The creation ofWendell and Beth Smith
Windy Ridge Dominiques
Windy Ridge Dominiques
We moved to our new home in SW El Paso County, Colorado from Woodland, Washington. We are in an area called Midway. We have 7 acres. Nothing but grass, cactus, prairie dogs, rabbits and coyotes. Boy, the wind sure blows out here…… I wonder if we should raise any livestock?. We are on a low ridge, which is near the East fence of Ft Carson. We saw some scaled quail here too. There are Antelope (Pronghorn) nearby as well. Water is fairly expensive, so we won’t be growing much of anything that would require lots of water.
Beth has had some relapse with her Breast Cancer. She was first diagnosed in 2002. Lots of surgeries and treatments again, including a hip replacement and the upper section of her left femur, which now has an implant instead of bone. Cancer sucks. We had thought about getting some chickens or something else, but these plans have been put on hold for now.
We still think that chickens would be a good idea. That means we will need fencing to keep the coyotes out and build a coops, etc. Maybe we should wait for another year or so until things fully settle down. We got a couple of dogs, Norwegian Elkhounds. They are great. Hilde and Tyra are their names. Been dealing with rattlesnake issues. Too many and some are aggressive.
Even with the Beth’s cancer treatments continuing, we have decided that we can start the process of getting some chickens now. We should have the money to do this right by next spring, so we can start now. First things first, what breed? We started out thinking that we would just raise the chickens for meat, and butcher all of them in the fall, but got to thinking that some eggs year round would be nice. So now, we think a dual purpose chicken would be the best bet.
So here’s the thing….. Since we do Revolutionary War / Colonial reenacting, wouldn’t it be cool if we had chickens that would have been around during the 1700’s? Maybe Dorkings or Dominiques or some Sussex chickens? Beth agrees with that, so I think that’s what we’ll do. I made up some drawings of a coop and a pen. We can put it right behind the main back yard fence that we are doing. It’s not finished yet, but will be within the next year. I have OCPD, Obsessive Compulsive Planning Disorder, or at least that’s what the kids call it, so I have to plan everything before we do it. I joined Back Yard chickens, posted my thoughts, and got some good feedback. The plans for the chicken yard have now been modified.
Talked to Dave Valentine who I have had contact with on a reenacting forum, he raises Dominiques as well as some other breeds. I like Dominiques. They remind me of the Barred Rock chickens I grew up with, but are still different, and are a heritage breed.
Beth and I have decided to get Dominiques and that our chicken venture will be called Windy Ridge Dominiques. We joined the Dominique Club of America.
The plans have grown and been modified extensively. Here is our plan as of now… We will winter no more than about 20 hens and up to two roosters. We will get chicks and also hatching eggs to get about 75 chickens. Those that we don’t want to keep will be butchered. Our “Chicken compound” will consist of two distinct areas, the main chicken yard and the flock management area. The main yard will contain the large hen house and two large grow-out / breeding pens, each with their own 4 x 6 ft elevated coop. These will be in 8 x 20 ft pens in the yard. The yard will also have a shade shelter (eventually), 10 x 12 ft. The flock management area will have 4 smaller pens, 8 x 8ft each with a small 3 x 4 ft elevated coop. These will be used for segregation, isolation, brood pens, etc. The FMA will also contain a work shed, feed storage, etc. This is where the bird processing will take place. Work has started on building the small coops, mostly using scrap lumber that we have acquired. The total area will be just less than 4000 square feet.
Building continues. Most of the posts are in for the backyard fence, and the entire chicken yard has been staked out. We still need to bore the holes for the fence posts. The fence will be 6 ft tall wood around the whole thing, with a wire fencing apron on the ground to prevent coyotes and dogs from digging their way in. There’s lots of work and not enough time. I wish we had the money to go buy all the supplies right now, but that isn’t going to happen. I’ve been getting a lot of digital materials together to help us in our chicken venture. We wonder if chickens can be therapeutic for Beth.
I decided that the run area was too narrow, so I added another 8 feet. It looks better now. We also staked out an area to put pigs…….. I should have all the back yard fence posts cemented in by the end of the month. Then I will dig the post holes for the chicken yard.
