Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 2011

April is almost over and Easter is here.  Wow!  Time sure does fly.
 And the chicks grew quickly.
First they get wing feathers.
Then they get little tail feathers.
Then the shoulder feathers start coming in and the wings fill in in-between.

 They began to jump and exercise their little wings.  They were jumping as high as the top of the box, though nobody actually flew out.  So I found a screen window from an old screen door and put it over the top of the box.  It fit perfectly.
 They were really filling up the box.  Look at the tail on that little chick.  These birds are so interesting because they are each completely different from the other in color and the way they feathers are marked.

I put a branch in a couple of holes I poked in the side of the box and they practiced perching.  At first they would jump from far away and they would miss or overshoot or be going so fast they wouldn't be able to balance.  After a couple of days they figured they could just step up onto it.  duh

They really are the cutest things!
Seems like they are saying, "mom, it's a little crowded in here."

OK, so we cleaned up the coop.  The big girls, aka hens, went to live in a special condo Dad made for them.  The big roost is hanging out outside where the rain and sun can do it's thing before I treat it.  Dad fixed the areas which had been leaking and we got the inside completely dry.  It was only wet in the corners where the water had soaked through the wood.  That's what my good man fixed.  We have had nothing but rain this spring so far so it is a great time to see if the fixes are working.  So far so good.

The kids were a little nervous at first.  They stayed in a huddle until one brave one stepped out, then several would follow.  Gradually they got so curious they were all exploring.  I put a cardboard corral in front of the concrete block to keep the warmth in and drafts out.  I used old salt bags to block drafts by stapling them to the walls.  Those bags are heavy duty.  And I love reusing stuff where ever possible.
They love to perch.  I put the perch close to the heat lamp so they could perch nap during the day. 

Then it was time to clean the brooder box and get new chicks.
 15 adorable little Buckeye chicks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 2011

Today, March 29th, 2011 at 7:30am we got the call from the Post Office.  I went at 8:00 to go downtown and get the chicks.  They were all there and nice and healthy.
11 Silver-laced Wyandottes and 11 Golden-laced Wyandottes.  Last years White Plymouth Rock were all yellow so I was amazed to see black and grey with splashes of gold and bronze.
Very very tiny.  You forget just how tiny they are.
We used a box from a new toilet the neighbor just put in his house.  It's a pretty sturdy box.  I thought about the plastic tubs I'd been seeing and went to scout some out.  The problem to me was that they were all narrow and I need to shine a heat lamp on them and let them still have room to get away from the heat.  I also don't want the water to get warm.  So I was having trouble visualizing the whole thing working out.  To top it off, the box was free.  Ta da!  Free wins every time.  My easel works really well for holding the heat lamp.
My good man put a curtain rod across the canvas supports so we can raise and lower the lamp that way.  I put a zip tie to hold the lamp incase it slips.  You can't see it here but you'll be able to see it later.
The chicks immediately got to work eating, drinking and sleeping, and of course pooping.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Almost Spring

It's almost spring and new chicks are ordered.  11 Golden Laced Wyandottes and 11 Silver Laced Wyandottes from Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio.  At least 20 Buckeyes are also ordered from Ann and Bob Wood.  So now we patiently await and prepare for the new chicks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fall and Winter

A lot has happened since September, since I wrote about the chickens.  All the roosters went into the freezer by October 10th.  Four of them I cut into pieces and froze the parts individually.  Now I wish I had done most of them that way.  At first I didn't know what to do with feet and necks so I left the neck on and the feet I threw away.  Then I read an article "Homestead Poultry Butchering" in Backyard Poultry magazine by Harvey Ussery of .  This article was so incredibly useful.  Step by step.  Most of it I was already doing but there were those moments with each bird that were so awkward for me and this article cleared all of that up.  Harvey also explained about the feet and the neck.  It helped so much especially using the feet to determine if the bird had been in the hot water long enough and if the water was hot enough although I do use a thermometer for that. 
That was 16 roosters.  We didn't process any pullets this year.  We felt that 16 roosters was plenty of food for our tiny family.
I made the most wonderful chicken stock and froze it in 2 cup containers.  After making a couple of batches I think that chicken stock gets better the more you make.  The first batch was so good.  The second batch was so so good etc.  When you are cooking you should replace water with stock in almost every recipe for a much more superior flavor.
Winter has been challenging to say the least.
November we had 7 casualties.  Down to 15 pullet's and an average of 10 - 11 eggs a day I was feeling pretty good.  I was able to share several dozen eggs a week.  Seemed like the birds were getting along alright, though they wouldn't stay on our property.

