grandson helping wake up the chicks

grandson helping wake up the chicks

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Some time has passed and our flock has grown!

The first batch of chicks (Polish, Blue Andalusians, Americaunas
It was great having a small flock of chickens with our one "Bill", the rooster. But, Gary and I both decided that as we got to know more about chickens, we wanted to try our hand at raising chicks. So, he went online and ordered several different varieties; and, meanwhile, the feed store began to stock newly hatched chicks of various breeds that we did not order.

We purchased 6 chicks from the feed store, and away we went into learning what this was all about. We bought a heat lamp (red light so that they don't try to peck any chick to death that may have a bloody spot or injury)....we had to get small feeders and put rocks in the water dish so they wouldn't drown (who knew?).

This was quite exciting and time consuming as we made numerous checks on the chicks during each day. They would mess in their food and water....we'd clean it. They'd scratch the pine shavings into their food and water...we'd clean it.  Eventually, we learned to put their food and water up on a board to minimize the trouble of cleaning every hour or two.

They were so cute! We had two Polish (that looked like they had little afros), two Blue Andalusian, and two Americaunas. This was definitely new to us!

When our chicks were a couple of weeks old, Gary got a call that the post office had our hens from Texas. They had been boxed up right when they hatched and the poor things were very thirsty when they got here.  Now, we had 18 chicks and were a bit overwhelmed. The sad thing is that two of the Texas chickadees didn't make it past their first day (too much trauma I think) so now we were down to 16....and we decided we wouldn't be going far for awhile due to our new flock.

The Texas Chicks

During the third week of having the chicks, we went out  for a day and while we were gone, there was a terrible thunderstorm with high winds. This caused many power outages (including our house). By the time we got home and realized this, we had all of our chicks huddled in a corner (no electricity=no warming light) and one that was barely alive! I decided to warm her up and get her to drink...she was really having a difficult time and I didn't think she was going to make it....but little by little, she got up and moved around (her mate was walking all over her...I guess to say "get up and get living") and layed under the warming light that was running via our generator. I decided that if she lived, her name would be Victoria for "victory"....

"Blue" guarding his girls. "Victoria" on the right, "Stripe" in front and one of the Buffs on the left.

We watched closely to make sure the baby chickens had whatever they needed, and a day and a half later, our power went back on. Thank goodness for the generator! "Victoria" lived, and is doing quite nicely, thank you. The chicks continued growing until they were outgrowing their box in the garage and we had to first move them to my greenhouse and then to a small coop we bought just for that purpose.  "Victoria" turned out to be a gorgeous Blue Andalusian rooster and his name is now "Blue" thanks to my husband. We've named his mate (the one that wouldn't let him die) Victoria....and several of the others have names now too.

The first batch we started with were: Polish (Laverne and Shirley), Americaunas (Stripe and Gizmo), Blue Andalusians (Blue and Victoria).

The Texas girls' names have not come as easily, and some are still to be named...any suggestions welcome!  The Buff Orpington trio (Manny, Moe, and Jack); the lone surviving Silver Wyandotte (Lacey); two Golden Wyandottes (no names yet); one naked neck Turken (Nugget); and three Americaunas (no names yet)....

On top of that, I decided to try my hand at hatching some chicks for my third graders so I took 14
Brahma eggs to school and we had a batch of 11 babies hatch in April and are now living fairly cooperatively with the others. We have three generations of chickens and two roosters...we are getting about 4 to 5 eggs a day now as the youngsters start laying, and are having a ball interacting with them.

Brahma chicks and one Brahma/Barred Rock cross

Another sad note: While we were tending to the chicks, my sweet Ethel passed on. We found her a beautiful spot under the fir trees to rest. She brought us much joy and we will miss her. So, the adult chickens were now down to 5 including Bill the rooster, Betty White, Joan Rivers, Cher (the Barred Rock), and Lucy (unknown breed).

