Room to breath

Room to breath

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Farm Is Busy Busy Busy

There has been so much going on with the farm it can be hard at times to keep up. This past month we had ordered our new baby chicks for the new additions, we lost a few during shipping but for the most part they did very well. Since we had lost a few I ordered a few more and the new babies are set to arrive this week. I am excited for the new additions! When I started with chickens I had laying hens off the bat. I have had baby chicks, but only ones that I have hatched myself. But the new chickens will include
Jersey Giants
Black Polish
Bringing back White Leghorns
Columbian Wyandotte
I did order some of the same breeds that I already have to add a few hens to my flocks and add pairs for each breed. If I am lucky I can work towards the new coop by the end of the summer. It is basic but separates the birds so I can monitor breeding better. Ultimately I hope to have all boys and girls where they belong, making hating much easier when it comes to breed identification.

Along with the new expecting babies I usually have some in the incubator and they started hatching yesterday. They were a little early, well I should say one was because according to my counter it should have only been day 19. This can happen, if it absorbs completely and I hadn’t checked it before most likely would have not noticed. It’s not a bad thing, as long as they stay in the incubator until they are ready. It was hatched and walking around but I did notice that its sack was not fully absorbed, most likely due to hatching early. But I am leaving it in the brooder o give it some time and hopefully it will absorb as normal and be able to go in the brooder with the rest. The main thing is to not feed them until the sack is absorbed. Doing so will stop the absorption process there for killing the poor baby. Their best chance is in the incubator.

Lots of things to do so many new hatchlings. We are quickly working our way to plenty of almost layer for people’s homes in the spring. My biggest obstacle right now is the weather, its hot, its cold, its warm, then it’s a blizzard, now today its warm and now it’s raining. All I can say is mud mud and more mud. Building on the goat barn will be put on hold because with part of the roof the snow was not the roofs friend. That’s honestly the way that things can go the first few years when your starting up, things break, more things to build, more things to fix. But it keeps me busy, on my toes, and never lazy. More updates and pictures to come of the new hatch!!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

How to select bedding for your coop

 One of the decisions that we have to think of when starting our flock, is what kind of bedding will be the right choice for you. There are many different options from pine chips, straw, leaves, sand, dirt, etc. I honestly feel it depends on how many birds you have, how often you want to clean, and time of the year due to smell. I will go over a few different types I have used, what I have thought, and my advice for you.

Being new to farming, when we started with our coop I used hay. As a city girl that's what I would have associated with bedding for an animal. When we only had the one hen it honestly wasn't that bad and I continued to use hay for a while.... That is till I added more birds. The hay became wet very easily and the smell was almost unbearable at times. I cleaned on a regular basis but keeping up with the smell was the hardest part. So hay in our coop was very short lived. If it is your only option and you only have a few birds you may be able to get away with it, but again I would not personally recommend it.

The next type we tired was pine bedding. I have to say this was not only the most visually appealing especially the first few days after lying it. But the smell and the absorption of previous smell made the coop smell very fresh. BUT.... When it did get wet it was HEAVY.. I actually continued to use the pine for over a year and even was using deep litter method especially with so many birds. But overall the clean-up and the loss of bedding during clean-up is what ultimately made me steer away from it in the coop. I still use it for the baby chicks and in the brooder box, but because the smell would become so bad at times I had to find another avenue that would work better for us. The one benefit that I do have to say from using it was composting, using the pine bedding helps with the carbon ration in your compost pile. So using this method you can weigh your options and how you plan to use the bedding after its removed from the coop.

The next and current option we have chosen is sand.... I have not been using the sand long enough to say how much I fully hate or love using it. But the smell is not as bad as it was before and the poop can be easily raked up. The only concern I have had more so in these colder months is the fact that the sand can dump together or become stuck and so I am not completely sold on sticking to it. I can and will continuously update how we feel about bedding and what I personally recommend for you.

Ultimately the options depend on the size of your flock and how often you are wanting to maintain the bedding. Just keep in mind the importance of keeping the bedding clean and dry for your girls. Disease and parasites can spread quickly and be very harmful to your flock and potentially costly to replace the flock.