I chased them home but no sooner did I turn my back and they would all pop back over the gate.  Then they got more and more assertive until they were two properties over on the left and one on the right.  On the eighth of November one chicken was jumping and playing in the leaves with the neighbors dog on the neighbors property.  Their were several chickens actually.  The neighbor was raking the leaves when he noticed the chickens and the dog converge on something.  Apparently one of the chickens had a very bad accident and had met it's untimely end.  Our poor neighbor.  Not his fault at all.  Tried to pay for the bird.  But I feel that if that naughty bird was in his yard then it was not his fault.  His dog got in big trouble.  It wasn't really her fault either.  So I felt bad.  Later that day I noticed a big pile of feathers on my property.  That evening when I counted up my chickens there were only 13.  I saw the hawk earlier that day.  It is a hawk that lives farther north but was migrating through here on it's way further south for the winter.  I had looked it up and read all about it.  It has a white underbelly and is much bigger than our usual hawks.  So be it.  Mother nature helping one by sacrificing another.
Egg production went down from 11.71 eggs/day to 9.5.
Exactly 10 days later, I was writing on one of my blogs and turned my head towards strange movement through the window.  DOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I could not believe it.  I raced out the back door grabbing jacket as I flew.  Piles of feathers everywhere.  Dogs pouncing and dashing about.  I grabbed my little broom and started helling as I chased them.  After they left there was just silence.  Not a chicken to be seen.  I went to the coop and looked in there.  On top of the nesting boxes were both my buckeyes huddling together.  Whew!  A closer look revealed a WPR in a nesting box.  I was relieved I still had at least 3.  I wondered around in the yard amazed at the wreckage.  It looked like a battle field.  Tears were running down my cheeks.  I stepped in the house for a minute to grab my phone and my smokes, (I had quit but had saved a secret stash out of fear).  Behind the barn I called Mark at work and chain smoked.  I told him that my chickens were all dead and that (so and so's) dogs were here earlier because I knew who's dogs they were.  I told him about the 3 in the coop and while I was talking I saw a couple of chickens slowly emerging from the blackberry shrubs.  I told him I would look for more while I waited for him.  I found two more up by the front of the house and one I finally found stuffed up under some shrubbery by the neighbors house.  Total of eight left alive.  I grabbed the wheelbarrow.  Together Mark and I picked up the five dead. 
I was an emotional wreck after this.  But that was the last time I have smoked.
We put up a fence and mended fences and will work more on that this summer.  So now the chickens are neatly behind their fence and not all over the place, getting themselves into trouble and trespassing and being killed by horrible dogs.
December was snowy and dark.  I had lights on in the coop and was averaging 4.2 eggs per day.
January was cold.  I was concerned, moral was low.  They averaged 3.8 eggs per day.  One day towards the end of January I was reading a friendly blog.  She was asking a question to her readers about lights in the coop.  I read through the answers.  Some readers pointed out that turning lights on mimics the new-fangled chicken rearing methods and that many of us are endeavoring to go back in time even further than electricity in our chicken farming ways.  And that for centuries chickens did very well without added light.  This would also be a saving on electricity.  One reader pointed out that chickens were designed to need a recoup time, such as the darkness of winter, to rebuild and conserve their energies for the strenuous task of egg laying.
So on January 24th I unplugged the light.  There was only a slight drop in egg production.  But that's all right.  As long as my girls are getting the rest they need.
February started off with an ice storm.  Anyone reading this will know about this ice storm since it pretty much covered the whole country except the very south.  The girls weren't happy and haven't fully recovered from that.  I did open the door for them but they stayed indoors voluntarily for several days, pulling at each others feather and pecking each others combs.  Very frustrating.  I started making grits for them and growing sprouts.  Couldn't get enough of it.  Wow, they absolutely love it.  Just before the middle of the month the weather began warming up.  They are the happiest chickens.  Let me tell you.  I put some alfalfa hay outside for them and they pull it apart and play in it and pick out seeds and grass.  They are still loving the grits in their daily food.  By the way I put an egg into the grits after I take it off the stove, and stir it in until it is cooked.  Then I put it in a bread pan lined with wax paper and put it in the fridge.  I slice and cube it when it is cold.  Then I put it in a bowl and put fresh chopped garlic over it, a dollop of molasses and a little olive oil in there and about one cup of water.  Stir it together.  When I get to the coop, I have to hide this from them while I put two or three scoops (a scoop is a 1lb margarine container) of scratch grains in it.  Stir it all up and spread it out on the outdoor ground.  In the bad weather I had to spread it in the coop.  But it had to be really really cold or nasty outside for that luxury.  I love watching them go for that stuff.  In the coop I sprinkle Black Oil sunflower seeds around and scratch.  This way when they are cooped up they have something useful to do.  I also started putting vitamins in the water for them like I did in the really hot summer.
This pretty much brings me up to date on the blog.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

