Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Robin

Meet Robin, of all the new chickens I bought, Robin and her mate Rusty are my favourites. They are Wheaten Old English bantams. Both will let me pick them up no problem and Robin will get into my hands for warmth when she feels cold. Sorry the lighting in the barn is not that good.

Robin making her first camera appearance!

The little house I made for Robin and Rusty so that they can eat and perch in peace. Being the smallest and youngest, they get picked on a lot.

I realized my mistake in not having one of the other chickens walk in just to show you their small size, Robin is actually the size of an American robin at the moment and she will not get much bigger.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Buyer beware!

Just a quick post about the "buyer beware" part of an auction. I remember the woman who sold me Lucy and Melda, saying bird auctions were a lot of fun but there was a lot "buyer beware" on the buyers part. Some people are honest and there are good deals but I also found that it seemed to be a dumping ground for unwanted roosters. It was not so bad when people labeled their boxes as roosters, the thing that bothered me is the tricks some crafty chicken people try to play on buyers. Example, a box labeled breeding pair of chickens. It may have been a rare breed that people are looking for with a beautiful rooster and hen or pullet. However what the box really contained was an older rooster with a young rooster, making the young one look like a hen. I was stung twice, one box was labeled three pullets but when I took them out of the box, there was only actually one hen, in my excitement of buying I did not check closely. The roosters it turns out, have a slight colour pattern that the hens do not, so this was no accident. Also in my box of one rooster with two hens, turned out to be one hen, one rooster and one young rooster of mixed breeding, giving at first glance the look of a hen. I could tell in a few minutes of letting him out of the box that he was a rooster. Again I feel that this was done on purpose. I know some boxes of pullets went sky high in price, so I can't help wondering (and feeling bad) for those buyers when they open their boxes and realize that there rare pullets, are actually roosters made to look like pullets.

There was also a trick of putting an old hen in with young pullets, still I would not be as upset with buying an older hen than being stuck with an extra rooster or three. If you get the chance to go to an auction, then remember this warning.

This was the only thing that slightly ruined my first experience of an auction. I already had three roosters, I certainly did not want more. The 3 brothers have become aggressive with all the hens and that leaves me with no choice, especially they harass Gracie their own mother non stop and in doing so they have sealed their fate.

Another vid about my new chickens.

They are starting to be named. I will put of pictures with their names later. In the next vid you will see that Gracie and her family are not happy at all with the new comers, they do not mix in together at all, even after a week and you can hear their complaints to me about the "others".

Un-happy campers.

I'm in the process of buying more if I can get a good deal! ;)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Bird Auction!

I was able to go, yaaaaaay! At first I was a little too shy to start buying anything but I did bid on a few chickens. It was a lot of fun as it was my very first bird auction. They did not have any cochins so I was not able to buy Gracie a husband. They had White Wyandotte hens (pullets) and Columbian Wyandotte roosters. I was shocked at how big they actually were, I guess I am so used to little Gracie. Even Lucy and Melda are a lot smaller and they are my big girls. I did not get them however, I kept bidding on them but they were going too high, $50 for a pair of hens, I thought that was too high for me, plus the people would have just bid me higher. The roosters went for $15. I also kept trying to get a pair of snow call ducks as they are so cute and pretty to look at, however all call duck pairs went for $50 and over. If anyone does not know about call ducks, they are mini ducks that are kept as pets, this way you can make a small pond and have duck in it. I think they are cute. There were no runner ducks either and only wild turkeys, but a person needs a permit for those.
A car load of chickens!

I kept watching two boxes with three buff brahmas in it. Also boxes with old english bantams, they are so small, I really wanted some.
I got one of the boxes with the three buff brahmas, a box with two black old english bantam hens and a pair of wheaten coloured old english bantams (rooster and pullet). I also saw a young barred rock pullet in a box so I bought her. At the end of the sale they were selling rooster/hen trios mixed breed bantams. Some went as low as $5 for the three of them. I bought the last box, they look like Japanese crossed bantams. Well any way I ended up with eleven new bodies but most are so small it takes about four of them to make one Lucy or Melda.

Here is a clip of the new chickens after I took them out of their boxes. I let them have full run of the barn because this way there was very little fighting. The clip is just after bringing them home but now a week later they have formed a new flock together. Gracie and her brood do not mix, they stay off by themselves. I am happy to say that little Gracie is the alpha hen of the whole group, even against the big barred rock hen she held on to her crown. I am also happy that Gracie is no longer alone in the chicken world, when she feels the need to do battle, her daughters Tina and Edna are right by her side to back her up.

There was also a Black Jersey Giant Pullet, she was huuuuuuuuge! She was actually very ugly as her comb had not formed yet, making her look like some type of bird that a person might see eating dead animals on the side of the road.

It was a lot of fun and I would go again in a second but I learned about "buyer beware" and I will blog about that later.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In the chicken news.

Steven's Chicken news.
Head line!

Dog attack!
Chico and the girls received a bad scare this week as their pen came under attack by two large hounds that escaped from their kennel. Lucky enough the pen is made of heavy corn crib wire and the hounds could not tear through. Dan arrived home from work to find two hounds running around and around the coop barking and trying to get in at the girls. There were another pack of dumb dogs still back at the kennel barking encouragement to the trespassers. Dan was enraged when he saw what was going on and the dogs ran for home when they saw him. He felt really bad for the girls because he figures the dogs were after them all day as a path was worn around coop, plus any flowers or shrubs near by were trampled. He said everyone was outside standing tight up against the wall as far away from the fence as they could get, he figured since the door is near the fence, the hens would not go in. Also I'm so glad Dan put large flat stones around the bottom of the pen, the wire goes into the ground but if the dogs worked at it all day, they probably would have gotten in.

Bird Auction.
This Saturday coming is the bird auction, I have it in my little mind to buy something! I love a good auction but have never been to a bird auction. I believe this will be the last one in this area for the year so I really want to go. Boy oh boy I hope nothing comes up to prevent me from going!

To hatch or not to hatch?
A man not far from my parents farm is selling an incubator, it has only been used twice and I wonder if I should try to buy it or just let Gracie do the work next spring. I found a place that would sell me eggs from rare breed chickens, I think I will wait to see what happens at the sale first.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Time to leave the nest, no really!


Remember this picture?


My only white chick turned out to be Rico. A bit bigger than mom at only four months.

Sorry the picture is not better but it was hard to get them to stop moving, plus it was raining out and they are in the barn. Rico is off one of the red-sex links (Marlene) and Chico.

I think this is Edna(or maybe Tina Turner), she is Gracie and Chico's daughter. Edna and her sister Tina love me, they come up to me all the time and pick at what ever I am holding, or my boots, or my coat or my buttons. They more closely look like Silkie hens than they do Cochin hens. An odd thing but a good thing about all four of Gracie's chicks off of Chico, is that they are all good at flying. Even though Chico being a Silkie can't fly and Gracie being a Cochin is not that great at flying, their four kids being hybrids have no problems going over four foot gates like nothing was even there. I think this gives them a better chance against something like a fox if it got into the barn, if something bad like that happened, my poor Gracie would be the first to get eaten.

In the next clip you will see Gracie with all her chicks. She still calls them to food sometimes but lately I notice she attacks the roosters to drive them off, especially Rico. You will see Rico Rooster, Silver (silver necked rooster), Fern (all black rooster), Edna Chicken and Tina Turner the little hens, good luck telling them apart. Here I am letting them run around the barn, (sigh, I miss the cows).

All the boys have started crowing now. Fern showed signs of being a rooster since he was about three weeks old and yet he is the bottom of the rooster pack, he only started crowing a few days ago. Rico started crowing first but now does not crow that much. Silver crows a lot during the day like his Daddy Chico.

