Summer Days, Winona, & Keets

First, a Winona update: She hasn’t improved, but doesn’t seem to have worsened. When I got up to feed and water the flock this morning, I saw that all of the quints were just gone. Completely gone, not even in the yard — although Brownie was still in the pen with Beulah and Winona. So, after watering and feeding, I took the opportunity to give Winona some chick food and gatorade. I put it up in the coop for her, so she wouldn’t have to come downstairs. It took a little while, but I did see her drink. Not sure if she ate. I also put the dog crate together and placed it in the shed if I think I need to move her. At this point, were she infectious, I would see symptoms in the flock so I’m pretty confident she is not. Whatever is bothering her — slow recovery from the extreme heat or an internal infection, it seems to be just an issue for Winona. However, should I see signs in other birds, quarantine for symptomatic chickens begins.

Then I went to look for the girls. Went in the forsythia, looked under the addition Mr. Hen House is building, looked in the front yard, looked in the back 40. Nothing. Then I saw Snoop looking at the brushy tree stand between my and my neighbor’s houses. There was one of the girls, trying to get in the yard and couldn’t figure how to get past the fence. I went out to herd her and the rest of the flock came running out. So I led them back to their home and they walked right in. Of course, they are pretty good flyers for chickens so I expect them to pop out again. And I’ll take the opportunity to give Winona chick food and gatorade again. She did seem a little more perked after her treat this morning, but that could be wishful thinking.

Since it is a lovely summer day, I put the keets outside for the first time to start them getting used to the great outdoors. It also provides an opportunity for the chickens and keets to get used to each other. I took the space between the two raised beds that are being used for the pen and sectioned it off. I then put a tarp over one end for shade. And then I got the keets. They are SO HIGH STRUNG! I reach in the crate and there’s jumping and screaming like I pull feathers off them whenever I touch them. And for the record, I don’t. Such little drama keets. I was able to gently scoop them into a box and brought them out. Once they stopped freaking out, they huddled for a moment and then started eating the grass. They hadn’t yet found the water when I left, but they are very close to it and as they gain confidence, they’ll find it and their food. I threw a couple of Japanese beetles in, but only one keet showed interest. It’s early yet. I’m sure they’re confused and overwhelmed. I’ll be checking on them soon.

For your enjoyment, here are several pictures. Enjoy!

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The section between the two garden beds where the keets are. They will be going in at night.

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It’s a big scary world out there!

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mmmmm, green stuff.

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One of the quints trying to figure out what’s going on.

And here’s my corn. It’s doing pretty good but I seriously need to weed. I look at weeding like dusting… I like the results when I do it, I understand why it needs to be done, but I really really hate doing it. It’s a personality fault.

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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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Treats, Feathers, Bees

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Beulah and a quint. After devouring the watermelon!

So I’ve been giving the girls left over salad and fruit. They love it. As you can see, the watermelon rind has been picked absolutely clean. They like strawberries, lettuce, blueberries, and fresh corn. Now if I could only get them to eat weeds!

The weather has been up and down: overcast, rain, sun; overcast, rain, sun. Not that I miss the overwhelming heat and humidity of the holiday weekend, but a break from the rain and humidity would be nice. I am able to open the back door to the coop, though, unless it’s windy and rainy, and that helps keep it aired out. I also got the last of the flashing up on the roof today so Mr. Henhouse can now move on to the finish trim.

Otherwise, the girls are doing quite well. As you can see, the quint in the photos is slightly bigger than Beulah. They’re going to be big girls when they are done growing up. They are also sounding like hens and not chicks. My little peeps are all grown up! Well, almost. No eggs yet.

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Lots of pretty feathers and no where to go.

The keets are also doing well. Growing feathers like crazy! They seem to grow faster than chickens. They will be ready to move into the big crate this weekend and their bodies look to be almost fully feathered. Their little heads still have fluff and stripes. I’m looking forward to them running around with all the extra room. And I’m sure I’ve said this, but they talk and eat constantly. They’ve started to exhibit grooming behavior. Not surprising with the feathers coming out. I did notice they seem more easily startled in the opaque tub where before, in the smaller transparent tub, they were more calm. I may have to move to all transparent tubs going forward. I want them to be calm, not high-strung. But, they are young and I’m sure that’s the biggest part of the behavour.

