Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two weeks old

Yesterday the meaties turned two weeks old, so as I did with the Freedom Rangers earlier this year I have started weekly weigh ins on the birds to see how they're growing and what their feed conversion rate is.  As of 11/1/11 the Kosher Kings weigh on average 6.7 ounces with the largest being 8.15 ounces, and the smallest being 5.2 ounces.  They're not growing out quite as quickly as the Freedom Rangers did.  At two weeks the FR's averaged 8.67 ounces, so the KK's are almost 2 whole ounces behind the FR's.  That's a little disappointing.  Maybe next week's weigh in will be better.

 These guys attack the food like little land sharks!
 One of the larger chicks

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mo Meaties

This spring we raised a batch of meat chickens.  We ordered 50 Freedom Rangers which we split with 3 other families.  They grew out to an average of 5.5 pounds in 9 weeks.  And when it was time to process we had all hands on deck to do so.  There were 5 women, 3 men, and 2 kiddos available to help.  It only took us about 3 hours to process all of the birds. Not too bad considering we were all novices.

 Our processing set up

 Turkey fryers were used for our scalders.  After decapitation and bleed out, birds are scalded at 140-150 degrees for about a minute.  
After scalding we dropped the birds in our homemade plucker.  We bought instructions for how to build a Whizbang plucker from Herrick Kimball.  None of us wanted to hand pluck 50 birds!
My six year old niece supervising the guys as they run the plucker.

Clean as a whistle.
Now on to the processing table, i.e. the girls table.

 My 9 year old niece was a huge help.

Raising the meaties was fairly labor intensive.  Keeping the feeders and waterers filled was practically a full time job - especially as the chicks got older and the weather got warmer.  We also did weekly weigh ins so we could see how the birds were growing.  Overall though it was a pleasurable experience.  I know this sounds cruel, but d day was probably the best thing about it.  It was neat getting to spend time with family and friends working toward a common purpose.  I can now say I know how barn raisers must have felt.  Except we didn't have a square dance afterwards...

On Thursday of this past week our fall meaty chickens arrived.  This time we ordered Kosher Kings from Noll's Poultry in Kleinfeltersville, PA based on recommendations from some participants at BackyardChickens

Our latest batch of meaties - Kosher Kings

This time around with the meat chickens I am going to do some things to make things a little less labor intensive.  I'm borrowing an automatic waterer from a friend, and I'm going to have my husband build another pvc pipe feeder - or maybe two more.  Then hopefully I'll only need to fill up the feeders once a day.  A girl can hope can't she.  

We've got a couple new families participating in the fall meatie grow out.  Since our d day falls during deer season, Charlie's uncle has opted out, but his cousins and another family friend are going to help out.  I'm looking forward to another day of comradery in 8-12 weeks. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Just thought I'd drop by and blog for a minute or two

It's been a little over a month since my last blog post, so I thought I'd stop in and post an update on the chickens and Ely. 

Ely has now been fully integrated into living with chickens.  He chased them one time, and got in pretty BIG trouble, and we've had absolutely no trouble with him since.  Even though he eyes them curiously sometimes, he's not offered to chase them any more.  The hens and roosters are pretty tolerant of him now, but the rooster has started giving him the stink eye when Ely gets hyper and starts running around like a little nut case too close to the hens.  I'm pretty sure one of these days he may flog Ely, but it'll be a good lesson for Ely.  The hens are pretty good about trying to hold their own ground. 

 Ely and the only chicken he's allowed to chase.

Ely gets chased

Our nameless Easter Egg cockerel and Ely

Mingling with the flock while quite possibly grazing on chicken poo

We've had a few new additions to our flock since my last post. Shortly after we lost our Welsummer cockerel to an unknown predator, I had a Welsummer pullet and a Silkie hen go broody.  A friend of mine gave me some fertilized eggs from her hens to put under my broody girls.  I put 6 eggs under the Welsummer and 6 under the Silkie.  Our weather during that time was in the triple digits, so our hatch rate was pretty poor.  The Welsummer only hatched out 2 chicks, and the Silkie who had had a 100% hatch rate on her prior chicks only hatched 3 chicks.  Unfortunately, one of those chicks ended up with a cross beak, so now she's down to 2 chicks. 
Fran's first set of grand chicks

Fran's second set of grandchicks

A couple of weeks after the Welsummer and Silkie's latest clutches hatched my other two Silkies went broody.  So I ordered some Silkie eggs from The Garry Farm.  I ordered 12 and was shipped 15 eggs.  So I put 7 eggs under 1 hen and 8 eggs under the other hen.  Unfortunately, only 3 of those eggs hatched.  I can only guess the poor hatch rate must have been the result of our hot weather (which had finally gotten down out of the 100's) and rough handling during shipping.  On the plus side the three babies I got are beautiful blue chicks, and I'm hoping I have 2 pullets and 1 little cockerel, but given they're Silkies their sex will be a mystery for another 5-6 months.