In this clip, Fern shows off his new pipes, Tina Turner makes her guess spot at the end of the clip.

Sorry this last clip comes out so dark when I post it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Which came first, back to the beginning.

My very first chickens were two meat birds, my parents bought them for me as an Easter gift. The rooster became very large and very mean so we had to eat him. The hen however I wanted to keep, I did not understand at the time that these white rock cross chickens often die from being so large and growing so fast. I was crushed when my hen died and my family still tease me to this day about being heartbroken over her loss. Well I had raised her from a day old and she would let me pick her up and carry her around. Sadly I never thought to get a picture of them, they were certainly a nice pair of birds and they put the chicken liking bug in my little brain.

The following spring I bought 5 more chicks with two being Black Star hens. That fall I bought four leghorns and two bantams. Giving me the original six layers and two mothers that would start my poultry dynasty. I took out some old pictures and scanned them for the blog.

The original six layers, the black hen closest was Queenie, so called because she was the boss and would rule the house until the day there were no more chickens. She was my pet and a sort of replacement for Casandra my very first hen who died. Yes I know I'm a little obsessed with chickens but a lot really do have personalities (chickenalities????). Second in command was the other black star, I never gave her a name and a year later I sold her because she became a constant egg eater. Queenie was mostly black like Melda and the other looked a lot like Lucy, I think that is why I have a soft spot for my black girls that I have now, even though they are the biggest brats of the bunch.

My pretty leghorns, some had names but I forgot them now. Leghorns always get a bum rap with back yard flock owners, as if it was their own fault for being shoved into cages. I am in Canada with cold winters and they were super layers. They could run around and eat bugs as good as any chicken. They were a little more nervous when I first got them but as soon as they saw I meant no harm, I could soon pet them as well. I would later use them for cross breeding and their daughters were always some the best layers also. My problem was getting a good rooster to mate with the hens, so often it was more about getting a good functional bird and not about the actual breed. Oddly enough the leghorn cross roosters were the best tasting, they were smaller so it was a bit of work but they had great tasting meat. We never ate any hens however, even when they got old, people often bought a few just to have some chickens around.

My absolute favourite chicken of all time, even to this day, was the little bantam in the background. I called her Grannybanty as she was one of the older girls when I bought her. She is standing beside a hen she had just finished raising. The hen was from Queenie but I thought it was cute that she was raised by Grannybanty with such a size difference. She hatched five eggs for me at that time, all girls and all grew big like this hen. So small she could only cover four or five normal eggs but such a good mother that most chickens were raised by her. Sometimes she wanted to hatch three batches in one of our short summer seasons.

After raising the big girl above, I let her hatch a bunch of her own eggs. She had five little chipmunk coloured chicks, I flipped out when I saw the cute colour, I did not know there were chicks like this. Again this time I was lucky with only 1 rooster, so 9 hens and one bantam rooster out of ten eggs, I think she earned her keep that year. If anyone can take a guess at her breed, please feel free as I would certainly like to have more like her. She had white ears and laid small cream white eggs. I got her with a younger mate who was all black but had white ears and white eggs as well. I did not take a picture as it was not as good of a mother and always hatched rooster chicks. Like I said, she was so small that she could cover 5 normal eggs nicely but I did not want to take a chance as more may have been too much to keep warm.

Any way that was my first flock and I made a little pocket money selling eggs to my teachers and neighbours. I really enjoyed those years. I will share more older pics later.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Filling in the gaps.

Just to point out how easy it can be to have chickens, I live in the city. No, not as in city chickens but as in an apartment. The girls are in the city limits only I keep them at Dan's. My parents farm takes three hours to go there and back so it was too far to have chickens. My Dad also did not like to have chicken because he did not want to have to end up taking care of them when I was not around. Dan on the other hand is only 30 minutes from me and since I was stuck there all the time anyway, he let me keep the girls there. Dan ended up really liking the chickens and so when Dad became ill, he had no problem taking care of them. That is also why I tried to have large containers of feed and water, I did not want Dan to have to worry about feeding them etc. I felt if he was kind enough to let me keep them there, I did not want to impose on him any more than him collecting the eggs when I was not around.

When Gracie had the chicks, since I was back on the farm, we both felt it was better to have her with me. I have to move back to the farm to take of the place and my mom until she sells, so I am giving up my apartment in the city. This week Dan said he is really busy and feels the girls are no longer getting the attention they deserve, so it looks like the girls will come to live with me also. Dan said he will think about it as he has grown to like having them around. I told him I would take all or some of them with me.

I turned the timers back on to give them more light, they have slowed down with their laying, only two to three eggs a day from six hens and some are starting to molt. I know moving them will probably make them stop laying unfortunately. I'm not too crazy about getting Chico! If the girls stop laying then I will let them rest, I will just give them scratch feed and turn off the lights until after New Years.

In other chicken news, Oct 17 is a bird auction, I really want to go to this auction as I missed every other one since last spring. We will see and I will take pictures if I can.

Also I found a small hatchery only two hours from me and they have a system to deliver, better yet they have rare breeds that most others do not carry. I have a price list and will contact them in spring for chicks if things are going well.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Its a boy boy boy girl girl!

I'm sorry about not posting much these days, there is no internet access at my parents farm but I will try to change that. My mom is not coping well after the loss of my father, she has memory issues and the loss of Dad has made things much much worse. I will have to move back to the farm until mom can sell it. For now she wants to wait until next summer, too many changes for her right now and I agree.

No pictures at the moment but Gracie and the kids are having a great time. Gracie who lived in a breeding cage when I bought her, now has an 80 feet long by 36 feet wide barn to run around in during the day. When I'm not around they have to stay in a coop that Dan built in the barn for them because raccoons have been know to open the windows and get in, it is for their protection. The chicks are four months old now so I can see for sure what I have regarding male or female. Let me say first that the sexing trick of picking them up and watching if they lift their feet (meaning rooster), did not work for me. Some of the chicks that went limp turned out to be boys instead of girls as the trick said hen chicks drop their legs.

It turned out that three of the chicks are roosters and only two are girls. They all have feathers like their mothers, none are silkie looking like their father Chico. One of the boys has a bit of purple colour in his comb and wattles like the silkie. The girls look like silkie hens however with their little puffy hair dos. I mostly call them "the girls" because I can not tell them apart anymore. I had called one Tina after Tina Turner with her spiky hair and was going to call the other one Edna ( I think Edna sounds like a funny chicken name) but I stopped since they look too much alike at the moment, maybe later something will change. I think they should be good mothers next year being silkie and cochin mixed, two mothering breeds. Yes, Gracie still tries to feed and take care of them, talk about a real "mother hen" some of the boys are crowing and she still wants to baby them! Next year I will separate her from her batch after 8 weeks so that this does not happen again. Still no luck in finding certain breeds that I would like to have. A lot of people in this area are all selling the same thing, Silkies, hybrids, Ameraucanas, Polish chickens or chickens that are all mixed.

