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The Poultry Project Blog - 2011, Year 4

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(entries below are in chronological order, bottom up)

December 21, 2011 - Winter Solstice

Another year almost over. After 27 weeks, (more than a month late) the youngsters have just begun to lay their tiny eggs--on the floor of the coop. Poor dears don't understand the newfangled roll out nests. In the old days I put a fake egg in a nest to show them where to lay their own eggs. Now the nest eggs just roll out, so I can't do that anymore. Hopefully as the older girls get back to work they will show their younger sisters how things work.

Next year, I will get the youngsters earlier in the season so they will begin laying while the old girls are taking a break. Hopefully if I get chicks in mid-May instead of the middle of June I'll get eggs in November. We'll see.

Late in 2012 I'll be culling 4-year-olds again. It's getting harder now because the original lovely Easter Eggers will be 4 this year and I like them all. We'll see how they lay this year. I am definitely culling all three Sex Links (Golden Comets). Those girls are the nastiest things I've kept so far. They won't allow anyone else to sleep anywhere near them on the roosts. They are the only chicken breed that behaves this way. The rest like to sit close to each other.

Happy New Year!

November 21, 2011 - Merging Generations

Today I realized the youngsters are 22 weeks old already. Nearly ready to begin laying eggs. So the poor dears were introduced to the adult girls they have been visiting with along the fence since they were babies.

The 10 babies stay together for safety but seemed to enjoy the much larger outdoor area. I left the gate to their sanctuary open last night and they all went there to roost in familiar surroundings. The last time I merged like this, the youngsters started sleeping with the big girls on night #3. We'll see what they do this time.

November 12, 2011 - Molting

Guess I've been busy with other projects!

Most of the 20 big girls are molting--the yard is full of feathers and the girls are bald. See the sad looking gals in the Gallery on this date.

Egg production has dropped to between 2 and 5 eggs per day--a month earlier than last year. I'm using this as an opportunity to worm them with chemicals. Once a year I do this. It means withholding eggs so all my customers are cut off till worming ends and production picks up.

Worming now involves Ivermectin and Piperazine-17 in the water followed by a second dose in 10 days. This ensures any worm eggs that hatch will also be killed. I will resume adding diatomaceous earth to their food and monthly worming with an herbal wormer called Verm-X in December.

September 6, 2011 - Lots of updates

One Sex Link insists on laying her egg on the bare coop floor--it's a rubber mat--rather than in the new nests. I finally had to buy some cheap outdoor carpet to line the nests to give them a smooth place to sit. For a couple of days I sprinkled a few shavings in each nest so they could see shavings they seem to miss so much. I think the shavings did the trick.

After 3 days I found a broken/eaten egg that hadn't rolled ou,t so no more shavings. That egg was very fragile so it might have broken on its own and someone just took advantage of the opportunity to eat the contents. I've stepped up the calcium for everyone, but I think one of the girls just lays a fragile egg--maybe one of the older girls?

As for the chicks, once the roos were gone, the girls became more visibly friendly to me--they come running now. They all hung back with the guys before. Also, I was having trouble getting the babies to roost at night--they insisted on the floor or a dirt patch outside the barn at night. We were going out every evening to move them to the roosts. Now, no problems--they are all on the roosts at night.

Today I culled 5 of the oldest hens--2 have been very broody, the other three are molting. I think 4 is the oldest I want to keep with one exception--one of the first Barred Rocks is so friendly and continues to lay regularly so I'm keeping her as a pet. There is one hen out of each year's group I have a fond attachment to and plan to continue the tradition of keeping one just as a pet until they die of natural causes.

The only momentary tug at my heartstrings was Blind Chick--she was among today's culls. If she hadn't been sooooo broody, I would have considered keeping her, but taking up nest space ruled against her. I'm down to 20 adult hens and 10 babies celebrating their 3 month birthday this week.

September 1, 2011 - Roosters

The 2 Easter Egger roos got a ride back to the feed store today. They really didn't want to get into the doggy carrier I acquired for this purpose, but once locked in, they settled down. They were perfect gentlemen for the guy to took them out of my cage.

One was pure white--a coincidence since the first EE roo I had was also pure white. The other was striking and almost made me want to breed EEs. Black and white with a black head--stunning. Find pictures of the guys and the gals in the Gallery on this date.

