Getting discouraged... ideas?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Storybook Farm, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. Storybook Farm

    Storybook Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    We bought our first chickens this past spring, in March. They were mature laying chickens, and we bought them and their coop: five hens and one rooster. They were mixed breeds: one Ameraucana (sp?) and one Buff Orpington and then three mixed breed ones, along with the rooster... I think he's a RIR cross: he has feathered feet.

    The coop was one of those that you commonly see Amish made. Here's a picture:

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    We made a run into the garden, under that raised bed you see behind the coop. At first, the Ameraucana and the Buff Orpinton were the regular layers, and one of the others layed every other day. So, we had 2-3 eggs per day. As soon as they were acclimated to "this is your new home" we let them free range for half of each day, after the eggs were laid.

    They had been used to free range in their former home, and we love having them do it, but we are getting 1-2 eggs per day, even though the Ameraucana soon chose to run to the old barn to lay. We found her clutch after about three days, and took them, and after that she started to hide her eggs and I don't think we've gotten one from her since, despite shutting her in for a full half day (up till 3 PM) most days of the summer. She just crosses her legs and waits!

    The Buff Orpington hen went broody in one of the nesting boxes after about six weeks here. We thought it was great. She gathered and sat on 11 eggs, and successfully hatched and raised four of them! They are super cute, and now they run in a mob all by themselves during the day. We call them "The Teenagers." At night they sleep in the above coop with the eldest birds.

    Meanwhile, we loved having chickens so much that we decided to convert an old grain barn on our property to a chicken coop. We call it "Chez Poulez" because it's so roomy...and we bought new peeps in early June. We bought and raised 7 guinea fowl and 8 chickens, a few of which are, of course, roosters. Along with these chicks, we bought a beautiful hen (Goldie, we call her) who is a mixed breed but lays greenish eggs, who faithfully laid her eggs in Chez Poulez behind a board in the corner, on the floor all summer. As these chicks have neared aldulthood, they have about 14' X 14' interior, a small run, and free range for most of the day. On warm days they like to hang out under Chez Poulez or roam the farm.

    (Thanks for reading this far... I'm getting to the discouraging part...) Well, we're now getting ready for winter. We need to kill the roosters... and I can't figure out how to identify them. How do you effectively tell the hens from the roosters?

    Then, as I was deep cleaning the coop in preparation for winter, I created better (I thought) nesting boxes. I made them out of plastic milk crates, covered by a board for darkness, and filled with shavings and straw... not completely clean. Now, Goldie has begun to hide her eggs... she won't lay in the boxes. Any ideas on how to get her laying in the new boxes? For all the feed we give these birds, I'm getting one egg per day, total. Doesn't seem like a sustainable situation to us...

    Finally, I'm completely confused about bedding. After we butcher the roosters, we'll have 7 guineas and 5-7 chickens... I think (again, I can't tell you how many are roosters...?). From what I read of the delicate balance needed for deep bed method, and the drawbacks of sand... I'm confused.

    Help?
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  2. nchls school

    nchls school Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Post pictures of your birds and their age. We can help you determine which ones are roosters.
     
  3. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Do you know how old the first group is? 2-3 year olds and older are not going to be as consistent. Are they starting to molt? Post pictures of the younger group. They can be accurately sexed at this point. You are about one month from butchering the cockerels so you still have time for confirmation. Your pullets should be laying by thanksgiving. They should lay consistently this winter.
     
  4. Storybook Farm

    Storybook Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    Thanks for the replies!

    The first group were laying, but young. I think the seller said they were 1 yos in March. The rooster definitely molted a month or more ago...

    Up at Chez Poulez, the youngest birds are full feathered and getting BIG. They may be molting...there are a ton of feathers. What are the details about molting? What age DO they molt?

    I will try to get pictures of the young birds today.

    What about bedding? Is there someone here who uses deep bedding and can comment on the number of birds issue?
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
  5. Storybook Farm

    Storybook Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 5, 2015
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    My Coop
    About them laying by TG... really? I thought they had to be 1 yos?
     
  6. Hholly

    Hholly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    17-20 weeks
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    The 14' x 14' coop should hold all your chickens(not sure about the guineas).
    I'd leave them locked up in that coop for a solid week (24/7) to acclimate them to laying in the coop nests.
    Then start free ranging again.

    Young birds will grow several new sets of feathers in the first 6 months, thus the feathers you see laying around.
    Then they will do an annual full adult molt starting around 18 months old, usually in the fall but it can vary.

    Lots of different ways to do bedding. I prefer a poop board under roosts to collect poop a couple times a week for composting,
    and bagged kiln dried pine shavings on floor to keep things dry, dry, dry...this gets totally changed out once a year in the fall for composting.

    Winter management can be interesting...what is your climate?
    Putting your location in your profile can help folks give better answers/suggestions.

    The first year of chicken keeping has a very steep learning curve, hang in there, next year will be much easier!
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
  8. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What bedding materials you choose is a personal preference. Most anything that is absorbent will work. Pine shavings are most popular and smell great. You can also use shredded paper or cardboard, straw or if you like free, leaves and dried grass work too. The dry materials will dry out the poop and keep things from smelling. If you have big clumps under the roosts, just stir it in or skim it off. Add more material as it breaks down over the winter. Strip it out once a year and start all over.

    Pullets will typically start laying between 4-6 months of age depending upon breed, time of year and management. The slimmer bodied egg layers start earlier and the heavier dual purpose hens go longer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
  9. Storybook Farm

    Storybook Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 5, 2015
    Sugar Grove, WV
    My Coop
    Wow, great information! (Curious: how long do hens lay after they start? For about how many years?)

    Okay, thanks for the encouragement. I've spent all morning taking and editing photos. As I've done it, I now have a guess as to the sex of most of my "chicks" grown up. Still in doubt about one or two of those, and then there are the Teenagers... no idea. Help me out: below are pics.

    These are the Teenagers (they are very shy and won't sit for a good photo, so I have several here). I was looking at dates and I think that they were born in July. NO guess as to which week, sorry. The dad is the rooster pictured below them, and the mom is the Buff Orpington in the same picture.

    [​IMG]

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    Rooster in back; Buff in front. Parents of chicks, though some egg stealing did go on when she was brooding.

    [​IMG]

    I'll do a second post to show the chicks that I'm trying to sex from the ones we bought later. TIA!
     
  10. Storybook Farm

    Storybook Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 5, 2015
    Sugar Grove, WV
    My Coop
    Of the chickens that we bought and raised, here are the pictures:

    I think he's a rooster... and I call him Joseph because of his coat of many colors. He's totally gorgeous... I may need to see if anyone wants him before we eat him.

    [​IMG]


    I also believe that this is a rooster... he's a bit older, he crows, and Chanticleer chases him. I call him Lichen because in the sun, his feathers make it look like he's growing lichen all over his back.

    [​IMG]

    All the rest, I believe, are hens. Can you affirm or contradict me, please? I actually have two nearly identical birds as pictured in the first below. They always hang out together with one of the guineas. They are Aurora and Jasmine.. so exotic looking. Are they a breed? I was told by the FB seller of these birds that they were all Barred Rock/RIR crosses.. but these two look SO different from Jane, Julia, and Ginger (pic below)...

    [​IMG]

    These three also hang together. I think you can click on this to get a better view (bigger). From left to right: Jane, Julia, and Ginger.

    [​IMG]

    She's a loner: I call her "Ice Princess."
    [​IMG]

    Thoughts?
     

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