The girls are coming! The girls are coming!
No matter how much reading I do or how many people I speak with ... I’m as nervous as a new mother with her first child.
Great book for reference: Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.
June 22, 2009
A trip to the Tractor Supply store today to purchase feed, litter, heat lamp, water & feed containers. Another $60 investment. I’m afraid to ask Mark how much he spent on wood to build the henhouse. Price per pound? Let’s not go there!
The “brooder” ... chicken language for the place where chicks live for the first few weeks of life ... is set up in the garage waiting for the girls to arrive. They are being shipped from Meyer Hatchery (http://www.meyerhatchery.com) in Polk, Ohio. The postmaster will call for us to pick them up.
June 23, 2009
Postmaster called after 7am ... they are peeping! Mark and I quickly dressed and headed out to get the girls. Upon arrival, I rang the buzzer and was greeted by a sweet boy who asked for my ID. Did he think I was a chicken hawk? I ran back to the car, grabbed my purse and waved the laminated card in front of his eyes. The box was so small. It was hard to believe the chicks were in there ... comfortable. I wanted to rip the box open but waited until we got home. They liked the makeshift brooder (galvanized tub) and started to drink water right away. I gave them food about an hour later.
June 30, 2009
It’s been a seven day adventure. I’m still reading books and chicken talk forums on the internet to be sure I’m not doing anything wrong. The chicks have doubled in size (or so it seems) and they are - without a doubt - quite content. I decided to put them outside on day #3 for fresh air, sunshine and exercise using the yellow handcart (turned upside down) for a makeshift playpen. The girls loved it. They’ve been outside everyday since EXCEPT for today. The weather has turned cold and it’s sporadically raining.
I decided the galvanized tub wasn’t big enough for the chicks anymore so I built another brooder from a cardboard box. It’s taller and provides more “flying” space. I suspect they won’t be in it for more than 7 -10 days before moving them into the condo Mark built.
July 17, 2009
The girls have survived almost 4 weeks under our care. Up until 2 nights ago, we've been transferring them from the "Big Girl" house and run during the day, to the brooder box in the garage at night. The low temperatures are now in the mid 60s and we felt it was safe for them to live in their permanent home. They seem happy and content.
As dusk approaches, they huddle in the corner by the gate and chirp loudly, "Come and get us, we're scared." When they see us, they march themself up the ramp and into the coop. We close the door, lock it and say "Good Night." There's a little squawking but it doesn't take long for them to settle down.
Since the girls arrived 4 weeks ago, a stray cat has been hanging out on the property. She's a pretty cat who likes to hunt (already 2 dead chipmunks at our backdoor) and we're concerned about letting the chicks out of the run and into the yard. Perhaps we'll give it a try with careful supervision until the chicks get bigger (at least bigger than the cat!)
July 31, 2009
The cat now has a name ... when she brings home the "catch of the day", we call her Slicker. When she hangs out in the house Mark built for her comfort, we call her Slacker. As you can see, she's "slacking" today.
Regardless, it seems the cat has adopted us. She found a place in Mark's heart :MEOW:Granted, we do feed her but who wouldn't ... she's so dang adorable. As for the chickens, she couldn't care less. Slicker/Slacker pays no mind to our chickens. She does not crouch in a hunting position when she approaches them. They seem to disregard her presence as well.
September 17, 2009
We've had an enjoyable summer watching the girls grow. They've completely obliterated several garden areas around the house with their scratching and pecking. Chicken poop on our shoes has become the "norm." To our delight, the girls are well behaved and put themselves to bed when the sun goes down. We had one scare one night when we counted only three in the hen house. To this day we have no idea how the Rhode Island Red got out of the yard, however; in the morning she came running across the driveway clucking up a storm. Her siblings were excited over their reunion. We were thrilled to see her too. Since then, they stick together like glue. Overall, the care of our backyard chickens has been easy. We're using the layer method in the hen house and so far, it seems to be working well. We're not sure about keeping the girls over the winter. They may end up in the freezer. At this point, no one is laying eggs, which is why we got them in the first place. I suspect they should start producing soon as they are coming of age.
October 22, 2009
The girls ALL have names - does this mean they are now pets? Biz, Lil, Leaper and Rosie are a little over 4 months old and still mooching off of us. Will we ever get eggs? Winter is quickly approaching and waves of anxiety consume me whenever I start to think of ... what's going to happen to the girls. I've made several inquiries about transporting them to Florida with me. The airline route is out of the question. It seems a bit ridiculous to bring the hens to a vet for a certificate of health, purchase a crate, an airline ticket to ride in the belly of the plane, hand over to the Florida Department of Agriculture for quarantine ... too much drama and expense! As it is, we've estimated the 1st egg will have a $500.00 price tag. This is not a good return on investment!
