Those crazy chickens


IMG_0018 I loooooove my chickens. I’m not personally attached to any, but I just love hearing them clucking, the silkie bantam rooster crowing, the guineas squawking when they see something unfamiliar, and drinking out of the alpaca’s water buckets. (The chickens have their own water fonts, but for some reason they like to hop up on the old tire that sits around the 5 gal. Tractor Supply buckets and swig away).

I was absolutely petrified about keeping them but then decided what have I got to lose (except maybe a few if I was a real klutz about it). I did my research to see what kinds I should have, and that went out the window when Ideal Poultry had a special on rare breed chickens package (all pullets). I love my rare breed chickens. I also love, love, love the Partridge Silkie bantams. They were a risk as they were straight runs (not sexed, you could end up with all males), but I was extremely lucky and had only one male. Of course you don’t know until they are full grown what you have.

I got a total of 30 (10 Silkies, 10 rare breed, 10 guineas). From zero to 30 is quite a leap but I wanted to have enough that if some did die I would have some left. I lost 3 after several weeks had gone by just because I think they were not thrifty. The others graduated into the coops just fine. Then, recently, with warm evenings, I was keeping the chicken hatch doors open on the coops and that’s when disaster struck. I found one guinea and one chicken dead on separate days (headless, the birds were apparently too big for the hunter to carry off). Then I started counting and found 4 of my Silkies missing (no scattered feathers, so I assume they were small enough the hunter could quickly snatch at night and carry off). Now I do close them up and everything has been fine.

We designed our own coops (very simple A-frames to economically utilize materials and enable good air flow from low venting up and out the top screened vent gables). If you would like more info on the design, let me know. If you need any support in getting started, I have some books and hints that can help you. You can contact me. The only thing is to first check your zoning laws if you are in the city limits, and also your homeowner assocation laws or property deed restrictions.

I advertised on LocalHarvest and got 2 regular egg customers that ends up paying for the feed which is just fine. I’m not looking to get rich, but if it helps pay for something it helps. I sell them for less than the store and one buyer has a co-worker who puts in an order and she takes to her. Local Harvest is the best place to advertise. Selling at farmer’s markets requires some paperwork and I am not quite ready to get out that early and sell yet. You can also find chickens to buy if you don’t want to go through the dependent chick stage. Get a chicken breed that fits you best; do some internet research. Ideal Poultry has a section on breeds descriptions. Give it a try and you will love it


A Surprise in the pasture

Lovey dovey

Lovey dovey

Where'd the milk bar go?

Where'd the milk bar go?

Here I am!

Here I am!

There just isn’t anything cuter than new babies of any kind. We were not expecting any so soon! Sunday, Father’s Day and the first day of Summer, we walked out into the pasture to check on a couple of new chicks our broody hens had hatched. Some movement in the pasture made us look and there was a little alpaca! Where did that come from? It was from our pregnant girl, Dash of Flash (Dash for short) who we thought was due sometime in late fall. We were shocked and amazed that she gave us no clues she was ready. These animals are really hard to observe as being in a pregnant form. They just don’t get really bulky. Her baby girl weighed in at 17 lbs. and we surmise that she was only an hour or so old. We discovered them about 6 p.m. hanging out in the pasture. Dad is in the pasture next to them, Hershey Surprise.

A little background: first of all, it’s a good thing I didn’t know she was due now or I would have been really nervous since this is our first on-site birth. Her first cria a couple years back at another farm had been a stillbirth with difficulty and Dash almost did not survive but she did and we gave her a long rest, not breeding her until last year. Their gestation is 11-12 months. We did not think her first breeding to our herdsire last spring was successful (we are novices at this and they were not real thrilled to be in a pen together).

We then decided to pasture them together for a week. We thought this was not successful, but apparently at some point it was. We tried them together again in the fall and they did not like each other so we pastured them again (again, novices. We were not aware at that time she was probably pregnant). We started back into the breeding again this spring with all 3 girls and Dash was spitting off the male immediately so we knew then probably she was pregnant from the fall breeding, and it would be a fall birth. The other 2 girls bred with Hershey just fine.

Our herdsire looks to have the ability of one breeding equals success, as our other two girls appear to be pregnant for next spring births. I am keeping more precise records now and know when he was successful with the girls. We also have gotten 2 10×10 catch pens (one for the girls side and one for the boys) since last Fall which is much better keeping them in a more confined space for a short time while breeding. And we also know if they don’t get together pretty quick, try another day and relieve them of the additional stress of being together when they are not interested. Dash can be rebred 2-3 weeks after birth, so we will have hopefully 3 new crias next spring.

Summer Surprise is gaining weight and running around, has learned to use the poop pile (they have a communal dung pile; easy to keep the pasture cleaned up), and she is so curious she will drift away from mom to investigate the wandering chickens or wild rabbits running through the pasture. An occasional burst of energy sends her bucking around the pasture. Her dad, Hershey Surprise, is a stunning mahogany brown with dense fleece and I hope she will have his good fleece qualities. My original goal was to have grey as a color emphasis, so all of our animals do have strong grey backgrounds. Hard to know what color she will end up as they tend to change a little from the color they are born with, but right now she has medium brown with smoky grey tipping all over and more around her face and neck.

The temps are reaching 100 this week so making sure they have cool clean water and hose down their bellies makes them happy. The big barn has good cross breezes and the fans are running during the day to help move the air around.