New Eggs! New Coop!

November 6:  It's a milestone day here at the chicken ranch - I found the first egg from my new hens this morning. It was on the floor of the coop - poor baby (don't know if it was Maran or Carmen) doesn't understand about nest boxes yet. I took the picture of the pullet egg alongside a light brown Barred Rock egg (courtesy of Arlene) to show how deep chocolaty brown the Marans eggs are.

November 17:  This is the corner of the pole barn opposite the coop and the site of what will soon be Coop # 2. With the cold weather everybody's inside and cabin fever has already set in. I've got a bunch of crabby chickens and the big ones are picking on the little ones - so it's time to spread out. Construction starts next week.

November 24:  My little Golden Polish hen, Angitou, laid her first egg! She is so proud!

November 27: Applause in the coop today! Emily the Silkie laid her first egg - my first Silkie egg ever!!

New Chickens Meet Old Chickens: Getting Acquainted is HARD!

October 2: For the last three weeks the four little hens (Angitou, Emily, Maran, and Carmen Maranda) have been living in a corner of the big coop that I fenced off so the flock could see them and get used to them to minimize fighting once they all got mixed together. Today was a double milestone day: I opened the gate to let the chickens out into the big new half-acre run and also made a small hole in the fence separating the young hens from the big coop, so they could climb through and go into the big coop whenever they were ready. Things started out pretty well. The entire flock went into the big new run and had the time of their lives nibbling on ferns and scratching through the leaf litter on the ground for bugs and worms. So, the coop was empty and the four young hens went through the hole in the fence and cautiously explored. The only chicken left in the coop was Snowball and while he was very interested in the new chickens he stood to one side and did not interact. Then it started to rain - the whole flock came inside to discover four interlopers in their coop. There was a lot of pecking, some of it aggressive. Even though Maran and Carmen, the two "baby" Marans, are as big as, or larger, than the old hens they did not fight back, sadly - so the old hens kept after them. Angitou, the little Polish hen, seemed to get the brunt of the hostility, with a lot of hens ganging up on her and pulling out her crest feathers. She kept trying to crawl under the Marans to hide. Emily, the little Silkie hen, hunched up in a corner, and for the most part was ignored. As of a few minutes ago all four young hens have crawled back through the hole and into their own territory and the old hens have gone back to eating, scratching, and nesting. There's nothing to prevent the old hens from going through the hole and invading the young hens' space, but I'm not going to close the hole since everybody has to get together and get along sooner or later. Once the new pecking order is firmly established, things will calm down again.

October 5:  I just had a prison break. The new run is surrounded by four feet of wire fencing which is topped by four more feet of netting. But there are spots where I don't have the netting up yet—a fact the chickens discovered sometime while I was in the house eating dinner. There were ten chickens on the loose including the two roosters. Kathy and I opened the gate & chased them around thru the woods until they finally went in and then I did a count and everybody's there. Fortunately, everybody sort of stayed together and they didn't want to get too far away from their home, but herding chickens is a lot like herding cats - the whole concept behind herding is that the animal you are herding is afraid of you and will run away. When I yell & wave my arms at the chickens they just cock their heads quizzically and cluck at me.

September Update

The Silkies had their three-month-old birthday at the beginning of September. It is sooo hard to sex Silkies and these babies are truly enigmatic, but as the month progressed it became obvious what was going on.   I was and continue to be almost positive Emily's a girl - she's got a rounded, feminine crest on her head and carries herself like a hen.  Courtney, with an upright, rooster-like stance, was the largest of the Silkies. Courtney's head-feathers were sort of swept back and her neck feathers were rough. I was guessing Courtney was a rooster. Then Courtney crowed.  That solved that mystery.  Petite Paulette was somewhat hen-like in posture, but had rough head and neck feathers. I thought that this little bird could go either way. Then Paulette crowed.  That mystery was also solved. 

Since the breeder I got the Silkies from will take them back if you for some reason are not satisfied (with no money refund), and since I do NOT need any more roosters, I took them back on September 12th.  That left Emily as the only Silkie.  Even though she had the two Marans and Angitou the Polish for company, I think this poor little hen felt a little sad, lonely, and abandoned.

Emily is sad

Other news that is a bit more upbeat: Early in September I started to build a half-acre chicken run to give my birds more space to move around in. First I put up this 10 foot wide, 8 foot high gate - wide enough to drive the tractor thru and hopefully high enough to contain the chickens.

Then I started in on the fence.  Here's a line of fence posts going up the hill.  Some of the posts came from the farm I grew up on and are perhaps older than I am. A good steel fence post will last a long time!

