Your Eggs Have Shipped

4Heggs

The hatching eggs for Little Dude’s 4-H hatching eggs have shipped.  According to the tracking information, they will be here sometime Tuesday, via USPS.  So… probably between 1 -2 p.m.

I have set up the incubator and am testing it now. It needs to be at 99.5 degrees fFahrenheit and I’m not sure about the humidity.  We don’t have a humidity tester, so I couldn’t tell anyway.  I’ve read that if you’re using shipped eggs, you should let them sit 12-24 hours before putting them in the incubator.   So this means I have a couple days to successfully test the incubator we borrowed, and if I don’t like how it runs, head out to Tractor Supply to get a new one.

 

 

Chickens Love Piles 

aka How I Learned to Make Deep Litter Work for Me.

Last summer, I made the discovery of a chicken keeping practice known as Deep Litter.  The idea is to keep about 3-5 inches of your preferred bedding on the floor of your coop, cleaning it out every so many months, as opposed to every day.

The chickens are supposed to help, by scratching and pawing in the bedding, turning it with their feet in search of bugs, food, etc, and causing the bedding to aerate.

The bedding, in turn, slowly decomposes and  breaks down over time, and by the time you give it a good deep cleaning and fresh litter, the old has become the right consistency for garden compost.

Or so all the websites I researched told me.

Sadly, all last winter and summer, I failed to see evidence that my chickens were doing any of this turning and scratching.  If anything, they walked on it and compacted it, leaving me to do all the hard work myself.

That is… until last week when I got tired of turning the bedding with my trusty bedding fork and decided to – gasp – leave the bedding I had just turned in two big piles in the middle of the coop.

I came back later that night and  the piles were gone.

Why?  Because as any chicken person can tell you – chickens LOVE piles.  Dirt, leaves, grass, compost…. whatever kind of pile you have, your chickens will find them and play in them.

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This morning’s bedding piles.
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Pip and some of the girls checking things out.

By the time I came back to do my last egg-check and lock up for the night, they had it all spread back into place.   I’ll leave them more piles in a couple of days, and they’ll have something to keep them busy for a little while.

Overall, it makes for a good winter boredom-buster, too, if you think about it!

The Chicken Chick has an awesome Deep Litter post, here, that explains more about the Do’s and Don’ts than I ever could.  

I’m still learning, but I like it.  It’s less work for me. When I first started, I was cleaning the coop every day, sometimes for more than 2 hours at a time, and it was tedious.  Deep litter put a stop to that. Now, I just clean off the roosts and the droppings board, and the occasional poop in the laying beds.   Max time – IF I don’t stop and play with the chickens – half hour to do everything.   That’s quite a jump from 1-2 hours.   Although, let’s face it.  I do play with the chickens while I work.  It’s how I roll.

 

Coop Changes

DH and I spent some time working in the coop today, working on a project that I hope will make our coop more economical and less time consuming.  

When DH first built the coop, almost two years ago, it had thirty-six laying boxes and no roosts.

We added the roosts last year.  


Today, we removed some of the laying boxes, as most have been unused due to strange chicken logic that says they must lay in the same three boxes no matter how many are empty.  If you have chickens, you understand that logic.  It’s just how they are.  

So, we tore out over half the boxes, going from 36 to 16.  We put up new roosts in place of the removed boxes, with a droppings board beneath.  


The testing committee (as you can see) consists of Pip, Pavel, Felicia, Maxie and the Dalmies. 

They seem to approve of the finished product, although there were many complaints lodged during the in-going process.  

It is my hope that this change will result in less time spent cleaning, because all Ill really need to do is clean off the roosts and dropping boards.  And also it should save us money because I won’t have as many beds to fill, so the wood shavings should go a little further.  

If it’s not molting, it’s…

… ??

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last week or better.  But here, for you, dear readers, I’ll back track…

It’s summer, it’s hot and yucky and I have been under the assumption that my older chickens began their molt early due to the heat.  Is that a thing?  I don’t know, but they are looking ragged, and several have stopped laying.

Double Dots, who is my easiest to catch loves to be held, had spots on his legs that felt like new feather coming in.  Hard, pokey new feathers.  I looked into the fluff on his legs and saw feather shafts with raised red skin around it.

Being new to chickens, and never having had any molt before, I assumed that the first adult molt made them irritated.

