Friday, July 29, 2011

Not Yet World-Wise

Remember these babies??


How about now?

Yep, they're the little chicken-butts that hatched last week!

They're getting big.  Today was the first day outside in the outdoor brooder.  They....uh....were a little leery.

But about five or so minutes later, they came around.  One came forward...

And eventually the others followed.  By the time a couple of hours had passed and it was time to come in, they were pecking and scratching like champs. 

They're getting it.  They'll be hanging out with the others in no time flat!
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Eggs A La Duck

I'm proud to say that Suzie, the lone surviving Runner duck from that fated day in early June, has begun to lay.  She's given us 3 eggs in as many days, putting our slacker hens to shame.  Unfortunately, she's chosen to lay them in the duck house, so they get messy, but I can't ask for everything, can I?  She's been consistent in at least laying them early in the morning, so I can fetch them with some consistency. 

Just goes to show that you don't need two eyes to function (though it helps you not to walk into things as much), and you can survive a vicious attack and go on to lead a normal life.  Go Suzie!!!

The newest egg is in the front.  See how much bigger they're getting?  All from a 4 1/2 pound duck!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Everything But the Squeal

I've heard that everything from a pig can be used but the squeal.  I don't think I'd be lining up to eat pig brains or eyeballs or snout or anything like that, but it's an interesting idea.  I don't have a pig, but I do have chickens, as a lot of people do.  So I wonder if the same saying might apply and us chicken owners might find ways to use what the chickens provide?  Chickens obviously give us eggs.  They can also give us meat.  The remnants from butchering can give us healthier soil.  But there are things a chicken gives that maybe we wonder what to do with.  Things like egg shells and feathers.  What do we do with those?

Egg shells might be the easiest thing to recycle: just feed them back to your chickens.  I do this here at our little farm.  I collect the shells from the eggs that I use in a bag in the freezer, after rinsing them.  Then, when the bag is REALLY full, I take the shells and dry them.  With all the heat we've had, they went outside for a few days to sit in the sun.  When they are really crunchy, they are done.  I take the shells, put them in a heavy duty bag, and smash the heck out of them.   Then I feed them back to the chickens.  Voila! Calcium for them, less waste for me.  What a beautiful cycle.  They lay the eggs, we use the eggs, we give the shells back when we're done.  Ultimate recycling. 

What about the feathers, though?  

They can be composted.  Or you can leave them on the grass and when the mower goes over them, they are chopped up and fertilize the grass for you.  With the geese finishing their molting, and the new chickens losing their "baby" plumage, it's looked like the inside of a feather pillow here for quite a while.  Some of the feathers are so pretty, that it's a shame to just leave them on the ground or throw them in the compost.

I'll tell you a secret: I don't like to waste anything, if I can help it.  And the pretty feathers are too pretty for me not to keep.  So I keep them.  Ever since our chickens have been shedding feathers, I have been collecting them.  The nicest ones I have kept in a bag in the garage to use later.  After quite a while (about a year or so), my bag was full and it was time to use the feathers.  So I made this:

Isn't that purty??   Those are feathers from pretty much all our chickens, past and present.  Everyone is represented to some extent, I should think.  I used a styrofoam wreath form from the craft store, bundled feathers into 4 and 5 feather bundles, secured them with floral tape, and then hot glued them on.  I used loose feathers to fill in the blanks.

I am very pleased with the way it came out, and I'm really pleased that I could use all those pretty feathers.  If you have some pretty chickens (and we all do, don't we?), and you have the mind to do it, save those feathers and make something pretty!  I think you will be pleased with the results!

Linking to:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Chick Saga Ends

Meet Sparrow, chick number 4.

She/He almost got out of the shell by herself without being harassed by Black, but Black must have noticed her/him at some point, because when I got out there, she was pecking the baby and the shell like crazy.  In fact, she'd pecked him/her so much that the chick just shot out of the bottom of the shell like a cannon, trying to get away.  Black proceeded to pick the chick up by his/her foot and try to fling him/her.

