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.