The Story of Our "Huevos Rancheros"
By the Lady of McCamley: mother of 3 homeschooled, now college age kids, wife of one wonderful, super patient husband, food lady to one adoring Sheltie, former Guide Dog raiser -- 7 projects -- with one career changed much beloved Lab still with us, humble and grateful servant to 2 cats, overseer of 9 chickens, 2 turkeys, and hopefully 2 mini nubian goats soon :-)
The saga of our first try, March to December 2010: Nugget (Buff), Teriayki (Brown Leghorn), Lucy and Ethel (RI's)
I don't remember whose idea it was first to have chickens in our Northwest, semi-suburban, backyard, but the idea grew until it reached fruition in the purchase of 4 chicks in March 2010. My daughter is a vet tech (and the instigator behind all those guide dog projects), and I grew up with horses and cattle in a ranching area where my Grandmother had had a chicken farm, so we two were quick to jump on board. My techie husband and son, and liberal arts creative writer daughter allowed themselves to be pulled along for the journey....and fun.
After much thought about where to put a henhouse and coop, and differing ideas, my husband and I realized we were "discussing" the whole matter as we stared absently at the kids old play structure left vacant and abandoned. We both lept at the idea at the same time. Why not there! So there it became, and the old slide platform and swing structure turned into the coop and hen house.
Unfortunately, in the late fall, our normally wet but moderate Northwest climate took a turn for sub-freezing temperatures. So during a particularly harsh cold snap,
we put in a small flood lamp for heat which the chickens must have knocked down from its fixture. It started the fire that burned down the whole hen house during the night.
Amazingly nothing but the henhouse itself caught on fire even with the wood fence, trees, and woodpiles (ours and our neighbors) so close by (thank you to the Great Northwet for that). No one, including the neighbors, noticed anything amiss during the night. God's protection was surely over us. o_O The morning greeted us with nothing but ash on the ground in the place of the hen house. The poor birds had no chance for escape, so we lost the whole of our first flock. (EEks, and they had just started laying "real good!")
We begin again, February to June 2011
Greatly disappointed from the failure of our first attempt, but also greatly relieved that no family life or other property had been damaged, we armed ourselves with determination, some hard-earned knowledge from the "school of hard knocks," a Wilco gift-card from one good friend, and a small cast-off pre-fab hen house from another good friend, to begin again in the Spring of 2011.
The new hen house, constructed from the pre-fab (as the middle story/roof), was expanded with new base and extended feed bin and egg boxes:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
The finished (mostly) new coop and run and our 9 hens and 2 turkeys (who've now been Thanksgiving dinner...you were delicious Mary Queen of Scott and Marie Antoinette).
More chicks! We like the big brown eggs our sex links lay...and so do our customer friends.
2 Black SL's (Huevos and Foo Young); 4 Gold Sex Links (Muna, Chalah, Eggroll and Frittata) :-D
This year we got our new chicks the "natural way."
Last spring we purchased a Silkie hen at the Canby Chicken Swap. She was a known broody and foster mother.
Next, we waited for her to go into a good brood this spring, which occurred late January. A good friend's daughter has a flock with a rooster, so I rushed out and got some fertile eggs from her. Waiting until night, I swapped out the 2 banty eggs our Silkie was trying to hatch and replaced them with the 5 fertile eggs. She settled in with a glare at me and went into a serious brood.
Candling showed that only 3 would be viable, which indeed hatched on February 8.
Wanting more than 3 chicks, I purchased two, 2 day Wyandotte chicks from a local feed store. Research had told me to wait until night to put them in with the hen to reduce the likelihood she would reject them. However, both died within the next 2 days even though the hen was taking good care of them. After talking with the feed store, we figured out it simply had been too much stress change for the chicks...too many changes in too short a time from hatching to travel from farm to feed store to travel to my home, to being kept in a warm box until night, then trying to adjust to a hen. The feed store willingly replaced the chicks and recommended taking them immediately to the hen.
I did, and the little brood of 5 are happy and healthy with momma hen, who is teaching them how to scratch, how to find food, and keeps them nice and warm in her feathers.
This has been a GREAT project with my hens :D
At 2 weeks of age. 3 hatchlings and 1 foster chick (silver died due to wandering off into cold)