Monday, August 27, 2012

Woo Hoo

Honey Bear put herself to bed in the right coop tonight!!!

Clearly she likes her new ramp up into her hen house.  There was all kinds of drama last night getting her up there so I had very low expectations tonight.  And I purposely waited until right when I knew she'd be headed to bed before I went outside.

As I entered the gate, I could hear her chuck-chuck-chucking to her babies who were peep-peep-peeping back to her.  But I couldn't tell which house she was in until I went up to her house and sure enough.  She was all tucked in with her babies right next to her.

I couldn't be more proud of her.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Coop modification

Having chickens has really challenged my "handy-man" skills.  Of which I have very little.  Not to mention arthritis in my right hand and a lack of power tools, well, you see where this is going.

So when it came time to get chickens, building a coop was simply out of the question.  Thankfully, there are PLENTY of kits and pre-built coops to choose from.  But sometimes, they require a little modification to make them work just right.

I would give anything to go back and do this all over again because I'd buy the same coop I first bought, only the next size bigger.  These Amish built coops are REALLY well built.  And for the money, they are a great value.  But you put in one Jersey Giant and two HUGE Buff Orpingtons and suddenly, there's no more room at the inn.

My Amish built coop.  Big enough for 3-5 hens but I wish I had gone bigger.  I could have built out a separation pen inside.
Out of desperation, I bought a temporary coop for the Bunkies which solved my issues at the time.  But the one problem I continued to have was not having a place to separate babies or a bullied hen.  So I recently bought one of these Handcrafted Coop kits and put it together.  And I like it for my environment.  It's also on the small size and I wouldn't trust it in the snow or a really cold environment. There's no room inside to put food or water.  But as a nursery for a mama and babies, it's perfect!

But Honey wouldn't go in it.  If I opened up the big side door used for clean out, she'd hop right up inside.  So I knew she didn't hate it.  I finally came to the conclusion that the ramp was too steep and the foot bars not big enough for her.

So off to the local lumber yard.  And thank goodness we still have one of those old fashioned places that will offer advice AND cut the lumber for you.  When I told the guy what I wanted to do, he asked what kind of chickens I had.  And when I told him Buff Orpingtons, the guy in line behind me piped up that he too had BO's.  Small world.

Honey Bear coming down her new ramp.  It's much wider and more stable and she has no trouble with this one.
So here are my handy skills at work.  And I must say, I'm quite pleased with myself.  The ramp is no where near as steep as her old one and those foot bars give her something to step on as she goes up or down.  Using meal worms, I got her to go up it several times with no issue at all.  But when I went out last night at bedtime, she once again had decided to bunk in the big girls house.

I do think it takes them three times to learn something new so I plan on going out there again tonight and tomorrow to encourage her up her new ramp.

Here's a side shot of the old ramp on the bottom and the new ramp on top.  You can see how the angle is much more gentle for her to get up and how much bigger those foot bars are.

Side view showing the old ramp and the new one on top.  I can't pull it shut like this but since it's inside my predator proof run, it's not necessary to close them in.
And one shot of the babies who are growing up SOOOOO quickly!  I believe most hatcheries hatch their chicks on Monday's so they can ship them out in time for their arrival before the weekend.  And if that's the case, then she'll be four weeks old tomorrow.

Her wing and tails feathers are coming in nicely but her head and breast are still covered with down.  Giving her that awkward teenager look.  Which I happen to think is adorable.

A full tummy makes just about anyone sleepy.
My only disappointment with having a mama raise babies, is that they imprint on her and not on me.  They are scared of me and won't come near me unless mama is there.  I did get one to eat out of my hand today which was a first but they are super leery to do so.  I'm afraid I've missed my window of holding and hand feeding them to get them used to me.

Oh well, I suppose there are worse things.  I still have my Buff Orpingtons who love to cuddle in my lap.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A serious discussion about flies

I subscribe to a local chicken chat group and read that someone had to put down a hen the other day due to Flystrike.  I had never heard of this until now and after a little research, felt compelled to blog about it.  Especially, because it is so preventable.

Flystrike or Myiasis, is a condition that can affect many animals including rabbits, cats, dogs, sheep, goats and chickens.  It occurs when certain species of fly lay eggs on another animal.  The eggs hatch into maggots that then begin to eat the animal's flesh.  It causes serious pain and suffering and as we know from above, it can be fatal.

Flies are attracted to the soiled or wet area around the chicken's backside.  Although, any area of the body can be affected, especially, if there is a cut or wound.  And it only takes one fly!

