“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

 

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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

 

New Beginnings

Several friends of mine took care of the farm for two weeks recently so I could travel out-of-state to pick up my next farm dog. I spent those two weeks back east – a week in Vermont and a second week in Pennsylvania. The shades of green in both places were truly beautiful and very different from home. However, things (mostly weeds of course) greened up here while I was gone and while the green may not be as vibrant it is nonetheless a very welcome change from the winter browns.

Before I left I had given considerable thought to where I wanted – and needed – to be with the farm to achieve my original goal of the farm being self-supporting. While I was willing to pay for fencing, maintenance, etc. I wanted the livestock to be profitable enough that expenses for hay and other items directly related to maintaining the livestock were not coming out of my pocket. After several years raising lambs, I finally acknowledged that the lambs were simply not paying for themselves and that my pocketbook was being steadily drained; hence the decision to sell off the sheep. At the current time, it hasn’t been determined whether or not the hogs will pay for themselves once I start selling hogs, although I suspect that the hogs, too, will be a money drain. The chickens are seasonal producers but because I really like fresh eggs, I’ll maintain a small flock of chickens.

In recent years, the only livestock pulling their weight have been the Nigerian Dwarfs. I am also addicted to their milk, another reason to keep goats. As I had started drying off my does prior to leaving on vacation, and expected my does to be dry when I returned, I made arrangements to buy a doe in milk on my return. The difficulties in finding a buck with an excellent milk pedigree whose owner was willing to let me health test and lease him resulted in me deciding to purchase a buckling. After considering the matter I decided to buy two bucklings, from different breeders and with different pedigrees but both out of excellent milking lines.

A well-known Nigerian Breeder was retiring and selling all of her breeding stock so, in addition to the doe in milk, when the puppy and I traveled to Tulerosa to pick up the doe in milk, I ended up buying the last two available does . Both does have been exposed to bucks for fall kiddings.

At the present time the three new does are housed in quarantine, and the two bucklings are also in separate quarters, all awaiting health test results. More information and photographs of the new additions will be forthcoming.

I am currently contemplating different arrangements for new pens which will give me more flexibility in separating dry does from those in milk, weaned kids and so on.

The new puppy has been home for just over a week now and has settled in very nicely. He is accompanying me on chores twice a day and learning the routine. He has also finally managed to get one of the older dogs to play with him a little.

If I just keep bugging her, maybe she’ll play . ..

Chase Games

First chicks of the season

After an early spring with lots of eggs a few weeks ago I started finding fewer and fewer eggs in the nesting boxes. While I found a couple of nests outside the coop with eggs, egg production was still drastically reduced. I wondered whether a hen had gone broody but was never able to find a nest with a broody hen. I got home tonight and ran out to the chicken coop in between rain bursts to collect eggs. While in the chicken coop I heard the very distinctive chirp of young chicks. A quick scan of the area revealed two chicks huddled outside the chicken coop. I dashed around the coop and found the two live chicks and a third one, dead, but no signs of broken shells or of a broody hen. I picked up both chicks and carried them to the brooder side of the chicken coop. After settling them in the brooder I hooked up the lights to keep them warm and cleaned and filled a waterer. However, what to feed them was an issue. The feed store was closed and I don’t keep chick feed on hand unless I have chicks. I finally decided I’d make some instant maple syrup oatmeal and a hardboiled egg to tide them over until I could get to the feed store in the morning. When I took the mix out to the coop and filled a chick feeder for them, I scouted around the chicken coop one more time to look for any other chicks or signs of a nest. I found neither, but I did find a hen hunkered down making distress calls. Hoping she was the broody hen, I caught her (at which time her vocalizations turned into seriously pissed off chicken sounds) and carried her around to the brooder. She did settle down over the chicks so I turned off the lights and left all three in peace.

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Hen with chicks

Hen with chicks

Home Grown

Dinner tonight included home grown lettuce, a radish and green onion (from my garden tower); feta cheese made from my goat’s milk and a hard boiled egg provided by one of my chickens.

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Unusual Year

As mentioned before, I have never had a hen go broody until this spring. One of my Americana hens has been sitting a clutch of eggs since late April and according to my calendar was due to start hatching chicks out this week. I went out shortly after lunch today to find two chicks under her, along with more than a dozen unhatched eggs. A little internet research turned up the information that hatching may take place over 36 hours so I’m hoping to find more chicks tomorrow morning.

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And we have been having thunderstorms (and hailstorms) on a fairly frequent basis this spring. The past few years the weather has been unpredictable, but generally rain is more likely to occur with the summer monsoons. The extra moisture bodes well for the pasture and will hopefully mean I won’t need as much hay this year. Joey found a unique way to stay dry (or mostly dry) during this afternoon’s thunderstorm.

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Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night . . .

I have been looking at Icelandic Chickens for a few years now. With my predator problem now under control (still knocking on wood) late last year I started a diligent search for an Icelandic Chicken breeder who would sell me some chicks. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in finding anyone who would ship anything other than eggs. So the search was then on to find someone local who had experience (and success) in hatching eggs with an incubator.

