Saturday, August 27, 2011

Random Rantings...

Well, there's not much new or exciting to report this week.  And honestly, I like boring and routine.

Ginger did lay her 100th egg last week and the girls got a HUGE scoop of meal worms to share.  I know my egg count chart is not 100% accurate but it gives me a good gauge of their egg laying schedule.  If you had told me that we'd have over 300 eggs some 9 months into their lives, I wouldn't have believed you.  And Ginger is hunkered down in her favorite nest box making another egg as I write this.

I did cut back on the amount of treats I give them.  I don't give them anything in the morning anymore and that has really worked out well.  They still peck at me and beg when I go out to scoop out the night's droppings from the house.  But they no longer pick on Ginger like they used to do.  And they are eating lots of of their feed.  Which is really what they should be eating.

Interesting note about this higher quality feed, the girls don't touch their oyster shells anymore.  So I'm guessing that they are getting enough calcium from their feed.  But the new feed has between 3-3.5% calcium.  Their old feed was between 3.4-3.9% calcium.  Maybe it's in a form that they can absorb better?  I don't know.  I'm just happy to see them eating their food and not picking on Ginger so I won't question it.

I've read more discussions about worms and parasites lately and learned that slugs and snails can be carriers.  So can wild birds.  So unless you keep your birds completely contained, how do you insulate them from potential parasites?  I certainly don't want my girls to pick up any parasites.  And I love the natural pest control in my yard.  So where is the balance?

They say that mixing DE in with their feed can help prevent them from picking up parasites so I've started to do that more regularly.  And I called their vet last week who said that they would run tests on their droppings to test them for parasites.  (I wouldn't have to bring in the girls, just the droppings.)  And of course, at the first sign of trouble, I would be on it to treat it.  But I suppose taking in some droppings once a year for a professional examination would be a good idea.

And now I hear cackling.  Bok bok bok bok BAWK GAWK!!!  Bok bok bok bok BAWK GAWK!!!  And I can tell Coco's song because she does a double BAWK GAWK GA GAWK at the end.  So Ginger must be done laying and Coco is joining in because a duet is more fun than a solo.

How many of you can tell the subtle differences in your hen's egg song?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coco's Milestone

Coco laid her 100th egg yesterday.

I found the brown egg with dark brown spots in the middle nest box along with a green egg from Pumpkin.  I suppose a celebration should have been in order.  But I've been trying to cut back on the amount of treats I give the girls.

So we let the out and gave them some BOSS and some sprouted wheat grass.  Yesterday, they had snails, snails and more snails.  Coco LOVES snails and can easily put away 12-15 before she fills up.

Ginger is at 98 eggs and I think we'll wait for her to get to 100 and then have another celebration for the girls.  Crickets are always a crowd pleaser.

I can't believe we've eaten and given away 300 eggs since our three little hens started laying eggs just a few months back.  Oh my!

Monday, August 15, 2011


Ginger is just the sweetest bird you could imagine.  It's unfortunate, that she's at the bottom of my pecking order of three hens.  But aside from a few nips to her comb, she doesn't seem any worse for ware.  I know there are many, many other chickens who are not at the bottom of the pecking order who don't live as well as Ginger.

And I give her special treats to compensate.  She used to go stand in the corner with her head down when Pumpkin would nip at her.  Now she just moves out of her way.  I do try to feed them over a large area so she has a chance to get treats away from Pumpkin.  And if I catch Pumpkin pecking, I'll pull Ginger aside and give her special treats.

It didn't take her long to learn that drill.  I open the gate to leave and she follows me out.  She leads the way into the garage and hops up on my husband's work out bench.  From there, she looks up the big meal worm farm, then looks over at me and says Cheep Cheep Cheep.  I swear I can hear her saying "I want some".

Anyway, she has always had a fascination with the nest boxes.  When I go to collect eggs, she darts into the hen house and watches me intently.  She'll even step into one of the nest boxes and inspect it.  Each nest box still contains one colorful plastic Easter Egg.  They are their training eggs to show them where to lay.  But Ginger is so fascinated by these eggs, that I never collected them.  And partly, too because I was concerned that she would become an egg eater and I thought pecking at a plastic egg would deter her.

When I go into their house in the morning to scoop out the previous night's droppings, Ginger is right there to observe.  And will typically go sit in one of the nest boxes and watch me.  I fear that she may become broody one day and never snap out of it.  But we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Yesterday, while I was doing my usual weekend chores, I noticed that the pine shaving in the nests was getting a big sparse.  So I put a big scoop of fresh pine shaving into each nest and spritzed them with DE, just to make sure that we don't have an issue with mites.

Ginger was right there watching my every move.  As I finished and replaced the plastic egg into each nest, she gently stepped into each nest to inspect my work.  She moved the egg around with her beak, settled down on top of the egg to make sure that it was comfy.  She first sat in Coco's nest.  Then she sat in the middle nest which is where Pumpkin lays.  Then she came to the last nest box, the one closest to the Pop Door and settled right down.  It must have been just right.

Obviously, my minor modifications passed Goldilocks rules for comfy nest boxes because I found three eggs today, each one laid in the girls favorite nest box.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

That's a lot of Chicken

I finally broke down and bought a scale so I could weigh the girls.  But that might have been a mistake.  As you can probably guess, they are scared of it.

It doesn't have a huge platform but I thought it would be big enough.  Unfortunately, when they step up the scale, they step on the edge, which causes it to tip.  So very quickly, they were scared of thing.  I was so frustrated.  I desperately tried to entice them with meal worms.  But they are so big, they just jump and take it from my fingers.

