Chicken Pictures for WSB

March 9, 2011

In, “Chicks, Fun and Trouble,” I told about the new chicks we received by mail.  WSB asked for more pictures when they were grown.

I took these pictures yesterday.  The chickens are enjoying getting out of the barn, scratching, grazing, picking up rocks for their crop.  It’s been a long winter, stuck in the barn.

Today we have a snowstorm and school is canceled.  Seems like Mother Nature always teases us.  What’s the saying?  “Robins always get three snows on their backs?”

Below are three of the chicks, grown.  An Araucana, White Rock, and Barred Rock.  They are laying beautiful, little, pullet eggs.

Also, I want to say thank you to all the women in my life.  Today is the 100th International Women’s Day. It was started in 1911 to honor the Suffragettes, who fought for womens’ right to vote.


Chicks, Fun and Trouble

September 1, 2010

“Your chicks are here,” the postal worker said.

“Boys, the chicks are here!”

We raced out the door and drove to the post office.  26 chicks in the box pictured above.

We purchased the chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa.  Most people don’t know this, but if you purchase from Murray McMurray this time of year, the chicks are actually hatched in Texas on Monday or Tuesday.  They mail them out, and we received them Thursday morning.

How can the chicks survive for two to three days without food or water?  Chickens are amazing equalizers.  They lay a clutch of eggs over a two-week period.  The embryos wait to start developing until they receive the constant heat of the hen sitting on them.  Then they hatch over a two to three day period in which the first one waits under the hen until she is ready to lead them off the nest.

The reason chicks can spend the first couple of days without food or water is; the chick sucks all the remaining nutrients out of the yolk, right before it hatches.   People take advantage of this, and ship chicks across the country with very little loss.

The boys picked which breeds they wanted.  This is what we received:

2 Red Star pullets

3 Rhode Island Red pullets

3 Barred Rock pullets

2 Black Australorp pullets

2 Silver Wyandotte pullets

5 Araucana pullets

2 White Rock pullets

4 Ancona pullets

2 Buff Minorca pullets

1 Free rare exotic chick

One chick was weak, and died within an hour.  The remaining 25 are healthy and happy.  We are all spending a lot of time in the brooder house.  So cute!

Update on the chicks.  Something dug a hole and reached under the house and ate 10 chicks in one night.  I shored up the building with lumber, and set a live trap to try and catch the varmint.  The boys took the loss of the chicks pretty well.  They built their own trap out of cardboard and lumber.

Pictured below is the hole under the brooder house.


The Enlightened Turkey

February 23, 2010

A turkey flew up out of the tall hay field right beside my tractor.

I stopped the tractor and haybine and looked at the clutch of turkey eggs I had run over.

Most of the eggs were broken and I could see half-developed chicks inside the broken shells.

I looked at the freshly mown hay and realized this was just the first of many trips across this field.  We had to rake, bale, and haul in the round bales of hay.  And if the eggs were not run over by then, there was still no way a turkey would come back and sit on a nest that was out in the open.

I opened the tool box on the tractor and spread out the grease rag.  I found three eggs that weren’t cracked and swaddled them in the rag and went back to mowing hay.

I had a Dark Cornish hen that was broody.   I placed the three eggs carefully under the hen and she pecked my arm, but didn’t leave the nesting box.

I checked the eggs every day.  Most of the time I had to reach under the hen to check.

One morning I heard a peep and spied a little head poking out from under the hen.

I knew the poult would need time to dry off its feathers so I left it under the hen and waited until afternoon to check again.

This time I moved the hen and found one strong poult, one dead poult, and one egg.  The egg felt empty so I cracked open the hard shell.  It was rotten.

I carried the hen and the poult over to my brooder house so they wouldn’t be bothered by the other chickens.  I set up a feeder and water for the hen and poult.

The hen covered the poult with her feathers.  I tried to catch the poult to make sure it knew where the water was and the hen ruffed up her feathers and attacked me.

I kept the hen and poult in the brooder house for the next four weeks.  They were doing fine.  I decided it was time to let them out and see what they would do.

The hen moved out into the yard and clucked to her poult to follow.  After meandering through the yard eating grass and bugs, the hen took her poult into the chicken barn.  The hen  kept other chickens away from her poult.

When I went to shut the door to the chicken barn at dusk, I was surprised to see the hen and poult roosting on the old dairy stanchion four feet above the ground.  That little poult could fly and wanted to continue sleeping under the hen for warmth and comfort.

