Of Eggs and Other Things Egg-Related

As July progressed, in between the slow culling of the roosters, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the coming of age for my sexlink hens, and the coming of eggs.  About a week ago, Abigail, who has always been the biggest of the sexlinks, started doing a ‘submissive squat’ whenever someone tried to pick her up.  So we’ve been watching her closely.

In preparation, Little Dude, DH and I did some changes to the coop, namely curtains for the beds I’d to have has laying boxes.  I’ve read in numerous places where the curtains offer privacy and shade for the hens, and a safe place to lay their eggs.   Once the curtains were up, Little Dude and I placed extra straw and plastic Easter eggs inside the beds.  The straw to encourage nesting and the plastic eggs because we have a ton of those and I didn’t want to go to the store to buy golf balls.  I figure that the hens won’t care about the color, right?

 

I saved extra cloth from the curtains to go with the other egg-related project I’ve been working on in my spare time… the restoration/renovation of an antique egg-basket.

 

My parents found it on the farm back in 1977, when they bought the farm.  It was left by the previous owner.  Mom used it for eggs, gathering vegetables, and it even served as an Easter basket for me, one year.
My parents found it on the farm back in 1977, when they bought the farm. It was left by the previous owner. Mom used it for eggs, gathering vegetables, and it even served as an Easter basket for me, one year.
I intend to sand sand off the rust, paint it red, and then put a small pillow covered in the same cloth as the coop curtains in the bottom.
I intend to sand sand off the rust, paint it red, and then put a small pillow covered in the same cloth as the coop curtains in the bottom.

 

 

 

I was hoping to finish this little project before the hens began laying, but Abigail had other plans, apparently.  🙂

She was in the coop this morning behaving very strangely (for her, or for what I’ve seen of these birds thus far).  She was in the laying box she has been favoring all week, and I mostly ignored her while I was cleaning the rest of the beds.  Then, she stood up, stuck her head out behind the curtain, stretched her neck waaaaaay out and started screeching like nothing I’ve heard before.  She did that for several minutes, which totally freaked Little Dude out, and he began to worry. But I told him that I’d heard ‘some chickens sing before they lay an egg.’  So maybe she was getting ready to lay one.  Not that I would call that sound ‘singing.’  It was more like panic.  Like she was yelling at Dots to hurry up and get the boiling water and bed sheets, the baby was coming whether the doctor was here or not.

And then… she just stopped panicking, stood up and started dragging straw from some of the other laying boxes.

That’s where I left her, dong her nesting thing.  No egg.

But I came back down to the barn this afternoon and found this in the coop, in that same laying box:

For the record, Abigail, Dots and their sexlink ‘sisters’ are 17 weeks old today. I wonder when Rebekah and Ava will start laying, too? 🙂

7.5 Weeks and Counting

7 and a half weeks.  We love our run, chasing bugs, and 'cucumber bites.'
7 and a half weeks. We love our run, chasing bugs, and ‘cucumber bites.’

Well, I wasn’t sure if I was going to post this because I was late with it (again) but then I decided ‘why not.’

Here are my chicks at 7 1/2 weeks.

They’ve been enjoying their run for the last two weeks.  Playing in the grass, chasing bugs, and pecking around in the dirt.  They even like going out in the rain, which is good because it’s all we’ve had for three days now.  Today was the first sun we’ve seen in a while.

I’ve finally got the old tire for the dirt bath, but no dirt in it yet.  That will be this weekend’s project.

The other project, or should I say, DH’s project, is going to be fixing up the coop a little more before we attempt moving the Reds into it.  He needs to split it off, into two separate parts.

At the same time, I’d like to try something new with our bedding arrangements.   Currently, I’m using a combination of pine shavings and straw.  The pine on the floor and the straw in the layer boxes.  The chickens pull the straw down so it’s on the floor anyway.

However, it’s time consuming to clean the straw out of the beds when it’s dirty and given that there’s twenty of them, it’s hard to keep it clean.  I constantly ask myself how often I should be cleaning it out?  How much should I use?  Am I spending too much?

A friend of my father’s raises chickens and he used sawdust.  He puts it on the floor of his coop, about 3 or 4 inches deep, and also in the laying boxes.  Then, he uses a cat scoop to clean out the clumps where they poop, about every couple of days, according to him.   He told Dad that he changes the sawdust maybe once a year.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  What type of bedding do you use in your coops?

 

Hello, we’ve been here three weeks now

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Comparison pic of the chicks since we’ve had them.

Yesterday marked the chick’s 3rd Week-aversary in our care.

We celebrated the occasion by busting our butts all weekend long (in between baseball games and  everything else we had going on) to get the not-quite finishing touches on their new coop.  DH, Little Dude and I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning up around the outside of the barn where their run is going to be.  I guess we’ve decided to put up a small run for about a month or so, until the get acclimated to the outdoors area and then remove the fencing to let them truly be free range.

