THE BABY GOATS ARE HERE!Here are pictures of the baby goats. Mom had three (!), all boys. They are only a few hours old. The pic of the last one was inside the house. We did not think he was going to make it, but after Blake warmed him up for a couple of hours, he got up and started trying to stand and walk. Now he is now out with mom and siblings!
A Better HatchI just finished my first hatch with the Sportsman, and it went much better! I hatched 12 of 18 Blue Marans eggs, 6 of 7 Easter Eggers, but only 5 of 16 Giant Cochins. I think that was due to poor shipping. They were all stuffed into a medium size flat rate box (a total of 26 eggs delivered before I took out the clears and quitters) and the eggs left were not really the best looking eggs. Maybe Cochins do not lay real nice looking eggs? I bought what was termed "an assortment of eggs left over after all the orders were filled" so I got it for a pretty good price, however, each chick ended up costing me more than they should have.
How Do You Spell "Crazy"?
This year I decided to hatch a few chicken eggs.
I tried a couple of times last spring with peahen and guinea eggs. I had rushed out to Big R and bought a Little Giant still air the first time I got a peahen egg. I believe Big R is the western version of Tractor Supply. When I opened the box that held the incubator, I will admit I was pretty surprised. I couldn't believe I paid that much for a piece of stryofoam and some wires. I did purchase the egg turner with it because I work full time and even if I didn't there is no way I was going to turn eggs three times a day. I know myself pretty well. At least the egg turner appeared to be sturdy. As for the LG, I figured this is what people use and my sister said she hatched eggs in one, so it must be state of the art. In any case, the whole hatching thing turned out to be an exercise in futility since none of the eggs were fertile. I packed the LG up and put it away for a year and forgot about it.
Peafowl egg w/ chicken eggs Trying to incubate guinea and peafowl eggs
In February of this year I decided I wanted some Black Copper Marans. I could either buy some live hens (hard to find) for $25 each, chicks for about $10 each before shipping, or I could be smart and get a dozen eggs for about $42 after shipping, and have 12 chicks for $3.50 each. How innocent I was back then. It seems like a million years ago.....
I did a little research on Black Copper Marans and off I went to Ebay and chose what I felt was a pretty good deal (but not TOO good, I did not want cheap chicks). The breeder had good feedback so I took the plunge. 12 + 1 BCM eggs for about $42 after shipping. The eggs arrived intact, I fired up the LG and settled back to wait for my dozen plus one chickens to be born.
I do not remember exactly when I realized there was more to it than that. I think it was about the time I found the "Incubation" thread on BYC. First off, I couldn't see inside the eggs, they were too dark. Second off, I had no idea what I was looking for anyway. Oh, Ok. I had some idea, I read all the candling information, watched videos, looked at pictures, but that is not the same as looking into your own egg.
Honestly, I had accidently killed about four peafowl eggs the end of last summer because I was convienced that since the earlier eggs were infertile all eggs would be infertile. After letting the hen sit on them for about 3 weeks, I cleaned out her pen... and, well, you get the idea. Apparently my peacock is quite the stud! I had tried candling those also, but they were all dark with a big space at the top, so I figured they were no good. Ohhh, I felt bad when I opened one to find a fully formed chick, then another....
In any case, I couldn't see into the darn Marans eggs. Too late I realized this was not the best choice of egg to use for a first time hatch. I had also put some Easter Egger eggs in with them from the back yard. They were even harder to see through than the BCMs. Some eggs had big dark blobs, some didn't. I just left them alone - when I wasn't obsessivly candling. I got a maglite flashlight for Christmas (yeah, I get weird presents) so in the evenings after work I would grab an egg, lock myself in the bathroom and try to see if anything was going on while balancing on the closed commode lid. It wasn't the best system.
