Posts Tagged ‘backyard chickens’

Spring Chicks Update

So we did two hatches this spring, one with 8 our of 34 survived (not good at all). And then the second batch 14 out of 32 survived and are doing great. I sold a few from the first batch but kept the three mixed breed chicks, so all together I have 17. Some are mostly black, some are brown with stripes, and some are more blond with stripes.  I have no idea if any are pure or not.  I did read that when you cross a Plymouth Rock hen with a Speckled Sussex Rooster, male chicks will be black with a blond spot on his head, and the hens will be all black. So I have at least three black hens, and one black rooster, who we plan on eating.  We are going to butcher the roos in the fall, unless we get a SS roo, which we might keep.  All the chicks are in the brooder coop with a lamp that comes on in the evening and goes off during the day. Gotta keep the costs down!

We finished the Truck Cap Chicken Tractor, but not the run. We are housing our SS roo “Lucky”, two leghorn hens, and two young roos that were given to us in it.  One leghorn we are treating for “bumblefoot”  (abscess on the foot) and the other has severe feather loss. We call her “Franken-Chicken” and her feathers are growing back in.  They are both doing much better in the new coop. The two young roos are happier in there too, because in the layer coop they were getting picked on by “Little Roo” the RIR rooster.  Lucky and Little Roo, who isn’t so little anymore, started fighting so I had to seperate them.  They are getting used to sitting on the roosts while we push the CT to a new spot of grass every morning. The milk crate nest boxes are working out well, and Vincent can open the sliding window to reach in and get the eggs.  Next year we will set up Luck and our one and only SS hen to try to get some pure SS chicks. We plan on building a detachable run for the coop, but have gotten rather busy, not to mention hot out!

Blessed Summer Solstice to you all!

QH

The Truck Cap Chicken Tractor

Saturday we started to work on our Truck Cap Chicken Tractor, which is a portable chicken coop with a Truck Cap as the roof. We are building it in two separate parts, the Cap and the Run.  We  don’t have a whole lot of carpentry experience, and don’t have the best tools, but we are doing the best we can.  Here are some pictures:

Paul putting together the base, which we made from salvaged wood from our deck we just tore down.

The cap, which we got for free from FreeCycle, fits on top of the wooden base.

Here are the roosts on the inside of the cap. The nest boxes will be in the back under that window, so we can reach in to get the eggs.

We have the plywood around the sides, but we aren't sure how we want to build the door in the front.

We plan to put four wheels on the base so we can move it, because the cap is kinda heavy. For nest boxes, I thought some milk crates that we picked up on freecycle would work, mounted under that rear window.  Does anyone have any objections to that idea?  Also we aren’t sure how we want to build the chicken door in the front panel.  I would like to have a horizontal door that folds down to make a little exit ramp, but I’d also like to be able to shut and lock it from out side the run, which we haven’t built yet. Run is going to be detachable with small wheels, and slip over the end of the coop with the window.  To facilitate feeding, watering, and moving, the idea is to lock the chicken in the cap at night and then in the morning, detach the run, move  the cap to a new spot of pasture,  open the cap window and refill the water and feeder, close the window, and then re-attach the run, and then open the horizontal chicken door to give them access to the run.  I’d like to have the cap coop to be predator proof enough to be usable without the run, if I need to isolate a bird, or  raise some young birds separate from the rest of the flock.

Any feed back, comments, questions, advice or suggestions are welcome!

QH

Giving Up Angel Food Ministries

Julian helping me in the kitchen

Julian helping me in the kitchen...

