Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘raising chickens

Happy Chickens

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Our newest chickens are now about four and a half months old and have reached a size that has the two remaining hens from the previous batch mixing with them as equals. As a group, they are behaving as the happiest and friendliest of yard pets. Almost too friendly, in fact. They are showing no hesitation about racing up to us when we are walking Delilah, who would not hesitate for one second to grab a mouthful of feathers.

On an afternoon walk after our Thanksgiving feast, Cyndie made me stop to occupy the chickens while she hustled ahead with the dog.

She paused to look back and see me chicken-whispering to thank them for agreeing to wear face masks for my little photoshoot the day before.

They had been very accommodating, lining up politely for their fitting.

This morning, there was a new level of excitement because Rocky found his voice again and was crowing many times in a row after weeks of silence following his initial experiments.

Rocky’s coloring and sheen are launching him far beyond the splendor of his brood of adoring pullets.

We continue to visualize his protective spirit as one that will include us and any people visiting as non-threats. He could be our ultimate test of the power of our chicken-whispering abilities.

For now, we are thoroughly enjoying the present state of bliss caring for our growing chickens. They seem totally happy, which is making us even happier.

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2020 at 9:55 am

Quick Learners

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Tuesday night, Cyndie was crawling in the dirt and chicken shit underneath the coop to wrangle chickens back into the coop after their second day romping in their fenced front yard.

Last evening, I couldn’t leave the bedtime chore exclusively to her for the third night in a row, so I volunteered my help. When we arrived, Cyndie assumed they were all cuddled in the darkness beneath the coop. I stooped for a closer look and couldn’t find a single bird.

After only their third day out of the coop, they let their instinct guide them to return to their house as darkness approached. All twelve had put themselves to bed.

I picked the right day to offer my help.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2020 at 6:00 am

One Month

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Our little babies are a month old now and outgrowing the space in their brooder. They are adding feathers and sprouting tails, each at their own pace. The poor early developers stood out as unwelcome attention-getters. All the other chicks giggled and poked fun at their odd protuberances, until suddenly they got them, too.

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We are planning today will be the day to transfer them to their half of the recently subdivided coop. I think they will like it.

It’s a bit like they are transitioning from elementary school where they are totally confident to the high school where everything will be new and intimidating. Cyndie’s a former principal so she knows how to create a safe and welcoming space for first-year classes.

These kids will quickly become masters of their new domain. After they reach a size compatible for mingling with the 3 adult hens, it will be the elders who we will be curious about, as they will be outnumbered four-to-one all of a sudden by these unfamiliar new breeds.

Feathery feet! Oh, my!

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Written by johnwhays

August 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

TwentyTwo Days

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I’m happy to report that the chicks are all progressing wonderfully in their daily race to maturity. In fact, they are beginning to seem a little crowded in our water-trough brooder.

When I had the cover askew yesterday while cleanng out the waterer for a poop-free version, one of the New Hampshire chicks made a leap for the lip of the water-trough and achieved a perfect pin-point landing. She seemed entirely pleased with herself over the accomplishment.

I didn’t give her a moment to enjoy it, reacting instantly to snatch her in avoidance of further escapades. The two New Hampshire chicks appear to be the boldest and bossiest of the twelve, although the others will all push back when getting picked (pecked) on.

The one Barnevelder chick that was lagging in development continues to hold her own against all the others who take every opportunity to make sure she knows she is at the bottom of the pecking order. I figured she would remain half their size as they weren’t going to stop growing to allow her to catch up, but it is getting harder to instantly spot her among the brood of active chicks.

It is normal for chickens to always want what another bird has picked up in its beak but the littlest chick didn’t shy away once last night when a rival repeatedly pecked at the very spot where the first one was eating. In fact, she even alternated to pecking one slot closer toward the rival in a perfect tit-for-tat response.

“You take one of mine, I’ll take one of yours.”

I’m gaining confidence that she will do just fine as they all grow into the phase of full feathered “pullets” in a few more weeks.

I sure hope I have the coop subdivision completed by then. (Maybe I should actually start on that project.) The three adult hens are about to lose some square footage and will soon have to deal with a dozen rambunctious new neighbors.

