Carton Art

I've become enamored with the art of a Wisconsin artist named Susan Martin, who paints and carves creative and whimsical works often containing animals. Happily, she has just granted me permission to use an image of her "Three Wise Roosters" on my egg carton labels. This is so cool!

First Green Egg!

Today's coop surprise was the first green egg!  I'm not completely sure, but I think the credit goes to Betty the Easter Egger.

First Egg!

I found this pretty little brown egg in a nest box today.  Pretty sure it belongs to Arlene Barred Rock - she's been showing a lot of interest in the nest boxes lately.  Yay, Arlene!


Here’s a recent shot of Emile, the dandy little birchen Cochin roo! Emile has become my bud since I nursed him back to health from his bout with sour crop. All of the handling has made him less shy & he's quite happy to eat grain out of my hand now. He crows at sunrise, just like roosters should & sometimes at other random times of the day when he gets confused.

I was clueless as far as what was wrong with him when he first got sick. I just noticed that one morning, he didn't crow, or do much of anything and just sort of stood around with a droopy head. I wondered at first about coccidiosis, which is something all chickens get at some point, or some other infectious agent, which would have probably meant that the whole flock would get sick. I finally hit on the idea that he might have sour crop, and sure enough, when I tipped him over, nasty stuff ran out of his beak just like I was pouring cream out of a pitcher.  With the help of a neighbor, who is a vet, I’ve managed to get this little guy back to good health!

Mary Tries to Break Out of the Big House!

So now the chickens have this cool new coop and also a great chicken run so they can be outdoors.  I have not yet put any sort of roof on the outdoor run yet and that needs to happen so I can be sure I’m keeping predators out.  Another reason for fencing the top of the run was that I discovered Mary the Campine roosting on top of the six foot high fence on a couple different occasions. Unlike the chickens in the movie "Chicken Run" she fortunately didn't realize that once she was on top of the fence she could escape into the wild blue yonder.  Mary really can fly REALLY HIGH!

Last night I discovered the two foot gap between the eight foot high (8 FEET!) walls of the coop and the ten foot ceiling are also going to be a problem, again thanks to Mary.  When I built the walls I figured no chicken could fly eight feet in the air, right? Wrongo! As the chickens were starting to roost for the night, Mary decided it would be nice to roost on top of the walls of the coop. There she was, sitting eight feet in the air and pleased as punch.

To scare Mary back in the coop, I picked up a shovel and frantically waved it in front of her. That mostly confused her. Next plan: I prodded her with the shovel. That prompted her to hop ONTO the shovel. So then I was standing there holding a shovel in the air with a chicken perched on the top. I tried waving and turning the shovel to get her back on top of the wall, but amazingly she bravely hung on. Too bad there was no video of this because I'm sure it looked very much like a trained chicken act. Finally, I lowered the shovel and made a grab for her. That's when she flew off into the shadows of the greater part of the pole barn.  Keep in mind there are still piles of coop construction material, tools, & other rubble - so catching a chicken in that mess was definitely an athletic endeavor. Long story short, I finally nabbed her, and as she and all the other chickens swore loudly at me, I chucked her back into the coop. Next project: Fencing in the two foot gap between the coop walls and the ceiling.

Mary the Campine with her friend Mary the Campine (Yup - They're Both Mary!)

Moving to the New Coop

The new coop was ready for chickens and the day arrived for moving the flock from the woodshed, where they’d spent their whole lives to this strange new place.

 I put all the chicken equipment in the truck late in the afternoon & moved it to the new coop. We didn't move the chickens until after it was dark—sleeping chickens are calmer chickens.

I nabbed them one by one from their roost and put them in a cat carrier--they got transported three or four at a time. We decided a cat carrier would work better than hand-carrying them individually since it would hopefully keep them from freaking out or escaping.  Still they weren’t happy birds. Here Sam and Charlie ask, "What are you DOING to us???"

First trip to the new coop - Paul is the first one out.

Rhoda jumps into her new home

First batch: Confused & frightened.

Eventually there were more in the new coop than the old coop. Frightened chickens at both ends - in the new coop they huddled together in one spot & didn't move from that spot.

Finally they started to explore & discovered their huge new roost.

