Our Broody Hen

Even with all of the chickens we’ve had over the last 3 years, we’ve never had one go broody. If they did, it wasn’t for long. We’ve had them lay eggs in other places that were not ideal…under the porch, but never broody. We noticed that Smokey was staying a long time in her nesting box and then it became evident that she was in there pretty permanently. We thought we’d take advantage of her broodiness and ordered some fertilized eggs in hopes that she’d hatch them. We have enough chickens that lay eggs for our family and we had ordered four other chickens from another hatchery to picked up in a month, but we have predators and have learned that it’s better to be in a bit of a rotation with the chickens.nThe only original chicken we have left is starting to lay less and less, the new chickens will lay in another four months and the new chicks will lay in another 6 months. See what I mean?

I ordered 3 eggs from My Pet Chicken. I decided to get the “Fun and Funky” breeds because we enjoy weird chickens. The eggs that came were disgusting and instead of 3 there were 7! We waited the 24 hours for them to “settle” and then placed them under the broody hen. She diligently sat on them for weeks. However, she let the other hens push her off the eggs to lay and a few were broken in the process. We candled on day 9, but couldn’t really tell much. We did see some veining and decided to try candling on day 17. On that day we saw a chick in the egg! It was moving around and was pretty neat.

Pipping

The day before hatch day (day 21) I checked on the eggs and saw pipping! A tiny hole in the egg indicating that a tiny chick was ready to come out! How exciting! We had been reading a bit about the actual hatching process and sometimes mama will become homicidal! Sometimes she won’t protect the chicks well if she’s low in the pecking order, which our hen is, so we decided to mover her to the crate, where we’ve raised chicks before and see if the eggs hatched. That evening when we were moving the hen and the eggs, I was carrying the egg with the hole in it and it was peeping! It was unreal to be holding an egg with a live chick inside peeping! All good signs and a few hours later that chick hatched. Mama, thankfully did not freak out and kill the chick and after a day of drying out the chick was hopping around happy as can be, learning to eat and drink, nbd.

Tiny chick with eggs

A couple of days go by and two eggs, still no more chicks. I called up a local-ish farm and ask if they happened to be hatching eggs over the last few days and it turned out, they had a few hatch that morning. We decided to get two more chicks and switch out the eggs, Mama was getting restless, so it was now or never. These two chicks would still be a little funky. They’re called Swedish Flowers an should be black and white.

comforting peeper

We shoved them under mama later that night and she ended up accepting one and rejecting the other. She was pecking at it and it would not stop peeping. We tried again thinking once it was warm under mama it would be good, but no. We have the big chickens in the coop, teenagers in the mini coop and mama and chick in the crate, so there’s no place for this reject chick to go! I cuddled him for a bit so he could rest after his ordeal and we waited a while to let mama sleep. We turned off the heat lamp to make it dark in the crate and a little while later shoved the peeper under and everyone settled down. There was still a little bit of peeping, but mom seemed to accept the chick. Yay!

Peeper

We checked on them a few more times that night and again in the morning and all was well. I came home from school to find the chick pecked almost to death! It was terrible. I feel so incredibly selfish and guilty for bringing this chick to our home only for him to be murdered. There was no saving him, so I put him down. I’m still traumatized, but Mama is continuing to care for the two chicks she accepted, so that’s good, but the fun is a little bit tarnished. I’m reminded again that they are animals, poultry we have for fresh eggs, and a little bit stupid.

Mama and tiny chick

Mama is up and alert now and no longer sitting on eggs. I’m not sure how long she’ll be content in the crate, but the tiny chicks will fit right through the chicken wire in the mini coop! I let them outside while I cleaned their water and food yesterday and the other chickens didn’t attack them which is a good sign. The chicks just followed mama around and when I put them in the teenager coop one chickie popped right through the hole of the chicken wire (which is how I know they need to stay in the crate). It’s an adventure. Some days are better than others.


