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Posts Tagged With: chickens

Free-Range Chicks

The story of our free-range baby chick project.  Like most everything else in life, our chick project hasn’t been going quite as planned.  To recap I brought home three Buff Orpington chicks a few weeks ago, not because we needed more laying hens, but because my kids love them so much.

The difference between three chicks as pets and 25 laying birds is that my kiddos loved on those same three birds constantly.  And funny enough, those birds have gotten quite attached to my kids!

Which has lead to the problem of the free-range chicks.

Indoors.

The story of our free-range baby chick project.  We had chicks on our laps during movies, while playing games, and even during school.  And since this is not my idea of a “teacher’s pet,” it was time to move those girls outside!

 Free range baby chicksThey are more attached to Brett and Anna than ever now, since outside is an intimidating place.  I’m watching them through the window as I’m typing and the kids are trying to get a chick to stay in one place (no idea…) and the little bird is having none of it.  She is right there by their feet at all times.

So not as planned, but pretty great anyhow.

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Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Realities of Farm Life

Many people want to do what we do.  A house in the country, taking care of a couple of goats, a flock of chickens, and a Daddy who farms is the dream of many American families.  Getting your own fresh eggs from the backyard seems so ideal.

This is the reality.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Because fresh eggs require live chickens, and live chickens must be feed and watered everyday, in cold, heat, wind and rain.  So then the chickens poop.  Constantly.

On top of that, life happens.  A few weeks ago I noticed the hens were going through a lot of water.  Then I realized why.  Their waterer, which rests on a heated base, was leaking down onto the base and seeping under the layer of straw and poo.  By the time I figured this out I had 9 inches of soggy, wet, manure.

It smelled just like it sounds it would.

The realities of life on a family farm!

First thing was to let the chickens out for recess.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Or that’s what they act like when you open their gate!

Then we shoveled all the manure into the wagon and wheelbarrow and took it down to the garden boxes.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Although nasty smelling and very heavy, sopping wet chicken litter is fantastic garden compost.  You have to plan ahead, however, because chicken litter can also burn plants.  It needs to decompose for a few months– which is perfect because our last frost date.

The realities of life on a family farm!

It took two days, but Brett and I finally hauled all that mess out of the coop and down to the garden.  Since the coop doesn’t have heat I don’t clean it out during the winter, using the process of decomposing to create a layer of heat on the floor.  We haven’t seen the bottom of this mess since last fall!

We’d usually fill the laying boxes and the floor with straw (the stem of a stalk of wheat) but we didn’t have a wheat harvest this year, so we used hay (grass cut in the summer and dried for animals to eat in the winter) the goats had already picked over.  Goats are seriously picky animals and won’t eat hay that’s been on the floor or that they’ve laid on.  Which means we have lots of extra. 😛

The realities of life on a family farm!

The funniest part was hearing those crazy girls after putting down their new hay.  They make So Much Noise!

“Cackle, cackle, cackle, did you see this new flooring?  It adds so much texture to the room, don’t you think?!”

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The Disaster

Last spring I ordered meat chickens, thinking that filling my freezer with delicious, home-grown chicken would be a fulfilling and useful endeavor.

the chicken disaster  {Daddystractor.com}

I was wrong.

We’d planned for a while to get a fridge for the basement for the extra eggs (they can be stored forever) and then the freezer could host the meat chickens when the time came.  Expect the time came long before we actually purchased the fridge, so the huge birds have been eating us out of house and home, literally going through a bag of feed in three days.

But the fridge finally is in place and now all I had to do was butcher 22 roosters.  Brian came home early to help, since wrangling 3 kids and a large knife is not a safe practice.  I am very, very grateful for his help, since he ended up killing more than half of the birds while I plucked.  And plucked.  And plucked.  And plucked.  Until almost midnight.

I did everything you’re supposed to do.  I dipped the birds in hot (not boiling) water to loosen the feathers.  I started with the wing tips since they are the hardest.  I tried not to cry when it got dark and I still had a pile of birds at my feet.

