And the keets are out

We let them start roaming the yard this weekend and so far, so good. They don’t really hang with the IMG_0499chickens, which is a shame, but hopefully that will change as they get older. They squeak a lot, but that’s them getting used to the backyard. They discovered trees yesterday and love the top of the soccer kickboard. We had to get them off at the end of the day, and they followed Mr. Hen House right to the coop (they love him). They also seem more comfortable around us now that they have space to move. And, in honor of my friend Penny and her awesome family, the keets (regardless of gender) are now Penny, Marcia, and Kelly!

We found another stash of eggs this weekend, too. Since the girls seem to move their clutches when I empty them, I’m trying to trick them. I took all eggs except for a couple, and marked those with a sharpie. My thought is they will keep laying there as there are eggs still there. It worked with Beulah, as she lays in the coop again. I’m hoping it will work with the others. The only eggs I have not found again are Brownie’s. I’ll keep looking. IMG_0498

Other than that, it’s been quiet. I’ve made an appointment for one of the roosters to be processed. We have not made a decision about the second, although I’m leaning towards making him a meal too. 5:30 a.m. is too early for crowing! In the meantime, they seem healthy, which is good. Next week, before he/they are processed, they’ll get some outdoor time, but no hen time. Don’t need my girls backs destroyed by the rooster’s spurs.

I’m moving Winona to layer pellets. I had her on the baby food and I think she’s at the point she can handle the pellets and I’m sure she could use the added nutrition. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve included pictures of her eyes so you can see the difference I mentioned in the last post.

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I also opened the hive this weekend. I noticed that after the first rush, they were not building up comb as quickly as I thought they would, nor storing quite as much honey and pollen. Otherwise, they seem incredibly healthy. At bee club, many of the attendees noticed the same thing about their hives. I can’t IMG_0489say it’s good or bad, but at least consistent, so I guess that’s something!

Should be a nice quiet week!

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How the Quintuplets Became Triplets

With lots of other updates.

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Beulah and one of the triplets.

So after uploading my last post, I went outside to do a headcount. I generally don’t do that during the day, just at night when I’m locking them up. But I couldn’t find two of the quints earlier and usually I can eyeball everyone within 30 seconds without trying. So I starting hitting the usual spots: Under the airstream, under the addition to the house, the compost heap… nothing. So I went to the coop thinking they might be there. Well, they were, sorta. Their bodies were in the pen outside the coop — headless.

My best hypothesis is a fishercat or weasel shimmied its way under the coop, dragged my poor girls out and ripped their heads off. Didn’t even eat them. After I disposed of the poor things, I spent the afternoon re-enforcing the bottom boards (lots of rocks!) of the coop, moved the solar lights around the pen, and rigged up a radio to play all night long. So far, it’s worked. The good news is we are running electric out back so that will increase the lights as well as eliminate the extensions cords I have running through the lawn to power the radio.

Survivors include Dirty Girl, Brownie, Beulah, and two other generic quints. The two dead girls were generic quints.

Beautiful Winona

Winona in better days.

Winona Update: Winona seems to be actually doing better. I’m pretty sure I’m not kidding myself. I had moved her to a sick coop in the shed because she became too weak to go to the food dish and waterer. I really thought she was going to die and I didn’t want that happening in the coop.

But she has since started opening both eyes and walking a little. I see her eating and drinking. One eye is all black while the other looks to have the pupil wide open. Kinda weird. I’ll try to take pictures. She still sleeps a lot but her droppings are more firm and normal. I’m concerned that she won’t be well enough to put in with the flock by winter. There’s no way she can survive a New Hampshire winter by herself in the shed. So I need to start making a contingency plan in case she needs an extended convalescence. Of course, she may relapse. She may still pass away. I’m taking it day by day.

Beulah has found her and now lays her eggs in the shed. She visits Winona often and sometimes brings the flock with her. Very glad Winona is not contagious! And I am very impressed with the loyalty I see in Beulah. I really did not expect that with chickens.

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Getting used to their new home.

Keet Update: They’re in the coop! I don’t let them out yet as I want them to imprint on the coop as home but they are living out there now. The girls don’t like not being able to go in and out of the coop at will, but they’re adjusting. And since I can’t get them to lay eggs in the coop right now, it’s not like I’m missing out. This weekend will be the trial of letting the keets out. I am concerned about their flying away, but I’m hoping between their comfort level with the girls (there was very little bullying the first night and I used my water bottle to break it up when it did happen) and knowing there is food in the coop, they’ll be smart enough to come home.

Rumney Livestock Auction: Went to my first livestock auction this past weekend. It was more to check it out and see if it was something we’d do in the future. Mr. Hen House, my impulsive man, bought a batch of fertile duck and peacock eggs. They are in the incubator now and will be candled this weekend. If they are successfully hatched, I will most likely sell the ducklings at the auction (really not prepared for ducks at this time). I’m not sure about the peacocks. I love the way the look and would love to have them in the yard. I’m pretty sure I can house with the chickens, although if we build the big hen house that Mr. Hen House is contemplating, that will resolve the housing issue. But they are loud! And I do live in a neighborhood. So… not sure what I will do at this point. Let’s see if they hatch first.

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The (temporary) new boys.

