B-b-brrrr

Woke up this morning to the one things I wasn’t quite ready for… snow on the hood of my car, and on the grass, and on the roof of the house.  Just a a light dusting, but boy!  So not what I was ready for at all!

Last week was beautiful and, for the most part, warm.  This week is still beautiful, but not so warm now.

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Dots and his ladies enjoying their morning breakfast ‘treat’ of scratch grains and wild bird seed.

 

Every morning, I’ve been I’ve been giving the birds a scoopful of scratch grains and wild bird seed (the kind with the black sunflower seeds mixed in with other stuff) to start their day.

They’ve come to expect it, so yesterday, when I was gone and Dad filled in or me, he let them out of the coop as usual, only to have them make several attempts to go back inside the coop and follow him into the barn.

Why?

Because I forgot to tell him about their morning treat.  Oops.  Poor babies.  Poor Dad!  He couldn’t figure out why they were bugging him!

The only time I don’t give them any is if we have table scraps to pass out, because I figure they don’t need both.  They’re all ready pretty spoiled for barnyard birds.  At least, that’s what I’m told constantly.  That I spoil them too much.

But you want to know what?  I’m not the only one.  A couple of days ago, Dad took the last of the winter squash out of his garden and opened up the gate so the chickens could forage off the last of the ones he wasn’t taking, not to mention all the leaves, bugs and what-have-you that got left in there.

All spring and summer long, it’s been gated off to them so they didn’t get into the squash, corn or peppers, so you can imagine how much they’re enjoying this:

See?  Looks like fun, huh?  Almost makes up for the coder weather, right?  Being able to scratch around in the ‘forbidden zone’?

As I type this, it’s flurrying again.  I’m glad we have chickens who are supposed to be winter-hardy birds, because it looks like winter is going is going to rear its head before autumn is half over.   I’m thinking about bringing the birds warm oatmeal for their morning treat tomorrow, and hoping DH finishes the wind-break he’s putting up around the run soon.

Other than that, I think the chickens and I are ready for winter.  I have metal waters, and plan to keep one in the house overnight to swap out if the water freezes, I’ve checked the coop and barn for drafts and we have the wind break in the works.

I think I ought to take my camera out and see how the chickens are liking the snow flurries.  None of them have seen it before, as they’re all only six months old.

In the meantime, here’s Jolene enjoying one of the last warmer days we had last week:

Too Much Going, Too Many Cold, Rainy Days

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Dots and his ladies last week, during of of many cold, rainy days we had.

So the last couple of weeks have been cooler, rainy and not much fun for me. I would have thought the birds would have felt the same, but they actually seemed to enjoy the cooler weather. Even on the day I could see my breath, they were outside, peck and clucking and foraging. I brought them treats in the form of warm oatmeal and pie crust (left over from a couple of home-made pies), and old bread, and they seemed to enjoy that.

Now that the rain has stopped, they’re doing some extensive exploring of the pasture and the swampy area next to it. It’s not uncommon for me to go down in the afternoons and find nothing up little tails sticking up out of the tall grass in the swamp.

Today, they are all exploring the sumac patch which is growing closer to the barn.

I’m wondering why they’re just NOW exploring these areas when they’ve been there the entire time, but at the same time, I figure that hey! it’s a big barnyard and they are getting older.

I’m up to 8 hens laying how, out of 16, so that’s half. The newest girl, Madison, laid her first egg today.

Five days ago, we got another, whom Little Dude has dubbed ‘the dangerous layer’ because she doesn’t lay in the box. we’ve found her eggs outside in the run (during one of the cold, rainy days), in the grass near the run, and once on the ground in the coop, right next to their water. ONCE (and only the once), she made it into a box.

We don’t know who she is, though, as I’ve never seen her lay. We just find it on the ground somewhere. I have suspicions, given how close the eggs are to the run and coop, that she’s making the attempt to get to a laying box, but she’s either coming from a distance away (like the pasture or the swamp) and doesn’t quite make it or she isn’t quite in tune with her own body and is misjudging how long she has before oops!egg!

Either way, it’s an easter egg hunt to find her egg every day.

Mouse Hunt

Last night, DH and I noticed Dots and his ladies playing with something in front of the barn. From a distance, it looks like a huge leaf. Kind of dark, oval-ish shaped. Dots was picking it up, dropping it and buck-bucking like he wanted the girls to check it out.

We walked down to see what it was, and it turned out to be a small field mouse.

They took turns passing it around all evening. The last time we saw it, one of the RiRs was running into the bushes with it, while three others chased after her.

A feed question

As I mentioned Saturday, my sexlinks are at 17 weeks old. My RiRs are just behind them at 13.75 (Wednesday, they will be 14 weeks).

I have 16 hens and 9 Roosters, for total of 25 birds. 4 are at the 17 week mark, and 3 of those are hens.

I’ve been been feeding my chickens DuMor feed. Starter with the chick starter, and now they are all eating finisher/grower. The chart on the back of the bag says that at 18 weeks, I can start feeding my hens the layer feed.

But I have questions, the biggest one being, can I feed the layer feed to EVERYONE?

My RiRs aren’t 18 weeks yet and won’t be for another 4 weeks.

The roosters don’t lay eggs.

I don’t have them separated and they all share feeders/waters (3 feeders, 2 waters), plus they all free ranger in the barnyard and pasture right now, on top of that.

I am wondering if I should start buying layer feed for the older girls and just place it out there, not knowing who will eat it, or simply stick with the finisher/grower and supplement with oyster shells?

Or is there a better way I don’t know?

