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

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Big Changes

Sorry it’s been so long since I last posted. There’s been big changes

First, my computer died. The video card failed and since it’s part of the logic board, that means the whole thing is fried. Unfortunately, I can’t just swap out the video card. 😦   So, I’ve been bogarting Mr. Hen House’s laptop when I can.

Then I picked up a nice, long term contract gig. Which means 40 hours/week minimum. The extended (and unpaid) time off is over! While I’m happy to be getting a steady paycheck for the next several months, it does bite into the blogging time so I’m reworking my schedule to post once a week, most likely Sunday mornings.

On to the much more interesting chicken things! So those two roosters we picked up by accident from the Rumney auction… we took one to be processed. The processor doesn’t have a website, so I can’t link, but if anyone in New Hampshire is near Freedom and needs a processor for their chickens, email me.

I watched… mixed feelings. I called this rooster “dinner” to help keep emotional distance, and intellectually I know where chicken dinner comes from, but for all that I like to call myself an Iowa farmgirl the truth of the matter is I am the city cousin. I’ve never participated in butchering any creature nor do I cook. (Mr. Hen House banned me from the kitchen.) So I am very ambivalent about it. Something I need to work on. I will say he was humane and quick. Very articulate and great with his son. Knew what he was doing and gave a great tip when looking at chicken in the store — buy only chicken that is labeled it was fed a vegetarian diet. You’d think that was a no-brainer for chickens, but no, it’s not. Apparently the big corporate chicken farms feed their meat birds all kind of chicken body scraps to save money. Ugh. Learn something every day. (I was going to link to some web pages, but way too gross for me… I’ll leave you to research on your own if you want to!)

The rooster we’re keeping is named Guapo. Our thought is early next year, we’ll get a straight run of 6 to 12 chicks and at about 3 to 4 months, pick 2 or 3 good looking hens and sell and/or process the rest. We can then raise some beautiful blue lace red wyandottes for sale or food. We’ll see how that goes and maybe take the breeding up a notch. Baby steps.

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Guapo in his temporary outside cage.

Mr. Hen House is building a separate living space for Guapo in the hoop house. I don’t want him to hanging with the girls, tearing up their backs, so he’ll only have close personal company when we’re looking to breed.

The rest of the girls are doing fine and I finally found all the clutches. I need to invest in egg cartons! They’re doing great, which is a relief. Winona is still not well and I think she’s blind. I tried to euthanize her myself and just couldn’t. Mr. Hen House may end up doing it. She’s my only failure.

The guineas, Penny, Marcia, and Kelly, are doing very well. I think we have 2 boys and one girl — which gives us one matched pair and a third wheel. I’ll keep watching to make sure I’m right before I look into getting a female for the third wheel.

They are so funny! I like them MUCH better now that they are outside all the time. They’ve crawled on the roof, explored the perch Mr. Hen House made, and are becoming quite the little uglies! Photos are below.

Next on the list is winterizing the coop. We’re going to attempt to move it into the hoop house so the girls can spend the winter with Guapo (separated by fencing!). They should all be reasonably warm, although I will need to monitor the moisture. Too much humidity may breed disease. But, we are exploring the possibility of putting the girls in the hoop house without the coop. We need to ensure it’s safe enough from predators. We’ll see what falls out.

And the feeding and watering system need to be completed so I don’t need to monitor everyday. I could do it while I was off, but now that I’m working, it’s difficult.

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Guineas on the roof!

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Enjoying the perch!

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Becoming brilliantly ugly!

Show some love! Visit www.EggCartons.com by clicking on the link or the graphic below and pick up some cool products for your girls.

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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!)