The clean up is not quite done.  It included pulling weeds, removing rock, trash, scrap metal, old boards and broken window glass.  There’s a lot to do, but seeing as the chicks are still only 3 weeks oldish and most still have down on their heads yet, we have some time to get the rest of it gone before the run goes up.

However, they are getting too big for our brooder box.  Most of the bigger ones have been trying to fly and keep hitting their heads on the chicken wire on top or careening into the brood lamp.  Not safe, in my fairly new-at-chickens opinion.

Also, we are expecting a delivery of Rhode Island Red chicks this coming week.

All the research I’ve done, from stalking other chicken blogs to looking on sites like Back Yard Chickens, suggests that since they are under 5 weeks old, I should be able to integrate the babies in with these guys in the brooder box and not wake up the next morning to the site of a massacre.  But the above statement that my three-week-old Gold Sexlinks are getting too big for our brooder box and the fact that 17 of them are rowdy little boys, I tend to think that mix them is a bad idea.

Not that any of the Golds seem to be vicious, but they are starting to act more like the chickens they will become and less like helpless little peeps.

And I just don’t want to wake up to a blood bath.

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DH hard at work building the ramp.

So, after the clean up, DH cut the hole for the door to the future chicken run and build them a ramp to walk down. That was Saturday.  Yesterday, he put the door and lock up, so we could lock them up at night and installed a brood lamp in the coop, in one corner.  They still have some down so they still need it.

After the door was installed, I picked up all the tools, swept the coop out really good (or as good as I could get it for an old barn) and with the help of My Girl (my daughter, she’s 15 and says she wants nothing to do with the chickens but she really does, if you know what I mean), put straw in the beds and wood chips on the floor.

After the lamp was installed, we were free to move them into their new home.  Some of them were totally okay with it.  Some of them completely freaked out and got scared.  Their toys did not make the trip.  We need to figure out where/how to hang them before that.  Also, as they get bigger, I want to build them some of these log chicken swings  They look neat.

Everyone else thinks I’m spoiling them.

Here’s a look at all our hard work.  Hope you enjoy it!  Tips/suggestions/comments always welcome.  🙂

A little remodeling

Yesterday, my mother and I went grocery shopping and while we were out, I picked up a couple of bird toys for the chicks.  We hung them, and as predicted, the first reaction was ‘omg!whatisthis!’ and a stampede to the other side of the brooder.

When I came back later in the afternoon with Little Dude, however, a couple of them had gotten brave enough to approach one of the toys and ring the bell.  Then another.  It’s fun to watch them being brave and exploring new ideas.

Later that night, I showed DH and he basically thought I was spoiling the chicks, but he also decided to ‘fix’ my perch a little bit.  So it got a bit of a rehab.

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“New’ perch and toys, courtesy of DH and myself.
IMG_3322
They acted like the perch was a barrier and lined up on one side of it to stare at the toy with the balls.

At breakfast this morning, they were lined up on one side of the re-designed perch, staring at the other side like it was a barrier they couldn’t cross.  Then one of them hopped up on the perch.  Then to the other side.  A couple others followed suit.  Some of the smaller ones can fit under the perch like a limbo pole.  A few more rang the bell.  It’s cute.  They peck the bell, it makes noise and they scurry like crazy to the other side.

But at least they’re trying it out.  Trying new things.  It’s good for them.

Getting Ready

My husband and I have always planned on coming back to our hometown when he retired from the Navy and buying my parents’ farm.  Talked about it, planned on it, and yes, when he finally retired, we came home to the farm.

Except that it really isn’t much of a farm anymore because my parents sold off the cows years ago, when strenuous farm labor became too hard for both of them all along.  They rented it out for a while, but it’s stood vacant for some time and used mostly for storage.

Since we’ve been back, my husband and I (mostly him) have put in a lot of hard work getting ready for chickens, as well as talk about raising some beef calves to sell.  We haven’t gotten to that part in the game yet, as there are fences to build before cattle can come in.  But the chicken coop came along pretty well as planned.

My father had raised pheasants one winter, releasing them into the wild in the fall.  The coop and starter box, feeders and heat lamps he used where still there.  DH cleaned them up, and tore the old pheasant house down, and then rebuilt it to accommodate chickens.

 

 

 

 

This is a progress so far.  When our chicks are ready to leave their box & heat lamp, DH will have a door cut into the wall and a ramp, so they can go outside and stretch their wings.

Right now, we’re in the process of debating ‘free range’ versus building them a penned in run.  I don’t want them to get hit in the road running past our farm, but I also don’t want them to get bored and mean because their run is too small. I also don’t feel like having a daily Easter Egg Hunt once the hens start laying.

What do you think, readers, if you are here reading with me?  Free ranger or a run?