The chick was rescued and dried under the makeshift incubator, and Black is done with mommyhood.  Her last two eggs are duds, and I'm trying to break her back into the swing of normal chicken life again.  I am thankful to Black for setting so nicely for 3 weeks.  She was extremely faithful to those eggs and hardly ever got up.  Her tenaciousness  got the eggs right up to the point of hatch, which I couldn't have done, as I don't have an incubator right now.  She gave us 4 more chickens, and I appreciate that.  I don't appreciate that she killed one of them, and would have killed the other four, had I not intervened.  My son has suggested that Black only wants an egg family, not a chick family, and it seems that he's right.  I will put Black on the list of broodies I will use only if I have no other choice. 

But anyway, well done and thank you, Fat Black.  Nice work and enjoy your retirement.
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Before the Fluff

Yesterday turned out to be a heck of a day.  All my plans for things to be done were completely shot, as we stopped to witness the birth of three new chicks.  The first was Walnut, named by my son, and posted about here.  That turned out not to be the end, though.  All three eggs that were left and were viable were peeping and tapping up a storm under Black.  Two of the three had pipped.  Since the saying is "peep, then pip, then hatch", (maybe that's just my saying??) we only had to wait.  So we waited.  And slowly, very slowly, the babies started to emerge.

Unfortunately, Black started to notice them.  She went from being a docile broody whom I could touch and move and check under and feed to being a madwoman.  She went for the eggs like it was breakfast after the longest night in the world.  So, as the babies started to emerge, I had to bring them in.

Enter Robin:

Robin was halfway out of his/her shell when Black noticed and started to peck at him/her like an insane person.  Robin was safely removed and brought inside to a lovely dampish tupperware box under the heat lamp so she/he could finish emerging in safety.

She/he soon left his/her eggshell behind and started to totter around.

As Robin dried off, Dandelion started to emerge, but Black was having none of it.  I went out to check on her later that day, and found her pecking again.  This time the chick did not get that far.  She/he was also removed to the lovely tupperware lair.

We all got to watch.  Despite my son saying that it was "stinky", it was amazing to see, and I know my kids were awed.  I was too, come to think of it.

It's a chick!!  It took Dandelion quite a few hours to get out of the top and then quite a long time more to get unattached to the egg.  But she/he kicked the bottom off like a trooper.  And once he/she was free, he/she made such a racket he/she woke up my daughter (yeah, it was late by the time Dandelion was all the way out).  Once Dandelion was pretty much dry, out he/she went to be with Walnut and Robin.   They snuggled like the little babies they are.

There's one egg left.  It pipped late last night, and knowing what Black has been doing, I was tempted to remove it.  But since I have no incubator, it would mean me sitting up all night in a hot room with the heat lamp on and a misting bottle at the ready, making sure the baby was warm and damp enough to push it's way out.  Since I'd spent A LOT of yesterday doing the same thing, I wasn't really looking forward to it.  I opted to sleep.  However, I did just check on Black, and she's serene, and the baby has only cracked enough to stick out a nose.  So not much progress was made, and Black's none the wiser right now.  I can keep my eye on her from here.

As to Black?  Unless she proves otherwise with this last hatch, I am relegating her to the "goody broody, BAD mommy" file.  I don't know what it is about the hatching eggs that she hates so much.  She loves to sit on them, but once they start to hatch, they are intruders.  Maybe they're wrecking her zen, what do I know?  I'll keep you posted on that last baby! 
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's a CHICK!!!

I checked on Black this morning, to be sure she wasn't doing anything bad, and she wasn't, which was nice.  Went about my business, and then just checked on her a few minutes ago.  She had pooped in her nest, so I decided to move her to the box next to it.  I scooped out one egg, two eggs, three eggs, four, five, and reached for the sixth and pulled out shell.
Shit.  I thought she'd done it again.  But then, faintly, from under Black's butt, came a little peep. 

I couldn't scoop Black up fast enough.  And there it was.  A baby!!!