Have a suggestion for a future post?? Feel free to ask!!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Web Site

I have not posted any new post the past week and i do apologize but i have been working on the website to go along with this site. Any questions posts or comments feel free to ask!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When i started with chickens

When I first ventured into the world of chickens the most I knew was they were used for meat and eggs.. Basic... I knew the obvious that there would be different breeds just like other animals, but words like bantams, cockerels, pullets. All of these things were new and I did not know beak to tail feather about them. But like with anything else I do I researched as much as I could and learned more as time went on and wanted to go over some of the breeds that I have.

The breed that was on the property when we first moved here was a Black Australorp. It is unfortunate that I honestly do not have this breed anymore but she was a pretty one. All black with a greenish tint to her feathers, and a extremely dependable layer. But having just one chicken with such a big coop, I had to fix that so I ventured to find more chickens.

I searched online trying to find chickens wasn't even sure how much they would be. But I found around 15 from some people looking to get rid of theirs. I then had
Black stars
Red stars
Road island reds
Barred rock
And the white leghorn

I was luck to find someone looking to re home a road island red rooster and then I finally had my flock. The barred rocks I have to say have been the most skid dish out of the group I had. They are very dependable egg layers, all of them I have to say were laying daily. It was not long before I was over flowing with eggs with no clue what to do with all of them. They all worked well together as a flock and the only complaint I think I had at that point was that white leghorn can for the most part fly. They do not stay contained well and I would find them stuck outside of the coop from time to time.

I have to say I learned a lot in the short span of having them. I never knew the vent was for everything.... Everything exiting them... Not the best method in my opinion but a chicken is a chicken. Having them after time made my love and passion for them grow. So as any newer person to chickens I did the inevitable ... I hatched my own lol. It was fun and exciting all at the same time, mixed in with a little discouragement because hatching is not the easiest thing in the world with no experience and cliff notes from the internet. I do cover incubating in another blog on here. But in the end I hatched two more roosters and three of four more hens. I was ecstatic!!! We used the brooder box in the house (not a good idea btw makes a mess and can get stinky) then moved them to a transition coop we built in the roost. It is all framed out and lined with chicken wire so everyone can see everyone.

I had brought my new birds out to the coop and placed them sin the transition coop until I felt they were big enough to mix. Then came the disaster. My moms dog broke out of her pin and found the coop and killed every single chicken I had except for two barred rocks..... And the ones protected by the transition coop I had built... I was crushed. I did have some in the incubator but hadn't mastered my technique to feel okay with the few chickens I had left. It changed the dynamic of my flock by far and now I had three rooster to 6 hens. Not a good ratio btw. But I gave them plenty of room and worked overtime on the incubator and kept my fingers crossed..... Wouldn't know know they all hatched... I had the incubator full I might of even had my second one at that point and my lunch hatched around 80 babies last spring. I was able to replenish my flock traded the overage of roosters.... Downsized the overages on the hens... Now the breeds I had at that point were
Barred rock
Black star
Road island red

And my own mix the tetra tint. When I had the original flock I had my white leghorn hens and my road island red rooster. When you mix the breed you end up with a tetra tint. Now a lot of times mixing is mixing you now have a barn yard mix. But what I love about the tetras is you have the dependability of the egg laying from the white leg horn but now you also have a meatier bird from the mix wight the road island red. Beautiful combination with white chicks with either or both red highlights in feathers or black spots ( kinda like a Dalmatian ) beautiful hens I have to say.

Overall I have fallen in love with all the different breeds that I have and have made plans to add more or have added to the flock over the past few months.
Buff orphington
Silver laced Wyandotte
Black polish
And hopefully bringing back my white leghorns for those wonderful white eggs.
I also hope to expand our farm and the blog to also cover Guinea fowl and turkey's!!! It's an amazing experience going back in time it can feel at times and learning to appreciate all of the simpler things in life. I LOVE my chickens and think to some have already establish the chicken lady. Not the most appealing title but you know what... you are what you enjoy!! H

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Incubating eggs

The most obvious when deciding if you want to try to hatch your own eggs is your rooster. And ask yourself a few questions. You need to make sure your rooster to hen ratio is good so most if not all the eggs you collect will be fetal. I prefer to keep at least a 6-1 ratio for hens to roosters. But do keep in mind to watch the roosters and make sure they are not beating up your lovely girls.