We got all the backyard fence posts cemented in. It was a lot of work. Next will be to finish the backyard fence and then start on the chicken fences. I also finished a rain barrel stand. All that is left for it is the spigot and funnel for the water to flow in to from the rain gutters. Eventually I will have one for each coop to supply extra water for the chickens, separate from the house system. Things are starting to shape up! Here is the “final” plan:
Not much happened in the way of Chicken preparations this month. We ran out of money and had to take care of other things. I got another empty barrel to use as a rain barrel, and another two to trade for post hole digging…………
It was very cold at the beginning of the month. Beth has had a hard time with the cancer treatments and some of the side effects of the medications, and now has a condition known as ONJ (Osteo Necrosis of the Jaw). This has caused her intense pain and discomfort, but she’s a real trooper. She is still excited about the chickens, though a little apprehensive at the same time.
I got some more scrap lumber from work. This time there were 3 huge pallets, made mostly of 2 X 6 boards. They are very heavy. I think I will use them for the storage shed floor. There were a lot of smaller boards as well, and I’m sure we’ll find a use for them too. We have also decided to buy a couple of turkey poults as well, for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I think we’ll get some Narragansett turkeys. I also designed a chicken plucker that we will build and use when processing the chickens. I built a brooder Jan 13-14 (Fri – Sat) Looks pretty good I think and it should work fine. It is 6’ X 3’ X 24 “deep. It has a chicken wire covered hinged lid. I made a simple heat lamp attachment that can easily be adjusted for height and can swing out of the way when needed. (That wasn’t the best idea BTW 5-21-12)
We have (again) re-evaluated our chicken numbers for this year. We revised our chicken order plan AGAIN! We will be ordering 10 Easter-Eggers and 15 Doms from Cackle hatchery, along with a couple of turkey poults, for a total of 27 birds. WE will also be getting some fertile hatching eggs, but we haven’t finalized where we will get them. That should give us enough for eggs and meat, as we can always add a few more throughout the year if we decide we need them. Our close friends, Dave and Rendi Brown, want the Ameraucana so they can have eggs without getting the permits to keep them in town. Dave has been helping with materials acquisition, and building too. Rendi has never been around chickens so she is excited. She’s also never seen a naturally occurring blue or green egg. That’s the reason we are getting the Ameraucanas; so Rendi can tell her eggs apart from our Dom eggs.
We also decided that canning some of the chicken would be better than freezing, as canned food doesn’t need electricity; so to that end we got a hold of a few good chicken canning recipes that we will try out when the time comes. I absolutely LOVE Beth’s chicken and dumplings. She makes the broth herself, and it is wonderful!
We worked out a final estimate of materials costs as well as a good materials list. We will be getting bids for the lumber, and attempt to keep costs down. We have to remember that this is a long term investment…..
The stock sold yesterday (Feb 7th), so today we started our purchases. This is finally becoming a reality. We ordered the new GQF Genesis 1588 incubator, and also ordered chicks from Cackle Hatchery. (How many times did we change our projected order?) We ordered a total of 10 Dom pullets, and 15 straight run Doms; 15 straight run Easter-Egger chicks, and 2 Narragansett turkey poults. The chicks should arrive sometime during the week of May 14th. I also renewed our membership in the Dominique Club of America. Now to find cheap lumber to finish the other projects…..
The incubator showed up on three days after we bought it on-line. It’s a Genesis 1588 from GQF. It works great. It took about 25 minutes to come up to temp, and holds a steady 98-100 degrees. Some of the lumber also showed up, so we have fence to build. I have 50 posts, 50 bags of cement, and 356 2 x 4s in piles. If I leave the chicks in the brooder for 4 – 5 weeks, then I have through June to get the fence finished…..
Fence and gate building commenced!
Beth gets a 3 month vacation from Chemotherapy! (This turned into a 6 month vacation with not such good results)
The month started out warm, but soon turned cold again. We got our tax refund, so we were able to do some buying! We purchased a garden cart that holds up to 1000 lbs., so we can haul stuff around easier. We also bought all the hinges, the rest of the screws and bolts, 1500 fencing slats and some sheathing. We had to buy a new dishwasher and also a boost pump for our water system, because they both died. That took some of the money away from the chicken projects. We should have enough materials now to get the things built that we need, and finish the rest as money and time allows.
Fence building continues. I got very sick with the flu, which cost me nearly two weeks of building. We made arrangements for some hatching eggs from Suzette Ellington, the Dominique Club of America secretary.
On March 31st, we got most of the backyard fence done, but ran out of steam with 20 feet to go. Realized that I didn’t buy any gate latches……..