We've gradually incorporated first the teenagers, then the babies with the adults and they are all coexisting pretty well. Occasionally, Bill decides to chase Blue out of the yard, but that doesn't last long, especially since Bill is much more stout than Blue and can't run as fast...he tends to wear himself out before he gets close to Blue. Otherwise, they'll all become a community and are fun to watch and interact with. We let a few out into the yard each day to get away from the others. And, whether or not Victoria is one of the chosen, she lets herself out over the gate and joins her friends to explore.


Victoria has, by far, the most outgoing personality and will even come join Gary and I when we have lunch on the deck. She is very talkative and always has something to "say".  She even took to helping another chick "LaVerne" recuperate after a failed attempt to lay her first egg. LaVerne was at it all night long and when I found her in the morning, she was almost a goner. After giving her mouth to beak, warming her and forcing water, she began to look as if she might just make it. A half day under a warming light and more water helped, and when I took her back outside to be with her sister and Victoria, they sat right with her and protected her from the others...amazing! I'm happy to report LaVerne is miraculously back to normal....absolutely amazing recovery! We continue to have amazing experiences each day with our flock.

I look forward to next Spring when we can hatch Blue Andalusian eggs from Victoria and Blue....they will be beautiful!

"Victoria" and her friends

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Politics

Now that we had figured out the problem to the egg laying (too many cocks in the house, for real), and eliminated the extra roosters, things were moving along nicely. Joan Rivers and Betty White were each giving us an egg every one or two days. And, we decided to name our rooster following a friend's suggestion. He was quite a lady's man, of sorts, so we'd call him Bill as in Bill Clinton. Or, "Dollar Bill" as Gary likes to refer to him.

I was checking on the new hens quite regularly (at least twice a day) and realized that the new hens were being harassed: not by the rooster this time, but by Joan Rivers and Betty White! I guess they really wanted to let the new girls know who was boss...and they were doing a very good job.

Our new hens: Lucy, Ethel, and Cher were very hesitant to come out of the hen house. When they would come out, Cher (the barred rock) made herself at home with both groups of hens. That was amazing. It seemed like Dollar Bill had taken quite a liking to her, and would often dance for her to try to get her attention. She really wasn't interested, and would squawk at him and go on her way. He was persistent, though, and eventually won her over.

On the flip side, Lucy (the smallest hen of the group) and Ethel, had not quite found their niche. They would both hang out together and cautiously make their way out if they saw that I had brought a treat. As they ventured out, the other hens (Betty White, especially) went after the new girls and pulled at their feathers to shoo them away. It worked! And, it really infuriated me even though I knew they were doing what nature told them to, and were establishing a "pecking order".

During the following weekend, I decided to try to coax the new girls out and intervene in this natural process, to ensure the stress-free environment for them. So, I got up early and trekked out to the hen house to check out the happenings. I found Dollar Bill, Joan and Betty out in the fenced run but no sign of the new girls.

As I entered the hen house, I saw Lucy, Ethel, and Cher on the floor of the hen house eating and drinking. Were they afraid to eat and drink when the old birds were there? It sure seemed that way. What was I going to do?

I spent a couple of hours out watching the birds and trying to observe the nuances of their interactions. Then I went inside and did some other chores, and checked in again every few hoursl Low and behold, I realized I really didn't have time to spend all day outside watching the birds and babysitting them to be sure they behaved themselves.

So, ultimately, I put vitamins in the water, gave them treats in separate areas and let Bill, Joan, and Betty out of the penned area for periods of time each day to give the new girls some stress-free time to graze.  Enough of the chicken politics....I had to move on and hope they'd all find their place. And, guess what? They did.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The coming of "D Day"

A couple of weeks went by, and still no eggs. My friends were telling me it just wasn't a good idea to have three roosters and they may even fight, injure, or kill each other. Wow! I hadn't signed up for that! So...I had to do some thinking about this.

Meanwhile, Gary asked the neighbors if they wanted a chicken dinner....and they came over with a cat carrier to catch one of the roosters. I wasn't sure about this but knew it needed to be done, so I helped them catch one...he was the biggest (as big as a small turkey). And, they took him away. They said they would do the deed when I was at work and invite me to dinner. I declined the dinner invitation but was glad they were considerate of the fact that I was not too keen on my chicken being someone's dinner.  So, now we had two roosters and two hens...what would happen now.

