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

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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Heat Stress

IMG_0386It’s been hot and humid. Hasn’t really changed except for some stormy weather here and there. It’s getting extreme, as it just isn’t ending. The chickens are panting and sitting in the dirt trying to cool off. I haven’t seen eggs from Winona in a few days. So I looked up heat stress in chickens. While the information I found was mostly geared towards commercial enterprises, I was able to not only identify the signs of heat stress (all of which my birds have), but how to alleviate it. Symptoms of heat stress (not all inclusive):

  • Panting
  • Holding wings away from body
  • Not eating during the day
  • Runny poop
  • Egg shell quality drops (Winona!)
  • Egg production drops (Winona!)

First, what I’m doing right. Hydration, hydration, hydration. Shade.

What I added after my research: a bowl of Gatorade. Giving the birds electrolytes helps relieve the symptoms of heat stress. Since I have not seen anything like this in the feed store, Mr. Hen House suggested Gatorade. When I poured the first bowl, they just stood there, looking at it. I had to leave, so when I returned, the first thing I did was check out the bowl. It was empty!

IMG_0388Okay, let’s try this again. I added more Gatorade and the girls started drinking right away. So I won’t put them on a diet of Gatorade, but a little treat of the chilled drink in the afternoon will be a nice treat. I even put a small dish in with the keets.

To keep airflow in the coop at night, but not give up safety, I put a bit of fencing over the back door. I can’t close it, but that’s okay for now. Rain generally does not get in that entrance and it will add air to the sleeping area at night.

I may add more shade. A mister was also suggested, but that’s a little out my price range for now. It’s going on the long-term list, though.

I’ve also noticed a change with Winona. Normally my most assertive girl, she ignored me when I put down the first bowl of Gatorade. When I returned to refill, she was hiding behind a milkweed plant. I have noticed her IMG_0392keeping one of her eyes shut most of the time. At first, it was her right eye, but unless my memory is totally whacked, it’s now her left eye. Really not sure what the problem is. It does not look inflamed, nor do I see anything in it (she has opened it a few times and I check it out). I  noticed a couple of the quints have become a little more assertive, pecking at my boots even. I’ll keep an eye on lovely Winona (no pun intended!) and see if I can figure out what’s going on. Maybe it’s just part of the heat stress. Or maybe the quints have gotten assertive and took her place as head girl. In any case, it needs to be monitored. I worry about her.

Stay cool everyone!

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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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