The Farm*Homestead*Garden Blog

All things farm, garden, homestead related from the Catsndogs4us family.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Chick Season Continues

We made it through the power outage with day old chicks just fine then had a quiet Friday. In addition to our six- day old layers we ordered we also reserved some cochins from a breeder in our state. The fun thing about their cochins is that they come in fun colors like calico and some have frizzled feathers. I messaged the breeder to find out why I hadn't heard anything in awhile from them. No answer but I found out through a chicken group and then checking the cochin breeder's own page that they were shutting down their business for the year. They had hatching/incubator issues with various power outages and also suffered predator loss :-(. So no calico, no frizzle for me or maybe....When some of us were chatting about this situation in a chicken group another breeder stepped forward to mention her Tolbunt Polish chickens which are calico type coloring and she was hatching frizzles too. I made an appointment to visit that farm on Saturday so off we went. The Polish chicks and also silkies and mixes that were available were all so adorable! We ended up choosing a Frizzled Tolbunt Polish, a Smooth Tolbunt Polish and just for fun a little showgirl (naked neck) brown silkie. The breeder then offered another silkie for free and we chose a lavender. What a fun little bunch of chicks. So now we had our just good layers and our fun and fancy chicks to raise this spring. We knew from the start that we had one frizzle and one smooth feathered Polish since they were several days old. With the silkies though it was a mystery that we had to wait a few days for since they were newly hatched. It has developed that the lavender silkie is smooth feathered and the little brown showgirl is...frizzled! I love surprises and that was a fun one. Now we have to think girl thoughts since these latest four chicks are straight run, it could go either way.

What a face!

Four new chicks on the ride home.

Showgirl (naked neck) Silkie and Lavender Silkie.

Frizzle Tolbunt Polish and Smooth Tolbunt Polish.

The Whole Gang- Ten Spring Chicks.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A power outage right as chick season begins for us!

Our six "just good layers" were due to arrive at a feed store down near homeschool co-op on April 5th.    I chose to order there 1. Because they had Cuckoo Marans available and I need more very dark layers and 2. Because the chicks arrival dates were all on Thursday and we're at homeschool co-op on Thursdays. This farm store being only 10 minutes away from co-op and on the way home seemed perfect. I'd pick up my chicks after co-op on the 5th. After my drama class play on the 5th. After the busy 24 hours prior to their pick up was done.

I had a little help getting the brooder ready!

Meanwhile on the 4th in between getting ready for my drama class play I was getting the brooder ready and then the phone rang. It was the store from which we ordered the chicks, they came in early and we should head there to pick up our new chicks. Ahhhh, not ready, not the right day, can we even make it there today between other things needing to be done on this day. chicks... we changed plans, grabbed a box as we had been instructed and raced south to pick up the new babies.

Once the baby chicks were picked up they seemed a bit frantic in the box. baby chicks are not usually frantic (in my experience). In the rush I had forgotten that the bottom of the cardboard box would be slippery for them. I guess I thought the feed store would put some shavings in the box or something but they didn't. I solved this problem by putting my t-shirt in the box for them to walk on. I wear lots of layers in the winter so removing one was no great loss! The chicks were still somewhat frantic though and pecking each other more than I expected. One chick also pecked and held onto the toe of another chick! They seemed...hungry! One day old chicks, or even two day old chicks are not usually frantically hungry they're still absorbing the yolk from their egg. These chicks were very young, had shipped in one day instead of the usual two and all still had their egg tooth, confirming that they were very young. But still they seemed very hungry and unsettled! Since we had a bag of starter- grower crumbles at home I didn't purchase food with them so we had to make a stop for some food. Thankfully there are a lot of farm and feed stores on our route home, it's New Hampshire. haha. next stop we got a bag of starter food and gave them some. That certainly solved the problem. We also gave them a little bowl of water. They were more interested in the food though and ate most of the way home, which was a 45 minute drive. Finally they napped when we were almost home. I can only guess that they had a rough trip to the feed store. It can't be nice hatching from your warm egg then getting tossed into a box with many more chicks and sent through the U. S. mail.

NOT NICE the box is too slippery!

