Thursday, April 20, 2017

Compost Turners

These are 10 month old Buff Rocks and Colombian Wyandottes turning some 5 week old compost.  This batch is about 50% chickie poo pine litter, 25% dried leaves from last autumn, and 25% shredded tree trimming compost from the city.  Still not enough carbon to nitrogen (chickie poo) so it burns and off gasses ammonia for a few weeks.  I turn daily during that stage - but once the ammonia smell is gone, I let the girls have at it, raking it back into a pile every few days.  By week 5, there are all kinds of tasty creepy crawlies in the compost pile as it cools down and starts smelling like woodland earth.  At least tasty to an ambitious hen.  This pile started out as about 6 wheelbarrows full of stuff and now barely makes one wheelbarrow full.  It is technically ready to mix in the garden beds; however, I haven't had time, so I let the biddies continue to enjoy turning it.  In theory, I should be starting another compost pile... but, well, yeah, what was I thinking when I decided to go back to school!

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Friday, March 24, 2017

My How They've Grown

Chickies that were "Day Olds" in Feb 2016 and July 2016. All grown up and producing 12-18 eggs a day. Too many predators to let them free range while I'm at work, but they do get an hour or more before work, and longer periods during the weekend.  At least as good as therapy!

(Somehow, the video moniker doesn't always display; however, these are videos.) 

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 And, of course, video of the current batch of babies. I've been bad about posting lately.  In fact, work and work have been pretty all consuming.  But, getting to a better place.  They will be outside on the grass tomorrow before the storm rolls in.  They are definitely  enjoying flying these days.  Going to build them a larger play pen for outside so they can really get some exercise.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 11 - More Photos

Been under the weather, and barely able to keep my own life together, but here are more photos from Saturday, 3/11.  Aren't we cute?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Day 11 - The Little Chickie Photo Op Teaser

Just a teaser today.  Heated my little mini-green house up to 90*F and took a bunch of photos on Sunday (by bunch, I mean hundreds).  They were quite happy at 90*F.  I was sweltering.  Click on the picture to see larger versions of the photos.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Eggs from my big girls. Probably from our Buff Rocks.

Showing our attitude.  Am I a Dominique or a Barred Rock?
You can't see my feet, but judging by my feet color, I might be a Dominique.

We've got a secret!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Day 10 - Some real flying

Some real flying going on these days.  And more eating and more pooping, but so far, no more Pasty Butt.  Reducing temps.  Range is from 80 - 98*F so they can choose their temp.  They tend to sleep in the warmer areas of the stock tank, and run around in the cooler areas.  They tend to run around at the same time, eating, and flittering, and making noise.  Then a few will decide it's nap time.  Someone else will see that there are two snuggling down, and then will run over to join.  Then someone else will come running and run on top of everyone and generally unsettle the whole little flock.  Eventually everyone snuggles up with their friends and takes a nap.

Here, they are clearly not in the nap mode!

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I am cutting grass, dandelion leaves and flowers, lemon balm, oregano, and clover into tiny bits and sprinkling it and chickie grit on top of their food a few times a day now.  Not too much of any one thing (don't want to induce PB!) - just so they get a taste for such things.

Summer babies would already have experienced grass (ok, weeds) by this time - but, eh, tornado warnings and then snow?  Yeah, they'll be staying in their little stock tank world for now...

Spent a lot of time outside early this morning (like at sunrise - had a full day in by 9 am) before the snow flurries.  Here are some scenes from our micro-mini farm life from earlier this month.

Wing clipping - Silver Laced Wyandotte - I didn't clip enough of the flight feather tips - this
girl could still fly.  I had to take another inch off before she stopped going over a 6 ft fence.
From earlier in the year - he used to be able to crawl through the steps
and is confused why he no longer fits.

Have a Happy Chickie Day!

Day 9 - Tiny Tail Feathers

Tail feathers are appearing, wing feathers are almost completely in for most of the little ones, and flying is a thing now.  If the weather will cooperate, they will go outside for 15 minutes or so a few times this weekend.  Since my son and I put in a mobile chicken fence system, the big girls have not been hanging out around the house.  Sun, rain, snow should have helped cleanse that area of most chickie pathogens.  Babies will get to play where chickies or chickens have not recently hung out.

See all that beautiful Tennessee rock.  Electric fence and step-in posts? Yeah, not here.  Big girls and one of my roos hanging out.  3 - 2x4x8's create 2 posts.  This is NOT predator-proof, and my girls' who still like to fly have their wings clipped.  I already had 100 feet of this wire fencing, so I used it - it's only 4 ft tall - but if I had to buy the fencing, I probably would go higher.  Even with clipped feathers on one wing, most of the girls could clear a 4 foot fence if they really wanted to.  Their run has 6 foot fencing and the Brown Leghorns go over it with ease if I don't keep their wing clipped.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Food consumption has doubled.  Water needs to be changed more frequently now because they kick pine shavings in it.  I hand wash the waterers every day - and once a week they get sanitized.  If I need to go minimalist on a day that I have to work an extra long shift, I can get chickie care done in 20 minutes - 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 in the evening.  But if I want to enjoy taking care of babies, it's more like 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 in the evening, and a few minutes to play with them every few hours.