Why, you ask, is that baby in a tupperware container under a heat lamp instead of with Fat Black?  Good question.  The answer is simply this:  when I pulled out the baby and stopped making a total ass of myself by cooing over it like a moron, I put it in the new nest and put Black on top.  She proceded to try to kill the baby by picking it up by the head and trying to throw it across the box.  Can you say, not mommy material?  It's safer with me, so I scooped it back up, cooed like an idiot a bit more, and watched Black settle back in on the other eggs.  I took this little one inside to warm up and not be thrown around by its head.

Maybe when the others hatch she'll be more prone to wanting to mother them.  Somehow, between tossing this one around and opening the other one to eat it's shell, I doubt it.  For now, Black goes on the list as a good brooder and a BAD mother. 

But there's a baby!  So yeay!  Good job sitting on your butt, Black!

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Monday, July 18, 2011


Fat Black's first egg hatched today.  Unfortunately, it was not due until Wednesday, and I think she "helped" it a bit--it was stillborn.  When I found it under her, it was completely open at the top and only stuck to the bottom of the shell, I was excited for about a minute, until I realized it was dead.  The umbilicus was still out of it's belly and all the yolk had not been absorbed.  Black was pecking at it.  It was obvious that she had been pulling the shell off to eat it (the shell, not the chick.  Although, she could be trying to eat the chick, too, I dunno).  Poor little chick. 

I am praying that this is not a pattern with her, and that we get a safe delivery on the other six.  It may be that the baby pipped, and then Black said "Yum, egg!", and helped herself.  She's now earned the privilege of me watching her like a hawk until all the babies are born, which should be between Wednesday and Friday.  Congrats, Fat Black.  If she does try this again, I will relegate Black to the "not allowed to brood chicks" list, and take her babies away to hatch them out under a lamp.  I'm going to research that now. 

What a misfortune that the first birth we've had here should be such a sad start.  I TRULY hope that this will not be the pattern for us here at Chicken Scratch.  I don't think I can take that many failures.

Cross your fingers for us!

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Here's the Thing...

Most people don't think factory farming exists, or if it does, it happens only in the Midwest, or far away, where no one can see it or hear it, so if we're blind and dumb to it, it doesn't affect us.  Well folks, it's everywhere, and those farms can be next to anyone. 

Thanks to Bee Haven Acres for this link:

She said it best, so I really can't add anything, but I would implore you to please think about where your food comes from.  It comes from places like that farm (not Bee Haven Acres' farm, the other one), and I really think we can do better.  Let's all do better, ok?
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nesting Instincts

No, not mine.  I'm talking about he chickens.  I built them a nest box duplex today.  I am pretty proud of how it came out, too.

It's made of 100% recycled materials, except for the screws.  So I guess it's really 99% recycled stuff.  It's all bits and pieces of left over plywood, some old baseboard trim that was hanging around, some left over 4x4s for the base that are from the old playset (still getting mileage out of that thing), and the old closet bar that used to be in the brooder (hence the chicken poo already on it). 

It took me all day to do, surprisingly.  But I am really proud of it (did I say that already?  Ok, I'm just proud).  I have one more to make of the same size, and then I have to make a double to go somewhere else, because I don't think I can fit four across on the wall.  I would like 14 nest boxes total, I think.  Plenty of space for all.

Of course, right after I finished, the work was thoroughly inspected.

Now that these are done, the older gals are moving into the new coop.  I am leaving Fat Black alone so that she can brood her eggs in peace.  I will have to re-teach the older girls to use the new nests.  Today, Fat Black got up and took a stroll around the yard, and someone else went in her nest and laid an egg in it.  Then when Black went back, she found the other hen in her nest, and decided to sit on the eggs in the nest next to hers instead.  I had to shoo out the other chicken, remove her unfertile egg, and put Black back on her nest.  She settled right in, but phew!  What chicken drama.  We're getting so close to the hatching time, I am super nervous she's going to up and leave.  Any hiccups make me worry she'll quit.  Plus, she'll need a space of her own for herself and her adopted chillins, so the old coop is the perfect small broody house.  Lucky girl! 

