Winter Adventures with Guineas!

Click here to read the post. Short version — my guinea triplets are now guinea twins.

I also wanted to announce I am doing some writing for Community Chickens and am unable to manage two blogs. So, backyard flock stuff will be there and I’ll post links here. And I hope to have time to get back to some of the other types of posts I was putting up. Forgive me for the long hiatus — it has been hectic. And I’ve been doing lots of snow shoveling. LOTS of shoveling.

UPDATE 2/27/15: I corrected the link to the blog post. Again, my apologies!

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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

 

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

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