As for the garden, for the first time ever, we did not have frost until a few days ago. Gardens usually are finished in our area by the first week of September. I did not get a picture but it looked good and we were getting a lot of meals out of it, that is until one night when a family of raccoons got in and chewed up everything. They ruined almost the entire garden but they should have learned there is a catch .22 to most situations! This year the bears are very bad in our area, the wild berries failed and they are hungry. We don't mind sharing our apple trees with them but they really are a stupid animal. They broke off the smaller trees and destroyed large branches on the bigger trees just to eat a few apples and then move on to the next branch. There will be no apples next year on these damaged trees and then what will they eat. I think they deserve to become rugs.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Old is new again

A booklet came in the mail to my parents farm and in it there were articles about people trying to rescue heritage breeds of farm animals. The stories that interested me the most were of course the poultry stories. For those not in the know, heritage breeds are breeds of farm animals that our grandparents or great grandparents used on their farms back in the day. These breeds no longer function in today's markets for different reasons, however they often excel on farms that want to return to a more organic way of living or farms that want to have animals work with each other, example chickens on pastures where cows had been or ducks that eat flies in barns or off other livestock.
It may sound funny to say some farm animal breeds are becoming extinct but it is the truth and sadly those genetics will be lost as well. My girls are mostly hybrids and that is because they were the only breeds I could find when I started to get back into chickens at the time. I was very interested in a story where it was suggested, chicken producers try to sell the old breeds to the back yard poultry keepers. Many would probably be better suited to this type of home flock situation and it would help preserve a breed. It was a little scary to read that some breeds of chickens or animals only have a few breeding females left in my country. If you can and are interested, see if you can find a rare breeds club in your country, find out the chicken breeds that are in danger and may be suited to what you want. I am going to try and get Silver Laced/ Golden laced Wyandottes if I can. They were one of the breeds suggested and I like the look of them. There were also many other breeds suggested that I like, I do not have the list with me but I will put it up later. I think it would be a good idea, this way we can have fun with our small flocks and help out hurting breeds as well.

I have a green thumb besides liking chickens, my garden was way behind this year because it never stopped raining since June, this garden is actually at my parents but since I am staying with my Mom, I planted and took care of it. The clip was actually taken about three weeks ago so things have grown much more now. I am getting lots of vegetables now but sadly our growing season is over and I expect a killing frost any day. I have snow peas (my favourite), red and yellow tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, purple beans, onions, cucumbers, butternut squash, honey dew melons and carrots. For the first time ever, I don't have lettuce. Giant slugs came out and ate all my lettuce.

Oh yes and the morning glories, I just like the look of them, they have now climbed higher than my head and will get an updated picture.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In the chicken news

Regarding the girls, I actually have really good news. If you remember weeks ago I mentioned that Delia seemed to be really sick, she would not go outside and hardly ate anything. Her feathers looked bad, her comb shrunk and her eggs were cracked looking. She always seemed to be the weakest even when we first bought her. I was about to have her put down as she seemed to be in pain, since I became tied up the last few weeks that just never happened. Delia has made a full recovery, her feathers are clean and shiny, her comb is full and red, her eggs are still large but no longer appear to be cracked. She runs around with the others and seems fine, even her vent has shrunk to a normal appearance and she never looked normal in that area.

I have not had the time to baby the girls like I used to, the weather here has been a really bad wet summer and I think it has affected the girls, they lay less than they did in winter with only an average of 4 or less eggs a day. Could be also their ages, the reds will be two years this fall and the blacks are over a year now but I don't think that should make a difference yet. I try to bring them clover from the farm when I have a chance, I think it gives them a boost. Could be also that people in the village where I keep them, like to give them treats, maybe they are eating a lot of junk food instead of their real food. Still they give enough eggs to sell so no problem as they are just pets.

Now as promised, killer Chico Chicken, for some reason he has it in for me! He feels I am an intruding rooster that he must drive away, he never attacks Dan! Must be because I am not around any more.

He is too little to do any damage but I would never walk in with shorts on. Don't worry, I'm not kicking him, I'm just holding up my foot and he is going nuts! He seems to need this competition, once he feels that he has shown me he is boss, he will go outside and crow for almost an hour. He even starts to crow the second he hears a stranger's or my voice. I guess it is the "little guy syndrome" as if to say "theses are my girls, come in here and I'll give you a lesson in who is boss around here"!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy place

With the loss of my father, my friend Dan wanted to cheer me up. He knew just the thing to give me a much needed smile. He built a pen for me in my Dad's barn and showed up with a surprise.The pen, but what or who is that inside?

Dan showed up with a large box... with Gracie and the chicks! I was so happy to hear that little cluck cluck, telling the kids "you are okay, mommy is here with you".
These pictures are about a month old, the chicks are actually larger now. The black chicks are half the size of their mother and Paris is taller than her mom since she is off of Marlene. Paris is I am afraid going to be a boy. If so I will call him Rico Rooster, it just sounds like a good rooster name to me. I had thought it was three girls and two boys but one of the other black chicks is showing signs of being a boy or a really bossy chick. In the picture above you can see one of the chicks is a lot smaller than the others, of course this one I baby. She was actually nearly killed by the other hens, that was the day they turned on the chicks for some strange reason.

Gracie is still a good mom, she cuddles all the chicks at night and finds food for them. However she is too good of a mother, she can't let them go. If you look back at the dates they were born you will realize the chicks are over three months old! I was hoping for a second batch but that will not happen now. Maybe because the bantam chicks were so small she never stopped brooding, she is slowly letting them go off on their own but calls them to her if they wonder away. I guess that is why they say Cochins make the best moms but I guess you would have to take the chicks away to get a second batch out of them, at least with Gracie anyway. I am trying to get them to sleep up on the perches at night, however if I don't go in after dark and place them there, Gracie will not lead them up. Paris really wants to sleep on the perches, at night she will walk over and try to get the others to come up with her, she will give up and lay down on the floor but I could tell she is not happy about that so I put them up after dark. I am also hoping this will help Gracie let go and start to lay again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Farm without a farmer

There is a farm that is sitting waiting for it's farmer, however no one will come, he can no longer tend his fields. My Dad passed away, it has been over a week, it was actually the day I last posted. Things can be hard at times but we are working through it as best as we can, I know many others had to go through it. I may post a little more about it, just for now I need to stop here. I just can't believe most days that he is gone.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Until the cows come home.

Until the cows come home, most have heard that old saying, well they came home for the last time this past weekend. It was a very sad time for us but we had to sell them all. Our farm is remote and so my mother will not stay there alone, she will sell and move into town. It will be the first time since the 1800's that there are no cattle on the farm. Cows are cows and all would sooner or later have to go but there are family lines that have been around since I was a baby, maybe even before then. The cows themselves ranged in age from two years old to fourteen, so we do get attached in some way to them. Like the chickens, some are ding-bats but some are nice animals and I felt guilty as if betraying a friend.

They will all go together to a new home, a much larger farm with other cattle, I told the farmer "good luck, I hope they do well for you". I will take this moment to say my Dad did know how to pick good cattle, the calves were often some of the biggest around by fall, he also took good care of them, a bit spoiled actually, however if they bring in the money, then they need to be looked after. My Dad used to be a cow/calf farmer. This means he kept cows as a breeding herd, they raise their own babies until the calf is around six months old, and then we sell the calf. Some one buys them and then finishes raising them. The cows are never milked, I laugh when people from the city ask me "can't you just put a milking machine on them?" The younger ones we could probably train, but if you were to walk up to an older cow of about six who never has been milked before and "try" to stick milkers on her, you will probably be seeing stars for a while from the kick!

I took some goodbye shots of me bringing them home. They are all gone now and the fields feel so empty, I keep expecting to see one walk out or hear one bawl. I just did not have time to look after them any more but I miss them in a strange way. My Dad refused to look at my film, I think it would be too hard for him to see them come home for the last time and it is sadly interesting that he pretty much entered a coma the weekend they left.

I was calling them from the far pastures to the home farm, watch and see them happy to run home.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hard lesson learned.