I’m sure they will be just thrilled about it.

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Written by johnwhays

August 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

Scared Chicks

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While Cyndie is away at the lake, I am filling in for her as “chick mom” when I get home from work each day. I think they had me figured out the first moment I stepped into the role. I can see it in their faces.

“You’re not doing it right!”

“Mom always cuts the crust off.”

“We don’t strip down to our underwear for naps.”

I’m definitely the dad in this relationship. They have a heat lamp and some water. They’ll be just fine.

While staring at them romping around like a bunch of 3-week-old chicks for a while the other night, I mindlessly belched a frog-voiced burp. I scared the daylights out of them!

Never saw twelve chicks move so fast all at once like that before.

In a blink, the scattered puff-balls instantly became one tiny pile of little heads squeezed into the smallest possible space at the other end of the brooder, frozen in a motionless defense move that looked like an attempt to appear invisible while maintaining absolute silence.

We both held our positions until I broke the spell by speaking to them in my best falsetto “dad-charming-chickens” voice to let them know it was just me and everyone was safe. As quick as they froze together, they went back to fluttering about as normal.

“Say ‘excuse me’ Dad.”

Excuse me.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2020 at 6:00 am

Holding Out

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Turns out, our adult Golden Laced Wyandotte layer hen has been holding out on us. Yesterday, Cyndie’s mom, Marie, along with Sara and Althea, stopped by to see the new chicks on their way home from the lake place. While they were here, the group took a stroll to find the three adult hens free-ranging away on the property.

When they heard the Wyandotte cooing in a thicket of growth, closer inspection revealed she was sitting on a batch of seven eggs!

Why that little stinker.

When I got home and Cyndie shared some pictures of the scene with me, the thing that stood out more than the eggs was the appearance of poison ivy leaves around the spot.

That chicken really doesn’t seem to want us to take her eggs.

For that matter, I suddenly have very little interest in handling that hen! Her feathers are probably covered in poison ivy oils. I start to feel phantom itches all over just thinking about it, and I didn’t even touch any of the hens or eggs yesterday.

I touched a lot of cute little “henlets,” though.

Whose idea was it to allow our chickens to free-range around here, anyway? A fenced run off the coop would be a lot simpler than all the risks due to predators and the hens’ creativity with laying locations.

Speaking of predators, I believe there is now one less fox we need to worry about. Yesterday morning, just as I turned off our street on the way to work at the crack of dawn, I saw a roadkill fox in the oncoming lane.

I’m a little surprised no other marauders discovered the pile of eggs free for the taking from the ground in the last week. Maybe that bodes well for the chances of continued good luck for the last three surviving hens from our 2018 batch.

If it weren’t for the occasional random incursions of passing bands of coyotes, our regular number of free-ranging adults might increase from the usual three that we always end up with toward the end of their productive egg-laying years.

When we were in this same situation two years ago, with 3 adults and a new brood of twelve young-uns that we expected would need merging together, the adults all got taken by a fox over a series of a few days. Sad as that was, it saved us the hassle of introducing the different aged birds to each other.

This time, I may need to actually follow through on a plan to remodel the inside of the coop to add a barrier that will provide shared-but-segregated accommodations for some period of introduction.

We never run out of new things to learn around here. Particularly, how to outsmart a hen that decides she’s too good for the silly nest boxes in the coop for laying her precious eggs.

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Counted Wrong

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I thought Cyndie had counted the chicks when they first arrived and she thought I had. Somehow, we had it in both our minds that we had received 14 chicks. Yesterday, while Cyndie was cleaning the brooder she commented that the chicks had grown so active, she needed to count to make sure one of them didn’t get rolled up in the paper she was removing.

Since one chick had died the first day, we were under the impression there were 13 chicks remaining. As she rolled up the paper, I counted chicks.

“1, 2, 3, …8, …12.”

“What!”

“I count twelve.”

Poor Cyndie. She became very stressed over a concern she might have rolled up a chick. I couldn’t imagine a way we would have unknowingly lost another chick, so I said we should go back and review our pictures to confirm the original count.

Sure enough, we had gotten the count wrong from the very start.

Oops.

We have twelve chicks, one of which continues to lag significantly in her development.

