Growing Up and Getting Ready for Sale

The chicks are getting so big. They are feathering out nicely. I’ve settled on the Americauna and Black Star I’ll be keeping. It will take a bit longer to figure out the others. I need to cull the roosters first. And these chicks are super healthy. I have not lost a single one.  That is the first time it has happened. Kudos to McMurray Hatcheries.

I’ve put up a temporary pen for them so they can stretch their wings and they’ve moved on up to crumbles. Not quite ready for big girl food. But they are getting there.

Babies went from this to...

Babies went from this to…

 

This! Feathers are coming out nicely.

…This! Feathers are coming out nicely.

 

So the plan is to go up to the livestock auction in a couple of weeks to see what the Americaunas and Black Stars will bring. And then I’ll figure out which of the Blue Lace Red Wyandottes are roosters. Then I’ll make an appointment with the processor so I can get the roosters and hens I don’t want culled. I may bring some of them to the auction in August, I have not totally made up my mind yet.

The big girls and Guapo are fascinated by the chicks.

The big girls and Guapo are fascinated by the chicks.

Bees are doing well. The nuc I bought is kicking butt. The package is struggling, but is hanging in there. I purchased a Russian Queen because the queen that came with the package disappeared. The Russian is still there and the hive is finally building out some comb. Not a lot, but it’s a start. I put them into a queen castle so that there’s less chance of their being infested with spiders or having problems with thieving. I had that happen one time with a struggling hive — putting that hive into a smaller space would have given them a better chance since there would have been less space for the small group of bees to monitor and defend. So, we’ll see what happens with them. Good news is if the big hive continues doing well, I’ll split them next year. Besides survival over the winter, splitting hives is a goal.

Lots of pictures this posting. The flock is doing well. The mites I thought they had — they didn’t. Beulah’s bum feathers started growing back so I think she had a partial molt. The feathers missing behind the combs of the other girls are the result of Guapo being a tad bit aggressive. And, sadly, he did grow spurs. I was so hoping he would not. But he’s still a pretty sweet boy for a rooster. He waits for me to get him at night. He still hates being picked up, but he waits outside the coop for me. Not shabby for a rooster.

Such a beautiful boy, even if he doesn't meet Wyandotte standards.

Such a beautiful boy, even if he doesn’t meet Wyandotte standards.

Now for a entirely different train of thought… what is up with the Supreme Court? How can they open the door to chaos the way they did with the Hobby Lobby decision? Regardless of how you feel about women’s healthcare, this decision has the potential to open up a Pandora’s box. Seriously, do we really WANT our boss in the middle of our healthcare? Or other personal decisions? I really can’t get my head around the fact the supremes think it’s okay for the boss to tell employees what to do with earned benefits. I mean, your paycheck is an earned benefit. Will someone try to extend control over how you spend it? If not, why not? Earned benefits are earned benefits. The only difference is the form they take.

Broody guinea is still broody and getting the others into the act. And they're not eating Japanese beetles! Spending all their time on the eggs -- that I don't think will hatch although I'd love it if they proved me wrong.

Broody guinea is still broody and getting the others into the act. And they’re not eating Japanese beetles! Spending all their time on the eggs — that I don’t think will hatch although I’d love it if they proved me wrong.

And what about the corporate veil? It may take awhile, but this has the potential to cause some real problems for both employees and businesses. Personally, I think if corporations are to be considered people way beyond the scope of conducting business, they should be held completely accountable. Jail terms, not fines, when they break the law.

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I’ll close with a link to some interested facts about our founding fathers. We just celebrated the 4th of July. And my progressive liberal patriotic heart just can’t pass up a chance to remind my conservative friends of some facts. And interesting ones as well. Things I certainly didn’t realize.

Please show some love. Your chickens deserve it!

 

 

Blue Hen House

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Spring Still ALMOST Here

So I thought I would be much farther along. We had gotten some really warm days — warm enough that I put a screen on the hoop house door to help keep the flock from overheating before I could move them outside.

I added "steps" to the ramp. It makes it easier for the birds to move up and down the coop.

I added “steps” to the ramp. It makes it easier for the birds to move up and down the coop.

Boy was I wrong.

Temps have been up and down, which isn’t too dog-awful, but we’ve had a frost or two and some really bitter, raw cold days. Argh. So I’ve put off putting seedlings in Winona’s space to harden them off.

