DIY Layer Boxes

Here’s the link to my newest post on Community Chickens describing my DIY solution to creating easy to clean and easy to use layer boxes: 35 lb plastic kitty litter crates. Click here to read all about it!

This frog is surviving well in the middle of a drought!

This frog is surviving well in the middle of a drought!

Click here to visit www.EggCartons.com and show some love for the HenHouse. Thanx for your support!

Babs Hen House

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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

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 Prep

The snow is finally melting and the flock is ever-anxious to get outside. I’ve been holding back because once I let those birds out, the guineas will never go back in! I’m not ready to loose them into the backyard just yet. This is New England and we may yet get a snowstorm or three.

Blue Seal #5 Scratch -- Their favorite treat!

Blue Seal #5 Scratch — Their favorite treat!

To keep them occupied, I’ve been providing tons of vegetable scraps and their favorite treat in the whole world: Blue Seal #5 Scratch. They adore it. And it’s cheap — less than $2.00 a bag. I’m hoping the snow will melt enough over this week so that we can move the coop and get it prepped. I want to put chicken wire on the bottom to make it more predator-proof. And for the time-being, fence it, to include deer fencing over the top to keep everyone in, except maybe guineas. Doing that, as well as making a nursery in the garage, will give us time to build the more permanent coop that we will need if we decide to move forward.

Egg laying has been picking up, and I know we’re on a good curve when Brownie starts laying her double-yolk eggs. I don’t know how she does it. As you can see, they are huge!

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Brownie’s huge egg.

We’ve ordered our chicks from McMurray, so we can get Guapo his girlfriends and see if we can sell some chicks and throw some roasters in the freezer. Unfortunately, the little flufflets won’t arrive until June, but that gives us time to prepare. We ordered 10 Blue Lace Red Wyandottes, 3 Araucanas/Ameraucanas, and 3 of a breed I”m unfamiliar with, Black Star.  My goal is to find 2, maybe 3 good looking hens in the Wyandotte batch for Guapo, get some more brightly colored eggs, and add color to the flock overall. I’m also playing with the idea of mating Guapo with Brownie or Beulah to see what we get. If nothing else, it lets me experiment with the incubator and have some chicks to sell at the auction.

On a side note, I am 2/3 through the New Hampshire Master Gardner Program! So excited!!! Such a great program and tons of fabulous information. However, the real learning takes place when you start putting in your volunteer hours. Because of the wide variety of questions that come in, you almost always have to research to find the information needed for the client. I am so looking forward to it. So, if you have any gardening questions, backyard livestock, or for that matter, wildlife questions (we can always refer to the right department), call the UNH Cooperative Extension Education Center and Information Line at 1-877-398-4769, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Because Spring will arrive!

Because Spring will arrive!

With Spring Prep in mind, we purchased 4 corrugated raised beds to test. Not too expensive (they cost roughly the same as purchasing all the wood and other materials). We’re going to test them with our berry bushes (we have a lot, scattered throughout the yard). I think I”ll put strawberries in, as well, to provide ground cover, rather than continuing mulching. I can still fertilize and add compost when needed.

With that, I’ll leave you with Snoop, who is watching and waiting for the Spring to get here full force. He is ever my backyard watcher:

Watching and waiting.

Watching and waiting.

Get ready for Spring! Order supplies from EggCartons.com:

Blue Hen House

 

Freedom!

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.

 

 

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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

Big Changes

Sorry it’s been so long since I last posted. There’s been big changes

First, my computer died. The video card failed and since it’s part of the logic board, that means the whole thing is fried. Unfortunately, I can’t just swap out the video card. 😦   So, I’ve been bogarting Mr. Hen House’s laptop when I can.

Then I picked up a nice, long term contract gig. Which means 40 hours/week minimum. The extended (and unpaid) time off is over! While I’m happy to be getting a steady paycheck for the next several months, it does bite into the blogging time so I’m reworking my schedule to post once a week, most likely Sunday mornings.

On to the much more interesting chicken things! So those two roosters we picked up by accident from the Rumney auction… we took one to be processed. The processor doesn’t have a website, so I can’t link, but if anyone in New Hampshire is near Freedom and needs a processor for their chickens, email me.

I watched… mixed feelings. I called this rooster “dinner” to help keep emotional distance, and intellectually I know where chicken dinner comes from, but for all that I like to call myself an Iowa farmgirl the truth of the matter is I am the city cousin. I’ve never participated in butchering any creature nor do I cook. (Mr. Hen House banned me from the kitchen.) So I am very ambivalent about it. Something I need to work on. I will say he was humane and quick. Very articulate and great with his son. Knew what he was doing and gave a great tip when looking at chicken in the store — buy only chicken that is labeled it was fed a vegetarian diet. You’d think that was a no-brainer for chickens, but no, it’s not. Apparently the big corporate chicken farms feed their meat birds all kind of chicken body scraps to save money. Ugh. Learn something every day. (I was going to link to some web pages, but way too gross for me… I’ll leave you to research on your own if you want to!)

The rooster we’re keeping is named Guapo. Our thought is early next year, we’ll get a straight run of 6 to 12 chicks and at about 3 to 4 months, pick 2 or 3 good looking hens and sell and/or process the rest. We can then raise some beautiful blue lace red wyandottes for sale or food. We’ll see how that goes and maybe take the breeding up a notch. Baby steps.

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Guapo in his temporary outside cage.

Mr. Hen House is building a separate living space for Guapo in the hoop house. I don’t want him to hanging with the girls, tearing up their backs, so he’ll only have close personal company when we’re looking to breed.

The rest of the girls are doing fine and I finally found all the clutches. I need to invest in egg cartons! They’re doing great, which is a relief. Winona is still not well and I think she’s blind. I tried to euthanize her myself and just couldn’t. Mr. Hen House may end up doing it. She’s my only failure.

The guineas, Penny, Marcia, and Kelly, are doing very well. I think we have 2 boys and one girl — which gives us one matched pair and a third wheel. I’ll keep watching to make sure I’m right before I look into getting a female for the third wheel.

They are so funny! I like them MUCH better now that they are outside all the time. They’ve crawled on the roof, explored the perch Mr. Hen House made, and are becoming quite the little uglies! Photos are below.

Next on the list is winterizing the coop. We’re going to attempt to move it into the hoop house so the girls can spend the winter with Guapo (separated by fencing!). They should all be reasonably warm, although I will need to monitor the moisture. Too much humidity may breed disease. But, we are exploring the possibility of putting the girls in the hoop house without the coop. We need to ensure it’s safe enough from predators. We’ll see what falls out.

And the feeding and watering system need to be completed so I don’t need to monitor everyday. I could do it while I was off, but now that I’m working, it’s difficult.

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Guineas on the roof!

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Enjoying the perch!

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Becoming brilliantly ugly!

Show some love! Visit www.EggCartons.com by clicking on the link or the graphic below and pick up some cool products for your girls.

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