Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chicken tractor Number Two

Today, between Barclay's crazy excitement over seeing the chicks, and wandering neighborhood cats making me nervous, I know I had to get the second chicken tractor finished! Dave came out in the afternoon and helped me finish putting it together. It's not completely painted, but it's secure. In the picture it's the one in back. The other tractor has Little Red and her eggs.

By dark mom had still not taken the chicks back into the coop, and she seemed to be settling down for the night under the ramp. So I took a rubbermaid container of cedar chips and carefully reached under her and picked up each of the three chicks and carefully set them in it, then I picked her up, and she only grumped a little, and set her in it, and she snuggled right on top of the chicks. Then I was able to carry the container to the new chicken tractor and set her and her new family safely inside.

More of a relief for me than her, I'm sure! But now they'll all be safe and they have food and water handy, and enough room for them to eat some grass and dig around for bugs.

First outing

Despite the weather switching from sunshine to pounding rain every twenty minutes all afternoon, mom took her new chicks out to show them around the yard. They stuck close to her, peeping if she got too far ahead. The other chickens all steered clear of her. Barclay however went nuts when he saw the little morsels, and so mom and her chicks need to go in a tractor where they will be safe from wandering dogs. If she takes them for a walk into the yard when the dogs are out, it would be all over before I could even catch up - those chicks are bite sized!

Pretty amazing that chicks from the feed store are usually kept inside under a heat lamp for weeks, but mom has her chicks out in 50 degree weather and if they get cold they just snuggle under her for a bit then they all head off again.

Mom and chicks

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

!!! Chicks !!!

I went to check on Red, and threw down some food for her close to the nest, and when she got up to eat, chicks came spilling out! There's at least three - I didn't want to annoy her by hanging around too long. When she saw me she gathered her chicks back into the nest. Chickens hate paparazzi!

A shell!

A nesting update from Big Red Observation Headquarters: Mama hen has kicked an empty eggshell out of the nest! After the dead chick incident my friend Sharon said to reach under there and remove the empty shell, so other chicks wouldn't get stuck on it. So I reached under there and felt the remaining eggs, and found the broken shell and took it out. I think I got it all, so hopefully the shell she kicked out today is an indication she has another chick under her now. I don't want to bother her, so I'll just keep watching.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A chick :(

No pic, unfortunately. When I went to check on Big Red this morning there was a tiny dead chick laying just outside the nest. Looks like it didn't make it, and she kicked the body out of the nest. I can't tell if there's other chicks under her, she has shifted position and is very flat and covering the whole nest. I'll just have to wait until she chooses to reveal them to the world...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Candling Eggs

Mama hens are still sitting on their nests. Today was the due date for Big Red, Little Red (pictured above) has another week to go.

Since Big Red did not have any chicks appear, I was wondering what was going on. Also Penny has been sneaking in and leaving extra eggs in the nest, so while Big Red started out with eight eggs, last time I checked she was up to sixteen, and she could barely keep them all covered! Because these eggs were all laid at different times they will not all hatch together, and when the hen has chicks to care for she will abandon the eggs which haven't hatched yet. So it was kind of a big confusing mess.

My friend and chicken mentor, Sharon from SnoKit Farm, came over and brought her candling light. She pulled each egg out from under Big Red (who was not very happy about the whole procedure) and checked each egg by holding it up to the bright light. Some eggs clearly had something going on, and she said those appeared to have chicks pretty far along in development. Some eggs looked hollow, or had a smaller, odd shaped clump in one end. Those she said were either infertile, or had not developed, or were not nearly as far along as the other ones. We ended up with nine eggs to put back under Big Red, and seven eggs to throw out to the chickens. Then we did the same to Little Red, and of her eight eggs, only one was infertile, and got thrown out to the flock.

Yup, Sharon said to throw them out to the chickens. She said they won't eat an unbroken egg, but if you break them they will gobble them up. It's a free snack. They don't know any different. It was interesting because most of the eggs just looked like eggs, but a couple had some development going on, and had a bit of blood and clumps of meat inside. Sad that it would have eventually been a chick, but the hen would have abandoned it anyway, so that's just how it goes sometimes.