However, I have not been completely complacent. I’ve made improvements to the coop. We’ve started building what should be an escape-proof pen (for the chickens — guineas are free to roam!). And I let the flock out late in the day. This gives them exercise and greens, but generally not enough time to lay eggs all over the place or roam the neighborhood. The coop is still a work in progress, but progress has been made.

I made a nesting box out of a paper garden pot. And you can see the first little guinea egg in it!

I made a nesting box out of a paper garden pot. And you can see the first little guinea egg in it!

The biggest and best news is one of the guineas has laid eggs! Now, not many and by the time they were found they were ice-cold so I didn’t try to incubate them. The first one I found I put in the new nesting box. My hope is it would entice her to lay there again. No such luck. I few days later my husband found a couple of eggs in the yard, just out in the open. Sigh! One thing at a time.

I also scored a 3lb package of bees. I have ordered a nuc that should be arriving mid-month. So two hives this year! The class I took at BeePride, in Lebanon, Maine, was great and I am much more confident that these will survive the winter — barring any major screw-ups by me. I’ll keep you posted.

And here’s a point of note for all you chicken lovers: Hygiene! The CDC just reported that an uptick of salmonella outbreaks are linked to backyard chickens. Biggest problems areas: keeping chickens in the house and kissing them.

I changed the orientation of the window openings so they can stay open in the rain and keep the airflow going in the upstairs of the coop.

I changed the orientation of the window openings so they can stay open in the rain and keep the airflow going in the upstairs of the coop.

Now I am fond of my girls. And I love that I can carry Guapo around without worry. (I don’t always use the football carry with him. Many times, I carry him like a baby — not on his back, but cradled in both arms. He’s pretty mellow.) But I always wear gloves when working with the girls, because of my salmonella concern. If for some reason I don’t have gloves, I wash my hands right away. And I would think twice before kissing them. Three or four times even. And I don’t think I would. Because of the salmonella concern.

For that matter, I wash my hands every time I handle eggs with my bare hands. So people — hygiene! Chickens aren’t dogs or cats. And you should wash your hands after playing with your mammalian pets, too. There’s no excuse for the salmonella outbreaks.

On another note, I read a very interesting article about the interactions of atheists and their Christian family and friends. I tend to agree with the author’s premise… I’m not going to dissect it here. Read it for yourself, it’s not long and offers a rational explanation about some of the demands Christians make of atheists. I’ve been fortunate that no one has asked me to do this, except the church thing. A former boyfriend made a big deal about attending church on major religious holidays. Frankly, I think that’s just rude. It shows a huge lack of respect. Hence the former boyfriend status.

So on that note, here’s the flock enjoying the sun, even when it’s cold:

Love the chicken butts. They're happily foraging on their first afternoon out.

Love the chicken butts. They’re happily foraging on their first afternoon out.

 

Enjoying the almost spring!

Enjoying the almost spring!

Show some love and help feed the girls!

And until the next time, enjoy the longer days and upcoming summer warmth!

Blue Hen House

Spring is Almost Here!

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A triplet enjoying NOT being in the snow.

The downside of winter chicken blogging is there’s not too much going on. The chickens and guineas are “cooped” up. Pretty boring for them and us.

However… I woke up this past Saturday morning and I knew Spring had arrived. You could feel it. While the nights are still pretty cold (even with the melting, I have a good two feet of snow/ice in the backyard), the days are warmer. Today I barely needed a coat.

Since I still have so much snow, but the days are getting warmer, I want more fresh air in the coop. The door we picked up at the Restore didn’t come with screens, so I’ll be building those this week. It’s going to be interesting to manage as the nights are still cold.

Of course, this whacked weather is giving us another snowstorm later this week. My Master Gardener pollinator session has been rescheduled to next week. But it will pass. Soon, the snow will be gone, and I’ll be planting the garden. My biggest concern is keeping it safe from the flock who are bound and determined to free range. We have a couple-three strategies. We’ll see how they work. But first, we have to get the seeds started!

I’m anxious to get started on raising chicks. We’re looking at a short term solution in the garage until

The handsome Guapo waiting patiently for alone time with one of the hens.

The handsome Guapo waiting patiently for alone time with one of the hens.

the bigger, better coop can be built. Unfortunately, Mr. Hen House is working crazy hours and I’m hesitant to bother him. The man does need to sleep once in a while — shocking, I know! With that said, as soon as it’s put together, I’m going to hook Guapo up with Brownie, Beulah, and one of the triplets, in that order. Why? I want to get a wide variety of colored eggs. As the chicks grow, I’ll sort out the roosters for processing, and then I’ll sort through the hens after they start laying eggs. We’ll see how that works. The hens I don’t keep I’ll bring to the livestock auction.