To add to the disaster I will add that I also lost the photos of the event I took for the blog.  That would be more upsetting in and of itself expect that I lost the photos because I’ve lost my fancy DSLR camera.  And even that is put in perspective because I took off my wedding ring to butcher the horrible creatures and it, too, is missing.

I should also clarify that we only butchered 12 of the birds.

Which, I suppose, gives me a second chance at taking photos.

If I find my camera.

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

For the Fun of It

It’s almost like a baby kitten hissing at you.  Or a little lap dog barking like the vicious attack dog he thinks he is. But somehow a mostly-grown bantam rooster learning how to crow is much funnier than any of that.

You can really hear it at the 17 second mark when one of the “regular” roosters and a bantam crow at the same time.  Makes me laugh every time.

The bantams (or banties as we call them around here) were hatched in April, so they’re pretty much the equivalent of teenagers.  They won’t get much bigger but they will likely fill out a bit more and it won’t be long till they begin laying eggs and being grown-up chickens.  They are, however, about half the size of a regular hen.  And everything small is adorable.

bantam chicken on Marshall Farms

Really. cute.

And funny.  Just thought you should know. 😉

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

6 of the Cutest Chicks Ever!

So our project is still working and you’ve got to see these pictures!

So.  Stinking. Adorable!!!

Baby chick with Mama hen

Gives new meaning to “Mom’s Taxi Service.” BTW, this chick does this all the time!!

Baby chicks under a mama hen!

So warm and cozy under here!

Baby chicks under mama hen

Cuddle!

Baby chicks under mama hens

This pic makes me laugh; it’s such a “big” chicken face for such a little girl!

Baby chicks underneath mama hens

The mamas spread out their wings for the babies to huddle under– these two hens have been working together to make one big mama blanket!!

Baby Bantam chick

At two weeks old these banties are still so tiny!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Oh My Goodness, It’s Working!

I’m so excited!  Knock on wood, so far my newest experiment in backyard farming is WORKING!

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should, @daddystractor) you’ll already know we received an unusual-looking package in the mail yesterday containing baby chicks!  When they arrived we took them downstairs to the brooder and settled them all in with drinks of water and some chick feed.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

They come in the mail– how crazy is that!

But then last night I got a little crazy. 😉

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

We use this cattle feeder as a brooder. It works for the first few weeks anyway!

We ordered 40 chicks this time around.  25 are “pan-fry” chickens I plan to raise to feed my family.  The other 15 are assorted bantams, destined to be pets for the kiddos.  I said yes to this idea because if you think baby chicks are adorable, well, you have to see a bantam chick.  They are a third the size of a regular chick.  Need I say more?

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks

They are all so cute, but why is it tiny things are even cuter!!

These bitsy chickens will someday lay tiny eggs, which we don’t really need since my other 28 chickens are laying hens and we currently get almost 2 dozen eggs a day.  So they are basically useless as far as livestock go.  (But again.  So. cute.)

Really they are just here to eat expensive food and take up time and energy.

So I came up with a plan to cut down on the time and energy, if not food.

Two of my laying hens have gone “broody.”  This means they keep setting on eggs, trying to hatch chicks.  Broody hens aren’t great on a farm because they tend to be more likely to peck and they stop laying new eggs in their attempt to hatch the ones they’re sitting on.  Conventional wisdom is to keep a broody hen away from the nesting boxes until she gives up on the idea, OR… get her some chicks to raise!

An experienced mama hen is a pretty amazing animal.  She will sit on her eggs for 21 straight days, getting up just once a day to eat and drink for a few minutes.

However, my hens are not experienced mamas.

Actually… they’re not all that bright either.

I gave a mama hen some eggs to see if she could hatch her own (how fun would that be?!) and she couldn’t keep track of which box was hers.  She’s been sitting on different eggs for almost 4 weeks.

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks!

The nesting boxes are a busy place!

Which makes my plan of putting bantams under these two chickens unreliable at best.

Last night Brett and I slipped the banties under the two hens–you can handle chickens more easily after they’ve gone to bed.  This morning I got up early to be out there just after the sun popped up and both mamas were sitting on 15 very quiet chicks.