This week I was given a hard lesson in chicken behaviour. When I can get away to see my girls, it is for a much needed stress relief from my Dad's illness. However when speaking on the phone with Dan, he said "I have something bad to show you". When I got there he opened a little box and inside was one of the black chicks, dead. Then he showed me how he had made a larger pen for Gracie and the chicks, inside one of the other black chicks was badly hurt. The hens had seemed to accept the chicks, however it appears that when Gracie felt it was okay to take them outside a few days later, their little pea brains did not recognize the same chicks outside. It looks like they attacked the chicks and I assume Gracie hurried them back up the ramp into the house, not knowing that one was left behind and it tried to get away from the assault by hiding under the ramp. They cornered it there and pecked it to death, I guess the other hurt one almost suffered the same fate but must have made it back up the ramp. The neck looked broken and a huge chunk of feathers were missing. There is no way for any other animal to get them. To me that is Chico's mark, he is dumb as a post like that, if a smaller hen is being attacked, he runs in and attacks the hen worse instead of protecting her or stopping the fight as I have seen smarter roosters do. If I ever caught him hurting a chick, that would be the last straw for him, he is on thin ice with me lately. Chico is actually Dan's rooster and Dan being so good about taking care of the chickens, I hate to ask him to let me get rid of Chico. However I am getting tired of his cranky attitude, he is even attacking the hens when I am around. I joke with Dan and tell him that I'm going to get a large rooster and let it beat the stuffing out of Chico.

I guess this is a lesson, some people let the chicks in with the others only after they are adult size. I never had trouble in all my years of raising chicks, I never lost a chick from an attack. This group of hens are a strange bunch. Dan built a pen for Gracie's gang and Delia was released out on parole as she could not have a hand (wing) in the chick murder. I will wait until the chicks are much bigger to try letting them out again.

The next day while out in the garden I thought of letting a few chickens out with me to run around. I figured nothing would bother them while I was there, lucky I didn't. I kept hearing a strange noise over and over but when I would stop to listen, it would stop also. I looked over at the chickens and saw them all freeze, they softly gave each other a warning sound. I saw something hiding behind a tree every time I looked towards the hens. I walked over to find a huge raccoon crouched behind a tree watching the hens. I really lost it and I think that raccoon did not realize how dangerous a human can be! Live and let live but don't come near my girls and so boldly in the middle of the day with me there.

Anyway I miss my baby chickie, I feel guilty in that if I was able to be there, this would not have happened. Below is the last shot I have of all six together. They are racing around for bread crumbs that Dan is dropping while I film.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where's my peeps?

Where did my tiny little peeps go!?! They grow so fast, I felt they no longer could stay in the chicken-nursery and decided to release them into the flock. Dan wanted to make a pen for them but I said to first try them with the flock and see what happens. Usually I found in the past the hens would not touch the babies, it was always the mother they attacked. Chickens not being too smart will forget their flock mate after not seeing her for a while.

The black bantam chicks are still small but the red hybrid is growing fast. We named the red one Little Hilton after someone with red hair we know, Dan asked what happens if it turns out to be a girl, so I said we will call her Paris Hilton! The picture is not very clear, sorry they were running around so fast it was hard to get a picture.I locked the other chickens outside with treats for a while to let the gang get used to their new surroundings. After an hour or so I let the other hens in. Most did not pay attention to the chicks, some attacked Gracie but seemed to remember her, after all, the chick cage was in the house with them and they could see her most of the time. However by the second day I could see a trouble maker causing problems.

Jail time for Delia!!!

Delia would not leave the chicks alone, she would herd them into their nest box and then attack Gracie and the chicks, it was none stop and by the end of the day she was getting worse. She was also causing the others to attack the chicks as well. In all my years of keeping chicks I never had a hen attack the chicks, roosters yes but never a hen and not with such obsession as this. Dan saw this as well and before I could return and jail her, he did it. Delia is not well, this may be a factor in making her so cross with the chicks, she seems to always be in pain, she also will be the one to get lice, sick, etc. She always lays an odd cracked looking egg and I have been told this can be a sign of some sort of infection that she has or had. I am thinking I may put her down, she never seems to respond to any treatments and I am afraid of her bringing some sort of disease to the other hens or chicks, especially the chicks.

I was really worried about the big black hybrids and yet they had the best reactions, they ignore Gracie and the chicks as if they have always been in the house. Lucy is still acting broody but never stopped laying, nor does she sit on the eggs. The first day she would go up to the chicks and act protective but in a confused way, not being sure if she should protect the chicks or try to scare them away. Chico is good with the chicks and does not try to mate with Gracie which I was afraid he would. One of the other red hens pecked and chased a chick last night and I think Gracie was at her boiling point, she suddenly attacked the red, grabbing her by the back of the head and not letting go. The red was going to fight but then got scared when Gracie gave her a good trimming, another red ran in to help her sister and Gracie gave her a going over as well, I was cheering "go Gracie, go Gracie, put the boots to 'em" (a Canadian saying). Then Chico ran in and attacked Gracie, that is when I did a tag team and went after Chico. A gentleman never touches a lady, plus Chico never defended Gracie when she needed help so why did he stick his dumb beak in this scrape. The reds went away, they will learn, when attacking a little chick, they will suddenly have an angry mom jumping on their head. Mostly however since Delia was sentenced for assault, the house is quiet, everyone will find their new place within the house.

See how big they are getting.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Camera shy

When I am outside, Chico is constantly crowing. From early morning to late in the day Chico is a non stop wind-up toy. I asked the people around if it bothers them, lucky enough he is not very loud and even the houses across the road do not hear him. I worry about his sons, I imagine I will have to sell all his sons, I do not think the village would enjoy their crowing competitions once they have grown a bit. I tried and tried to get Chico on camera crowing for this post, however he would suddenly go silent whenever I had the camera. I did not know roosters got stage fright... but then again after all he is a chicken, sorry bad pun.

After many tries (which included me trying to crow like a rooster to get him going) I finally caught him on tape. Next mission to achieve, I'm going to capture on camera his kung fu moves. Oh yes, wait until you see that, Chico may be small but he is a master fighter and has a black-belt with some of his kicks, he can be lethal. After much begging and hiding and crowing, I finally got the little singer to sing, next stop "Chickens got talent"!

In my last post John left the comment that a mother hen does not always know best. Yes, true there can be some ding-bats out there, as with any animals or even some humans for that matter. Usually I have had good luck over the years with hens hatching out chicks. My mess ups involved a couple of hens and I quickly learned that if they are a bad mother, then they usually do not get better with age. Some mishaps were; when one bantam hen hatched out chicks, she would stand up and start scratching to feed them while they were still just drying off, this of course would cause her to trample and kill them. I also had a hen that after a week of sitting on her eggs, decided to leave them and go get back into the hen house to sit on the eggs in the main nest. Another hen I tried was a large Ameraucana, I should have known better as she would sometimes eat eggs. I assumed wrong that being broody would stop this. I gave her twelve eggs, after a few days she ate two of them, then all was quiet until half way through hatching I came home to only six eggs left and a huge mess of blood and egg yolk. I was so angry with the hen. At that time I happen to have a very young mixed bantam hen that had just started to go broody but I had no more room to set her up with eggs. Since she was off a really good broody bantam hen, I thought I would give the remaining eggs to her, I figured I had nothing to lose since the other hen would probably eat the remaining eggs. I cleaned up the eggs, kicked out the large hen and grabbed the small bantam mixed hen. She was happy to have a nest in peace where no one was chasing her off. She snuggled the remaining six eggs to her body and just over a week later she was a proud mom to six chicks. Mostly I had really good luck with hens hatching out chicks and like I said, I could watch the mom with chicks all day.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gracie's brood

I discovered how to properly use my camera and like all proud parents, I made this short clip of the kids! Now everyone feel free to go aaaaawe. Here is my Gracie with the six chicks, the white chick is already named Paris and the little black chick with the white tummy is Fern. You will hear Chico crow like the proud papa he is in the back ground.