Amazingly, not only did Paul manage to get on the roost, he managed to flap his little frizzled wings hard enough to get to the very top. Even Courtney managed to roost - though in her case, getting on the roost was more a matter of some heavy-duty jumping rather than flying. When they had all settled down, I turned off the lights—that caused about fifteen minute’s worth of really forlorn clucks and peeps, but they eventually went to sleep.

The next morning I threw open the door to their new run. They all cautiously went out except for Jennifer who could not figure out that the giant hole in the wall was a door. It took major vocal encouragement and arm flapping from me to finally coax her outside.

They love the new run—fresh dirt to scratch in! This is more fun than an amusement park on the 4th of July!!

More Coop Progress!

I just finished building this people-sized door into the coop, next to the chicken-sized pop door.  They will both open into the yet-to-be-built chicken run.  I made the door out of 100-year-old tongue and groove pine boards that I rescued from an old grain bin on the farm I grew up on.

A view of the door from inside the coop.

Bailey inspects coop construction progress.  The roost and the nest boxes are done - I recycled old cat litter containers for the nest boxes.

I've been enduring mosquitoes the size of birds and August heat and humidity to reassemble this prefab dog kennel into a chicken run fence.  It is slow going due to the need for frequent ice cream breaks.  It still needs a top, plus I need to bury some fencing around the perimeter to keep predators from tunneling underneath, but I will hopefully be done enough to move the chickens from their temporary quarters in the next week or so.

Going Outside

A fine July day.  I decide that it's time to slide the screen door open and let chicks venture out into the great world of the chick run.  Drama ensues!  

"Hey, everybody! There's a huge hole where the wall used to be!"

"What is it?"

"You know, if I just stepped forward, I'd go right into it!"

The brave ones are over the edge!

Arlene the Barred Rock is the first one to plunge all the way across the step and into the grass.

Everybody follows.  "Hey, this is really cool!"


The Chicks Are Two Weeks Old

This is a group shot of pretty much the whole gang - as they get older you can start to tell that this is a pretty diverse collection of breeds.
Angie and Jennifer, the White Crested Black Polish Hens are already starting to get crazy hairdos.
I threw together a haphazard "training roost" and the kids started checking it out right away - they get onto the roost more by hopping than by flying, but there is definite wing action going on!  Here's Rhoda the Rhode Island Red checking it out.
This is Sam, one my pretty little Easter Eggers
Veronica the Easter Egger is starting to look all grown up with those tail feathers.

Chick Pix!

Here are a few pictures of the babies.  Some, but not all of them have acquired names.  I knew from the get-go that the three little fluffy-foot chicks would be named after those co-workers who were so insistent that I get Silkies.  A few more have been named after other co-workers who seemed to badly want in on the chicken name thing.  Others have been named for a random variety of reasons.  One of the little Easter Eggers has a "V" on her head, so she needed a name starting with that letter - she's now Veronica.  Another Easter Egger who looks a lot like Veronica except without the "V" obviously had to be Betty.  And I am sad to report that I named one of my Buff Orpingtons "Buffy."  Yeah, I know.  I'll bet nobody's ever done that before.  The other Buff Orpington then became Willow by default.  None of the Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds have names yet - it is hard to tell them apart - and maybe I need to get a handle on their personalities before I come up with names!
Veronica the Easter Egger

Courtney the Silkie Chick

Paulette - a fluffy footed chick of unknown heritage, not a Silkie
Mary the Campine - The daughter of a co-worker was in love with one of my two little Campines and asked me to name it for her.  I told her, "But there are two and they're identical!  How can I tell Mary from the other one?" She responded, "Name them both Mary!"  So that's what I've done.  The Campines are Mary and Mary.

Angie the Polish

Two Rhode Island Red chicks that thus far have no names - Look at how fast their little wings are feathering out!

Baby Chicks!

