Chickens, Farm Life

Signs of Life

Spring is just around the corner! The signs are everywhere from the tulip bulbs poking through the mulch to the increased egg production from the ladies! Kevin and Noodle are preparing to nest as well, taking long walks into the woods to find the perfect spot for a turkey gal to lay.

Spring also means it’s time for chicks! The local Tractor Supply has some in and I succumbed and added several water chickens to the nursery. But here at Owlcatraz we have grown accustomed to hatching a few of our own. This year there are barnevelders, marans, and Easter egger x polish crosses patiently growing. Children (and adults) enjoy the candling process to view the development of the chicks. This evening we candled our blue eggs and were pleased with the result.

At six days old this chick has a heart beat and if you watching closely, you can see it moving ever so slightly. This website has some wonderful insight into embryo development inside the egg. Only fifteen more days to go until hatch day!

Chickens

Oatmeal for the Girls

November has brought a few cooler mornings to greet the flock. Our local stores have enormous bags of quick oats that are not only delicious for the kids, but also provide a pick-me-up for the layers. 

I use approximately 5-6 cups of oats at a time; placed in a casserole dish. Boil water and add to moisten the oats, but I try not to make it watery. Then I top it off with a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

Turns out Kevin loves this morning treat too! Since she (yes, Kevin is a gal) didn’t get any the first day, I made her a special batch. 

Chickens, Farm Life

Keeping Cool

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This summer has passed with relatively few hot days. But on those days when the mercury is rising, we have used a few methods to keep the flock cool.

– chilled, halved watermelons
– fruits frozen in bundt pan (grapes, strawberries, cherries, blueberries)
– frozen cream corn (used muffin tin)
– lots of ice in multiple watering stations
– kiddie pool / wading pool filled with 2″ water and throw some fruit pieces in (also highly entertaining)

To loosen any of the frozen treats, just run under warm water for a few minutes. During the hottest portion of the day, the gals will normally rest in the shade of the woods or under the deck. How are you keeping your flock cool this summer?

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Chickens

Tricky Six vs Great Outdoors

There comes a time in every chick’s life when its time to fly the coop…

After a week of being kept inside the “big house”, the tricky six were given their first taste at freedom without the security of pen walls. These six were the first chicks we obtained this season.

A batch of silkies, these are certainly quite the characters. Noisy, prone to disrupting the peace, and running rampant on their distinct five toed feet – these chickens needed some more space to party forage.

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Don’t go into the light…

 

It took approximately 2 hours for the first chick to step over the threshold from the coop to the great outdoors. Skittish, they stayed close to the coop for the majority of the day. Our founding hens kept a close watch as did the human keepers.

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Looks lovely outside, we’ll just enjoy it from here.

 

Our area is prime habitat for hawks (we lost a full grown chicken several months ago to a hawk), but fortunately none were present today.

The true fun came at roosting time as it appears these birds need a few more days to realize the coop is home. They came close, but didn’t go inside when it was time to get roosting. Pearl and Nugget tried their best to call them inside, to no avail. That’s what kids are for though – chicken catching.

Chickens

Growing Up

The chicks continue to grow – fast. As evident by their voracious appetites and mobile abilities. Routinely there will be a chick on the top edge of the brooder, attempting to look innocent as we walk into the garage.

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As the chicks mature, they also become less willing to pose for photos.

 

These adorable feathery friends are also dust machines. A result of their constant movement and the shavings we use for bedding, no doubt. In the future, I’ve researched some varying bedding materials, including using dirt from outside in lieu of shavings. (Put that on the list for the next batch…)

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It has been such a unique experience to watch these birds lose their fluffy down and develop mature feathers. Their markings and personalities are also becoming more distinct. There is Dee Dee (the trouble maker); Bruce (the Polish with attitude); and Shirley (the runt of the flock).

Gradually, we’ve been introducing several “treats” including strawberries, alfafa sprouts and bread crumbs. Flock members devour these delicacies! The heating lamp is gradually being raised as ladies require less heat too. We’ve learned in the process how important it is to maintain a raised height for the feeder and waterer – or else these rascals will have the contents everywhere!

The countdown is on for the big move into the main coop outside!

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Brace yourself Isabelle, the chicks are coming.
Chickens

The Usual Suspects…

The youngest flock of chicks are now four weeks old. Time flies when you’re watching over these gals! Actually, they fly…In just a few short weeks, some of the bigger ones have started to take some pretty brave flights in and out of the brooder. More so than the older bantam chicks (white silkies) we have.) The bantams see perfectly content in their brooder box.

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Silkie Bantams are about 6 weeks old.

However we refurbished a run for them outside and when the weather is nice (ie, about 60 degrees) we put them outside for the day. The pen is also covered so there isn’t the open invitation to hawks.

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Golden Polish Chick

Since the bantams have some time outside, we have moved all the younger chicks into the big brooder (converted firewood holder). They are loving the new found space! The feathers growing in on the younger birds are gorgeous and a rainbow of colors and patterns. Slowly their fluffy feathers are disappearing!

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Jersey White Giants (I think.)