Here's how it's looking right now: Four feet of wire fence topped by four feet of netting. Not only will this contain the chickens, it will also keep the deer out and will probably keep the zombie hordes at bay after the apocalypse!

The Chicks Go Outside

On Saturday I finally came to the realization that the chicks were not going to get moved to the big coop in the time frame I had originally planned on - so I decided I would build them a small outdoor run in their current location. I spent about 10 minutes putting up the world's most rickety fence, then grabbed a lawn chair, a beer, & a camera & watched them come outdoors for the first time.

Maran, Angitou, & Carmen stand on the threshold for a long, long time trying to figure out why there's a gaping hole in the wall & what it all means.

Carmen: "There's yummy green stuff down there!"

Carmen goes for it.

Yes! Carmen, Angitou, & Maran are out!

Meanwhile the Silkes, oblivious to these new developments are standing around with their fingers up their noses. If they had fingers....or noses. Anyway, they are totally unaware.

Courtney: "Hey! There's a gaping hole in the wall. And the other chickens are in it!"

Courtney, Paulette, & Emily peering nervously into the abyss.

Courtney: "There's yummy green stuff out there! I'm going for it!"

Paulette & Emily, "Courtney! Come back!!!"

All the Silkies finally make it outside.

Next day: Everybody loves their new chicken run!

Baby Chicks and Other Birds

2014-07-27 Baby Chicks and Other Birds


Carmen & Angitou in a staredown

Emily & Carmen

Carmen and Angitou give each other a little peck on the beak while Maran feigns disinterest.

Maran hunting and pecking

The baby chicks have been hogging all my poultry posts, so it's time to post a pic of the adult hens. Here are Mary and Mary the Campines, who do everything together, sharing a nest.

Here's an early morning shot of my flock on the roost. This is everybody except for Snowball & the babies. This is also proof that I'm up before the chickens.

Chick Pics

Some pictures of the babies from the last couple of weeks!

Emily, Paulette, and Courtney the Silkies - 3 weeks old.

Angitou the golden Polish with Maran and Carmen Maranda the cuckoo Marans - 2 weeks old.

Angitou and Maran closely examine a pecked-over plant sprig.  They're a little over three weeks old in this picture.

Here's Emily at a little over four weeks old.  She's at that awkward stage where she's got a combination of her baby down and her first Silkie feathers.

New Chickens and a New Tractor!

I had a birthday in April, and it has been a bit like my birthday, Christmas, and the 4th of July all rolled into one with the new chickens joining the flock, new baby chicks, and a shiny new John Deere tractor!

Linda and Sandy Leghorn came to live at the ranch in early April.  They used to belong to a family who had them in their backyard and decided that they just couldn't keep them anymore. Right now they're living in the corner pen of the coop and getting acquainted with the flock through the fence.  Already each of them is laying a giant white egg every day--living up to their Leghorn reputation!

Here are Paulette, Courtney, and Emily, my new baby Silkies that I just got from a local breeder.  I am being optimistic that by giving them girl names, they'll all be girls--Silkies are pretty much impossible to sex when they first hatch.  These three fluffy cuties will soon be joined by three other chicks that I'm getting next week--two Cuckoo Marans, and a Golden Polish.

I just took delivery of this sweet little John Deere utility tractor and a handful of attachments, including a front-end loader that will be super handy for hauling chicken manure.  With this tractor I can put a new upper limit on the number of chickens I can have, don't you think?!

I'm a Dude!

First, you need to know that it is so hard to sex Silkies that you can only buy them as straight-line (unsexed) baby chicks, second it's worth pointing out that Silkies are so devoid of secondary sex characteristics that a given chicken can be up to a year old before you really know what you've got, third, I have to say I've wondered about Courtney for a long time - lack of any real nesting behavior, the hostility shown to her by the two roosters, and lately how her neck feathers appeared to be growing into hackles - fine, fluffy hackles to be sure, but hackles nontheless. And then yesterday she started crowing. Courtney is a roo. This, I'm sure, is only a surprise to me. Courtney has known what he is all along. So, given our new understanding of this bird, Courtney the person and I had a discussion and concluded that one of my new Silkie chicks will be named Courtney and that this bird will from this point forward be named Snowball - a name some people have used for him all along. Snowball is still a cute, sweet, social bird. He is kid-friendly & you can pick him up and pet him & carry him around & he'll continue to be part of my flock - but we will all now have a better understanding of who he really is.


Outside temp right now: -17. In the coop: 20. I'd like to keep it above freezing but the heaters are maxed out warming the air 40 degrees. The chickens seem just fine, but I've gathered some frozen eggs.