I also want to get some lovely blue lace red wyandotte hens for Guapo. I’ll purchase the chicks in April. Again, I’ll sort out the roosters for processing. Hens will be sorted by how they look. I would like to end up with 2 to 3 hens that I can use for breeding stock next year. We’ll see what happens. Change is constant and sometimes the best laid plans get blown to bits.

Trying to get this again. Large and healthy hive.

Trying to get this again. Large and healthy hive.

It was warm enough that I popped open the bee hive top today to see if the bees had started feeding on the emergency food. I saw some dead bees up there who had been feeding, but nothing alive. While I removed the top insulation, I did not open the hive any farther. If I do have bees that made it through the winter, I didn’t want to shock them, or any potential brood, with the cold air. (It is warm for me, but still too cold for bees!)

I don’t know if the hive made it through the winter. If not, this is the second winter I’ve lost a hive and that’s not good. I’ll have to adjust my over-wintering plan if that’s the case. I do have northern bees on order and they should arrive in May. But I wanted to expand my hives, not replace dead ones. Keep your fingers crossed!

Spring is coming! Get what you need for your flock — or for a flock you know using the banner below. Frankly, I can’t wait. Winter in New England this year was like being in Michigan. Too cold and too much snow.

 

 

’til next time — stay warm!!!

 

 

 

Blue Hen House

Will it ever end?

This winter is brutal. I feel like I’m back in Michigan. Argh! Makes for boring

The never-ending winter.

The never-ending winter.

chickens and not nearly enough chicken fun. The two most difficult tasks for me are keeping the flock warm enough and keeping them hydrated. Generally, there’s enough heat during the day that the water stays unfrozen, so I only have to refresh in the morning. But during the  polar vortex attack, I had to go out once or twice a day to refresh.

But it was a smidge difficult keeping them warm enough, especially at night. I worry about frostbite on the combs. So we installed a heating lamp which seems to help. Mr. HenHouse did a fabulous job putting together a nice little heated area. Unfortunately, because Winona is on her own, she misses out. But I’m using the deep litter method in her cage and cover it at night with a couple of wool blankets and she seems to be doing alright. When it was especially brutally cold, I let Guapo spend the night instead of putting him back in his crate (his is covered with a thick moving blanket). I figure the neighbor’s windows are closed and they are less likely to hear him crowing in the morning. So far, no complaints!

We also noticed, unsurprisingly, that the ammonia smell built up in the hoop house. To mitigate, we put in a small house fan in the window and it sucks out the air. It does pretty well although over the long term we’ll need to invest in a hoop house exhaust fan.

To keep interflock pecking down to a minimum, I tend to spread food through the hoop house and fortify with treats when I can. Things like vegetable scraps, meal worm and chicken scratch. They LOVE the chicken scratch from Blue Seal and it’s cheap.

Since winter is SO boring, I’ve put pictures below. And for those of you interested in the bees, I found this not so surprising article showing that the inert ingredients in pesticides are harmful, too. Depressing.

Looking forward to spring and starting the daily egg hunts again — although I really, really hope when we put a laying box into the coop, they’ll use it. Keep your fingers crossed!

Snazzy heated area and a hoop house covered in snow!

Snazzy heated area and a hoop house covered in snow!

Hanging out in the hoop house.

Hanging out in the hoop house.

And I have to believe this is true:

 

Blue Hen House

 

 

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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Treats, Feathers, Bees

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Beulah and a quint. After devouring the watermelon!

So I’ve been giving the girls left over salad and fruit. They love it. As you can see, the watermelon rind has been picked absolutely clean. They like strawberries, lettuce, blueberries, and fresh corn. Now if I could only get them to eat weeds!

The weather has been up and down: overcast, rain, sun; overcast, rain, sun. Not that I miss the overwhelming heat and humidity of the holiday weekend, but a break from the rain and humidity would be nice. I am able to open the back door to the coop, though, unless it’s windy and rainy, and that helps keep it aired out. I also got the last of the flashing up on the roof today so Mr. Henhouse can now move on to the finish trim.