As summer turned into fall, the poult grew into the turkey it was meant to be.  Instead of sleeping under the hen, it would sleep beside the hen and put its head and neck under the hen’s feathers.

It was larger now than any of the other chickens.  But if the chickens noticed, I couldn’t tell.

Once the snow came, I kept the chickens locked in the barn for the winter.  I could tell the turkey was from wild stock because it was more skittish than the chickens.

When the snow melted, I started letting them back outside in the daytime.  The turkey really started to come into her own and express the urges she had felt all winter.

She ran fast.  She flew up into the tree limbs.  She even flew to the top of the barn.

She started to range farther in the field than the chickens.  And one night she didn’t come back to the barn at all.  The next morning she was outside the barn waiting to rejoin the flock.

But a week or so later she was gone again and this time for 36 hours.  She continued to repeat this pattern until her absences grew longer and she never came back at all.

But I thought I spied her with the wild turkey flock throughout that summer and fall.  She had found her kind.


Killing With Kindness

July 15, 2009

Citygirlfriend, Cgf, came down to the farm Friday night.  Weekends on the farm can range from sublime, (check out Ulla’s picture and post at “Goldilocks finds Manhattan”), to sordid, (check out Bob’s post at “Stonybrook Farm”).  My “Fourth of July” weekend was alive.

Cgf and her Ex have an arrangement where they alternate staying with the boys, (we will call them Shepherd and Gameboy).  Shepherd is seven and loves animals.  Gameboy is four and loves sports.

Because the parent’s shuttle between homes and the kids stay put, the kids have more stability in their lives than they would otherwise.  Ex and I get along well.

After an egg and hamburger breakfast Saturday morning, I left Cgf to writing and reading and did my chores, taking care of all my birds and animals.  I had related to Cgf how important chores are to me, especially chores with animals. 

Cgf thought Shepherd might benefit from chores and she implemented a chore list for him.  There is a poster on the wall of their home with many pictures, each showing Shepherd doing a chore.  He checks off each chore every day after he completes it.  Most of his chores involve taking care of his pets.  He is really happy doing his chores, just like me.

After chores, I talked with Dad about our day.  We didn’t want to do much because it was the “Fourth”, and we had afternoon plans.  I wanted help fixing a fence.  Dad wanted help picking cherries.  We compromised and did both.

Cgf called me on my cell as I was finishing picking cherries.  She wanted to know when I would be back.  I asked her to hold on.  I would be back in ten minutes and we could run the hill.

Cgf is the first girlfriend that can keep up with me physically.  We hike and run.  A huge hill leads up to my driveway.  We like to do hill repeats.

We warmed up and then did a couple of hill repeats, finishing by running to my parent’s house.  Mom had invited us for coffee.  So we sweated, visited, and had coffee and coffeecake.

My parents were going to a birthday party.  We were going to a “pig roast”.  A former high-school shopteacher of mine was having a retirement party.  He advertised in the local paper.  His P.S. in the ad., “P.S. If you need an invite, stay the hell away”, made me want to find time to attend.

We parked in a horse pasture near a large tent.  Cgf was amazed to see a whole hog being carved and rows of well-behaved Amish children sitting silently at picnic tables, happily eating.  Cgf was amused to meet a woman who had been my date to the “homecoming dance” more than twenty years ago.  After a meal and well-wishes for the man of honor, I drove Cgf home.

We had started a project with Shepherd three weeks earlier.  I borrowed an incubator from a friend and set up Shepherd with 18 eggs.  He had to monitor the temperature and humidity and turn the eggs morning and night.

Cgf helped Shepherd throughout the entire project.  She seriously doubted a successful outcome, though.  Watching Shepherd turn the eggs morning and night with no visible change was too much for her faith to overcome.

“I have to tell you.  I don’t think any of those eggs are going to hatch,” she said. 

Cgf prepared Shepherd for total failure.  I, however, remained optimistic and planned to set up a chick brooder in their garage for all the chicks that would hatch.

The chicks were due to hatch Sunday, but there is always variance in nature and I anticipated someone starting on Saturday.

After a quick hello to Ex and the boys, Cgf, Shepherd, and I raced down to the basement to look at the eggs.  All was still in the incubator.

“See, I told you,” Cgf said. 

Cgf and Shepherd left the room and I shut the door.  Quiet, I wanted to look again.  And I heard chirping and a little pecking noise.

“Shepherd, you might want to come back down here,” I yelled.  Shepherd and Cgf came back into the room.

“Now there’s nothing to see.  But if you are quiet you might hear something,” I said.

