Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

If any one happens to stumble onto this site in the next few days, the hens would just like to say Merry Chick-mas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Five eggs, woo hoo!

For the last week I have been getting 4 eggs a day and I figured out of six hens (with two molting) that was good enough. On Thursday however I got five, one of the hens that is molting laid an egg. It must have to do with feeding the dry cat food, when I started giving them the cat food their feathers began to develop faster. They do not have all their feathers back in yet but if they start laying again then that is a bonus! 0O0oO

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


On the right I will put up a link to a breed chart that I often like to refer to when I am not familiar with a breed. It gives a lot of information on breeds of chickens and bantams, plus it has links to photos of most of these breeds. It opened up a whole new chicken world for me.

I am excited to have found a hatchery a couple of hours from me that hatches different, rare and bantam breeds. Most of the hatcheries people in my area have to order from are 6 to 8 hours away and only carry the sex-link, white leghorn and meat breeds.

For people in the Ottawa area the most popular hatchery is Frey's Hatchery. All my laying hens came from there, plus most of the hens I had as a kid came from there twenty years ago, so they have good stock and a trusted name.

The other one I just stumbled upon is Performance Poultry, they carry a much larger variety of breeds. I will put links up on the right as well for these hatcheries. Performance Poultry also offers poultry supplies which can also be hard to get in this area.

If someone from the Ottawa area or Ontario has any other information they want me to link to feel free to comment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eggs in winter.

When I was younger my hens would stop laying by October, I always thought it was because of the cold. I learned later it was because of the days becoming shorter. I believed this because I noticed the hens would start to lay again at the end of February and swing into full laying by March, two months that were certainly colder than October and November. The reason I figured was because the day began to get longer in spring. The truth of this fact has been made quite clear to me these last two weeks. I had installed lights and slowly extended the hours over the last month to 14 hours of light. The hens had stopped laying and two started to molt (lose their feathers). With the lights I started to get an egg every other day and then it became an egg a day. The temperature suddenly dropped here from -20 to -25 Celsius or -4 to -13 Fahrenheit. I figured that would be the end of the fresh eggs, however with the lightening and in spite of the cold, it began to increase to two eggs a day then three and now four. I know the two hens molting will not lay until they finish, so that means the two young hens started laying and the lights stopped the other two older hens from molting, so 4 eggs out 4 hens is not bad for -20. I think what also helps is I mixed straw into the floor litter, this has made the hens very active. They spend their days scratching through the straw looking for fallen food and treats I hide. On some of the other blogs I read where feeding a hand full of dry cat food can help the hens that are replacing their feathers. Cat food has higher protein so I gave it a try. I have to say it seems to be working, the hens feathers seem to be coming in a lot faster and hopefully it will get them laying again soon. I also wonder if it was not the cat food that help cause the young hens to start laying. I crush it up and sprinkle it on the floor every second or third day so that they have to scratch around in the straw for it. I also managed to get some soft grass hay, I cut it up in small pieces and scatter that on the floor as well. I did this because my girls loved eating grass in summer and I noticed them picking the grass out of the straw. I would caution that you need soft grass and to cut it up, giving them long strands of hay can choke them as they have no teeth. A man I know was warned about that but did not listen, one day he found one of his good chickens dead from trying to swallow hay.

This is just a hobby for me so it is not that important if the hens lay well, I just like trying different ideas. The point of this post is if some one stumbles onto it and was wondering about trying the lighting trick, I say do it. Jump start the hens to 12 hours of light and work it up to 14. My lights come on at 5am and go off at 8am then they come back on at 3pm and go off for the night at 8pm for a total of 15 hours. Good luck.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Egg Factory

The egg factory or Chicken Palace, which ever you want to call it but the hen house is important to my girls happiness. It used to be a storage shed but I decided to change it to a coop. It is 8X8 feet and probably 7ft at the peek of the roof inside. The ceiling is insulated but the walls are not. The walls are double with a vapor barrier behind the inner wall. The winters get quite cold here but this house is a lot better than the one I had for my hens as a kid so I knew it would be fine. The house is sealed up to prevent any drafts from coming in. It is the drafts you need to worry about, not so much the cold.

