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.