How the Quintuplets Became Triplets

With lots of other updates.

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Beulah and one of the triplets.

So after uploading my last post, I went outside to do a headcount. I generally don’t do that during the day, just at night when I’m locking them up. But I couldn’t find two of the quints earlier and usually I can eyeball everyone within 30 seconds without trying. So I starting hitting the usual spots: Under the airstream, under the addition to the house, the compost heap… nothing. So I went to the coop thinking they might be there. Well, they were, sorta. Their bodies were in the pen outside the coop — headless.

My best hypothesis is a fishercat or weasel shimmied its way under the coop, dragged my poor girls out and ripped their heads off. Didn’t even eat them. After I disposed of the poor things, I spent the afternoon re-enforcing the bottom boards (lots of rocks!) of the coop, moved the solar lights around the pen, and rigged up a radio to play all night long. So far, it’s worked. The good news is we are running electric out back so that will increase the lights as well as eliminate the extensions cords I have running through the lawn to power the radio.

Survivors include Dirty Girl, Brownie, Beulah, and two other generic quints. The two dead girls were generic quints.

Beautiful Winona

Winona in better days.

Winona Update: Winona seems to be actually doing better. I’m pretty sure I’m not kidding myself. I had moved her to a sick coop in the shed because she became too weak to go to the food dish and waterer. I really thought she was going to die and I didn’t want that happening in the coop.

But she has since started opening both eyes and walking a little. I see her eating and drinking. One eye is all black while the other looks to have the pupil wide open. Kinda weird. I’ll try to take pictures. She still sleeps a lot but her droppings are more firm and normal. I’m concerned that she won’t be well enough to put in with the flock by winter. There’s no way she can survive a New Hampshire winter by herself in the shed. So I need to start making a contingency plan in case she needs an extended convalescence. Of course, she may relapse. She may still pass away. I’m taking it day by day.

Beulah has found her and now lays her eggs in the shed. She visits Winona often and sometimes brings the flock with her. Very glad Winona is not contagious! And I am very impressed with the loyalty I see in Beulah. I really did not expect that with chickens.

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Getting used to their new home.

Keet Update: They’re in the coop! I don’t let them out yet as I want them to imprint on the coop as home but they are living out there now. The girls don’t like not being able to go in and out of the coop at will, but they’re adjusting. And since I can’t get them to lay eggs in the coop right now, it’s not like I’m missing out. This weekend will be the trial of letting the keets out. I am concerned about their flying away, but I’m hoping between their comfort level with the girls (there was very little bullying the first night and I used my water bottle to break it up when it did happen) and knowing there is food in the coop, they’ll be smart enough to come home.

Rumney Livestock Auction: Went to my first livestock auction this past weekend. It was more to check it out and see if it was something we’d do in the future. Mr. Hen House, my impulsive man, bought a batch of fertile duck and peacock eggs. They are in the incubator now and will be candled this weekend. If they are successfully hatched, I will most likely sell the ducklings at the auction (really not prepared for ducks at this time). I’m not sure about the peacocks. I love the way the look and would love to have them in the yard. I’m pretty sure I can house with the chickens, although if we build the big hen house that Mr. Hen House is contemplating, that will resolve the housing issue. But they are loud! And I do live in a neighborhood. So… not sure what I will do at this point. Let’s see if they hatch first.

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The (temporary) new boys.

We also picked up a pair of beautiful Blue Laced Red Wyandottes to replace the two quints. However… they are roosters! They were not identified as roosters on the cage tag or when they went up for auction. And Mr. Hen House just had to have them. (They really are quite beautiful.) They weren’t crowing like the other roosters in the barn. We didn’t find out they were roosters until he went to pay for them and by then we were committed. We brought them home, put them in quarantine (a big MUST when getting new birds), hoping against hope they were hens and two days later one of them started crowing. We held out hope that it was a mated pair, but then the second one started crowing. They are going back. We’ll trek up for the next auction and get whatever we can for them. And Mr. Hen House will need to control his impulsiveness this time.