Days passed....still no eggs. I decided that maybe my girls needed a "mentor" to teach them the ropes, so I started looking for a couple of 1-2 year old hens to "teach" them. I found a gal about one hour away that was thinning her brood so that she and her husband could get away sometimes. This sounded like the perfect match so Gary and I loaded up the dog kennel and off we went to check out these girls.

We really liked the birds; one americauna, one mixed breed (small), and one barred rock that was very feisty. We brought them home and merged the birds. Immediately, both roosters cornered each hen and mated with them, then let them be. The new birds appeared to be stressed by all this "attention" so I stayed out and watched for awhile. The action continued and the new girls headed in the hen house for some quiet.  They seemed okay in there so I let them be for the night.

The next day, I went out and found that the new hens would not come out of the house, and only our original four Brahmas were free ranging out in the yard. No matter how I tried to coax the new ones, they declined the offer and would run back inside.  Hmmm...what to do? I decided to let them be for a second day, as they were getting down to the ground to feed and get water...just not going outside.

The third day, I went out and picked up each bird to take her outside. And this time, both roosters started to gang up on them again. That really annoyed me! I ran after the roosters until I caught one and hollered for the neighbors to come get him. I told them I was "over it" and he needed to go. They were glad I figured it out and were happy to get the beautiful bird.

After that, we now only had one rooster and five hens (between our original two brahmas and the three additions).  I was eager to see what would happen next. They seemed to get along okay, with the normal pecking to find order. Would we get any eggs now?

Yes, a day later, low and behold...our first egg was laid. And, not by the "mentors"....oh no. It was given by one of our Brahmas; Joan River's sister, who we decided to call "Betty White".  Now, that's exciting! We were on our way!

And, I think I'll ask my hubby to build a bigger nesting looks like our hen is a little on the cramped side in that box.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Time Flies!

Everything was settling down in the world of our new chickens.  All five were accounted for, and Joan Rivers alerted the others whenever I came near the hen house.  I would go out in the morning and open the door and make sure it was shut at night.

Then, a good friend of mine, Kathy, came to visit and said I really didn't need to let them out and in because they were secure and they'd do that themselves.  I was a little bit worried about it, but followed her advice and sure enough - the chickens knew what to do.  They even would appear to wait for me to come home each afternoon to bring them scraps.

Each day, I would change into my "muck boots" to head out to see my birds. They'd pile on top of each other at the gate and "talk" to me, especially the larger ones. I would sit out in the grass and toss them scraps and watch the funny ways they'd steal treats from each other. I found they really didn't like citrus but LOVED anything with grain in it....corn bread, hardened bread of any kind, and such.  They also were fun to watch when they'd eat a peach or a pear....sweets seemed to be their favorite.  I was learning more about them each day.

Before I knew it, we had graduated from crumble "Start and Grow" to laying feed, since the chickens were at the age to lay.  Gary and I waited eagerly for our first eggs.  We'd check every day but still no eggs.  As the days went on into months, and our birds were now seven months old and still no eggs. I read that sometimes they find strange places to lay so I looked around the chicken yard....still not a one.

I talked to a gal at work who said her husband was the "Chicken Whisperer" and could tell us what was going on.  I agreed and Kelly and Steve made the trip out to our place. They said our chickens were beautiful birds and they thought they knew why they weren't laying.....we had only two hens but THREE roosters.

Gary was convinced we'd have to get rid of a couple of the roosters....but I insisted this was not necessary.  But, day after day, not one egg. Then, one day our neighbor Julie said she heard our "chicken" crow. I questioned that and said "Are you sure it wasn't yours?"  She answered, "Well, unless ours can throw his voice, no. It was definitely yours."

The next thing I knew, I'd wake up and hear a chorus of crows. First, the neighbor's rooster would crow, then get 1, no 2, no three back! looked like we found our problem....too many roosters in the nest.  I was going to have to find homes for two of these cockerels!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An Attitude Adjustment

Finally, all of the five young chickens were home. And, I had been treating the previously missing one with bag balm on the back of her head for several days.  A funny development had come up....whenever I went in the chicken area, the one that had been found started to get hysterical. She'd run around behind the others as if to warn them that I was coming. She didn't want to be caught and was very noisy. I didn't know what to think of it, but continued trying to catch her so that I could "doctor" her.

