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The Poultry Project Blog - 2009, Year 2

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(entries below are in chronological order, bottom up)

December 17, 2009 - Worms!

Yikes, we found what looked very much like a large roundworm inside an egg today. Not very appetizing. I had read this can happen with a parasite overload. None of the girls look particularly thin or suffering, but I decided everyone needs to be wormed, NOW.

I put Piperazine-17 (a pesticide) in their only water source today. This means we can't eat our own eggs for a month. I'll do a follow up worming in 2 weeks. Wonder what store-bought eggs taste like after all this time eating our own eggs?

I hope this wasn't the cause of death for one of the girls last week...

Fortunately they aren't laying many eggs right now anyway--I stopped selling eggs a couple weeks ago because we are getting so few.

December 8, 2009 - A Death in the Family

Our first loss came yesterday. I usually make a visual count of the girls when I go out to gather eggs. I saw only 2 Buff Orpingtons and suspected the worst. They always come running to me when I go out.

I found her cold (we've had unusually cold weather), stiff body in the pasture with no signs of what might have happened. Hopefully she died peacefully out on the range like a chicken should.

The rest of the girls seemed a little worried and were huddled together. They relaxed when the body was removed. I didn't expect to be bothered by losing one of them--I didn't name them for that reason--but each one is still an individual to me. This Buff had green eyes which is somewhat unusual, plus she was very photogenic. She appears in several of my chicken calendars. See her picture in the Gallery on this date.

October 3 , 2009 - Life on the Farm

I took some time off from this blog, but I'm back!

A week ago we thought we were losing a hen--we've had no deaths so far. She got to the point she could barely walk and just wanted to sit in one spot all day. I was so surprised her flockmates didn't pick on her. They seemed sympathetic and someone was usually near her for company.

But a week later, she has a new lease on life, although not laying yet. She may have been suffering from a worm overload. Bad mother than I am, I didn't read up on ailments of adult outdoor chickens. After finding a roundworm in someone's poop, I decided it was time to be of assistance.

I didn't want to use pesticides because my flock is living a natural life. The October issue of Backyard Poultry magazine had a worm remedy to use in the fall. I didn't have the dandilion greens, but made up a concoction of the remaining ingredients: pumpkin, carrot, garlic, pumpkin seeds. These ingredients kill worms and make the digestive tract more healthy. To this I added some diatomaceous earth--an old remedy for ridding poultry of worms.

The hens LOVED it. I fed it to all them over a week twice a day. Everyone seems pretty peppy now!

As I read on the internet, I've added diatomaceous earth to their layer pellets at the rate of 3 cups per 50 pounds of feed. It is supposed to be used all the time to help keep the girls worm free.

Molting--feather loss is rampant as days shorten. The area just inside their pen is a carpet of buff feathers as the Orpingtons are going first. I'm not using artificial light this year and the girls know it's fall. The older girls have very tattered feathers so guess it's time they took a break. We gone from an average of 16 eggs a day down to 10 and I imagine we'll go lower as more of the older girls take a break. Hopefully the youngsters will keep us in eggs for a while.

Check the Gallery on this date for pictures of the gals.

August 24, 2009 - Life on the Farm

The Easter Egger chicks are 24 weeks old and I'm getting eggs reliably from 3 of them. The other two I haven't seen in a nest so can't be sure. So far I had as many as 4 blue/green eggs in one day from 5 hens.

We get an occasional soft shell in the dropping pit overnight--a young chicken behavior. I've cut back on treats just to be sure they eat lots of calcium rich food.

One bird I bought as a Cuckoo Marans lays a dark brown egg, but has yellow legs and beak like a Barred Rock. Who knows what's going on there. She is the most friendly of the chicks.

As promised, the sex link hens are prolific layers. So far all the eggs from the young hens are quite small, except for the occasional double yolker one of the Easter Eggers lays. My egg customers are happy to get all he eggs they can use.

The old girls, almost 18 months old now are showing signs of wear on their feathers. They look pretty raggged. See pictures in the Gallery on this date. They should molt shortly and then look beautiful again. No artificial lighting this year so everyone will be natural.

July 20 , 2009 - Baby Eggs and Broodies

All the young girls except 4 Easter Eggers are laying. We are getting soft shelled eggs from the babies just like last year with my first hens. They drop them in the pit when they are roosting at night. I think this is just a young chicken problem that should resolve as their bodies get the idea. As a precaution, I'm cutting out treats for all of the girls. Everyone eats the layer food with lots of calcium.

