What Chickens Get for Xmas

Dried mealworms!IMG_0662

They love it, especially this time of year when there’s no foraging going on. I’ve also started throwing some of their food on the ground so they can pretend to forage. I really want them to scratch to keep their nails short. That’s especially a problem for Guapo since he is in his crate most of the time. The protein in the mealworm is also very good for them. My only complaint is that it is a tad expensive. So they’ll get this treat throughout the week.

Guapo, however, got two xmas presents. First, he got to spend one night with the girls. I figure everyone’s windows are closed in the winter so there’s less a chance people will hear him crow. His other present is that I’m bringing him out everyday to hang with the girls. I changed my routine so that when it’s cold, they will have water for longer. I used to take care of them at 5a.m., but if it was very cold, their water would freeze by 6:30, 7:00 a.m., before they got up. Now I take care of them around 7a.m. and since the sun is up, they are up. So they have water to drink, at least for a little while. And 7 is not an unreasonable time to bring Guapo out on a weekday. Most folks are up, getting ready for work or school. And he doesn’t crow for long (although that’s a subjective measure of time!).

The girls found the bucket where I store their wood shavings. They decided that is where they want to lay eggs.

Brownie laying an egg.

Brownie laying an egg.

I seem to get eggs from everyone (including Winona) except Beulah. I really want those blue eggs so I’m wildly disappointed. I do expect her egg laying to start again sometime in the spring. Since egg production generally drops in the winter, due to the shorter days/longer nights, I’m not totally surprised.

All in all, the hoop house is working out. I had hoped it would be a bit warmer, but the sun just isn’t strong enough in the winter to heat that plastic too much this time of year. However, I don’t believe I’ll have any frostbit issues as long as we don’t get a long sub-zero temperature run.

So a couple of things before closing. First, a lovely xmas video by Tim Minchin, called White Wine in the Sun. Enjoy!

Second, I was going to add a blurb about the whole Hobby Lobby and conscience clause crap going on, but I just don’t have the stomach for it. So I hope everyone had a lovely holiday and will have a safe and happy new year. May we all get the jobs and pay that we want, may our healthcare needs be met, and may those forced birth assholes see the error of their ways.

Now, because your eggs deserve the very best:



Blue Hen House


Little Giant Incubator

First product review! And full disclosure — I get no compensation. This is simply my personal experience.

Last fall, at the Rumney auction, we picked up 2 fertilized duck eggs and 4 fertilized peacock eggs. (What the hell would I do with noisy peacocks, I have no idea. Beautiful but loud. And the neighbors already had problems with Guapo.)

We had picked up the Little Giant Incubator Combo Kit and were raring to try it out. (Place of purchase: Incubator Warehouse. They have lots of cool stuff.) We put it together as soon as it arrived and were discussing the possibility of buying eggs off of Craig’s List before hitting the auction.

The incubator has windows on the top for egg viewing and comes with an internal thermometer. At the time I purchased, the accessories that were included in the combo kit include an egg turner, egg candler, and air circulator. We purchased a separate external thermometer.

First hurdle: the air circulator had to be manually put in, which meant some minor wiring. Mr. Hen House could handle it, and the instructions were straight forward enough that most people could probably follow. However, in my personal opinion, it’s a little much expecting folks to know how to do electric. Fortunately, once put together it was fine.

We followed the instructions and ran the incubator to ensure we could stabilize the temperature. And it stabilized nicely for the 8 hour test. As I mentioned, it comes with a thermometer you leave in the incubator and check through the windows on the top. The external thermometer didn’t get used. It needed to be calibrated and we simply never did that. The thought is when the incubator has a permanent home, the thermometer will be put on the wall above it for quick checks. The incubator and egg turner had separate plug-ins.

When we got home with the eggs, we were pretty sure we we good to go. Experts already! We had the gear, the instructions, and enthusiasm. We put the eggs in, added the water (humidity is important), turned on the heat, fan, egg turner, and let ‘er rip!

And 28 days later (or whatever the time is — I don’t remember but the incubator came with a handy dandy chart of time to hatch by bird), nothing. Nada, squat, zilch. To be honest, I didn’t crack open any of the eggs because I was worried I’d see something sad.

The incubator and accessories were pretty easy to operator. Since the temperature does not adjust automatically, if you experience extreme temperature changes, you have to adjust the temperature gauge. The gauge has no markings, so it can be a lengthy process. The incubator should be placed in a relatively temperature stable  environment, then once it’s set you don’t have to fudge with it again.

Peeking at the eggs!

Peeking at the eggs!

The white of the incubator made it difficult to see the water I had to put in for humidity. I suspect one of my problems was inconsistent humidity. And, it was a little awkward to fill. You have to remove the top, or at least slide it and that lets in air and changes the temperature. The egg turner was awesome, though. It turned the eggs so you don’t have to. Time saver and, for me at least, I know I didn’t screw that piece up.

Lessons learned:

  • Put it in the basement, not the dining room. Why? Because we don’t have central air and the temperature in the basement is steady — no fluctuations.
  • Put something under the incubator for the water. I had a little mold problem under the incubator, on my table, because of excess water. I found there are holes in the bottom for drainage and because I had a hard time seeing the water, I was not aware when it overflowed slightly.
  • Color the water that I put in the incubator for humidity to make it easier to monitor.
  • Rig up a tube system so I don’t have to open the top to add water.
  • Put some thought into buying a humidity monitor. I think I had two problems that led to the eggs not hatching: variable humidity, and to a lesser extent, variable temperature due to the weird, and sometimes extreme temperature fluctuations we experienced this summer.
  • This is not product related: Try to get an idea when the fertilized eggs were laid. I assumed they were a day or two old. However, they may have been close to hatching. Unfortunately, there was no information on that at the auction.