One of our blue Silkie chicks courtesy of The Garry Farm
In the past few weeks some of my first home grown chicks have started to lay.  I've got a green egg layer, and just recently an olive egg layer!  The first two eggs she laid were olive with beautiful brown speckles, but all of her subsequent eggs have been olive with no speckles.  I was hoping she'd keep laying the speckled olive eggs, but the olive eggs are beautiful.  I really do like opening my egg cartons and seeing a variety of  colored eggs.  

Speckled olive eggs

 Welsummer/Easter Egg cross on right and assumed olive egg layer on left.

The moderately cooler weather we've had since Labor Day weekend has helped egg production tremendously.  There for a while at the end of our 30+ days of triple digit temps the girls were laying only 4 eggs a day.  Now we're getting anywhere from 9-12 eggs daily.  I can't wait til my little Welsummer and Welsummer/Ameraucana hens start laying.  They're about 5 months old now, so hopefully they'll be laying within the next month!  *fingers crossed*

Our egg basket overfloweth.

 My nieces - the farm girls
 Welsummer cockerel
 Ameracauna/Welsummer cockerel and pullet and two Welsummer pullets

My niece feeding one of our young cockerels.  He's just a tad spoiled...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hello Ely!

Not sure if I've mentioned it, but I'm a huge dog lover. In fact, I can't remember never having a dog. Except for the last year and a half. We lost our Rottie, Lady, in December of 2009. I decided I didn't want to get a dog until later in 2010.  I had also decided that as much as I love Rotties I wanted a lap dog who actually fit in my lap. 

Getting a dog wasn't a real high priority, and I have to admit I kinda liked not having the responsibility of a dog - going home at lunch to let them potty, rushing home after work to let them potty, finding a dog sitter or a boarding facility when we traveled out of town, etc. So when I got chickens in July of last year I thought that would satisfy my desire for a pet. Turns out chickens aren't very cuddly, and it's pretty well impossible to housebreak them (not that I tried!).

When The Brawn and I traveled to Tennessee last week, the last thing I had in mind was getting a dog. But that was before we met his cousin's dog, Ellie. She was a dachshund/schnauzer mix puppy who was absolutely adorable. She was smart as a whip, obedient and very calm for a puppy her age. As I was petting this wonderful pup, her mom said, "She still has brothers and sisters available for adoption." A few minutes later she had the rescue's website pulled up showing me pictures of the other pups from the litter. Not one to make rash decisions with regards to a pet that I intend on keeping for the next 15 years or so, I explained that I don't like to make hasty decisions - and especially when it comes to adding a family member. Plus we had a 700 mile plus journey ahead of us later that week. But Ellie had her hooks in me, and I knew if one of her siblings was half as good a puppy as she was we'd be lucky to have him/her as a pet.

I contacted the rescue group to see if they did out of state adoptions, and if it would be possible to get the adoption finalized in a little over a day. We arranged with the foster mom of 3 of the pups - males - to meet the boys the next morning to decide which one or if we wanted to go through with the adoption. We met Eddie, Ernie and Ely, and decided to adopt Ely.

I was worried about how Ely would deal with the amount of traveling that lay ahead of us, but to my surprise he was a wonderful traveler! He lay on the front seat between The Brawn and I all the way back to Texas. Since getting home he's been nothing but tons of fun. He is doing pretty well with potty training provided I watch for the signs he's about to go. He loves my nieces and nephews (and revels in all the smothering of him they do. And he's not such a bouncy, overwhelming puppy that he frightens the smaller ones.

If you're in the market for a dachshund/terrier mix pup, check out the AARF-TN website.

This is how our little passenger rode most of the way home.

Ely and Emma

Ely all tuckered out

Ely (on left ) and little sister Ellie (on right)

Ely and the chickens - we're still working on introducing him.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Heniversary to me!