Penny considers her snack options...

Since Big Red is in the coop I wanted to make an easier ramp for her and her chicks to go in and out of the coop after they hatch. I did just have some concrete blocks there, and the chicks wouldn't have been able to jump up on the blocks. So I made this nice ramp and installed it. Then I turned around to see this...

And Big Bird attacked me! Little butthead, I saw him watching me! And after all I do for him! I grabbed him by his legs and hung him upside down, hoping some blood would go to his brain and make him think harder about what he was doing :-) Then I let him go. While he was hanging I told him about a chicken butchering class I'm signed up for later this summer - if he doesn't shape up he might be homework! Coq au vin, anyone?

KeepSafe breakaway collars

The boys have been running around nekkid for the last few days. When dogs play they like to chew on each other's necks. To avoid them getting caught on each other's collars I took the collars off until their new break-away collars arrived. The KeepSafe breakaway collars were invented by someone whose dog strangled when he got his collar caught, so they developed this collar which will break apart if enough pressure is put on it. It can be re-latched after it breaks away, and it has a special hook up for the leash so it won't break off while on a walk.

They were ridiculously excited while I adjusted the size on the collars - I have no idea why they thought that was so great. Here's Barclay sporting his. I swear he poses when he sees a camera now.

Jack got a new collar too, and I put an old tag on it with our phone number in case he gets lost. It has Jasper's name on it (a rescue dog we had briefly), but it's close enough for now. Look at his tail - he's so happy it's just a blur!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Welcome to your new home, Jack!

Jack came home this morning, and he and Barclay were so happy to see each other again, they played all day long.

There was lots of humping...


More humping, you can see Alki indicating she wants no part of these shenanigans


More wrestling...

Until everyone was tuckered out and ready for a nap

It's hard to get everyone to sit still long enough to get a family picture!

Jack reminds us a lot of Chester. He seems very sweet. He looks at you with these big sweet eyes, kind of wrinkles his forehead and whines a bit when he wants something. I can tell he and Dave are going to be great couch buddies!

And Jack even knows a trick!

Jack ignored chickens in the yard and couldn't care less about the cats, even when Barclay chased one across the field. So far Jack is looking like he's the perfect, patient, well behaved boy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring has sprung!

What a beautiful day it was today! Perfect for snapping pictures around the yard.



The Chickens



Barclay and the egg

Sometimes when Barclay is very very good...

And he does something really special, like comes when I call him, I give him a really special treat...

Like a fresh egg!

He gets a lot of play value out of the egg. He swings it around, throws it in the air, rolls on it, stomps on it, and drops it.

Oh that sun feels good!

Is there a cat over there?

What was I doing?

Oh right, the egg!

Finally he just happened to crunch down on it enough to break it and then he carefully licked out the yummy insides.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A new addition...Introducing Jack!

Meet Jack! We have been quietly looking for another dog to fill the hole Chester left behind. Barclay would love to have someone to play with again, and we know Alki is running on borrowed time. So I would check out craigslist and petfinder regularly hoping to find a nice dog who needed a home. I didn't want a dog that had been abused and neglected, like Chester was. I was hoping to find a dog who was just a nice, normal dog who needed a nice home, and didn't come with a lot of baggage. I saw the ad for Jack and he sounded like just the pooch for us. He is a 4 year old Beagle. I emailed back and forth with his family, and they seem like nice people too, just looking for a good home for him with room to run and someone to keep him company so he won't just be stuck at home alone all day. Doesn't that sound like the perfect match?

So they brought him over to meet Barclay, and after the initial sniff and bark, they were playing and running, chasing each other all over the yard. Jack saw the chickens and thought about them for a second, then shrugged them off and went back to playing. He met Alki and they sniffed and ignored each other (I think Alki was giving off her 'bug off' vibes). The cats went into hiding, so he didn't meet them. Jack and Barclay played until they were just laying on the grass gnawing on each other, with their tounges hanging out the sides of their mouths. Happy happy happy dogs!