5 Months and Loving It

It's only been 5 months but it feels like I've had chickens forever.  Sometimes I get asked if I'm liking my chickens.  My answer is:  I'm loving them.
I went out and took pictures today.
Buckeye pullet.  This girl is wonderful.  She is larger than the other buckeye pullet.  I think she is sister to the huge male I have.  She is a watchdog and very protective of the other birds.  I have seen her chase the cat away after she lets him take a drink.  She also thought the sandbox was a chicken thing and tried to chase the kids away.  I corrected her.  She lays me an egg every couple of days.
Up close and personal.  She is an interesting bird.
The little Buckeye pullet.  She gets picked on a bit but not too bad.  I tend to watch over her somewhat.  She lays me an egg almost everyday.
There she is again.  She tends to stay fairly close to the larger buckeye pullet, who is quite protective.

This is Rosie.  Yes, she has a name.  At this point she is the only one who has a name and we are trying to keep it that way.  The reason she has a name is that she was the first one to fly over the fence and wander the yard around the house all day.  She was also the first one to lay an egg.  She laid an egg a day for several days before the others began to lay.  She acts differently than the others.  Much more inquisitive about us and extremely friendly.  She will hang out on the deck and run to me when I call her name.  She is a self-made pet.  She will probably get to live to a ripe old age as long as she can stay away from predators.
This is a picture of the inside where the nesting boxes are.
Ok, so I told her there was a box two doors down.  But she insists that this is the box for her and if her sister doesn't like it she can jolly well move.
Mark built a barn for his boat.  Rosie the white hen decided it was the best place for her to lay her eggs.  She would go behind the door and lay so I put some straw there.  She did this until something scared her and now she lays in the coop with the other girls.
He also installed a fan in the side of the coop for those hot windless days.  Painted it for winter and insulated the roof.  It looks much better.
He also made a gate for the boys pen.  It is completely movable.  I would like to take the fence down before winter.  The gate could stay there I suppose.  Might look unique.
No matter what the weather they do not go in the shelter, they sit on top.

Here is my big buckeye.

Roosters don't take much at all.  Food, water, grit and plenty of foraging space.  They have there own thing going on.

They do like it when you take an unneccessary trip back there to see them.  But don't bring the net or you won't see them.  They know what that is.  I never go in there pen without a short stick or broom.  They are curious but also defensive.  I keep control that way.  Never use it but just the idea of it keeps them respectful.

This is a fine looking buckeye for 5 1/2 months old.
Here are the two darker ones.  They are the same age just smaller and slower growing.

They look perfect to me.  I'm not seeing red in the eyes but the golden color is getting darker.  So maybe it's gets more red the older they get.

Serious looking bird.
There aren't as many WPR roosters as there were.
Only a few left.  This is what happens to roosters.  They get to grow, have fun, enjoy the life they have.  Be as natural as possible and then they get harvested.  And we are so thankful.

This is another view of the shelter.  They sit up there and keep an eye on the hens and there surroundings.  They can fly right out of there, but don't like getting caught so they mostly stay in.  The ones who wouldn't stay in are in the freezer.