I added another window for more light and air flow in summer, there is a large window in the back. The pen is about 6X8, it has heavy gauge 2X4 wire to stop big animals like raccoons and foxes, plus smaller chicken wire on the outside to stop smaller things from getting in. The wire goes under ground and I placed large flat cement blocks to stop anything from digging underneath. The coop is near a busy highway so I can't let them run free-range as I would like to, maybe one day I will own a hobby farm and then they can run free. The little door stays open all the time so that they can go out as soon as they wake up.Right now it is -20C or -4F depends which temp you read so the door to the out side is shut with shavings piled against it to stop any cold drafts. On sunny days if the temperatures rise closer to 32F or 0C I let them back out.

They have wooden laying boxes and seem to favour one box for a few weeks and then switch, I guess they like a change. I use straw in the boxes and I was using shavings on the floor. The shavings I find keeps them cleaner but I have been using straw on the floor the last few weeks, I find they move around more and scratch more with straw on the floor, they say to keep them active like this helps get them to lay over the winter.

They have food ahead of them free choice, I placed a heat lamp over their water container and that seems to keep it from freezing, it is a metal one so don't try that with a plastic water container or it may melt. I also keep the water container up off the floor on a thick block of cement, less debris tossed into it when the girls are at work scratching around. I also have a light that turns on with a timer, I was told to give them 14 hours of light so it comes on at five in the morning and then again at three until eight in the evening. The heat lamp comes on a half hour before and a half hour after the other 60 watt bulb. This way they know it is about to get bright or dark and they will get up or get ready for bed just like the sun rising or setting. At the moment with the extreme cold, I am leaving the heat lamp on almost 24 hours but I heard this is not good as they may not sleep well and it could affect their laying. As for laying the girls had stopped, two started to molt and two were too young to lay. When I put in the lights, after a week they started to lay again but not as good as in summer. Two lay every other day and it seems one of the younger ones has started to lay. I try to keep it that feeding, watering and cleaning only really have to be done once a week and most other times I'm just checking up on them or giving them treats. Well any way this is the building where I spend part of my hobby time now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Invaders

I wanted to add more hens as I had the space, plus I thought it would help with winter to have the extra bodies. It is very hard to get chickens around the Ottawa area, with cold winters and many many many predators around, most people don't bother trying to keep chickens. I searched for weeks and finally found a woman who had bought black sex-link chicks in the spring but wanted to cut back on the numbers. I drove out and bought four more hens, they were almost ready to lay. While there she showed me a group of Silkies she had and was selling three roosters. I liked the little fuzzy guys walking around and bought one to replace Fred. The lady could pick him up like a pup and pet him, so different than Fred. Sorry the picture below is not very good but they were running around picking seeds, bugs etc.

I was a little worried how my hens who were a little older would treat the new comers, I did not see the disaster that was about to unfold. My hens are not aggressive, they also had their beaks trimmed as chicks so they could not pick each other. The new hens turned out to be much larger with full beaks. It would also appear that I grabbed the more dominate hens out of the large group, the results were four nasty mean hens that made life miserable for my poor girls. After a week things were only getting worse, my hens were not allowed to eat, drink or go outside unless I was there to protect them. My girls stopped laying and I was afraid they would be ganged up on and killed which can happen. I decided to re-sell the new hens.

I began to notice that it seemed to be two hens that were the worse. The other two smaller black hens were not as aggressive and also were picked on by the nasty bigger two. One after noon I locked the smallest black one in with my girls, after an hour or so, she was fine with my girls, I tried with the second smallest and it worked out as well.

Above you can see the smallest black hen is larger than my red hen, so imagine the largest black hen and the difference between red and black. Here they started to get along but the red hen keeps her distance. After a couple of hours together, and without the back-up of the nasty two, the black hen settles in with my girls below. You can also see my little Silkie rooster preening his feathers, I named him Chico-chicken. He, being a Bantam bonded to my smaller girls right away, he stays with them and has even tried to protect them from the larger black hens, of course this only make me like him that much more.