That’s 12, …with photographic proof.

But who’s counting?

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Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Eleven Days

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Check out this video clip from yesterday and see if you can detect the change of a few days’ growth:

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In the background of the audio of that clip, you can hear one of the three remaining adult hens making a racket, probably announcing she laid an egg or seeking to reconnect with the other two after having just done so.

The one Barnevelder chick who was lagging in growth has been receiving special support from Cyndie in hopes of boosting it over the hump of disadvantage it would otherwise face. Simply providing extra hydration quickly results in more energy and more interest in eating. We are happy whenever we see evidence the little one chooses to eat on her own or pushes back at others as often as they push her away.

As long as she keeps improving, we’ll keep giving her support to help her along.

When she settles down to nap, which they still all do with relative frequency, others snuggle up with her nicely until some doofus walks all over everyone and wakes the whole bunch. I snapped the photo above because they were all laying together with heads down, but just my motion to move in for the snapshot caused them to pick up their heads again.

They are doing a lot more flapping of wings and jumping up on things.

I’m almost ready to stop calling them chicks.

They’re becoming little “henlets.”

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Written by johnwhays

July 26, 2020 at 10:09 am

Eight Days

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Yesterday, our chicks reached the mighty age of eight days old. I recorded another video for Judy.

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I’m afraid there is one chick who has not kept up the pace of growth with the rest of the brood and that may spell doom for her, in terms of longevity. Otherwise, the rest are exercising their little wings and sprinting about, eating and drinking with gusto, and appear to be having a rollicking good time with their present confines.

We are not counting the eggs that they will eventually produce yet, but we are feeling hopeful for their chances of growing to the next level.

Oh, they grow up so fast.

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Written by johnwhays

July 24, 2020 at 6:00 am

Insufferable Excess

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I know that I’m not a big fan of seeing countless photos of other peoples’ pets/babies/hobbies day after day so I fully understand if you groan and skim the all-too-many shots of cute fluffy chicks that will likely show up for the next few days. After that time, the pictures will reveal feathered baby birds, so at least that will be a noticeable change.

Already, the wing feathers are developing and our feathery-footed Light Brahmas are showing the beginnings of their foot coverings.

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Not unexpectedly, the chick in the most precarious condition upon arrival ended up not surviving the first day, despite the special attention we gave her. By late Saturday afternoon, we found a second chick showing signs of trouble and began steps to nurse her along, including protecting her from abuse others were dishing out as she began to falter.

The best sign we were successful, beyond the fact she was still alive yesterday morning, was when she proved equal to all the others in terms of not playing a victim and confidently pushing others out of her way when she moved about.

It is comical to watch how consistently they do two things at this age:

  • Fall asleep in a split second wherever they are, be it at the feeder, in the middle of the action, or all by themselves in the distance.
  • Step on each other constantly, particularly when others are down for a nap.

This is probably the reason and the necessity of their gift of being able to “micro-nap” many times throughout a day. They won’t be down very long before another comes along and walks all over them.

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Our first reaction when checking on them is to fear one or more may have expired when we find them conked out in a variety of unlikely places. It’s a good thing these naps don’t last very long. Already, when they hear our voices, they perk up and start moving about with excited energy.

One endearing maneuver they employ at this age is a leg stretch where they stop and push one foot out behind them as far as it will go. It’s as if we can see them grow a fraction bigger every time they do it.

Makes me hope they are stretching each leg equally. It’s not always obvious that they do.

This is the third year we have purchased a batch of chicks, and due to the limited availability caused by demand during the pandemic, it is the latest in the year we have been trying to care for such young chicks. Keeping the temperature in the brood at the constant desired level has been a challenge.

In early spring, we just put the heat lamp on and the chicks huddle under it when they want more warmth or wander away to cool down. Now, with the barn heating up in the daytime sun, we have to be careful it doesn’t get too hot in there. It is a little too cool with the warming lamp off and gets too hot if we leave it on.

We have to check on them frequently and cycle the lamp accordingly.

So, you get excessive amounts of photos of our chicks for a few days and we have to deal with insufferable excesses of heat.

We all have our burdens, don’t we?

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Written by johnwhays

July 20, 2020 at 6:00 am