They put their ears down close to the incubator and quieted themselves for a moment.  And then they couldn’t be quiet any longer as Cgf called for Gameboy and Shepherd called for his Dad to come and listen.

Everyone was smiling.

Fifteen chicks struggled out of their shells over the next 24 hours.  After allowing the chicks to dry off in the 100 degree heat of the incubator, Shepherd and Cgf moved twelve chicks over to the brooder I had set up in the garage.

Two of the chicks died almost immediately after hatching.  One of the chicks was weak and struggling to walk.  Shepherd instinctively knew he didn’t want to put the weak chick with his healthy chicks.  Cgf called and asked me what to do. 

“Shepherd is right.  You need to put the chick down,” I said.

“Put the chick down?  Put the chick down!  Put the chick down?” Cgf tends to repeat herself when stimulated.

“Shepherd wants to put the chick out in the yard,” Cgf said.

“No,” I said.  “That’s just shirking his responsibility.  He needs to take care of this.”

“I’ll call you back,” Cgf said.

“Shepherd understands the chick needs to be put down.  But he can’t do it,” Cgf said.

“Can you do it?” I asked.  “Because I can drive up there if you need me to.”

“I think I can,” Cgf answered.  “What do I need to do?”

“You need to smash the head or break the neck.”

“What?  What!  What?” Cgf exclaimed.

“The best way is to smash the brain so that suffering is stopped,” I said.  “You could put the chick between pieces of cardboard and step on it so you don’t have to look at it.  Do you want me to come up there?”

“No, no, I can do it,” Cgf said.

As Cgf was preparing to euthanize the chick, the housekeeper, (Lilly), came and asked what she was doing.

“No, you can’t kill this chick,” Lilly said with tears streaming down her face.  That made Cgf cry and the job was put on hold.

Lilly called her husband to ask what should be done.  Lilly’s husband just happened to be a former owner in a chicken hatchery in Peru.  Lilly’s husband told her to bring the chick to him and he would kill it.

That answer didn’t suit Lilly so she called “Animal Rescue Services”.

“Yes, we can come and pick up the chick.  But it will take us a little while.  You should feed it a sugar solution now,” the dispatcher from “Animal Rescue Services” told Lilly.

Lilly prepared a sugar solution and fed it to the chick as instructed.  The chick promptly fell into a diabetic coma and died.


Baby Chicks

May 14, 2009

 

 IMG_0239

Kenosha elementary incubated 30 fertile eggs from my chickens.  They had 24 hatch; which is an 80% success rate.  Well done, roosters and hens.  Check out my protocol in the post, “Spring is here.”

The teachers said the students were ecstatic to see the chicks hatch after waiting three long weeks.  Other schools could do this project.  Incubators aren’t expensive.  Hook up with a local farmer.


Spring is Here!

April 10, 2009

Spring is here!  Baby calves, baby piglets, planting oats, and 70 hour workweeks.  Spring is the perfect thing to follow long winter hibernation.  I feel I am a part of nature, not apart from nature.  Do you have seasons in your life?

My niece’s third grade class is planning on hatching chicken eggs and they asked me to furnish fertile eggs.   I have been providing fertile hatching eggs to one class or another for several years.  So far, everyone has had success incubating and hatching baby chicks from my chickens’ fertile eggs.  I’ll explain my protocol. 

One rooster is recommended for every ten hens.  House the roosters with the hens for at least two weeks prior to saving eggs.  Save eggs for five days or less prior to incubation.  Only select clean, well formed, normal eggs.  I put fresh straw in all of the nesting boxes to ensure cleanliness.   Store the eggs in egg cartons at 60 F.  Elevate one end of the egg carton and switch ends twice a day.  This prevents the contents of the egg from sticking inside the shell.  Place all the eggs in an incubator and follow the directions. 

Embryos will not start to develop until placed in an incubator or a hen begins to sit on them.  This is how a chicken can lay eggs over several days and still have all the chicks hatch at the same time.

The natural option is to allow a broody hen to sit on eggs.  A broody hen is one that wants to sit on a nest of eggs.  Most modern chickens have the broodiness bred out of them as they stop laying eggs once they become broody.  I still have some hens that exhibit broodiness and will allow some to sit on a nest and raise their own chicks. 

Everyone is excited when the chicks begin to pip through their shells.  Sometimes a chick is not strong enough to break out of its shell and will die.  An environment that was perfect for development becomes a confining prison resulting in death. 

Spring is here!  Pip, pip, away!


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