It’s been two months since I’ve ordered food from AFM.  When I first quit my job to stay home with my son Julian and raise some chickens, I was freaked out about money. We started buying food from Angel Food Ministries, and it’s been a big help! But since then, I’ve done enough comparison shopping to know where to find the best deals  (around here, Sam’s Club)  and we just don’t want to eat the processed foods anymore.  We have been eating most of our vegetables from Provident Organic Farms CSA or from our

Vincent learning to Vaccume

"I love vaccuming!" said Vincent! No really that's what he said!

own garden, and this year from “Sharron’s Natural Gardens”.  The Processed foods that come with AFM  taste so salty that we can’t  really eat them!  Also their cuts of chicken come so badly mangled that they are only good for making soup.  One good thing about living on the Eastern Shore is that chicken is very cheap! Until we have our new “Chicken Tractor” (a portable coop) built and we can raise more of our own meat, we will be taking advantage of the $0.88 a lb roasters at Sams Club, and the $0.95 a lb chicken thighs.  We are also considering raising our own pigs.  I’ve begun reading “Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs”.   The nice thing about being a part of the Transitional Movement is that over night progress is not expected…. and I’m proud to say that in this time of “economic re-evaluation” (aka Resession) we have been eating more local home cooked organic foods than we ever have in our entire lives!

The Eggs are Hatching!

Update: Four have hatched, and several more are pipping! I did some research and discovered that yellow skin is a recessive trait, and the only birds I have with yellow skin are the RIRs, so all the chicks with yellow skin are pure RIRs. The Speckled Sussexes have white skin, but since it’s a dominant trait,  a pure SS or a SS x RIR will both have white skin.  Did I mention I have a BS in biology? I guess it’s coming in handy finally!

Day old Chicks!

Here are the first two which hatched on May 2nd.

Incubator

Incubators keep the eggs warm until they hatch.

The Brooder

Our Brooder was a gift from Sharon of "Sharon's Natural Gardens". We made some repairs to it and painted the top.

Brooder Lamp

Inside the brooder we use a plastic storage box and lamp to keep the chicks warm and out of drafts.

Snow-pocolypse 2010

We have had more snow than I’ve seen in the last 15 years! As long as we don’t loose power we are fine! Right now I’m very thankful that we normally use powdered milk and cloth diapers.  Thank the Gods for the heated chicken waterer that I bought in the fall, other wise I’d be bringing the chickens warm water several times a day.  We did change the timer on the lights to be on all night, and off during the “warmer” parts of the day. It will cost us more in electricity, but I’d rather not loose any hens in this weather. The leghorns that were molting are the only ones I’m really worried about. One still has a naked back, due to being Lucky’s favorite hen.  Here are some pictures of the snow!

Dog Pen Coop and Run

Dog Pen Coop and Run

Hungry Hens

Hungry Hens

Our Deck

Our Deck

Wild Birds at the Suet Feeder

Wild Birds at the Suet Feeder

How We Got Started With Homesteading

Sharon, a neighbor who does biodynamic gardening asked me about my gardening experiences on her email list. Here’s my response…

I live out side of town limits (in Wicomico County, on the MD side) on almost 2 acres.  We moved here about five years ago and our first spring we planted several blueberry bushes, thorn-less blackberries, an apple tree and grapes. We also tried to turn our crab grass back yard into a huge garden with the help of  another family,  but boy did we bite off more than we could chew! We really had no clue what we were doing, but I’m very glad we got those perennials in the ground that first year. I did love the fresh zucchini! It was the only thing that grew well. We decided we didn’t know what we were doing and needed a better plan.  We were rather discouraged watching the bugs eat our veggies, but we knew we didn’t want to use any pesticides on them.

About two years ago we tried “Square Foot Gardening” which worked better, but not great. We didn’t have very good compost and our “Mell’s Mix” wasn’t right, but it was smaller and better planned. We learned all about Tomato Horn Worms.  One problem I ran into is that I just didn’t know how to prepare and cook fresh veggies! We started composting more, and we did put in a descent herb garden. We talked about raising rabbits for meat, and worm composting. We bought more books and read online, and subscribed to Mother Earth News!