Meanwhile, one of the larger chickens chased her and started to peck at her. No matter where she went, the other chicken went after her and cornered her to peck at her wound. Even though I had been told that chickens will kill an injured one, I couldn't help try to help this wounded creature. So, I scooped up the big chicken, held it up and told it to "KNOCK IT OFF!", and then tossed it outside.

Now, the logical side of me knew that what I did would probably not make any difference in the actions of chickens, but I had to give it my best shot....which is what I did.  I proceeded to doctor the hurt female and talk to her as I did so.  Then, I released her and she ran outside of the chicken house, while vocally letting the others know I had been there.

My actions appeared to help the reacceptance of the hurt chicken (or they accepted her coincidentally at the same time frame....whatever) as she started to heal and hang out with the others without being attacked.  She still would, however, act hysterical whenever I came out to see the chickens.  With all of this in mind, I decided that this girl would need a name.  What do you name a chicken that is hysterical, wounded, and marching to her own drummer?  I decided that Joan Rivers would make there it was. The first named chicken would be Joan Rivers! Whala!  What would tomorrow bring?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A visitor at the door

So now we had four out of the five chickens we had originally started with. They appeared to be settling in to their new home. Each morning, they would come out of the coop and spend the day grazing and feeding in the yard. They would sun themselves near their favorite berry bushes and head back to their coop in the evening until the next day.

All was well, with the exception of the missing pullet. Where could it have gone? I found two spots in the fenced area where chickens could have easily escaped and repaired the holes to avoid another experience of chasing missing chickens. Our new additions were not especially tame, but were getting accustomed to our home and would now watch me as I would go about my chores in their house.  They eagerly awaited a refill to their food each day and to their water. I was finding that the food dishes were becoming empty before 24 hours passed. I guess I would have to upgrade to larger feeders. Their water appeared to last a couple of days.

We were making progress on the house, painting, scrubbing, gardening. Long days had gone by as we tried to get as many repairs done as possible before the moving truck brought all of our things from our prior home. The days were long but beneficial, as we were seeing our home materialize. Meanwhile, the chickens were settling and doing what chickens do.

But then, after three days had passed since the "escape", a knock came to the door. "Who could it be?" I thought, since we knew very few folks in our new home neighborhood. I answered the door, and found a neighbor I hadn't yet met and her daughter. The neighbor was holding one of my chickens.....the missing one! I couldn't believe it! She introduced herself and said she thought this (the chicken in her hands) might belong to me. Wow! I was floored. I thought for sure that chicken had been eaten by a coyote or some other demise. I never thought I would see it again. But there it was, with a huge bloody wound on the back of the head.

I thanked her as she handed me the bird. She said her daughter had found her and had put her in with their birds.  And, as I learned, she became "hen pecked" due to the other birds not knowing her. They were not welcoming and really would have preferred, I guess, that she was not there. My new neighbor had discovered that we had become new chicken keepers and brought her home.

"Now what?!" I thought, as I carried this bloodied and frightened bird into the house to show my husband and daughter. They did not want any part of this horrible looking creature, and I wasn't sure what to do about her wound. I knew I needed to do something....but what? This was not something I had read about when I was preparing for this new position as a chicken owner.

I put the bird with the others and immediately realized that she was being picked on in my small flock too. How could this be? She is one of their own and was only missing a few days! They all got along so peachy only a few days ago! I had to do some research and found the site where I was able to look up many of possible ailments folks have dealt with and advice about what worked.

Aha! I found out that this poor "hen pecked" chick was going to continue to be beat up on unless I did something to prevent it. I read about something called "Blu Kote" to apply to the wound, and I also read about "bag balm". The bag balm, it was said, tasted bad to the other chickens and would deter continued pecking.  That sounded good! Something had to be done and quick...I was afraid the others were going to be the end of this poor creature.