It's been just a little over a year ago now that we became chicken owners. We started with 26 little chicks in July of 2010 and as of today we have 36 chickens. Of those 36 chickens we only have 12 of our original 26 left. Early on we lost 1 EE chick to a crossbeak and 1 Welsummer chick to a mysterious illness. Our original rooster, Winston, was the next to go. He was ill tempered and after he snuck up behind my 8 year old niece and attempted to flog her, he sealed his fate. We had Winston and dumplings a couple of days later. I sold 3 of our 6 Silkies. I'd ordered a straight run hoping I'd get at least 2-3 females, and they all turned out to be hens! Who would've guessed! I also sold one of our RIR hens to the same guy that bought the Silkies. When I checked on them a few weeks ago, they were all doing well, and the RIR apparently likes to ride the tractor! I asked for a picture but haven't gotten one yet.

In October I ordered some chicks from a breeder in NY. I'd asked for 8 Welsummer chicks and 8 Ameraucana chicks, but the hatch went bad and only 5 Ameraucanas and 3 Welsummers hatched out. We had to euth 1 of the Wellsie chicks upon arrival because it couldn't walk, so that put us down to 2 Welsummers. Of those two one was a roo (yay! I needed a replacement) and one was a pullet. The Ameraucanas were 2 females and 3 males. Not so yay.

On Christmas day while the flock was free ranging a HUGE hawk came down and attacked them. The 2 EE roosters (who were supposed to be pullets) fought him off and the hawk left empty handed. But the chickens came out from cover and we did a head count, we noticed we were down one New Hampshire Red pullet. I don't know if she ran off in the woods and got lost, or the hawk inflicted a mortal wound, and she died while hiding in the wooded area around our house.

When the Welsummer male from October came of age I gave away the 2 EE roosters and 2 Ameracauana roosters to a friend of my brother. I kept one gimpy Ameraucana roo. He is now in our freezer.

While the 2 EE's were running with the girls our 3 Silkies went broody we had 8 chicks hatch out among them. We lost one to a coon, but the others are doing well. Of those 7 chicks left there are 3 roos and 4 pullets. I expect the older two pullets to start laying soon as they were born in February. The other 2 pullets are about a month younger.

One of the Ameraucana pullets started laying beautiful blue green eggs in March. Shortly after she started laying she disappeared one evening when the chicks were out free ranging. She just never showed back up at the coop at night time. I'm sure a predator got her, but there were no feathers or other indicators of fowl play (sorry. couldn't resist!)

During Welsummer rooster 2's reign 2 of our Silkies went broody again, so I put Welsummer eggs under them for them to hatch. They successfully hatched out 13 chicks - 11 Welsummers and 2 Welsummer/gimpy-(but sneaky)-Ameraucana-rooster chicks. I gave my mom 5 Welsummer chicks and I kept the rest. We lost one Wellie chick due to an unknown illness. But the remaining chicks are going strong. We have 2 Wellie roos and 1 Welsummer/gimpy-(but sneaky)-Ameraucana-rooster roo. The rest are pullets.

A couple of weeks after the chicks listed above hatched out we lost a New Hampshire Red and EE hen and our rooster to an unknown poultry assailant. The EE hen (named Kooky) made it back to the coop where she later died of blood loss from a nasty gash under her neck. I imagine our rooster was lost making a valiant attempt to save her from the predator. We're not sure what got them. We didn't hear a fuss or commotion on the evening it happened, and we never found any feathers.

Right before my Weslummer rooster died one of our Delaware pullets went broody, so we put an assortment of eggs under her. Of the 8 eggs we put under her 8 hatched out. All three of the eggs that hatched were Welsummer eggs. I was hoping that at least one Kooky egg would hatch, but sadly none did. :(

About the same time that my Delaware hen went broody some Ameraucana eggs I ordered from a breeder arrived. I borrowed an incubator from a friend and used them to incubate the 16 Am eggs. I also put 8 Welsummer eggs in the incubator. I made a completely bonehead move on Day 18 when I put the eggs into lockdown, so unfortunately only 2 chicks hatched - 1 Ameraucana and 1 Welsummer.

A couple of days after the rooster died our 3rd Silkie went broody again. Since hens can lay fertile eggs up to 2 weeks after they've been around a rooster we collected some Welsummer eggs and put them under here. Of the 8 eggs we gave her 4 hatched out. So far the Silkie and Delaware's foster chicks are too young to sex. We should be able to do so here in the next week or so. Welsummer roosters' combs and wattles develop at an early age, so I won't have to wait much longer to be able to sex the young chicks.

So that's the shorthand version of our chicken losses and additions over the past year. I never really planned having this many chickens. And I know I'll thin the ranks and eliminate unwanted roosters. Eventually I want to get more Ameraucana hens, because I like opening the egg carton and seeing eggs of varying colors. And I'm also considering getting a couple more Silkie hens and a Silkie rooster. I just have to figure out how to tell my husband that he's going to have to add on to the coop....