Broodies. The Columbian Wyandotte, who is really just a pretty face, and Blind Chick, my trusty one-eyed egg layer--she puffs up and growls with great pride. Both girls are in the spare pen where the babies lived. All the comfort of home without a nest. It takes from 3 to 6 nights to break them up, then another week or so for them to go back to work.

July 13 , 2009 - First Tinted Egg

The first blue egg arrived today. The girl that laid it has been squatting for a week and I've been expecting to see something from her. She is 18 weeks old and is the first of the 11 youngsters to lay an egg. See the egg in the Gallery on this date.

June 30 , 2009 - Heat Wave

We've already had a record-breaking hot day--108 in June. We can hardly wait for summer! My girls can enjoy evaporative cooling from a misting system we installed for them.

Positioned to spray outside of their pen and upwind, they get cool misty air if they want it. So far not so much, but time will tell. I've been turning it on after lunch on days temps will go over 100. See the setup in the Coop on this date.

June 18 , 2009 - Sleeping in the Nests-update

The humans may be smarter than the chickens... We made heavy plastic 'shades' to lower at night over the openings of the nests so the chicks can't get in.

Now they are trying to sleep on the little perch in front of the nests--the first night just one. Last night all four of the previous nesters--grrr! At least they aren't pooping in the nests anymore, but I want all the poop to go into the pit under the roosts. Everybody on the roosts!

I'm sure these little ladies are afraid of the big girls, but there are 3 roosts and none of the big girls go to the lowest roost--plenty of room! They will eventually get the idea.

June 15 , 2009 - Sleeping in the Nests

Four of the youngsters have decided to sleep in the nests--not good because they poop there all night. This means I have to clean out the poop so the big girls' eggs don't get dirty. Soooo, I go out to the barn after dark each evening and remove the little girls from the nests and put them on the roosts.

June 9 , 2009 - Life on the Farm

The little girls and big girls are getting along although they stay separated most of the time. The big girls will chase the little girls away from treats I throw out. 'Chase' is an exaggeration--all the big girls have to do is turn toward the little girls and they are gone. I have been taking some treats to the little girls in the barn or behind the shade barrier so the big girls don't see.

The Easter Eggers sure have funny looking necks. Their puffy cheeks and beards extend with puffy feathers down the upper part of their necks--thick necks!

We should be getting eggs from the little girls in 3 or 4 weeks. An Easter Egg painter friend has reserved the first (tiny) tinted eggs to add to her collection.

May 30, 2009 - The Big Merge - Day 4

There are still 2 distinct groups (baby and adult), but there have been no incidents.

Hooray! Everyone was on the roosts tonight!

May 29, 2009 - The Big Merge - Day 3

One of the barred girls managed to get into the baby pen again this morning. She was very happy to join her friends. See a few pictures of the girls in their new digs in the Gallery on this date.

Roosting is getting to be less of an issue--9 of the 11 were on the roosts tonight. Since I removed all possible alternate roosts I could find in the barn, I was surprised to find 2 chicks in a dark corner on a pallet that was laying on the floor. They were carried to the roosts.

May 28, 2009 - The Big Merge - Day 2

Everyone was out in the yard when I went out this morning. The one chick that was up in the rafters managed to come down into the old chick pen so was separated from her buddies. I opened the gate and she ran to her friends.

The babies seem to be a little more comfortable mingling with the hens.

One of the barred girls was on the roost! Ten others had to be retrieved from the shaving bail and moved to the roosts.

May 27, 2009 - The Big Merge - Day 1

This morning the girls joined the ladies. My husband and I herded the pullets out of their little pen into the huge pen with the hens. Everyone had treats to eat and there were no problems. The babies kept together as they explored their very large new outdoor area.

During the day, the lowest pecking order of the big girls was occasionally rude to the little girls--one time taking a bite of feathers from someone who made a hasty retreat. This bossy behavior was only during feeding of treats. Most of the time the babies stay together away from the hens.

Night time was difficult. I went out to the coop after dark to see how they were settling in to the roosts. None of the chicks were on the roosts. Five of them were huddled on Blind Chick's shavings bail nest, 4 were on an old pallet we (shouldn't have) left in the coop, and 2 were up in the rafters.