It's more common in the warmer months and so we're in the peak of that season right now.  And a little prevention here can go a long way in protecting your flock.  First off, keep your runs clean.  DE can help so be sure to sprinkle some on the floors of your coops, in your nest boxes and in your hens favorite dust bathing holes.  I have a compost bin just for the chicken droppings and when it gets warm, I do notice more flies.  So I'll sprinkle a good dusting of DE over the top layer to help discourage flies.

I even went out and purchased a fly trap to hang in the run.

These fly traps work great and are just a few dollars at the hardware store.  You simply cut a hole in the top and pop up the yellow plastic trap, attach a string to the top and fill with water.  It contains a non-toxic attractant that lures the flies in where they drown.  It doesn't contain poison and you simply toss it when it's full.  I must advise you that they do stink.  So be sure to place them away from windows and doors.

I would also recommend that you regularly give each hen a good once over and check their backsides.  For those with seriously fluffy butts, don't hesitate to take a sharp scissors and trim away some of the down.  You'll be amazed and how little you need to trim off to help keep them clean back there.

I like to do this in the evening after eggs are laid and the girls have full tummies are a little tired.  I gather up the hen and hold her in my arms until she's calm.  Then I lay her on her side in my lap and cradle her close so that she feels safe.  I keep talking to her through the whole process which usually consists of just two good snips.  It's also a great time to check the bottoms of their feet for bumble foot.  And then I like to give her a couple of meal worms as a treat so she has a positive association with the whole process.

If you do find a hen with Flystrike, you need to take immediate action.  I will recommend that you Google how to treat for this but basically, you will need to smother the maggots.  Some do this by soaking the hen in saline water several times a day.  I've read other recommendations to smear their backsides with Vaseline.  I would advise seeking the advice of a vet for further guidance in this area.

And remember, happy, healthy hens, lay more eggs.  So a little effort on our part can go a long way in keeping our flocks happy and healthy.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A busy day

Today was a busy day.  I built out the new coop for Honey and her babies.  And sadly, I didn't get a photo of it.  But I can say she's safely tucked inside for the night.  There was confusion about where to go to bed.  And I thought this might happen.  So I went out to the run around bed time and sure enough she was moving around the run and not going into her new coop.  She finally went into Spice's outdoor nest and her babies all scurried right under her.  Which made it super easy to scoop up everyone and tuck them into their proper nest.

Spice likes to lay outdoors so I put this box out for her.  I need to find a proper basket or something for her but just haven't found the right thing.  
I let the girls out into the big garden while I did my work in the run.  Spice as usual managed to get her face filthy dirty.  I've started calling her Pig Pen.  I usually give her face a good wash each week.  And I'm not sure why.  Because she stays clean for about a day before she looks like this once again.  And she's SOOOOOO pretty when she's clean.  But she clearly seems to be more happy looking like this.  Oh well.

And everyone settled down for a good old fashioned dirt bath after foraging in the garden for a bit.  The babies had to dust bathe right up next to mama.  Which didn't work out so well because Honey was tossing dirt all over the place.  But they are so cute following mama around and trying to do everything she does.

I called everyone back into the run and I like to do a head count to be sure everyone is accounted for before I lock the gate.  I could hear the babies, but I could only see one.  They other two did not sound distressed so I wasn't worried.  But I couldn't find them.  I looked inside the house, not there.  I looked under mana, nope, not there.  Then I noticed the Camellia tree was moving.  And yep, there were two little ones up in the tree.  I'm going to have some flyers when these guys grow up.  That could be a problem.

Sweet little blondie up in the tree.  One of her sisters is next to her up there.

Okay, super hard to see because the two of them are more in the middle of the tree.  But two babies are in that yellow circle and one more is on the very end of the 2 by 4 up against the fence, behind mama.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One BIG happy family

I let Honey take her babies out of the confined space I had them in all week into the bigger run.  And when that went well, I opened the big gate into the garden.  Coco and Spice were laying eggs so she only had Ginger to contend with and Ginger could have cared less.

Which I just find AMAZING.  Because Ginger was the BIGGEST pill and bully when it came to integrating Honey and Spice in with her and Coco.  I really need to stop trying to figure out my hens.  Because when I think one will be a problem, she's not and another one is.  Go figure.

Honey and one of the babies enjoying tomatoes from the garden.

The tomatoes are a little big for the babies but the seeds are JUST right!

Her sister came over to see what was so yummy.

Then Honey took them out into the garden.  The babies are right in front of Honey but you can only see the blond one.

Better photo of all three babies with their mama.

And one of Ginger just lounging in the garden.  Ginger is molting.  I'm  not seeing as many feathers being dropped so I think we're on the backside of this.  But she's full of pin feathers so it's going to be a few more weeks before she's back to her old self.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I will never raise chicks again

Why you ask?  Because I've discovered that a broody will do it for you.

