Chickens, chickens and more chickens

Icelandic cross??

This past spring the young Icelandic rooster gifted to me tried to protect two hens from a coyote and unfortunately all three chickens lost their lives.

However, one of my hens hatched out four chicks and successfully raised three. (Clutches are a communal effort so the parentage of the chicks is always debatable.) Two turned out to be hens – one is a dirty white so is likely a Delaware cross – and the third was a rooster. I *think* that my Icelandic rooster might have been the sire of this particular chicken.

 

A few weeks ago, the friend who gave me my original Icelandic rooster gifted me with another Icelandic rooster. This one is older and has gone through a molt. His tail feathers still need to grow back.

New Icelandic Rooster

And finally, towards the end of the summer one of my hens decided she no longer wanted to roost in the coop. Since she could avoid Fix (and me) by going through the cattle panel into either the corral or goat pens, we were never able to move her back to the coop at night. I figured she would have a short life expectancy spending the night outside, alone but she continually surprised me by being present every morning when I went out to feed. Every night after the rest of the chickens were locked up in the coop, I would look for the errant hen and be unable to find her. However, a couple of nights ago I finally found where she had gone to roost.  See if you can find the chicken.

Last night the temperatures dropped to 18 degrees and I was sure the hen couldn’t have survived, but she was hanging out at the animal pens when I went out to feed (though she did follow me back to the chicken coop and ask to be let inside.) We will see if she goes back to the coop tonight with the rest of the chickens. [Note: she did not go to roost in the coop with the other chickens tonight.]

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Tuesday Takes

Oddly I have a plant that is producing two different colored spaghetti squash – one started as a green stripe and the other as a light cream. I have been checking daily to see if any were mature enough to cut off the vine and today the rind of the green one finally seemed hard enough. I’ve never seen a spaghetti squash this color before so it will be interesting to see what it tastes like.

Three of the chicks are still alive and growing rapidly. It looks like one is a Delaware cross (the rooster is a mix) and the other two look like Australorp crosses.

“Surprise” Survivor

My two Buff Brahma bantam hens started setting weeks ago. Long past when I could reasonably expect chicks to hatch (average of 21 days), both hens were still broody and I left the eggs under them in the hopes that they would still be setting when the Icelandic chicks were expected to arrive. To my surprise, three chicks were actually hatched although only one survived. The hens came off the remaining eggs a couple of days after the surviving chick was hatched. I removed the remaining eggs and hauled them out to the front pasture, far from the coop and animal pens, to be left for the wildlife. Since I no longer had expectations that the bantams would raise the additional chicks, I cleaned up the brooder and prepared it for the expected Icelandics (which didn’t arrive and may not come this season after all). Then, unexpectedly, the bantam chick died about a week after hatching.

In the meantime, two of my young full-size hens had gone broody and were sitting on eggs. One, an Australorp, was in an upper nesting box while the other, a Buff Orpington, was in a lower box. I went out a few days ago and heard cheeping. The Australorp was off the nest and in the main coop with a small little black chick. When I set up a dog house in another section of the coop and moved the hen, I discovered a second little black chick under her. I transferred a few eggs into the dog house on the off chance she would continue to set and proceeded to put the remaining 38 eggs in a bucket in anticipation of hauling them out to the front pasture. I decided to leave the bucket and eggs in the coop overnight and see if the Orpington was still setting the next day as she had been sporadically coming off the nest. She was off the nest in the morning and again in the evening so I proceeded to collect her eggs as well. All told the hens were sitting on a combined 86 eggs. However, when I removed the bucket from the coop I was hearing cheeping that didn’t appear to be coming from the section where the one hen and her two chicks were safely ensconced. As I carried the bucket down the drive I continued to hear cheeping so instead of just throwing the eggs out, I picked up each egg out of the bucket and placed it in the brush pile where I toss old eggs. At the very bottom of the bucket I found an egg that was cracked and when I picked it up I heard very clear and loud cheeping. I carefully peeled the egg open and found a bedraggled chick. Not expecting it to actually live, I carried it back to the coop and put it in with the hen and other two chicks. I was very pleasantly surprised this morning when I went out to the coop and saw three chicks running around.