I moved all but one to the roosts. One I couldn't reach.

May 21, 2009 - Egg Eater Update and another Broody

I think it's a rat and not a chicken that's been eating into the eggs. No more eggs have been bothered in the nests, although I go out to gather eggs several times a day.

A couple of days ago I left an egg sitting in a precarious position in the barn overnight. Someone open the whole top of the egg shell. I don't think the hens could have done this and not knocked the egg onto the floor. Traps and bait have been set. Time will tell.

Another of the Black Australorps went broody yesterday. I popped her into the chicks pen where she will stay for 3 nights. That seems to be enough to break them up. Then they go back with the hens and begin laying about a week later.

May 16, 2009 - Egg Eater

After spending the day last Monday working on new roosts for the girls, I finally got around to gathering eggs. I was so disappointed to find 3 of the 9 eggs that were pecked into--in two nests.

I read that you can find the egg eating culprit by putting an egg in with everyone. When I did this using a fake egg, one of the Rhode Island Reds pecked at it VERY hard. Hard enough to break a real egg. So I quarantined her in the chick pen with a nest box--literally a cardboard box--hoping to be absolutely sure it was her.

Three days later and no more eggs were damaged in any of the nests, including the Rhodie's eggs which I left in her box for most of each day. Yesterday she went back with the others and so far all is well. I know I have to cull an egg eater and maybe she knows that and has changed her ways... :-)

April 26 , 2009 - Another Broody Hen

One of the Buff Orpingtons went broody last week. Since we have a nice indoor/outdoor pen now for the babies, I decided it would be a good place to break up a broody. So the golden girl spent 6 days separated from the nests (I let her out after 2 days, but she went straight to the nest). She is broody no longer and having company seemed to ease the separation anxiety.

At first I worried she would bother the babies, but no. It was so cute to see her sitting on their roost at night surrounded by their tiny bodies.

April 16 , 2009 - Moving Day/Update on the Broody Hen

See the Gallery on this date for pictures of the little girls in their new home.

The story of culling the broody hen (see April 7 below) has a happy ending--at least so far. In my Horticulture class this week I saw the young woman who took my broody Australorp. I expected to hear that she tasted great for Easter dinner.

Turns out this woman's husband thought a hen should not be butchered just because she wants to be a mom. So they bought 15 hatching eggs from eBay and my girl is doing the job she always wanted. In about 3 weeks she will be a mother.

April 13 , 2009 - Roosting Chicks

While we wait for the babies to get too big to squeeze through the outdoor wire fence, they stay in the tack room. I'm training them to get on the wood roost to sleep at night. I moved their light up over the roost and raised it high enough so it will be quite cool on the floor. Over the past couple of nights I've gone out after dark to see first 4, then 6, than all 11 on the roost. So cute all lined up.

Their place in the barn will not have a sleeping place on the floor so everyone will now be ready for the move.

April 7 , 2009 - The Broody Hen/Big Chicks

Culling. In my grandmothers day, a broody hen was Sunday dinner. If they don't lay, they go into the stew pot leaving the most productive hens. Unfortunately, I can't kill my girls. One of our little Black Australorp hens when broody again about 2 weeks ago and I decided that 4 times since August is too much. She was occupying valuable nest space!

A young woman in my Horticulture class also raises chickens and agreed to take my hen, who will probably be Easter Dinner for their table. She had a good life here and now there is room for the other girls to lay their eggs. This is one reason I don't name them. They are just really cute work units!

I thought the babies (almost 6 and 5 weeks old) were big enough to go into an outdoor pen during the day, but their little bodies can, with some effort, squeeze through the 2x4 inch wire. Fortunately they like to stay close to each other so catching the escapees wasn't difficult. Even the one who got into the hen's outdoor pen was okay as the ladies didn't seem to notice. The babies will have to endure their indoor coop for another week or more.

March 28, 2009 - Roosters?

One of the Sex Links is really looking roostery--is that a word? S/He feathered out very differently than the other two. The last rooster I had was the same. No tail feathers and few flight feathers while the others got both right away. And this one's color is a lot different and the feet are bigger than the other 2.

I though sex liinks were a science you could depend on, but I checked the internet and sure enough, there are roosters that start out and color up just like the hens. Roosters are supposed to be almost all white, while the hens are almost all light red.

