Sunday, January 8, 2017

Catching Up #1

It's time to get started on these catch-up posts.  I'm going to do them by topic, so the first one is going to cover the saga of 'The birds'.  (With apologies to Alfred H.)

This year we added to, and later subtracted from, our chicken flock.  It all started when our one reliably broody hen went broody once again.  We were hoping it would happen and was glad when it did.  We carefully selected the eggs we wanted to her sit on and sit she did!

In the mean time, since she was sitting in a nest box some 18" off the floor of the coop, we set about building a nursery annex to the coop.  We ended up with a "nursery annex" box off the west side of the coop a little more then twice, in each dimension, the size of a nest box.  It could be opened to the coop or blocked off.  It had a separate pop door to an isolated yard space set up for chicks.  We still need to paint it, but we didn't want to paint and then drop the hen in, so we left it unpainted until next spring.
The "Nursery Annex" all ready to go.
When the nursery was done we moved our broody hen there and waited for the chicks to hatch.  18, 19, 20, 21 (OK, so maybe we counted wrong), 22, 23 (Umm - This isn't good), 24, 25.  A little candling action showed no chicks.  Not one.  In any egg.  From any hen.  It seems Ivan Crossbeak the Rooster had worse issues than just a crossbeak. 26, 27, 28.  So what's a flock owner (and a broody, expectant hen) to do?

The answer is, "We did what we could and, by the grace of God, got away with it."  We went to our favorite local farm store and bought 6 chicks.  Then, late in the evening but well before dark, we picked up the hen, pulled out the eggs, put in the chicks and hoped for the best.  Two of the chicks ran straight under the hen.  The other 4 essential mobbed her.  She immediately accepted them all. Whew!!  5 of the 6 survived and we had our replacements for some of our aging hens.
Six little ones: 3 ISA Browns and 3 Rhode Island Reds
Jumping forward to fall, production from our 11 older laying hens had dwindled to two or three eggs a day.  Most of the eggs were coming from the 4 Easter eggers.  The 4 Red Stars were generating a few eggs a weeks, and the 5 Buff Orpingtons were done.  A little internet work and a few phone calls later and we had located a place to process our birds.  We considered doing them ourselves, but decided we weren't going to butcher often enough to invest in the things we needed to do it right.  Ivan went too, and a couple of weeks later we had 10 whole "slow cooker" chickens in the freezer.

Just today, we got eggs from every one of the new additions.  We lost of the one of the Easter eggers to an accident and one to predators, so we now have a flock of seven hens.  We're considering added a few more in the spring.  We're also considering adding a rooster back into the flock.  One of my good friends from the 'day job' has one we could buy now if we decide we want one.

So that's the story on the birds!  All in all, we're in a pretty good place today with our flock.  Once again we blessed.