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.