Julian arrived in July of 08, and we decided my stay at home mom project would be chickens, not rabbits. We converted a dog pen that came with the house to a coop, and made plans to build better one next to it, where they could share the run. We bought some extra chickens from a vegetarian friend, mostly speckled sussexes: 7 roosters and 2 hens. Well, when the roosters started harassing the hens way too much, we thought we should eat them. That first kill was the hardest. Paul tried to break the neck by hand but, it didn’t go so well,  we didn’t know really what we were doing. We didn’t scald that first one, and the plucking was slow!  I was reading directions out of the book for Paul. We felt really bad about the botched kill, and opted to just use a hatchet next time, and to scald the birds. We did two at a time for next couple of weekends. After that we raised some leghorns, and butchered those roosters, this time I bought an orange traffic cone  for a killing cone, and that worked much better. I didn’t drop them in the bucket of blood this time.  And that was the last time we butchered any chickens. At the moment we only have two roosters and the rest are layers. We hope to raise some more to eat this spring. Also in 08, I was gifted some red wriggler worms  and got started with my “lazy no turning” worm composting. The black berries started to produce well, and I cooked several “Blackberry Buckles”..MMM!

In December 08 we planted 12 dwarf fruit trees and some more blueberries.  We ordered the dwarf trees from the Arbor Day Society.  The advantage of dwarf trees is that they don’t need a high ladder to pick, and you can plant more trees closer together. I’ve read that they will produce 2-3 bushels of fruit when they mature, which won’t be for several years.

So in 09 we decided to join Provident Organic Farms  CSA .  Paul still wanted to do a garden, but this time we used “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons. I also got a great cook book from the CSA! . Paul double dug a bed, and we got some seed from our local farm store. I didn’t know anything about GMOs then, or seed saving. The first thing I learned is that sprouting seeds takes up a lot of space, which we don’t have. I hope to fix that this year, if it would ever stop snowing!  So we had the best luck with potatoes, and bush beans, but we had several pumpkins grow, a few cucumbers and the compost pile outside grew a lovely butter nut squash that I still have some squash from.  Those black berries that planted that first year were plentiful.   We were gifted some raspberries, a hops, and a fig too.   This past summer my mom taught me to can, we made grape jelly from our grapes, and some apple butter.

This year we need to put up a green house and build a chicken tractor. We might also be tearing down our deck and putting up a sun room with a wood stove. We are just a little too dependent on electricity for heat in an emergency for my comfort. I also bought a hand push reel mower. We have a riding mower, but needed something smaller for doing detail work around the trees and garden, and I thought a hand push mower would be perfect.  I also plan on making blackberry jam, which is my favorite.  I hope we get a few blueberries,  just enough for a taste.

Looking back, we were very discouraged after that first garden, but we stopped putting money and time into gardening for a few years, and bought books instead.  My mom bought me a copy of “Storey’s Guide to Basic  Country Skills” which is a great resource! If you have “Barnheart” this is the book you should start with! We also picked up the “Storey” book on chickens.  The CSA cookbook is called “Simply in Season” and it has really taught me how to use what’s coming out of the garden. I’d be lost without it! Every year we learn something new and get better at it. Finding the local organic community to help us has been the best blessing ever!  Thanks Sharon and Lisa!

QH

And Then There Were 12

Just before Thanksgiving, several of our hens went missing, and I did actually see my neighbor’s dog eating one of my Rhode Island Reds. Unfortunately there isn’t much I can do about the dog, unless I get a picture. Trust me I did call the sheriff, but the neighbors swear their dog doesn’t get out of the invisible fence.  So now I am down to 10 hens and 2 roosters, and I have them confined to the coops.  They aren’t happy about it but I bring them my

Chickens Eating Apple Scraps

Chickens Eating Apple Scraps

table scraps to eat, in addition to their feed and “scratch”.  They really love apples and anything with seeds like squash.  A friend who makes his own beer gives us sprouted grain to feed them as well.  My heated chicken fountain appears to be working, keeping the water ice free when it gets below freezing, and turning itself off when it’s above freezing.We did put up a light on a timer that is on from about 5pm to 10pm, to keep the hens laying,  and our electric bill only went up $10/month, so not so bad.  Good news is that egg production is going well, I get about an extra 3 dozen eggs every week.   We plan to build a “Chicken Tractor” in the spring, so the hens can get more pasture time, but for now this is the best we can do.