Chicken roosts

We have regular size and bantam size chickens, and also guineas.  They each seem to roost differently and I don’t know if that’s  typical or not.

I had read my chicken books before I got them and before we built the coops. Of course roosts are very easy to add to coops or move or take down so don’t get too worried about what will work or not.  Just give it a try and move it to a better location if necessary later.

I had read in my books, STOREY’S GUIDE TO RAISING CHICKENS (Gail Damerow), and THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING (Carla Emery) , perches should be 2 to 4 feet off the coop floor, allow 18 inches between birds and 18 inches away from walls, using 2 x 4’s or similar. Stagger them so birds are not right underneath each other so their droppings during the night land on the floor and not a bird. 

My bantams don’t perch at all and the books said they would only need about a foot above the floor anyway.  They prefer to sit in a nest box or hunker in the shavings.

My guineas don’t like to be inside unless it’s cold or nasty out.  They will sit outside on the ground, or sit on top of the coops.

My regular sized chickens do like roosts, so on one side of the A-frame coop are the water and food, and the other side are staggered roosting ledges under the sloping roof.  The nest boxes sit in between both spaces on the back wall.

nestbox (dishpan in frame)

nestbox (dishpan in frame)

In the morning when collecting eggs and rousting out any broody looking hens I use a cat litter  scoop that I hang on a nail ona wall stud, to clean out the nest boxes and swirl around the shavings under the roosts to incorporate droppings into the shavings and Stall Dry powder I have in the litter.  It helps keep out flies and the Stall Dry can help keep bugs at bay, like ants and flies. Occasionally I will haul out the garden hoe and dig down into the litter and give it a good toss, so everything will keep breaking down.  Eventually I will scoop out about a third of the litter and replace it with fresh, using the old stuff in my compost heap.

nestbox frame

nestbox frame

angled view into one side of coop

angled view into one side of coop

My peeps

I will repeat again, I loooove my chickens.  Going from zero to 30 a year ago last June was probably craziness on my part, but they are so fun.  I love having different varieties because they are all such different styles and colorings, as well as personalities. 

I got 10 guineas, 10 Silkie Partridge bantams (luckily 9 hens and only 1 cockerel) and then 10 pullets (females) of 5 different rare breed types (2 of each breed).  Interesting to note that the rare breeds seemed to pair up by breed.  Although all the poultry mingle around with everyone, the pairs tend to watch out for each other and stick together wherever they go, even roosting as pairs.

In the meantime I did have some losses, natural and also predator (racoon and/or skunk).  I expected that so I think that’s why I got so many to start with was I wasn’t sure how much loss I would have.  We have lots of red tailed hawks and kestrels but I don’t think I have lost any to those.  The predator losses were at night during the summer heat when I left the coop chicken doors open for more ventilation at night.  A few nights later I discovered my losses and now I shut them up each night no matter what.  We do have good ventilation in there even closed up.

So a year later the Buff Wyandotte girls shared a nest box and hatched a couple chicks who are growing like weeds and now totally independent of the hens.  They are sticking together everywhere they go too.

 

my pretty Norwegian Jaerhon hen

my pretty Norwegian Jaerhon hen

My Norwegian Jaerhon is the only chicken who flies up on top of the fencing in the barn (separating girls from boys and feed storage area) and likes to mosey around the feed storage and see what she can find to eat. http://feathersite.com/Poultry/CGD/Jaer/BRKJaerhone.html

 Last week I uncovered the last of the hay bales stored in the barn and found 12 eggs in a nest she forgot about apparently.  They were no good so I threw them out, but how she found her way under the tied up tarp and next to the hay bales is beyond me.  She is so pretty.  Her gal pal had a problem where her crop would just get so full and I tried to help her empty but it kept filling so eventually she expired.  I would get more of these.

The other ones I really like are my Buff Wyandottes. http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/CGP/Wyand/BRKWyand.html

They are calm and quiet and these two girls hatched out a couple of cute chicks, crossed with the Partridge Silkie bantam, so the chicks have feathered feet with some dark patches on the wings.  Having the hens hatch chicks is the easy way to go.  They take care of everything for the chicks including feeding and keeping them safe and warm.

Buff Wyandotte hen and chicks

Buff Wyandotte hen and chickssee my feathered feet

feathered foot chick

feathered foot chick

Chickens and eggs

one of the little chicks staying cool under the coop

one of the little chicks staying cool under the coop

We are ready for more HOT weather this week.  The chickens usually slow down laying during extreme heat; when it cools down they fire up again.  My Buff Wyandotte hens and the two chicks have been running around.  The little chicks are now venturing out more on their own away from the hens.  The chicks are really pretty, crossed with our Partridge Silkie bantam cockerel, so they have feathered feet and are a little darker with more pattern on their wings than the hens.