A chance conversation earlier this year found me that person and so arrangements were made to have 18 fertile Icelandic chicken eggs shipped this spring after the temperatures had warmed up but before the temperatures were too high. Yesterday I received an e-mail stating that the eggs had been shipped and were due to be delivered on Thursday. Since a tracking number was provided I went ahead and set up text messages every time the package was scanned to ensure that I was able to get the eggs as soon as they arrived.

You can imagine my surprise when this morning I got a text saying the package had been scanned in on arrival in Albuquerque. A second text followed shortly thereafter that the package had been scanned on departure. Shortly after noon I received a phone call from the Post Office stating that a package marked “Hatching Eggs” had arrived.

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Carefully Wrapped

Carefully Wrapped

While the Icelandic is supposed to lay white eggs, these appeared more of a delicate cream

While the Icelandic is supposed to lay white eggs, these appeared more of a delicate cream

And the moral to this story is that if you need anything delivered quickly and efficiently by the US Postal Service, send it with a live chick or marked “hatching eggs” — the US Postal Service excels at these deliveries — letters, not so much.

The long awaited EGG

Last spring a neighbor’s dog killed all my chickens save one rooster.

I try to raise chicks in the fall so that by the time cold weather hits they are fully feathered and by the time there is sufficient daylight they are old enough to lay. (Most breeds of chickens start to lay between 20 and 24 weeks, although some breeds used by commercial farms will start to lay at 16 weeks.) So early last fall I purchased a “Rainbow Layer” assortment of chicks from a hatchery in the mid-west. This assortment guarantees at least five different breeds of chickens from breeds that will lay white, brown or green eggs, hence the name “Rainbow Layers”.

The chicks were duly delivered a couple of days after hatching and a friend picked them up at the post office (long story) and brought them to me.

I had the brooder all set to accommodate the new chicks and several times a day for the next few weeks Tuck and I went out to the chicken coop to make sure the chicks were warm enough, hadn’t fouled their water and still had feed. The number of trips to the chicken coop lessened as the fall turned into winter, the heat lamp was turned off, and the chicks went from eating chick starter to chick grower. I’ve never understood the phrase “eat like a bird” for in my experience chickens are voracious eaters and the 25 chicks were easily eating 25 lbs of feed a week by the time they were three weeks old and by the time they were 12 weeks old that had increased to 50 lbs a week.

As January rolled into February the days started to lengthen and soon there was enough daylight to stimulate egg production. Then it just became a matter of waiting until the pullets were old enough to start laying. Finally today one of my pullets laid an egg.

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The color of ear lobes of the hen are supposed to be correlated with egg color so I was expecting some white eggs and since usually white egg layers start to lay at a younger age than brown egg layers, I was expecting the first egg to be white. Now that one has started the lay the rest should follow suit.

Carbon Footprints

DSC01644-001The Quibeyn Farm Blog was created to educate people to the value of, and need to preserve, heritage animals and heirloom vegetables as well as introduce them to the delights of truly fresh foods.

This indirectly ties into climate change and related topics. Reducing one’s carbon footprint* isn’t just about downsizing to a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle. Indirect consumption, such as dependence upon items that are shipped from out of the area, are also part, and often a very large part, of one’s carbon footprint. While I’m not in a position to alter some of my activities, I can do some things that both reduce my carbon footprint and encourage my neighbors to reduce theirs as well. One of those is to provide quality meats, eggs, and dairy products.

It has been suggested that the most effective way to decrease one’s carbon footprint is to either decrease the amount of energy needed for production of something or to decrease the dependence on carbon emitting fuels.

Buying locally grown, or raised, products fits both those categories. Locally grown and raised foods do not require transportation by refrigerated trucks or railroad cars. Small farms, unlike most commercial enterprises, tend to rely more on sweat than fuel on a day to day basis. In addition, well-run small farms tend to be more environmentally friendly as the farmers are very concerned about maintaining the health of both land and animals. Large scale producers, whether growing vegetables, fruits or animals, are focused on the bottom line. In most cases this means using genetically modified (GM) seeds and chemicals to grow produce and maintaining animals in feed lot environments, feeding a non-natural diet of grains and using hormones to promote fast growth. Stressing animals in this fashion also means antibiotics are necessary to keep the animals from succumbing to disease.

Raising animals on a natural diet, without using hormones and antibiotics, and using heirloom seeds while minimizing or eliminating artificial fertilizers to grow produce, translates into better health for those who eat local products and a better environment surrounding them. Let’s be honest though, it costs more to buy fresh foods grown without hormones, antibiotics or chemical additives. The small farmer cannot compete with a commercial business on a price basis. However, buying locally grown and raised produce, meat and dairy provides the consumer with fresher, healthier and tastier food, less likely to be contaminated; it reduces the consumer’s carbon footprint; and promotes a better environment to raise a family.

*The amount of carbon dioxide emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.