Category Archives: Chicks

Welcome Spring

This post is dedicated to my friend and fellow blogger Linda who blogs at Walkin’, Writin’ Wit and Whimsy. Linda, who takes readers along as she walks at various parks in South East Michigan and introduces us to the furry and feathered friends she meets along the way, has been as eager as I have for the arrival of spring. On occasion her posts reference classic songs – oldies but goodies –  leaving me with an ear worm for the day. As we welcome spring, Linda, I thought I’d return the favor.

So let me tell ya ’bout the –

BIRDS

Sunday morning as I walked out the door on my way to open up the chicken coop for the day I was greeted by the song of a robin. It is a sound I have become quite familiar with over the past few years as each spring a robin nests in the maple tree outside our bedroom window. He or she starts singing each morning long before the sun comes up, (sometimes as early as 3:30 a.m.) and long before my husband and I are ready to awaken. If the early bird catches the worm then this is one well fed robin.

In Michigan it is said that robins are a sure sign of spring but the truth is that some robins stay in Michigan throughout the winter. Robins that migrate south for the winter are doing so because of the limited food supply available this time of year, not because of the cold temperatures. During the winter those that stay will eat fruit and berries that are left on the trees/bushes.

As I arrived at the farm to open the chicken coop two robins flew swiftly past me. 🙂

Red winged black birds are also said to be a sign of spring.

 

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I spotted this one as Trooper and I walked the back field yesterday.

Our hens have been enjoying the weather and egg laying has increased – we are now averaging about 12 eggs a day from our 23 hens.

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Spring is also the time of year when baby chicks show up in the farm stores. Each year that I have been blogging I have shown pictures of adorable little chicks that will be raised on our farm. Thus far we have only raised egg layer but this year is a little different. These will not be laying hens.

IMG_4799It’s ok to say “awe, they’re cute” – just don’t get attached because they won’t be with us long. (That note is as much for me as it is for you).

and the BEES
Several days last week temperatures warmed enough for the bees to come out for a cleansing flight. We had just one hive going into winter and were relieved to see that they are still alive. It is not warm enough to open the hive yet and since nothing is in bloom they are still dependent on their winter food stores.

and the FLOWERS

Even more promising than seeing robins were the daffodils that have begun to emerge from their winter sleep.

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Soon we will be seeing their smiling yellow blossoms at various places throughout the farm. 🙂

and the TREES:

We decided not to make maple syrup this year but if  you are interested in how we do that you can check out my posts from previous syrup seasons 2018, 2017 , 2016 and 2016. Based on temperatures that we have had last week and this week I suspect that had we tapped our trees this year we would be cooking syrup this week.

In the past few years it has been my observation that the first trees to bud in our area are the poplar trees. Their flowers, that actually look more like caterpillars, provide resin that is collected by honey bees and used to make propolis.

The maples seem to bud out next and while this triggers the end of the syrup season it is good for the bees as the flowers of the maple trees seem to be their first source of food in the spring.

and the Moon Up Above

Last night my husband mentioned that the moon was close to being full. This morning, before daybreak, the sky was clear and the moon was bright. This year spring is being ushered in by the full moon.

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and a Little Thing Called Mud

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As the snow melts and the ground thaws there is no avoiding it. When you live in the country mud is more than a “little thing”. Water + dirt = MUD. Lots of mud. You learn to deal with it. For us that means wearing a pair of rubber boots and rinsing off our boots and the boys paws with a garden hose before we go into the house.

Over the past 8 years we have learned that starting the year with this kind of moisture in the ground is more of a benefit than a nuisance. By mid June we often find ourselves in a dry spell and are using the pond water to keep our gardens alive.

 

If there is one this that is certain about spring in Michigan it is that the weather is extremely uncertain. Currently our day time temperatures are getting above freezing while the nights drop back below freezing. Today as I look at the 10 day forecast it shows that trend will continue for about the next week. Tomorrow when I look at the forecast that might change. It’s not surprising to have snow storms and freezing temperatures well into April and even May. On the other hand summer weather might show up at anytime and be here to stay. For better or worse the calendar says spring is here.

WELCOME SPRING! (Happy Dance 🙂 )

What is your favorite season?