The chick in the center is the “surprise” survivor

 

Spring Eggs

As my laying hens were aging, this past August I purchased 14 sexed chicks from a hatchery. I try to raise chicks in the fall so that they will be old enough to start laying by the time the days have lengthened again. Friends had wanted bantams so I ordered bantams as well. However, none of the bantam breeds are sexed so one has to assume a 50/50 split between males and females. The hatchery I ordered from stops shipping bantams in late August and I therefore placed the order for the last delivery of bantams. While the hatchery includes one free chick (to cover potential loss in shipping) this time around about twelve free chicks were included – all bantams. I assume it was because there was a surplus of bantam chicks. I ended up keeping three bantams – all Buff Brahmas. As it turned out, two were pullets and one was a rooster. I know this because the rooster started crowing two or three weeks ago and today I got my first egg from one of the hens. The others, all full-sized breeds, started laying about five or six weeks ago and I was starting to despair of getting anything from the bantams. Bantams are known for their broodiness and I kept these for that reason. However, a hen that doesn’t lay won’t go broody. I am now hopeful that at least one will be broody about the time that my Icelandic chicks arrive the end of May.

Full size egg on left – Bantam egg on right

 

Farm Dog 101: Chore Dog

The young chickens are not quite six months old but were large enough to allow out. The first couple of days, none seemed interested in venturing out of the familiar enclosure attached to the chicken coop but eventually the bravest started exploring the area immediately around the chicken coop and the others soon followed. Fix is helping to put the chickens up a couple of nights ago. The rooster is the Icelandic given to me by a friend. Notice how calm and quiet Fix is moving – just enough pressure to move the chickens without panicking them.

Farm Dog 101: Working Livestock with Your English Shepherd – an Overview

English Shepherds are/should be control freaks. They understand rules and want those rules followed. That is one of the things that makes it easier to work with them on your own stock and one of the things that often makes it frustrating to work them off your property and with strange stock.

English Shepherds are “loose eyed” dogs and thus work closer in to their stock than border collies. While some dogs will bark at particularly stubborn stock, if a dog is barking almost constantly it lacks confidence and you will have to be extra careful in starting that dog to build confidence.

The first thing I do when starting a young dog (and young isn’t age related but determined by experience) is develop a bond with the dog. This means I spend time with the dog in a variety of situations, teaching the dog to respect me and fostering its desire to be with me. I will take the dog with me doing chores. Depending upon the dog and the situation, this may mean the dog is dragging a line to ensure I can control its behavior. While I don’t directly focus on the dog, after all I am doing chores, I do make sure the dog isn’t getting into trouble and is staying close (how close is a personal choice.) When I have a dog that is sticking with me doing chores, coming back to check in frequently on off-leash walks and has rudimentary obedience skills as well as self-control I’ll evaluate whether or not the dog is mentally and physically mature enough to start working stock. This is also dependent upon my stock. I won’t work a young dog on ewes with young lambs.

If I’m going to work stock with a dog, I will wait to do serious obedience training until AFTER I have started working stock. While I want the dog responsive to me, I want the dog’s focus on stock. A dog who focuses on the handler is either going to be less effective in working stock or, worse case scenario, is going to get hurt by not paying attention to the stock. It is very important to remember that if you want a partner, you have to ensure the dog is capable of making decisions and not expecting you to make all the decisions for him/her. All the dogs I train are taught self-control early on so that the dog is making GOOD decisions on its own and so that I’m not constantly telling the dog to do or not to do something.

It is also critical that you set your dog up to be successful and not to fail. While corrections are, in my opinion, a necessary part of training, corrections rarely have a place in “teaching”. Until the dog understands what is required and knows how to avoid a correction, it isn’t fair to correct the dog. Once I move out of teaching and into training, I can set it up so the dog has to make the right decision under more challenging circumstances, but again I have to ensure the dog is prepared for the challenge and I’m not expecting something I can’t reasonably expect.

