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The Poultry Project Blog - 2010, Year 3

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(entries below are in chronological order, bottom up)

December 28, 2010 - Adolescents Update

The 5 youngsters successfully joined the big girls on the roosts last night. The previous 2 nights after merging, I allowed them to return to their baby pen roosts--and they did--for the night. Last night I closed the gate to the baby pen (formerly the broody pen). When I went out to do a bed check after dark, all 5 were on the lowest roost but looked content.

Bed checks are required because 3 adult molters try to sleep in the nests--and poop there all night. I move them to the roosts where the darkness keeps them where they belong and the nests stay clean.

December 24, 2010 - Adolescents

The youngest chickss are 18 weeks old and if it was summer--would be ready to lay. They were merged in with the big girls today so they can begin getting the lay of the land before they need nests. They spent the day running away from the big girls but there were no casualties.

The big girls are laying between 2 and 5 eggs per day from 28 hens--not good. A few of the summer baby Easter Eggers are picking up the slack in production by laying a couple of blue eggs a day. They started laying months later than spring chicks so I guess there's a lesson to be learned here--get chicks in the spring! But they are laying in the winter--the adult EEs stop for winter and haven't resumed even though many have finished molting.

December 8, 2010 - Internal Parasite Control/Withholding Eggs

We are in stage 2 of our annual chemical worming program. I use a combination of Ivermectin and Piperazine twice 10 days apart. Eggs have to be tossed during this period, but it dawned on me that I could feed those eggs back to the hens during the first 10 days. So I collected a bunch, cooked (scrambled) them and the girls thought they were in heaven! Now that we are in the final countdown, I won't feed the eggs to them.

Boy, store-bought eggs sure don't look or taste like the 'real' thing...!

I like to do this worming now because there are so few eggs being laid--3-6 a day from 23 lazy girls. The rest of the year, I'm using Verm-X (herbal/non-toxic) in their water once a month and diatomaceous earth every day in their feed. Fewer worms, more eggs--at least that's the theory!

November 20, 2010 - First Egg

Today one of the Easter Eggers, who is now about 6 months old, laid her first egg. When they didn't begin laying at about 18-20 weeks like their older sisters, I thought maybe getting EEs so late in the season meant they would not lay till spring. My older EEs were among the first birds to stop laying in fall even in their first season. Now we'll see if the other 5 newbies start work sometime soon.

As I have stated before--Barred Rocks are prolific layers. 3 of my 4 Rocks are still working. Also working is 1 of the 3 Sex Links, 1 of 2 Rhode Island Reds. That's it, everyone else is molting or taking a break (Australorp, Orpington, Wyandotte).

The youngest birds, now 13 weeks old include 3 more Barred Rocks, a Wyandotte and a Light Brahma. All of these breeds have been good year around layers for me so hopefully these newbies will be too.

November 3, 2010 - Molting

We are only getting about 5 eggs a day now. Many of the girls are molting earlier this year than they did last year. Not sure if this is because they are on a regular cycle now that they are adults or if the odd weather we've had this year is to blame. See the Gallery on this date for one nudie.

October 11, 2010 - Youngest Girls

The five youngest are all heavy breeds--Barred Rocks (my favorite breed for production), Silver Laced Wyandotte, and Light Brahma. All are also noted for friendliness. Even though I haven't spent much time with these girls, when I sat in their pen to take photos, all of them came right up to check me out. The last group (all Easter Eggers) were always wary and shy when I 'intruded' on their space.

The Silver Laced Wyandotte looks like she is going to be a beauty. I was disappointed with the first one I got because she has very little white. Not so with #2. In fact she has almost too much white as her chest feathers don't have a complete circle of black round each feather. Still, she is going to be verty flashy. Now if she also lays lots of eggs and isn't broody, she just might rate the favorite category currently held by the Barred Rocks. See the babies in the Gallery on this date.

October 8, 2010 - Broken Leg

Preliminary test results back on the lame chicken--broken leg! At least it wasn't Marek's Disease, but the tests also showed she had a lot of fat--too many treats. So I need to change my habit of 'Food is Love' and cut them all back on treats. Spare veggies only now for these girls.

October 6, 2010 - Another loss

Yesterday I noticed the lone Columbian Wyandotte's lameness in one leg--a possible sign of Marek's Disease. Today she was worse. I called the UC Davis Animal Health & Food Safety Lab about bringing her in for testing. They will euthanize her and test her remains to find out what's up. They do this for free for small flock owners like me--nice. And even nicer that we don't have to do the deed. She went quietly in a box filled with clean shavings.

Now my question, why is it that the most photogenic birds are the ones to die? This girl was the cover girl for my first calendar. See pictures of her in the Gallery on this date.

October 4, 2010 - Moving Day

The smallest girls (now 6 weeks old), need more space than the brooder. Even the 5 of them need room to stretch and this is usually the age I move them. That means the adolescents (now 18 weeks old) need to move in with the big girls. Since they are almost of age to begin laying anyway it works out.

