Accidental Free Range

So, we bought a big screen tent to “blow the stink off” the chickens while we are in the yard. Occasionally it is required to slip indoors for a moment. Moments vary in length and chickens are naturally curious little things. Today we had accidental free range chickens. I came outside with my handy dandy paint brush all ready to set to task on the picket fence and was greeted by some very happy chickens wondering the back yard. I apparently missed securing one lower edge of the tent (we have re bar laying on the edges to prevent exactly this type of thing).

They stuck together, the roosters keeping everyone together and if someone got left behind it was a flapping run to rejoin the flock.

As with all things I try to remain calm and simply enjoy the moment; nothing bad really happened and they were so incredibly content pecking their way around new territory. After grabbing the camera and a couple of ripe tomatoes off the vine to lure them back into the tent, I snapped some happy chicken photos:

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Little escape artists
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Jimmy the Eyebrow (leader of the blond mob) keeping a very close eye on me. He is mean but a good protector. It’s the gorgeous wattles…

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Keeping watch, good Jimmy.

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The blonds, the stick together with Goldie and Buff checking them out.
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Perfect day for a stroll apparently.
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Friends, also my best 2 cuddles.
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Phantom(will be one of 2 breeders kept) hanging with his 2 beauties
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Watcha’ doin’?
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Yes, very curious Miss Bella
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Friends share
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Goldie and Phantom tend to hang together
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Tomatoes tossed into the tent gets everyone back safe and sound.

Now it is back to painting, if everyone will be satisfied in the tent. I hear Jimmy crowing up a storm so back outside it is. He keeps me in line too…until the stew pot calls his name.

Chicken Names

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Blacky
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Mask, AKA – The Phantom
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Jimmy the Eyebrow
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Stripe
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Mohawk
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The four Blonds…
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Shell-y/Shell-done

And so it was, ten chickens hatched that were not to be named…I named them. We have said,”Don’t name your food.”, but they are so deserving of names I couldn’t resist. It started with the mob name Jimmy the Eyebrow, then Mask, Blacky, Stripe, Mohawk and the four blonds.There is also Gimpy now known as Shell-y or Shell-done, depending on whether it ends up as a girl or boy (last one out of the shell and it’s leg is a little messed up).

Thirty two more eggs in the incubator ready in 21 days. I will not name them…promise 🙂

 

Let the hatching begin

Our female cat, Nemesis, insisted I follow her to the incubator several times as there was definitely something important happening I needed to see. As usual, she was correct.The cracking had started and we watched obsessively all day, just cracks, wiggling eggs and a bit of chirping.

This morning we were awaken by much louder chirps and three little wet chicks. They are 2 yellow and 1 black little bundles of joy. The breed mix is a Black Australorp rooster and Rhode Island Red hens, both good dual purpose heritage birds.

The brooder will be lit and bedded today in preparation to move these three and any others that hatch in the next 48 hours. The hardest part is not opening the incubator for two days to give them a chance to dry off and the others to  hatch without a loss of humidity and heat. Patience and I might have to stay outside so I don’t blind them with the camera flash all day long.

I can’t imagine this happening in a class room of little kids, as I hear it does. The kids would be uncontrollable, the shrieking and the jostling to look. I’m hyped up and I’m just a wee bit older.

For our first attempt at using an incubator we are thrilled that,basically, we did not mess up and they are alive. Every morning calling out to each other,”Did you roll the eggs?”, “How’s the heat?”,  “The humidity? Did you add water, open a vent?”. It has been a communication contest. We did good.

On wards, with confidence, to more fertilized eggs and the dreams of breeding from our own flock.

For now, adding incubating/hatching to our mental list of skills acquired.

The Egg(s) came first

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So we are on to another adventure, hatching chicks. We were fortunate to pick up 13 fertilized eggs today ( thanks Julianna) with another 35ish to come. They are a mixed breed of a Black Australorp roo and Rhode Island Red hens, both good dual purpose heritage breeds. A small batch to start with as our first try.

We picked up a new Hova Bator incubator at our local co-op country store, on sale, after looking into making one. For a very small difference in dollars we opted to buy the real deal. Still keeping it simple and turning the eggs ourselves, three times a day. A neat little game of X and O written in pencil on opposite sides of the eggs to ensure each is turned.

