Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hand taming the chickens

The newest chicken -- now about 5 months old -- is finally integrated with the flock. She got chased around so much by the others that she's also scared of people. She still does't eat out of our hand unless she's being held. Any ideas for a name? In these pictures the chickens are being fed "scratch" which is a mix of grains and cracked corn that they love. Their regular pellets have more protein and less fat. I think that an ideal diet for a chicken would be 1/3 pellets and scratch, 1/3 vegetation and 1/3 bugs and worms. The chicken run is full of straw, old grapevines, and fall leaves now. Hopefully the pen won't get too muddy this winter.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tori Spelling's Chicken Gets Handmade Outfits

Lucky Silkie chicken Coco wears a sweater knitted by hand by her owner Tori Spelling. If you're so inclined, here is a chicken sweater pattern to get you started!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chickens sold on craigslist

This week we advertised and sold a pair of Easter Egger chicks that are 10 weeks old. The one pictured on the left is looking like a rooster with his red comb and feathering, the one on the right has female characteristics.

The buyer has a flock of 100 and is converting to Black Copper Marans and Easter Eggers for their egg colours. So asked her if she'd want our problem Maran Ginger as well. Her egg laying is back to normal, but she has been a bully in our flock. The buyer took Ginger for $15; this is a discounted price since Marans would usually go for $25. The chicks were $20 for the pair.

This brings us to 5 chickens -- a manageable number for our space. We'll get 3-4 eggs a day with these particular hens.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chicks now 8 weeks old

Here's what the chicks look like now. Fancypants is still mothering them -- when there's food around she clucks for them and waits for them to eat first. Also she still sleeps with them. (Except for one who has taken to sleeping up in the grape vines for some reason).

We're waiting a few weeks to see if any are hens, then we'll decide which chickens to sell. Of course we can't keep any rooster. We may replace an older hens with one of these. With chickens, their egg production decreases after a couple of years, so you have to keep new ones coming in.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Finally -- green eggs from "Easter Egger" breed

This month the chickens are doing well -- and we're getting green eggs from a new hen that we bought this spring. Things seem pretty much back to normal with egg production. I've even been able to give some extras to a friend.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ginger's egg quality problems continuing

One hen, Ginger, has been laying the occasional soft-shelled egg this summer so we've been trying to improve her diet. So far, it is not helping. She generally alternates between a regular egg, an egg with a chalky coating, and a soft-shelled egg. From Monday - Thursday this week she didn't lay anything at all, indicating that she may be eggbound.  Sure enough she had a bulge just under her vent. This is the first time I've had this happen, so I looked up what to do on the forum at backyardchickens.com. Anyhow, yesterday I followed the recommended cures -- warm Epsom salt bath, heating pad, putting olive oil into the vent with a dropper, and the rubber glove treatment. This is probably too much information. Anyhow, this morning she laid two eggs. One had a soft shell and was broken in the nest, and the other was the chalky coated egg. This can't go on...
Update on 8/12: No problems this week....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Double-yolk egg from new layer

The new hen pictured here just started laying eggs a couple weeks ago. Most of the eggs were still on the smallish side -- which is normal -- but then we got this huge one with a double yolk!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chickens back in the coop

After a few days of letting the mothers and chicks free in the yard, we've moved them into the regular coop. They seem to be doing fine. I thought we might keep them out to mow our grass for us for a while, but this seems simpler.

Hen laying soft-shelled eggs

Ginger, a one year old Black Copper Maran, has periodically been laying strange looking eggs. What caught my attention were two recent ones with papery soft shells. Some of her eggs also have some whitish areas on the shell. After looking this up, it seems that it is a sign of an unbalanced diet lacking in calcium and protein.

This makes sense, as I rarely see Ginger eating the regular chicken feed (pellets and oyster shell). In fact, she is a real hog of kitchen scraps and often chases the other chickens away if we put something out. We used to think it was kind of funny -- Ginger knew how to work the system and get the good stuff. But it seems to be a problem, especially since we throw out a lot of bread and vegetable scraps that would be low in protein and calcium.

Our solution right now is to separate her for a while and only give her access to the regular pellets and oyster shell. We'll wait to throw any scraps out to the other chickens when Ginger is in her own cage. We'll try this for a little while. I'd hope we could throw out bread, etc. without one chicken eating it all.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Free ranging family

Two hens are more protective than one so we decided to let these guys free range. Look at the scratching claws on that chicken. We won't have to mow the backyard anymore this summer.

Friday, June 29, 2012

So far so good with two moms and chicks

Three chicks hatched yesterday -- there was one egg that never had developed. The two hens seem to be sharing duties with no problems so far. They sit together with the chicks and both are showing them where the food is today. 