I see a lot of other chicken blog people are having good luck with hatching chicks as well. I think any of Gracie's black chicks should be super broody moms next year, seeing that silkie hens are suppose to be the most broody and cochin hens are suppose to be one of the best mothers, the little guys should turn out to be tiny hatching machines with good genes from both breeds.

Oddly enough, Lucy my black sex-link hen is walking around clucking with raised feathers, showing all the signs of a hen that wants to start hatching. She will not sit on the eggs however and being bred for laying from a hatchery, I don't think I would trust her to follow through on hatching eggs. I think Gracie will want to have a second brood later in the season so if I want more, I will just let her to the job.

Some people have been talking about the benefits of having a hen raise the chicks instead of by heat lamps etc. My two cents on the matter is this, I think "mother knows best" when on a small farm. I can understand if you have a large operation you would not have time to wait on a bunch of hens to go broody, you would need to order large numbers. With broody hens you also do not know when that date will happen, but if you keep a small number of chickens, then I highly recommend letting hens hatch out your chicks. At different times I have mentioned that I had to raise my own chickens when I was a teen, my area was too remote to get in chicks and no one around had chickens to sell. I raised a lot of good layers by placing eggs from laying hens, under broody bantams. I find the bantams make the best moms, it is one of the reasons I got Gracie. It is just so much easier with a mother taking care of them, plus you will notice a difference in how the chicks sound. Chicks with no mother are always chirping really loud, because basically they are looking for their mother, chicks with a mother hen make cute little peeping sounds because they are happy under a mother's care. A person can still buy chicks and place them under a brooding hen, there is a slight trick to that but it is not hard to do.

Mostly I just like to watch a mother hen with chicks.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

In the hen house.

To get away from the stress and sadness that my family is dealing with, other family members give me a day or two and I try to get to see the girls. A few weeks ago when I went to see Chico and the gang, my friend Dan said "I have something cool to show you". When I arrived he came with me to the hen house, in one corner he had built a cage up off the floor, but why---- what could be in this cage?

What creature could be hiding in this cage, could this be a time out pen for Chico during one of his little brat moments? Something was sitting in the corner.

Why it was Gracie! She had her own cute little chicken condo! She is getting along well with all the other chickens, so it could only mean one thing. Gracie had started to hatch! I sure could use the smile. Dan knew this would make me happy and he is very kind hearted like that, to take the trouble and set this up for me, plus he is having fun with the girls as well. Dan did not know however that he should have tried to put all the eggs under Gracie at the same time, he spread them out over four days. Gracie only laid two eggs when she started to hatch as hens stop laying when they begin to sit. We were only going to let her have two or three chicks just to make her happy and for the fun of it. We decided to try some experiments, we gave her two of the brown eggs. Marlene gave us one of the brown eggs, we suspect now Lucy was the other. I wanted to try two brown eggs because some days Chico will mate with the smaller red sex-link hens, most days he falls off since he is much smaller and can't mate with them properly. We also heard that you can take eggs from the fridge, so we took the last three eggs Gracie laid before starting to hatch, put them out on the counter until room temperature and gave them to her as well.

Fast forward to nineteen days later.

Peek-a-boo mommy! This is a chick from Marlene (red sex-link) and Chico (silkie rooster). Chicks usually hatch in 21 days but the bantams and bantam crosses sometimes hatch in 19 days.

The black chick is Gracie's own, actually there are two black chicks in the picture, the second is pecking seeds behind the first. I was trying to show how much bigger Marlene's chick is compared to Gracie's chicks. Gracie's are half the size of Marlene's but twice as cute.

One of the black chicks looks like he is part penguin with his white front. The black chicks are black cochin bantam (Gracie) crossed with white silkie (Chico). Some countries call cochin bantams Pekins. The chicks were hatching while I was there but sadly I had to leave before all hatched. They are all hatched now including the three from the fridge, so it is true you can use eggs from the fridge as long as they have not been in there too long. Just don't try to put cold eggs under the hen, let them reach room temperature first.

Only one brown egg did not hatch but it had a full term chick inside. Gracie was a great little mom, with Dan's mistake of taking four to five days to place all the eggs under, the first chicks were hungry while the last had not hatch yet. She would take the chicks out to eat and then sit on the nest to keep the eggs warm while watching her brood. This must be why cochins are the best mothers, my other bantams from my teen years would have left the remaining eggs to chill and die. However once six out of the seven hatched Gracie left the nest, she had to with six hungry chicks peeping for food. The chick that was left in the egg was black so we realized it was probably Lucy's and not one of the red girls. One other problem that could have happened is sometimes when a very small rooster like Chico, mates with a large hen like Lucy, the chick dies inside the egg because it is a small chick trying to get out of a big egg. Usually I never have a problem with the reverse, a large rooster mating with a small hen never gave me problems.

Anyway I received my smile, I have chicks! Total 5 little black Gracie/Chicos and one little reddish white Marlene/Chico. I tried the trick of picking them up to see if they drop their legs as little hens are suppose to, and little roosters should lift their legs. The Marlene chick drops it's legs all the time and the all black Gracie chick does as well, so they should turn out to be girls. The little black with the white tummy sticks one leg up in the air so I guess that means it could be a rooster, we will see. Enjoy spring time in your hen houses people.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My Dad.

Can a person already miss someone who has not even left yet? The final results for my Dad's tests came back and it is really bad. The doctors said there is nothing that can be done for my father. They will work on trying to keep him comfortable and not let him suffer. He came home to the farm and I hope he can stay there until the end, I don't want him to die in a hospital with tubes and wires all over him. It hurts so much to think he will not be around one day and sadly that day is coming soon.

Thank you so much for the kind comments. I don't want to bring any of you down, I just wanted to let you know what the results were. I think you will all understand if I don't post for quite some time.

I got to see the girls the other day, Dan is taking good care of them. I may move them to the farm but Dan said it was not a problem and likes caring for the chickens. I'm also thinking since I will be on the farm now for months taking things day by day, I may get some chicks to help keep the stress levels down. It is hard to always be dealing with cancer, hospitals and someone you love dying, day in and day out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The news is not good.

I wish I had better news to tell you but the truth is my Dad is very sick. He has cancer, as for now I am taking care of his farm. He has to remain in hospital and so far we are not sure where things are going from here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wild Loose chase

In stopping by my place to pick up mail, pay bills etc before I return to my parents, I learned of Lucy's great escape. Dan has been taking care of the chickens and it seems she gave him the slip. When he opened the door to get the eggs, she made her break for freedom. Once out of the coop and after getting to run around on the grass, she said "no way am I going back" and began to run under the coop, around the yard and into the bushes near by. It began to pour rain but still she would not come back, he chased after her for half an hour and was about to give up. He then had the bright idea to place bread in their pen and then would shut the door once she was in. When he threw the bread in, Lucy looked at him as if to say "I know what you are up to!" Finally she entered and he slammed the door shut, now he guards the door better when going in and out, kind of like the reality version of chicken run.Lucy thinking "one of these days I'm outta here!"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Family illness.

Sorry for not posting or visiting your blogs but my Dad is very ill and so I had to go home to help him out. Even though he is in his seventies, he still runs his farm but is now not able to do his chores. Also, at this time of year the cows are calving so I had to go home to play midwife. My Dad is having tests done to see what the problem is as he has a lot of pain and can't hardly eat anything, so far the tests do not show any signs of cancer which is what everyone feared but we still do not know what is wrong.
As for anything to do with the girls, I did not see them for over a week, they are being well cared for. I had to miss the bird sale which I was looking forward to but as long as my Dad gets better that is the most important thing. I am a little sad too because Gracie started to get broody but I was not able to get away to set her up with eggs.

Not to be all gloomy, I will leave you with pictures I took this morning.

