Monday, December 14, 2009

Snow day

Vulture and Walter are taking a snow day and roosting at 10am. They usually go in at dusk, and usually all stay together as a flock. The other two chickens ended up being quite distressed out in the snow without them.

Their roost is a 2 x 4, which is recommended instead of a dowel in cold climates so that their feet can be completely flat and covered by their bodies when they are sleeping.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's our first day of snow this winter and the chickens don't seem to like it so much. In this photo, Fancypants Johnson is trying to figure out how to join up with her friends under the deck without stepping in the snow.

For the past two weeks, we've had temperatures below freezing so I had Richard make a heated water dispenser. In the photo you can see the white dispenser sitting on a square cookie tin which has a lightbulb inside.

Also this month three of the chickens had their wing feathers clipped. They are now able to fly up as high as the fence, and we can't have them escaping our backyard. Richard clipped each on one side which discourages them from flying since they can't go straight. Only Penguin hasn't been clipped since she doesn't fly much and seems to be lowest in the pecking order. In this picture I'm holding Walter who is about to have three inches cut off her left flight feathers.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Flock of four

It's been a month since the last post -- we've now got our four hens. They are Vulture, Fancypants Johnson, Walter and Penguin. It was easy to get a picture of them since they come up to me hoping for table scraps every time I go outside!

The next big milestone will be when they start laying eggs which could be anytime now.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Here's our flock of six chickens -- we started at fourteen chicks and are working our way down to a manageable number. It's been a hard process -- four little bantam roosters were sold at auction in September. Next we sold two bantam hens to a family through craigslist. Then two standard-sized roosters went in the freezer last weekend :-( We'll keep these six as long as none of them start crowing...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Summer's over... I'm preparing the coop for fall weather.

Richard built a feeder out of PVC piping and wood that we can fill from the outside. It holds several days' worth of food.

Today I made some curtains that can be let down to keep rain out on really bad days. Keeping the coop somewhat dry will be healthier for the chickens. All of the bedding will be allowed to build up in the coop over the winter to compost and provide heat. (This is called the deep litter method) I dig it up and add fresh wood shavings and diatomaceous earth on top every week. This week I used our first fall leaves for bedding.

The chickens in the foreground of this picture are Mohawk and Fancypants Johnson.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Here's a recent picture of Stinky (see my older posts to see this one hatching from an egg). He's looking like a rooster -- hens don't usuallly get red combs this early.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The chickens are big enough to run out freely in the backyard now, although one of us stays outside still when they're out of their coop. One of the neighborhood cats seems a little too interested in them and stalks them right in front of me.

We're down to 8 now -- yesterday I sold the last two small black bantams (probably hens) to a family who lives on a farm. This was through craigslist and we had a much better feeling about this sale than last week's auction experience. So the remaining chickens are Stinky, Mohawk, Vulture, Fancypants Johnson, two Penguins, and the two large dark ones now named Walter and St. Elmo. We'll wait til we know which of these are roosters before we decide which 4 we can keep long-term.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We're down to 10 chickens now. At the rate they're growing, the coop was getting too crowded with all 14. So Sam and I went to the poultry auction this morning with the four small roosters. It was a terrible time to take them -- twice as many birds were for sale as usual. Someone was saying that people try to get rid of lots at the end of the summer. Anyhow by the end of the auction, full sized roosters were going for $2 each. Ours were so tiny they went for $1 for all four! We really had no choice but to get rid of these guys, but I was just sick that nobody really wanted them. Here's a picture of Sam saying goodbye to "Ninja".

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The chicks have been in the coop for a week now. (They were in the kids playroom and the house was starting to smell way too chickeny...)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fourteen chickens will soon be too many for our coop, so the bigger they get the sooner we'll have to make some tough choices. This weekend I may take a few roosters to the auction. Anyhow I thought I'd take pictures of them all in the same groupings as last month so you can see how much they've changed. First - Stinky who we hatched from an egg. Hen or rooster? I still can't tell.

The Penguins: These two are still calm and easygoing. They seem like they'd be good egglayers to me, but I still don't know if they're hens or not.

The Pretty Boys: Fancypants Johnson and Roadrunner. There's hope that Fancypants (on the left) is a hen, but I can tell by Roadrunner's early red comb and aggressive behavior that he's a rooster. Both of these are favorites of the family since they are unique looking and friendly.

The Bosses: Mohawk (on the left) is clearly a rooster and has been identified by my friends on " as a "Lavender Polish Cross". Vulture (with Sam) is I hen we hope, and may be an "Easter Egger". This breed lays green, blue or pink eggs.

The Dark Horses: Now called St. Elmo (on the left with the gold on his wings) and The Other Black One. These two have gotten huge, and are both quite skittish. We still don't know if they're male or female.

The two brothers: They've gotten over picking on eachother, but both are looking like roosters...

Big little men... I'm hoping the two on the left are bantam hens actually -- both are friendly and one will fly up and land on my arm when I go in the coop.

Finishing up the coop... The chickens have been sleeping outside in their halfway finished home for about a week. The roof was on by the time it started raining at least...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Richard is making the coop this week. Thanks Dave and Aileen for the scrap wood!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meet the new chicks. Some are distinguishing themselves quite early by picking fights, trying to fly out of the cage, or by just looking beautiful. Since we can only keep a few hens, the question is who will make it to the final four?

Penguin 1 and Penguin 2: These two stay under the radar and my guess is that they're both hens.

Little Big Men: These guys have too much attitude for their own good! The smallest of the group, they enjoy flying and picking fights with bigger chicks. My guess would be that they are bantam roosters.