Can't wait to see those little 'uns.  Can't wait to see what they ARE, mostly.  Three are a dang mystery.  I'll let you know how it goes!  Wish Black luck!
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Monday, July 11, 2011

And In Other News.....

It's HOT.  Wow.  H-O-T, hot.
That's not that exciting, but it does explain why things have slowed down here a little bit.  However, I keep pushing on, just slowly.  Heat and I do not agree.

On the building front, the new beautiful chicken coop is now mostly painted and partially trimmed out.  But it is completely roofed!!  My husband and I worked on it and finished it this weekend.  I love this coop so much, I'm thinking of naming it.  I love the luxury of walking into it in the evening to do my head counts.  Chicken coops in the evening are peaceful places, when everyone is singing.  It's so nice.

We were really lucky that the previous owner left us a HUGE pile of leftover roofing shingles under the deck.  We used a lot on this coop, I've used some for the goose house, the duck house, and Petunia's house.  Speaking of which:

All done!  She moved in last week, and looked at me like "what the heck do you want me to do in here?"  It's a lot larger than her last digs.  I gave her a chimney, can you see it?  The box of the house came out really well, but the roof was so ding-dong cockeyed that it clearly needed a rickety chimney.  I think it adds character.  And it looks almost like I meant to do that to the roof.  Well, I did, didn't I? 
 Jeez, I hate building.  grumble grumble.
This is how it looks with the boys' house:

Pretty snazzy, I think.

And onto the critters.  The chickens are growing beautifully.  Here's a shot of a few of them:

The one in the front is a Sicilian Buttercup, staring straight at you.  To the right, a Welsummer.  To the left, a Speckled Sussex.  Barred Rocks are in the back.

This is one of the two roosters I am aware that we have right now.  Unless anyone else is a surprise, we have only two, unless Fat Black hatches more.  He's a French Black Copper Maran.  Behind him is one of the females of the same breed.  We will be breeding this type of chicken, and the rooster is turning out to be a fine specimen.  His behind looks pretty good in this picture, no?

Ok, here's his front.  He doesn't crow yet, though.  All our lovely crowing is done by Copernicus, the Welsummer rooster (the other breed to be bred).  He makes a nice deep crow so far.  He's gorgeous too, but I couldn't find him to get a picture.  The fuzzy blob in front of the rooster above is not a dirty mop, it's a Silky.  Just FYI.  Easy to get them confused.

.....Ah, I jest.  The Silkies are really sweet.  Just very, very.....fluffy.

This is a shot of one of the only two Guinea keets we have left.  Out of the four originals, three were eaten.  One came back and would not shut up until I got him/her a friend.  This is the friend.  The one that is the one remaining is I don't know where.  It disappears occasionally, and luckily, comes back.  The one above thinks it's a chicken.  Lucky for me, because that means he/she always roosts when they do.  Score!!

Ok, that's a cat.  Let's move on.

Fat Black is still doing an eggsellent job.  HA!  Couldn't help myself.


I really need to stop picking these eggs up and staring into them.  It's not healthy.  For me, that is.  I just need to see what's going on.  I.  Can't.  Help.  Myself. 

Black's nest of surrogate eggs.  She was taking a break at the time:
Can't I just have five minutes????

Dirt bath.  Fun!

The little duckadoos are getting BIG.  This batch is doing SO much better than the last batch, which leads me to say that if you're going to raise ducks, do it when they can go outside.  Wow.  The difference is just amazing.  Leg problems, back problems, slow growth, they all plagued the last batch.  This group has none of the same problems.  They go out every day, unless it's pouring.  I think it makes all the difference.  They're now two weeks old and being switched from the high protein starter to the maintenance ration.  I don't think they care about the difference. 

And finally, guess what we did today? 

What do you think would be a great treat to do in 93 degree weather with your kids?


Water park?

Ice cream?

NO!  We went blueberry picking in the hot, hot sun.

Aren't they beautiful?  We picked 8 pounds, and they could have kept going.  Let me tell you, these are kids after my own heart.  They were psyched to go, picked like champs, and had a blast.  93 degrees, we laugh in your face! HA!
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