The eggs when you decide to collect you can collect for up to 10 days. DO NOT collect one day and put them in the incubator and keep adding more each day. Your hatch will not only fail but not turn out so well. Wait and collect all of them for no more than 10 days then you can set them to hatch. Everyone has there own way of hatching and guidelines they prefer for you to follow. But what I will go over is my preferred process and what I have learned from my personal experiencing to help hatch healthy happy chickens.

I pick a day about 10 days before I am going to set my eggs. The day before I am going to set them I like to put my incubators on at 99.9 degrees for a test run for 24 hours and make sure they are maintaining the right temperature for the eggs. This was probably the biggest thing I have learned with hatching. The first few hatches I did read about the temperature, but I was so anxious to get them going I skipped this first step and fail quite a few times. You may still have them hatch if you do not do this but the success rate of the hatch will be lower. But making sure your incubator is maintaining that 99.9 then you know they are ready for your eggs.

The next thing for you to consider is the humidity. This is another things to keep an eye on and I do recommend using a hydrometer to make sure the humidity does not raise before it's supposed to. The first 18 days the humidity does not need to exceed around 50% you do want some humidity but to much will drown the babies before they even have a chance. So using something to maintain this or at least keep track of it will most defiantly help in the long run. The last few days of the hatch around day 18 you want to raise the humidity in your incubators to 80% and can do it a few different ways depending on the type of incubator that you have. Some have the bottom sectioned for more or less water to help raise and drop the humidity. Some come already with the sponges to help. What I have found useful for mine since my incubators are basic still airs.The last few days for mine I use a kitchen sponge and a very shallow dish. I fill the dish with water and place the sponge in the container that it fits perfectly in. I had a lot of trial and error with this because if chick finds the dish they will go in it and if there is any space between the sponge and the container the babies can drown.  The first time it happened to me I was devastated. But just like everything else in life it was all trial and error.  Issues related to poor incubation are
  • Crook neck
  • Deformed toes
  • Late hatch
  • Eggs that fail to hatch
  • As well as many others

The next things that you want to look at with incubating is turning. The eggs need to be turned a minimum of 3 times a day. This is to help make sure the embryo in the egg does not become stuck to the wall of the shell making it harder for the baby chicks to hatch. This can cause a few different problems
  • Failure to hatch
  • Early death in egg
  • Crook neck
  • Spraddle leg

For me personally I set a alarm and make sure I rotate around 4 times a day until day 18. When you go to flip the eggs try to do it as quick as possible without harming the eggs. But the longer you leave in incubator open the lower the temperature will drop. The more inconsistent the temperature are the more possible health issues you could have with your hatch. Some people try to skip this step all together by investing in automatic egg turners or even home make incubators I have seen knobs or pulleys that help swivel the shelf to help rotate the position of the eggs.  Keep in mind if you are using a egg turner the egg should be placed large bottom up to ensure the air pocket sets correctly to help for an easy hatch. If you are not and are in fact turning the eggs yourself you want to make sure you mark the eggs on one side. You can use X,O,A,B,C what ever shape or letter you choose but it will help when you are turning to make sure you were able to turn each egg. You want to continue your turning schedule until day 18. Once you reach day 18 I call it lock down. You want to make sure you have everything done and won't have to touch the eggs again until they hatch.

