Well, Hi! I'm a newb here and still learning lots about raising poultry. I am totally addictted to this forum, I've spent the last few days learning lots of new information and getting a kick out of all the stories and pictures. Unfortunately, I live nearly 2 hours away from all the critters and my grandmother. I do head down there once a week for a couple of days to do what I can for her.
Initially, we had no intention of getting poultry when we moved down here. The predators and pests here in Florida have been atrocious. We lost several cats the first year and knew we'd be in for heartache with anything like chickens. Then, one day we found a Muscovy on the side of the road nearby. We couldn't just leave it there, it had already lost the mate we learned had been abandoned with it. Of course, we couldn't keep it alone, birds are social animals and need company, so we went out and bought another duck. We managed to get another Muscovy from surprisingly close by. We thought we had found a drake and were purchasing a young hen but it turned out we'd found a hen and bought a young drake. LOLs at how life works out sometimes. Before we knew it we were swimming in Muscovies. Most of the neighbors love watching them play in the puddles in the dirt road.
We tried leaving them to run loose all the time, but ran into predator problems. Most of the drakes were okay, they get too big to really fly much and stick close in the yard, our dog Tina is tied up near their main coop and probably thinks she's got the weirdest pack around. Cool thing is that if she lets out a warning bark all the ducks head right to Tina's coop for protection. I just love that part! The hens were the problem, we had some really gorgeous browns, greys and whites hatched that were just soo pretty and all but the plainest got wiped out every time they went to setting. Right now, all the hens are in their runs while the drakes roam free. Currently, we have a bunch from the last hatching in a run down run that can get out, but choose not to. Even the drakes! Every time they get out they hurry to get back in cuz... well lets just say the drakes are kinda...randy? Kinda sad, but funny too. I'm working to remedy this, just haven't had the time.
A couple of years ago, my mother and sister moved down and brought some of their chicks. We don't know what breeds they actually are, all they knew was that there was some kind of game chicken in them. Then, my mom and sister left and left the chickens to us to tend to, along with so much family drama, but that's another story. Every time we turned around we were shimming up the coop, but it just hasn't been enough. We have about 17 chickens right now, I think. I'll do a full head count this week. It makes me sad how many more there should be. The Va chickens were picked off bit by bit. Then, when we finally had a batch old enough to go from cage to the coop...they were all killed. We were given 6 guinea keets, we raised them up til they should have been big enough and again my grandmother was greated by bodies and bloodshed in the coop. Don't get me wrong, we kept trying to fix the flaws in the coop every time and every time a new chink in the armour would be discovered. It was very trying, but those Va chickens are tough. One of them was attacked and her hip is totally screwed up, but she is still going strong, she can't get on the perches but she does lay eggs in a bucket on the floor of the new coop and her progeny live on.
Anyway, I was almost totally discouraged, finally I built a whole new coop out of a bit of shed my mother had put up for their mule and horse. I need to seal up the roof a bit and there's a few odds and ends that need to be done to it. But,so far, only one loss and that was because I put the roost too close to the wire. It's still a work in progress, but it's been months and I'm so happy and relieved, I still need to attach a run and put in some nest boxes, but all the chickens and guineas are still young except the old gimpy hen (who by the way is apparently the dominant hen. I watched as another grown hen, who is fiesty and bossy as hell, squated before the gimpy hen in a show of submission. I think that's just awesome and I'm glad her line is going on. We smuggled some of her eggs under another hen and they look like they may be hers, yay!) and she has her bucket.
Our flock consists of 6 guineas, several different colors, 4 of the mixed Va chickens, a pair of Bantam Cochins, a pair of Brahmas, a pair of Buff Orpingtons, another pair of bantams but we're not sure what type, an American Game hen, a Rhode Island Red and 3 chickies that are from the mutts and the Game hen, 1 Toulouse, 1 grey Chinese goose, and a mess of Muscovies. I do love those Muscovies, the hens are so fiesty! True, we've lost so many due to predators when they were setting, but once those eggs have hatched you couldn't find a tougher mother. My grandmother had to rescue a hawk from being killed by a hen protecting her young! How cool is that?! The hawk rested in a cage for a few hours before my grandmother released it...yeah that's my grandmother for ya!
I plan on getting some pics of all the birdies soon. I want to share them all, too!