Thursday, January 28, 2016

Preparing for chicks

Last year was the first year I didn't add baby chicks to my flock.  I'm actually kind of proud of that fact.  I really had a bad run my first few years with chickens.  I had several that just didn't live very long.  One of my chicks turned out to be a rooster and had to be re-homed.  And I had to re-home a few hens that were just too wild for my small yard.  So it was necessary for me to add to the flock every year.  But the Peeps will be two years old this April and Coco will be 5 1/2 years old and all are healthy and going strong.

Still, I'd love to have 6-8 hens.  My coop and run are plenty big to support a flock that size.  And it gives me extra eggs to share with friends and family.  Which is so much fun.  I'm really hopeful that one of my girls goes broody this spring.  I have a hunch it will be Peaches.  She's the most maternal of the bunch.

So part of last week's big clean up was to get the coops and run ready to support baby chicks.  Sliding the little coop into the corner will make it easier for me to put up a temporary pen around the coop to contain a mama and babies.

I ordered one of these pet exercise pens in the 48" height.  I'm hoping that makes the sides tall enough to contain teenage chicks who want to test their wings.

I also ordered a roll of plastic poultry netting which will have to run along the bottom foot of the exercise pen as baby chicks would be able to slip out of the 1.5" opening for the first few weeks of their life.

I want to make sure they are contained in their safe zone with mama where she'll protect them and keep them warm.

As they age, I'll want to keep them separate while they transition from chick starter feed to grower/finisher.  Chicks shouldn't transition over to layer ration until they are close to the point of lay.  And for Buff Orpingtons, that can be close to six month of age.

I know some people will switch all the hens over to grower/finisher and put out oyster shells for the adults.  And I did this once.  But I had trouble with soft shelled eggs.  And I lost a hen who got an egg stuck inside of her that she couldn't pass.  I feel awful that happened, because I feel it was my fault.  So it's important to me to keep my youngsters separate from the adults for the first 6 months.  I'll of course let them free range together in the garden when they are old enough.

The one good side effect of this is that when it's time to put them all on layer ration and remove the fencing, they should all be quite used to one another and hopefully, the pecking order will have already sorted itself out.  I'll remove the fencing and let the babies continue to occupy the little coop and even lay in its nests.  If they decide to move into the big coop with their mama and sisters, well, that's their call.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Spring Cleaning

I took advantage of the break in between storms to really clean out the coop today.  I ran to the feed store before I got all dirty and bought more feed, pine shavings, oyster shells and grit.  Course a storm cloud passed over just as it was time to load up my car.

Then I proceeded to give the coop and run a really good cleaning.  I never cease to be amazed at how much dust these four ladies can kick up.  And now that their run is fully roofed, there is no rain to tamp down the dust.  But on the flip side, they are high and dry.  Their feed is dry and they have a place to dust bath year round which is really nice.

My new flower pot.  She just had to come home with me from the garden center.  It's one of the few spots of color in the yard this time of the year.

This is the coop where the girls sleep and lay eggs.  I vacuumed all the dust off the outside and the cobwebs from the inside.

The lighting on this photo is awful.  But on the left is the corner of their coop.  The little coop in the back was my original. It's just too cute for me to part with.  I hope to have a broody raise babies in there this spring.  The reason the lighting is so bad is that their run is fully roofed and it allows in minimal light. 

This is their dust bathing area.  I saw something like this on Pinterest but they had used logs.  I wasn't able to find any so I bought cinder blocks with caps and it works.  The girls love it.  You can see it got some use today.  If you look to the left you can see that I had a guy put 1/2 hard wire cloth over EVERY opening into their run and this has keep out all mice and rats thus far.  Which is VERY nice for me.

This was my original coop.  It was just too small for my big birds.  I paid a little extra for the cute red roof.  Which is rarely red but typically covered with dust.  We'll see how long it stays red this time.

Different angle on their dust bathing area. You can see from the two huge imprints that I do indeed have big girls.

I moved the two cinder blocks and 2x4 over to the wall.  This wall gets morning sun and will give them a sunny spot to hang out while they wait for the sun to hit the rest of the run.

Grit on the left.  Oyster shell in the middle.  And bird charcoal on the right.  They eat this as they feel the need to flush toxins from their system.  I don't put out much.  But they do seem to enjoy it.