The back yard fence is done! In between thunderstorms and high winds during the first week and a half of April we got all the perimeter posts for the chicken yard in. The hatching eggs were shipped from Suzette Ellington in Virginia on April 11th. 18 eggs arrived on Friday afternoon, and were put into the incubator on Saturday, April 14. Candled the eggs after 1 week and it appears we have 14 out of 18 that may be developing.
We are still working on the fencing nearly every afternoon except Sundays and bad weather, and making headway.
Here are some photos of the fence progression:
Our goal is to have the outer fence (not the individual pen fronts, as we still need to get the houses into the pens) done by the end of April. We’ll see…….. One more Saturday left in the month…….
Beth is experiencing some unpleasant side effects of the pain medication; hopefully the chickens will help her get through each day with some fun.
We had 10 chicks out of 18 eggs hatch over the first weekend of May. We got 6 cockerels and 4 pullets. On the following Wednesday, our dogs tried to play with them (we didn’t know they had gotten into the garage) and killed 4 of the chicks. A very sad affair. We still have 6, and they are all healthy. 4 cockerels and 2 pullets survived the dog incident. The order from Cackle hatchery arrived on Wednesday, May 16th. All were alive and well. We combined the two groups a couple of days later, and all went well. Continued construction has been slowed as Beth deals with her medication side effect issues. As fast as these chicks are growing, I will need to get the small houses done quickly.
Beth is now on some different medication and we are seeing some good signs. The chicks are growing fast… The older Dominiques are setting an example for the younger ones, and it gets entertaining. As we moved some lumber yesterday (5-21-12), we found and caught some crickets and gave them to the chicks. It was VERY entertaining to watch the game of keep away. Among the Easter Eggers there is one that is very small.
The swinging heat lamp arm wasn’t the best idea I have had. It binds up, and on the cooler nights we had to leave the wire covered lid open so we could get the lamp low enough to keep the chicks warm enough. We have also realized that it isn’t always necessary to keep the chicks as warm as is normally recommended. Watch them… The chicks will let you know if they are too warm or too cold. I will be changing the light mounting design for future brooding.
Beth sits and watches the chicks for hours. I think she enjoys them more than she wants to admit. It is very relaxing to sit and watch them, and it also gives us some down time together to talk about things.
I have been thinking a lot about the Dominiques and what we want to focus on in our breeding plans. From what I can tell, most people have bred Dominiques focusing on the APA standard of perfection, which is fine, but it also seems that the original purposes of the breed are being either ignored or not even thought about. Many breeders are experiencing fertility issues, small eggs, sporadic egg laying, misshapen eggs, etc. in some lines. I am thinking that we may focus more on purpose and function, while still maintaining type. If we can get our line to be consistent layers of medium to large eggs, with weight on the upper end of standard, I will be happy about our efforts. I have created a spreadsheet that we will use during “evaluation” time, to help decide who gets culled and who does not, and of those who “make the cut” who gets to breed. I need to start now I guess, to find some other breeders who have birds who have the same goals as me, so I can get some more hatching eggs from next spring.
All the small coops are in place, painted, and ready to use!
The chicks are increasing their food intake exponentially. We put them outside on June 9th. It is much better, and they are really growing. At 6 weeks, the Jake turkey started strutting, and one of the Doms tried to crow. Too funny.
I went out to work on the hen house foundation boards with my friend Dale from Seattle... I was attempting to insert a screw, and Dale was holding the boards..... Dale had just cleaned out the post holes.... The Phillips head slipped off the screw and went into Dales hand, and he yanked his hand away, pulling the drill out of my hand which put me off balance. I put my left hand down to catch myself, only to put my hand into the post hole, which went to the bottom. Dale is holding his hand thinking bad thoughts, while my face is stopped from hitting the ground by the blade of the shovel. Good news, the shovel is OK. Dale has a 1/4 inch deep hole in his hand in the shape of a Phillips head, while my face looks like it got hit by a shovel. Oh yah, it DID!
One hatchery Dom pullet died. Her spine wasn’t growing and the rest of her was. All other chicks are healthy.
The chickens continue to grow and mature. We are still deciding which of the 4 “keeper” cockerels to keep. One of them, #17 has a bum toe, so he will probably go. #11 is the biggest, but he may end up being too big. #23 and #8 are good looking birds as well. We still need to decide which pullets will go to Rock Ledge Ranch, a historic farm in Colorado Springs. They will get 2-3 pullets. That will take us down to our goal of 2 cockerels, 5 Easter egger pullets, and 13 Dominique pullets that will stay through the winter. We already know that #30, #12 and #4 pullets will stay.