 That's better a comfy shirt to rest and walk on but still fussy chicks!

They don't want water.

Food that is what they want and then they settled!

We settled the chicks into their brooder once home. Lots of eating and drinking and napping. They seemed content. The new chicks are a Buff Orpington, a Golden Comet, a White Leghorn, a Silver Laced Wyandotte and two Cuckoo Marans.

Learning where the food and water are.

Getting cozy under their electric hen brooder plate.

Once the chicks were eating and drinking well I added shavings under their sleeping area and just kept the paper towels for the food and water area.

All was going well until close to midnight. It was a  very windy night so I was a little worried about the wind and a possible power outage but fell asleep anyway. Soon after I fell asleep we had a power outage! I was so worried about keeping them warm, these brand new baby chicks. This was the first time in 2 years that we were brooding by heat plate rather than momma hen. I had a few hand warmers in my chicken supplies for such a time as this so I wrapped those in a towel and placed near the brooder heat plate. I piled coats and blankets around the brooder cage, I also lit a kerosene heater but it's not one that gives out a great lot of heat. After about an hour some fussy cheeping began, I think the chicks were getting a bit cold and I didn't know what to do. I could put them next to me but what if I dozed and rolled on them or a cat got them, we do have curious cats. Even though it's spring here the weather is still very wintery, it's been much colder than usual and the house was well below 50 degrees at this time. I finally decided that my best option was to go out to the coop and grab an adult silkie to see if she would keep the babies warm in their brooder. I knew there were one or two silkies in semi broodiness. There are almost always one or two or more silkies in semi broodiness!

In the dark coop I selected my candidate, a black silkie who was sleeping in a nest box instead of on the roost, broody behavior. I kept everything as dark as I could, brought her into the house, placed her into the brooder cage and eased the baby chicks under her and near her. The silkie seemed a little confused but stayed put and kept those babies warm!

Silkie hen saves the day (night)!

By morning the power came back on, I stayed up just in case miss Silkie got annoyed with the chicks but she just sat until it started to get light out. THEN she got annoyed with them! She wasn't too bad though she knew they weren't hers. Chicks were placed back under their now warm again brooder plate, Miss Silkie was returned to to flock outdoors and all was well. Except the fact that I had no sleep and had a class play to direct in a couple hours. Yawn!

You are not my children!

Chicks warm, clean and happy.

Play set up, performed and taken down.

Tiny Silkie was the star of the play, she came along for the children to see and take pictures with.

I was so glad when April 5th was done. The power didn't go out again, the chicks were happy and healthy and although I didn't feel very well at all we made it through. Play done, chicks safe and sleep to come. I slept well and took it somewhat easy on the 6th, there was another snowstorm anyway so not much to do around the farm. Good thing I rested since the 7th held another adventure!

Transitioning the birds to all flock as grow out birds fully join the flock

The big baby chicks are fully integrated with the adult flock now in fact the young birds prefer the older birds layer pells. meanwhile the layers are eating the chick grower from the younger birds area. Time to switch to all flock! There are a few different names for it, Multi Flock, All Flock, probably a couple others depending on brand but the idea is that all your birds of all ages can eat this one food. All Flock usually comes in a crumble or a pellet. I can choose either since my big baby chicks are old enough for pellets and my new brooder babies indoors will stay on their own starter food for now. This will simplify feeding for all the outdoor birds. The one thing to remember is to put down calcium of some sort for the layers. they will take is as needed and the chicks should leave it alone. Calcium can be in the form of dried and ground up eggshells (I bake ours and then put them through the ninja blender) or oyster shells crumbled u[. You can usually find a big bag of the oyster shell crumbles at feed store. We will use a combination of dried crumbled eggshells and oyster shells.

Big baby chicks mixing with older birds.

As for roosting, so far the big baby chicks are returning to their coop within the main coop for the night. I leave the door open and it does have its own sticks for roosting bars. In my experience the younger birds do this for a few days to a week and then decide to start sleeping with the older birds.

We may be transitioning young birds with older birds but the weather sure isn't transitioning very well from winter to spring. It's still cold! It's warm in the covered run though, I';m glad that i didn't remove the plastic from the sides yet. The birds enjoy dustbathing and sunbathing in there, it';s much warmer than the outdoor temperatures even with the door open to their fenced yard.

