We're still working on our coop's design and construction, but we've got our little set-ups for the time being...
We have Cinnamon and Sugar, who are about 6 weeks old, I'm told, hanging out in a rabbit hutch in the shade along our back fence. We're hoping that as they get older, we'll learn their breeds, and we'll discover that they are both female.
Cinnamon and Sugar
We're getting more and more sure that Cinnamon is NOT a pullet...
And our new arrivals, Ginger (Production Red), Saffron (Easter Egger, though sold at the feed store as Ameraucana but thanks to BYC I know better), Salt and Pepper (Barred Rock) and Chickory (yes, the K is on purpose in this little Black Sex Link's name.)
These four little ones (Ginger's about a week older than the others, who just arrived at the feed store yesterday) are staying inside, where our girls can torment enjoy looking at them and everyone can get to know each other as friends. They did very well through their first night, despite the TV, the girls, and the light from their heat lamp and our kitchen being on.
The feed store told us they get their birds from Ideal, and Ideal has told them that these are, in fact, all pullets, so... well, I hope so. We're not entirely barred from having roosters in our small town, but it's a lot less complicated if we stick to hens, and we don't have any need for a rooster. We don't want to bother our neighbors, we don't want to have to get a special use permit from the city, AND, as my dear beloved husband puts it, he doesn't want to have to wake up that early. There's a rooster living somewhere on the next block over, and I can just imagine the crowing competitions that might happen if we were to ~ahem~ get cocky.
We're just getting started on our animal-raising adventures, and I am sure there will be much more fun and learning to come!
My wonderful husband just added two adorable white lionhead rabbit does to our little collection. He tells me their names are Anna and Elsa (yep, our 4-year-old daughter chose those names!)
Elsa and Anna, about 10 weeks old, out for a romp in the yard.
My 4-year-old likes to give hay to her favorite bunny. And sometimes, she likes to put the hay ON the bunny...
These are going to be an indoor addition, most likely, but because it's been hard enough to childproof our home, my hopes are not high that we could appropriately bunny-proof it well enough to let them have run of the house. We have a dresser/stand that has successfully held a 55-gallon fish tank for years, but we are fishless these days, so something tells me that the bunnies and the younger set of chicks will be neighbors on top of the dresser until the chicks move outside.
I believe that will be the complete tally of our menagerie for a while.
5/9/14--Got our Building Chicken Coops for Dummies book today. Will most likely refer to it just for how-to and skill-building; I think I've decided to do an A-Frame open-air coop (three sides walls, south-facing side hardware cloth) and run. Basically, the kind of A-frame you can pick up and move, only big enough that we can go inside instead of picking it up to move for cleaning purposes.
6/19/14--It's all going so slowly! We just got in 100 feet of hardware cloth, which I ordered online to save a ton of money... now, we just need to get to the lumber store and buy some wood, siding, screws, a circular saw--unless we can get all our wood cut onsite for no/little extra cost... etc.
6/23/14--Our little suspected rooster, Cinnamon, has begun to crow. Suspect no more--so far, he's still pretty quiet about it, but he's still finding his voice, too. When I went out to feed them this morning, he sounded hoarse--poor thing. As long as he stays kind of quiet, he gets to live. If he starts to get much louder, we're going to have to give him away (to be eaten) or learn how to process a chicken, because the city's ordinance states that we have to have our neighbors' written permission and a special use permit to have a roo. We're certain that the city won't bother us about it, but the neighbors might--and if they feel like bothering us, they won't come talk to us, they'll go and complain to the city. (They've done this in the past, when our lawnmower broke and we let the grass in the back yard grow higher than they liked.)
Last night, I gave the still-indoors chicks some grit for the first time, and they ate the entire dish of it! I started to worry about them filling their little gizzards so much they might not be able to eat food--and they have definitely slowed down, considering half the FF I gave them last night was still in the bowl this morning (and when I started them on FF a couple weeks ago, they attacked it like it was the greatest food they'd ever gotten, and they were eating 3+ bowls every day). No chick grit, this, either--according to the bags of grit I looked at, they're still a little young for oyster shell grit, but too old for the smaller-grain chick grit. I think it's been all right, because their feed has been primarily crumble, but we have started giving them table scrap treats and occasional scratch recently, so I knew they needed some grit, too.
I think I will hold off on giving them more, just for a while, until I can determine the extent of the change to their diets. I'd hate to think they'll stay so full on gravel that they won't want to eat food. I did find some bread my 2-year-old dropped last night, and they were more than happy to eat it this morning.
AND... Anna and Elsa are now in separate hutches, because we found them going at it one night. I'm starting to think that they are, nevertheless, both female--both have been too shy for me to try to actually look and determine their sexes--and that one was simply exerting dominance over the other. We'll find out for sure in a couple days if the breeding was successful; we caught them on the 28th of May, and while neither seems to be doing anything motherly (though one has been eating a lot more!) that gestational period is about to come to an end.