Almost every morning a small herd of whitetail deer come out into the field in front of my parents house to eat all our clover (little brats). I'm not sure why I can't get the pictures to enlarge, anyway trust me, those are wild deer, well maybe not too wild as they come up to the house to eat the shrubs around it.

Baby calves! Baby Lassie, I call her that because her mother was a show cow my Dad bought and believe it or not, the mother's registered name is actually Lassie.

More little guys sleeping in the sun, I was trying to get them to come over as I grabbed this before I left. The calves have their own little field where they can run and play or sleep in the sun without the cows coming in and pooping everything up. My Dad has cut back in numbers to only 21 cows, so far he has had two sets of twins. That is unusual as most cows only have one calf. Some years we have had three sets of twins, my Dad takes good care of his cows so it shows up as extra calves. To compare, some people with 100 cows may only have one or two sets of twins. He gets at least one set a year with only 21 cows.

I have to go see the girls now and I will post again as soon as I am able.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring, I hope!

We are finally starting to see a little spring weather here. Well, not like most of you with green grass but it does get above freezing some days and the snow is starting to melt. One sign of spring in the coop is Gracie has increased her rate of laying. At first it was an egg every three or four days, then every second day and now almost every day. This weekend I noticed her getting more relaxed in the nest, she is not brooding but she did stay until almost three in the afternoon one day.

I don't know if she has ever raised chicks in the past, I don't think with the last person she did because of the cage she was in. He wanted her eggs to put in an incubator as he could get more chicks that way.

Back and forth throughout the day I checked, I even heard her talking to the eggs like a mother hen does. I tested however by touching her and she did not make the clucking noises or become defensive. It is too early to hatch chicks here just yet but I do hope she will one day want to hatch. I would like to buy some more cochins, I like the silver-laced and mottled colour of cochins. If there are any cochin hens or silkie hens at the sale coming up this Saturday, it will be very hard not to buy any! ;)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Release the birds!

Finally it was warm enough and dry enough to let the girls out. I wish I could have taken a picture when I opened their little door, six hens and one rooster piled out at the same time like a giant ball of feathers with legs. It is still cold here but at least they were able to go out and be chickens. Except Gracie, she would not go out, it is possible that she has never been outside in her life and needs to get used to the idea. Instead she stayed in and enjoyed the peace of being able to eat and drink without any of the bigger hens trying to boss her around. I will just let her go out at her own pace. This upset Chico as she is his favorite hen, he kept running in and out trying to get her to come outside with him, he used every trick in the book, the 'food call' the 'run up and dance' and even walked up to her and walked to the door, over and over calling but she refused to go out. True love prevailed and he stood by her silent for almost an hour until she got bored and went back into her cage, only then did Chico leave her side and go out with the others.

I put out some seeds and bread to give them something to pick at, this gave me a chance to clean out inside without having them under foot. It is nice to see them running around in the fresh air again. The weekend is suppose to be warmer with sunshine, that will be a nice change from ice and snow.

Above you can see Chico crowing, he did it almost all afternoon when I let him out, I guess he wanted to make sure there were no other roosters around, the only thing that answers him is the hound dog next door. The girls had fun picking at the ice, they love to eat snow and ice for some reason. Even in the cold they will stay out almost all day, I wish in summer I had a field to let them run around in, the black girls are always foraging for something to eat, I can certainly see why some free-range farmers like the black sex-links, I am sure a person could save on feed with these girls if allowed to roam. The reds are pretty good too, their trimmed beaks handicap them a lot at times but one thing they love is worms, they suck them up as fast as they find them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My big mistake

I was reading over at plain old chickens about how one of her chickens ate straw and it blocked up her crop, resulting in chicken surgery. I never had this problem and used straw exclusively with my flock as a teen because I did not have access to shavings. I do notice that the hens I have now tend to eat straw so that is why I cut up soft hay and give them greens, especially Gracie, she is always eating straw even though I give her everything else in case she is lacking something. As the days get warmer I was thinking to switch back over to the shavings completely as it seems to keep the floor dryer. I was mixing in straw to get them to scratch around more, it helps get them moving and is suppose to help get better egg numbers. The funny thing is I have always been worried about the girls eating the shavings as it has small particles that could look like seeds. With spring coming they will soon be able to go out and get all the scratching they want.

I did make a huge mistake as a teen once and want to warn you about it. During winter many of the old timers used to tell me to take ashes from the fireplace after they were cold and put it into the coop or run, they said the hens love to dust themselves in it since they have no access to sand and it will help keep them free of bugs. Being younger and respecting my elders I tried it and it was true, the hens all jumped in and had a great dust-bath. However here is the danger, in the hen's little mind she is dusting in sand, hens as we know need grit and so they will eat some of the ashes looking for grit. In the old days people used to make a strong cleaning solution using ashes and water, so what do you think happens when a hen who ate a large amount of ashed drinks water after. None of the hens that ate ashes died but being a kid way out in the country and not having access to a vet, they suffered for a long time and some did not lay until late that summer.

I wanted to bring this up because the other day an older man said this same thing to a friend with chickens, the friend told me thinking he had learned a new chicken tidbit and wanted to share. Lucky for me he had not given his hens ashes and I warned him not to, so if someone tells you to use ashes don't, if you are already doing this I strongly suggest you to stop, it is just not worth loosing a couple of good hens or causing them to suffer.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Strange egg indeed

One of the girls seems to be having a strange problem, when she lays an egg, it appears to be cracked. At first it was only every now and again but lately it is almost every day. I suspect it is either Delia or Gertrude as I have ruled almost everyone else out by watching them lay. The odd thing about the egg is that it always cracks inside the hen and then later seals itself. When the egg comes out it looks cracked but when you look closely or squeeze the egg, it is just as hard as the other eggs with no actually cracks in it. The egg will also look as if the hen's body broke the egg to add more fluids inside.

Sorry my camera did not get the shot in focus but you can see what looks like a large crack through the middle. What you can not see is there are also small cracks all around the middle as if some one was trying to crack it open to cook with. The odd thing is that jagged line is no longer a crack, it has been sealed over.

Lately all the eggs from this hen are coming out the same. Even if they are not cracked looking, they will appear as if doubled yolked and an odd shape, however once you crack it open to use it, there is only one yolk. It almost seems as if the hen's body suddenly wanted to make the egg bigger. I thought maybe she was having a hard time laying and it was stuck in there too long but she will lay like this for four or five days straight. I can't figure out why the egg would break inside while forming and then reseal itself. Also another strange fact about this that often happens, if you look close at the picture above, you can see the top 1/3 is a different shade of brown than the bottom 2/3, the camera did not pick it up enough, but in your hand it is very noticeable. It would seem the hen put a different top on the egg. I have had things like this happen before but only rarely and not this frequent. I worry that one of the hens has become damaged inside. There are some good sites about chicken health and I am going to try one of those, hopefully nothing too serious.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Decisions decisions

Decisions decisions, my little brain is wondering about a choice I may make. The man who bought Lucy and Melda's sisters sent me an email, he really likes the ones he got from me and wants to buy more. I like Lucy and Melda as they are calm and friendly even after coming from a farm with almost ninety chickens, they are strong, tough and good layers. The reason I am thinking about letting them go is for some of the same reasons. They can be destructive, if food is pulled out, if something is broke, if another hen has been pecked it will be one or both of them. The other reason is their blood filled rage against other new chickens, they can be very aggressive to a point that I never saw before.