Here's a few quick pics of my new flock!  These were snapshots shortly after I brought in the second batch.  I'm sure there will be many more and many better quality pictures in the future.  For the record, here's a list of what I've got:

The Surviving "My Pet Chicken" Chicks
3 Easter Eggers
2 Campines
1 Barred Rock
1 Rhode Island Red

Chicks from Houle's
3 "Silkies"
3 Rhode Island Reds
3 Barred Rocks
2 Buff Orpingtons
2 White Crested Black Polish

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had reserved three Silkies from a shipment coming to Houle's.  This is a batch of straight-line chicks, so no guarantee of sex, and as I found out when I got there, there is really no guarantee of breed since the lot is designated as "fluffy foot" chicks - so could be Silkies or quite a few other things.  I'm quite sure that of the three, only one is really a Silkie and the other two are something else.  I could be wrong, but time will tell.

Chicks Thru the Mail – Part 2: Bittersweet

The babies have arrived and you can be sure that I’ll be posting pictures soon.  I have a big pile of fluffy, peeping sweetness under my brooder lights right now and I’m thrilled about that.  But things did not go entirely as planned or expected, so I must tell that story first.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I ordered my chicks from My Pet Chicken, an internet poultry and poultry product merchant with a good reputation. One of their claims to fame is that you can order small numbers of chicks. Most hatcheries only ship large numbers of chicks because they need a certain number to maintain thermal mass so the chicks don’t get too cold. My Pet Chicken ships with a “heat source” which is basically a fancy name for one of those pouches that generates heat due to a chemical reaction. I chose to go that route because I could choose a wide variety of breeds all at once to start my flock. While most of the breeds I chose are available locally, finding them all at once would be difficult.

My chicks hatched and were shipped Priority Mail from Ohio last Monday. I fully expected them to arrive at my post office by Tuesday morning.  Only the Post Office handles chicks, by the way. FedEx & UPS won’t ship live animals. Something I did not know and that was not made clear on the My Pet Chicken website (though it is very clear on the USPS web site) is that Priority Mail is guaranteed to arrive “within 72 hours” of when it is mailed. Keep in mind that 72 hours is the outer boundary for chick survival without food or water.

I was concerned when the chicks didn’t arrive on Tuesday and was very concerned when they hadn’t come by Wednesday.  My chicks did not arrive until Thursday.  Five were dead on receipt and one more died within a few hours of receipt. Two more died during the course of the afternoon. Two more died Thursday night. I lost nine of sixteen chicks within a day of receipt. I was devastated.

As I discussed in my May 30 post, I also had three Silkie chicks on order at Houle’s Forest Lake store, and when I went to Houle’s on Friday, I was able to get some additional “spur of the moment” chicks. Thus, a week into this, I have 20 happy, healthy, lively chicks – seven from My Pet Chicken and thirteen from Houle’s.  Houle’s, by the way, gets their chicks from an out-of-state hatchery – through the mail.

In the meantime, I’ve had several conversations with the folks at My Pet Chicken. They honestly seem to be as disturbed about this as I am. I can report this about my shipment: 1-For reasons nobody can explain, it took three days for the chicks to arrive here from Ohio. In that same period they report that they shipped chicks to California that arrived overnight. Also, they’ve told me that nobody else reported dead chicks from their Monday shipment. 2-The weather during the time the chicks were shipping was unusually cool. 3-The heat source was left out of my shipping box, thus the chicks spent the first three days of their lives at room temperature or cooler.  Considering these three facts, I’m surprised any of the chicks survived.

My Pet Chicken has refunded me for the dead chicks and a prorated shipping charge. They offered to ship more chicks to me.  I declined.

That’s the story. The epilogue is that I am enjoying my babies tremendously. I spend way too much of my day just watching them. The My Pet Chicken originals are a week old today and are already developing little wing feathers. After the rocky start things are going to be OK!

More Babies!

The pending arrival of my baby chicks has been a great topic of conversation at my workplace and has inspired several of my co-workers to go on-line and Google search pictures of chickens in order to give me “sound advice” about what sort of chickens I should be getting.  Unfortunately, somebody found pictures of Silkies.

Silkies are an ancient Chinese breed of chicken.  The first European account of Silkies was Marco Polo’s account of “furry chickens” during his 13th century travels to Asia.  Silkies do, in fact, look very furry.  Imagine the “French poodle” version of poultry. This furriness is because their feathers lack barbicels, the tiny hooklets that keep the strands of a feather aligned.  Other bizarre characteristics include back skin, meat, and bones, and blue earlobes.  Oh, and they have extra toes.  Silkies are not necessarily great egg layers, but they have a calm demeanor and a friendly disposition.  From my perspective, people get Silkies for pets, not to be production birds.  There are pictures on the net of Silkies dressed up in top hats or tutus.  So there you go.