With that said, you can get good livestock inexpensively at the auction although you do need to eyeball them. I saw more than a few chickens that had mite problems. There were goats and rabbits as well and they have been known to sell cows, horses, etc. It’s very catch-as-can, and all dependent on what folks bring in to sell.

Other good news: The girls have practically eliminated the Japanese beetle problem! I’m sure there are nasty grubs in the ground, percolating and growing to emerge as beautiful and destructive beetles. And then beetles will fly in from all over… but the girls have it under control. My grape vines look normal this year. Now I just have to keep the girls from eating the grapes. One thing at a time…

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(Feel free to help a chicken out by making a purchase at the link below. These ads pay for their food!)

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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Happy 4th!

A quick post today and only one for this week. Trying to get ready for the holiday but the rain just won’t quit. It makes it hard to get out in the yard. However, the keets moved to a bigger box and the four survivors seem to be doing fine.

The big hens are also doing well, even in the rain. We put another door in the coop to help with cleaning and they love it. When it’s not raining it’s one more opening to air out the coop as well. I like a well aired, clean coop.

So I’ve been struggling with integrating the guineas when the time comes. I think I will put them in a wire dog crate for a couple of days, inside the pen, so the hens and guineas can eyeball each other. I really don’t want the guineas to get beat up too much as I need them to imprint on the coop. How all that goes will determine when I move them into the coop. I’d like to manually put them in at night, so everyone wakes up together. But, I need to ensure my little bug eaters won’t get hurt. I’ll keep working on a plan. I like to ease into things any way.

One thing I’ve noticed about this flock that is different from my first flock is their lack of interest in escaping. Now I’ll be the first to say that Winona had the most difficult time when not allowed to roam. She continually looked for a way out. But now that she has two big garden beds to walk around in, she just doesn’t seem interested in the yard anymore. If she got out, she would enjoy it, I’m sure, but she doesn’t try. Nor do the rest of the birds. Dirty Girl did pop out last week, but I think that was an accident. The quints like to stretch their wings. So, while they are penned, they are cage-free and I think that’s almost better than free-range as they are safer while still getting great nutrients from the plants, bugs, and worms.

On that note, here’s a pict of the keets for the weekend:

Then there were 4

The world outside is scary!

Have a safe and happy holiday!

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Putting Chickens to Work

Beautiful Winona

Beautiful Winona — Beautiful but peckish.

We have a few raised garden beds and due to this, that, and the other thing, we just haven’t been able to garden like we’ve wanted to over the past few years. However, this year, we’re making a new commitment, including making changes in our activities, so we can get the vegetables going.

One of our raised beds is so overgrown that we moved the chickens there so they could tear it up while getting a ton of fresh greens. While not their permanent home  (we’re discussing the feasability of building a larger henhouse with attached run and “subdivisions” for meat birds and turkeys), it will make a great summer home.

So we put up a temporary fence around the garden, moved the A-frame coop in there and let them have at it. Not only does it give the girls fresh greens, worms, and bugs, but more room to roam and has eliminated what few integration issues they had. And we’ll get a nice, clean, naturally fertilized garden bed for either fall crops or next spring.

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Beulah enjoying her new home.

I also noticed this week one of the quints has some light brown markings on her wings. So, while she remains a quintuplet, her name is now Dirty Girl.

Dirty Girl n Sisters

Dirty Girl is to the left.

All in all, it’s going well. We still need to finish the coop the girls are in. That means I need a ridge vent so I can remove the tarp, add some lovely barn red stain to the outside, and develop creative ways to water and feed the girls so I’m not out there twice a day. One thing at a time.

And a quick follow up to my GMO comments last week. For you more technical readers, here’s a link to an article on the effects of GMO food products on animals.

Also, a link to a biologist/biochemist thoughts on GMOs.

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Peepers are integrated & Thoughts on GMOs

ImageIt’s been rainy here and I so do not do well in cold wet weather. So nothing gets done. However, I did stay on top of the integration as I needed to get the little birds in the coop. I saw a post in Community Chickens that described the use of squirt bottles to discourage the big hens from beating up the smaller birds too much and I like it. A lot. My squirt bottle sprays more of a mist than a directed spray — I think I should change mine out for a directed spray — but the mist did work. The hens really don’t like it and it stops them in their tracks. So Brownie and Quintuplets spent the night in the coop.

