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Posts by joni
Our flock of 1 year old birds is doing very well. This is the group that lives in the “Palace” – the nice new coop that consumed our entire spring last year as we were building it. There are 12 hens, 2 roosters and 6 guineas in this flock. They are more like 2 separate flocks though. The chickens and guineas basically just ignore each other. We don’t really ever see them interacting at all and they roost in separate areas. Once the days started increasing in length the hens started laying more and we are getting a good number of eggs from both flocks. With 2 big roosters in the Palace flock, some of the girls were really starting to get scratched up from the treading of the active roosters on their backs. It was obvious which hens were favorites and I felt so sorry for them with their sore-looking bare backs. After a bit of research online, I found this is a very common problem and there are a lot of protective products available to help give hens some relief.
I found Hen Saver Chicken Saddles and ordered 2 to see how they would work out. They are very simply constructed pieces of heavy duty material shaped to fit the hen’s back and are held in place by elastic that slips over the wings. The elastic is nice and loose when in place and doesn’t seem to bind or pinch at all. The first 2 hens to try on their saddles didn’t seem to mind at all and went right about their business of scratching around the yard. I gave the saddles a few days to see if they really would stay in place and help to protect the hens. Well they passed the test and have stayed in place beautifully so I ordered 4 more. The saddles are such simple little things but they really seem to be working well. Here is a picture of Wanda modeling her new saddle. Eleanor has a pretty navy one that I will have to get a picture of.
With the fencing finally up around the new, larger coop, it was time to move some birds from the smaller coops which had become too crowded. We tried moving a few of the older hens but they did not fare so well, constantly being picked on by the established residents and always in a panic to get back to their own flock. I felt so sorry for them that I moved them back. It was always our intention to have the guineas in the new area and allow them to fly in and out to roam as they pleased. Up until now, they were always in the yard that was covered by netting so we didn’t have to worry about them coming back to the coop each evening. I was not quite sure how to introduce them into the new, uncovered yard and allow them to get used to a new roosting area to be sure they would want to come back in the evenings. We couldn’t just keep them locked inside as the chickens needed to have access to the food and nest boxes. I had been thinking for some time about the best way to accomplish this move. The other night as we were moving the older hens back to their original coop, we came up with the idea of clipping the guineas’ wings to keep them from flying out of the fenced area for awhile, which would give them time to adjust to the new roosting arrangement. The operation ran smoothly, with no major injuries or blood loss (to us or the guineas). They are extremely fast and strong – difficult to catch and can really scratch you up trying to get away. Todd has become quite the guinea wrangler and was able to catch each one in turn and hold it properly for me to complete the wing clipping. They went into the new yard and seemed to settle in fairly quickly. The hens and roosters didn’t bother them since they don’t fit into the chicken pecking order and we found them roosting on the outside perch alongside the original occupants the very first night. I think it will take a few months for them to be able to fly over the fence and by then, they should want to come back to their customary roosting spot for the night. I think I feel better about keeping them in the fenced yard all winter as there are more hungry predators on the lookout for a meal during the colder weather, so we may have to clip their wings once more and let them start roaming next spring.
Our latest addition to the farm family – Abbie. She is a long haired Chihuahua that was relinquished to the clinic by owners who could not afford her care after she was hit by a car. The poor little thing had a dislocated hip and was in a lot of pain for some time. Even with the pain meds on board she gave a little yelp whenever we had to pick her up for treatment. She remained at the clinic for almost 3 weeks and I fell in love with her. Based on how she behaved at the clinic and in the cage, I thought she might turn out to be a pretty good little dog. I took Todd in to visit her a few times and he really liked her also, so we brought her home for a “trial” and to see if the other dogs would accept her. I wasn’t worried about Ellie at all, but Bob likes things to stay the same and has never really liked other dogs to visit. Well, I knew once I had Abbie at home there really wasn’t going to be a “trial” period – she would be ours, come what may with Bob and Ellie. As it turns out, little Abbie is the aggressive one and we have to keep her from biting both Ellie (who won’t retaliate even if bitten) and Bob (who just ignores her but will bite back if she starts something). She is so small and I am afraid that Bob could really hurt her if things get out of hand. They have had 2 unpleasant encounters so far which I was able to break up right away, but we can’t leave them together unattended for the time being. Abbie has to be on a leash or in her little cage when the others are in the same room. We are trying to walk them together as a group and have them around each other under supervision so I am hoping that things will improve with time. Abbie has not yet been spayed so perhaps that surgery will mellow her a bit as well. Other than the pack problems, she is an adorable little dog who has had no accidents in the house, stays in her cage whenever necessary without crying and sleeps soundly all night without making a sound. Her hip seems completely fine now and she likes to dance on her two hind legs and she likes to crawl – it’s so cute! Oh, her name is in appreciation of Igor (it’s pronounced “Eyegor”) from the Mel Brooks movie “Young Frankenstein”.