This leaves 4 EEs and 6 Barred Rocks from this year's babies.

August 14, 2011 - Change is good...

Or not! We are one week into having our fancy new rear roll-out nesting unit installed in the coop. Leaving 4 old nests was a mistake as the hens would line up and wait or crowd 2 in a nest. Thursday I staped heavy plastic across the old nests--then the girls started laying their eggs under the old nests on the coop floor! Geeze.

2 days ago we dismantled the old nests and removed them completely. More eggs on the floor along the walls. I lined the floor edges with plywood to discourage floor nesting. I also turned the new nest mats over so the pointy 'turf' side is down. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be up, but I thought maybe that was too much difference. They are slowly getting the idea.

Today was the first day I found a blue egg in a roll-out cup. Prior to that only the brown egg layers would use it. Funny how different breeds adapt. Barred Rocks and the Sex Links seem to get on with business despite the conditions. Of the 13 eggs I gathered today 7 of them were in the new nests. Progress!

August 6, 2011 - New Nests

We spent a couple of hours yesterday putting the new nest unit together. My hubby got to buy a new tool--pop rivet gun--so he was happy. The instructions were fairly easy to follow. We waited till evening (after they were finished laying for the day) to remove the old nest unit and replace it.

Naturally they are terrified of it, but with only 4 old nests left available, 2 hens bit the bullet and laid their eggs in the new nests. It's going to take them some time to make the switch. Meanwhile, they line up for the 4 old nests.

The new nests work just as expected--the egg rolls out into a cup behind the nest. We bought the 'rear roll-out' model. See pictures of the new nests at the 'Coop' tab above on this date.

July 30, 2011 - Moving Day

Now that the egg eating is over, attention is turned to the youngsters who are now over 6 weeks old. They submitted to having feathers trimmed on one wing to keep them from taking flight. Then they were placed in a cat carrier and moved to their new outdoor digs.

Previous Easter Egger chicks were timid in new surroundings. Fortunately, these 6 have 6 Barred Rocks to show them the way. Rocks are very brave and came out of the cat carrier within 10 minutes. The EEs followed not wanting to miss out of something interesting.

We may have 2 EE roosters :-( One of the white chicks has a red comb--suspicious at 6 weeks. I won't cull till they are about 10 weeks old. They should be really roostery by then if they are boys.

See the big day in the Gallery on this date.

July 27, 2011 - Egg Eater Update

We have turned the corner. It's been almost 2 days since they have broken/eaten an egg. This is partly due to none of their eggs being left available--gathering is still hourly.

I confirmed 5 hens were breaking eggs. Too many to cull and too many to keep separated so they are all back together.

Once they all hit one of the decoys filled with hot sauce (modified to a mixture of dish soap and hot sauce), they seemed to figure out that breaking eggs was no long much fun. After watching a few hens eating straight hot sauce from a broken egg, I added the soap modification--none of them like that.

There are still 2 decoys left in the nests and they have not been bothered.

A very fancy nesting unit has been ordered and will arrive in a couple of weeks. Till then all the girls are back together.

A few side benefits from this experience.

  1. I have learned who is and isn't laying
  2. A hen won't eat her own egg--only someone else's
  3. Even the shy girls have grown accustomed to my presence!

July 23, 2011 - Egg Eater Update

Orderly life has run amuck. I have confirmed 2 egg breakers--many will visit the nest and eat after the egg is broken. I think there are more than 2 who will break the egg. I bought eggs yesterday to use as decoys rather than sacrifice any more of my eggs. I've stepped up the defense!

Step #1 in the new battle - gather eggs at least hourly.

Step #2 - separate any hen that breaks an egg. This is not easy to figure out, but visiting often means the culprit still has sticky egg (or hot sauce) on her beak.

Step #3 - behavior modification. Fill decoy eggs with (very) hot sauce. This involves blowing out the contents of store-bought eggs and making the hole in one end big enough to squirt in the hot sauce. Bandaids over the holes keep the contents in. The decoys have been broken, but the hot sauce is not eaten--duh!