In 21 days we should have a few chicks, if everything goes well. We have the heat at a steady 100 degrees with water in the lower tray to maintain humidity. The goal is to over winter a breeding /egg laying flock of 10 hens and one or two roosters from different lines. We want to breed our own meat chickens next season instead of relying on feed store chickens that are genetically modified for fast growth (not capable of living past about 10-12 weeks without health problems or death, but still tasty).

There is a local poultry group, Maritime Breeders and Exhibitors of Purebred Poultry and Waterfowl (fb), with a show happening May 21 that we are anxiously awaiting. We are starting to write down all sorts of questions to ask while we search for the one or two roosters we want.

A new daily routine for 21 days which will lead to the next level of homesteading on our .69 of an acre.

Updates to follow.

Transporting chickens

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These three lovely functional boxes where built today and will be used tomorrow to transport this year’s first batch of meat chickens to be processed. They are built to fit nicely in the truck bed and hold about 10 birds a piece.  W has been busy working out the specifics, two fit long ways and the third fits across the back.

It all started with an aspenite bottom board, added corners and uprights then the slats and the top board with a cut out hinged hatch. Keeping it simple, strong and light.

I meant to get pictures of the boxes in the truck bed, with the chickens in them but it was raining and we were moving at a good pace to meet our deadlines.  The chickens fit nicely and were able to sit. It was an easy two person lift with each box, good loading at our end and off loading at the dead end.

Now to store them until the next batch in 5 weeks.

New shavings for the chicks

CSC_0343Well, I don’t know how to post a video on wordpress so you will have to go to our facebook page to see the chicks enjoying their new coop floor covering, Chicks in new straw .

We have been using feed store bales of shavings, as they advised. The chicks have never been overly interested in them. They do not scratch or dig as chickens should.

We have a leaf vacuum for fall clean up and decided to run some straw through it to break it down into smaller pieces for the new chicks. The laying hens enjoy full straw for their nesting boxes but the littles find it hard to move through. After running it through the vacuum twice we got a lovely texture that the new chicks absolutely love. We keep our old feed bags and store the straw “shavings” in them.

As we have access to free straw bales for the garden mulching( neighbor who banks her non-foundation porch for the winter and we remove it for her in the spring), this frees up quite a bit of time (in running to town) and money( at $7.00 a bale we can go through a lot). We dry it in the garden walk ways, then suck it up as needed.

Next year the garden pathways,between the raised beds, will be all wood chips from a local tree removal company that dumps in our yard when they are in the neighborhood. Tree removal companies are usually looking for someplace to dump for free, welcome to our side yard, anytime you want. So the straw needs a new purpose, and there it is. Like someone knew…we find most things turn out like this.

Keep doing what makes you happy, collect what you enjoy and eventually it will all come together as it should.

Walkway Wow, and garden progress

The center of my universe has been constructed with more love than I knew existed. I will be very careful when stating I like something in the future. He has a deep need to create all that I desire…I could get used to this. Plus the fact that he creates things I never envisioned or knew I wanted. He is my very own super hero. Welcome to the green house walkway built from old chimney bricks and a grinding stone from the woods…
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The fence and new privacy lattice are being stained a deep chocolate brown. It is taking forever in the heat, but it looks lovely.DSC_0308The berries are coming around as well. We have had to hang some bird deterrents as we are loosing green berries everyday and they are ending up on top of the chicken run roof. Hope we get some ripe strawberries before it’s all over. It took every last scrap of ribbon I had been hanging onto in my sewing basket…
CSC_0333The peas are blossoming beyond expectation, The squash/pumpkin/cucumber/zucchini have all survived and are making a go of it.
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The tomatoes are doing better inside the greenhouse but are doing ok in the garden as well.
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The meat is growing well. We have lost three birds for a lack to thrive, glad they threw in 2 extra to cover possible loss. We have secured a humane processor that I will help with, nice to have found someone with facilities we approve of.
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The 5 types of potatoes, fertilized with chicken s#%t tea, are thriving. We add the coop cleanings to the large barrel you see at the back, fill with water and wait two days. Then it’s ready to spread on the garden. It smells to high heaven but works really well. The stink stops after the first day.

DSC_0255The Peonies are in full bloom, smell fantastic (enough to over whelm the chicken tea stench).DSC_0307And the finch are hanging out with their sweet song, adding a touch of yellow to the day. Between the fragrance, the song, and the growing green food, life is soothingly glorious.

DSC_0216Things are progressing well, we are on a push with warm weather predicted for the next 6 days. Make hay while the sun shines, as it were.

Bug spray, sunscreen and a big hat…everything you need.

Have a happy Monday.