What I found interesting is the big girls, while waiting on us to complete the coop, have already divided the upstairs into two parts: One where they lay eggs, and one where they sleep. The two Quintuplets above are in the laying area. It has a doors on both sides to allow me to reach in and gather eggs.

What you don’t see, and I’ll take a picture when we’ve finished moving the coop, is the opposite side of the laying area, just above the ramp. There’s a narrow walkway around the opening for the ramp and that is where the birds decided to sleep. Big girls at the top of the ramp, peepers to the side. Very cute.

Now I’m going to digress a bit — you’ll see I do that from time to time.First Hive

I started keeping bees a few years ago. I was doing okay until this last winter when they all died. So I’ll be picking up a nuc this weekend. To stay on top of bee news, I subscribe to the free email newsletter from Bee Culture and this week it contained a very interesting article on genetically modified food (GMOs).

The gist of the article is while consumers want to know if what they are eating is genetically modified through the use of proper labeling, Congress seems to disagree. They are adding an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill that would revoke the rights of states to pass GMO-labeling laws. That seems very anti-consumer to me.

To quote Kim Flottum, author of the article: “The labeling of genetically modified food is ground zero of the controversy over GMOs made by companies like Monsanto and Dupont, and the issue is likely to grow even more divisive as food safety groups butt heads with Congress and Big Ag over the right to know what is on our plates.”

Congress is wrong on this one. Studies on the impact of GMOs on humans are inconclusive, however, what I’ve been able to read shows it might not be as benign as their creators say they are. More study is definitely needed. Preferably by government funded, independent researchers so there is no “taint” of corporate dollars skewing the results.

Even if they prove to be completely benign, consumers have the right to know what they are buying. (I mean seriously, wasn’t that one of the complaints from hardcore individuals about the mortgage scandal — that consumers should know what kind of mortgage they are buying?) That’s all consumers are requesting here — more information to make informed decisions.

Even if GMO food products prove to be completely benign, as a consumer, it’s my right to know what I am buying and to decide what to spend my money on. I can’t make an informed decision when companies are allowed to hide information. From where I sit, that is the critical piece in all of this, information. My right to know and to make decisions that are best for me. (I think there’s a whole free market argument in here as well, but that’s another discussion for another time.)

Blue Hen House

Hello World!

Babs has chickens again so Babs Hen House is up on WordPress! With a readership today of exactly zero. 🙂

I’ll be chronicling my chicken escapades, but will definitely throw in other topics of interest to me.

This is my second flock. The first, of about 18 chickens, I gave away a few years ago as I thought we might lose the house. (Corporate lay-offs have played havoc with my, and my husband’s, employment over the last several years.) I missed my little feathered dinosours though, and made an impulse purchase of two birds at the Deerfield Fair last fall. My darling husband picked up six chicks a few months ago — all in time for another lay-off!

Winona and Peeps

This is Winona and two of the chicks. Five of the chicks look exactly the same so I call them the Quintuplets.

I’m currently integrating the peepers with the big girls. Winona and Beulah are a little snippy, especially Winona. She’s kinda mean even though she’s had plenty of time to adjust. I put the peepers in a temporary pen next to the coop, so they could eyeball each other, for a good two weeks. I’ve started to mix them up in the day, but am finding the big girls a little too aggressive to fully integrate. So, the peepers are sleeping in a dog crate at night, covered and protected. I’m hoping to finalize the integration in a couple of weeks. It’s a real pain to maintain what is essentially two coops.

Speaking of which, my husband is building the main coop, and it’s about 80% done. I’ll start posting photos when the weather clears up. The poles you see on the ground in the above photo is how we’re moving the coop — sliding it to its semi-permanent position. I was very clear I wanted a mobile coop, with wheels — somehow it started to morph into something a little more permanent. Sigh! One thing at a time — Babs

Blue Hen House