Seventeen Rowdy Boys

11115749_10205589598873819_847017714110477628_n For those of you who haven’t been following my blog (when I actually have time to sit down and write a post, that is!), I stumbled into the world of raising chickens with little to no prior experience and twenty little gold chicks. Little Dude picked most of them out, based on the ‘they look cute’ method of deciding which chick to get. Honestly, at that ‘couple days old’ stage, they ALL look cute.

They came home with us from Tractor Supply in the box to your left and we all ooo-ed and awwed over them while DH got the coop ready for them.

In the days that followed, they grew and so did my second-hand knowledge of the little chicks, Gold Sexlinks , we’d brought home.  In bought a book about raising chickens, browsed websites, and Googled sexlinks for days… and came to the realization that a good number the cute little gold chicks my son had picked out were going to wind up being roosters.

Seventeen of them, to be exact.

DH and I argued )amicably over it for days, but in the end, the last twelve weeks have proven me right.  We have 17 roosters, whom we call The Boys.

When the shock wore off, we decided to make the best of it, and planned to use them for meat, because what else do you 17 roosters?

I’ll tell you… you laugh at them, at lot.  A LOT.

My Boys, they have personality.  From the very first time they freaked out at the bird toys I hung in the brooder box for them to amuse themselves to their first times outdoors, these crazy white roosters and them three red/brown sisters have been highly entertaining.

We’ve been busy around the farm in these weeks since the milk house fell.  We’ve been cleaning up the debris, moving the bulk milk tank out, and we rented a huge dumpster to clean out the years of old crap and dirt inside the barn.

This is a main reason why there’s been so fewer posts, because my days are filled with a LOT of physical exertion, and not enough time to sit down and write a post.

During that time, we’ve also split the coop, moved the little Reds into the one half, and eventually, introduced them to the run.  While the Reds are in the run, the Boys and their sisters get to be out in the barnyard and the pasture beyond.  We’ve watched them explore, wading into the tall grass to hunt bugs and eat off the tassles of the pasture grass, wander into the top of the barn to sleep under DH’s truck and generally enjoy themselves.

During the barn cleaning process, they discovered a love of “Grandpa’s tractor.”  They like to sit on it, and ride in the bucket up front or on the brush hog attached to the back. Not afraid, and not jumping off.  They like it.  It’s crazy and I wish I had taken pictures.

They also like having grandpa spray water from the hose into the air and run around under the fine mist it produces, like sprinklers.

My 17 Rowdy Boys.

The good side is tempered with the fact that they are 1) getting HUGE and 2) also some of them are becoming aggressive.   There’s several who well peck without provocation, and one especially, (I call him Gold Boy because he has an over abundance of gold feathers everywhere) is very mean.  He attacks both the Reds, his Gold brothers and us.  The decision has been made to start the butchering process… tomorrow.  Making this my last day with all 17 of the Rowdy Boys.

IMG_4013 We’ll be keeping one… this one.  It’s Little Dude’s favorite of the Golds.  His name is Double Dot, because he looks like he had brown “dots” on each wing, from the back.  He’s a good bird, let’s almost anyone pet and hold him, and isn’t one of the ones hell bent on pecking someone.  He’s even nice to the little Reds.  Well.. as nice as a chicken can be, anyway.

In the next couple of weekends, we’ll be butchering a few at a time, mostly because DH only has weekends to do it in and Dad is going to help him.  By the time we’re done, it will probably be time to start in on the RIR roosters.  We figure there are about 11 of them.

Little Dude is adamant that he is NOT going to help his father and grandfather kill his birds.  He’s sad about it, and as much as I will be glad for a LOT less chaos in the barnyard, I will also openly admit that I will miss my Rowdy Boys.  Very much.

In the meantime, Little Dude and I have begun the process of letting the Golds and Reds intermingle.  They’re still sleeping on separate sides of the coop, with a locked door between them, but the last couple of mornings, we’ve let the Reds out with the Boys when we feed and clean the coop.  It’s been a chaotic struggle.  Gold Boy and his pose of minions like to chase the Reds into the coop and terrorize them.  The Reds hide behind me and pretend they are not afraid.

Gold Boy is NOT fooled by this, at all.

This morning’s attempt it still on-going, despite it being late afternoon now.   Yes, we left them out and cohabiting.  I’m going to separate them again when I do the evening feeding in 2 hours (I change water 2x daily and fill feeders as needed), but they’ve been out an about all day with the Rowdy Boys and the hens and no real issues have arisen.  A few squabbles and I had to tell Gold Boy a thing or two earlier.  But no one is hurt or maimed.

As a treat, I brought everyone chunks of apples (no seeds) and also put out plastic cat litter boxes filled with water for them to cool down in.  I’ve seen pictures of chickens standing in water dishes to cool their feet.  It looks neat.

My Golds are using them for drinking water instead.  Again, this is why they amuse me.  I can only hope the RIRs grow up to be half an entertaining.

I’ll end up the post with pictures from the last few days.  Since the 4th, I think, maybe a little before.  You can see how big the RIRs are getting… our blue cat little boxes/water baths and various shots of the chickens doing what they do best.

 

Four Weeks Into the Journey

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Well, my Golds have been with us four weeks now. Some of them (not many) still have little patches of downy fluff, but it won’t be much longer until they are ready to go out into the world.  Which means DH and I need to get to work on planning their outdoor run.  It’ll only be a temporary thing, until they’ve had a chance to get used to the barnyard and come to know it as ‘home base.’

Right now, DH and I are ‘discussing’ the need for the run to be enclosed.  I say yes.  He says no.  He says that if he builds it up 6′ high, it shouldn’t need to be fully enclosed.

I am worrying about them being able to fly over it, or larger predators to get in at them.  We have larger birds in the area which could easily swoop down and carry off a chicken.

What are your experiences, audience?  Will a 6′ chicken wire fence be enough?  Or will it need to be enclosed?

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.  🙂

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?