Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘raising chickens

She Survives

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Much to our surprise, our Buff Orpington appears to be functioning normally after enduring a dangerous encounter which drew blood on Saturday in a fracas with our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, Delilah.

Yesterday afternoon, Cyndie witnessed the hen drinking water and eating food in the coop, and when I peeked in on the chickens, our hero was in one of the nesting boxes, cooing.

I don’t know how she does it.

Looking back over the whole experience of deciding to make the blind leap into having chickens, despite knowing we had a dog who would do everything in her power to foil our plan, I am in awe of these three survivors who have endured every calamity of our inaugural year.

We thought it would be good to have chickens to help control flies, but we didn’t have a coop. So, I built a chicken coop. Then we just needed to get chickens. Cyndie ordered three each of three breeds from an online site.

Therein started our crash course in caring for chickens. Absolutely every challenge that arose was a first for us. Cyndie learned how to clean baby chicken butts when several of them developed problems.

We gambled on moving them to the coop before the weather had really warmed up consistently. We basically guessed our way through training them to free range, yet return to the coop. Finally, we left them completely on their own to avoid any number of potential passing predators.

Unfortunately, the losses started with Delilah, who ended up producing our first fatality when she broke free and grabbed a Rhode Island Red by the neck. Then in June, we lost six birds all in one horrible evening to an unseen attacker.

Somehow, the three that have survived all the challenges are closing in on their first birthday next month. I feel like they are doing it almost in spite of us.

After what the Buff has just been through, she has earned the bragging rights as toughest of them all.

Here’s hoping they all channel the survival skills gained in their first year into long and prosperous lives, and more importantly, that they might teach any new chicks that happen to show up, how to do the same.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

Small Step

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Giant leap.

The hatch opened and our chicks took their first look at the outside world yesterday. We put up a temporary barrier to contain them to a small yard outside the coop for the training period where we familiarize them with the routine of navigating in and out of their fortress.

The Barred Plymouth Rock chicks are establishing themselves as the first to explore new opportunities, yet the Buff Orpingtons have frequently stepped past them to be the first to leap.

It surprises us a little because the former started out, and continue to remain, the smallest of the group, and the latter have always been the most skittish when activity picks up around them.

I figured the Rhode Island Reds would be the leaders, but they are proving to be more than willing followers thus far.

I wonder which of them will take a lead in ganging up and chasing off the first predator that shows up with nefarious intentions.

A guy can wish.

After Cyndie and I got the fencing installed, she hustled up to the house to prepare a little picnic lunch for us to eat while supervising the chicks’ recess period.

We witnessed a lot of hopping around on the ramp and moving in and out the door while we ate, but only one Plymouth Rock and one Buff took full advantage of the outing.

When Cyndie wanted to end their playtime, she stepped inside the courtyard with several birds on the ramp and the two on the ground. She decided to reach for one of the chicks on the ramp and in the ensuing bird startling, two other chicks made for earth.

Suddenly she had four opportunities to practice catching evasive chicks to teach them how to return to the coop when it’s time.

It was a giant leap of a day for us.

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Close Watch

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I think the trail cam was too close to the coop. It seemed to trigger upon the movement of the shadow across the front door. There were 400 images recorded over the 24 hour period! That was really only 200 triggers, because I had left the setting at 2 images per activation.

The chick(en)s were under close watch for this first day in the coop. Temperature is not controlled as much as it was in the brooder located inside the barn. As far as I can see, they are not showing any signs of discomfort or distress. Why would they? These birds have moved into a Taj Mahal of chicken coops.

Still, Cyndie is not sure we are avoiding minimal desired temperature and is checking on them regularly.

I peeked in the window after setting up the camera Sunday night.

Cyndie checked on them first thing in the morning, yesterday.

Then she stopped by several times during the day.

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Delilah even made an attempt to monitor their status on her own. Luckily, Cyndie was on the other end of the leash.

Finally, at the end of the day, the front door got opened for some adjustments and the introduction of a larger food dispenser. With little in the way of bugs to eat, the poor birds are devouring the starter granules faster than Cyndie can keep up.

That was all interesting enough, but the real winner on the trail cam was the night vision capture. It didn’t take long for us to have the first visitor make an appearance. There is no doubt in my mind that my attempts to critter-proof our coop will be well-tested.

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Let the games begin…

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2017 at 6:00 am

Chicks Move

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Of course, the chicks were one of the more popular attractions for visiting family yesterday. On the group’s first visit to the barn, I decided to take Delilah for a walk in the opposite direction, to keep her from feeling neglected and barking her shrill attention plea while everyone was cooing over the chicks.

Julian was kind enough to take my camera and record the proceedings for me.

He wonderfully captured the moment when one of the chicks fell asleep in Steve’s grasp. It looks like the poor thing died in his hands.

After the festivities of the day wound down and visitors had departed, Cyndie and I went to work getting power to the chicken coop so we could move the heat lamp out there. The time had come.

