicked and jumped the 4' chainlink fence. Unfortunately, the other side of my fence was the chicken yard. He completely shredded my poultry netting, and he managed to disconnect the chain link to the top rail for a section of fence. They couldn't get the door to the run open enough to get him out (we have about 2' of snow on the ground right now), so CG ended up cutting a 6' long hole in my chicken wire to get the cow out. My chicken run was pretty trashed, and most of the repairs can't be done until spring.

CG was very apologetic, and offered to pay for any repairs. The majority of it is labor, and it's labor that would be tough to do with all of the snow. We put up a few panels of dog kennel fencing to temporarily fix it, and it'll hold til spring.

Here's the part of the run that is unusable until I fix the poultry netting and the chain link.

I think the chickens were thrilled to get out- I'd locked them inside for a couple of days until we got things repaired and safe. There were only 3 eggs when they were locked inside. Granted, I was only getting 0-2 a day ANYWAY.

My poor speckled sussex is all verklempt because she prefers to lay in the other hen house, but she can't get to it now.

In happy news, I've gotten two olive eggs and two blue eggs in the last few days. I hadn't gotten the olives since November, and I think these blue eggs were from my lavender ameraucana, who also hasn't laid since November.