We have quite the gang growing up here and have only lost one chick to date! There is a runt that seems to remain unchanged since arrival, but we’re keeping a close eye on her. Key points we have learned in this chick raising endeavor:

  • Chicks will constantly kick shavings into their waterer. Prepare to clean it out often.
  • They eat. A lot. If you plan on having more than 4-6 chicks, don’t waste time with one of those little mason jar feeders, just get a big one.
  • Move slowly around them, or else there could be a stampede into the corner and the tiniest of the flock will end up on the bottom of the dog chick pile.
  • Build them a little perch/roost. They will thank you for it. Also helps alleviate chick boredom.
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Silver Polish
Chickens, Treats & Eats

Wicked Hens Lay Deviled Eggs

Is it picnic season yet? If not, it should be. Deviled eggs are a classic – all though one I’m personally not fond of. However with the persuading (he’s lucky he’s handsome) husband requesting more dishes utilizing eggs, I felt obligated to do my best to whip some up.

Turns out the recipe was well received and since then has been a staple at several gatherings. (Sorry, I’m still not a fan of hard boiled eggs, but the majority of attendees seem to enjoy them.)

Ingredients

6 hard boiled eggs, shells off, sliced in half, yolks removed

mash yolks with a fork

Combine the following in a small bowl:

Mashed yolks

1/4 cup of mayonnaise

1/2 tablespoon dill relish

1 teaspoon of yellow mustard

sprinkle of salt and pepper (add more to suit your preference)

After ingredients are mixed well together, spoon or pipe the filling into the egg whites. Sprinkle Old Bay – that’s right, no paprika here folks – on top. Keep refrigerated until time to serve!

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Thanks for your contribution Isabelle!
Chickens

Warning: Fluffy Feathers

The big batch of chicks arrived yesterday after several days of constantly checking the USPS tracking log! All of them arrived alert and oriented and they have been drinking and eating. Upon arrival to Owlcatraz, each chick had her (hoping they’re all ladies) beak dipped in water to encourage intake.) We added just a little sugar to their water to give them a boost after their journey from Iowa (Murray McMurray Hatchery) to Pennsylvania. These chicks have already had a busy first couple of days, take a look at this video giving a tour of the hatchery where they were born.

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Looking good gals!

 

There are 27 chicks total in this order; with breeds ranging from brahma to polish chicks to Jersey giants and more! Our friend, BigFootFarmer, took home a couple of chicks to add to his flock too. The family is thrilled to be able to watch these gals grow! Hopefully our matriachs (Isabelle, Pearl, Nugget and Truck) will welcome them into the flock in the coming months.

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Check out the stoic stare on this Polish chick!

 

The temperature in the brooder will stay between 90-95 degrees for the first week and drop 5 degrees each week afterwards. The larger bantams we have (brought home a week ago) are in a different brooder for the time being. The chicks are eating a commercial chick starter and we will sprinkle some chick grit on their food after the first week or so.

Chickens

Brooder Expansion

Does this sound familiar to my fellow chicken hoarders keepers, “We need a bigger brooder (or run, coop, farm, etc)”?

Over the weekend, the kids and I took it upon ourselves to take over a wood bin, made of pallets in the garage. Since we won’t be storing wood in it during the spring and summer months, it will make a perfect brooder for the chicks when they are a few weeks old.

We purchased some hardboard tempered panels from Home Depot, lucky for me, the measurements were close to the inside of the wood bin, making the need for cutting minimal.

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The hardboard has a smooth side and a rough side, we used the rough side for the inside of the brooder to give chicks a better chance at developing their sea legs. Aka, avoiding spraddle leg. When we first welcomed the chicks home, we gave them a solid base of bedding, wood shavings. Underneath the shavings, we’ve occasionally put newspaper down as this makes changing out the old bedding easier. (Just roll up and toss.)

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So far, our first batch acclimated nicely to their brooder box and have been doing well in the bigger brooder since being switched over. Another batch of chicks will be arriving tomorrow or Wednesday and we wanted to start them in the smaller brooder.

Yes, that is a “jungle gym” for the chicks. They seem to enjoy hopping up and down on it so far, gives them practice for roosting. (Pardon the fuzzy, red images.) Who can resist these adorable bantams?

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Our next batch is a special order from Murray MCMurray Hatchery and will include some polish chicks, brahmas, and Jersey giants – with a few extras thrown in. Since part of our order was a mix, we won’t know until the chicks are a few weeks old what we have. Stay tuned for more chick pics!

Chickens

Day 4. The First Batch.

Captain’s Log…Day 4.

That awesome photo you see with the two chicks? Credit of Ms. Samantha who isn’t afraid to get down on their level and go 1:1 with these peep soldiers. She caught their serious expressions rather well on camera!

The “Tricky Six” are still chirping in their brooder. Our human family is amazed at how fast they grow! There is already at least one personality showing through as one little (probably a guy) is a bit feistier than the others. By feisty, let’s be honest, he’s acting like a little asshole sometimes. (Earmuffs kids.) If we’re able to catch his “flying hops” as we call them on video, we will share; he can make it about a quarter of a way across the brooder before crashing. Impressive given his short stature.

For the most part, all peeps seem to have adjusted well to their new surroundings and they are under the watchful eye of General Lee the basset hound. Of course the kids adore them as well, so the most repeated phrase of late has been “wash your hands” to keep both kids and animals healthy.

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Another batch of peeps arrive next week which means this weekend we will be expanding the brooder. Pictures and project plans to come!