 

 

 

 

Chickens Come Home To Roost

The idiom “chickens come home to roost”  may be difficult to understand. It is used to relate the fact that actions will always have a consequence and normally applied in a negative way. https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/chickens+come+home+to+roost Making a connection between chickens roosting and consequences to your actions can be quite a stretch. In order to make this connection there is one thing that you need to realize – chickens always come home to roost.

I admit this was one of my fears when we first started raising chickens – how are we going to get all on those chickens in the coop every night? Well it really doesn’t take much training for the chickens to learn that the coop is their nighttime home.  If chicks are raised by a hen then the hens does all of the training. When we raise chicks this is what we do – we introduce the chicks to the coop at the farm once they have feathered out, usually around four to six weeks. We set up a small pen near the coop where the chicks can spend their days.   You can read about that here. At night we can then gather them up to put them in the coop. The young chicks huddle together at night usually in one of the nest boxes. We continue this routine for about 5-7 days or until the chicks learn to get into the coop on their own. After that when darkness falls the chicks will naturally go to the coop each night. It will become their safe space.

Eventually they will outgrow the nest box, and the need to huddle together at night, and will spend their nights sleeping perched on a roost within the coop. Our coop has roosts at various heights and the chickens tend to seek out the higher roosts. It is a chicken’s instinct to roost high up at night.

We have been raising chickens on the farm for five years and it has been our experience that with few exceptions the chickens always come home to roost. Exceptions – every rule seems to have them so let me share the exceptions that we have found for this rule.

Why The Chickens Don’t Come Home To Roost:

Each night we do a head (beak) count to assure that all of the chickens have returned and are safely inside the coop. If any are missing we do a search. Occasionally we have discovered that a hen has fallen prey to a wild predator and we have found either a headless body or a pile of feathers.

On other occasions we have found that one or more hen(s) have gotten into one of our fenced garden areas because someone, either intentionally or (oops) unintentionally, left the gate open. If given enough time they will usually find their way back to the gate and out of the garden, but when darkness is closing in their instinct is to head in the direction of their coop (the gate is in the opposite direction) and they keep running into the fence trying to get home. (You may have heard that chickens are stupid.)

One other thing that we have experienced, that is really only a partial exception, is when the a hen decides that rather go into the coop she would rather roost in one of the trees outside the coop for the night. The reason that this is only a partial exception is that we have never had a hen try to roost in a tree elsewhere on the farm. They first return to the coop area, then fly up onto what ever tree branch they can get to. Possibly because the branches are higher than the roosts inside the coop, they think this is a good option. It is not! Some nighttime predators can climb trees and we have lost a couple of hens when we have allowed them to roost in a tree at night.

There is one other scenario that, although we have not experienced it, I think is worth mentioning. It is a broody hen. A hen may lay several (or even a whole bunch of) eggs in a secluded area and when she thinks the time is right will begin to brood (sit on the eggs). She will not leave the nest at night to return to the coop. I have read stories of hens disappearing and then showing up three weeks later with a bunch of chicks. What a surprise that would be.

Now if you were thinking about raising free range chickens but worried about having to play chicken rodeo every night, do not fear – chickens come home to roost.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Raising Chicks – Stage Three

The chicks, at four weeks old, were quickly out growing their stage two brooder so we began transitioning them to the chicken yard.

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The gradual transition serves several purposes. It allows the older birds to get used to the young ones; it allows the chicks to become familiar with their new environment; and they have the warmth provided by the heat lamp in the stage two brooder while the nights are still cold.

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We set up a temporary enclosure within the chicken yard, near the coop. We use 4 t-posts and about 30 feet of 2 foot tall chicken wire. We also place netting over the top to deter overhead predators.

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The spot offers both shade and sufficient sunshine, at least this time of year before the trees get their leaves. The wooden box provides shelter if they need it and the crate is used to transport the chicks to and fro.

Each day for about a week the chicks were taken out to this play yard to spend their day pecking and scratching and doing what chickens do, and each night they return to their stage two brooder.

After a few days we began letting them out of their enclosure when we were in the area. They love this freedom and it is so funny to watch them run at full (chick) speed with wings flapping or crane their neck and jump to catch a bug in mid air.

