Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dogs, Chickens, and the vet

Thursday my sister, her husband, and her dog came over.  My brother-in-law wanted to let the dog out.  I knew the chickens were locked up, so I said sure.  The dog made a bee line for the chickens.  I knew the dog couldn't get the chickens, the dog knew, but the chickens had missed the memo.  They reacted as any bird would, jumping into flight.  However, in their enclosed run, they hit the hardware cloth.  I had three bleeding chickens and a sick heart.

I cleaned off the blood with wet q-tips and put the triple antibiotic cream on their wounds.  Two had cut themselves right above the beak at the base of the comb.  Betsy the barred rock wasn't so lucky.  She had chipped the end off of her beak and was bleeding at the top of her beak.  But she seemed OK.  The next evening, her beak started bleeding again after she pecked at some hardboiled egg I had given them. 

I decided to take her to Creekside Animal hospital.  I don't know enough about chickens to know if it was serious or not.  It was Saturday and they were closed Sunday and Monday (for Labor Day).  I packed Betsy up in a Lowes medium sized moving box with bedding in the bottom.  $80 later, I had a chicken with a fixed beak.  We worked out that she must be worth about $18 a pound.

I don't regret taking her to the vet although I do wish I had asked some of my neighbors who had chickens, because I think at least one of them has fixed something like that before. 

On the way there, my little four-year-old prayed that "Betsy wouldn't die and she wouldn't get eaten."  After that, how could we not pay :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nesting box woes

Sunny, my gold sexlink, started laying about a week ago.  Her first egg was in the middle of the run.  Hurray, I thought, I have an egg.  

The second egg was layed in the corner of the coop, by the nesting box.  

I put an empty ice cream bucket in the corner to discourage her from laying there.  She layed in the other, far away corner.  I put the ice cream bucket in that corner.  Then I did some nesting box renovation.  I put a lip across the front of the nesting box and filled it with several inches of pine shavings.  I put a fake wooden egg in it.

The next day, success.  An egg sitting right next to the wooden one.

First egg

I got my first egg about a week ago.  Sunny, a 17-week-old gold sexlink laid her first egg.  She's layed an egg a day for the past week.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Chicken tips

  1. Chicken math is real.  I made my coop small because I only wanted 3 hens.  I also wanted to reduce the footprint in our yard, so my husband wouldn't think the chickens were taking up too much room.  I ended up with 5 chickens.  If they all turn out to be hens, I'll have to rehome some.  
  2. Build more room than you need in your run and coop.  (See #1)
  3. Horizontal nipple waterers are the way to go.  They don't leak.  They help keep the water nice and clean.
  4. When building your coop, aviation snips and a miter saw come in very handy.
  5. Place "rungs" on a ramp about 4" apart, especially if you have young bantams.
  6. more to come...

horizontal chicken nipples - best thing so far

When I went to IFA to get my "replacement" chick (she was to replace a chick that didn't die), I also picked up a chick water with a horizontal nipple.  It was $8, which I thought was a little steep, but I was sick of the chicks throwing their bedding and poop in the regular chick waterer.  This one was completely enclosed, so no bedding, no problems.

The nipple works by the chicken pushing aside the metal button and water drips out into a little catcher.  I had seen the vertical nipples, but I didn't want to have to hang the wateter.

The waterer said to wait until the chicks were 8 days old, so I did.  Then I put it in.  The chicks would have nothing to do with it.  I was worried they would die of dehydration (don't know if this was a valid concern or not), so in the morning and at night, I would put their old waterer back in so they could get a short drink.  Finally, I took one of the chicks, pushed the button and dipped its beak in the water.  After that, they seemed to catch on.  (I also stopped giving them their old waterer. )  I was super happy because now I didn't have to worry about them tipping the waterer over while I was gone and the water stayed nice and clean.

Once my chicks moved out to the coop, I wanted a bigger version of the waterer.   IFA had one, but it was $24.  Ouch.  Instead, I bought five of the nipples on ebay for $12, got a used 3 gallon icing bucket from a bakery ($1), and my husband drilled a few 3/8"  holes.  Now I have a big waterer for their run.  Tomorrow, in it goes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Out to the coop

After a week or so of taking the chicks out to visit the run, it was time for them move out of the garage.  (Yay.)  I moved them out at about six weeks old.  I don't have electricity out there, so I didn't want them to get too cold at night.  The first day, I let them be in the coop and in the run because it was supposed to be very hot.  The next two days were cooler, so I locked them in the coop to get them used to the idea that the coop was where they slept, not the run.