I wanted to get more bantams and with these girls I know that is not possible, everything will be a fight that will last for months instead of a week. Having a small space I could keep more chickens if I kept bantams and now that I have Gracie I really have the bug. I like to watch her run around about her business. Last week I missed a really good chance, a man living close to me was cutting back on his chickens and was selling red silkie hens, partridge coloured cochins hens, mille fleur bantam trios plus some others in rooster hen pairs. At five dollars a hen that is a great deal and also a deal because most people just want to sell one hen with a rooster. Both those types of hens are nice looking and they would have fit in as Chico is a white silkie and Gracie is a black cochin. I had to think about it but of course they were all gone in a day or two. My reason for missing my chance was Lucy and Melda. If I put the new ones in the cage, then Gracie would be at risk, if I let them all run free, The blacks might really hurt the silkie hens as they could not fly away from them.

The red hens will fight as well but with them it would be more about being boss and not about attacking to kill. On the other side, they are great hens as pets and I want them to go to a good home. The man keeps all sorts of chickens freerun and sells eggs and I guess they would have a bigger home and yard to run around in. Seeing Amy's and John's bantams does not help the situation and only makes me want more, but I would feel guilty about sending away my black girls. I need to make up my mind on this one as there is a large bird auction coming up including all sorts of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea hens etc etc and it will be really hard not to come home with someone... or two... or three.... or.........!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The chicken guy

This blog is all about the "girls" well and Chico too but he better watch his hand biting! I do not want to start a blog about me and so that is why I keep it about the chickens, besides not many all chicken blogs out there. However since two out of three readers asked for my picture (actually there are pretty much only three readers) then I will give in. I suppose everyone wants to know who they are corresponding with so here I am, well not too ugly I hope! ;)

I am so far away you can hardly see me... almost like I planned that. Hahaha! Okay so I'm shy. I am at a park and was just about to go hiking.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Egg on my face!

I changed the look of my blog and I noticed I was missing some links that I put on. I decided to return to my old blog format to see if I could recover them and then suddenly BOOMMM! I lost everything! Now I will have to track down links etc and try to fix this mess.

Perverts in the hen house!

One of the links I lost was a site that tells me where people who read my blog are from, I find it interesting (plus very cool) to communicate with people in different countries. I was pleased as my traffic to this blog suddenly increased from the three of you ( you know who you are) to ten or more a day! My dreams of connecting chicken people from all over the world was short lived however when I saw the searches that were bringing readers here. It was the "To spank a chicken" post and yes the searches are looking for porn sites! Get a life you people or take a cold shower! Now I am almost afraid to mention the black and red sex-links in case that brings more people looking to spank the chicken.

And now a chicken picture.

Some of the red girls are so picky about their nests, it is cute to watch them spent time fixing the straw piece by piece until it is just right. When finished it is very much a typical round nest like the song birds in the trees. The black hens just jump in and wiggle their butts around until comfortable and then get down to business.

Friday, February 27, 2009


I think anyone with chickens likes the feeling we get from going to the coop and gathering a batch of fresh eggs. I believe for people who want to sell a few eggs on the side, presentation is everything in keeping customers. For someone that does not keep chickens, nothing will turn them off more than opening a carton and seeing feathers and manure stuck to their eggs. For example, when younger I used to try and buy the leghorns or other white egg laying chickens. I always considered the brown eggs as dirty or less desirable than the white, I was often surprised at people asking for the brown eggs. The reason for my dislike of brown eggs came from something that happened as a kid. A couple near us used to sell eggs, when we would open the carton the all brown eggs would always be covered in chicken manure, feathers and there would also be ants crawling on the eggs sometimes. I remember my mother throwing out a dozen and saying that was the last time we would get eggs there. Only now do I see the brown eggs as being the natural original egg.
Most of us will agree, if your eggs are dirty there is a problem. Keep the nests clean with fresh straw or shavings. If the hens are sleeping on or in the nests, then there is something wrong with the perches, either you don't have enough space for all your birds or they are not comfortable. Figure out what your problem is but the hens must not sleep in the nests as they will poop all night in the nest. I often read not to wash the eggs however I always do. Even though they are pretty clean, I still run them under cool tap water and just rub off any dirt. Don't use soap, don't use hot water, don't soak them and don't put them under any high pressure as you don't want anything to enter inside through the shell pores.
Now I like the brown eggs, the white eggs make me think of factory farms, void of nutrition and colour. However leghorns are great hens no mistake about that. I remember once a woman who was selling eggs that were dirty laughed and said the people will have to realize this is nature and they need to toughen up. We have to remember people are going to put the eggs in their fridge, would we want chicken manure in with our food. Last summer at my parents I was even surprised at a store bought dozen having dirt and feathers, and as a lesson to learn from, my Mom said to my Dad "I must remember not to buy that brand again." I also pick out any eggs that look a bit odd, I figure better to just keep it for myself.

This egg I kept for myself, it had a spiral on the end and a smiley face!

I also keep all Gracie's eggs, people told me they would not mind getting them but I feel they are too small and I don't want anyone to feel cheated, I would only give some away as an oddity.
Gracie's tiny eggs with regular eggs.

I am so relieved that Gracie is laying, I just hope when things turn warmer, she will think about hatching. March is here finally and I think in another four to five weeks it should be nice enough for the girls to go out!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chickens do fly, sort of.

It is interesting that a lot of people think chickens can't fly at all. When I put up the perches so many people asked why so high, they thought that at about waist height would be enough. With some larger breeds I guess it would be better to place them lower or have the ladder type but the lighter breeds like to get high off the ground when they can. When I was a teen, one of our neighbors used to let his chickens run free in the summer and they roosted in large pine trees at night next to his house. The branches were well above my head so they managed to get up there somehow. With the red girls they came from living in a tiny house, so at first they slept on the lower perch but I knew in a few days their instincts would tell them to go higher. With the black girls they came from a barn with very high perches and so they kept trying to perch on top of the door frame. It took a while for them to accept perching lower. With certain bantams they can fly quite high, getting over a two meter (six foot) fence. The lighter the bird the better they fly, usually. Gracie is small but does not fly well, I was told that cochins do not fly well, yet even she who lived in a cage, started to come out and learned to fly up and perch. Her instincts would tell her that she was safer higher up and she wanted to be with the other hens. I also find it a bit of a "use it or lose it" with hens, if you give them the chance to fly they get better at it, don't worry they will never be able to one day 'up and fly south' or something like that.

The problem with Chico is that silkies don't have proper feathers on their wings and so are not able to fly. I did not know that until the lady told me when I got him. Chico and his family did have perches but they were only about 10 centimeters (4 inches) off the floor. When I brought him home I made a lower perch for him to sleep on, however he would not use it. He would be so upset because he could not get up with the other girls, that he would walk around until dark and then make these sad little noises in the corner on the floor. At that time Chico was very cuddly and I felt really bad for him, I used to lift him onto the lower perch to sleep because I knew he could hop down. Chico began to use his wings and could get up on places that surprised me. I asked Dan to build a ramp and he came up with the idea of a shelf and ramp for Chico to get up on.

Chico's ramp.

As the day wears down, Chico gets up onto the shelf and then climbs the ramp to the top perch and encourages his flock to come to bed like every other rooster. This way he is much more contented that he can sleep with the rest of the girls. The shelf is also handy as I keep a wooden box of oyster shells for the hens, this way when thy want some they just fly up and eat. I found this way it stays clean because they can't scratch straw or shavings into the box.

Chico, keeping an eye on Gracie.

Also to keep the coop cleaner, since chickens do a lot of their pooping when resting at night, I tried putting a barrier just below the perches. Since I have the room, it actually works quite well. The hens almost never cross the barrier and this way the rest of the coop stays cleaner since they are not tossing the litter from under the perches back into the coop. All that work for Chico and he turns around to become an attack chicken, lucky for him he is so little and cute!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Colour me puzzled!