Several of my co-workers have now convinced me that it is absolutely incumbent upon me as a keeper of chickens to have a few Silkies.  When I finally caved to their pressure I told them I would get some Silkie chickens, but to make it clear to the world who was responsible for these fluffy little birds becoming members of my flock, I would name the Silkies after those very co-workers. 

I’ve been a little hard pressed to find anybody in the area who can provide me with Silkies at this short notice, but have finally gotten on the list at Houle’s Farm Garden and Pet in Forest Lake for three Silkie babies.  The bad news is that these three babies will be part of a batch of straight-line chicks they are getting in.  In other words they will not be sexed.  Chances are that at least one of these babies will turn out to be a rooster.  The word is that Silkies are nearly impossible to sex anyway, so getting straight-line Silkie babies sounds like par for the course.  Anyway, I’m glad I’ve managed to find some Silkies to add a little variety to my pending flock, and we’ll cross the rooster bridge if and when we come to it!

More Coop Progress

I revved up the old sawzall and cut a large gaping hole in the back wall of the pole barn just as though I knew what I was doing. This will be the people door to get from the chicken coop into the outdoor run. (Note chicken-sized pop door to the right.)

Also, I’m making progress on getting the coop walls up.  I still need to do the floor, nest boxes, roost, wet bar, large screen TV, la-z-boy recliners, etc. Since my chickens will be showing up in less than 2 weeks, I’m glad I’ve got the wood shed for them to hang out in until I get this all finished.

Building a Chick Nursery

Well, I'm making progress on building the chicken coop in the pole barn but it is rapidly becoming obvious that it won't be done by the time the babies show up in June.  On to plan B:  I'm converting my wood shed to a brooder house for the babies and they can actually live there for most of the summer which will take the pressure off for getting the coop finished.

Easy steps for turning the woodshed into a brooder house (1)  Remove firewood left over from the winter. (2)  Sweep out dirt and sawdust.  (3)  Hang a couple of heat lamps.  (4)  Add kiddie pool (Now I know why I saved the old kiddie pool all these years!) (5) Cover bottom of kiddie pool with paper towels (The experts recommend paper towels for bedding rather than pine shavings or straw for tiny babies.  As the paper towels become soiled you can continue to put down more layers and when they've outgrown the towels, you can just roll them all up and throw them away in one fell swoop!) (6) Chick water fonts and feeders.

The heat lamps are on adjustable chains and can be moved up and down depending on the ambient temperature and the age of the chicks.  As the chicks get older I can get rid of the kiddie pool, put pine shavings on the floor and they can have complete run of the 10 x 10 building.

 I built these sliding screen doors out of hardware cloth and 1 x 4's so I can have the doors open for ventilation once the weather warms up.

I built a rather haphazard chicken run out of some leftover fencing for the chicks to go outside when they're old enough.  They will outgrow this enclosure, but hopefully by that time I'll have the real coop and chicken run ready to go!

Pole Barn Progress

Here's a few pictures showing my progress towards getting a coop built in the pole barn:

Here's the pile of scrap lumber I posted on March 10. Used some of it to make the lumber racks. The rest of it is actually on the racks. I cut up the smaller pieces & they are now in the fireplace heating my house. So satisfying getting this stuff organized!

Another pole barn phenomenon: This bike hung upside down long so long that phoebes built a nest on the seat. I have a neighbor who is an artist & is way into bird nests. When I told her about this, she was so excited that I promised I would give her the bike with the nest intact so she could paint it.

I built these hardware cloth doors that swing into place when the sliding pole barn door is partially open - it allows the door to be open in the summer for ventilation but will hopefully keep predators and other nasty critters out.

Here's the pop door.  A pop door is a chicken-sized door that allows the chicken to go from the chicken coop into the outdoor chicken run.  The small pop door allows the chicken to go in and out but provides a smaller opening for heat loss in cool weather than a people-sized door would.

Of course, when I told Bailey I was building a pop door, she thought I said "pup door."