Sub-tropical chooks - picture heavy

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by cwrite, Nov 13, 2014.

  1. cwrite

    cwrite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I thought I'd share some stories of my chooks that I'm raising in Queensland. We have a sub-tropical climate here so no frost, much less snow. I started with 6 chicks from Heritage Hatching and Hens.

    I chose utility hens for my learning curve and have been very happy with them. We bought two Austrolorps, two ISA browns and two Heritage Long Lays which I believe are Leghorns crossed with something else, probably Ancona's on Valentines Day.
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    One ISA brown died after two days from unknown causes and we held a state funeral in our back yard for her.

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    The chicks all moved into their newly converted coop. It used to be my kids cubby house that they never used. Rather than selling it for far less than it would have cost to buy a much smaller coop I found an alternative use for it.
    We finished the run about a month later. It turned out to be much more work than I thought as it is basically a frame with wire mesh stapled on.
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    The chooks access the coop through a tunnel made through a window that is always open.

    Our first egg arrived from Snowy (HLL) at 20 weeks in June and the all others followed within a week.

    In September Snowy went broody. I'd read that Leghorns rarely went broody so I was delighted. I managed to find Araucana eggs and made the exchange with the 12 eggs Snowy had hoarded on 20th. The chicks were due on the 11th October.
    Snowy took things to extremes. She didn't get off the nest to eat or drink for days at a time. I made her scrambled eggs to try to entice her to eat as her comb had gone pale and shrivelled up. That was the Thursday before her eggs were due on Saturday. She didn't eat or drink again for four days and it was hot.
    On Saturday I heard peeping, but saw nothing.
    On Sunday these two fluffy buts appeared.

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    By the end of the day there were four more and I was thrilled. Snowy had hatched 6/12 eggs.
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    I was very concerned about Snowy not eating so I put food in the nest for her and the chicks.

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    Then to my surprise, later that afternoon four more chicks turned up. Snowy seemed to have abandoned the remaining two eggs. I expect that the staggered hatch was due to Snowy being quite a slender bird so the eggs were heated unevenly. I thought that she had done a pretty amazing job of hatching 10/12 eggs for a first time mum.
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    Monday afternoon Snowy was also up and out of the nest. I had thought that she would spend most of her days warming the chicks seeing as they have specific temperature requirements until they are feathered out, but no. The only time she had them under her was when she was protecting them from a threat - usually me. It looked like the only heat they got was at night so I was thankful that it was Spring here and quite hot.
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    I had fenced off part of the run, left the dog box in that Snowy sat in and put down play sand after cleaning out all debris so that the chicks could have some time without coming into contact with any germs floating around from the hens. The one circled was obviously different from the start, speckled and smaller than the others. My daughter called her Dotty despite being told not to name any of the chicks.

    Then on Thursday, I counted the chicks to make sure that they were all ok and I kept counting 11. I hadn't turfed the last two eggs yet, because I just couldn't bring myself to. I checked in the dog box and sure enough, there was only one egg left! So one egg hatched three days after the last lot during which it had been left to go cold the whole day every day. I cleaned the dog box out and put fresh hay in the day after the last four arrived (Tuesday) and the two eggs were cold. Not bad for a breed that's not supposed to go broody!

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    The bottom chick is Baby who you can see it already bigger on day one than little Dotty who was born on the Monday.

    The next day I found the last egg turfed out of the nest box and that ended the extended hatch for Snowy.

    Thanks for reading. The next time I'll post an update on how the chicks have done up to now. : )
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    What part of QLD are you in? We get frosts in many places (I've lived in over a dozen regions of QLD but around Brisbane and Gympie definitely get some hard frosts).

    Your coop looks python-proof, or very close to it! Nice. And your chooks look well tended.

    As you've seen, with chicks, they're nowhere near as delicate and heating-dependent as incubator-salesmen say. ;) Just having a dig there, really...

    Also about the eggs, they're far tougher than normally believed, I've had clutches take almost a month to hatch because the hen let them go cold every night while perching in the coop like normal... And I've had clutches freeze overnight in the dead of winter and still hatch... (Not intentional neglect, I was very ill at the time and with one clutch I thought they weren't fertile, and with the other clutch I didn't know about its existence until much later, almost hatch time.)

    Best wishes.
     
  3. cwrite

    cwrite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    @chooks4life that's amazing that developing eggs can freeze and then carry on developing. There is such a vast difference how our first chicks were raised by us and how Snowy has raised her chicks. They certainly are tough, thriving little critters.

    I'm in Moreton Bay near the coast so that probably makes a difference. I know there are areas even on Moreton Bay that get a lot colder, like Maleny, but I've never seen frost in the five years I've lived here. It's great for growing pineapples and pawpaw, but not so much for my heat hardy tropical apple tree.

