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

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

 

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

 

 

Guineas Day Out

So last Thursday, I got home a little earlier than usual. As we were still in the midst of arctic temperatures, I decided to check on the flock and make sure the water had not frozen over.

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Warmer days!

Imagine my surprise when I went outside and saw Guapo standing in the middle of the path we had shoveled to the hoop house! With the flock around him and the guineas hanging out on the staging on the addition. And the hoop house door wide open. Yikes!

I immediately picked up the girls standing in the snow. I was concerned about frostbite and hyperthermia. I was able to get all the chickens back in, and made sure they had water. The guineas, however, were another problem. I can barely walk past them without their screaming that the breeze of my passing is a sign of the end times. Real drama queens, those three.

So when Mr. HenHouse got home, we tried to physically catch them. As they were completely avoiding the snow and flying from staging to roof to trees and back again, the plan was to try to knock them off the staging into the snow. I HATE that, but you get near them, if you can get near them, they fly away. So we wanted to destabilize the staging and hope they would fall.

We had semi-success. One did fall — the others flew on to the roof. Anyway, I quickly scooped her/him up and got her/him into the protection of the hoop house.

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Guapo and dinner, this past Fall.

Knowing these birds had not had food or water, I opened up the addition the next day and put food and water in there, hoping the other two would fly in. No dice. They continued to fly around the yard to stay in the sun.

The third day, I widened the opening a bit more. I figured after almost three days outside, they would be desperate for food, water, and shelter. I started putting food on the staging so they would at least get something to eat and keep their strength up. The freezing rain came, and they were drenched. I think that’s what finally pushed them into the addition. Once there, I was able to close them in, catch them, and put them back in the hoop house.

Lessons learned:

  • Guineas are hardy. They withstood that incredible cold, including the freezing rain, with no injury as far as I can see. But I don’t want to test their hardiness again.
  • Check the damn door. I thought I had, but apparently I did not close it properly and the wind caught it and blew it open. So now I’m properly paranoid about the hoop house door.

Now on to something different… when I was young, I remember driving through a monarch migration in Iowa. It was amazing. While I hated the fact of all those butterflies dying because of the cars, to be in the middle of this living cloud of orange and black was exhilarating. Because of this memory, I have been planting milkweed in my yard with the hope of attracting them. I have not had a lot of luck and I think I know why. Monarchs have been under severe environmental pressures — pressures created by people — for quite some time. It now looks as though they have reached the breaking point.  I hope not. They are beautiful creatures.

Stay warm!!

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