Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘raising chickens

Let’s Move

with 2 comments

When they started out in the brooder five weeks ago, our chicks had plenty of room. They are now getting a little testy with each other over their lack of space.

It’s time to move to the coop.

We probably would have already moved them, except it’s been so cold and snowy.

Now we are expecting a run of warmer weather and they are going to be movin’ on up.

You can see in the photo that they are sprouting enough feathers to reveal their eventual colors. The Golden Laced Wyandottes are showing that golden lacing nicely. They all have a long way to go before maturing into their wattles and combs.

By that time, we will need to have decided whether to let them roam free or keep them confined to protect them from predators. For a while there we felt okay with last year’s experiment, but with the rash of springtime attacks polishing off the last of that brood, it doesn’t feel quite right to not try something different.

We’ll move on that decision when they start to out-grow the coop in a month or two.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

Quick Fox

with 17 comments

That didn’t take long.

From the looks of the feathers that flew, the Buff put up a fight yesterday morning.

Cyndie found the lifeless body beyond the hay shed, not far from our property border to the north. That is a long way from where the trail camera captured the fox crossing our trail in the woods, but it is in the same general northerly direction. We think we have a pretty good idea about what direction from which the threat originates.

Meanwhile, my relocation of the trail cam did not produce the hoped for results. I’m guessing the motion of moving branches was triggering the captures. I scanned 722 images and found one with a nice face shot of a squirrel and one blur of a smaller squirrel leaping through the air. Nothing else, beyond wiggling branches.

Having read about the superb cunning of fox behavior, and their ability to learn patterns of our movement, I’m even more impressed over the great snapshot we have from the morning last week when the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens were dispatched.

It is not lost on us that the elusiveness of this predator has kept us entirely blind to its presence, beyond the one picture. Even though it has obviously been active during the day when we are out and about, neither of us has ever seen it with our own eyes.

Foxy, indeed.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Being Stalked

with 4 comments

She’s all alone, but not alone. Our sole survivor from last year’s brood, this amazing Buff Orpington, has finally ended her non-stop calling for her two most recent missing companions.

She has avoided death on multiple occasions, once even getting bloodied from a too close encounter within Delilah’s jaws. Now, left to fend for herself alone on the roost in single-digit cold overnight temperatures, she seems to be doing her best to tough out her rather dire situation.

The hungry spring predators appear to be stalking with unprecedented boldness. Based on our experience the last five years, the number of roaming tracks in the snow during daylight hours has picked up significantly.

Yesterday, every time we turned around there were fresh tracks showing up in areas we had recently walked, and they weren’t all the same. I would guess a dog or coyote, probably a cat, and definitely that troublesome fox.

I pulled the memory card from the trail camera, only to find the sly critter had completely avoided detection. Based on her travel pattern, I have relocated the camera, pointing it off the trail into the woods where I hope to catch her looking more into the view, as opposed to walking across it. This will also reduce the repeating shots of Delilah and us walking the trail that tends to clutter the results.

If you look at the shot of the fox I posted the other day, she was leaving our property with nothing in her mouth. Following yesterday’s tracks led us to two different spots where a large number of feathers revealed locations where the future meals had been stashed.

Cyndie wondered about putting extra effort to protect the buff against the obvious stalkers, and as a result, we did end up coercing her back into the coop early in the afternoon. One way I look at the possible inevitability of her fate is that it would save us needing to convince the year-old chicken to accept the twelve new chicks (now looking a lot like “tweens”) that will soon be moving to the coop.

By the time the next brood makes it to the free-ranging stage of life, the phase of ravenous spring predation will have calmed to the occasional massacre by some roving set of fangs like we suffered last June. Then we’ll find out which of our new birds are as cunning and lucky as the Barred Plymouth Rocks and our lone Buff Orpington were.

It’s no wonder why free-range birds are so precious.

It’s a jungle out there. So to speak.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

Year’s Difference

leave a comment »

We are enjoying the continued lessons from the self-learning school of raising chickens. A year ago was our first attempt. After building a coop from scratch, we ordered nine chicks to be delivered by mail.

Three of those have survived the year and are managing really well today. We are on the verge of asking them to help us learn about introducing them to the twelve new birds that just arrived last week.

What a difference a year makes. Here are pictures from yesterday of our one-year-olds and our new arrivals…

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Here’s hoping they will respond well to our efforts to slowly introduce them to each other in the months ahead. It will be a learning process for all of us.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

March 21, 2018 at 6:00 am

More Chickens

with 6 comments

We have decided to take the plunge. Cyndie has placed the order, I have re-mounted the heat lamp in the brooder, and the chicks are due to arrive at our Post Office this week.

The online chick source has already delivered the starter food Cyndie ordered.

We are getting excited. The first time was a lot more stressful, but with one year of experience behind us, we are feeling a fresh confidence in our chances of raising more chickens.

We certainly haven’t eliminated the potential hazards, but we know that we can deal with the possibilities of worst outcomes. More importantly, we know the joy that happy and healthy chickens bring.

With our Buff Orpington showing such impressive endurance, we ordered three more of that breed. For added diversity, Cyndie also picked out two new breeds: Golden Laced Wyandottes and Black Australorps will soon be bringing their glorious colors to our world.

They will also be bringing us more eggs, eventually.

That’s all well and good, but you know me, I’m more excited about the potential for their devouring ticks and flies.

Here’s hoping for some healthy, hearty chicks. Let the “cheep-cheeping” commence!

.

.

Written by johnwhays

March 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

She Survives

leave a comment »

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

Small Step

with 3 comments

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.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2017 at 6:00 am