    Thanks for your comments on the run, but the chicken fortress has been defeated - by the chickens. This being my first year with chooks I hadn't realised how early they get up in Summer. They started getting up at 5am, then 4am which was an hour before sunrise and screeching to be let out to free-range. We chose the spot because the cubby house was already there and next to it was a great space for the run. However, it turns out that this is right next to my neighbours bedroom window so I couldn't just let them carry on for ages. After several weeks of getting up before the crack of dawn exhaustion go the better of me & I left the top of the coop door open for them to let themselves out. This has sorted out the noise problem, but leaves the coop open at night for predators, mainly snakes. If I hadn't stared free-ranging them I'm pretty sure this problem wouldn't have started, but there it is.
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Well, I used the wrong word there, they can't freeze solid, but they can be completely stone cold and still live.

    Sorry to hear about the complaining! Chickens can and will train people very quickly; once you give them what they want, in response to their complaining, juuuuuust once.... That's it. Get used to it. It can and may take years, and generations, to eradicate that trait. Even more fun, it is pretty hereditary too. >:[ All my worst complainers begot more complainers, lol!


    Best wishes.
     
  5. cwrite

    cwrite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our designated complainer is Steve who is head chook and named after the minecraft Steve by my son. Both my austrolorps are more food motivated than the rest, which is saying a lot but probably why she is the complainer. And yes, my chickens are training me well. I experimented with fermented feed and that was a huge mistake. I didn't like it and my chickens did. We have just been through a period of tough love to get them back on dry food. It's all a learning curve for sure.

    So the update on how the chicks have grown up.

    Week 1: Dotty in the top right corner, is still the smallest & ugliest, if not only ugly chick I have. Baby is on the bottom left and is much less developed than the others, but still bigger than Dotty. Inserts obviously are not sized correctly.
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    Week 2:
    At two weeks old the chicks have been on grass and I've given up keeping track of what they eat. Snowy seems to want them to eat everything so I just leave it up to her. That enclosure is a temporary one I use for short outings during the day. It's simply chicken wire around an old trampoline.
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    Week 3:
    We haven't had any casualties and the chicks have introduced themselves to the big girls without any problems. Snowy was chased by Steve, but as she can run a lot faster, Steve had to be satisfied with a few short chases that lead to nothing. I have some plants growing in the run, a few pawpaws in tyres, two roses and a butterfly bush. All are protected with fencing except the butterfly bush which they don't seem to like that much. This means that there are heaps of escape routes if the hens try to have a go at the chicks. So far, so good. The chick that is tagged was behaving like a roo at their first outing a week ago. I still think it's a roo. The scraggly one is Dotty and I'm beginning to wonder if she may be an accidental bantam.

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    Week 4:
    The chicks are feathering out nicely. I can distinguish the first two hatched, one of which is my favourite, Dotty and Baby. The lavender one with the biggest legs and no tail is naturally my favourite.

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    Dotty at four weeks old. I have no words for this, but if anyone can give me a clue why ever her feathers are untidy I'd appreciate it. My daughter still loves her dearly.

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    Week 5:
    This chick was hatched on day one along with my favourite. It's just beautiful and I love the headgear, but I'm after a lavender araucana and I think it's a roo.

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    This is my favourite, called Rumpless even though it should be tailless as she is the only one that hasn't grown a tail yet. She also has huge legs and although her comb isn't as pink as some of the others, I'm leaning towards roo unfortunately.

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    Lastly, we have Dotty at five weeks old. All the other chicks, apart from the top two, are also growing their head feathers this week but none of them look quite like dearly loved Dotty. I think she's a pullet. [​IMG]

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    While the chicks have been growing up we had another hen go broody. Strangely enough it was Hedwig, my other leghorn cross. Given that I feel a tad overwhelmed with chicks at the moment, I'm not giving her fertile eggs. I have to wonder if leghorns have had as much of the broodiness bred out of them as most people think. When the chicks were younger I watched Hedwig try to lure some over to her by making the babies come here noise while they were all out free-ranging. Snowy promptly put an end to that and will periodically chase Hedwig off the nest when she passes by. Hedwig and her used to be besties before the broody bug hit.

    Hedwig.

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    All eleven chicks and five hens survived the heatwave this week-end thankfully.
    Thanks for reading.

    Edited to fix a few typos.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2014
  6. ChickyChickens

    ChickyChickens Chickening Around

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    WOW!! I love it!! You must keep this thread updated!! I love threads like this!!! BTW I love your broody!!
     
  7. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Ah, the good old trampoline frame... :D Used many of those for broody cages, they're awesome for the purpose.