After I tried this with the second smallest hen and it worked well. I tried to do the same thing by separating the bigger hens and keeping them alone with my girls, however with the bigger hens, they were programed to attack and so I had to sell them. I think what happened is that when getting the chickens, we grabbed the first hens that came into the coop not knowing that the first two were the dominate hens out of a flock of fifty, I guess they had to be that aggressive to be top dog amongst fifty but against four smaller hens it could have turned deadly. The smaller ones were underdogs that just happened to run in when the lady chased a bunch to us. Within hours of selling the 'mean girls' the black hens left were totally fine with my hens and now everyone gets along. Four red sex-links, two Black sex-links and one Chico or Silkie.

Still, I feel bad about having to let them go as they were nice quiet big healthy birds but I had no choice, below is the final picture of them and this story... as the girls show you...the end!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I decided to get a rooster, it was quite easy actually as by fall there were many people wanting to give away roosters. I had two roosters close by to pick from, one was a large fellow with dull black trim on his tail and neck feathers, very quiet but a mixed breed with no comb. The other was a multi coloured smaller rooster, he had a lot of Bantam in him so I figured he would make a better mate for the hens.

It was hard to get a good picture of him as he always ran away and never stayed still long enough to get a good shot. In the sun he was much better looking than I caught here. I called him Fred. The girls when they came to me had been spoiled with treats and so, loved the sight of humans. Fred on the other hand was raised free-range on a farm by his mother and had almost no human contact, the result was a rooster almost as wild as a partridge. I felt sorry for him as every time I went to the coop, he had a melt down.

Soon however I was not very impressed with his behaviour. The girls had understood right away he was male and did not mind him. Fred on the other hand in spite of being one or two years old, was afraid of the hens and would attack them as if they were other roosters instead of courting them. It became bad enough that if Fred came outside the girls went in and if Fred went in they came out, they took a vote and wanted nothing to do with him.

It took a long while for him to finally settle in, he began to act like a rooster after almost two weeks but the stress had caused the hens to almost stop laying. He was better with them but still would not sleep near them at night, he was so flighty that he still was afraid of the girls, if I was not around them much for a day or two, he would become like the day I got him all over again, his melt downs were causing the hens to become nervous as they could never figure out what he was seeing to make him so upset, which of course was just me.

In the end I kept him for about a month or more, I liked his crowing in the morning, loud enough to be heard but soft enough that he never bothered the neighbors. He had been good for a couple of weeks and was king of his castle, suddenly his mean streak came back and he would attack the hens or pull their feathers out, often I caught him grabbing them by the tail and there was no reason for it as the hens would let him mate with them. I decided since the girls were such sweet hens, it was not fair to them to live with such a bully so I took him back, since he wants to fight all the time, there are about ten other rooster there to fight with. He is free to range again there so I hope he is as happy as a chicken can be.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My girls.

After a life time of missing chickens I bought four, they are red sex-link hens. When I went to see them, the elderly man who owned the hens, called them to him like four little dogs. I knew these would be perfect as I only wanted them as pets and to get a few eggs. I do feel a bit sorry for them as they were free range and I can't do that since my coop is near a high-way and in a village. They are called Gertrude, Delia and the Twins. The twins because two are so much alike I can't tell them apart yet. The cat watching is Tobie, she is a small cat but has such a strong prey drive that any thing smaller than a cow is her target!

They kept laying after I bought them in September, I did not push them and was only feeding scratch feed but I still received three eggs a day so not bad I think for four hens. They love clover, grass and earth worms so I gave them what I could. These girls were my start back into chickens, I watched to see if I could add to the flock. The house is only 8X8 so not many but I did want a few more. At least a rooster, I like the sound of a rooster crowing and the way they strut around. I also like the colours a rooster often has and the big fancy tail, at least a rooster would give me the feeling of being back on a farm even though I was not. I decided to watch for a bantam rooster, I figured that since a rooster can sometimes put stress on hens and affect the laying, a small rooster would be easier for them to have to put up with, plus I did not want to be attacked when feeding and in the past all my banty roosters were nice. I guess that is because of their small size.