The ups & downs of novice chicken owners.

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by therapydoglady, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. therapydoglady

    therapydoglady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My wonderful mother-in-law had animals. Lots of them. And she was very gifted in every aspect of her animal husbandry and custodianship. Her chickens and her goats supported her entire operation with their eggs and milk, and the by-products thereof.. And her entire operation was HUGE! That was her...this is me.

    I have shown dogs and rabbits, so the showing part is not new to me. Chickens are!

    When my mother-in-law passed, and we cleaned out her house, my husband and I started yearning for a simpler, less hectic life. One where we could raise our own children, and leave behind the day care and babysitters. So when the sale of her place fell through, we jumped at the chance to buy out my brother-in-law's half of the property. We moved to West Texas, and began our journey.

    Now my children, BJ and Samantha, have spent their summers here with their Mimaw while Bryan and I kept our noses to the grindstone in San Antonio. They kind of grew into Mimaw's way of life, and therefore, THEY know more about chickens than I do. This thread (at another's request), will chronicle the ups and downs of a novice chicken owner (me), as I try hard to learn about chicken keeping from the different breeds and varieties out there to showing them. From building coops to gathering eggs.

    Come along and join us. It's bound to be fun - and funny. Sometimes, I'm sure there will be hurdles to get over, and we can help each other, laugh with each other and shed a few tears, I'm sure.

    Regards,

    Brie
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. therapydoglady

    therapydoglady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We arrived in West Texas 5 weeks ago this weekend. In that time, we have voted, as a family, to show chickens. Mostly because the kids love them, they are fairly easy to come by, they won't "break the bank" to get started, and feed is readily available here. It will give us a tool to instill a sense of responsibility and pride in our children, and give us "together time" as a family - something that was sorely lacking in our lives in San Antonio.

    That said, the kids quickly decided on the chickens they wanted. BJ was/is adamant about getting his grandmothers heritage Dominiques back from the man that bought them in Texarkana. And the man, Adam, has agreed to sell them back to us. BJ will be the 5th generation with this same line of chickens. He is very proud of that fact, and is reading everything he can get his hands on about the breed. Adam has been a great help, e-mailing BJ information on the breed, and selling us a show worthy rooster to come with the hens. We are to go pick them up this weekend.

    Samantha, being younger and more impressionable, went with golden sebrights and Mille Fleur
    d' Uccle Bantams, simply because they are cute and small. That's great. She's only 6 and she
    can handle them.

    Bryan has opted to not show chickens, since his job keeps him away so much, but has bought goats who will all come fresh in November. Goody.

    I am the one who is having trouble. I can't make up my mind what breed of chicken I want! My children are very exasperated with me, but I just can't help it. There are qualities about several breeds that I really like. I may not make up my mind for quite some time, but, that does not mean I'm not involved.

    My husband met a man just outside San Angelo last week who has raised and shown chickens for 30 years, and bought a pair of Golden Sebrights, and a pair of d'Uccles for Samantha. When he showed up Monday with those 4 chickens, she was ecstatic! We had their pens all ready and we were off and running.\

    I went back to the man yesterday and bought another pair of Mille Fleur d'Uccles and a pair of Porcelain ones, along with some other equipment. We have had chickens for less than a week, and have already had a mishap. The Porcelain d'Uccle caught his toe in a crack in a 2X4 and ripped the 1st joint of a toe off along with his nail.

    I didn't panic tho, and washed the wound with warm soapy water with a little bit of bleach in it, and packed the wound with styptic powder to make the blood clot. I was patting myself on the back a little bit, for taking good care of my daughter's chicken all by myself. Then I put the poor thing back in the pen with his piers and went home.

    I went back after lunch to do some work, and peeked in to check on him. Everyone in the pen had bloody faces where they had been trying to eat his toe, and there was blood all over the pen from him flapping around trying to avoid being eaten! Chickens are cannibalistic! I felt so awful to have put him back in there! I should have know they would peck at a big, bright yellow glob of styptic powder packed on that toe, but it never crossed my mind. He is now sequestered in a large Great Dane sized dog crate used for transporting goats. I put a roost in there for him, and he'll live there until he is all healed up.

    Sadly, his injury will prevent him from the show world, but we can look forward to showing babies that have been raised under our supervision and custodianship.

    Lesson 1: Chickens will eat each other! Injuries should be cleaned and doctored, if they are severe, and the chicken removed from the general population until well healed.
     
  3. HallFamilyFarm

    HallFamilyFarm PA ETL#195

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    Can't wait to read all your stories!
     