Candling the eggs is another point to cover because I made my mistakes with this one as well. It is very anticipating especially the first time hatching. You just want to see if they are growing. Trust me I couldn't stop checking them and that is where I went wrong. I would take a second more than I should have when it came time to turn them and I was fascinated. Honestly being a women who had a kid and all I wanted was to see my daughter growing. This is Mother Nature at its best and it is very hard to not be curious every step of the way. With saying this I have created my own system of checking to try to not disturb the babies as much as possible. You can see growth as early as 4 days, but I honestly recommend only checking them 2 times within your 21 days. The first time I check them is at 14 days, what I look for is dead or undeveloped eggs, and one of the big signs of death is a solid red ring and no veins, that is a definite indications of death inside the egg. I can go over some of these points a little more in later posts. But one of the reasons for checking is because YES a bad egg can explode in the incubator. So day 14 check all the eggs, look for

  1. Movement
  2. Good air sacks
  3. And good veins

The second time I check them is right before lock down. I look to see that all the eggs are developing the same, again looking for those things listed above, and making sure I do not leave any dead eggs in the incubator before hatch day. I can also post some examples and pictures of all of the above during my next incubation.

This is now also around day 18-20 to set up the brooder box and lamp for your babies to be and make sure the box has had time to warm up before hatch day!!

The last thing to cover is the day of the hatch. Just with like all of the above, playing Mother Nature can be tricky at times. The eggs need to stay at 80% humidity preferable until they have hatched. In the beginning I did not realize how much a drop the incubator takes every time you open it. What I noticed is after it had been opened, pipped baby chicks can dry out inside the egg from the lack of the humidity and completely fail to hatch. I have had hatches take up to two days and have had to open it to takes out some of the babies but you want to try to keep it to a minimum. Once a baby chick has hatched and rested and dried it can become a nuisance to the other hatching chicks and can possibly knock around the eggs to the point of hindering the other hatches. My rule is I wait until I have at least 6 to pull out leaving at least 2 that are wet in the incubator before I pull any of them out. And this is for two reasons.

  1. Leaving a hatched chick inside the incubator can help promote the others to hatch. The ones outside the eggs will peep to the ones inside the eggs encouraging them to hatch.
  2. Leaving some inside the incubator helps raise the humidity back up after it has been opened. I'm not 100% on the science of why but after dozens of hatches it's a general observation.
(This photo was before I changed my sponge containers)

Another note to cover with hatching day is helping them hatch. This is something I have tried but honestly you can do more harm than good with this one. The hatching process itself is a big step into the world for a baby chick. They push and push with there legs till they finally hatch, there for the more you help the less work they do the weaker possible chicken you are now hatching. Sometimes there are just reasons they don't hatch. I have been here I have had the one that sat for so long and I tried to help and once it finally hatched I realized something was wrong with it. Not to mention you can hurt there ability to walk by helping and in the end they end up dying anyways. So my advice is let them do as much as possible with as little human intervention as possible. The same with eggs that have started to dry out, helping can effect them in bad ways, so if anything try to raise the humidity and give it time and hope for the best.

Over all it can be very rewarding and exciting hatching your very own baby chicks. To have a hands on experience and see everything from start to finish is an amazing thing to see. If you have any other questions about this topic feel free to ask!! Happy Hatching!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Feeding my layers

   I have tried a few different things when figuring out how I want to feed my birds. I did a lot of research about food and what chickens can and can not eat. Some thing I didn't even know were bad for chickens like
  • Potato
  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Citrus
  • Onions
  • Dry Beans
  • Dry rice
       Those are just to name a few. But aside from learning what not to give them they can really benefit from your kitchens left overs. Any time we have fruits or vegies that we didn't eat or maybe some bread or crackers that have gone stale in out kitchen. But do hold caution, if it is rotting and you wouldn't eat it... don't feed it to them. Another point to cover is if you are eating your eggs, there are a few things that if they eat it, the eggs will taste like it. For instance
    • Garlic 
    • Spicy Foods
    • Broccoli
    • Asparagus
      Food with very strong potent tastes can be transferred to the eggs. So keep that in mind while considering feeding them your scraps.

       When I first started feeding my chicken (because in the beginning the property had one chicken that was left from previous owners) I just fed her what they did. But as I started looking up chickens to enlighten myself a little I found so much information about what people recommended. In the end I started off with a nice layer crumble feed, and at first that's all I fed her. Then I got more birds and did more research and at first just kept feeding them the scraps from my house and there feed. Now for some people that is enough. But for me I wanted to look into more ways to benefit them and to in the end have the best quality eggs possible, not only for the nutrition of the egg but for me if I decided to hatch eggs maybe have healthier chickens.