I am curious what people do with extra eggs?  I have read  about freezing them (without shells) and some separate whites from yolks and freeze them that way.  I just don’t have the space.  I will do some experimenting.  I have contacted the local food pantry and they will take eggs so I probably will donate what I have not sold or used. 

Meanwhile, I have been cleaning out the coops.  Taking out a third of the litter and replacing it with fresh shavings  of the same amount.  This keeps a nice deep litter that the chickens can burrow into and keep cool in summer (warm in winter) and the micro-organisms that have established in the litter keep it odor free and break it down quickly. There are no bug problems or fly problems.  I have not had to spray in there at all for anything.  I put a dusting of Stall Dry on top every so often, maybe twice a month. The amount I take out is put into my compost bin; it is almost all broken down in that bin so adding this will add some nutrients and “cool down” the litter so it won’t burn the plants when I use it.

cool breezes in the barn

cool breezes in the barn

my pretty Norwegian Jaerhon

my pretty Norwegian Jaerhon

What? My Guineafowl are nesting in the field?

I have 6 guineafowl: 5 white and 1 pearl (black with white dots).  I was noticing my pearl guinea was here one day and not the next and I would occasionally see it and then not, for a few days.  Then my husband was mowing the pasture and said there was a nest of eggs in one patch that he almost mowed over, including the pearl guinea that was sitting on it hidden in the grass; it would not move out of the way of the big noisy mowing machine.  So now, we have a patch of very tall grass in the pasture housing the nest. 

I have been checking on it.  I know the chickens take approximately 21 days to hatch eggs.  I researched and found guineas take longer, like 28 days or so. I really don’t know how long she has been on this nest; it seems like forever.  What I did notice is she comes off the nest during the day and gets a dust bath, eats and drinks, then scurries right back.  Sometimes she has a white guinea sitting with her,  for company  I guess.  Yesterday I was checking on the progress and see if any have hatched, so I had a long stick to move the tall grass out of the way.  She did not like that one bit and hissed at me, like a snake sounds.  I didn’t want to upset her so I left her alone.

I find it interesting that most recently there was a predator that killed a couple of my guineas (including my beautiful Lavender guinea) and made off with four of my bantam partridge silkies over a period of a few nights when it was hot and I wasn’t closing up the coops.  I now close them up each night, but what keeps this guinea on a nest in a field so protected from a predator?  Very curious.  We think our predator was a racoon.

I have no clue if any of the eggs are fertile so I guess we will just wait and see what happens.  There is quite a clutch of eggs so I may have surplus keets to sell in the future if she has a successful hatch. Here is a link to more info on Guineafowl. http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/Guineas/BRKGuineas.html

Healthy Chickens

IMG_0470

Since I’ve had my chickens a little over a year ago, June 2008, I have not had any health issues.  They all eat, drink and poop as they should. 

I am using the deep litter method for the coops which is great.  There has been no smell and everything decomposes.  Every so often, maybe every 3 months or so, I shovel out maybe a third of the litter and put back in the same amount of new litter and mix it all together.  The reason is, if you remove it all, you remove the little ecosystem of microbes decomposing the wastes.

 I was worried about the floor becoming wet or damaged.  Has never been an issue with the deep litter method.  The top layer has the droppings and wetness and I just mix the top layer around down into about the middle, which then absorbs any wetness.  The wet never makes it down to the floor which is just plywood.  This litter is about six inches deep or more. Just add a top dress of more litter as it needs freshening up.

I use Stall Dry which is a great product for anyone to use with an animal odor issue.  I top dress the litter with this every so often, maybe every couple months or when I perceive odors needing to be contained.  The Stall Dry has Diatomaceous Earth to take care of bugs, and also a deoderizer.  It does not harm the chickens or any animal, if they should ingest it. 

I also mix Stall Dry on the alpaca poop piles and fluff it like making a salad, wait a few minutes for it to absorb moisture,  then scooping and cleaning up the pile.  I sprinkle a little more  to deoderize the remaining ground and also the DE will take care of flies. Then I use the poop to fill any holes or depressions in my yard and/or work the poop into my flower gardens or around trees or bushes.  It will not burn the plants. Sometimes the alpacas poop and pee in the barn if the weather stays crummy for a few days, so Stall Dry cleans up and   also “clears the air” in there.  I just don’t like a smelly barn or coops if I can help it.

So, the books I recommend again for chicken info are “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens”, and Carla Emery’s “The Encyclopedia of Country Living”. These kept getting mention and recommendation from others in my research.  I found both on Amazon.com and you can watch for them to go on sale. Various bookseller’s will have different prices and shipping, so shop for the very best deal.  They are worth their price, even if not on sale.

Read up on the deep litter method and make your life easier.  You can find Stall Dry and the pine shavings (get the fine shavings so they decompose faster) at the local co-op usually or Tractor Supply or any ag store.   My coops are designed so I don’t have to walk into them and that is also a huge plus.

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