Another option for transportation is to use the US Postal system - after all, that's how they initially arrived in Holland as peeps. When I spoke with the local postmaster, I was encouraged. He told me it is possible and the cost is around $45.00. He gave me a number to call, which I did and was disappointed to learn the number was incorrect. I haven't been back since. Of course, time keeps ticking and I must make a decision ... kill 'em, keep 'em or give them away.
November 25, 2009
STILL NO EGGS!
I went out to the coop with a Shake and Bake bag in my hand. Like a good mother hen, I scolded them, "If you don't give me breakfast tomorrow morning, you'll be dinner tomorrow night." It was one of those threats when the kids are acting up in the backseat and you turn around and say "Should I turn this car around and go home?"
Chickens are eggless, however; they now have a "HEATED" watering system in place. I guess that means they're hanging out here for the winter!
December 1, 2009
Someone laid the $500.00 egg today! It's exciting! I opened the coop door and wha-la ... there it was just laying on the pine shavings in the nesting box. I praised all of the girls - no one came forward. We shall see what tomorrow brings!
December 2, 2009
The price went down this morning to $250.00 each.
Today's egg is larger and browner.
February 19, 2010
There is about 10 inches of snow on the ground and the girls do not like going out of the run, however; they're obviously bored penned up all day, despite our efforts to keep them entertained (ie: sunflower seeds thrown onto the straw, cabbage basket etc.) we still like to give them the option of venturing out.
Mark SHOVELED a path from their coop/run across the yard to the pool deck. The girls like it under there.
He left the door open for the girls to come out of their pen and he went for a walk. When he came back, the door to the run was closed and only three girls were inside.
Outside was a pile of feathers.
I am in Florida and this is the picture he sent me.
There were no tracks in the snow - no blood and no chicken.
Upon receiving the dreaded email, I called my Mark immediately - rattling off a gazillion questions - all of which he could answer only two of them!
My concern was the hawk swooped up the hen and perhaps couldn't hold onto her for any great distance and dropped her.
For my own piece of mind, I needed Mark to make a thorough pass of our yard to find the hen.
He grudgingly agreed even though he already looked for her earlier.
He called me 15 grueling minutes later to report when he went out to the pen, the hen was waiting at the closed door ... in a daze and missing a bunch of feathers off her rear end. ::YEAH::
She was eager to join the others.
I've instructed Mark NOT to let the girls out anymore this week in hopes of deterring a further attack.
The featherless hen (BIZ)still seems to be in a daze. She is eating and drinking and the other girls are not picking on her.
All good news to me.
Biz has escaped another hawk attack!
FEBRUARY 28, 2010
I'm home for a week or so and the girls were happy to see their Mama.
Mark and his Dad have been doing a fine job caring for the flock this winter, but there's something about a mother's love and care. After a lengthy examination of BIZ, it appears she has no visible hawk injuries. Her feathers look fine.
The coop litter is reaching the 12 inch mark ... I am eager to clean it out completely in May.
Surprisingly, there is no odor - the litter is moist but not wet.
The girls are using only 2 of the 4 nesting boxes, which makes me think we should remodel in the spring!
The straw has been a huge life saver this winter.
It has served two purposes .... insulation and ground cover.
I love spreading the straw on the ground for the girls to scratch around in searching for sunflower seeds, dry cat food etc.
It keeps them entertained as well as clean ... and they are quick to break it down into the earth ... good composting girls!
Amazingly, the light bulb in the paint can worked extremely well this winter to keep the water UNfrozen. I'll have to figure something else out for this summer to keep the water cleaner. The girls are notorious for throwing up dirt and straw and the water gets dirty too fast. The "bird feeder" worked VERY well - it holds enough feed for about 5 days. And of course, the suet cage for cabbage was a HUGE hit!
Spring is well on its way ... the girls will be eager to be out all day .... but not until I come home. Mark has been letting them out later in the afternoon and they're delighted. I'll probably do the same because if they're out ALL day .... they eat up ALL of the yard. We are learning the methods to their chicken madness!
JANUARY 21, 2012
Life with the girls has been enjoyable. The 3 gallon waterer and heater has proven to be a good investment. Most definitely a time saver. I can't believe we waited so long to get these items. We did attach some insulation to the outside of the coop for better winter protection ... for our own piece of mind. I'm sure the girls didn't need it.
We haven't had too many eggs since before Thanksgiving. The girls started molting, then there was a rodent causing them stress and of course, winter daylight hours have shortened. They are coming up on 3 years old - perhaps egg production will decrease. We shall see what happens this spring.