  4. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

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    Same here! Subscribing. :pop
     
  5. therapydoglady

    therapydoglady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When I went to San Angelo Wednesday to buy more chickens and some equipment that the man had for sale, I was sort of excited to 1) see how his operation was set up. After all, showing chickens for over 30 years, he had to have everything needed for the sport. And 2) I wanted to check out his chickens, his pens, his bedding, his roosts, nest boxes, feeders - EVERYTHING! And 3), I wanted to ask questions - if a crotchety old man would answer questions from someone who barely knows which end of a chicken eats and which end the egg comes out of!

    Now, 28 years ago, when I was born, the Good Lord saw fit to assign a host of guardian angels to watch over me and guide me where I needed to go. Those Angels have worked overtime throughout my lifetime, and Wednesday was no exception. When I got there and met Mr. Welling, I had an overwhelming sense that this man was special. Indeed, my family has been, and will be blessed by the gentle, giving, caring nature of this man. He was more than delighted to show me around his place, show me his chickens, coops, feeders nest boxes. Everything. The twinkle in his clear blue eyes told me he was having as much fun as me! Sadly, his advancing arthritis and osteoporosis is forcing him to give up his beloved chickens, for he can no longer "tote the feed they need," and he hasn't anyone to help him. He has to walk with a cane to keep his balance, and "it's hard to do with a sack of feed tossed over yer shoulder!"

    I saw all kinds of chickens: Sebrights, d'Uccles, and tons of modern game chickens who all look like they're on tippy toes because someone unexpectedly stuck something up their fannies! Even down to the surprised look on their faces! Of course this is just my opinion, and there, evidently, are lots of people out there who think these are beautiful birds because someone had bought his entire flock of moderns that morning, and are to pick them up this coming weekend. They were obviously Mr. Welling's favorite, too, because he had a lot of them. Must be their personalities.

    Mr. Welling even taught me how to give a chicken a bath! Now, I never would have, in a million years, thought to give a chicken a bath! But he demonstrated to me just how it was done, even giving me a tip on how to make a white chicken even whiter! Laundry bluing! Yep! He put just enough laundry bluing in a bucket of tepid water to make it blue-ish and soaked that little chicken up to her eyeballs nearly for about 5 minutes. He then rinsed her well, and wrapped her in a (warmed) clean towel. He carried her around under his arm as we walked through his "shed." Finally, he put her in a "drying box." A 24"h X24"d X36" long box. It was painted plywood, bottom, ends, back & top w/ a framed hardware cloth front. It had light bulbs covered by kitchen strainers in the corners to warm the box, pine shavings on the floor, and was fairly warm inside. He said he would leave her in there over night to dry.

    In the shed, there were tools of all description, three incubators (one of which I bought, old but very reliable), a multi-level brooder, banding equipment, bands, toe punches, bales of bedding straw, 55 gallon drums full of feed, wagons for transporting feed, a long, long table with 24"X24" wire cages all down one side for his conditioned show chickens. Everything he could possible need. It was quite educational, and he took the care and time to explain anything I had a question about. He would sit, often and rest while talking, but every time I would try to excuse myself, he'd say "wait! You need to see..."

    After we lingered over a good lunch, I told him I had to go if I was going to beat my kids home from school, he gave me a most wonderful gift. It was a 3 right binder that he had covered and recovered, finally gluing a jacket of denim on the outside of it with a hip pocket from a pair of bluejeans on the front of it to hold his pens. Inside, were worn pages of notes all about chickens. 30 years worth of notes! Can you imagine? And he gifted me and my family with all this wisdom. I cried half way home!

    I called him, and asked him if I could share it, and he said, "Little lady. That is a gift. You do with it as you see fit." And so, when I post something, I will try to include something from Mr. Welling's notebook. Most of what I have read so far is just common sense stuff, but in my adult life, I have learned that "common sense" is in short supply out there...kinda like putting a sore-toed chicken back in the general population! Ha!

    Mr. Welling's first tip: "If you're going to raise chickens, it's probably best to have someplace to put 'em before you get 'em."

    YEAH! WE DID THAT!

    Brie
     
  6. margali

    margali Out Of The Brooder

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    [/quote] I called him, and asked him if I could share it, and he said, "Little lady.  That is a gift.  You do with it as you see fit."  And so, when I post something, I will try to include something from Mr. Welling's notebook.

    Brie
    [/quote]

    Please share! I'm the only one in my family that has any interest in animals. I could use a chicken guru but there are none in my area I know.
     
  7. JennyBean

    JennyBean Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm hooked already..Can't wait to read more and learn. What a wonderful thing to have been given to you and your family..I'm subscribing to this.[​IMG]
     
  8. therapydoglady

    therapydoglady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When I started reading, the Old Timer's thread on BYC, I learned so much! And I can see the progression of improvements in the outbuildings on this place from old to new. Experience is a great teacher, and I have been blessed to get the benefits by learning from the mistakes of others.