A Mini-Coop for the Not so Mini Chickens

Every time we get new chicks I’m amazed at how quickly they grow and get ugly. It’s also fun to realize that one of these chicks is not like the others and we’ve got a rooster on our hands. We’ve had chicks four separate times now. The first time was the most successful and we had no clue what we were doing. The second round got eaten, so we got that nightmare out of the way. The third set has been picked off one by one until there is only one Wyandotte left of three and now for the last. We have been getting three chicks at a time, but due to odds and probability of them making it to egg-laying status, we went ahead and got six. I tried to talk Jason into a seventh one because it was the last one, but he refused. Mostly because it was one of the “straight-runs” meaning it wasn’t sexed, but ironically enough those two are both hens and one of the sexed pullets turned out to be a rooster. Should have listened to me, honey.

Our current coop has three nesting boxes and can fit the new chicks, but we really needed an in between coop for teenager chickens. The box only lasts a couple of weeks and then it’s too small and crazy dirty. Here‘s what our very first coop looked like, if you’re wondering. The current coop is just sans run. My hubby had a lot of pallet and scrap wood as well as leftover coop material, so he decided to build a little mini coop to keep the teenagers separate, but also give them all a secondary coop option once they are integrated.

Here we go. It was built over several weekends on the break between semesters. I love my handy hubby!

Starting the coop

Back door for easy cleaningBack access for easy cleaning.

Chip enjoying the sun

putting the posts in

Inside

Painting it redNoah painting it red and his siblings, “helping”.

fencing

Fencing

preparing the run roof

ready for fencingThe open space will be a removable piece to act as a door.

Food and water lid

child sized

Nora

The last wyandotteThe last Wyandotte checking things out.

Complete

Since this picture we’ve integrated the chickens because the chicks got huge seemingly overnight and can fend off the completely docile Rhode Island Reds. They are much happier in here and exploring the rest of the chicken area.


Chicken Livin’

The last I posted about the chickens, we had just built the chicken run. That was back at the end of May. It lasted them for a while, until we got back from our vacation and then Jason set to work on finishing their coop.

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

Coop door

Coop Inside

It took about a month to get to this point. Jason worked weekends, piece by piece. When we first put them in the coop they weren’t yet laying, so he put up a piece of wood to keep them from the nesting boxes. We didn’t want them getting too comfy in there taking it for a bed at night rather than the place to lay eggs. We put linoleum down to help keep it clean in there and so far it has been really easy to manage. It is still chicken poop, but not as horrible to maintain as I had imagined. We were so excited to get the chickens into the coop because it gave them more room and was much easier to feed and water them. Surprisingly, it only took a couple of nights of shooing them into the coop at dusk to get them to do it on their own.

Painting the coop red

Nesting boxes

Nesting boxes

Nesting boxes

Handy helper

Next step was painting it and finishing up the nesting boxes since they had begun to lay eggs. Jason had some helpers that day as we began to let the chickens out to roam more often. They love to scratch and find bugs in the yard. A few days later we rolled some logs around and found a few centipedes and crickets. The chickens went crazy! Noah gave them a worm or a centipede and one would grab it and run while the others tried to snatch it from her and tore it to shreds! Too funny (and gross)!

Eggs

The chickens began to lay when they were just shy of four months. We got one a day at first, and they were lighter in color and then we got two and now we are up to three a day! They are still small eggs for the most part, but we’ve gotten a few very large and some with double yolks. The egg shells are also extremely hard. I’ve read that once they are laying they should be given grit or oyster shells or something to help keep up with their calcium, but they don’t seem to need it. I guess our clay is worth something after all.

Noah scooping

Nora scooping

I didn’t buy eggs this week. I’ve had to buy 3 dozen eggs to last us two weeks for years, but not anymore. I usually buy the humane certified, but now I can certify for myself that they are treated humanely! Well, they do get scooped by the kids and played with by the cats, but I’m thinking that’s healthy. Every four days we have a dozen eggs and that’s plenty for us. I’m so very glad I gave three chickens away! Six eggs a day?? A dozen eggs every two days?? That would have been craziness. At this point we’ll probably still have to give our extended family a dozen or so once in a while, but we might be able to keep up with production.