Step #4 - change the nesting arrangements. This will involve purchasing a nesting unit designed so that eggs roll out and away from the hens after they lay. This is a big investment, but everyone who uses it says it has put an end to egg eating. We considered building it ourselves, but the materials cost and time involved made the ready-made unit look pretty good. Here is what we plan to get--the rear roll-out nest unit which accommodates 10 hens at a time. This was the lowest price we could find--over $100 less than other suppliers!

Since culling would involve so many, I'm hoping steps 3 and 4 will do the trick and I won't cull at all.

Good thing we don't go away for vacation in summer!

July 21, 2011 - Egg Eater Update

With no broken egg yesterday I assumed I had my culprit--the quarantined girl. Not so. Today I found a broken brown egg in the group nests while the quarantined girl's egg was still intact. So she is now free and I put 4 more in quarantine with a good egg. Sooner or later, I'll have a broken egg in the quarantine nest which should help me narrow down the bad girl.

Darn, I thought I had it figured out.

July 19, 2011 - Egg Eater

For the past 10 days, I've found broken or completely consumed eggs in the nests. Sometimes there is just a wet spot in the shavings. One day 4 eggs were lost. In the past, this turned out to be rodents. I baited for them as usual when I first noticed losses. The losses continued even though we have found dead rats.

I began to suspect a chicken. How do you easily figure out which of 25 hens is eating eggs? I started by rolling an egg on the ground around the hens. I had one suspect and quarantined her for a day--still had a broken egg. I stepped up the frequency of going out to gather eggs hoping to see a rodent or chicken or something doing the damage--nothing. Then I quarantined 4 hens. Still had a broken egg.

It's usually the first nest facing the door. This morning I made a note of who was on that nest--one of last summer's Easter Eggers. When I went out 3 hours later, the egg she laid was eaten while other nests had whole eggs. I now have that EE in quarantine. The eating usually happens in the morning. If I have no broken eggs 2 days in a row, I'll have my culprit.

To be continued.

July 7, 2011 - Another Broody and Molting

An Easter Egger this time--the first one to go broody of the dozen I have had. They are not known for broodiness. If she does this again this season, I will cull her with the other bad girls! She is a very small bird and still lays a small egg. But she is lovely to look at.

My one remaining Silver Laced Wyandotte is molting. Funny girl or maybe just smart. Why shed feathers in the winter when you can do it when the weather is hotter than H***!

Speaking of heat, we had 100+ degrees to celebrate the 4th of July. The girls responded by a stop work strike. One day last week I got 8 eggs from 25 hens. Now it's unseasonably cool and they love it.

June 30, 2011 - Another Death

If it's beautiful or photogenic, it will die. At least that seems to be the case over and over in my flock. Although normally I take poultry death in stride, I am bummed tonight because we lost the gorgeous Silver Laced Wyandotte today. Eleven months old and had a Marek's vaccination. :-(

See her lovely calendar girl photos in the Gallery on this date.

June 17, 2011 - Chicks, Day 2

I just love chicks on the first day--they are fearless and will come right up to sit in my hand. Not so on Day #2. Instinct kicks in and they huddle in the corner when I come into the brooder. See them hiding in the Gallery on this date.

June 16, 2011 - Chicks!

Twelve more chicks--so cute! These will take the place of losses over the past year and fill in for some culling I will do this fall. Plus a couple extra are in case of Marek's Disease--the vaccine I used last time is not available anywhere this year so we are hoping for the best without it.

See the new babies in the Gallery on this date.

May 13, 2011 - Friday the 13th

One week a happy ending, then comes Friday the 13th. Today I found one of the almost year-old Easter Eggers dead in the coop. I figure it was just her time and don't worry too much about these losses anymore. Between Marek's and other natural causes, that's life. See her in her happy life in the Gallery on this date.

May 4, 2011 - Happy Ending

A Black Australorp I culled 2 years ago is alive and well. See her story in the Gallery on this date.

April 15, 2011 - First Broody

The girls have been laying for several months now, but their internal clocks must be telling them it's warm enough now that they should begin trying to hatch some eggs. The first broody is a Rhode Island Red. Caught her growling at me from a nest today. That's usually a sure sign. That and fluffing up her feathers when I get near. See her in the Gallery on this date.