I created a separate space for the new families in the part of the coop designed for storage, giving each mama a milk crate and straw nest on the floor.  (The nesting boxes are on the wall and the babies won’t be able to get in and out to get to food or water.)  I was really nervous about having to move everyone so soon after the introductions, but oh my goodness, it’s working!  As soon as they saw the chicks in the new nests both mamas moved right in and took charge of their little broods.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks!

So far, so good! Yay!!

Quick, knock on wood!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Farm Fun Valentines

Its February!  The thing I love most about February is that we’re just that much closer to spring, but Valentine’s Day is right up there. 😉  Just for fun I’ve made a free, farm-themed Valentine’s Day card printable.

Farm Themed Valentines

Click here to download Farm Valentines.

And happy closer to spring!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Strike is Over!

Both parties have been appeased! The strike is finally over!

No, no bus drivers or teachers here on the farm, just some disgruntled chickens. They wanted more daylight. I told them they’d have to take that up with a higher authority. But finally, after months of waiting, the workers are back.

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I think the trouble started when my early spring chicks began to molt in their first year of life. Most chickens molt during their second fall. Well, these ladies didn’t begin molting until after Thanksgiving. Which I told them was a bad decision, but do chickens ever listen?!?!

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At least they have now made a comeback. I’m not getting a lot of eggs at this point but I didn’t expect that in January anyway.

Now the biggest problem is collecting them from the coop before they freeze!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Brrrr!

Right now my phone tells me it’s 7° outside. It’s supposed to be 0° by 8 o’clock tonight, with an final low of -7 by the time the day is done. The irony of having livestock is more extreme the weather the more time you have to spend out in it.

Despite a canceled church service yesterday and no school today I got up early to check on the animals first thing both mornings.

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We have a heated waterer for the dog, cats, goats, and the lamb, but it still has to be checked because in these extreme temperatures not even the automatic heat works every time.

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They also eat a lot more food in extremely cold temperatures!

The back entryway is a mess! The chickens waterers must be brought in and thawed so I can exchange them throughout the day. Lizzie takes her bottle twice a day by the back door, And the rest of it is littered with mud boots, scarves, hats, gloves and old towels to soak up the melted snow.

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It took me 30 minutes this morning and will require another half hour tonight to make sure that all of the animals are fed and watered. But just imagine if instead of a handful of backyard animals you had a whole farm full of livestock that your livelihood depended upon!

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Today in this freezing cold weather many farmers and ranchers will be outside almost all day providing for their livestock. They’ll do this today, tomorrow, and even on Christmas morning!

So thanks to all the farmers who provided my Christmas ham, yams, and eggnog!

And Merry Christmas!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of sheep, goats, and chickens

In the six days I’ve owned a lamb I’ve learned they are only slightly easier than baby chicks to keep alive. The advantage of sheep is they are large enough to avoid predators like opossums or raccoons. Their main disadvantage is that they baa loudly, inviting coyotes for a four county area into the backyard. I’m thinks about setting out a guest book to see who travels farthest.

The new lamb has also reminded me how much the goats have grown! This morning I set out to trim the goats’ hooves. Trimming should be done every three months or so and my calendar kindly reminded me yesterday that this job needed to be done in December. Last time I trimmed Harriet and Fanny’s hooves I held them with my legs and trimmed with both hands.

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As you can see, the much larger animals were not so easy. I had Brian get a few more shots of the process and then he had to help me hold them. Thank goodness, because Fanny’s hooves were pretty pointy, despite the fact that I trimmed them at the beginning of October. A goat in the wild would be climbing rocks and such, wearing down the hoof material, but soft grass just isn’t doing that for these girls! Since feet are vitally important to animals 😉 caring for them should be top priority for goat owners. I think I’ll set my next calendar reminder for February, instead of March!

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By February I imagine Lizzie’s toes will need trimming as well. Thank goodness the chickens will be fine! If only they’d finish molting and get back to laying eggs. Animal ownership– gotta love it!!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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