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!

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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

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!

Chickens

Prolapse Vent

Our first real chicken “emergency” occurred on Friday evening after the kids and I returned home. The hen count resulted in a missing hen and after a few minutes of searching, Dirtbike (yes, she’s a she) was found sitting on the ground in a darkened corner of the coop. I picked her up and could immediately feel an (unnatural) large lump near her vent. I brought her inside and was (horrified) to find a bloodied, red and excrement covered lump under her tail feathers. I started a warm bath and began washing away the excrement in the hopes of uncovering the source of Dirtbike’s pain.

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The family gathered to help Dirtbike relax.

 

*Use Caution – following graphics are not for the weak of heart.*

She was obviously uncomfortable and had probably spent the better part of the day in pain. A tell tale egg was found on the floor of the coop (with some blood on it) and was probably Dirtbike’s final legacy left to the family.

In the midst of attempting to clean Dirtbike I contacted my chicken mentor, BigFootFarmer, who reiterated my suspicions that this occurred before or during her egg laying and there might be a need to ease Dirtbike from her misery. Next I checked out the Chicken Chick’s site (she’s basically an encyclopedia of all things chicken).

*Note, it is so important to have a “farm” first aid kit stocked and ready to go. If you don’t have one, get one. You’re going to need it someday.

I continued to clean the area while Dirtbike remained rather sedate during all of the attention. However she continued to lose blood and was unable to stand on her own after a big. The decision was made to say goodbye to one of our founding hens and help her cross the rainbow bridge to that great big chicken coop in the sky.

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Photo was taken post bath, outside. Dirtbike had crossed the chicken rainbow bridge.
Chickens, Farm Life

Finishing Touches

The prized coop of Owlcatraz is still having some finishing touches put onto it. (Have I ever mentioned how handy my husband is?) There has been quite the adventure in ordering shingles (because they had to match the type on our house…which will inevitably have to match the type on the barn). Word to the wise, if you’re specialty ordering shingles, don’t be in a rush.

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I don’t think the hens could really give two shits feathers about the shingles, but they at least pretend to be interested.