Dust bathing is warmer in the covered run!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Big Baby Chicks Update

We got the 4 Welsummers plus 2 (1 barred Rock, 1 Australorp) when they were 1 month old. They moved out to the coop within their own enclosure at 2 months old. Now at 3 months old they're starting to really interact with the rest of the flock.

I've found that a slow introduction where new chicks or chickens are living together, seeing each other, without touching leads to a successful integration. 

And the big babies still love dust bathing in fresh shavings! That was the first thing they did when we brought them home and they still love it. They'd been brooded up to a month old in a wire bottom brooder, I'm sure the fluffy shavings felt nice to dust bath in. here is some dust bathing action right in the new bag of shavings.

Ducks Update

Our flock of 10 ducks is doing fabulously. Average day is still 6 duck eggs with an occasional 5 or 7 egg day. They're very happy with all the puddles that melting snow is producing. They're even more happy that their pools are no longer covered in snow.

Duck prints from day before froze overnight

A rare 7 duck egg day

Maple update end of March

Maple sugaring season is well underway. I'm quite surprised to have already over 8 gallons of syrup made. This is the most I've ever made in one season and the season is still going strong. I thought the 7 gallons from last year really was my upper limit for our small operation. The weather has been so up and down since mid February it's been more like 2 maple seasons in one. We started early when there was a warm up. Then the weather got very wintery again and all sap flowing halted. Later everything warmed enough again and the maple has been flowing ever since. I must admit at this point I wouldn't mind being done but might as well see if I can get 10 gallons and some candy. The new outdoor gas burner has been working wonderfully. I didn't mind boiling in the kitchen for the last couple years but now I'm reminded how nice it is to boil outdoors and keep all the excess moisture out of the kitchen.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The challenges (and reward) of winter chicks

In our area we have long, cold winters. I didn't set out to have winter chicks since I knew there would be challenges. When an opportunity presented itself to buy a couple Welsummer chicks, a breed I've wanted for awhile, I decided to give it a try. These chicks were hatched January 22nd. When we purchased them they were already almost a month old. Now they're just about two months old. The chicks we chose were 4 Welsummers, 1 Barred Rock and 1 Australorp.

The first challenge came when we got them home. These chicks were big and they were bored. They'd lived in the farm store brooder for far too long, possibly because many don't think about buying "spring" chicks in January or February. They'd been feather pecking each other out of boredom and all of them had bare backs! That was quickly fixed by giving them treats, a play cage with things to do such as perches and shiny things to explore and making sure they had high protein treats so they could re-grow those feathers. 

The second challenge was...they were already big! Chicks grow fast, they were almost too big for the brooder I'd set up so I quickly changed to a larger brooder cage. 

Third challenge...winter weather! By four weeks old in summer (By a few days old in fact) I would have chicks outdoors daily getting natural sun, grit from the dirt, grass and bugs. Thankfully we had a warm stretch around their 5th week and I got them outdoors and even on bare ground for awhile but then we had three big snowstorms in a row and the ground was long buried. To get some greens and fresh foods into them with snow on the ground I gave them some chopped up leafy green vegetables, with some chick sized grit for digestion. 

Fourth challenge, they're coop ready by 6 weeks but it's so cold out. To combat this challenge I gave them some time in the coop each day then returned them to their indoor brooder at night. After the first few days of this and seeing that they didn't seem cold I moved them out to the coop, in a large dog kennel cage and moved their brooder heat plate with them just in case. They didn't need the heat though and chose to sleep perched on sticks in their cage. Chicks are hardier than we sometimes give them credit for, once they're fully feathered they can live in a safe, insulated, ventilated coop even in cold climate winters. 

For the last week the chicks have been exploring the coop with the flock, the flock has accepted them and all is going well. they still sleep in their own cage within the coop at night, until they're a bit bigger. It was a little harder to raise winter chicks but the rewards will be eggs by summer! Can't wait to see those terra cotta and speckled Welsummer eggs!

Photos- big chicks exploring the coop. they love getting on the highest roost bars.