Friday, November 25, 2011

Chicken Barn Progress

The chickens are enjoying the lights Jordan installed in the chicken barn.  The extra light during these short days will help to keep the eggs coming and the heat lamps supply a bit of extra warmth during the chilly nights. We also have one permanent roost up and will soon be putting up more to eliminate those beautiful Tidy Cats buckets!

The hens have been making good use of the nest boxes.

And filling up the egg buckets.

Jordan also installed lights in the small chicken house behind the barn.  And just in time for this Buff Orpington hen to move in with her two new babies.  Silly hen to hatch little ones this late in the year!

This Japanese banty chick who was hatched in September hunkers down in the tall grass to get out of the wind.

This handsome little rooster is one who a little black banty hen hatched back in June.

The rosecomb on this Silver-Spangled Hamburg rooster is quite interesting.  He seems to be very proud of it and enjoyed posing for the camera.

This rosecomb Brown Leghorn seems to be yelling out a message to the world.  I'm not sure if it is a message of pride of alarm, though!
Until next time, may your messages of pride not be confused with alarms!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Outlaw Taken Out

Last night a good-sized raccoon attempted to help himself to chicken dinner, but the dogs are quite protective of their chickens and made short work of the thief. 

Ranger naps while the chickens scratch for bugs around him.

Chuck stays alert while Big Red and a Barred Rock pullet forage.

And Cordell stays on guard to make sure the raccoon doesn't cause any more trouble.

The raccoon did manage to take a bite out of one of the Speckled Sussex pullets and she was bleeding a bit from the leg and thigh area last night after the attack, but appears to be okay today.

Until next time, may the outlaws in your life be served with the justice they deserve.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Webbed feet in the Wheat

The irrigation risers into the wheat field were open this afternoon, making a very pleasant temporary wetland for geese and ducks.

Puddles of water and spilled wheat on a warm September afternoon are like heaven to these guys!

This handsome fellow is Einer (Enar), a blue Swedish duck who came to live with us about 3 weeks ago.  He is very sweet, enjoying treats fed to him by hand and also likes to be handled and petted.  Unfortunately, he is not so sweet to the dogs and chases them mercilessly, sneaking up behind them and yanking hair from the backs of their legs.  This is especially offensive to the dogs when they are sound asleep, but Einer seems to delight in making the dogs jump and run away.  I have tried locking him out of the yard, shutting all of the gates, but he always finds a way in, so Einer has to be locked in a large dog kennel in the barn, complete with plenty of feed and a pool of water, and only gets to come out when I can keep a close eye on him so he doesn't end up beheaded by one of the dogs as they reach the end of their patience with him.  He is miserable locked away, but until he learns to leave the dogs alone, it is for the best.
Einer's mate, Ulrika, was a black Swedish duck.  She was a beautiful little hen and had a puffy crest of feathers on the top of her head, like a small, silly hat.  She had begun laying eggs, so when she disappeared several days ago, I figured she had located a suitable nesting site.  She never chased the dogs, so I hadn't penned her up like Einer.  Sadly, on Friday, I found her lifeless little body on the front porch, behind a plant.  Not a mark was on her, not a feather out of place, so I am certain the dogs didn't take revenge for Einer's ill deeds, but really have no ideas as to what may have happened to her.  And I had begun entertaining hopes of a small flock of Swedish ducks living in the barnyard.  Now that Ulrika is gone, Einer seems to be a bit more interested in hanging out with the geese instead of chasing the dogs, but he won't regain his freedom until he decides to stay in the barnyard and leave the dogs in peace.

The geese came to live with us last spring.  They are both ganders, so won't be producing any eggs or goslings to add to the flock.  They are Chinese geese, a very loud, talkative breed.  While some geese can be aggressive, these two have always kept their distance and have not shown any aggression, except occasionally toward the sheep, who don't seem to be too upset by the threats.  I bought the geese in an attempt to help keep predators away from the chickens, but they instead bonded with the sheep and prefer to stay with them whenever possible.  Watching the geese run and fly behind the sheep when we move pastures is a pretty amusing sight.