       The first thing I decided to add was fodder. Which I will say looks a lot easier than it can be. Again with this online there are so many different ways people do there fodder. From a system to a simple set up. It has been a good addition to my feed and gives more weight to the fresh grain I buy from the mill. And over all they receive more nutrition from the sprouted grain than not sprouted. But I wouldn't not recommend doing it in the hot summer unless you are set up right for it. I learned the hard way and fought bugs tooth and nail. But if you can figure it out it helps out with food costs and can stretch a very tight budget. I do recommend putting apple cider vinegar just a little in the water to help fight of bacteria especially in the warmer months.

        These past few months I have changed my feed a little more and have been experimenting with it. You can find various recopies online for home made feed, but something that I have found is not all of the things listed are always available at ,my mill and ordering online can be very costly. That is one of the reasons I have stayed more towards premade feeds, but I am not apposed to not only saving more money but also trying something new. I will be considering adding and changing things in my feed but what I am mixing now is
    • Barley
    • Sunflower Seeds
    • Oyster Shells
    • Oats
    • Corn (for the colder months)
    • I add Soy from time to time
    I have looked into other things to add like
    • Bran
    • Alfalfa
    • Dried Fruit
    But I can hope to post my final mix with the portions I have decided on. The corn I only add in the winter to help my hens stay warm. Corn to them can be nothing but added calories which they do not need in the summer time.

    Between free ranging to the  different things I have decided to feed my girls, I feel they are extremely healthy. I do recommend if you do make your own feed to factor in minerals they may not get while free ranging. But overall the better they eat the better you eat. Another factor to think of is if you are not free ranging and your hens are in a confined coop, consider adding in grit into your feed. Chickens that free range will naturally pick up rocks but if kept in closed spaces you need to compensate for that. The best way to tell how your hens are doing is by the eggs, I mean you can have other physical signs but internal health you look at the eggs. If the egg shells are breaking easy they are lacking calcium. Along with lots of other things you can discover which I can cover in a later post.

      Have any questions?? feel free to comment, post and ask. New posts regularly!!

    Getting into chickens

       When you first think about getting chickens there are a few things we should always make sure before we venture into it. Trust me I know I have gone into the supply store and seen the baby chicks and they are just to cute to pass up they really are. But being a person who has been there and don't that with a few of my unexpected additions it is a plan for headache. Make sure you think about it and where they are going to go on your property especially if you live in a residential area. The last thing you want is to go door to door looking for chickens. I was fortunate enough with my chickens to have a some what started coop and a run that over time I have expanded and built on to.

       When the chicks are little that have very simple needs.

    • Food
    • Water
    • Heat
    • Safe place
    • And some tlc if you want to handle them when they are bigger

    I personally prefer my boxes that we built. Solid bottom and sides and a wood top we made with chicken wire in the center for ventilation. I also use pine chips for the bedding; Now you don't have to use pine chips but for me I find it to be the cleanest. You can use straw, sand, pine chips, news paper what ever works for you. I do use news paper when hatching but when you buy them from the store you don't have to because they normally put the baby birds in pine chips already so they are used to it. Just keep in mind because not everywhere will it tell you this but baby chicks will make a mess...not only of the box they are in but they kick up dust so if you plan to keep them in the house it will be messy and dusty.

      Keeping you baby chickens clean is also very important for good heal of your babies. Inspect them on a regular basis and look for things that may seem not so right. For example baby chicks and there fluffy little feathers can get pasty butt where the poop can build up on the little ones back end and block it's vent. Now if you have done your reasearch you will know a chicken has one place where everything comes from the waste and the egg both come from the vent. But with pasty butt the poop will dry and harder making it impossible for the chick to go to the bathroom resulting in death. Now sometimes baby chicks just pass away, it can happen but the best way to keep a all of your baby chicks is make sure you maintain there area. Clean food and water is also necessary on a daily basis, the chicks can and will make a mess of both so take the time to throughly clean the containers with a bottle brush and soap to prevent any illnesses.