On the other hand, they both seem to be losing their manes, as well, so it's pretty clear they aren't full-blooded MM lionhead bunnies. Still cute, of course, but much less like the crazy rabbit from Monty Python, and a bit less Tribble-looking.
7/7/14--Yesterday was the big day! My husband and two friends of ours--one who has construction AND chicken-raising experience--got outside and put up our walk-in A-frame coop and run. It's 8x10, so each of the five hens we have now will have 16 square feet to them, and we'll still have room for a couple more hens in the coming years, as we decide to get them. Cinnamon is still in the yard, at the moment, and still housed with Sugar, but we will hopefully be getting him back to where we got him, soon. I know he's going to be eaten--and in fact, I've told a few people I'd just as soon be in on the processing, to learn how, and get to eat him, too, but I can't handle giving that news to my 4-year-old right now. It's better for her (and for us) at this point to just tell her that we took him back to our preacher's house.
Sugar, on the other hand, will probably stay in the hutch until next weekend. Then, I can introduce her to the younger birds (who spent last night in their new coop) and keep an eye on them to make sure all goes well. Salt and Pepper is now the biggest of the little chicks--she's about twice as big as the production red who's a week older than she is. I'll have to put some new pics of them all up--they all look fairly different than they did last time I took pictures--and I can post pictures of our coop as well. I've still got a little work to do on it--beautification, for instance. I discovered yesterday as we were wrapping it all up (I didn't get involved until the time came to zip strip the panels of hardware mesh together) that the front door of my coop is perfectly visible from the front door of the house across the street. And they've got their house up for sale at the moment...
so a little beautification is probably going to be necessary.
7/22/14--I need a ladder, or an extension for my paint roller (really need a ladder for other things, too, though) so I can get some paint onto the sides of the coop. I did get some white barn paint put up on the door of the coop, and it's looking decent. I'll get more creative with it when I have the time, and when it's a little cooler outside.
Last night, our preacher came over and swapped out Cinnamon, our sweet little cockerel, for an approximately 3-year-old black Australorp hen. She was wary this morning, when I went out to feed them--especially of the fermented feed--but I think she's going to be a good role model for the rest of the coopers...
We've named her Anise.
My sister-in-law, upon learning that we have chickens, and upon learning that they have names, asked, "So, since you've named them, does that mean they're never going into the pot?"
I told her, "Not necessarily." The only thing preventing me from processing Cinnamon instead of giving him up is the need I would have to explain the situation to our 4-year-old...
7/24/14--Sometime between when I checked on the chickens last night and when I went out to feed them this morning, Anise laid an egg. I found the remnants of it this morning--a slightly brown, thin-shelled scrap. Nothing on the inside, and not even half of the shell was left. I don't know if the younger chickens didn't know what it was so took a crack at it, or if Anise came to us with a bad habit, or what... I'll have to try to keep a closer eye on them tonight; I imagine she'll lay another one, and I want to be able to grab it before any get a chance to eat it.
7/31/14--I went out this evening to sprinkle some DE throughout the coop, and to my surprise, right in the middle of the coop was this egg. It's our first, real, whole egg from this venture! I know it's from Anise, and that it's not the first egg she ever laid, but I'm still excited! I let all the spices out for a little while to roam in the yard, kind of as a thank-you for letting the egg sit until we discovered it.
The hens have pulled and spread the coconut fibers from the basket I was planning to use as their nest box, so I've taken the basket out. I haven't made arrangements for a new nest box... but I guess it might be good if I start working on that. Then, of course, I've still got to get their water bucket hung up and their roost completed... and sometimes in the next couple weeks will be best--before Baby Boy gets here!
8/4/14--We talked to our preacher yesterday and he mentioned that he'd kept Cinnamon in a separate home for a little while after bringing him home. Then, when he let Cinnamon in with the rest of the chickens, his original rooster beat the poor young cockerel up so badly that Cinnamon took off, flew over the fence and hasn't come back. Hopefully, he found a nice, quiet place with some friendly hens and no mean ol' roosters. We told our preacher that he always let himself be led by the white pullet (Sugar) that came with him.
I let the hens wander around the yard yesterday for a little while. Sugar does still think she's queen of the henhouse, especially when Anise is off wandering by herself. And Sugar really has it out for our barred rock, Salt and Pepper. That poor little one spent most of the outside time sitting halfway up the covered run, because whenever she was on the ground, Sugar chased her around--and even kept an antagonizing eye on her from below. I guess Sugar just wasn't adventurous enough to flap the couple feet off the ground to keep up the chase.