The age you start a dog is not critical as long as the dog is mentally and physically ready to start. What is critical is that you haven’t done things to “turn the dog off”. I’ve seen pups that were put on stock too young and a single bad experience was sufficient to turn the dog off working stock permanently. I’ve seen older dogs that had been discouraged as pups from interacting with livestock who wouldn’t work as they got older. I’ve also seen dogs bounce back from traumas that you would have thought sufficient to turn them off permanently — my first ES got kicked by a steer so hard it knocked him across a pen, gave him a concussion and broke a molar. He tried, unsuccessfully because of the concussion, to get up and continue working.

Working poultry (chicken, turkeys, ducks), sheep, cattle and goats is challenging in different ways and some dogs will excel on one type of stock and yet may not be a good worker on another type of stock. The dog might be ready to work poultry very early on and not be ready for sheep, goats or cattle until much later. So just because your pup or dog doesn’t seem interested in working one type of livestock or another, don’t be discouraged. It may need more time just accompanying you doing chores or you may want to try starting on a different type of livestock. While I do use my ES to handle my American Guinea Hogs, I don’t recommend starting an inexperienced dog on hogs and I personally will NEVER use a dog to work horses. There are several reasons for that but it can be boiled down to a safety issue for both the dog and rider.

NOTE: The above was originally written a few years ago, when I was raising Katahdin sheep for lamb and was pasture raising American Guinea Hogs. I have downsized the number of sheep I have and the hogs are now in various freezers.

The Old and the New

The OLD: My hens are all molting and have stopped laying. These were the chicks that came in September 2013, while my driveway was under water.

At 4 years of age, the productivity of the hens was on the downward slope which is the reason I bought new chicks this fall.

The NEW: Readers of the blog may remember my failed attempt to add Icelandic Chickens to my farm a couple of years ago. A friend of mine has a son who purchased hatching eggs this year and had much better success in hatching out chicks. He gave part of the chicks to his mom and when she discovered that she had two Icelandic Roosters, she offered me one. I brought him home Friday night and put him in with the almost 10 week old chicks. He is five months old and is a very handsome fella.

More Random Farm Photos

I built another cattle panel shelter last weekend. The first two were built with two people and the shelters went up quickly and easily. Unfortunately, I am not tall enough to be able to easily “walk” a panel so putting up a shelter for the sheep was not as easy or quick. However, I did manage it. I bought a tarp to cover it last Wednesday so after work on Thursday, I tarped the shelter.

The chicks will be nine weeks old tomorrow.

Buff Orpington front left; Red Star front right; Delaware behind Red Star; Barred Rock in back. The Bantams are a Japanese and Red Frizzles.  It is really easy to see the size difference between the Bantams and the full-size chickens.

As I noted in the last post, I was tired of cleaning out the chicken waterer every day so decided I would try using a hanging waterer with “nipples.” The one I bought worked well enough that I wanted another for the main chicken coop, but wasn’t willing to buy another one ($19.99 plus tax). I bought four nipples and then found two plastic buckets in my recycling. The smallest one is 1 gallon — too small for summer use but should be useful in the winter when I can’t leave water out overnight to freeze. The larger bucket is 3.5 gallons.

I put the smaller waterer together using a drill bit that was too small so I was pleasantly surprised when my attempts to enlarge the hole sufficiently didn’t result in a too large hole. I did buy the correct size drill bit before making the second waterer. The nipples came to just under 1.50 each and I used two nipples for each bucket (rather than the four nipples on the 5 gallon waterer I bought). I can add two more nipples to the 3.5 gallon waterer if needed in the future.

Random Farm Photos

The chicks turned 6 weeks old on Monday. I started opening up the pop door to the outside run for the chicks this past weekend and they have been having a grand time with the extra room. I had bought a Hen Hydrator which is a 5 gallon bucket that hangs with nipples for the chickens to drink from because I was tired of having to clean out the trays on the ground waterers. It plainly states it is not for chicks, but I went ahead and lowered it to chick height and  the chicks have been happily using it for the past few days.

The bantam chicks are noticeably smaller than the other chicks

 

The frizzles look like they stuck their beaks in a light socket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmos, the youngest buckling, does not quite understand the proper way to go down a slide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids are three weeks old today.

 

 

 

And here is Fix – who is starting to mature into a very nice looking dog.