Category Archives: Buff Orpingtons

What I Have Learned About Raising Chickens – Peep, Peep, Peep-Peep

If you walk into the local farm store this time of year you can generally hear them before you see them. Peep, Peep, Peep-peep, peep, peep-peep…………………………………It’s such a precious sound you can’t help but go take a look. If you are not in the market for chicks taking a look might not be a good idea because when you see how cute they are you will certainly want to take one or a dozen home.

Buying chicks from the farm store was actually what my husband planned when he went there on Tuesday. After some debate we decided to replace part of the flock we  lost. Even though the remaining flock is currently giving us between 8 and 12 eggs a day, far more than we need for our own use, most of the hens that remain are between 3 and 5 years old. The main reason we did decide to get more is because for about 6 to 8 weeks during the winter egg production slows down substantially. This past winter we observed that it was primarily our first year layers that were still laying eggs. During that time period they continued to give us enough eggs to meet our needs.  In looking ahead to next winter we decided that getting more chicks now was a good move.

He had to go to two different stores in order to find the breed(s) we wanted.

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Our first choice was Buff Orpingtons. Of the four breeds that we have raised so far these are our favorite. In addition to being a hardy breed, good layers and good foragers, they are docile and friendly.

They can be quite entertaining when we opt for an evening of chicken TV.

We also decided on a second breed that we have never raised before.IMG_3856Black Australorps. This breed is supposed to be much like the Orpington except harder to spell. Just kidding, they supposedly lay more eggs than the Orpington. They certainly are adorable chicks.

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Peep, peep, peep-peep, peep,peep, peep-peep, peep……………………………………

Acting as surrogate parents we got out a galvanized stock tank that works well as a brooder for the first couple of weeks. We used wood shavings for bedding and gave them food and water. I dipped each beak in the water because I was not certain if they had learned to drink yet. We use a heat lamp clamped to the stock tank to keep the chicks warm enough. I also checked each chick’s butt to see if they had poop on it. This is a condition called pasty butt, and if the poop blocks the chicks vent it can cause death. I did find two of the buffs with this condition, so I used a warm wet washcloth to soften the dried poop and remove it.

My husband always likes to make the chicks a little playhouse out of a Silk carton. He cuts a hole in a side so the chicks can go in and out. So far this group seems more fascinated by pecking at it. It’s pretty amazing how much noise those little beaks can make when they are pecking on something hard. It can actually sound like someone knocking on the door. They have started to hop on top of the carton, and I’m sure it won’t be long before the venture inside. It’s surprising how many of them can cuddle up inside that carton.

In about 2 weeks I expect we will see the peepers craning their necks trying to see the world beyond the stock tank. They will also have a lot of their feathers and be discovering their wings. They will be able to get on top of the container that holds their water and attempt to fly out of the brooder. Some might succeed. At this time we will have to move them to what I’ll refer to as our second stage brooder. I don’t have any pictures of this so I will give you an update with pictures when the move occurs.

Things I Have Learned About Raising Chickens – Which Came First?

After starting with the toughest lesson so far, I  am happy to back up to the beginning and on a much lighter note answer the question –

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

This post is not going to be a debate in creation verses evolution nor is it going to be a lesson in biology. The fact is you really should not spend too much time pondering this question at all as it could potentially cause undue stress in your life. Don’t you have enough of that already??? So just forget this question and move on to much more important things unless………………………………………………………………………………………………..

…….you want to enjoy the goodness of fresh eggs from your very own chicken. If this is your desire then you will first need a (female) chicken. Probably the easiest way to do this is to obtain (beg, barter, buy…) pullets or hens. In this case (and this is the way we do it) The Chicken Came First.

Now if you are a contrary type person who likes to experiment or live life on the wild side, you might choose to hatch your own chicks. To do this you will need some form of an incubator and some fertile eggs. We have never hatched eggs in an incubator so you will have to look elsewhere for instruction. If you do indeed successfully hatch your own chicks you may join the ranks of those who can argue that in their case The Egg Came First.

That being said, if you are indeed going to raise chickens in order to produce eggs you will probably want to know a little about how that all works. In our experience hens will not start laying eggs until they are at least 18 weeks old. Even then there are many factors that contribute to egg production including the breed of chicken you have. We have found our Buff Orpingtons to be the earliest layer of the breeds that we have raised, usually beginning to lay between 18 and 20 weeks of age.

Our coop originally had four built in nest boxes available and for the most part the hens  lay their eggs in the nest boxes.  We didn’t have to provide any training for our hens to do this. It seemed to come naturally. The eggs are collected several times a day and clean straw is added daily and as needed. One year we did have a group of hens who decided to lay their eggs in a hidden outdoor location. Fortunately we discovered them and were able to collect them daily. That is when we added two more nest spaces to the coop. While having enough nest boxes seems to be important it does not mean that they will all get used. We often have several hens lined up waiting for one box while two or three other boxes are empty. Go Figure!

If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: the only time it is appropriate to ask the question “Which came first….?” is if you are talking someone who raises chickens. Stop the needless stress! LOL

Next in the series: Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Season On Chicken TV

Chicken TV – has become a spring/summer past time for us. That’s what we call the time we spend sitting in our camp chairs near the chicken coop watching the chickens as they peck and scratch and do what chickens do. It’s usually the last half hour or so before the chickens go in for the night. It really can be quite entertaining especially when they are young.

