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!)

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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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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.

Blue Hen House

Chickens, Guinea Update & Sheep

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Chickens in the grass.

Whew! Lots to write this week, even with the continual rain.

The girls are doing well, with Brownie and Quintuplets about the same size as Beulah and Winona. They look like they might get even bigger. They do alright in the rain, but when it’s really bad (we’ve had some incredibly severe thunderstorms), they go inside. But they generally remain out during light drizzles.

The keets are doing okay. I did lose the second chick, unfortunately, but not surprising. We  increased the output of the heat lamp — basically got a hotter bulb. My concern is that they weren’t warm enough, even though the temperature has been (until last night) very hot and humid. When I saw a third keet exhibit the signs the two that had died exhibited, I freaked and got that hotter bulb. That seemed to do the trick. The little thing perked right up, then went to sleep. They all went to sleep after a couple of minutes under that bulb. I feel horrible… maybe I wouldn’t have lost the other two if I had used that bulb from the beginning — I was honestly concerned about them overheating because of the weather. And a 20% attrition rate is normal, although sad. Well, I learned my lesson and will pay less attention to the weather and more attention to heating up chicks.

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It looks weird, but this configuration seems to work the best, giving the keets just enough heat without overheating them. They move back and forth between being under the lamp and laying on their food. I look forward to their having more room soon!

We also had a little problem with pasty butt. That’s when they defecate, and it gets stuck to their rear. So, I gently dipped their rear ends into warm water and gently cleaned their bums, then applied a light coating of antibiotic cream. I’ll keep an eye out to make sure we have no further issues.

Their appetite today has suddenly jumped. In addition to constantly watering them, I am now constantly feeding them. That’s okay. I want them to get big! I have to prep the next size container for when they jump up in size.

The other big highlight of my week, that I haven’t mentioned yet, was visiting a small sheep farm! I met a lovely woman, Maureen, at Farm to School. She raises sheep and was gracious enough to invite me out to see her operation. Of course I jumped at the chance!

She makes it look so easy. With a smallish flock of 14 sheep, she is able to rotate them from field to field with a temporary, solar-powered electric fence. They have minimum cover and stay outside unless there are extreme weather conditions. Usually horrifically low winter temperatures. Then they go in the barn for a day or two. She hires a professional shearer to shear the sheep, then does a high level clean of the wool and sells it raw. Awesome! Care for the animals includes annual vaccinations and the occasional nail clipping. And of course, ensuring they always have water, food, and minerals. Should I get a job (soon!), I may purchase a couple of her lambs in the spring. Then they can mow the lawn for me! And since my chickens are taking their own sweet time clearing the raised beds, I can stick the lambies in with them to help. It’s a win-win. I may even sell the wool. While it won’t be a money-making proposition, it would help offset the cost of winter feed a bit. Below are are couple of photos:

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I believe Maureen called these “calf” shelters. They are inexpensive, lightweight and easy to move. They provide great shelter during inclement weather.

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Lone little ducky. His siblings went to the great pond in the sky.

I’ll leave you with a link to a new, and favorite blog I’ve discovered, on women’s health. I think this doctor is absolutely wonderful and wish we had more like her. Let me introduce you to Dr. Leah Torres.

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