Headed back toward the barn after a good time splashing, preening, and eating.  While they were at first quite resistant to being moved out into the wheat field, my webbed-footed friends enjoyed themselves immensely once they saw the delightful, and unexpected, puddles and feed.
Until next time, may all of your hesitations be replaced with delight.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chicks on the Move

The chicks have outgrown their original brooder and moved to their new home. While the inside of the coop is not too much bigger than their previous space, they now have a fenced yard which adds quite a lot of space for stretching their wings.

Ancona chick, 4 weeks old
While they were pretty hesitant at first to enter their new yard, it didn't take too long for the more adventurous in the bunch to head into unknown territory.

Black crossbred banty chick, 5 weeks old
The little black banties are a week older than the rest and most of their chick fluff has now been replaced by real feathers.

Speckled Sussex chick, 4 weeks old
The Speckled Sussex chicks have also replaced much of their down.
White Orpington Chick, 4 weeks old
Light Brahma chick, 4 weeks old
The White Orpingtons and Light Brahmas seem to have feathers on their bodies, but their heads are still fluff.
Partridge Cochin chick, 4 weeks old

Free hatchery mystery chick, 4 weeks old
But, oh my goodness, the Partridge Cochins and free mystery bird are pretty pitiful this week.  I know the Cochins will be very handsome birds when they are grown, but the mystery bird?  Hmmm, I guess only time can answer that question!
Until next time, may time be kind to your countenance!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Growing Up

It did not take long for the baby chicks to outgrow their stock tank.  In fact they were only in it for a day before I tipped it on its side to give them more room.  The active chicks were constantly running over the smaller, weaker ones and interrupting their naps.  Poor little sleepyheads!  I used heavy cardboard to slowly increase their space until they had the full run of the 6'x10' enclosure after several days. 
Mortality has seemed fairly high as I have lost a total of 7 chicks, most within the first week.  Two of those were the white Cochins I was concerned about and also lost two of the Mille Fleur bantams.  The rest were a variety of breeds.  The light went out on Tuesday night of this week, which happened to be a night it chilled off somewhat and we got a little rain.  I nearly lost one of the Brahma banties then, but was able to get it rewarmed before it was too late.

Light Brahma
The slower growing breeds are still cute and don't look too awfully different than they did two weeks ago.

Silver Spangled Hamburg
But the faster growing chicks are just starting into their awkward stage.

Brown Leghorn
Baby chick fluff is being replaced by real feathers.

But the poor little black banties are about a week older than the rest and totally into the awkward, gangly, teenager stage.

White Orpington
Every adolescent wants to stand out from the crowd, and . . . .

Golden-Laced Wyandotte
spread their wings a little.

Dark Brahma and Silver Spangled Hamburg
And everyone likes to hang out and talk with their friends as they find their place in the world.

Until next time, may you be blessed with good friends to help through the awkward moments in life!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mail Order Chicks

Let me first clarify that the phrase 'mail order chicks' should in no way be confused with 'mail order brides'.  I am referring to the feathered, cheeping chick.  Sorry, boys!  I only call attention to this as I have sons in their twenties, so can just hear the comments they might make!

Last winter I received a hatchery catalog in the mail.  While I have always been intrigued with the thought of cheeping boxes being delivered to my post office, I put the thought of ordering chicks aside.  For a while.  But as winter wore on and I found myself drawn back to the images of so many different breeds of chickens, most of which I had never seen outside the pages of a book or catalog.  By February I had decided that I would just order some of those exotic fowl.  I had lost most of my flock by then and I had a new plan.  To raise young chicks and fix up one of the barns below the house.  The barn the old hens preferred was impossible to make predator proof on my budget, but I figured I could make the smaller one work.
I made lists of the chickens I would order, then amended the lists.  I knew I wanted gentle hens as I love being able to walk amongst the hens as they cluck at my feet.  But these are just the kind of hens that foxes and coyotes love.  Easy pickings.  So then I added a few whose descriptions included phrases like "very alert" and "forages and avoids predators well".  Next the kids got in on the fun and spent time looking through the catalog, each one choosing their favorite.  Final decisions were made and the order was placed for delivery the week of June 27th.