Otherwise, the girls are doing quite well. As you can see, the quint in the photos is slightly bigger than Beulah. They’re going to be big girls when they are done growing up. They are also sounding like hens and not chicks. My little peeps are all grown up! Well, almost. No eggs yet.

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Lots of pretty feathers and no where to go.

The keets are also doing well. Growing feathers like crazy! They seem to grow faster than chickens. They will be ready to move into the big crate this weekend and their bodies look to be almost fully feathered. Their little heads still have fluff and stripes. I’m looking forward to them running around with all the extra room. And I’m sure I’ve said this, but they talk and eat constantly. They’ve started to exhibit grooming behavior. Not surprising with the feathers coming out. I did notice they seem more easily startled in the opaque tub where before, in the smaller transparent tub, they were more calm. I may have to move to all transparent tubs going forward. I want them to be calm, not high-strung. But, they are young and I’m sure that’s the biggest part of the behavour.

The bees seem to be doing well. I’ll be going in this weekend to check it out and, if not too hot, apply a powder sugar treatment for mites. I prefer to do that every couple of weeks and they’ve had time to get settled to their new home. The method I learned is to put in a tray under the screen bottom of the hive (many “bottom boards” have removable trays) after spraying with a non-stick spray or oiling. As you close up the hive, you sprinkle powered sugar to the top of each box. As the bees clean off the sugar, they also dislodge mites, which fall to the tray and get stuck in the oil. You remove the tray the next day and, voila!, instantly reduced the mite colony in the hive. I dislike doing this when it’s too hot as it drastically reduces air flow and can make the hive hot. Bees are great at maintaining the temperature of the hive, but I see no need to make it more difficult for them.

I’ll end with some pictures of the bees going in the hive and enjoying milkweed bloom. No politics today. It’s too depressing.

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Bringing home the pollen!

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Guineas

Ohhh-kay… a few weeks ago Mr. Henhouse mentioned getting guinea chicks (keets) to help with pest control in the backyard. (They are phenomenal bug eaters!). And I love the idea and have been wanting to do this for awhile. But I said, “Wait! Love it, but we need to talk first.” I had reservations:

1) I’m unemployed right now. This is my 3rd lay-off in a row. We’re okay now, but what happens if we run into money issues?

2) Neighbors — Guineas are noisy. They like to talk. We have neighbors. While the lots are relatively large (generally between 3/4 of an acre and an acre), we still have neighbors to consider.

3) Neighbors — Guineas sometimes roam. They are fliers and there is a good possibility they will visit neighbor’s yards looking for bugs.

My keets!

However, with this, that, and the other thing, I forgot to follow up and got the dreaded “I’m picking up the keets tonight!” I bought myself a day so I could get them food, and this past Monday we picked up six beautiful keets. I do love them. Keets are TINY!

We put them in the big crate, thinking it is so hot, that with a lamp, they will be fine. Well, we lost one the next day. So we moved them to a smaller crate, thinking that maybe the little critter just got too cold. And I’m losing one now. Makes me sad. I know there’s usually a 20% attrition rate with chicks, but I don’t like it. And none of my chicks from the Tractor Supply Store (Brownie and Quintuplets) died. I suspect those girls were at least a week old while the keets were about 24 to 48 hours old.

I also don’t know how many females or males I have. Keets aren’t sexed. I believe it’s just not possible for guineas to be sexed until they are several weeks old. Fortunately, the males are not aggressive like roosters, so they all get along. And, guineas in general tend to be territorial so I will try teaching them their “territory.” We’ll see how that works. They can be very tame if socialized properly and can live with chickens, so they will be slightly packed in the coop, although that will work nicely in the cold weather.

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Keets in the smaller crate.

Speaking of weather… the weather here lately with incredibly loud and close lightening strikes. The hens are okay, but I’m sure they’re getting as tired of the rain as I am. But, it does save me watering the garden.

Ahh, the garden. Corn and peas are now in. Finishing up tomatillos, peppers, and luffa this weekend — weather willing. And then done. Just weeding, watering, and growing.

I’m testing the luffa. I’m not sure how well it will grow up here, but I thought I’d give it a try. The seeds sprouted right up and grew very well. The sprouts look very healthy. So, we’ll see what happens. If I get a big enough crop, I may even clean and sell them. Natural luffa is so much nicer than those plastic scrub pads people use in the shower now.

And I’ll close with a reference to my last post on bees. Here’s a link to cartoon on Far Left Side. Enjoy!

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