Our Buff Orpingtons are the friendliest of the four breeds that we have and Honey one of our oldest hens will usually sit on my husbands lap. Last year some of buffs that we raised as chicks would also sit on our laps or climb on our shoulders while we sat and watched the group.

This year we have decided not to get attached to the buffs that we are raising since we intend to butcher them before long. We didn’t hold or pet them even when they were  adorable little balls of fluff.

Saturday evening my husband got out my chair and put it near the chicken coop. He then asked for my camera and told me to sit down. I sat in my chair and before long I had chickens on my lap.

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“Close your eyes,” my husband warned me, “they will peck your eyes.”

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So while I sat there with my eyes closed, my husband snapped pictures and counted as each of the young buffs landed on me.

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Within about two minutes I played roost to all 10 young buffs and had become the star of Chicken TV.

My husband knew this was going to happen because he had the same experience the night before when I was not with him.

I don’t mind one or two chickens sitting on me but this was way too much, so he helped me clear them off and the he went about teaching them to use the ramp to get into the coop.  They were just about there but one just couldn’t resist saying a special good night to him.

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Chicken Fun

We often find our chickens providing us with great entertainment. Sometimes in the evening, before they are all inside, we will even sit down near the coop and watch, what we call, chicken TV.

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This is Honey. She is one of our oldest hens and has always loved my husband. This particular evening she was curious about what he had in his hand.

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She then decided she wanted to sit on his lap. When she pays attention to me she is usually pecking at my ring, my buttons, or my jeans.  Honey has and will always have a special place in our hearts.

This young buff decided my lap was a good place to sit. The Buff Orpingtons are definitely the most friendly breed we have.

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We have a group of Silver Wyandotte’s that like to visit the campsite around dinner time. They like to check out what is on the grill, and despite my warnings that someday that could be them, they keep showing up and begging for food.

IMG_1369They are also interested in what the dogs are eating. If they get too close Trooper will pounce at them to scare them away. He doesn’t hurt them though and they just keep coming back. They have learned that they will often end up with some kind of “treats”.

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Anytime we do landscaping the chickens are sure to show up especially if it involves fresh topsoil. They love to peck and scratch and most of all dust themselves in the newly placed dirt.

Yesterday evening  as my husband and I were filling in this trench at least a dozen hens showed up to add the finishing touches. My husband would shovel the soil into the trench, pack it down, put another layer on top and rake it so it was even with the ground on either side. The chickens would then peck, scratch, and then nestle their little bodies down into the loose soil leaving nest shapes holes in the soil.

While we may not have the prettiest landscaping we do have happy chickens 🙂

Chickens, Chickens and More Chickens

I thought I would do a quick chicken update since when I talk to family or friends I often get asked how the chickens are doing.

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The Barred Rock chicks, otherwise known as “The Six Pack”, made the move to the farm last week.

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They started off in a small penned in area. They loved being on the ground where they could scratch and peck. Some of the older chicks were curious.

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Scout loved being able to watch them. They were only in the penned in area for the first two days. On day three they ran out of the coop in the morning before we could round them up and get them in the pen. They are now free to forage the farm as they please, but they do stick pretty close to the coop.

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Meanwhile the young Buff Orpingtons, A.K.A. “The Gang of Eight”, are doing well. They tend to stick together.

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They are getting bigger.

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And they are very friendly. While sitting in a lawn chair near the coop we often end up with one or two or three of them sitting on our lap or perched on our shoulder. They are a lot of fun.

Sadly we lost one of our old Buffs to a hawk a couple weeks ago. She was from the first batch of chicks we bought. We had her since 2013. Her name was Super Chick. She got her name when she was young because she would stand in front of the gate when it was closed and fly up to the top. The way she flew up reminded me of Superman. She continued to live up to her name as she got older.  When we would leave the gate closed to keep the chickens penned in we would always arrive back at the farm to find Super Chick out of the pen. She usually didn’t stick with the flock, but wandered on her own a lot. When our younger rooster, Autumn, grew up he took a liking to her and he seemed to follow her everywhere. Autumn seems lost without her.

Loosing an occasional chicken to a predator is one of the risks involved in allowing chickens to free range.  However, the rewards of having happy, healthy chickens, reduced feed costs and fabulous eggs, have far outweighed the occasional loss of a hen.

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The rest of the flock are enjoying spring time. The photo above is Autumn with a group of our Silver Laced Wyandotte’s.

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There is lots of scratching and pecking to do this time of year.

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This is Honey. She too is from our first batch of chicks. Honey won a special place in our hearts early on, as she would jump up on my husbands lap, peck at us if she wanted our attention, or squat down in front of us if she wanted to be picked up. Honey is also one of our two hens that have brooded chicks.

Our chickens are allowed to free range during the daylight hours and spend their nights roosting in the coop. As the daylight hours increase so does the amount of time the chickens spend outside. In the dead of winter the coop is opened up around 8 A.M. and closed around 5 P.M., but today they were ready to exit the coop by 7 A.M. and we probably won’t be able to close up the coop until 8:30 P.M. or so.  The chickens naturally return to the coop at night, but some of the young ones are still requiring a little coaching.

This time of year we too are ready to retire to our “coop” when darkness falls, but as the weather warms I am certain we will spend many evening sitting around a campfire long after the chickens have gone to bed.