All my laying hens are brown egg layers, I like the look of the brown eggs and I find it gives a lot of people that feeling of them being fresh off the farm. Well in my case not a farm but you understand what I am saying. Except for little Gracie my bantam who lays a tiny off-white egg, the others are mostly the same colour.

An example of the eggs mostly looking the same.

The girls are hybrid black sex-links and red sex-links from a hatchery, also know as black stars, red stars, Isa browns, etc. They are suppose to lay brown eggs, its in their genes and usually a hen will lay the same coloured egg all her life, however what surprises me is this.

All eggs from the exact same hens as above.

Some days I get an almost white egg, an almost pink egg and sometimes a half dark brown, half light brown egg! There are no other hens around, just the same black and red sex links as those who gave me the dark brown eggs in the first photo. When I was a teen this never happened. Every one stuck to the colours they started with for life. Over time I had every colour, brown, white, green, blue, and an almost pink, however I never had extra colours show up so I find this interesting. I assume it has something to do with the feed but I'm not sure. Like I said before, they are good stock that came from a hatchery that sells only a few types of laying breeds so there is no mix of fancy chickens with coloured eggs in their breeding. The eggs are really hard there is no problem with thin shells etc, so I'm not worried, just puzzled. Some days I feel like I am on an Easter egg hunt and I am never sure what I will find.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fried chicken, almost!

Two weeks ago something happened with Chico that could possible have turned out devastating for the entire flock. With the extreme dips in temperature we often get from the end of December until the end of March, I have to keep a heat lamp on the water most days. From early morning until noon and then again from evening until night the heat lamp keeps the water from freezing.

One day I walked in and noticed something funny about Chico, he seemed to be missing his punk-rocker tufts on the top of his head. When I caught him to examine further, I saw that he was singed on the top of his head. Chico is not tall enough to get so close as to burn himself, so the only thing I can think of is that he must have been standing under the lamp and started to crow. By crowing he would stretch himself up as far as he could and must have bumped his head on the lamp or came close enough to singe his feathers. The feathers of a Silkie are very fine and I assume that is why they burned under the heat, I can't help think what if they did not melt from the heat, but instead caught on fire. With straw and shavings on the floor and everything else made from wood, I hate to think of what could have happened and the way they would have suffered.

You can almost see a little touch of the blackened feathers on top.

The heat lamp was a larger one than the in the picture above, I raised it a little higher but the hens took it out a few days later. A few hens have this bad habit of flying off the perch right into the heat lamp, as I went to enter the coop, one of the little bombers jumped off the perch and took a nose dive into the heat lamp, banging the bulb on the metal water container and breaking the coil inside the bulb. The new heat lamp is not as hot but still does the job. Actually I have not used the heat lamp for the last week, if the temperature does not dip 15 degrees below freezing, the coop stays warm enough to keep the water from turning to ice.

The girls are doing pretty good now and not wasting a lot of feed on me. I suspected the black hens were the ones pulling the feed out and from watching them I was right. I don't like when people debeak chickens but I can understand why, the blacks with their full beaks are the ones who will cause any trouble, the reds almost never fight or waste feed. Even little Gracie with her full beak, will toss out grains that she does not want. I placed mostly straw around the feeder as this encourages them to scratch for dropped or tossed grains. The rest of the house I used shavings. I worry that the black hens may be picking out the best feed and leaving the rest for the reds as the food comes out slower, for the last few days the egg numbers have gone down to three a day so I suspect something is wrong. I imagine in six weeks I will be able to let the girls out and that should solve the boredom problems, as for now there is still a thick sheet of ice and snow covering their yard.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gracie part deux!

Part deux is 'part two' for those not into speaking french, don't worry, I can't really speak french either. Gracie mostly spends her day in her protective pen, the reason is simple, hens are not like herd animals. If you buy a new cow, sheep, horse etc, they will find their place in the herd and maybe get roughed up a bit in the process. Hens on the other hand will sometimes kill new hens that are added to the flock. Usually you will be okay with adding a new group if they are the same size and have room to get away from a beating. Gracie on the other hand was a lone chicken and is only about 1/3 the size of the bigger hens. Also Gracie was not able to fly very well.
Cochins don't seem to have a tail like most other hens do. More like just body feathers that cover the bum.

When I placed Gracie in her pen, as I said before she began to immediately scratch around in the straw like a little toy chicken, which I thought was so cute. However Queen Lucy and Princess Melda were shocked at the intruder in their territory and did not find Gracie one bit cute. Filled with rage the two large black hens fanned out their feathers and began attacking the cage. Chico stood back not sure what to make of the situation, the poor red girls having bad memories of being beaten by the two nasty black hens I had to sell, went for higher ground. My reds flew to the highest perches not sure if some deranged hen was after them. Little Gracie however showed the courage of a true bantam, she began to fight back through the wire. The black girls however are strong and Gracie soon learned to stand back out of reach. I figured through time they would get used to her.

I made Gracie a better pen, one where the others could not peck at her through the wire. Even the reds lost their fear of her and would attack her. I used to take Gracie out when I was there and let her walk around but it did not work as the others seemed to have a hate in their eyes for her. I did not like the fact Gracie was penned up since she came from a small cage. I made a gate at both ends that only she could get under, when the others would all get up on the perch, she would come out and walk around, if one came down she would duck back under into the safety of her pen. I did not like the fact of her sleeping on the floor, I wanted her to start using a perch but the other hens were so mean to her that she could not come out and perch at night. Since the others seemed to not be accepting her I decided to build her a little house/pen inside the chicken coop. It would have her own perch and nest box, I thought I would try later in spring to get the others to accept her. I had everything ready, the wood, materials and I was waiting for the hens to go to bed before I put it up. That night when I walked in I had a surprise.
Gracie below. Don't be fool, she puffs her feathers up to look big but just see the difference in the size of her head compared to the two above.

When I walked in there was Gracie on the perch! This is one of the reasons I like her so much, she figured out to wait for the others to go to bed and she then comes out of her cage and gets up on the perch. She has been doing this for a while now and I am happy that she is able to fly up and perch like a chicken should, I gave her a new pen with larger wire, that way the hens see her clearer and are now finally getting used to her, to the point where she comes out for a while and runs back if she is getting bullied too much. She figured this all out on her own. It makes it so much easier than if I had to have a separate section for her, a little ironic however that she started to perch on her own just the very night that I was going to build her a little section. She has even established herself dominate over Marlene and Gertrude. She also will kick most hens out of her pen if they should happen to get in. Cute, smart and full of personality, that is why Gracie is fast becoming my favorite. The thing however that made me really happy about her this week is the little surprise I found yesterday.
I was worried that she was too old to lay and if she won't lay, then she won't hatch. All my hens lay brown eggs and most are large, so I knew who it was right away when I walked in and saw this little off-white egg in one of the nest boxes. It also gave me memories of some of the really great bantams I had in my teen years as they had the same off-white coloured eggs.

Gracie sleeping with her head tucked under her wing.

Last night I went in after all the lights were off, so this was just caught with the flash. I woke her with the flash. Gracie is also smart enough to sleep under Chico's ramp so that no one poops on her as the lower perch was just suppose to be a step up. Chico needs a ramp to get up as Silkies can't really fly.

Gracie, wondering who is in the dark.
I'm sure she was not happy about me waking her up from her sleep. She was trying to listen and see who was there because I was in total darkness until the flash went off. She makes the funniest sounds when I handle her. She does not get upset and cackle or squawk but more like a slow, low tone baaaaaaaaaa...uk, as if telling me "you can touch me but you better watch it mister!" What ever she is saying, even though it sounds calm, it sends Chico into a protective fit and I can expect to be suddenly attacked by a cotton ball! I really hope for some chicks from these two characters.