She's now confined to the broody pen--formerly known as the chick pen as it does double duty. She is not happy about being without a nest, but since broodies don't lay eggs, she will just have to suffer. Isolation usually 'breaks up' a broody after 3-5 days. Then she will join her sisters and should get back to laying in a week or two.

I've decided to begin culling my flock at the end of this year. Broodies are going to go. I've put a leg band on her so I can tell her from the other RIR hen. A few others of the flock have been broody in the past so will wait to see if they do it again this year. Future additions will be of breeds that have not demonstrated this tendency.

March 9, 2011 - Single Combs in Wyandottes

Got around to researching why my new Silver Laced Wyandotte has a single rather than pea comb. Found the following explanation on a web site specializing in breeding the Wyandotte:

Single combs show up in all Wyandotte lines and can be directly related to fertility. Many Wyandotte breeders will tell you to breed out the single comb is to breed out fertility. We do on occasion use single comb pullets in our breeding pens but advise that if at all possible avoid using a single comb male as he will quickly bring up the ratio of single comb offspring. We have found that a good ratio is 10% to 15% single comb offspring is an acceptable amount. A single comb is a disqualification in the show pen.

Here's the web site:

March 3, 2011 - Spring is coming

The girls are laying big time right now. 27 hens laid 25 eggs one day last week. We are averaging about 20 eggs per day. I think this is pretty good considering the original girls who are beginning their 4th year are still doing a pretty good job. The one remaining original Buff Orpington lays 5 eggs a week. I can keep track of her eggs because she lays them in the corner of the coop on the floor. This is 'Blind Chick' who is blind in one eye but otherwise behaves just like everyone else.

As you can see in the Gallery on this date, the baby Silver Laced Wyandotte (now 7 months old and laying) is simply stunning. She has one curious feature--her comb is single rather than pea of a normal Wyandotte. I haven't done any research about this--maybe a strain of Wyandotte has single combs? She's not a show bird so comb type is of little concern to me. I think her single comb just adds to her beauty!

February 7, 2011 - Mercy Killing

Today we dispatched a 2-year-old Easter Egger who was blind from Mareks Disease. She was being tormented by hens on lower pecking order. So sad. We have a Buff Orpington who is blind in one eye (Blind Chick) and the others don't bother her at all. Of course she can see.

The blind EE was able to navigate the coop and yard for roosting, eating, drinking and laying eggs. However she wasn't doing all the normal chicken activities of scratching and hunting for bugs. Over the past couple of months, she didn't even come out of the coop and hid with her head in a nest box for protection.

She slept on the perch outside of the nests. This roosting habit lured others to hide in the nests at night. So every night I had to go out and move the sighted offenders to the roosts wih the others. I left the blind girl where she was--near but not in a nest.

I considered ending her misery a couple of weeks ago and then with the sunshine, she began coming out with the others and all was well for a few days. Not sure what happened, but the baby Light Brahma decided to pick on the blind girl and made quite a mess of her comb. She retreated to the nest again day and night.

This isn't a factory farm, but I can't allow suffering on my watch. I'm also hoping all the hens will resume sleeping on the roosts over the dropping pit. I will close the nest area off for a few evenings to discourage them. Hopefully then I can stop that and they will do the right thing!

See pictures of Blond and one of Mareks Eye in the Gallery on this date.

January 27, 2010 - Children in the Coop

Over the 3 years I have kept chickens, we have had many visits by children. Parents and grandparents enjoy showing kids where food comes from. My chickens are so tame they play along with this show-and-tell idea.

For some reason I never think to take my camera out on those visits. Fortunately a new friend who attends Master Gardener training with me brought her camera and took pictures of her daughters--and me.

See two beautiful little girls visiting with the hens in the Gallery on this date.

January 7, 2010 - The Girls

The babies are fitting in with the big girls, although they still run when confronted. Funny that they have most trouble with the last 'kids'--the EEs that are now laying eggs. The baby Silver Laced Wyandotte is very flashy compared with the first SLW I got almost 3 years ago. See a sampling of the generations in the Gallery on this date.

January 3, 2010 - Green Egg

The young Easter Eggers are slowly coming 'on line' as layers. Today we got a very green egg. The others have been laying the more normal aqua or slightly greenish colors. See photos in the Gallery on this date.

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