Changes They Are A’Comin’

The hot and muggy weather has broken, but I feel it inching back. After the brutal winter, I’m kinda okay with that. I like being

New Nest Boxes

New Nest Boxes

warm. And it allowed me to get the chicks off the heat lamp so much earlier this year than I have been able to in the past. The new box design helped with that — the plastic on the bottom of the front helped reduce drafts and keep in body heat. The design is great as they have plastic bottom for easy cleaning, mesh for air flow and a hole in the top where the heat lamp would normally go. One side swings open and has chest clasp for easy security. Once the chicks are all dispersed, Guapo will be getting an upgrade for his nighttime digs.

I’ve identified the Americuana and Black Star that I’m keeping: Chicken Hawk and Blackie. Chicken Hawk is very aggressive, especially for a hen. Since she won’t be bred, I can live with it (I would not want to pass that aggressive on to future chicken generations). It is surprising to see her assert her “alphaness” over the rest of the chicks — she is very confrontational. I’m interested to see how that behavior plays out when she is integrated with the flock.

I shall call her "Chicken Hawk."

I shall call her “Chicken Hawk.”

The Blue Lace Red Wyandottes will be sorted last. I’m seeing some rooster characteristics emerge but want to be sure before I sell or process. And with the remaining chicks, I want to keep at least one that is close to Wyandotte standards. There is one BLRW, that, if proves to be female, I’m keeping, regardless of how far away she is from the standards. I call her Fluffbutt. Why? She has a beautifully rounded fluffy butt, rather than regular tail feathers. I’m hoping this will stay true as she matures. I think it is a lovely look and want to reproduce it. We’ll see what happens. They are about 9 weeks now and transitioning from crumbles to big girl food. I was bringing them outside on good weather days — that was a pain. Fortunately, they’ve moved outside permanently, to a segregated area in the pen. The fresh air and exercise is good for them, as is the access to bugs and greens.


Penny, Marcia and Kelly (guinea hens) finally decided the eggs won’t hatch after all and gave up. Yeah! Now they can go back to bug hunting. The Japanese Beetles are out in force. We did some “retraining,” i.e., picking the beetles and giving them to the guineas, and that seemed to help. Once the trio were out of the nest and roaming the yard, I quickly gathered up the rancid eggs and threw them out. How do I know they were rancid? Snoop would sneak behind the girls and get an egg and eat it. And boy did it smell! He did this several times as they started to leave the next more and more.

The summer digs.

The summer digs.

But now, one of the hens is broody – Little Red. She may actually hatch some eggs since she was on Guapo’s list. Of course, she’s exhibiting “all these eggz r mine” behavior and I can’t collect any. (I only have one nesting box that all the girls shared.) She doesn’t hiss like the guinea did, but she does peck. Good thing I wear gloves. Typical interaction:

LR: Peck

BHH: I’m just getting eggs.

LR: Peck

BHH: But you’re not even sitting on these.

LR: Peck

BHH: And you’re breaking some; I see yolk all over your chest.

LR: Peck

BHH: What – ever.

Now, it’s just a waiting game with her. She’ll either give up and abandon the eggs in a few weeks, or will actually hatch some. At which time I will need to provide her a secure location away from the flock. I’m not sure how they would interact with the babies, even though these babies were hatched with the flock. My fear is they would be attacked and killed. I simply don’t know and don’t want to take the chance.

On a side note, read my new page about wanting to go back to school. It’s not happening and the story of why may interest you.

Winona meandering around the empty guinea nest.

Winona meandering around the empty guinea nest.

And I’m going to try to be a little more frequent with posts — it’s a little tough working full-time, but hey, I won’t be going to school so my calendar will be opening up.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the beautiful Little Red, trying to become a mama. And don’t forget to show some love — girls gotta eat!

 

 

 

 

 

All your eggz r mine.

All your eggz r mine.

Blue Hen House

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

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

 

 

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

Calcium & Eggs

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Winona eyeballing the camera.

I recently noticed Winona’s egg shells seemed thin. One of the things I love about backyard eggs is the superthick eggshells. I’m a bit of a klutz and tend to drop things. When I dropped backyard eggs on the ground, they didn’t always break, or even crack. However, Winona’s eggs  sometimes break when I pick them up. I also noticed that many times, before gathering them, they were cracked and oftentimes completely broken. (I’m a little worried there is some hen house egg-eating going on.)

Anyway, it hit me — while I’ve been great ensuring they had grit to help with digestion, give them treats, ensure they have plenty of water and food, I had dropped the ball on giving them calcium (generally ground oyster shells). I usually pick it up at the local feed store, but every time I had been there, the bags of calcium simply weren’t there. So I tried again and fortunately, they had some in stock — finally!

So I crawled in the coop and added the calcium in with the grit. The girls went right to it, even Brownie and the quints and they aren’t laying yet.

Beulah is doing great with her eggs. Thin shells have not been a problem I’ve seen with her. I’ll keep monitoring the situation to see if Winona’s shell quality improves.

And the coop is making progress:

Coop almost done

The coop is almost finished!

Next is trimwork. When done, it will have lovely white trim to contrast against the barn red. We’ll then be able to work on improved an feeding and watering set-up.

In closing, I thought I’d link you to a post on the reasons why some people should rethink getting chickens. While I’m a big advocate of pretty much any type of critter-keeping, fact of the matter is, some people really shouldn’t. Not because they are mean or cruel, but because their heart simply isn’t into it. It’s insanely unfair to the animal to get shuttled around or neglected simply because the human that got them didn’t think things through.

Have a lovely day!

Click here to visit www.EggCartons.com

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What do you feed your chickens?

First, I have to say “Yeah!!! The sun is back!” Well for a little while at least. Gives me a great opportunity to air out the coop. And mow.

So, what do you feed your chickens? I’m not loyal to any particular brand — it depends on what store I’m at when I need it. Right now, it’s Blue Seal Egg Layer pellets. Other times, it’s Purina. I have not seen my birds showing a dislike for either brand. I supplement with uncooked vegetable and fruit scraps. I noticed my big girls do not like greens from the table and I’m not sure about the peepers yet. I have read of some people who feed their chickens all of their table scraps, but I tend to avoid that. And there are seriously hard-core folks who make their own chicken feed from scratch. I love my girls, but honestly, I just don’t have that level of commitment.

Of course, now the little dinos have all the fresh greens from the garden beds, and I will occasionally throw weeds in that I’ve pulled from the active garden space. Plus all the bugs and worms they can find. The more variety they get in their diet, the better their eggs are, both in flavor and nutrition.

Feeling a bit nostalgic today, so here are a couple of pics from my first flock for your enjoyment.

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And today’s soapbox is women’s health. I totally don’t get the movement that wants to remove government from all aspects of private life except women’s reproduction. It is irrelevant whether you think life begins at conception or two years after a child is born. Bottom line, women have the same right and expectation of bodily autonomy as men. Women are people and should be treated as such. And that most definitely includes her reproductive system. So, I’ve provided two links for your reading pleasure. The first discusses the harm to women these new forced-birth laws are having. The second is a full-on rant about how a certain form of reproductive treatment is under threat.

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