Then I read on BYC that I should buy a hygrometer for the LG. So I went to WalMart and got one - plus it had a temperature gauge also! How cool. It was about then I realized there were several different temperatures inside the LG. There was the temperature on top of the wire bottom, the temperature on the turner and yet another temperature on top of the eggs. And all these temps varied depending on what time of the day it was. The hygrometer/thermometer I bought at Walmart did not seem to work well at all, unless the right side of the LG was ten degrees less than the left (and it could have been). I live in a very dry state and in a very dry area, yet I never needed to add water once to the LG. The original cup of water I started with was still there at the end of the hatch. Well, this was not going according to plan. Other people were adding water, subtracting water, putting sponges in.... and I had the same water I started with and a hygrometer that said 40%. Maybe I am just really lucky, I thought to myself. I read several threads about calibrating the hygrometer. Well, I did not exactly "read" them. I started to, honestly, but then it just looked too hard. Geez, I had spent 10 bucks at Walmart on a hygrometer so I shouldn't have to think about this stuff....
Then came lock down! How exciting! My Easter Eggers started pipping on the 20th day and at 11:45 p.m. my first chick hatched. Amazing. By the next morning I had hatched four of the six eggs with Easter Egger chicks. But no BCMs. At about 1:00 pm I noiced there was a pip in one of the BCM eggs! That night the chick started to zip, but quit about half way through. I went to bed and figured it would be out by the morning. I woke up early and rushed to the incubator. The chick had made no progress and was no longer moving. No way was I going to let this chick die, so I took the egg out of the incubator and helped it hatch. No blood, no mess, nothing, just a chick that was ready to get out of the shell. Out of 13 eggs, I at least had one. Or so I thought.
Do you see the problem here?
My chick wasn't black. The only BCM egg that hatched was not a BCM! I am told this baby is a Blue Splash, which I honestly think are very beautiful, but I was sold BCM eggs and expected BCM chicks. I did contact the seller and she skirted the issue by talking about what I must have done wrong that the other chicks did not hatch. I had the courage to open up a few of the eggs, and they were fully formed, they just did not hatch.
It could have been the humidity. Too much, too little. The temperature. The shipped eggs. It could have been many things, but you know what I think it was? It was that crappy incubator. I decided I had it. I spent $42 on eggs, and $10 on a hygrometer (that did not work). How much more was I going to spend trying to make this work? No more. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I ordered a Sportsman 1502 incubator and a GQF brooder. I also got one of those Brinsea Ovascopes to candle with. Do you know why? Because, I am a professional, I am old, and I can afford it. I learned you get what you pay for, and I do not want to be messing around with what someone on BYC termed a "styrofoam coffin". Nor am I going to be sitting on the toilet trying to see inside the eggs anymore. I love building chicken coops, and working on the house, but I am sick of trying to make a plastic tub work as a brooder and dealing with the smell because they are so hard to clean. I found I really enjoy hatching, I love the chicks. So I subtracted all the things I did not like (poor hatch rate, difficult temperature regulation in the incubator, smelly brooders and running to dark rooms with my egg and flashlight) and now I can focus on the stuff I do like. I know there are folks who love the challenge of the LG, I am just not one.
The Chicken Came First
In the summer of 2009 my husband and I moved from the northeast suburbs of Colorado Springs, CO, to a small "hobby farm" just south of Colorado Springs. I had never lived in the country and had very limited experience with any animal except dogs. Oh, sure, I drove through rural areas, usually thinking to myself "It's such a shame those poor people are forced to live here!" I only moved rural because my husband insisted that if we move (which I wanted to do so I could be closer to my job) we would have to move to a farm. Not just a house with acerage, a farm that allows chickens and pigs and horses...... Well, I thought having horses sounded pretty fancy, so I agreed. A little farm would be ok. Turns out I don't really care for horses, but that's another story.
We waited to move until our 2 children graduated from high school so as not to upset their lives, but apparently, we rocked their little worlds anyway! Moving out of town was not in their plans. They still live with us while they attend college - mainly because I am not paying for dorm rooms while there are perfectly fine colleges within driving distance. For all their big talk about being open to new things and experiencing life (yada, yada, yada) teens are not very flexible. Ours were NOT happy for several months. They finally started to come around about the time we got the goats. My husband decided the perfect Christmas gift for me was a goat. Diamond earrings don't love you back, right? Since you can't have just one goat, we went out and picked out 2 young goats right after Christmas 2009. I had no idea how wonderful and smart goats were until ours came to live with us. I wanted a Nubian female. Nubians have the long floppy ears and are great dairy goats. There was a cute calico colored wether for sale, as well. He is part LaMancha and part Boer - a LaBoer. After a crash course on goat care from the goat seller, we loaded up our new goats into the Ford Expedition, and off we headed for home.