I moved the adolescents first. After dark Sunday night my hubby and I carried each of the 6 kids and placed them with the hens on the roosts. Somewhere it said if you do this at night and they all wake up together it makes life easier for everyone. Then I thoroughly cleaned the pen the youngsters left to get it ready for the babies. Then the babies moved after I clipped wing feathers from one wing on each. I figure this step will help keep them on the roosts rather than the rafters of the barn.

So far so good for everyone. The babies haven't been sleeping up high so I had to put them on the area I made for them on the roosts. For night #2 the adolescents did pretty well at getting spots on the roosts with the bossy big girls. One was trying to sleep in a nest--we don't allow that. I placed her on a roost. Two others were over the dropping pit, but sitting on the wire that keeps them out of the poo. I imagine that wire isn't very comfy on their feet and there is a chance of droppings falling on them from hens above them. I couldn't reach them so left them to figure it out.

A couple more days of monitoring the situation and everyone should be doing the right thing in the right place!

August 28, 2010 - Lost a Baby

One of the baby Barred Rocks died today. Since I can't tell the 4 of them apart, it may have been the one I wasn't successful at vaccinating. I should have marked that one somehow so I would know. Since the beginning of my Poultry Project, I've had 38 chicks and this is the first one I've lost as a baby. Still pretty good odds.

August 19, 2010 - Rooster and Chicks

Today I picked up 6 more chicks and took the little EE rooster back to the feed store. They will take males if they accidentally turn up in what was supposed to be hens, even though there is only a 90% guarantee on sexing. Nice that I don't have to dispatch him although he bit me when I finally caught him!

I decided to get a few more chicks in case I lose more of the big girls. My favorite breed is the Barred Rock--so far they lay the most reliably year around, molt fast and haven't been affected by any kind of disease. I now have 6 more chicks--4 Rocks, one Light Brahma replaces the one I lost and one Silver Laced Wyandotte because the one I have is a reliable a worker. See baby pictures in the Gallery on this date.

I bought Marek's vaccine and gave the babies shots to protect them. This was the first time I'd given a shot to anything so small. The first chick got stuck 3 times and I just couldn't get it right so I gave up. Kept sticking the needle in one layer of skin and out the other injecting the vaccine on her fur. Rather than keep trying, I'm hoping she will have a natural immunity as my other Barred rocks seem to have. The next 5 shots when perfectly. Now hopefully this group will fare a little better.

August 13, 2010 - No more Brooding

Today I found one of the Rhode Island Reds brooding. Since my Buff Orpington has been brooding now for over a month, I decided the babies are old enough to tolerate adult broody hens sharing their space. The chicks live in the former broody jail and now share it with their bad sisters. The RIR is pretty mean to the babies but the Buff is sweet to everyone.

I allowed the Buff to brood because she started the week I moved the babies outside to the broody jail space and thought the stress of moving was enough for them for a while. The Buff looks and sounds pretty mean when she sees me--see a couple pictures of her looking like a turkey in the Gallery on this date.

August 7, 2010 - Marek's Disease

After much study and a discussion with a veterinary pathologist, I'm pretty sure even without a post mortem lab test that Marek's disease has infected my flock. I think all 4 of the girls we have lost, 2 apparently healthy hens and 2 we dispatched because they became paralyzed were infected. Marek's is a type of cancer that causes tumors in various parts of the body including ovaries, spine, liver. It can cause blindness, and paralysis of the legs and wings is typical. Marek's stays in the environment for many years in dust so it's always there.

Marek's is extremely common all over the world and is the leading cause of chicken deaths. There is no cure and losses can be heavy. I'm hoping for the best. Last week one of the babies, then 9 weeks old began to show signs of leg weakness, although by the time I made arrangements to take her to the lab for euthanization and lab tests, she recovered! The pathologist I spoke to said to hold off because they don't usually recover if it's Marek's.

The reason I suspect Marek's is one of the last chickens I got locally last year now has the gray eyed blindness that is very typical of Marek's. She can see light and dark but not much else. She makes her way with no problem to the nest--she lays very well--the food, water and roosts so she is going to remain in the flock even though she is probably a carrier for the disease.

The only thing a flock owner can do about Marek's is to make sure new chicks are vaccinated. I contacted the feed store where I've purchased the last 18 chicks and they don't vaccinate. Poo! Vaccinated chicks have a 10% chance of getting the disease, so I'm getting the vaccine before I bring more babies in. They have to get the vaccine before they come in contact with the virus and then be kept in isolation for the first week while they build up immunity.

Some chickens have natural immunity. Large breeds are more susceptible than bantams. So far our casualties include a Light Brahma, 2 Buff Orpingtons, and Black Australorp. The blind girl and the newbie are both Easter Eggers.