Pros: Easy to operate, although accessories are, in my opinion, necessary (hence getting the combo kit). The instructions are clear and understandable. It’s lightweight, portable, and reasonably priced. The egg turner in the combo kit is so worth it. American made.

Cons: Having to wire the air circulator. In my opinion, this was a big problem. Not everyone has a knack for electrical. The other con is the lack of any kind of measure on the temperature gauge.

Learning Curve: Low.

Rating: 8.5 Hens


Blue Hen House


I decided to let all the birds out for the weekend. The weather was pretty mild on Saturday so I let everyone out — even Guapo! No one was confined. Everyone loved it. They wandered and pecked and enjoyed. I was thrilled Guapo was not in a raping and pillaging mood. He just wandered over to the girls and started hanging out. He ignores the guineas completely.

There's Guapo on the left!

There’s Guapo on the left!

I did apply more antibiotics to Winona’s comb and Brownie’s foot. Both seem to be healing fine so it was probably not necessary. Winona still seems a little out of it from the attack last week. But she is eating and laying eggs. She’ll just be in her own little kingdom from now on.

At the end of the day, the girls went right to the coop — not the hoop house. So I picked them up and put them in. Obviously not imprinted on the hoop house just yet. And Guapo went to his little crate in the airstream.

Point of interest — I don’t see Guapo developing spurs. I hope he doesn’t. Not that I think he’ll become a mean bird, but why deal with spurs if I don’t have to.

As I was on my own, I could not get the guineas in there at all. Interestingly enough, they went right into the coop. So they spent the night there.

I let everyone out again today. Guapo was a bit more randy, but the girls were having none of it so he calmed down eventually. And we went through the same going to bed process. I think the guineas just moved into the coop for the winter. If we tarp part of it to keep the snow out (as it still needs to be trimmed out), it should be fine. They are game birds, after all.

To remind us it will be green again!

To remind us it will be green again!

And yes, I need to do that product review. Busy week getting ready for Xmas and I’m just happy I found time to blog!

Click here to to pick up presents for your special girls! www.EggCartons.com

Blue Hen House

Winter Prep & Updates

Busy times. I’ve been so busy with my contract job that Mr. Hen House has been putting the the ladies to bed. With the cold weather, we’ve moved the ladies and guineas into the hoop house. They will be spending the winter there. The good part is it provides more shelter than the coop. It has electricity for lights and keeping the water warm (eventually!) We also play a radio at night to discourage predators. Yes, still doing that after the weasel incident this past summer.

Getting settled in.

Getting settled in.

So getting the birds into the hoop house was interesting. Most of the girls went in on their own, but Beulah was weird about it. So after some wrangling, we got her in. Then it was guinea time! It was brutally cold here, so they knew they wanted to go in somewhere, but really don’t like being in the coop but that was the only place they knew.

So after running around like crazy, we got two of them in the coop. I then went in and grabbed, them, one at a time, and moved into the hoop house. That last guinea was a terror to get, though! It took about an hour, but we finally got him into the coop, so I could then move into the hoop house. Chasing these birds around the yard was like something out of the Roadrunner! If it wasn’t so cold, it would have been funny. 🙂 And you’d think after all this time, the guineas would be at least used to us. But nooooo, they still act as though we will rend them limb from limb.

The odd man out.

The odd man out.

To digress a bit, it seems we have two boys and one girl. There’s a pair that always are together and then we have the odd man out. I think I’ll try to get a guinea hen in the spring for the lonely boy. I am concerned the more assertive guinea rooster will take her, too, leaving lonely boy even lonelier. But it’s worth a try. Worst case, guineas are meat birds. Maybe odd man out will become dinner. I don’t know yet. I do know that if I go that route, I will not be there to see it. My enthusiasm for the last bird was greatly diminished when I saw him butchered. Like I said, I’m the city cousin of the Iowa farm bunch.

Winona moved into Guapo’s space. She’s put on weight and is much more normal, including laying eggs. Her eyes aren’t completely normal yet, but I hope they will come back in time. I did make a huge mistake though. I thought she’d be fine in with the rest of the flock since  she was so much better. I was wrong. Beulah beat up on her horribly. So, Winona is back in her area and I’m disinfecting her wounds every day. I feel terrible. But I will never make that mistake again. Winona will remain segregated and safe until she passes. Which I don’t think will be for awhile. I will say it makes me sad that I may never receive the hairy eyeball from her again, though.

Winona giving me the hairy eyeball.

Winona giving me the hairy eyeball.

Guapo was moved into the airstream. We got complaints from the neighbors and had a discussion with the local code officer. So Guapo is in the airstream for the week, and comes out on the weekends. Not the best arrangement, but it will work until we get a better, more soundproof coop built. And since it’s so cold, he goes into his old area in the hoop house while I keep Winona in her crate. When she’s recovered from Beulah’s attack, I’ll have to reconfigure that area a bit as I don’t want her to suffer from Guapo’s love attacks.




I have to say, Guapo is pretty relaxed for a rooster. I think the constant human interaction is making him a tamer rooster than the one I had with the first flock. He crows in the morning, and is then generally quiet the rest of the day. A few crows, but not much. He doesn’t try to attack me or Mr. Hen House. I’m hoping this behavior will continue. I don’t like aggressive roosters.

The biggest problem with the hoop house is it still gets colder than I would like. The water is freezing solid. Mr. Hen House has not completed the waterer with the chicken nipples and heater. I think we will be addressing that soon!

Now, show a Hen House some love! The girls gotta eat.

It will be warm again! My next post, I think I’ll critique the incubator I used for those eggs that never hatched.

Blue Hen House