We also picked up a pair of beautiful Blue Laced Red Wyandottes to replace the two quints. However… they are roosters! They were not identified as roosters on the cage tag or when they went up for auction. And Mr. Hen House just had to have them. (They really are quite beautiful.) They weren’t crowing like the other roosters in the barn. We didn’t find out they were roosters until he went to pay for them and by then we were committed. We brought them home, put them in quarantine (a big MUST when getting new birds), hoping against hope they were hens and two days later one of them started crowing. We held out hope that it was a mated pair, but then the second one started crowing. They are going back. We’ll trek up for the next auction and get whatever we can for them. And Mr. Hen House will need to control his impulsiveness this time.

With that said, you can get good livestock inexpensively at the auction although you do need to eyeball them. I saw more than a few chickens that had mite problems. There were goats and rabbits as well and they have been known to sell cows, horses, etc. It’s very catch-as-can, and all dependent on what folks bring in to sell.

Other good news: The girls have practically eliminated the Japanese beetle problem! I’m sure there are nasty grubs in the ground, percolating and growing to emerge as beautiful and destructive beetles. And then beetles will fly in from all over… but the girls have it under control. My grape vines look normal this year. Now I just have to keep the girls from eating the grapes. One thing at a time…

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(Feel free to help a chicken out by making a purchase at the link below. These ads pay for their food!)

We’re getting eggs!

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Brownie’s dark brown eggs

But not where they are supposed to be! Since the girls basically have the run of the yard now, I took down the fence around one of the raised beds. In doing so, I found a clutch of dark brown eggs — which I later discovered were laid by Brownie.

I then saw Snoop-dog walking with something in his mouth and burying it (he likes to bury things). I went to find out what it was, and it was a light brown egg! I just left it. I’m not even sure where he found it. I also found a light brown egg in the coop yesterday. Yeah! Someone laying where they are supposed to. And this morning, I found one of the quints likes to hop over the fence, lay an egg, and hop back. She had a small clutch of light brown eggs.

While it is absolutely adorable they are making little nests all over the place, I really want the eggs in the coop. So, I have to make it more accommodating, which is on the list when we finish the trim. And if that doesn’t work, I suspect the behavior will modify itself during the winter when they cannot get far due to snow.

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The lid has since been modified to a nice flip top.

Things are better with the keets as well. Mr. Hen House built a lovely, portable cage to use while they acclimate to the big outdoors. Every couple of days I move it to a new location so they can see various parts of the yard. The hens were very curious initially and even now occasionally stop by to say hello. The keets don’t worry about the hens at all. They get a little flustered with me or Mr. Hen House, but not too much. But when the dogs or cat get near, they totally freak. I don’t worry about the serial-killer cat, Ash, as he could care less. But when they get agitated, it can trigger the dogs into behaving badly so I’ve been monitoring and using the water bottle on the dogs occasionally.

This weekend I will work on a plan to get the keets imprinted on the coop. I am a tad concerned they will fly away and make a break for it when they have no boundaries.

On to non-chicken stuff… the healthcare exchanges will be opening soon. There are lots of questions, IMG_0449particularly with subsidies. This link will bring you to a subsidy calculator. It also answers some basic questions on the plans. Of course, there is still a lot unknown and each state is different, but it’s a start. Frankly, I’m looking forward to the NH Exchange opening up. I am currently without a job and coverage with Mr. Hen House’s job is a little lacking so I’m hoping we’ll find a good deal on the exchange.

Have a lovely week!

Click here to visit www.EggCartons.com

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Chickens on the Run

Well, not really, but sorta. I think I mentioned how they have been able to get out of the pen; I don’t even close it when I let IMG_0427them out of the coop in the morning. It’s really a wasted effort. They spend most of their time in the back yard, occasionally taking trips into the neighbor’s yards. One of my neighbor’s was very sweet and came over, very concerned they would get lost or the family cat would take one out. I reassured her neither concern was an issue and apologized profusely, offering to get them out of her yard for now. But she was okay with it, especially since they eat bugs. I promised her eggs when the quints start laying.

So maybe when the guineas are up and running, she’ll be okay with them as well. One can hope!

I actually like the girls in the yard. I find it peaceful. We have to work on containing them in the yard, though. It will be interesting, the quints are flyers. Beulah and Brownie are not. Many times the quints are out and about while B&B are in the yard. And that’s another reason why I leave the pen open — B&B were often left behind.

The good news is so far no damage to the garden. They’ll walk through, but have not gone after any plants. But I need to keep an eye out. As much as I love walking among the girls, I really don’t want the garden ruined. We’re having enough problems with getting squash to grow, I really don’t need the girls eating everything.IMG_0426

I checked the bees this week and they seem to be doing well. I still have not found the queen, but to be honest, I have not looked very hard. I saw capped brood (baby bees in capped cells, growing to be big and strong!) so that confirms I have a queen. I’ve found that, for me, opening the hive early, or late, in the day works better. Most of the hive is there so I get a better idea of size of the colony. I don’t sweat as much either, so I can see nor worry about passing out from the heat. And I’m getting better with the smoker. That is my achilles heel. Getting that smoker going and using it helps me keep the hive confused and less worried about what I’m doing.

Funny story… I kept hearing a bee buzzing around my head so I would “smoke” my head in an attempt to get her to fly away. But she kept coming back. Then I saw her fly in front of my face, in my hat! So I flung it off, confirmed she flew away, put it back on and completed my inspection. She did not sting me — bees prefer not to sting unless they feel they have to. They will die as stinging ends up disemboweling them. But I am glad I kept smoking her.

Have a lovely weekend!

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