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Last week, when the chicks were about 5 weeks old and nicely feathered out, they began spending their nights in the coop.  They have yet to find their way into the coop at night. Instead they find their way to the crate then we put them in the coop. We will begin training them to go in on their own soon.

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We have left the outside enclosure up  for now and make sure the chicks are inside when we are not around. When we are there we allow them to free range, but they have yet to venture far outside the chicken yard.

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Once the buds on the hickory trees become leaves we will take down the enclosure because the leaves in the densely treed area will provide a canopy to help hide the chicks from the view of over head predators.

We really are enjoying raising this batch of Buff Orpington and Black Austrolorp chicks. They are very friendly and I would recommend these breeds for anyone considering raising chickens.

Thnaks for visiting. 🙂

Spring Has Sprung and The Chicks are On The Move

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This was what I saw when I looked out the window in the morning last Sunday, April 15. Ice coated the all of the windows on the East side of the house.

IMG_3901 When I looked out the North window I could see that most of the precipitation that had fallen was in the form of sleet and freezing rain. It felt very discouraging since we should be three weeks into spring by now. Thankfully the power was still on. We had prepared for a power outage by bringing extra firewood inside, making sure that there was oil in the oil lamps, checking flashlight batteries and making sure the freezers were full so that foods would stay frozen longer. When the freezers are only partially full of food I freeze blocks of ice in cardboard milk containers to fill the empty space. When warm weather comes, and we are spending days at the farm, we will use these blocks of ice in a cooler at the farm to keep drinks and food cold. Buying bags of ice everyday can get quite expensive.

My husband also added extra weight to the back of the van, for added traction, in anticipation of driving on icy roads.  We use to buy bags of sand every year to keep in the back of the van during winter driving season. Then last year we began taking a different approach – instead of buying bags of sand, that we really didn’t need, we began using things that we did need. Having several bags of chicken feed or a load of firewood in the back of the van can provide that extra traction just as well as sand bags.

Temperatures warmed slightly throughout the day, so even though it continued to rain the ice on the windows melted. We were fortunate that we were not among the 350,000 in South East Michigan that lost power due to this storm.

The rest of the week seemed to be a slow transition into spring. While daytime temperatures were above freezing most days the winds out of the North kept the chill in the air. It wasn’t until Friday that it felt like Spring had arrived. The day was partly sunny and it was comfortable to go outside with just a hooded sweatshirt rather than a heavy coat.

Saturday’s weather along with the rest of the 10 day forecast confirmed it. Spring has Sprung!!! We began doing the spring happy dance yesterday. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I find that garden and leaf rakes, pruning shears and a wheelbarrow make great dance partners when it comes to the spring happy dance, and popular dance moves involve raking last years leaves from the lawn and flower beds, and pruning dead foliage from perennial plants. My husband made a very bold move yesterday as he stored the snow shovel away for the season. He also discovered the very first dandelion of the year. There was only one but I am sure that in a week or so there will be yellow blossoms everywhere.

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The garlic has been slow to emerge but is now about three inches above ground.

The pond is pretty much as full as it gets. Very little of the beach is not under water.

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At this level it is seeping over the edge in a couple of places. This is a good starting point for spring, as we will use the pond for irrigating crops as needed.

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The chicks have moved to their stage-two brooder. They had begun getting their feathers and had become very curious about the world beyond the stock tank brooder. Flying up to the rim of the stock tank had become a fun adventure for them. Here is their new set up.

IMG_3885After assembling the hutch and putting in straw for bedding we use a zip tie to anchor the heat lamp in place.

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We put in food and water and a roost. Then put the chicks in their new home. They can now see the outside, and they can’t fly out of the brooder.

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We cover the hutch with a large piece of canvass. The canvass keeps water out and warmth in. The chicks regulate their body temperature by move closer or farther from the heat lamp as needed. We lift or lower the sides of the canvass as the weather gets warmer or cooler as well.

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Last night it was warm enough to watch a little chicken TV. As the chicks get the rest of their feathers and the temperatures continue to warm we will be transitioning them to stage three – at the farm. I’ll post about that soon.

In the mean time I hope that, if you too have been waiting on spring, your Spring has Sprung. Thanks for reading and have a beautiful day.

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.