The bees seem to be doing well. I’ll be going in this weekend to check it out and, if not too hot, apply a powder sugar treatment for mites. I prefer to do that every couple of weeks and they’ve had time to get settled to their new home. The method I learned is to put in a tray under the screen bottom of the hive (many “bottom boards” have removable trays) after spraying with a non-stick spray or oiling. As you close up the hive, you sprinkle powered sugar to the top of each box. As the bees clean off the sugar, they also dislodge mites, which fall to the tray and get stuck in the oil. You remove the tray the next day and, voila!, instantly reduced the mite colony in the hive. I dislike doing this when it’s too hot as it drastically reduces air flow and can make the hive hot. Bees are great at maintaining the temperature of the hive, but I see no need to make it more difficult for them.

I’ll end with some pictures of the bees going in the hive and enjoying milkweed bloom. No politics today. It’s too depressing.

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Bringing home the pollen!

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Keets, Keets, Keets

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They tend to stand in a row. And, they are starting this “standing straight” behavior. They look like little armless people.

Okay, I’m a little keet happy right now just because they are so darn cute. They’ve moved to a bigger tote and do nothing but eat all the time! Feathers are coming in fast, too. I give them one more week in this larger tote, then they move into the big box until we start the integration process. I’m a little nervous about that. Winona can be a bit assertive and she may get the others riled up over the keets. So I need to find a way to get them in the garden boxes but still segregated. And, I want to teach them to follow me so I can “hopefully” train them to their territory (the back yard) and keep their trips to the neighbor’s yards to a minimum.

With that said, we can’t wait until they are big enough for the yard! Japanese beetles are here and they eat up everything. We need our little keets to get big and strong and eat all the bugs. I have tried milky spore and nematodes with little success.

Now, I know I said I need to always keep the heat lamp on no matter what. I have to revise that a bit. Like a lot of the country, we experienced a severe heat wave, with extremely high humidity, over the holiday weekend. I did turn off the lamp during the afternoons and early evening. The keets were crowding the water dish (not seen in the above photo, it’s on the opposite end of the tote) because the heat lamp was too much duringIMG_0356 that weather. The lamp was turned back on late night through early morning. Now that the heat wave has broken, we’re back to heat lamp all the time. I really watch how they behave to ensure they get enough heat without overheating. This whacked weather makes heat management interesting.

Next post I’ll post some pics of the hens, I promise! Brownie and the quints are getting big and developing the nice soft bum feathers that laying hens get. I cannot wait to get eggs from them.

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Guineas

Ohhh-kay… a few weeks ago Mr. Henhouse mentioned getting guinea chicks (keets) to help with pest control in the backyard. (They are phenomenal bug eaters!). And I love the idea and have been wanting to do this for awhile. But I said, “Wait! Love it, but we need to talk first.” I had reservations:

1) I’m unemployed right now. This is my 3rd lay-off in a row. We’re okay now, but what happens if we run into money issues?

2) Neighbors — Guineas are noisy. They like to talk. We have neighbors. While the lots are relatively large (generally between 3/4 of an acre and an acre), we still have neighbors to consider.

3) Neighbors — Guineas sometimes roam. They are fliers and there is a good possibility they will visit neighbor’s yards looking for bugs.

My keets!

However, with this, that, and the other thing, I forgot to follow up and got the dreaded “I’m picking up the keets tonight!” I bought myself a day so I could get them food, and this past Monday we picked up six beautiful keets. I do love them. Keets are TINY!