We transferred our chicks from the brooder to the coop. They seemed to handle the stress well and quickly looked very comfortable in their new home. One of the Barred Plymouth Rocks wasted no time in climbing the branch that led up to the poop board beneath the two roosts.

I’m pretty sure they will be sitting on the roosts when Cyndie checks on them this morning. They were easily jumping that high in the brooder to sit on top of the waterer.

I moved our trail camera to a tree next to the coop in hopes of recording any new traffic arriving to investigate the fortress. If prowlers begin to snoop, we’d like to find out who it is so we can tailor any control measures for the most likely threats.

We spied on the chicks through the window for quite a while before leaving them for their first night in the new residence. It left us wishing we’d installed a video feed so we could watch them from the house.

Our little chicks are growing up! So far, so good.

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Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2017 at 6:00 am

Brilliant Chickens

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Our chicks are growing up almost as fast as the days of the week that fly by in a blink. Ever since that first day when Cyndie taught them how to find a drink of water in our brooder, they have piled on one new accomplishment after another. Sometimes it is a result of them copying each other, and sometimes it is through our gentle instruction.

In order to raise them to be comfortable with our presence and willing to have us handle them, we spent some extended time picking them up and whispering sweet nothings in their direction yesterday. Cyndie spent much of that visit searching for unique markings that will help identify individuals for naming purposes.

I think we should get to know their personalities better, so they can show us what names they deserve. My idea for using favorite chicken recipes was summarily denied, but I still may succeed in getting one of the yellow ones named Parmesan.

We think that the classical music we have on all night long for them is working well to feed their rapidly growing brains with intricacies and emotional depth. They have demonstrated such quick ability to grasp everything we introduce that we are confident we have the makings of brilliance in this flock.

It’s almost like they knew to perch on that stick I put in the brooder before I even finished setting it in place. Now I am working on finding just the right gnarly branches from our brush piles that I can use to carve little chess pieces. With 10 chicks, I’m debating with myself over the need for more than one board. They obviously learn well enough by observing each other, I think they can get the game down by watching a match played by their brood-mates.

Cyndie is busy creating flash cards with images of ticks, flies, and bugs, as well as piles of manure to be scratched apart in a “green means go” motif. The back sides will have a red theme and include threats like the hawks and eagles overhead, fox, raccoon, coyote, the neighbor’s dogs, and yes, even Delilah.

Our chickens are going to be brilliant.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

Tail Feathers

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Our chicks were born a week ago yesterday, shipped a week ago today, and arrived to us a week ago tomorrow. In this past week we have gone from knowing nothing about chickens to understanding and nurturing these ten to a successful adjustment where they are thriving in the new home we have provided.

Considering that I was unsure they would all survive the first night with us, we have come a long way in a very short time. During a long visit with the brood last evening, I came to see how each day’s success will make it that much harder to accept that first unfortunate occasion when we lose one (or more) of them to a predator. The longer time we have to connect with them, the greater the loss a death will be.

While Sunday we caught a few first glimpses of what surely must be the beginnings of tail feathers, a day later the new feathers were hard to miss.

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We added a tempting perch in the form of a small branch across the big trough, to give them something to aim for in their rapid transformation into able-bodied chickens.

My new goal is to figure out how to convince Delilah that she must protect these birds from all threats, foreign and domestic, so any predators that find themselves attracted to our turf by the presence of chickens will be dissuaded by the large white teeth of our four-footed shepherd.

I hope she never figures out that these beautiful birds called chickens are the same as the stuff that comes out of the cans of dog food she gets served. We want our birds to keep their tail feathers.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Animal Progress

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Things are progressing nicely with both our horses and our new chickens. This time of year, the horses are in the process of shedding their winter coats. Yesterday, while I was cleaning up the paddock, Dezirea made several attempts to use me as a rubbing post for her forehead. I was a little surprised to see she still had her white blaze because my sleeve looked like it had received a full transfer of white hairs.

Legacy had rebuffed Cyndie on Saturday when she brushed out the rest of the herd, so she tried again at feeding time last night. He tolerated her efforts while munching the fresh hay she had just served. The ground was an eye-catching spectacle of white hair.

Maybe it is because of his light coloring, but it sure seems like he sheds a lot more than the other horses.

Meanwhile, the chicks are visibly maturing by the day. I was a little skeptical when Cyndie came in after a day to report they were much bigger, but sure enough, it was noticeable. Over the weekend they have shown significant progress in wing development. There are even a few first glimpses of tail feathers appearing.

I’m just happy we have succeeded in keeping all 10 alive thus far. Actually, Cyndie deserves all the credit. She has meticulously maintained their health with all the internet tools at her disposal, and a hair drier to fluff those little tail feathers after cleanings.

I’m chomping at the bit to get them out on the manure pile to eat bugs. The flies are already active outside, so watching the chicks scratch and peck in the brooder is wonderfully inspiring.

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Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2017 at 6:00 am