    As for Dotty... I think she/he has deficiency issues. Those are quite weakly feathers Dotty is sporting, yet the rest are feathered well, so it's not diet-based.

    It's possible it's genetic, especially since Dotty hatched looking a bit scruffy; possibly Dotty doesn't digest or synthesize nutrients properly, or has some genetic defect causing weak plumage. No chick that age should look so moth-eaten.

    I'm not blaming you, mind, if your husbandry were to blame they'd all look like Dotty, lol!

    If Dotty were mine I'd be expecting future health problems, unfortunately. A bad start is something you can't fix later, and despite doing your best there are always some that get off to a bad start based on issues that are very hard to fix or even define, such as environment, genetics, just non-obvious issues. Dotty did not look too good in that 1 week old pic. Perhaps some added probiotics on a semi regular basis would help.

    The comb/wattle development is still a bit nonspecific for the age, but your guesses on gender are probably right since some of the chicks developed along male lines with the feathering in the earlier pics, and while it's true that feather sexing is normally constrained to certain pure breeds, my mongrels have never had a female chick feather like a male whereas many males of all manner of genetic backgrounds tended to feather like that.

    When telling gender it's best to go by comparing them to their clutchmates anyway, not breed benchmarks for development at that age, since so much affects development in the environment and diet that breed benchmarks can be effectively irrelevant.

    Best wishes.
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    I thought to mention... Some of them look like they have very lacy feathering, perhaps it's the shade, I don't know.

    If you find their feathers are quite translucent, for example you can easily see your finger on the other side of them, it's very possible you've got some of the more fancy feathering mutations and Dotty has a heavier dose of it which is causing the very fragile plumage.

    I've had some roosters with very lacy feathering, from very rare breeds which by the time I got them had been left to mongrelize all over the place; these feather mutation genes often come with hidden, deleterious effects, so, health problems either now or in future are fairly common, but also other non-malignant physical abnormalities as well, visible or hidden.

    One of my mongrel males carried rare genetics that caused very translucent, curled, ultra-delicate feathers on him, which remained in good shape, and feathers which curled tightly inwards along the shaft with a limp shaft so they were like dreadlocks but soft, floppy, and hollow, but one of his grandsons had the wiry genetics causing him to only retain the shafts of the wing feathers. The partial 'noodle-feathering' and the twisted, delicate lacy feathering has been passed on to quite a few of his offspring, it's a surprisingly dominant gene despite none of the mothers being related to him. Another strange defect he passed on was mohawk like spiky crests along the back of the neck and sometimes lower back, where the feathers instead of pointing downwards twist slightly to make a ridge. I kind of like that one, lol, it looks cool. Silly me, I know.

    Oh, also about leghorns being broody, I've found even Isabrowns and the likes also go broody, when people describe a breed as 'nonbroody' all it means is 'not too likely to go broody' which doesn't mean it's outright 'unlikely' either.

    Best wishes.
     
  9. ChickenPeep

    ChickenPeep Faith &amp; Feathers

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    What a beautiful story with such beautiful pictures! I'm amazed that Snowy was able to get a 92% hatch rate on her first try! Way to go Snowy! [​IMG]
    All of the little chicks are beautiful. Thanks for sharing. [​IMG]
     
  10. cwrite

    cwrite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the comments @ChickyChickens, @ChickenPeep and @chooks4life .

    Chooks4life, you may be right about the mongrelising. The eggs were advertised on gumtree as pure breeds and I think they are, but it may be possible that there has been no genetic selection going on. I collected the eggs from the woman's husband and didn't feel comfortable asking him heaps of questions. At the time I was quite pleased that I could add to my flock without risking introducing disease. I guess genetic selection seems cruel until you have to deal with the consequences on not doing it. I also sent the breeder a nice text about the hatch rate and received no reply. It's certainly something I'd be pleased to hear if I was breeding.

    I can't keep roosters so if I keep Dotty there is no chance of her passing along her genes. However, if I sell/give her away to another backyarder in the same position she won't either. It would be so much easier if she would just crow. I'll also have a look at their feathers to see if any are translucent. It will be my first time advertising chicks and I've explained to my kids that you can't be fussy if your spare roosters are another person's dinner or pet's food, but I hope that at least the pullets will get to have long backyard lives. They seem ok with it. Having said that, I can't help wondering what sort of eggs Dotty will produce.

    Snowy managed to teach one chick how to get out of the run today. She perches on the door frame (which is raised), calls them, goes off and eats a bit of grass and then repeats. Very sweet to watch. Naturally it was Rumpless who figured it out so he had some one on one time free-ranging with mum before I helped the others out. : )
     

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