In the photo below, Fancypants has her self all fluffed out so the chicks can come under and rest. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Two mamas keeping eachother company

We've sure ended up with a broody bunch of chickens. Maryanne (on the right) was sitting on a nest, then Fancypants started stealing eggs into the nest on the left and started sitting too. I'd love witness a chicken moving an egg out of one box into another one. The golf balls (fake eggs) keep ending up in different places too. Anyhow, now they each have two eggs  -- they're due to hatch in a few days. I'm not sure if they'll all make it since I noticed a couple got cold when they were being moved around.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Easter Eggs

The 2 hens we bought this week are Easter Eggers -- chickens that carry the blue egg gene. So they may lay blue or green eggs -- we'll see. They could also come out brown, pink, or white.The breeder gave us a few of the coloured eggs to put under one of our chickens just for fun. Maybe they'll hatch.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two pullets purchased today

Being a little sad that we are down to three hens, we started watching for ads this week. This afternoon we bought two pullets -- juvenile females who should start laying eggs in a couple months. We gave them a dustbath and tonight they are sleeping in a separate cage til we transition them to the coop.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Other happenings

I've got vegetables started in the yard and in the greenhouse right now. There are suddenly more greens and lettuces than I know what to do with.The kale is out of control, but we found out from a friend that the flowers are good on salads. These days I try to serve meals on a bed of greens. The boys are getting used to it.

There are also the more popular summer crops in the works like tomatoes, carrots, peas and cucumbers.

This year we also have Tilapia for the first time (pictured below). They need warm water so the setup is in the laundry room for now. I'm not sure how long this is going to work out....

Anyhow it is a 3 barrel setup -- one filter, one with plants, and one with about 25 fish. The water circulates between the barrels and is heated. It is a work in progress -- Richard has spent countless hours on this.

Also pictured below is what we hope will be a breeding tank with both Pink and Nile Tilapia.

The fish are growing fast -- they were fingerlings in January and now they're pan-sized. We'll probably start to harvest the biggest ones in about a month. The idea was that it would be great to have fresh fish on hand. I hate trying to buy fish at the supermarket!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flock of three

Two weeks ago we were worried about losing a chicken who had a prolapse. She recovered and is back with the flock.

However today we ended up having to get rid of another favorite hen, Walter, who had taken a dominant role and started crowing this spring. We took Walter to the farm where two of our other chickens are living. So now we're down to 3 hens (from front to back)  Ginger, Mary Ann, and Fancy Pants Johnson. Most hens don't crow, so hopefully we won't have this problem again.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Emergency treatment for prolapse

The other day we noticed one of our favorite hens Fancypants Johnson, looked like she was having some digestive problems. The other chickens looked normal, so I was just hoping it would resolve itself. Then today we noticed she has a prolapsed oviduct -- it looks like a hemorrhoid. Poor thing. The prognosis isn't too great -- they can have difficulty laying eggs, other chickens tend to peck at them, etc. This afternoon we cleaned her up and put her in isolation in a dark shed to slow down egglaying and give her a chance to heal.
Update: Yesterday she looked about the same. She laid an egg which doesn't help. Today there seems to be less swelling, so I hope she's healing up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Two bantam hens off to a farm

Yesterday we sold the cochin and frizzle to some people who are just starting up a henhouse on their farm. We ended up selling these hens because as smaller breeds they weren't integrating well with the rest of our flock.

They sent us a photo of the new coop -- the frizzle was already inside on the nest. The hope is that she'll sit on some eggs this spring. Keep us posted, ok?

Update: We went to visit the farm -- they have a great setup and are just getting going on raising vegetables and chickens. The frizzle is sitting on 12 chicken eggs, a duck egg and a goose egg! All are due to hatch in the next two weeks -- we'll see how it goes!

2nd Update: Our friends were disappointed that only two of the eggs under their new broody hatched :-( . Lesson to be learned -- there is such a thing as too many eggs under one chicken.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring dustbath for bantam cochins

The two cochins have been staying in the greenhouse -- the bigger chickens chase them around too much. One disadvantage to staying inside is that there is no dustbath. Today they were out front with me and had a great time rolling around in the flowerbed.

I just advertised these two. Having chickens in the greenhouse stresses me out now that I have seeds planted. If they got out of their little pen, they'd eat every little sprout.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Silkie is now at Art Knapps

Last week the silkie started crowing, so it was time to find a place for him. I placed an ad on Craigslist asking $15 (more expensive than the cost of a Safeway chicken so he'd only get bought as a pet), but nobody responded to the ad. This chicken is quite small, so we didn't really want to have him for meat ourselves.