Honey has been broody for three weeks and I've ready so many times over that you can tuck new born chicks under a broody to raise.  And I really don't think there is anything cuter than a mama hen with babies.  So off to the feed store I went.

I really struggled with my decision on what to get.  And you are also at the mercy of what the store has at the moment.  If there were no other factors, I would only have Buff Orpingtons.  I LOVE my BO's.  But you've all read my saga of not being able to eat their eggs so I was forced to buy chicks who will lay anything but a brown egg.  I wanted Ameraucanas but when I got to the store, they were really Easter Eggers.  Nothing wrong with EE's but Pumpkin was an EE and I didn't have the best experience with that bird.  So I was hesitant.

So after much discussion with one of the people at the store, I settled on three Andulsians, two should be blue.  And OMG, are those chicks cute?

Many people swear by tucking the baby chicks under mama at night and letting her wake up with them.  But I've also read that plenty of people just do it whenever.  And honestly, I couldn't wait.  So I set the peeping box of chicks next to Honey.  They say to do this for a while so that she can sort of switch gears from protective broody to nurturing mama.  But I was a little to eager and opened up the box and tried to tuck one under her and she pecked at the baby.

So I put them back into the box and set next to her in half sun, half shade and the babies fell asleep in the sun.  And Honey slowly stood up to look at them.  After another 20 minutes or so, she was ready to accept them as her own.

They scampered under her and all fell asleep.  This is where I came to the conclusion that I'd never raise chicks on my own if at all possible.  No more heat lamp, no thermometer, no worrying if they are okay, checking up on them when they are peeping loudly, no more of any of that because Honey has it all under control.

And look at those faces of contentment.  My baby chicks in the brooder where never that content.

The babies slept for several hours while the big girls played in the garden.  When I put the girls back, the babies woke up and started running around and peeping.  Well, this got Coco and Spice's attention and they were NOT happy about these newest additions.  Thank goodness I had barricaded them.

Spice let out this pterodactyl worthy scream that honestly scared the living daylights out of me.  The three babies scattered in all directions and two of them popped right through the tiny holes in the fencing.  OMG, I had to scramble.  I shooed the big girls out and closed the gate and gathered up the babies.  I quickly moved everyone over to the Bunk House and locked them in.

The only issue there is that Spice still likes to lay in the Bunk House.  She's decided she wants to go sleep in the Spice Cabinet with her older sisters Coco and Ginger.  Ginger is not thrilled about this added house guest and still pecks at Spice, but Spice is so big and fluffy that she just turns her back on Ginger.

Not only does Spice want to lay in the Bunk House, she wants to lay in the SAME nest that Honey is broody in.  Which was fine till I got babies.  I can't have 5 birds in one nest.  So it took a great deal of encouraging yesterday to get Spice to lay in Honey's old brooder box.  Two plastic Easter Eggs helped sweeten the deal and show her it was a good, safe place to lay.

But this morning I'm having some regrets about not getting Easter Eggers so I think I'll dash back over to the store this morning and see if I can't pick up two EE's and tuck those under Honey.  That will be 5 which is fine for her to raise.  And it will give me some options on who to keep and who to part with once they grow up and develop their personalities.

If there are any readers out there who have Andulsians, I'd love to hear from you about your experience with this breed.  You can email me directly at

And stay tuned for more cuteness photos to follow in the coming weeks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I think I'm going to do it

Get more chicks that is.  Honey is still broody and I think she'd be a fabulous mama.  And I've always wanted to have that experience of watching a hen raise young.

I found my biggest hesitation was around Ginger.  And it still is.  But if I build out a small barricaded area inside my run to protect them, then I should be good.  I can put Honey in there with chicks and keep them physically separated for several weeks till the chicks are big enough to understand they need to stay away from big, bad Ginger.

And even though I only want two more chickens, I think I'll pick up more chicks than that, maybe 4 or 5.  This will help ensure that I end up with two hens.  I worry about just buying two and having one turn out to be a rooster or heaven forbid, we lose one.  Both have happened to me before.

And the chicks would have a bigger safety in numbers statistic against Ginger.

I don't think I'd have any trouble selling or giving away the extras.  The hardest part would  be the emotional aspect of seeing them go.  But there are plenty of people in the area who have chickens and have no desire to raise them from chicks.  Which I can totally understand.  It's a commitment for sure.

So a few things need to play out just right.  Honey needs to still be broody Saturday morning.  The feed store has to have some Ameraucana or Easter Egger chicks that are no more than 2-3 days old.  And I need to find some time to get to the hardware store to get some hard wire cloth to build out a temporary pen for them.  And ideally, I should do that tonight and put Honey in there to give her a few days to acclimate before Saturday.

Keep your fingers crossed for me and I promise to post lots of cute photos.