Prettyboys? Roadrunner and Fancypants Johnson. These are the two that caught my eye when I was looking in the various boxes of chicks at the auction. From what I've read, they may be "Easter Eggers", chickens who lay blue, green or pink eggs! If they're hens that is.

The Bosses: Vulture and Mohawk. These two are older and twice the size of the others, but have been quite mellow and never peck at the younger chicks. I've tried to figure out their breeds, but the jury is still out.

The Dark Horses: We have two medium-sized black chicks, and now one is starting to assert himself in the group like a rooster would. The blackest one (in the foreground) seems to stay out of trouble.

Two brothers: These two are always squaring off in chest-bumping contests, a favorite pasttime of young roosters. The one on the left used to dominate and finish off fights by pecking the other guy on the back. However the smaller one now seems to be the aggressor now and is starting to chase the other one, tackle him and pull out his feathers. This can't go on for too long...

It's amazing how quickly the chicks are changing. I'm posting a picture of Stinky fluffing out all his/her new feathers. We moved them into a larger home yesterday (this is our deck storage box temporarily moved indoors).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The chicks are settling in this week and it's been a lot of fun to watch them. The kids get to handle them a lot so that they are used to people. Richard has started building a coop for the backyard.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

When I got home from the auction, I put the new chicks in a "brooder" that I set up on the hearth in the playroom. Right away they started eating and drinking. Here's a picture of Stinky (in the foreground) who doesn't know what to make of all of the new chicks. Once he started assimilating he went around pecking at them...

Since we were down to one chick again, I called the woman who sold me the eggs, Dyanna, to see if she had any chicks for sale. She didn't have any but recommended that I go to the Saturday morning poultry auction. I went and found among the many boxes of chicks (most of them containing 20+) this box of " 13 Mixed Chicks". I was excited about this particular box since 13 is a manageable number and they were such a beautiful assortment of colors. So I was quite nervous when it came time to bid, but then nobody bid against me and I got them for $1 each.

Photography wasn't allowed inside the auction or I would have taken lots of pictures of the many cages of birds and rabbits that were up for sale. Anyhow I took a picture of my box of chicks in the parking lot. I'm thinking I'll come back to this auction in a couple of months to sell off the roosters or extra hens I end up with. We only plan to keep three hens.

It's been a rough couple of days -- three more chicks hatched (all very late) and didn't survive. I don't know if it was poor development, temperatures in the incubator, or what. The first chick that hatched, now named "Stinky" :-( is still alone in the brooder box.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

After resting in the incubator overnight, the boys and I moved the chick to a temporary "brooder". This is a box under a light that has a warm side and cool side so the chick can regulate his temperature. When the chick is completely dried off and steady on his feet we'll put in food and water. The poor little guy looks lonely... We are still hoping that one of the eggs left in the incubator will hatch. One is showing signs of progress this morning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This first little chick has been very active since he popped out of the egg an hour ago.

One of the eggs is hatching today -- we're hearing lots of peeping and that chick is really struggling to get out. The other egg that started hatching last night still looks about the same with one little hole in the side and movement every once in a while.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's been a long day with the incubator. This morning the boys and I "candled" the eggs with a lamp and gave up on five that weren't developed. (This is the edited version of the story...) Things were looking grim as the day wore on and there were no signs of hatching from the other eggs, but tonight two eggs are pipped (see photo -- the two eggs on the right are the ones). There are little holes in two of the eggs, and I heard peeping from inside one! If we even get one chick to hatch I will be very relieved. We'll see what happens overnight...
Well our "hatch date" was yesterday and still no chicks. I'm not too hopeful at this point...

Friday, July 24, 2009

The eggs are in the last few days of incubation and are due to hatch Sunday. Today we entered full "lockdown" mode -- which means you're supposed to keep the incubator closed to keep in the humidity.

I'm very anxious for at least some of them to hatch -- there are so many variables. With our homemade incubator and the recent hot weather, I've had trouble keeping the temperature constant. The thermometer beeps when it gets too hot, and I've had to manually open the lid to cool things off to the target temperature of 99 degrees. Twice it was beeping for an hour at the borderline temperature of 102 degrees when I wasn't around. And last night after making adjustments to keep humidity in, the incubator ran at below 95 degrees overnight. People who do this a lot say things like "a one degree variation in temperature can ruin your hatch". But then there are others who point out that "eggs withstand a lot of variation in nature so don't worry". I went ahead this week and bought the cute little chick feeding tray, 20 kg of feed and the water dispenser.

Saturday our family will be at Playland Amusement Park all day for Richard's company picnic, so fingers crossed that we don't come home to a beeping thermometer!

Friday, July 17, 2009

I've been "candling" the eggs with a lamp every couple of days to see the development. So far all of our eggs show veins inside and an embryo moving around. Here is an image from day 11. The dark spot is the eye.

We're hatching some chicken eggs this summer and have them in a homemade incubator. The eggs are from a farm in Langley, BC that breeds "ISA Reds and Auracanas". Our eggs are different shades of whites and browns so we should end up with a variety of types of chicks.

I got our eggs on July 7 and the incubation period is 21 days. Our incubator keeps the temperature at 99-100 and humidity at around 40%.

The "X" marks on the eggs help in knowing which side is up since we have to turn them a couple times a day like a mother hen would. The reason for turning the eggs is so that the developing embryos don't get stuck to the inside of the shell.

Anyhow, assuming that half of the eggs hatch (like in nature) and that half are hens, we'll have three hens to keep in the backyard. (Not that I'm counting them yet...)