I'm also suspicious about the Barred Rock. S/He is not just timid but downright unfriendly. The whole time I visit with them he stays as far away as possible, even when I offer treats. When I manage to catch him, he makes the lowest racket. So far he looks like a hen so maybe I'm wrong. Since I have only one, I don't have a comparison. Time will tell.

March 12, 2009 - Big Girls, Little Girls

While it's fun to spend time with the babies, the older girls are just as sweet. They are back to laying eggs--except the Rhodie who is still broody. It's been more than 21 days and she is still sitting strong!

They seem to be curious about the babies--they can hear them when I open the door to the tack room. But they are afraid of them. I held a baby out to the doorway and the two curious ladies made a hasty retreat.

The babies have a larger space. Shavings in the water means they are flying around in too small a space. More room is much better. We are enjoying a 70 degree day today so they even explore the far reaches of the new space where the heat lamp doesn't reach.

See everyone in the Gallery.

March 5, 2009 - Five More New Chicks

Five Ameraucanas (Easter Eggers--blue/green egglayers) joined the flock today. And then there were 11. A full house. The new babies are very furry including puffy cheeks which hopefully will result in feather tufted cheeks when they grow up. See the whole gang in the Gallery on this date.

March 1, 2009 - New Chicks - Day 4

Funny how you forget things a year later. Like how easily frightened day-old chicks are. Now that they are 4 days old, they hop right into my hand without a second thought. Earlier they were terrorized by it.

Another observation. Not so many pictures the second time around--kind of like the second child I guess...!

February 26, 2009 - More Chicks!

Six day-old baby girls joined the flock today. So cute. I had hoped to get 10, but there weren't any Easter Egger hens--a popular breed that is backordered for one more week.

Today I got three Gold Sex Link (see more about them in the 'Breeds' tab), one Barred Rock and one Rhode Island, which makes 3 each of these two breeds in the group. And one of a new breed I didn't intend to get--a Cuckoo Maran. These hens look a lot like Barred Rocks, but they lay a very, very dark brown large egg. See the baby pictures in the Gallery on this date.

February 18, 2009 - Broody Hen and More

I gave up trying to break up the Rhode Island Red hen--she really didn't like captivity and damaged her comb pacing the wire. She occupies one of the nests. A few of the girls are still finishing molting so don't need a nest.

Blind Chick (Buff Orpington) has finished her break--she didn't actually molt, just took a couple of months off work. She's back to laying in her shavings bail as are at least two others. I found 3 eggs in the bail on Monday.

More chicks will arrive a week from tomorrow. I have all the supplies they will need and will set up the brooder next week to get it warmed up for their arrival.

February 10, 2009 - Another Broody Hen

This time a Rhode Island Red girl has decided she wants to hatch eggs. Silly girl--no rooster makes brooding moot. I'm attempting to 'break her up' (make her stop brooding) by isolating her in a wire pen during the day so she can't get to the nests. See pictures of her in jail in the Gallery on this date.

If there weren't already too few eggs being laid--broody is not acceptable. I no longer sell eggs regularly. I'm only getting between 3 and 7 eggs a day now.

New babies will be joining the Poultry Project in a few weeks. My local feed store gets their first shipment of chicks this week. I'm not quite ready for the big event yet. Need to get their cozy warm brooder ready. For sure before the end of February.

January 21, 2009 - New Pen

The new pen is finished and the chickens are loving all the new space, grass and bugs. Their yolks have turned dark orange again now that they are getting more real food from the land. See the new space and pictures of the hens enjoying in in the Gallery on this date.

January 11, 2009 - Molting

I'm a bad mother. I started the winter by adding supplemental light to keep the chicks laying through the winter. When freezing temperatures seemed to be causing a drop in egg production, I decided to back off on the lights to allow the girls to be more 'natural'.

Well, chickens molt when the days get shorter so sure enough, 3 of them are shedding feathers in the coldest part of the winter. Good thing our part of California doesn't have cold winters. The naked necked girls don't seem to mind. See one of the patchwork girls in the Gallery on this date.

My Columbian Wyandotte has finally stopped brooding although she's not laying again yet. I'm getting between 5 and 7 eggs a day--way down from 10 and 11 a day in November. I've had to discontinue eggs to my 2 regular customers. Fortunately they understandn and will be ready when production picks up in spring.

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