It turns out, as I have read in several sources, molting does NOT cause irritation.

So what do I have going on in my flock?

I have spent the last week and a half searching the internet, skulking in the Backyard Chickens forum, and the best I can come up with is mites or lice.  Or extreme picking and feather pulling.

Dots appears to have the worst of it.  His butt below his vent is awful looking, red, uber-irritated.

I diligently checked all the other chickens, young and old.  There’s a few with minor signs of the same vent irritation.  Pip has minor signs around his vent.  Not anywhere as bad as Dots.

However, given that Dots is the Head Rooster of this flock and he like to mate with his hens frequently, he could spread them?  Also, where is he getting them from?  What about Abby and Claire, my two broody hens?  Broody hens are susceptible to lice and mites because they sit and don’t go outside to dust bathe as often.

For anyone interested, Backyard Chickens has a lovely and informative guide to Mites and Lice.    Their forum is also full of good threads on what to do.  I spent a good amount of time there this week trying to figure this out, and make a plan of attack.

Ordinarily, I would have gone to The Chicken Chick or Fresh Eggs Daily first, but on this, I find myself unsure of the advice.  One of them supports natural/herbal remedies and the other says that herbs will not get rid of mites and lice.

So I’m going with Backyard Chickens on this one.

My plan of attack is a 5 Step program.

  1.  Clean the ENTIRE coop and beds.   Little Dude and I did it this morning, much to the chagrin of my little hennies who just wanted a nice bed of wood shavings and straw to lay their eggs in.
  2. Spray EVERYTHING in mite spray.   I’m using Gordon’s Goat and Sheep spray.    The inside label says you can use it goats, sheep, cattle, horses, and poultry.  It says, in reference to poultry, to spray it on the roosts, beds and walls of the coop (I did the floors, too) and even spray a fine mist of it over your birds.  (I did not do that.)
  3. Put down clean bedding.  I just did wood shavings.  See Step 5 for why.
  4. Powder Chickens.  This step is a bit controversial.  BYC and other sources list Sevin dust as a good method of killing mites and lice and other external parasites on your chickens.  It’s safe for the chickens, and like the mite spray ( step 2), you don’t have to withhold eggs.  However, Sevin dust also kills bees.  A lot of people are opposed to chemicals that kill the honey bees.  If you’re interested in knowing, you’re supposed to put the Sevin dust inside a knee high (panty hose) and tie a knot in it to create a powder puff. Then pick up you chicken, hold them tucked up in under your arm, slightly upside down, and powder their butts near the vent.  It’s best to do this at bed time, so you can just pick your chickens off the roost (as opposed to chasing them around).   Little Dude and I will be doing this tonight at lock up.
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4 in 7 days.    Repeating will kill any mites or lice that hatched after the first treatment.  This step is also the reason I only put in wood shavings and not fresh straw in the beds.  We took out 7 wheel barrow loads of bedding while cleaning the coop.  In 7 days, I don’t want to relive that.

I am super concerned about Abby and her Littles, though.  I’m not sure how the Sevin dust will effect them.  However, whatever is bugging the big chickens could kill them, so it needs to be done.

Now, the chickens were only concerned with where their straw beds went, how soon they’d return and OMG! Mommy locked us out of the coop!

And when I finally did let them back into the coop, I have 12 of them trying to lay eggs all at once.  The various renditions of the Egg Song were deafening.  Poor girls!

And then, there was this…

I don’t know what it was about, but Cinderella and Rapunzel seemed very freaked out by the straw-less beds and Pip was pretending to be Prince Charming and checked them out for safety measures.

Chickens are so weird sometimes.

 

Broody Watch #3


Welcome to Claire’s 3rd and final week of being broody.  Over the weekend, we entered the ‘lockdown’ phase, as it’s called when you’re incubating eggs to hatch.  This is the last three days (or starting on day 18) of the hatching process when the chicks need to maintain a certain temp and humidity in order to hatch.  

On an incubator, there are dials and gauges to tell that.

How a hen knows, I can’t tell you but Claire didn’t leave the nest at all yesterday and spent most of it in a glassy-eyed fog.

The Broody Trance, finally.  

I fed her eggs yesterday at dinner time and likely will today, as well.  

She’s not as thin as Abby was but I’ll still give her some.  