This morning Todd found the first good egg from this year’s group of chicks. I found one a few days ago that was broken and empty on the coop floor, so this is the first one laid in a nest box and intact. We are pretty sure it is from Dory, one of our Welsummer hens. We saw her spending a lot of time in the nest boxes and heard her making “egg” noises for the last few days. Being from Dory is even more special because of her rough “chickhood”. She was a sickly little thing and had several bouts of respiratory problems that were so bad that I felt I had to keep her separated from the others. Keeping her by herself did have the benefit of making her more friendly as she was lonely and wanted us to hold her. A few times I really thought she might not even live so it is very rewarding to see that the extra special care that we put into raising her has helped her to become a healthy and now productive hen. The egg is a beautiful dark brown with even darker brown speckling – a little on the small side, as they all are when hens first start laying, but they should be up to a nice large size very quickly. Yeah, Dory! Show the others what they are supposed to do now!
Tarrick is one lucky little rooster. We were loading up the others to head over to our friends’ farm for the processing last evening and decided at the last minute to keep Tarrick a while longer and see how things worked out in the flock. He is such a little guy and wouldn’t really be worth the work of processing him. He is a little trouble maker, constantly worrying the guineas and some of the other chickens, but he has never shown aggression towards us – yet. I’m thinking that if we let him mix in the larger flock with the older rooster, Percy will help to keep him in line.
He is a beautiful bird and I don’t feel right about killing him just because he is a pain in the patooty! But he better behave himself or the next processing day that comes around may turn out differently!
Tomorrow evening, “processing” 4 roosters is on the schedule. We say processing because it just sounds better than butchering, but the outcome is the same. We have both been struggling with this, just like we did last year when we had to cull 3 roosters. Maybe we just aren’t cut out to be real chicken farmers and actually eat some of our chickens. It is difficult not to remember the sweet little chicks that hopped up on our fingers and followed us around looking for treats. We have 7 roosters now and that is just not going to work out well as they get older. They are already picking on each other and the guineas quite a lot. We have our original rooster, Percy, and a Maran and a Rhode Island Red from this year’s chicks that we want to keep, and so the rest have to go. We could give them to someone else but most likely they would butcher them as well and who knows how they would be treated up until then. Roosters don’t really have much of a chance in this world. Most of the ones born in large hatcheries are killed right away because most people want only hens and who can blame them? Things are indeed much more peaceful in the chicken yard without a rooster trying to attack you. We do want to keep the 3 we have decided on in order to raise more chicks to keep adding new layers to our flocks, so there will be other roosters to “process” in the coming years. I try to make myself feel better by thinking that if these roosters had been born anywhere else they most likely would have been killed months ago, but it doesn’t really help much. I can’t look at them today; or maybe I should go look at them. Maybe I will just let them out of their yard so they can run away.
We have been enjoying some really tender and yummy sweet corn. This is the first time that either of us has tried growing corn and so far we have had great results. We planted 2 varieties – Sugar Baby, which we are eating now, and Peaches and Cream, which should mature in another week or two. Both are bi-color varieties. The Sugar Baby plants are bigger and have produced some very nice sized ears. The Peaches and Cream plants are not nearly as robust, but I’m hoping the corn will taste just as good. We’ve read a lot about how many insect pests like sweet corn and we do see quite a lot of stinkbugs, and small black beetles on the plants, with just a small amount of damage inside the ears, but nothing we can’t live with. We just break off the buggy ends and give those to the chickens as treats – bugs AND sweet corn! This works out just fine for us and we don’t have to resort to covering the plants with chemicals. We are going to try freezing some whole cobs and just kernels in the next few days, but nothing beats walking out to the garden and picking just a few ears to have fresh for dinner – yummy!
This is the first year that we have tried growing okra. The plants are nice and compact and quite attractive. I saw the first flower this morning – very pretty.
It looks similar to a hollyhock flower. Okra wasn’t one of my favorite veggies as I was growing up, but I’m thinking that’s because I never tried it really fresh and prepared in quite the right way. Last year we brought some home from a farmer’s market and roasted it with some garlic and a little olive oil – fantastic!
This was a good day – getting the front door finished and finally a fully weather proof structure! Adding the white trim boards at the corners and around the windows really adds a nice touch. It is looking so nice that we often comment on turning this into a guesthouse! It really does seem way too fancy for chickens, at least on the outside, but that part is more for our enjoyment. So I came up with the name “Gallus Palace”, (Gallus is both the genus and species name for the domestic chicken) and what a palace they will be living in.
I am really excited about all the storage space that we will have for all of our chicken supplies. It will be so nice to get all that out of the garage and have it closer to where the chickens actually live.
We’ve started on the secure outdoor run and are hoping to be far enough along to move this year’s chicks in the next week or so. We really need to free up that small coop where they are currently residing so we can get the guinea keets moved outside. The next steps will include adding the hardware cloth to the entire structure as well as burying about a foot of it in the ground all around the perimeter to keep digging critters from helping themselves to a late night chicken dinner.
This morning we picked some fresh blueberries from our 3 little bushes that we planted earlier this year. We really didn’t expect to get many berries at all this first year but they have done amazingly well and we have had yummy blueberries at several meals, with more still ripening. These bushes have done so well that we are planning to add a few more this fall. In a few years we should be harvesting enough for a lot of fresh eating as well as some for freezing. For this year, we will still head over to Glade-Link Farms and eat, I mean pick, a lot of blueberries so we can also add some to the freezer.