The reality of having chickens is much different than what I imagined. It took quite some time for Jason to build the coop (it seemed so easy in my mind) and for the chickens to become more than just an annoyance. They still aren’t full grown, but now they are more fun. It’s enjoyable to watch them hunt for bugs and getting eggs is super cool. It was a little freaky at first because sometimes the eggs are still warm when we get them out of the nesting boxes and they aren’t always perfectly egg shaped. They are pretty close, but a couple have been more round or with a bump at the top. The kids enjoy going to say hi to the chickens and getting the eggs. I know it’s something they’ll remember from their childhood. The chickens are good with them because we’ve held (bothered) them from day one. They are pets with the benefit of providing us eggs. It’s more than the cats do around here.

Chickens


Chicken Run

The chickens are pretty much chickens now. They are much softer and prettier than they were a few weeks ago, but still not fully grown. It became evident that their box would not last them much longer and was obvious to me that six was too many. Jason set to making them a small chicken run to help keep the chickens happy until he could build the big coop. Before he did that, I put three of the chickens on the fb yard sale site, free to a good coop.

They went quickly! As soon as they were gone I felt relief. Three is a much more manageable number and they immediately had more room in their box. I’ve learned a few things:

  • Chicks are cute for about a week. Don’t get chickens for their cuteness. It’s like getting pregnant to have a newborn, they DO grow up.
  • I am so glad I didn’t get 12 chickens like I had planned to in the beginning.
  • I love seeing them out in their coop in the yard.
  • Chickens are dumb. Like…really stupid.
  • The eggs better be as good as people say.

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This is their first time out in the run. You could tell they enjoyed it. Lorelei had fun watching them explore the new area.

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These are the new donkeys that live next door. They came over to see if we had any treats.

Cookie DOugh

Cookie dough was very interested in the chickens.

Chickens

Lorelei Cookie Dough and CHickens

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They still stay in the box, but on warm days I bring them out here to hang for a while. Jason is working on the coop, but it will be a few more weekends before it is complete.


A Chick Update

The chicks have grown a lot in the last two weeks. When we got them they were already about a week or two old and just beginning to get their “real” feathers.

Chicks three weeks

They still require the heat lamp, especially at night, but if I’m home and it is 80-something degrees out during the day I’ll turn it off. They are definitely ready for the larger water dish. That’s what it looks like about two seconds after I put fresh, clean water in it!

Perching

We put a long piece of wood in their for them to practice perching. They love it! Jason plans to put a small dowel in soon for better comfort and challenge.

Brown feathers

Everyday it seems they get more of their “real” feathers. Talk about your awkward stage… They aren’t as soft as they were a couple of weeks ago, but they are still fun to hold.

Chicks three weeks

Most of the chicks are getting their feathers, but I think you can tell by this last picture that a couple of the chicks have just begun this ugly stage. We can still mostly tell them apart, but it is extremely apparent that they will need their coop sooner than we thought. They are getting brave and curious about life outside the box. Jason hopes to solidify a plan for the coop this weekend. I will keep you updated!


Bagauk!

We thought about getting chickens a few years ago when we first moved here. we talked about it, I did a ton of research, but we eventually decided against it. They came up again a few weeks ago and the timing felt right. I went to a farm store and looked at the varieties, did a little more research and talked to Jason about it. Surprisingly, he was onboard.

This past weekend we all went and looked at the chicks and brought six home with us. The kids were crazy excited. The chicks are adorable. They have a heat lamp and so far, so good. The kids want to hold them all. the. time (of, course). It’s been fun teaching them to be gentle and naming the chicks. What we have so far is Fatty, Stripes, Mellow, Tiny, Brownie, and Hoppy. I think Fatty might be my favorite. He was the first one to eat out of my hand. I got a few moments to play with them Sunday afternoon all by myself and I can see that they all have their own personality and THEY ARE “SO FLUFFY”! They are going to be a lot of fun.

The chicks came home in a cardboard box. Since we have a cat, Jason made a makeshift lid out of the wire I had left over from a project. He got to work right away making them a crate. I had asked for a slatted crate and removable tray for easy cleaning. Jason, as always, delivered. We grabbed a rabbit pen tray (24inX24in) while at the farm store, so he built it around that. We had a bunch of pallets just waiting to be used, so he broke down a couple of those and by late afternoon the chicks had a new home!

Chicks

Chicks

Chicks

Adorable chick

Crate for chicks

Crate for chicks

Chick