Beth went to the hospital the morning she was supposed to start chemo again (Aug 20). She ended up getting 1 ½ liters of fluid drained from her right lung and spending the night. Her Oxygen levels were very low, so she is now on oxygen. Chemo started 2 days later. We are waiting for the lab results on the fluid. This has been a stressful time for us.
I bought an electronic “Kindle” copy of “The American Dominique, a treatise for the fancier” by Mark Fields, and read it in one evening. A fantastic book! What a great resource! I also picked up a cheap electronic scale to use during chicken evaluations. These should start soon, probably in a couple of weeks. The hen house is completed except for shingles! Wooden eggs are already in place in each of the 6 nest boxes. We are hoping to see the first eggs show up sometime in late September. I am working on a design for a cage to place on the scale that will hold the chickens during evaluations.
The Narragansett turkey Jenny flew over the back fence on the 21st, and couldn’t remember how to get back inside. I hope this doesn’t become a bad habit. Life outside the fence can be dangerous for poultry……
Starting on the work shelter, I still have to mark the post hole locations and re-dig them. The holes that were dug last fall ended up being in the wrong positions once the fence was in. Bummer.
September 2012 was eventful. The chickens continued to grow and we got our first eggs in the last two weeks of Sept. The eggs are still very small and laying is sporadic, but that is to be expected as the pullets are still young.
During September, Beth spent most of the time in the hospital, with complications due to the breast cancer. Chest cavity infection, low blood pressure, lung blood clots, chest drains, kidney failure, and of course, we had to stop treatment for the cancer until all this other stuff gets under control. As of right now the long-term outlook for her isn’t good. She came home from the hospital on Sept 22.
We started a facebook page for Windy Ridge. It has already generated several tentative egg and chick orders for next spring. I continued building the work shelter, but that was interrupted many times. It still isn’t finished. Mid-month the female turkey poult committed suicide. Despite several warnings from me not to fly over the fence, she flew into the back yard while the dogs were there and they “played” with this animated chew toy. The boys cleaned it up before I got home from being with Beth at the hospital.
We decided which cockerels to keep, #11 and #23. We offered #8 and #17 for sale, and got a buyer for #8. He will be delivered on Oct. 6th. The problem is that #11’s comb is getting huge, as is he. If I hadn’t already promised #8 to the buyer, I would keep him instead.
As soon as we get the work shelter done and the plucker built we will process all the leftover cockerels. That will cut our feed usage in half. I decided to donate #50 and #35 to Rock Ledge Ranch; hopefully on Oct 6th as well.
Cockerel #23 is looking REALY good! We decided that because he will be the patriarch of our flock, we will call him Abraham.
On October 20 we processed 6 cockerels. It went well. The plucker worked OK, but I will be doing some modifications on it to make it better. The breast meat on these cockerels was a little sparse.
Most of the pullets are now laying. For the month we averaged 5.64 eggs per day. For the last week in October, we averaged 6.7 eggs per day. The eggs sizes now average in the medium range, with some large ones as well. Overall in October we got 175 Dominique eggs, and 13 EE eggs. We still have one EE pullet and one Dom pullet not laying.
Friday, Nov 2 we found out that the State Agriculture people will be coming to our place on Nov 19th to do our NPIP testing! Great news, but I have a few things that I want to get done before that. The weather is getting colder and time is now short. We collected 17 pumpkins from friends that they used as Jack-o-lanterns, and they have now become chicken food.
On Nov 3 we processed the remaining Dominique cockerels and all the Easter Egger cockerels, for a total of 12 that day. The modifications on the plucker worked well. The whole activity went off without a hitch except for our water temp thermometer (for scalding), which malfunctioned about ½ way through. It was reading in the 180* range, so David, our oldest son, kept adding cold water to it to bring the temp down. He had no idea that the thermometer had broken. At normal air temperature it was reading 147*……… After we got the water temps back up it went fine. We did find out however that the breasts on these birds were nearly twice as big as the ones we did two weeks ago. From now on we will wait until our Dominique Cockerels at 25-26 weeks before processing.
We still have lots to do. Beth’s health is holding steady, and chemo sessions continue every other week. If the weather holds out and doesn’t get too cold and stormy, I will be able to get most of the critical projects done before NPIP testing on the 19th.
We have already begun to pick out breeder hens for next spring, and making out our hatching plans.