Peaches enjoying some warm mash before I put them back into their run.

Pickels is the blond and Coco is the black hen enjoying mash.  That's Peaches fluffy bottom on the right.

Pearl is behind the pots inside the wire ring.  Poor thing is simply terrified of EVERYTHING and wasn't having anything to do with my camera.  

And this is how the majority of my photos come out - the girls giving me the tail.  

Clean nests topped off with more shavings and a big scoop of Nesting Box Blend.  If you haven't discovered this stuff, you must.  It's made by Treats for Chickens and simply smells divine.  

And the inside of the coop.  No more cobwebs.  And lots of fresh pine shavings under the roosts sprinkled with PDZ to help keep oder to a minimum.

And I know this is hugely unattractive, but I have wire rings around my tastier pots to keep the hens from eating them to nothing.  When spring arrives, there will be more things in the garden and they will move on and I can remove these.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Life imitating art

I don't really have much to post about this week.  Which actually, is kind of nice.  Means everyone is healthy and no drama to report.

I did snap this cute photo of Pickles hanging out in between two of my ceramic hens in the garden which I thought was a sweet photo.

I spent several hours out in the garden this weekend pruning back roses and some other shrubs.  I also planted a few new plants to add a spot of color in the garden as it's pretty drab out there this time of the year.  I love being out in the garden with my little helpers.

Pearl seems to be coming back into a more regular lay schedule.  I got two eggs from her this weekend.  Peaches has been practices and spending time in the nests so hopefully she's going to come back into lay soon too.  Pickles, seen in this photo above, is still pretty roughed up looking from molting, so I think she'll need another month or so.  And Coco seems like she's in the zone but shows no sign of laying.  Which is fine.  She's 5.5 years old and she could really use a break from it all.

Can't wait for spring so I can get out there and plant my summer garden.  And hopefully add a few additions to the flock.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Can anyone else relate?

Can anyone else relate to this video?

I was working from home on Friday.  I let the hens out and cracked the door so I could hear them in case there was a problem.  But do the hens go play out in the garden?  No!

Coco parks herself on the back stoop and just starts BAWKING at the top of her lungs.  I can't hear myself think when she's loud like that.

Of course she stops screaming at me once I pull out my phone to video her.

You'd think they would go play out in the garden and scratch for bugs or nibble on the green things that are growing after all the rain we've had.  But no.  Let's stand at the back door and beg for treats.

My husband calls this trick or treating chickens.  Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.

Sigh, such spoiled hens.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Banana for crop impaction

I know I haven't Blogged in forever.  And I miss it.  Life got busy and I just got out of the habit.  So I'm going to try and Blog more in 2016.  Even if it's a short update.

A few days back I noticed that Coco had runnier poops than normal.  She was drinking more water than usual.  It's winter and cool so I couldn't blame it on hot weather.  I should have picked her up strait away and given her a once over.  But she so dislikes to be held or touched.  And she looked fine otherwise, tail up, eating, drinking, scratching and running her beak at me.

On the roost the following morning I was giving everyone a tummy tickle when I felt it.  A golf ball sized lump in her crop.  It wasn't rock hard.  But it still shouldn't have been there in the morning as hens should wake up with an empty crop.

Coco eats like a goat and I'm sure she just ate too many leaves or grasses that got wadded up in her crop.  So I gave her a quick massage which she made very clear she wasn't enjoying.  I was dressed for work and I didn't want to push my luck.

That afternoon I came home and the lump was still there.  Coco won't eat carbs so soaking bread in olive oil isn't an option for me.  Holding her down and syringing in oil wasn't my idea of fun.  Hers either for that matter.  So I gave her a two inch piece of banana and massaged and massaged and massaged the lump to try and break it up.

I gave her more banana and another massage before bed.  I was really hoping that the moisture in the banana and the massage would break up that lump over the next few days.

This morning I went out early to say good morning and they were all still on the roost.  I felt Coco's crop and it was completely empty.  WOO HOO!!!

Not sure which I should give more credit, the banana for introducing moisture and softening up the ball, or the massage for helping to break it up.  Either way, she loves banana so it was easy to get her to eat some.  And the ball is gone.

Here's an old video of Coco eating banana.  It really is her most favorite thing to eat in the whole wide world.