Contents of the smaller box
 Today was the long-awaited day.  It started with a phone call from the post office at 5:51 AM.  I raced off to get the chicks, rush them back home and settled in as quickly as possible.  It is just amazing that those tiny fragile creatures could survive the trip from Iowa to Oregon.  Survive they did and arrived with every single one alive.  They were so happy to join the four little banties in the warm stock tank where they drank, ate, stretched their wings and ran from one end to the other.  They will soon outgrow this setup, but it will keep them safe and warm for several days while they build strength to enter a larger space.

Bearded Belgian d'Uccle Mille Fleur banties
 Unfortunately, I have lost one little Mille Fleur banty and believe it may have been my own fault.  I think I missed him when showing them the water and dipping their beaks to encourage drinking.  He seemed okay when I unpacked them and moved them to the stock tank.  Then again, maybe it was the little guy on the right side of the picture and he wasn't just dozing as I had thought.  In additon, I am having some trouble with all three White Cochins.  They arrived far weaker than the other chicks and I have been hand watering and feeding them throughout the day.  Time will tell if they make it or not.  I will keep doing whatever I can to help them along.

Partridge Cochin chick
These little guys were so lively I had a hard time getting a picture of them.  One immediately jumped out of the basket I was using to contain them for photographing.
Until next time, may all the chicks in your life be strong and healthy!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chicken Nuggets

 Several days ago, mama hen brought her 10 little ones to visit in the yard, which I discovered when I heard a loud "PEEP, PEEP, PEEP" coming through the house.  One of the housecats was bringing me a treasure with the other cat close behind in case he dropped it.  When I went to take the chick from him, though, he changed his mind and no longer wished to share his little nugget with me or anyone else.  After a short chase, I managed to retrieve the poor terrified chick.  Out in the yard there was panic with hen and chicks scattered to all corners.  I managed to scoop up four more babies and found another little one had already been killed.  I penned up the five I had caught with the hope that mama would come back for them and I could then catch her and the remaining four.  She did come close, but was always watching out for me and I could not manage to get the gate to the the outer pen closed before she was back out.  Poor babies cried and cried for mama for two or three days and have just today stopped calling for her, but she thinks the yard is a dangerous place and refuses to come back in.  Yesterday I checked the babies in the morning and found my favorite chick had died overnight.  He appeared healthy and strong, so am not sure what happened, but was sad to lose him as he was a beautiful mahogany color with feathered feet, while the rest are black chicks with some light patches.  He did not happen to be the one the cat brought into the house, either.  That was a black chick and is doing just fine!

They look so tiny in the big tank all alone.

Minnie Mae would like a taste of chicken nuggets, please.

Sorry, Minnie Mae, you are going to have to stick to your cat food!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chick Surprise!

One of my black banties had gone missing and I was sure she had become chicken dinner for some sharp-toothed critter.  I had found her abandoned nest some time back, which is usually an indication that the hen is unable to return.  But, lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find her alive and well as she clucked lovingly to 10 little ones out in the barn lot!

I am hopeful she can raise this batch of chicks as the Pyrenees cross pups are becoming more and more effective at keeping the predators at bay and protecting their family of chickens, sheep, etc.  On Tuesday, their dad, Chuck, was here to visit and together they killed a raccoon who had been hanging around for quite some time.  This morning the pups brought in the body of a young raccoon they had killed.  While I love watching raccoons and am fascinated by their actions, I lost about 40 chickens last winter, many to raccoons who would climb into the barn rafters and dine as the chickens slept.  The carnage of chicken body parts that had fallen from above was not a pretty sight in the morning.

I just had to include this picture of Snickers goat.  He is not happy with me at all.  Yesterday he got out and helped himself to the roses just beginning to open up their gorgeous blooms in the yard as he is a master gate opener.  He again got out several times today, and in fact, joined me inside the house at one point as I had a back door open.  I looked and looked, but could not figure out where he had gotten out.  While taking pictures of the chicks, I put him in again and set a pan of grain outside the pen.  He still refused to show me where he was getting out until he thought I'd gone back to the house.  From my hiding spot, I watched him slip though a gate that had not been fastened tightly enough when the guys were working cows yesterday.  I refastened the gate and gave him his pan of feed, but he knows a small pan of grain is not equal to the freedom he was tasting.
Until next time, may you savor the freedoms you are able to enjoy!