       Now the next question is what to feed these little guys? This is one thing that I feel is very important because without the right nutrition they will not grow to there full potential, you can not feed a baby chick layer feed. Layer feed has calcium for laying birds and baby chicks do not need the calcium until they are at least 4-5 months old. The over load of calcium will kill the baby chicks because there bodies have no way to untilize the calcium. The first few weeks they need to be on a starter grower feed that is portioned just for them and high in protein. After the first few week on a starter grower you feed them the grower finisher which is a little different than the starter grower but better for them at the juveniles stage, they are not babies anymore but not layers yet. Once they are about 4-5 months old you can start to introduce the layer feed. I personally especially if at this point I may be able to integrate them with an existing flock I mix the feed for the first month. I will do half grower finisher and half layer and as the weeks go by I use less and less finisher until they are on the layer 100%. You can decide to do your layer feed one of two ways. You can buy layer feed from the feed store or mill in your area, or you can mix your own. I like knowing what goes into my birds and like the thought of fresh grain so the diet for my birds I have changed and modified over the past year. I also choose to grow fodder for my hens. It is not a necessity but I like giving my birds a wide variety. I am very stern for baby birds but the older hens I have to say are spoiled.

      Ultimately how you want to raise your babies can go one of many ways. Weather you have ordered them for food and only plan to raise once they reach weight. Or you want to add eggs and meat to your farm with a variety of meat and egg laying birds. To getting fancy fathered, top hat, entertainment birds to give your family hours of fun and enjoyment. I love my birds and have found so much joy in raising them. If anyone has any questions or topics they have questions about feel free to ask.

    Happy Laying!!

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    Caring for chickens

    When we first moved the our property it had one chicken. I myself had seen chickens before but never held one or eaten a farm fresh egg. But I will say having the one intrigued me. The area that had been set up for her was okay to say the least. The run was large the coop was put together well, I mean for me not knowing anything I thought it was extremely interesting. It was set up with eight nesting boxes, a ladder for a roost, broken water heater needless to say I had my work cut out for me. I couldn't help myself though I went online and found about 15 more hens that needed a home then came the rooster. Did I mention raising chickens can become addicting? I loved my new birds extended what they had from the existing coop and built them a real roost. Took the old cookie cutter nesting boxes and framed them out. They had so much room and I had very happy hens.

      The biggest things with getting any animal that you haven't had before is the research. I did soooo much research about chickens and there health. I was almost a chicken textbook by the time I was done. I went from learning to care for hens, cleaning, health,to incubating, hatching, raising, sexing, more learning. I am now hatching well over 100 since last spring. I plan to go over everything I have learned with my perspective and what I experienced. There is so much information out there and so many different ways people want to do things I still change things from time to time just to see if something works better.

    My hens I allow to free range. I have the room so for me it is not a problem. I like the fact they have access to insects and I feel having them roam cam be good for my property. If you have them in a smaller area they can tear threw the ground very quickly. My run for instance does not have any grass, the run is the first thing the girls pick threw, but with having so much room my yard has not had any major damage. I have there roost room set up as well as the transition cage we built. I like to allow new birds a place to stay safe but still can see all of the other birds. Since I free range it also helps with training them that this coop is there home so when I do let them out they come back. My nesting boxes are set up with plastic tubs with a bar in front for support and use hay for the nest bedding. For me this has worked great and I have had very clean eggs. I was using pine shaving before for the floor but I have to say when it is time to clean my large coop it was a big job. So I recently changed to sand. I find it works so much better and it can be easier to clean. The best way to keep a healthy flock is to keep a clean area for them. In my opinion free ranging helps, they are not cooped up all day to make such a mess in the hen house. If you do have a smaller flock I would recommend a movable tractor coop just to help give them a clean area every few days when you move it.

      Chickens can be such a rewarding addition to your family. Not only for the adults but for the kids as well. Letting the kids learn the simple ways life used to be, where our food actually comes from. The way things are now the thought of where is lost. Honestly anything you buy in the store do you really know what's in it? Do you know what the animal ate? Raising your own you do. I know that when I set my kids down for a meal what they are eating and for a mother it's very comforting. So do some reasearch or read my blogs and I can go over some simple steps to owning your own flock!