The Farm*Homestead*Garden Blog

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

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. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Nor'easter, growing chicks and maple syrup upgrade

Wednesday into Thursday we had a big old Nor'Easter snowstorm. Sixteen inches of new snow right when spring is supposed to be working its way in is a bit disappointing. Not much to be done but carry on.

The dogs always love playing in new snow, for a little while anyway.

 KitKat said no thanks! And he headed right back indoors.

 The ducks don't mind but the chickens are not impressed.

 Where oh where have my maple sap buckets gone?

 The snow is coming down fast and soon Bigfoot the black cochin is turning white!

In spite of the storm it was time for the baby chicks, now almost 7 weeks old, to move to the coop. The coop is cozy and they have more space in this dog kennel cage than they did in their brooder. Also they will get to know the flock. 

When it was shut up time I found that i couldn't close the coop door! the snow was so heavy on the roof of the attached run that the roof was sagging a bit. 

 When I realised this I cleaned off the roof right away. I'm glad I got this hint of the problem, the next morning I heard of many who had damaged coops and runs from the weight of snow or in some cases falling trees or branches. It was quite a storm.

Surprisingly the maple sap has been flowing even though we've gotten cold and the buckets were buried. It's almost time to boil again.

A box arrived this morning which should make the next boil a lot faster and easier. What is in that big smiling box below?

 A new propane gas burner! Our old one broke a couple years back so we've been boiling in the kitchen. It will be nice to take all that evaporation back outdoors.

Of course Linnea thinks the giant box is the best part of this new purchase!

Ducks Update

Hard to believe we've only had the new adopted ducks for a few weeks. They are indistinguishable from the rest of the flock. You look close you can see who is who but at a glance you would never know that they didn't grow up together. Every day we get 6 eggs from 7 layers (the 2 rouen females aren't laying yet), seems a different one takes a day off each day. We haven't had a 7 duck egg day yet but I'm sure it won't be long before we do.

We had a big Nor'easter snowstorm on Wednesday into Thursday. Thursday morning the chickens were reluctant to go out into all the new snow but the ducks loved it.

The ducks found a little pond (big puddle?)  area when we had a warm up and lots of snow melted. they didn't forget about that pond when the snow covered it up, they made their own path and uncovered the now much smaller puddle.

The ducks shovel faster than I do!

The pond has become a puddle to be uncovered from snow but the ducks weren't dismayed. They found it and dabbled around in the icy mud.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Getting to know you, integrating new chicks or chickens to an existing flock

Adding new chickens to a flock is not very difficult. The main thing to remember is let the old flock see the new flock members for awhile before they can fully interact. I find the wire dog crates very good for this purpose. Young or new flock members can even live in the same coop with the original flock while in a kennel cage, everyone seeing each other and getting used to each other with the safety of the cage bars between them. I've never used these dog kennels cages for dogs but they get used for about everything else around here. Just very handy cages to have with farm animals around. I bought a couple of these cages new, afer looking for good prices and gained a couple more through yard sale finds. 

 I generally have chickens seeing but not touching each other for two weeks or so. The first times I let the new flock members loose with the old flock members I watch the situation carefully in case there are any issues. Usually there are not issues because once chickens have seen each other for those couple weeks they have learned about each other and who is where in the pecking order. These new birds won't be running with the flock for awhile yet since they're only 6 weeks old and it's winter but today was a rare sunny warm (ish) day so out in a sunny spot in the yard  the little birds went. A chance for fresh air, natural grit, exploration and getting to know the flock some more. 

This gaggle of pretty silkies were oblivious to the visiting chicks they don't venture much out of the run until spring arrives. 

 I finished off more maple syrup today bringing the grand total so far to just over 3 gallons of syrup. AND I'm caught up now with boiling sap. The sap hasn't run much the last couple days. Hopefully we will get a few more good runs but it's nice to be caught up. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

...It Melts, It Snows...

More of the same, a little melting, another snowstorm, boiling down maple sap, waiting for spring.

More snow greeted me this morning.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow stops KitKat from helping with morning chores.

Ducks run right out, chickens not so happy about more snow.

A brave silkie leads the way into the snowy yard.

Ducks-where did our pond go?

Younger silkies-we'll just stay here in the cozy coop today, again that is a rooster in the nest box!

6 week old chicks still got a little time out in the run.

Cozy kittens have the right idea on a snowy morning.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lots of Cleaning- Coop cleaning, chickens dust bathing, silkie needs a bath.

What a busy weekend it has been. So much to do with maple season, growing chicks and maintaining the flock's housing during this time of snow, rain, mud, wet, and sometimes nice days all mixed together.  The ducks part of the coop needs new shavings almost daily (maybe I'll try straw again and compare) but this day the whole coop needed to be cleaned out. I'd done it recently but the shavings the farm store had in were not our usual, they were so dusty and more like sawdust, just not pleasant and everything seemed to get wet sooner. So we got some other shavings and I gave it a good clean out and refresh.
The vinyl flooring for the coop was one of those best ever decisions, clean out is easy.

I think we can put away the heated water base for the season!  These do a great job keeping water unfrozen.

All shoveled out.

Nest boxes all clean with new shavings and a little sprinkle of nest box herbs

I love a clean coop, it won't stay that way long!

Grit and Calcium refilled. We put down grit in winter, snow lasts for months here preventing the chickens from getting natural grit

I let the little chicks have an hour outdoors, in the covered run again today, they really enjoyed it. Soon they'll be running with the flock.

I noticed that this silkie has muck stuck to her feet so in for a pedicure. She didn't mind at all and is resting comfortably indoors while drying.

Foot bath for silkie
The chickens and ducks are so happy with the amount of bare ground we have now. Snow is melting so fast. I know we will likely get more snow before winter is done but for today the birds had a grand time exploring, scratching and pecking playing in the mud (ducks) and lots of dust bathing. What a relief it must be for them after a long winter of snow covered ground.

Mo in the middle of dust bath pile.

Dust bathing pig (chicken) pile

Naptime for ducks.

KitKat patrols his domain.