Our kids decided this tiny farm was an interesting place to live after all. They could now post pictures of goats on Facebook and pretend they were farmers. In all fairness, I didn't really know how cool it was to live in the country, either, before the goats.
Dwight and Gia riding home in the back of the SUV.
What a show off!
The goat thing went so well, we decided to get peacocks and guineas. I guess I like birds. We found an India Blue peahen in March who had lost her mate. She was quickly joined by a Blackshoulder peahen and an India Blue peacock. Sadly, the India Blue peahen died early in June 2010. The Vet suspects egg binding. The other two are thriving and I expect several fertile eggs from this pair next spring. They have interesting personalities - definately not like chickens, but very entertaining.
We also added 2 adolescent guineas to the family at about the same time. They were to be "functional" birds - there to eat the insects and provide offspring to eat the insects. Function laid probably 90 eggs, not one was fertile. Al just might not be "dad" material. We went and bought 5 guinea keets late in July - at least 2 are hens. Hopefully we will have some fertile eggs from them to hatch next spring.
The Peafowl in their pen.
Keets on the gate
By golly, around spring break (I work for a school district) my husband suggested we get chickens. Never mind we didn't have a coop. After all, we didn't have goat fences or peafowl pens before we brought those animals home. We had to quickly build goat fencing in the middle of January (imagine digging post holes in frozen ground) and design/build bird pens big enough to handle peafowl in March, so, how hard could it be to get some chicks and build a chicken coop before they grew out of the brooder?
"How hard can it be?" questions are usually best answered with "Pretty darn hard!". But why let that stop us?
We went out and bought 10 three week old pullets from a nice gentleman who lived in eastern Colorado and who happened to have the breeds I wanted. I wanted Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Golden and Silver Wyandotte and Ameraucana (Easter Eggers). We got 2 of each. They were so tiny and cute. We had to learn all about raising chicks quickly. Backyardchickens.com helped. I researched home made brooders and what to feed them. We put them all into a plastic tub "brooder" in the laundry room. As they grew they went into 2 plastic tub "brooders" in the laundry room, and then they outgrew both of those and went into a bigger homemade wooden brooder in the basement. Raising chicks is fun and cute and amazing. But the fact is, they smell awful in a confined space. As they grow, the smell grows. We needed to finish that chicken coop!
The chicks... Bigger chicks!
They grew fast!
We worked fast. Luckily, my husband can build anything (with my help). We built an 8 X 10 shed and converted it into a coop.
I am still working on the run.
Apparently my short term "smell memory" was affected by how cute the hens were when they moved into the coop. Since my "smell memory" was defective, in August of 2010 I got 6 India Blue peachicks and put them into a brooder in the basement. Peachicks stink in a confined space..... UGH! I wonder how long until I forget this smell? REALLY
We quickly built another coop, this one a "Pea Palace". I will soon add an enclosed run to this coop and improve the chicken run as the weather cools down. This has been an unbearably hot summer! For now, according to my research, the peachicks need to be "off the ground" anyway, so they are staying inside. They are nervous little birds who crane their necks to peer at me when I feed them. I think we have 3 males and 3 females.
Peachicks enjoying their new "pea palace"
Evening view of the barn and the 2 sheds.
Last week we lost one of our Barred Rock hens. We have no idea how she came to be missing, one evening she simply was not there for the count. She was a darling girl. I decided to get a rooster to keep an eye on the hens. I like to let them free range in the barnyard during the day. We have several layers of fencing (sort of a barnyard within the barnyard) but I know they wander out and I know that preditors love chickens. She was our first loss. Most likely she won't be the last, but I hope any more losses are few and far between. I just love the chickens - they are wonderful animals.
The fresh eggs are a terrific bonus. I sold my first carton today (9/7/2010). By the year 2048 I should have the chicken coop paid off. You know what they say, the first egg costs about $1,000, after that they are free.
At the end of November, 2010, we took our Nubian female goat out to eastern Colorado to be bred. I am so hoping that she comes home pregnant. According to the lady who she is staying with, she has been bred, so in 5 months we will find out for sure, huh? My boy goat misses her a lot, and so do I. Next weekend she will return home.