I just love looking at these birds. 
Maybe you do too. 
So here's another picture.

So we've had very little rain since the first part of July and a lot of very hot days.  The pullets have used up there yard and since they are laying eggs now and I'm bragging that the eggs are better because they eat grass, I started feeling bad for them.  My blog is called "Chickens in my yard" after all and there's plenty of grass there for all.  So I opened the gate and let them all out.  Here's what happened.
Chickens everywhere.
They love the playcenter and the sandbox.

They were so happy.

In the ferns.
He gave them some bread.  Now they are friends for life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roosters, roosters and more roosters

18 months old.  It is definitely that time of year.  While roosters are the more beautiful in the species they are a pain in the butt.  We had too many roosters for the pen and for the number of hens.  We made a portable pen and put the biggest ones in there.  But they fought terrible and I couldn't stand that the ones getting picked on were trapped.
They did alright the first night, all a little confused about why they were in there.  Chloe sang to them that evening, bedtime songs.  We moved the box the next day, away from the regular pen so they couldn't see the other chickens.
To me they were looking pretty good and healthy.

They seemed pretty happy in there for the most part.

It was too many roosters for this size cage and the cage is very heavy so I couldn't move it daily to give them new grass to work on.  They became aggressive with each other.
That weekend we processed roosters number 2 and 3.  And then Mark got to work on making a pasture area for them.  We put the cage in the fenced off area so that they could sleep in it at night.  But they don't.  They sleep on top of it.  We put the rest of the White Plymouth Rock roosters in the back pen.  For the next couple of weeks we were rounding up roosters and putting them back in the pen since they would fly over the fence.  On the 14th while rounding up a rooster, he got hurt and we did an emergency processing.    He was 20 weeks old and dressed up at 3 lbs 9 oz.  So by this time 4 roosters were in the freezer.  Actually 2 were cooked and enjoyed.  By Aug 20th, most of them were staying in the pen, but I was still having trouble with one in particular, so on a friday with the help of the two kids I took care of him by myself.  He was 20 1/2 weeks old and dressed up at 4 lbs 3 oz.  There were 8 left in the pen now. 
After we moved the White Plymouth Rock roosters to the back pen we began having trouble with our large Buckeye rooster.  He was hanging out in the coop and the hens had started to lay.  He had actually been very laid back and unassertive.  He had a wonderful personality, calm, mild and generally minded his own business.  But with the other roosters gone he suddenly assumed the leadership role, not just of the two smaller Buckeyes but of the hens as well.  I spent a lot of time peeking into the coop to find him chasing hens around and broken eggs on the floor and in the nest boxes.  I even found eggs laid outside because she didn't want to deal with him.  I really didn't want to put him in the pen with the other roosters but it seemed like my only recourse.  One evening I put him back there with the others.  They immediately converged on him.   I watched for awhile until they settled down for the night.  In the morning I checked on him before I did anything else, he was a sorry sight but still alive and no blood.  Most of that day he spent running from the others.  I was pretty upset because I couldn't think what to do.  That evening he jumped both fences and proceeded to boss the hens around in the coop.  I knew he couldn't stay in there so I put him in the cage we had made, which was still in the rooster area and closed the door.  I gave him water, food and grit and let him be.  He was pretty upset for a couple of days and refused to eat, but I saw him drinking.  I relaxed a bit about him because he was safe.

Meanwhile, the pullets began laying.  We got our first egg on August 6th.  I was so excited.  I took pictures of it.

This is what it's all about.
It was so small.  Here it is next to a size large store bought egg.
She was 19 weeks old when she began laying and laid one each of the next 2 days before her sisters followed suit.  After she began laying she wouldn't stay in the pen with the other hens but jumps out every morning and wanders around the yard until bedtime when she wants back in the coop.  She laid her eggs in different places.  I try to let her in the coop when she starts cooing and she will go in but jumps over the fence and lays her egg in the yard.
All told we got 157 eggs in August.  That's a lot of fried eggs, cakes, cookies, pasta etc.  We shared also with our family and neighbors who are all very impressed with my project.