Tomorrow is the first potential hatch day.  

In prep for Claire and her babies to join the flock, I did a Thing. 

Those who remember back to November when Pip was hatched, I put Abby and baby Pip in huge box, shoved under the laying beds.  One half of the box was nest and the other was for food and water. 

It worked for them but the box was in the way and after they stopped using it, Abby would sit in the middle of the coop with Pip and just expected everyone to stay out of their way. 

This would be why 1- Pip thinks the coop is His Domain and 2- all the older hens still find Pip vaguely annoying.  

Well, I realized today that in roughly 48-hours I will have the same situation, on with 1-4 chicks, instead of one.   AND on top of that, in a handful of weeks, I will integrating the Littles into the big flock. 

Does anyone else see a recipe for potential disaster? 

I do.  

So I did A Thing.  

I cleaned out (a little) the underneath area, where the chickens don’t really go and haven’t used since the were babies, stapled chicken wire in two sides with an opening in the middle, and creating a … maternity ward?  Nursery? 

the left side
the right side
the opening in the middle

If Claire accepts it, this unused space can be a place for a her baby nest, offer shelter and a safe place for her wee Littles to play … and it won’t take up any room in the coop that the older hens actually care about.  

Potential win-win. 

Setting it up now means the older chickens have a couple of days to get used to it being there.  

Chicks in Tunnels, Part 1

Well, now that my Littles are getting bigger and have all their feathers, we’ve been busy devising a way for them to use the run and go outside on nice days -if we ever GET ANY nice days this Spring – and still keep them relatively safe. 

I have, in occasion, brought a couple of them outside at the same time as the Big Flock and it was … Interesting.  Peanut and Lola antagonized a couple of the older hens and then freaked out when the hens tried to defend themselves.  

I am unsure if the older girls would have hurt them had I not been supervising, because they did not hurt Pip even after Abby stopped defending him.  Mostly they chased, lunged and left him to run away.  

Would they have attacked them?  I don’t know because all interactions have been supervised.  

However, as the Littles get bigger and it gets (hopefully) warmer, they deserve to go outside and be safe.  

We first thought to simply split the run into two unequal halves.  

But then I thought – why not tunnels?  We could put s border of tunnels around the existing run, and add a second chicken door into the ‘grow up coop.’  This would allow the Littles to go outside and remain safe from not only the older chickens but also from predators who might seek to make a snack out of a small chicken.  

panorama of the run & tunnel

up close of the corner
DH connecting the last tunnel
Black Jack checking things out
Black Jack, Peanut and Briar Rose

It’s not done yet, and won’t be done until next weekend, mostly because DH has to go out of town, but the tunnels themselves are done.  We let some of the chicks check it out, and they seemed to like it.  

I’ll post ‘Part 2’ once we get it finished.  

Short Timers

Today marks six weeks with the Mystery Bin Girls!  

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Happy 6-week-aversary, Girls!!!

They’re getting so big!!!   

And the brooder is getting so crowded!  

Every morning now, Matilda and Peanut will sit on the top perch and stretch their necks to peek over the top of the brooder and see … whatever they can see.  Sometimes, one of them will jump out and sit and watch me work.  Matilda likes to do that the best.  She’s a very curious girl, and had very keen eyes.  I can tell she is thinking lots of things.  

She’s going to have a lot to think about this week.  Tomorrow, Dad and I will be hanging the door between the main coop and the ‘grow up coop’ so that they will be able to move in soon.  

There’s a lot still to be done.  Before the hanging, I need to clean the coop and remove all the old ‘deep litter’ and straw, and give the side the little ones will be in a good cleaning.  There are also new curtains to be hung on both sides.  

Dad did a minor tweak to the laying boxes, as well.  He added a couple of inches to the front of the boards, thus making the beds a little deeper.  

I am hoping this will help keep the straw in the next and not so much on the floor, as well as provide a more comfortable nesting environment for the hens who are laying eggs.  

I don’t know if you can tell from these pictures, but they really do look deeper in real life: 

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After the split, I’ll be adding straw to all the laying boxes.  We didn’t use the bottom rows last year.  Now that they’re deeper, I hope they will start.  Might add some plastic eggs to them to encourage the thought. 

More pictures when I get coop cleaned out and the curtains hung.  🙂