    In the oldest building on this place, which we are in the process of tearing down, there is scarcely room for an adult to stand up. This building was my mother-in-law's first chicken coop. The ladder type roosts are still there, and stationary. The nest boxes were open topped wooden fruit boxes nailed to the wall. Now being the clean freak that I know she was, I can't imagine that she used this building for very long. Instead, it became a storage building, and all the bee keeping equipment was still in there! And, evidently, she had plenty of company...

    Mr. Welling wrote: "I have had the chicks in their new coop for a week and a half now, and just got through cleaning it... I will start building the new coop this coming weekend..." He made his first coop so short he couldn't stand up in it either! That seems to be a common mistake! He writes a few pages later: "When I build a coop from now on I will keep my noggin in mind..."

    The School of Hard Knocks being what it is, her second coop, the one that she used up until her death, was a building that she could stand up in, and the roosts, tho still ladder type, are on hinges so she could lift them up with a pulley system and tie it off on a hook on the wall. That way, she could clean under them, spread clean straw, etc. with ease without having to squnch down under them, and they are high enough when raised, that whoever is cleaning doesn't knock themselves out while they are working either! And, this coop has a feature that I've never heard anyone else mention on the OT thread. It has a linoleum floor, for ease of cleaning, but there is also a drain in the floor. BJ showed me how to take the plug (screwed in place to keep out debris) off after we raked out the old bedding and swept the floor. He proceeded to squirt some soap on the floor, pour a little bit of bleach on it as well, and began to scrub it with an old broom. Then he took the water hose and rinsed everything down the drain! With the doors and windows open, it was aired out and dry within a half hour, and then he replaced the drain cover and started putting bedding straw down. Slickest thing I ever saw!

    The more I thought of it though, I began to wonder where the drain went, because I know she would never tolerate a puddle under the building, but there was not one out in the yard, either. I asked BJ, and he showed me that it was "plumbed" into the culvert under the road! Pretty neat! No puddles, soap or bleach in her chicken yard!

    But there were improvements, still in the coop that she built this summer with my kids. The nest boxes in the little banty house that they built had plastic dish tub inserts in them. The boxes are built to fit the tubs, so they don't move around. When you need to clean nest boxes, you open the back of the nesting boxes, take out the tubs, dump them, clean them, replace straw and put them back. Easy peasy! THAT is what we are doing in her big coop now. She complained every time she cleaned nest boxes about how hard they were to clean, not to mention breathing in all the dust, dander and poop! We are doing the same dish tub inserts, only larger and deeper tubs because the pullets we ordered are not bantams. I can feel her smiling down on us, pleased that this is finally done! And before the chicks arrive! She and Mr. Welling should be smiling!

    Something else new to the bantam coop is the beginnings of a "deep litter" system. There is no floor in it, but they dug down about a foot and a half, lined the "pit" with cinder block (which also serve as the footing for the coop walls and prevents critters from digging under), and filled it with clean bedding straw. The idea being that the litter is just turned with a pitchfork, and as it decomposes, more straw is added to the top layer. Presumably, one only has to clean this type once a year, as long as it is kept dry. This coop is well ventilated, so there shouldn't be a problem either keeping it dry or with ammonia buildup in there. Great idea if it works! We will certainly put it to the test!

    The roosts, too, are different in the little banty house, being parallel to each other, and not ladder type. That way they don't poop on one another! The neat nest boxes can be tended to, and eggs gathered without going into the coop from a door that opens from the outside. Great improvements, if you ask me!

    We are going to use the wood from the building we are tearing down to make a coop for BJ's Dominiques ( BTW. Bryan and both kids are gone to meet Adam to pick up those birds. I stayed here to feed everything, and hopefully get some unpacking done! Ha!), and we will implement lots of these improvements into his coop. I'm sure there won't be a drain in the floor, as handy as that is. I think that is beyond my carpentry capabilities!

    I hope you guys don't get bored with this. I've never done this kind of thing before, but I think this information might be helpful to all, so here it is. Pick through it and keep what you need!

    Until next time,
    Brie
     
  9. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

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    Be careful that that pit you dug for the deep litter doesn't become a pool when it rains. We in Texas don't have basements for a reason. They fill with water and can't be sealed well enough.

    Edit - Forgot to mention that I, too, built a coop that was too short. Never will I do that again! It's still standing but only because I'm too lazy to tear it down and recycle the stuff into one a lot taller.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
  10. sidetrack

    sidetrack Out Of The Brooder

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    I am so excited to read your stories. You have a great skill!!! I am also new to raising chickens and it is all a learning experience for me. I too built my first coop to high off the ground and not tall enough to stand up straigt in. Cleaning is a challenge and I KNOW my next try at a coop will be one I can walk into and not have to climb into shimmying myself through a door too far off the ground. These short old legs are not happy about that!!
    I can't wait to read more of your adventures!! Thanks for sharing the wisdom, Brie!!
     

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