I let them out again, but there was just one problem: the ramp.  I have a fairly steep ramp running up to the coop and the chicks would have nothing to do with it.  My dad tried showing them their food dish, but they had no interest.  I got some of their food and sprinkled it on the "rungs" of the ramp.  They ate the lower stuff, but didn't really get the idea.  The next day, I put scratch on each of the rungs.  The first chicken ate the scratch and eventually figured out she could get up into the coop.  I also added a few new steps so that the rungs are now 4" apart instead of 6".  Now all the chicks, including the bantams can make it up into the coop.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Helping a slow growing chick

Holly, the gold sex-link chick I bought from IFA, seemed to be doing OK, but wasn't growing.  Here's what I did (after consulting the wisdom of

  1. fed her mash three times a day.  I made the mash by mixing warm water with her starter feed.  I just put it in a lid from a peanut butter jar in the brooder for all the chicks to enjoy.  She really liked this.
  2. Fed her a hard boiled egg every other day.  Instead of mash for breakfast, I fed her (and the other chicks) a freshly boiled, mashed hard boiled egg.  I mash the egg with a fork.  I only leave it in the brooder for about half an hour then throw away what they don't eat.  I do it every other day since I had read that feeding chicks too much hard boiled egg can cause diarrhea or constipation.  I had also read that chicks shouldn't be fed hard boiled eggs that had been refrigerated since bacteria can grow. It isn't enough to harm humans, but it can harm chicks. (Don't know if this is true, but I didn't want to take chances.)
  3. Bought a back up chick.  Since the sex-link was the only one I knew for sure was a hen, I went back to IFA and bought a back up golden sex-link chick in case she didn't make it.  I think the other chick helped because she shook up the pecking order (the silkie had been picking on Holly) and she was brown too.  All the other chicks were black and I think it made the golden sex-link stand out.
  4. Bought a food scale from Wal-mart to weigh her.  It was reassuring to be able to tell that she was getting heavier.
  5. Prayed.  This definitely helped me keep a good perspective.
Right now Holly is growing.  She is almost as big as the bantams now. (She was much smaller.)  She is about 2/3 the size of the other sex-link. I'm hoping she grows up to lay many delicious eggs.

Updated (6/5/14): I switched over to fermented feed, which is about the same as mash in my mind.  Holly is only slightly smaller than the other sex-link.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Chicken Breeds

I had a series of posts about what kind of chickens to get.  Here's what I ended up with:

  • Gold Sex Link (2)- I bought a back up one since my original one didn't seem to be growing
  • barred rock - this chick is a character and huge.  Coloring says hen, but attitude says roo, so I'll have to wait and see.
  • silkie - black and fluffy.  a little bit of a bully
  • cochin - black and fluffy.  This one was supposed to be a silkie, but the nice lady at IFA knew nothing about chickens
There's a chance the barred rock and at least one of the bantams will be a rooster, so that will take me down to a manageable number of chickens.  I don't think I'll be able to keep all five.   If I did it over again, I might have just gotten all sex links, I'm having trouble with the "is it going to be a roo" stress.

If you build it, they will come

I've been building my chicken coop.  I started the last week in February and am almost done now, mid April.  I built the Purina chicken coop plan.  I modified it a to be a little smaller 3x4 since that's what my husband was ok with.  

I'm torn at this point if I wish I hadn't made the coop smaller.  I'm not very strong, so I'm not sure I would have been able to handle building the slightly larger coop.  On the other hand, I ended up with 5 chickens, so at least one of them will have to go.  

I strongly recommend having a miter saw and jig saw for building the coop.  It was a million times easier cutting the lumber with the miter saw than trying to use a circular saw and straight edge.

One thing that worked well for me was to attach the legs to the floor, we set the floor on a bench we had then attached the legs.  We were able to get the legs all at the same height that way.

The other thing I learned is that this coop cost a lot more than planned.  It wasn't the wood either.  The screws, nails, hinges, and locks really add up fast.  I ended up using two boxes of roofing nails and three and a half boxes of deck screws.  Plan on it costing about double what you think it should.