Guinea fowl in the barnyard

I just read an interesting article in my Hobby Farms magazine.http://www.hobbyfarms.com/

 They were featuring poultry and ducks, etc. in this issue.  The guineas they mentioned would not get along well with other chickens or smaller chickens in their coops at night, but I would beg to differ on that comment.

All my chickens and guineas arrived together as a few days old from Ideal Poultry Farms.  I did not lose a single one in transit and they all got along and were together from day one.  Maybe this can make a difference.  I have not added any new ones, except two that hatched out by their moms last June and are 2 gorgeous roosters.  They were “brothers” and get along great and all roost in the same coop at night, guineas, roosters, and chickens.  We have two other coops that a few hang out in, but the rest, all 12 of them, like to be in this one at night.

I have had more losses with the guineas from predators; mainly I think because they are not the “sharpest tack in the drawer”.  They forget they can fly “over” the 4 foot tall  fence if they get stuck on the other side and want to go where the others are.  They forget they have a huge barn to go inside of if they get locked out of the coop at night and it is raining.  They forget that predators will find them roosting asleep on the ground outside the coop when it is pitch black outside.  But I would miss them if they all left, and I will replace them when I need to rebuild that flock.  They can be loud at strange things, so close neighbors probably would not appreciate that.  We don’t have anyone close enough to hear them,  except us and I know something is wrong when they sound off and I investigate.

The alpacas have no tick or insect problems.  The pearl guinea is the prettiest and I like the lavenders too.  I would definitely want guineas again.

Safe Egg cleaning and handling

I have lots of different informative email subscriptions I signed up for.  This informative small scale egg handling booklet is from ATTRA; you can subscribe to a free email subscription too.

Here is the free egg handling booklet in PDF format:

http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/egghandling.pdf

  ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service is one of the nation’s oldest and most respected sources for sustainable agriculture information. Resources include hundreds of expert publications and worksheets, as well as sustainable agriculture specialists who provide personalized technical assistance on sustainable agriculture topics. ATTRA is funded under a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service and managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), a nonprofit organization focusing on sustainable agriculture, energy and communities.

ATTRA logo

Chickens in the rain

Being new to chickens, I have read alot about how to care for them.  Everyone has their own experiences and what works best for them.  Bottom line is that animals are versatile for the most part and will function just fine usually with what type shelter they are provided.  However, there are some ways to improve what you provide and make it a little more livable for them, especially in wet, cold,  or even hot weather. 

My chickens like to hang out in the alpacas barn (30×50 feet) if the weather is not nice for pasture foraging.  In the heat, they also like to hang out under the elevated coops (base size is 4×8 set up on  a cement block at each corner) where the cool earth and breezes  cool them.  In the winter the barn, bright sun, and hay on the floor helps warm them.  Their coops keep them warm enough at night when I shut them in and they can burrow into the deep litter and they mound together.  The decomposing litter also generates some heat, so I read, from the decomposition, which would create some heat for them.  So, keeping a deep litter in the coop is an easy way to improve their warmth.  I use a kitty litter scoop to remove any clumpy wet litter and to swish around the top layer into the bottom layer and get it started drying out.  I put a hook on one of the coop studs out of the way so I can reach the scoop and it’s so easy to keep the nest boxes, roosts and litter floor cleaned up.

Dealing with frozen water in winter is difficult.  Fortunately, they don’t need as much water as they do in summer, so they drink out of the alpacas buckets which take longer to freeze,   and I make sure  they start off the morning with fresh unfrozen water in their little waterers.  There are some heated waterers and heated bases to sit them on, but I have not tried those.  Last winter was the first winter and they all did just fine.  Since there isn’t really much of anything to forage from the pastures, I make sure their feed containers are kept full as the digesting of food will generate some body heat.  They also like to burrow into the alpacas hay troughs.  The alpacas eat “around” them. 

We don’t have too many “freeze” days in this part of the US, but still need to be ready for them because they almost always take us by surprise.

I have recommended them before, but I will again, and that is two books I have referred to constantly: Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow, and the other is The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery.  Find them at Amazon.com and you can create a book list and they will e-mail you whenever the prices change, higher or lower.  A great place to shop online.

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

Finish up in May

Can you believe May is almost over?  We are still battling the rains. Recently they have been more of an inconvenience than anything. A few days of bad weather, then it breaks long enough to dry out the top layer of soil before it rains again. Our neighbor was busy getting the first cutting of hay in. I am not so sure about his wheat; it is looking less golden and more grey so it may be lost which is unfortunate because it was a beautiful field of gold before all the rains.

A couple of the alpacas pastures are looking rather soggy and the grass does not seem to have come in well. I may need to see about doing some seeding in there before the hot weather hits.

The chickens have done just fine. I did find a nest of eggs under some tall grass next to the chicken coop. Now I know where to watch and also keep that grass trimmed down so they can’t hide. They have been laying real well and I have one regular customer and a couple of others who have contacted me. If I can sell most of the eggs it will at least pay for their feed with a little extra left over to go towards the alpaca’s feed.

Enjoy the week. We are getting more rain this week with a hard rain already today, but the sun is shining brightly right now.

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