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Little chickies are growing up on Nature's Best Organic Chick Starter.  I love my local Tractor Supply.  Babies will have eaten nearly two 40 lb bags by the time they go to their new homes.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

(No Day 7) Day Eight - Flutter-byes

Posing for the paparazzi after Pasty Butt inspections this morning.  About 20% has a little bit of the butt this morning, but nothing alarming.  This is probably the last bit of it that we'll see.

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Will be lowering temps on the thermostat tomorrow. Will be set to turn off at 90*F and back on at 85*F. So far the girls have eaten about 10 pounds of chickie food and about 1 cup of chickie grit. They've used 50 or so paper towels and about 1/10th of a bale of pine shavings. They go through about 1/2 gallon of water a day. Used pine shavings and paper towels will be added to the next compost pile to become part of the garden that will help feed my husband and I, and my resident hens. The hens, in turn, will produce more compost materials, and food for our doggies and for us. Right now I am giving away about 5 dozen eggs a week at work and still have too many eggs. But then, that's what happens when you have 20 something little biddies!

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No chickies were baked during the setting up and testing of the thermostat and remote temperature sensors!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day Six - Showing Off Pretty Wing Feathers

Babies are totally used to me reaching down and working around them, picking them up, and such. They aren't happy when I actually lift them out of the brooder - I think being away from the flock, colder air, and no walls is still pretty alarming. That will change as they associate being picked up with going outside into a little mini-chickie low tunnel greenhouse that has a lot more space where they can actually fly.

Still having some trouble keeping the temperature adjusted to the best heat - still getting on the warm side right under the heat lamp.  The hottest area gets over 100*F, and the coolest area gets as cool as about 80*F.  The chicks don't worry much, though - the stock tank is big enough that they can choose if they want to be in a warm spot or a cooler spot.  If they are huddled together, they are too cold, if they stand around with their wings spread and panting, they are too hot.  If they are running around like a pack of kindergartners, then the temps are just right. 

Day Five - Doubled in Size

Babies have nearly doubled in size.  Introducing baby chickie grit - just a little sprinkle - in anticipation of chopped up fresh dandilion and clover tomorrow.  Sunday looks like sun & 50*F or so.  May be warm enough to let them play in the little chickie mini-hoop house with some supplemental heat. Crossing my fingers.

And, another Pasty Butt Free day.  Could we be done with Pasty Butt for this group of young ladies?  One can hope!

Had the food and water removed for less than 10 minutes to clean the waterer and put down some fresh bedding.  You would have thought they didn't eat for days with the way they attacked the food when I set it down.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day Four - Fluffy Butts and Popcorn

Seems like I spend a lot of time thinking about Pasty Butts and Fluffy Butts, and the condition of chickie rear ends!  But, in my experience, it is the first indicator that a chick may be in trouble, health wise.  So I am happy to report that all butts were fluffy during inspection today!

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It is amazing to me that by day four, the baby "flight feathers" are already so developed. That's where a lot of the protein in baby (and grownup) food goes - into making feathers. In the next few days the chickies will start going into what is sometimes called "the popcorn stage."  During that stage, when a chickie is startled, it jumps - pops - straight up, feathers all aflutter.  They can pop 2 feet or higher.  I am surmising that this is because four day old chicks are starting to range away from their moms and predators find them quite tasty!  Popping up into a predator's face might startle the predator just enough to allow a chick a quick escape.  And indeed, that is how they try and escape from the brooder, too! 

Click on today's video to watch fluffy butts running around on "fine" pine shavings.  For those of you who hang out at Tractor Supply, it's the stuff in the yellow bales.  $5 a bale on sale, and that will keep two dozen or so babies in clean quarters for about 4 weeks.  Longer if the weather is better and babies can run around on grass and clover for a period of time each day.  Winter babies don't get as much outside time as summer babies, so by the end of this week, I will be finely chopping clover, grass, and lettuce for them.  Of course, with the introduction of grownup food, I'll need to add chickie grit to their diet.  Chickens don't have teeth - they use rough rocks (or in this case, sharp sand) in their gizzard to grind up food.  Processed chickie food turns to mash when they drink water, so no grit needed for that.

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Waterers are on plastic tray lids covered in paper towels. Going to have to start changing the water out a lot more frequently as the little chickies learn to kick and scratch pine shavings everywhere. I suppose I could leave them on paper towels longer, but they do love kicking and scratching around. Maybe it strengthens their little legs? Anyway, by day four, the whole bottom of the brooder is covered in about an inch of pine shavings. For the next few days, unless there is a spilt water issue, I'll be layering another layer of paper towels and another inch of pine shavings each day. Then next weekend we'll do a full clean out, again. If Pasty Butt returns in force, we will clean and sanitize sooner. Side note: Used pine shavings and paper towels will get composted and become end of season garden additions.