Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicks, Chicks, Chicks...Hooray!

And here we go again.  Peep! Peep!

If I were a hen, you could say I have been "broody" lately. I finally got 4 new little chicks.  I had to stick to the plan and only get 4!  There is something so exciting about the peeping and perkiness of new chicks.  I got them at the Bothell Feed Center (same as last year).  They have so many new chicks and breeds, it was hard to pick.

This time, I decided on trying 4 new breeds: Barred rock (Lolie), Delaware (Della), Buff Orpington (Maggie) and Ameraucana (Stella).  My daugther is really excited about the Ameraucana and is hoping she will lay blue or green eggs (and ham!).

Since, I don't have a garage the chicks are currently in the spare bedroom.  I am hoping to keep them in the house only for three weeks and then move them to the coop with the heated lamp.  Last year, I remember getting lots of dust in the room towards the end (that was the un-fun part!).  So, I am currently working on modifying slightly the coop to make a separation between the current flock and the new one.

One thing I have done different too, is the waterer.  For some reasons, the ones meant for chicks and chicken don't seem to be my favorite.  They get very messy, very quickly and they hold everything BUT water.  This year, I opted for a small rodent 8oz waterer and it is working just great.  Who said that chicken were stupid?  Right away, the new chicks knew what to do with it.

I love new chicks, they are really entertaining...I can spend hours looking at them...Good thing for the red light as I have to take breaks in order not to see everything green!

It surely feels like a deja vu and I am excited to keep going on my chicken adventure.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What I have learned during my 1st year of backyard chicken keeping?

I am coming on to my first year of backyard chicken keeping and I thought this would be a good time to reflect on what I have learned so far.

Number 1: I really adore my "girls", they are fun, curious and beautiful!  I love the charming and peaceful clucking sound, I love that they come and get me out of the house, really they peck at the window when they see me inside. 
Although, many people might refer to chicken as "stupid", I am just not a fan of that harsh word.  To my surprise they are actually a lot smarter than I expected. 
They have definitely brought a lot of joy around my house and both my daughter and husband enjoy having them.  I have even caught my husband several times picking one up and "chatting" with her!  And my daughter loves discovering eggs everyday.

Number 2:  Bigger is definitely better when it comes to the coop.  I really enjoy the fact that I can walk in the coop, specially in the winter.  I am loving it so much that I am in the process of adding an addition (more to come on that).

Number 3: I am not a big fan of the hanging waterer made for poultry.  I started with rabbits waterers which are very handy but not big enough.  I recently made a home made hanging waterer with a 2 gallon bucket and two nipples.  It seems to be working the best for what I was looking for: keeping the water clean and last more than a couple a days.  I could have gone with a 5 gallon but it felt almost too big.

Number 4: Keep the food outside under cover.  Yes, I read it in books but I figured that I would just do it differently just because I could. I find out the hard way that a "resident" mice (or small rat) had moved in with the girls!  Ahhhhhhhh.  Not loving it.  To its defense, it was my fault as I left the coop partially open and it was able to get through the chicken wire very easily.  Which brings me to the number 5.

Number 5: Chicken wire or hardware cloth:  Definitely hardware cloth. Do not cheap out! Plan on using 1/2x1/2 hardware cloth.  I was so focused on making my coop raccoon proof that I forgot about the smaller rodents that can get through tiny holes! Yes, it is amazing how rats and mice can squeeze through holes as little as a dime for mice and a quarter for rat.  Currently I have 1 inch chicken wire covering the entire run with the bottom two feet reinforced with 1/2 x 1/2 hardware cloth.  I am planning on updating it this spring.

Number 6: Research the breeds in order to suit your ultimate goal, whether it is egg production, meat or/and looks.  I personally do it for egg production and entertainment (and manure too).  I think all hens look beautiful. When I went to pick the girls last year, I was debating on how many to start with.  I decided it would be between 3 and 5 and when we arrived at the store they had 4 different breeds so that made it easy, one of each! I guess once I got the girls, I researched their breeds,  their specs etc.  During the winter, only one of them laid eggs regularly (almost every day, I think she took one day off a week) but the other three were on "strike" as my grandmother would say.  The good news is the other three started to lay a couple of weeks ago so the production has improved tremendously.
For round two, I am a bit more prepared, I already took notes on the breeds I would like to add and I am hoping to add an Ameraucana as well to get those funny green/blue eggs.

Number 8: Place the nesting boxes below the lowest roost to ensure the girls sleep on the roost and not in the nesting box.  Currently I have two to three using the nesting boxes as a "bed". 

Here you have it.  The little things I learned through this wonderful experience.  Now I am getting ready to add a few more girls to the flock and I really can't wait to get these little chicks home.