After they left, Barclay spent 20 minutes looking for his new buddy - then he napped the rest of the afternoon! Jack is staying with his family a few more days because we have a very busy weekend while Dave finishes up the current play he's in. We'll go pick him up this week on our day off so we can closely supervise his first days at home. We're very excited about it, he seems like a really nice dog!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wheels for the chicken tractor

Now that the chicken tractor has been sitting outside for a bit, the wood has gotten wet, and it weighs about a ton, at least that's what it seemed like when I asked Dave to help me move it! The two of us together could barely scoot it more than a few feet before we decided someone was going to get hurt. But I really wanted to get it moved over by the chicken pen before the chicks hatch, because I plan on moving each mom and chicks into a tractor. Yes, that means I need to build another tractor, but this one only took me a day, and now I know what I'm doing, so how bad could it be?

So I went to the hardware store and bought a couple sturdy wheels - wish I could have found ones that were even wider for rolling over the mud and grass, but it turned out to be ok. The wheels were $6 each, the hardware for each wheel to mount it: spacers, washers, locknuts, and two huge bolts, added up to $9 per wheel! So $30 total. But it took all of five minutes to install, and then I grabbed the rope and the tractor pretty much followed me wherever I wanted to go - as long as I kept the front end up. Two more wheels on the front would really make it easy to move! But as it was I single handedly moved it about three hundred feet, from the front pasture all the way through the big pasture, into the backyard, and parked it next to the chicken pen. No problem.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Inside that ginormous egg...

The biggest double-yolk egg I've ever seen! Just as I suspected.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chickens are sitting on eggs

Big Red has gotten broody and decided she wants to hatch some eggs. She has taken over the lower nest box in the coop, and has eight eggs under her! She is very serious about it all. I only know there are eight eggs because she gets off the nest once a day to go out and poo and have a drink and a snack, then comes right back and sits on them again. If I disturb her she fluffs up and hisses!

I have been told I need to mark the eggs with a pencil so I can tell if anyone slips an extra egg in there while she's off the nest, because if the eggs don't all hatch at once she'll abandon the ones that don't hatch once she has some chicks. Also after ten days I'm supposed to candle the eggs and get rid of the ones that don't have a developing chick in them. She has to sit on them for 21 days, and if some of the eggs are bad, they will go really bad and explode and leak nasty goop on the other eggs which might kill the chicks.

Of course my friend Martha has new chicks every year because her hens sneak off and lay their eggs somewhere, hatch them, and come marching back with a whole flock of chicks following them. So obviously it's not that difficult!

Her sister, Little Red, also got broody, but she kept moving from nestbox to nestbox. I had been taking the eggs away from her, but once it seemed like she was serious I gave her six eggs to sit on - I just slipped them under her skirts. At first she was hissing and fluffing up at me, but once she saw I was giving her eggs she started happily clucking and rolling them into position under her! I don't know if she was letting the other hens bully her or what, but a couple days later she had moved to another box and let her eggs cool off. Unfortunately it won't work if she only sits on the eggs for a day then switches to another box, once she starts sitting the eggs she can't let them cool off for more than about a half hour when she gets off to take a break once a day. So I put her in this small coop. The nestbox is the dog crate, and the caged area has bedding and food and water. She is currently setting on golf balls in the crate, and if she continues to sit on them for another day I'll remove the golf balls and replace them with some eggs. Chickens can't tell golf balls from eggs. Close enough for them!

I took the eggs she had sat on for a couple days and cracked one open. You could see there was a little bit of development starting, just the ring on the yolk where you can tell the yolk is fertile had expanded a bit, but otherwise it just looked like a normal egg.

I am saving up the eggs I collect from the other hens by setting them in a carton on the shelf there in the shed next to the coop. Once I have six or eight I'll slip them under Little Red in her new private nest box and see how she does sitting on them.

Big Bird thinks I am interfering with his hens too much! Back off! And get away from my coop!

Sleepy Barclay

Barclay played hard, then I gave him a pig ear to chew on, and shortly after I noticed he had fallen asleep with his pig ear safely clutched in his paws so Alki wouldn't steal it from him :)