I bought some "bag balm" and trekked out to the coop to doctor my new charge. The coop, being fairly large, made it difficult to catch any of the birds. I had to block the door after the others got out and then go about trying to catch her. She frightened me a bit when she flapped her wings. But, I knew she was frightened and wouldn't hurt me. I caught her and liberally applied the bag balm to the back of her head. Poor baby! Her wound must have been one and a half inches wide and four inches long going down the back of her neck.

She didn't seem to mind the bag balm, yet was happy to get away from me after I doctored her. She went on her way to go outside. I waited and watched to see how the others would respond. The largest bird would peck at her when she came anywhere near the group.  Then two went after her. As they pecked at her, they got some of the bag balm on their beaks and didn't seem really happy with the result of the goop now on the end of their beak. I watched for awhile and thought I should wait to see what would happen. It was nightfall and the birds were getting ready for bed. Hopefully, all would be well and this bird would heal as good as new.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bringing the first chickens home

The chicken house was clean, had fresh straw, food, water, and fresh paint. We were ready to bring our new additions home! Al and I took her 4Runner (the same vehicle we learned how to bring home straw from the source) and our dog crate and were on our way. The pullets had been caught into a cage by the seller. I really appreciated that so we wouldn't have to chase them through the berry bushes like we did on our first visit.

We moved the chicks from the seller's cage to our dog kennel, thanked him for his trouble and travelled home. Al and I carried the kennel to the fenced run and opened the door for the chickens to make their grand entrance. They ran one by one out of the kennel to the corner of the yard, shielded by the berry bushes on our property. These must have been comforting to them (?)

We didn't know what else to do, so we went about our business and checked on the chickens after about an hour had passed.  A-OK ! How easy this was going to be, I thought and went back to my work in the house.  After another hour, Al and I checked again. This time, something was different. The thin elastic from the center of the bungee that held the gate shut had snapped, and the gate was wide open. Our dogs, Topaz and Maya, were inside the gate and there were only two chickens to be found. Far different from the five we started with.  I could hear the other chickens calling their friends, so I trudged through the overgrown berries that were surrounding our property in search of the missing.

Meanwhile, Al was trying to catch the two that were still in the fenced area. I could hear her squeal whenever the chicken flapped from scare. This was not Al's chosen chore, but she knew the birds were important to me and was trying to help.  She did end up catching the hen and with a scream and a cluck, there were now two safely in the coup.

As Al recuperated from the stressful chase, I continued my hunt. This led me through the yard to the side fence, where I almost caught a chicken. But, just before I did, it found a hole in the fence and had passed into the neighbor's yard.  Now, I had to take a different tactic. It was time to walk up the street, around the yard, notify the neighbors about the missing and try to bring one or more home.  We had two in the coup and three missing.

Cut up from the berry bushes and trudging through the yard, I trekked up the road to notify the neighbors of our missing three. As I reached one neighbor's home, I saw one of our missing running toward their chickens. They saw the chicken and helped me catch it, so now we had three. I took it home and added the hen (?) to the others and continued my search.

By this time, it was almost dark. The only thing that was helping us was the fact that the chickens were all white and could still be seen in the dark a bit better than other breeds. Al had had enough fun and retreated to the house with my husband, Gary. I was on my own in this venture, as the others felt the chickens would find their way home on their own. I felt that I should try my best to find them, especially since it was the very first day of their arrival. No luck, after much searching, and Gary convinced me to give up on the task until daylight.

I went in the house to take a nap and after about an hour, Al ran in and woke me up saying "I hear a chicken screaming!" Oh my gosh! I was thinking as I jumped up and outside, flashlight in hand. And, low and behold, Maya was standing on the deck with one of our chickens right next to her. I guess Maya had been investigating the area and spooked the poor thing out of the vegetation. Now we had four.  Where could the other one be? What a horrible chicken mother I was!

Depressed, exhausted, and incredibly cut up and bleeding from my excursion into the berry bushes, I decided to get some rest and see what the light of day would bring.....with new bungees on the gate, and four out of five chicks put to bed for the night.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Learning how to care for chickens...where do you start?