We put them in the big crate, thinking it is so hot, that with a lamp, they will be fine. Well, we lost one the next day. So we moved them to a smaller crate, thinking that maybe the little critter just got too cold. And I’m losing one now. Makes me sad. I know there’s usually a 20% attrition rate with chicks, but I don’t like it. And none of my chicks from the Tractor Supply Store (Brownie and Quintuplets) died. I suspect those girls were at least a week old while the keets were about 24 to 48 hours old.

I also don’t know how many females or males I have. Keets aren’t sexed. I believe it’s just not possible for guineas to be sexed until they are several weeks old. Fortunately, the males are not aggressive like roosters, so they all get along. And, guineas in general tend to be territorial so I will try teaching them their “territory.” We’ll see how that works. They can be very tame if socialized properly and can live with chickens, so they will be slightly packed in the coop, although that will work nicely in the cold weather.

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Keets in the smaller crate.

Speaking of weather… the weather here lately with incredibly loud and close lightening strikes. The hens are okay, but I’m sure they’re getting as tired of the rain as I am. But, it does save me watering the garden.

Ahh, the garden. Corn and peas are now in. Finishing up tomatillos, peppers, and luffa this weekend — weather willing. And then done. Just weeding, watering, and growing.

I’m testing the luffa. I’m not sure how well it will grow up here, but I thought I’d give it a try. The seeds sprouted right up and grew very well. The sprouts look very healthy. So, we’ll see what happens. If I get a big enough crop, I may even clean and sell them. Natural luffa is so much nicer than those plastic scrub pads people use in the shower now.

And I’ll close with a reference to my last post on bees. Here’s a link to cartoon on Far Left Side. Enjoy!

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Heat, humidity, and more heat

It has been incredibly hot and humid the previous three days. It was particularly hard on the chickens. While they stayed in the shade, there was a lot of “bowling” and panting going on. They had plenty of water, but it was just too hot to move most of the time.

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One of the quints cooling off.

I noticed in addition to sitting in the dirt to cool of, some of the girls lowered their wings, like the one in this photo. I can only assume she’s lowering body heat by allowing what air flow there was (not too many breezes during the worst of the heat) to get to her body, rather than trapping in body heat with her wings.

I also found out this weekend my girls don’t like milkweed! When we moved the coop into this particular garden bed, I was a little apprehensive because of the milkweed. I wanted what little food I had for Monarchs to be, well, available. I was concerned the girls would eat it up. And, because we really had no other place to put the coop for now, it was a compromise I felt I had no choice but to make. (We were originally going to keep half of this garden bed untouched so that we could keep the milkweed for the butterflies.)

But after watching the girls, it appears my concern was unnecessary. They simply eat around the milkweed. This isn’t to say if I happen to get any Monarch cocoons, they won’t eat the catapillar, but I guess it’s better than nothing at this point.

Milkweed is gross

They just walk around the milkweed.

And, I still get the good fertilizer the girls produce in this part of the garden bed, too, so when the permanent home is up, we’ll have a great mini-milkweek garden for butterflies.

I wasn’t able to get a lot of good photos of the girls in the dirt, simply because my phone camera doesn’t like shade. However, I’ll leave you with this picture so you can get an idea of what they were all doing most of the time during the heatwave:

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Brownie “bowling” in the dirt to keep cool.

Stay cool!

UPDATE: 7/10/13 Well I have egg on my face. The reason the girls aren’t eating the milkweed is because it’s poisonous to them. Thank the FSM that they’re smarter than I am. I recently read this on a list in a recent issue of Hobby Farming — potentially poisonous plants for chickens. Like a said, it’s a good thing the little dinos are smarter than me!

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Hot & Humid

Today will be a short post. The weather has cleared up here on the Seacoast of New Hampshire and it is warm! Projected to hit the 90’s. I love that. Chickens, not so much. Fortunately, the set up of the coop is such the girls always have shade. I’ll be monitoring the water levels to ensure they are well hydrated. I expect to see a lot of “bowl” digging — the girls making a shallow bowl in the ground and sitting in it.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of the Queens of the Henhouse:

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Wynona and Beulah: the Queens of the Henhouse!

Enjoy the weekend!

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