This has been distressing for me mostly because I didn't realize what was going on even though I can't do anything about it now. Fortunately, Marek's doesn't affect humans or any other animals. Just part of being in the poultry business I guess.

July 4, 2010 - Baby Status Again

I think the very white EE chick is a fella or 'roo' as many of the chicken folks call them. Since the chicks are only 4 weeks old, I'll wait a couple more weeks but I'm watching! Some internet sites I've seen say if the comb turns color and has 3 rows, it's suspect as a cockerel. That's what I have. I'll be disappointed because I think a white would be a pretty Easter Egger to have. So far all the rest have a single row combs that are tiny and yellow.

If it is a rooster, I'll retun him to the feed store where I got the chicks--they will take them back so I don't have to 'do' anything with him.

July 1, 2010 - Baby Status

The seven new Easter Egger chicks are almost a month old already. From tiny fur balls to little birds, they look nothing like they did 4 weeks ago. Unlike the other breeds I keep, Easter Eggers feathers vary greatly from bird to bird. A couple of my first EEs have elaborately penciled and laced feathers. This time I may have one that is pure white--at least she is so far. See progress photos of the babies.

This is the last week the babies need supplemental heat--now only at night. Dropping the temperature 5 degrees a week means this week they shouldn't get cooler than 75 degrees. Our night temps drop below that. Next week they should have enough feathers to keep themselves warm, probably too warm with triple digit heat coming soon.

The babies will move to the barn in a couple more weeks. When they are big enough so they can't fit through the wire fence, they will move to an area we have sectioned off from the layers. We built a lovely dropping pit/roost in there. It serves as a temporary home for broody hens and was a halfway house for juveniles last spring. They will be able to see the big girls and go outside, but be protected a little while longer from the adult pecking order.

June 15, 2010 - A Mercy Killing

One of the Buff Orpingtons took a turn for the worse last week. I separated her from the rest of the flock. She had a very dirty bottom from loose stools. I wormed her and cleaned her up but she didn't get better. She couldn't walk and wouldn't eat. After 4 days I decided we had to end her misery.

I had purchased a restraining cone last fall when another hen took ill. That one must have know what was in store for her because she got better! This one, not so much.

We set up the cone on the wall behind the barn. With a bucket underneath and chicken inserted head down, my brave husband snipped her head with pruning shears. I know this is no big deal to many folks but wasn't fun for any of us. At least she is no longer suffering.

Whatever it was doesn't seem to be contageous--we don't really want to get good at this!

June 3, 2010 - Chicks!

Demand for my eggs--well, the hens's eggs--is growing so I decided to get some more babies that will hopefully begin laying this fall. Seven more Easter Eggers because I love their funny faces and remarkable feather patterns.

They also don't brood.! Many of my standard breed hens go broody and take up valuable nest space the working gals need. EEs don't brood. The only other breed that has never been broody is the Barred Plymouth Rocks. But the Rocks don't have the unusual feathers, so I'll put up with the EEs lack of winter eggs.

See the new babies in the Gallery on this date.

May 5, 2010 - In Memory

Today we had our second casualty. My only Light Brahma hen was lying very peacefully on her side in the coup this morning when I went to gather eggs. Not a mark on her. Even though I haven't named these chickens, it is still a shock to find one dead.

This girl was quite the talker and was always telling me all about whatever chickens think about. See her happy life in the Gallery on this date.

March 20, 2010 - Spring is Here!

Everyone is back to laying--a lot of eggs. A slow day now means 12 and that will be followed by a day of 16 or 17. The most eggs I've had in one day is 19 from 23 hens. Since then we have lost one hen and the first group has molted--they lay fewer eggs after molting. So I'm thinking 17 is pretty good!

I've got so much information now about eggs that I've decided to add a tab to this web site (see it above) to share all this knowledge with the world: Eggs!

February 27, 2010 - Spring is Coming!

Even though we are still getting rain, the trees are blooming and the chickens have gotten back to laying eggs. Now a sure sign of spring will be broody hens.

We are going to make some improvements in the broody hen jail this year. We will make a nice dropping pit and add a gate between the coop and the jail. Photos of this will be added to the Coop tab later in the year.

Egg production has picked up to the point where I have resumed supplying my customers with eggs. The 2 year old girls are laying huge eggs but not as often as their younger sisters. The lazy Easter Eggers are finally finished molting and back to work--molting before 1 year seems lazy to me compared with most of the other breeds I have.

See some pictures of the girls in the Gallery on this date.

January 2, 2010 - More Molting

The Easter Eggers are fun to look at and lay lovely colored eggs, but I must say they are not as dependable layers as many of the other breeds. All but one of the EEs are molting and they aren't even a year old. Needless to say they have stopped laying.

So far the most prolific layers have been the Barred Rocks. They are very friendly, never go broody, lay even during winter, didn't molt till 18 months, their molt period was only 8 weeks and they went right back to work! Whew!

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