As soon as I figured out our new home had a "chicken house", I began talking with my friend, Val, about her new flock. She told me that it was very easy to care for them and gave me updates on how things were going (she had started with chicks).  I asked her questions every day...How do you know what to feed them? What kind of home do they live in? What kind of feeder and waterer do you use? Aren't you afraid they'll run away? She saw my interest grow, and on our last day at work together, she gave me a book called "The Joy of Keeping Chickens, the ultimate guide to raising poultry for fun and profit" by Jennifer Magyesi.

I was very excited and couldn't put the book down! It was better reading than a romance novel for me! Now I had to find some chickens....but our house wasn't going to be available for a month or more. What was I going to do? Look for some chickens, of course.  And, when you shall find!  I found the ad for "brahma pullets", which I learned were kind of like preteen chickens....and these had feathered feet! How cute was that?!  It was unknown whether they were male or female, and the seller wanted them all gone. So, I agreed, with the condition that he would keep them until we could get into our home.  "No problem." he told I paid the man, and off we went to get ready to move into our new home.

The month passed, and we still were not in our home. The lady who owned our home had all kinds of troubles, including purchasing a foreclosure with severe plumbing problems. This was delaying her vacating of our home. Meanwhile, we waited. I called the gentleman who was holding my chickens and told him the situation. He was very kind and understanding...and I told him we should be in the house and able to pick them up soon.

The day of Gary and my 5th wedding anniversary, the call came that we would be able to move into our home the next day! As we entered the house, we realized we had more to do before our furniture came than we thought. Wallpaper to remove, rooms to paint, weeds to pull, overgrown plants to cut back, carpet to rip out and put in other flooring, and on and on and on....when will we have the chicken house ready to pick up our new addtions? I wasn't sure but went about buying supplies -- food (pellet or crumble? I was told crumble was better for little chickens so that's what I bought), water dish (metal or plastic, huge or not so huge?), straw (where do I buy that? oh -- look in the paper and drive to a farm to buy it right off the truck!), and clean out that chicken house of the junk that was previously stored there along with the numerous wasp nests and inhabitants! Yuck! I think the inside is ready!

I decided we needed to take a break from working in the house and get the chickens' house painted. I asked my daughter, Al, to help. I told her I needed a big favor...and I knew it was big because she HATES painting.  She agreed and we were ready to get ready for the new babies.  We bought some "oops" paint in several colors and went to work! We painted bright pink on one side, and periwinkle blue on two others. Then we "decorated" with splatter paint in green and blue and finally spray painted peace signs and flowers on all sides. As sometimes happens when people get enthusiastic, we also painted each other quite a bit...but had a blast doing it! Our masterpiece was ready for the new chickens. We would bring them home the next day!

Friday, January 21, 2011

My first post....a little bit of background I am, ready to start my first blog.  And about chickens, no less. Amazing!  Well, it all started with a move from one state to another to find a happier location to live and work. The home we chose happened to have a "chicken house" in the back of the property, though it was very neglected.  It was the summer of last year. My daughter came to stay for the summer to help us spruce things up and move in. This included stripping wallpaper, pulling weeds, scrubbing walls, and a multitude of other chores.

 In the midst of the craziness of moving, we had a delay and needed a place to stay for one month since our old house was ready to be inhabited (and not by us) and the homeowner of our new place was not in any hurry to vacate. As we bided our time in the 1 bdrm place we called home for a month, I cruised craigslist quite often, just because....we had no t.v., Gary and I got tired of staring at each other, and it was always interesting to see what people had for sale. Besides, we would probably need things in the garden type area when we DID get to move it to our home.

One fine day of cruising on craigslist led to an email to a posting on "chickens for sale".  From there, we made a visit to the home and subsequently plopped down a twenty-dollar bill to purchase 5 chickens.  Were any of them roosters? I had been told roosters were not necessary for eggs but couldn't tell at 6 weeks which were which. The gentleman selling the chickens said for us to take all 5 or none at we took the five. 

They were so cute! All white with black necklaces and furry feet! What could be better than some new chickens!

chicken house1

chicken house1
Our masterpiece ready for the chickens