I finally got Ginger to stand up on it for just a split second and while she didn't stand still, I'm going to log her at 4 lbs 6 ounces.  I'm thinking she has some growing to go yet.  Orpington are a heavy breed and can get up to 7-8 lbs.  But the way she was wiggling around on the scale, it was going down to 2 lbs. and up to 6 lbs.

Coco was next.  It took me a while to get her to calm down in my arms enough where I could set her onto the scale.  She was reaching up to get to the worms in my fingers, so she wasn't standing still either.  But she's still in the 6 lb. 6 ounce range.  Which is what she weighed about a month ago when I took her to the vet.  She's getting close to being full grown.  Jersey Giants when fully grown will tip the scales at over 8 lbs. with rooster weighing 10-11 lbs.

And finally, there was Pumpkin.  Just catching her was a challenge.  I had to try and hypnotize her to get her to stand still.  That involves tucking her head under her wing and gently swinging her from side to side to get her to calm down.  I didn't get her to totally go to sleep, but she calmed down enough to stand on the scale long enough to log her in at 4 lbs. and 3 ounces.  Easter Eggers average in the 6 to 7 lbs. range when fully grown.

So now I've got a baseline for each girl.  I wish I had bought the scale nine months ago so I could have tracked their growth progress.  And so they would be use to being weighed.  But oh well.  At least now I have a basis now.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cutting back on Treats

I've GOT to cut back on the treats I give my girls.  It's gotten out of hand.  And I have no one to blame but myself.

I've always given them some sort of treat each day.  It's so much fun to watch them get all excited and readily take things out of my hands.  And then I started giving them a treat each morning to keep them quiet.  And then a treat at the end of the day when I'd go spend some time with them.  I started giving them a little bit more of a treat when Pumpkin started pecking at Ginger.  I thought I wasn't giving them enough.  Or that if I gave them more, Ginger would have more of a chance to get enough.

Well, regardless, it's become out of control.  I read a posting by someone the other day.  They had gone on vacation for the week and when they returned, they hens higher up in the pecking order had bullied one of the lower hens.  She had lost all her feathers on her neck and she was bloody and raw.  He felt that this was the result of the hens not getting as many treats from the chicken sitter as they were getting from the owners.

I don't want this to happen in my flock and I would never expect a sitter to give them the amount of attention I give my girls.  Not to mention, they really should be eating their feed as their primary source of food.  There's a reason it's balanced nutrition and it's good for them.  Treats need to be just that.  A treat.

So this morning I didn't give them anything and they gave me an earful about it.  I did cave a touch and put a scoop of their feed into their treat bowl.  They took one look at that and started back in giving me an earful.  I know they won't go hungry and ultimately, they will be better for this.  But it's killing me today.

I know some people have put out hard blocks of seeds that the hens really have to work at to get food and maybe it's time to resort to one of those for them.  Anything else I put out there, they just scarf it down.  But I worry again that they will just spend the entire day working a the treat block and not eating their feed.

Any of you had this problem?  Anyone tried one of those treat blocks for your hens?  Any thoughts?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Ginger standing in front of their newly raised feeder.  I put it up on an upside down pot and put a few bricks around so they can step up to reach it.  But it makes it harder for them to kick the feed out of the feeder.

Pumpkin and Coco found some bugs to eat where there had previously been a log.

The Tuber Roses are finally beginning to bloom in my garden.  They smell like Hawaii.

Blackberries ready to be picked.  The girls love to come watch me pick berries because they know that I'll toss them some.  And they choke them down whole.

Black Oiled Sunflower head.  I've grown a bunch of these and will cut and dry them when ready.  I'll save them for the winter months and put one out in their run to give them something to work at.

One of their many mascots that dot the garden.

Coco watches me very closely to see if I have treats.  This girl is NEVER full.

A better shot of their feeder up off the ground.  The yellow ball in front is filled with BOSS and they have to knock it around to get the seeds out.  They are still struggling w/ this concept.  But I have hope.

Ginger and Pumpkin exploring their run.  I have a bunch of logs and old pieces of wood out there for them to perch on.  And ever so often I'll move them around and the girls love to look for bugs underneath.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

OMG my girls are SPOILED

I know this and I know I am the cause of this.  And I accept this.  But tonight, they really showed a side of them that has me worried that they may be too spoiled.  Is that possible?

Tonight, I brought out a zucchini cut in half for a treat.  And I hate to see them fight over treats so I was holding a half in each hand so they could peck at it.  This way I can keep Pumpkin and Ginger separated which keeps Pumpkin from pecking at Ginger.

They had made good progress on the zuc when my DH came home from work and I wanted to focus on him.  So I set the two halves down on the ground at my feet.  You would have thought I had hidden them away because all three girls turned and walked away.

He commented that they were spoiled.  I just thought they had enough at that point.  So I picked up the zuc halves and held them in my hands and the girls came running back to eat.  I set them down again and they walked away.

OMG, you mean to tell me that they will only eat treats if they are offered out of my hand?!?

I worry about going on vacation and having one of the neighbors watch them.  I would never expect them to hand feed them or give them the attention that I give them.  But is that going to rock the girls world?

Hmmm, perhaps I need to back off a bit.  I'll always keep up the high standard for hygiene I have and I'll continue to spend time with them.  But I think I may have to back off on hand feeding them treats in the afternoons.