Richard had the idea of calling Art Knapps, a local garden center that sells chickens, peacocks, pigeons, etc. Amazingly enough they said they'd take him. They're going to group him with two other red 1/2 silkie hens. I think this is about the best outcome we could have hoped.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Silkie gets company and starts crowing

Worrying that the silkie was getting lonely, I started putting the cochins in the greenhouse with him this week. Wouldn't you know, the first time I let them stay overnight he started crowing the next morning! I guess now he figures he has girls to wake up. He is looking very roostery with his turquoise earlobes and everything.

Cochin frizzle -- what a fancy lady!

We have two bantam cochin hens that hatched in September. This one has the "frizzle" gene which results in curly feathers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This year's eggs

Five hens are laying now -- and what great colours we're getting! The dark brown ones are from the Black Copper Marans.

This fall, they laid very few eggs for various reasons. One hen still had chicks she was raising, two others molted their feathers and stopped completely, and then there were the two Marans who were still too young to produce anything. Plus with the days shorter, egg production usually slows way down by winter. But they all started up in January -- this past week we got about 25 eggs!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Questions from a friend who is thinking of keeping backyard chickens

My friend emailed me some questions about chickens so I thought I'd post them here. She hatched Auracana and Hyline chicks with her kids as a project and would like to keep the hens. Some background: they live in Kelowna, BC and their backyard is about a quarter acre.

"I wonder if you can tell me:

1. What breed of hens you have had best luck with for laying. Is there a type of hen you recommend? I liked the idea of small chickens...

I hear that Auracanas and Hylines are popular and lay a lot of eggs. I think these breeds sound fine! Since your chicks have been together since hatching, they are likely to get along with each other pretty well.

Other good breeds I've had are Black Copper Marans and Jersey Giants. I think that larger chickens such as these are practical because they are less likely to be attacked by suburban predators such as cats. I like this chart on Backyardchickens.com for breed information.

2. What size run did you make?

Our coop is probably too small -- only 10 square feet for the enclosed henhouse and 25 square feet for the lower part of the coop. This coop is made of wood and hardware cloth (not chicken wire) to keep out predators at night. (Here's a photo). Once our original 4 chickens were full grown, we started letting them free range in the yard during the day. However, they made such a mess of the yard that we now confine them to a 120 square foot area during the day. (pictured here). This has worked out great especially now that we have netting over the top so we never have to worry about predators. Sometimes I use this chicken tractor as well. You mentioned you'd be using a chicken tractor -- this will probably work our really well since you have a large yard. Could you tell me more about it?

3. What you do to winterize your coop...red light?

Our winters aren't too cold on the west coast so the only thing we heat is the water. We have a red light that we've never used. The top part of the henhouse is pretty snug, with ventilation on a sheltered side of the coop.

4. How often you are cleaning coop...daily or every second day?

We use the "deep litter method" to cut down on maintenance. The enclosed part of the coop has several inches of bedding which I rake every couple days to get the droppings started composting. I change this bedding monthly. The run also has several inches of bedding and the chickens scratch around and break everything down. Every couple months I rake this bedding into the compost and put out fresh bedding.

5. Have you had any problems with rats? or any other predators?

I come across signs of rats occasionally, but no more than when we had just a regular bird-feeder in the yard! To discourage them, the chicken feeder is kept inside the coop which is locked at night.

This year we did have a raccoon try to get into the chicken tractor during broad daylight, but a neighbor shooed it away.

6. After two years what do you do with your layers?

We are dealing with each chicken on an individual basis. Last year we sold a 1.5 year old hen because she wasn't getting along with the others. We have three other hens coming up on two years and their egg production has slowed down -- one is pretty mean and will probably go into the stewpot. The other two we'll probably keep around since we really like them.

7. Feed: do you do the store bought or combo of table scraps and greens...I was concerned it could attract rats.

We use store bought "Layer pellets" in a feeder so they always have food available. This is locked inside the coop at night. We put out table scraps and store bought chicken scratch, but only what they'll eat during that day.

Our compost / vegetable scrap / grass clipping area is in the chicken run and they like to dig around in there as well. This doesn't seem to attract rats. We don't use any weed killer in our yard so all yard trimmings go into the chicken's compost area. The chickens do the job of turning up the compost and breaking everything down.

8. Flu...did you have any problems with sickness in your flock ever?

We haven't had any sickness. Since you hatched your chicks from eggs like we did, I think likelihood of sickness is low. I use diatomaceous earth as a natural insecticide.

9. Bedding: what do you use...I was told sawdust which can be put into our yard waste bin!

For bedding, we use whatever is available. This fall we got 6 free bales of straw off craigslist, so we've been using that lately. I also use fall leaves. Wood shavings are nicest, and I use this for the top part of the coop where they sleep.

All of the old bedding goes onto the compost pile. After a year it becomes garden soil!