Chicken Mission

Bella and Buffy

I love the Hogwarts’s four, but the group just cried out for a little more diversity!  Enter Bella. Our new three month old Golden Laced Wyandotte.

Bella is absolutely beautiful!  She’s also about half the size of the original Hogwart’s four.  Believe it or not, this came as a surprise when I got her home.

In my mind, she’s three months old-they’re about three and a half months old… I figured after a short quarantine period, I’d easily be able to introduce her to flock.  I fully expected the whole “pecking order” thing.  I didn’t, however, expect Hermione to freak out and hammer Bella’s head like she was a snake or something.  Lesson learned.  I quickly extracted Bella and she now resides in our recently launched chicken tractor.  At least until she catches up on the chicken growth chart.  But here’s the deal.  She looked so little and lonely in the tractor all by herself.  Not to mention, the Hogwart’s Four kept staring at her in a relatively hostile way.

I felt terrible for her.

Enter Buffy, the Buff Orpington.

This one’s a corker!

She’s two months old and from the same breeder as Bella.  They bonded quickly and now the tractor is a happy little island of chicken cuteness.

Bella is actually Bellatrix LeStrange, the whacked out witch from Harry Potter.  I love the name Bellatrix, but my daughter argued, “Mom, this is a sweet chicken! Not an evil witch chicken.”  I told her she had a point, but what can I say, I like the name Bellatrix, Bellatrix LaStrange?  I think it’s an awesome name for a chicken.  She thought about it and said, “Well, i guess Bellatrix was actually kind of pretty in a really freaky way…”  We were still mid-debate on Bella’s name when we brought our little Buff Orpington home.  I knew immediately what her name had to be.  There could be no other name for this one.  It had to be Buffy the Buff Orpington.  Buffy, named in honor of  that bombshell demon killer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  That’s it! We all agreed.  Buffy and Bella.  Bella and Buffy. Right about this time, my husband walked in and said, “What? Now we have a group of vampire themed chickens?”  No honey, it’s just a happy accident.  Chicken destiny….rock on….

Advertisements
Chicken Mission

New Construction of the Tractor Variety…

I knew from the beginning that I wanted a chicken tractor for my hens.  The coop is awesome, but I feel like they need to be able to stretch their legs, and free-ranging just isn’t a good option for us right now.  I also knew that my chicken endeavors are just that, my chicken endeavors.  The spouse has not been an active participant.  He’s a darn good listener, but he has  granted me lots of space on starting our little flock.

Imagine my amazement when he willingly took on the project of tractor construction!  And finished it!

He even managed to involve the male offspring (girl child wasn’t having it).

Of course, it could be that one of the fellas helped more than the other.

I’m not naming names mind you…I’m just saying…

So this will be our mobile coop-our chicken RV, if you will. We can position the tractor strategically, moving at frequent intervals (1 to 2 days depending on how many occupants), and those little rascals will eat bugs, pull weeds, and fertilize our pitiful, pitiful backyard.  Score!

Chicken Mission

Cedar Shavings…Toxic or Terrific?

Last week, I wrote about my toxic cedar shaving scare with the Hogwarts’ Four.  I wanted to send out a quick addendum to that post.  The Texas A&M folks (and my county extension agent) were lighting fast in getting back with me and here’s their take on cedar shavings:

You are correct that the pine shavings will have better absorption than the cedar.  I don’t know of any research on the subject and have asked around and no one else has either. I have heard the same “rumor” there is concern about the fumes released by cedar shavings being toxic, especially to young chicks in enclosed spaces, causing respiratory issues.  Again I haven’t seen any evidence of this in the literature.  Pine is generally used because it is cheaper.”

So I’m going to go out on a limb with this.  Unless your chickens are babies, or confined in an area with insufficient ventilation, it’s not the end of the world if cedar shavings are utilized.  As for me, they had me at “pine is cheaper.”

Chicken Mission

Learning and thriving…

Chickens are definitely a new learning curve for me.  So naturally, I’ve done what I always do-I read and research extensively, then I point my toes and leap.  And, per the usual, there’s always, always always (!) an early misstep.  The good news is, the chickens are alive and well.  The bad news is, for a few days there, it seemed as though I had inadvertently put their health in jeopardy. The culprit?

The common Red Cedar tree.  You see, they take these trees, and make stuff with them.  One of the many products available made from red cedar are cedar shavings.  These are manufactured and packaged for use with small animals.  I found them at a bargain while readying my chicken coop for the ladies, and thought, this is a great idea.  The cedar will help with the chicken smell (ewww) and should have some anti-bug properties to boot.

Fast forward to Thursday of last week.  I’m bleary eyed, reading an article on the deep litter method before going to bed for the evening. About two thirds of the way through the article ( frankly I was almost asleep) I read the following words “….cedar shavings are toxic to chickens and should never be used.”   Bleepity, bleep, bleep!! I said to myself, and for the next hour and a half, I scoured the internet for more information.

The bottom line as far as my research took me, is that there is no bottom line.  A lot of people are convinced cedar is toxic to chickens (as well as other small animals).  It’s discussed in chicken forums across the web that red cedar’s aromatic properties can actually create respiratory issues for the birds and in fact, can kill them.  I couldn’t find any conclusive (and by that I mean cited, scientific, etc) point of reference that gave me the 411 on cedar’s effects on chickens.  On top of which, there are folks out there who say they’ve used cedar shavings as part of their bedding mix for years and had no problems.

What did I do?  Well, my philosophy is this:  If there’s a chance something might kill your chickens, and you don’t want your chickens to die, then quit doing the thing that might kill them.  So I spent the better part of an incredible, beautiful Saturday morning mucking out a chicken coop.

What did I replace the cedar with?  Well, I know you’ll find it hard to believe, but for every bedding material available and used, there’s someone who’s going to say it’s no good for your chickens.  I found folks who think pine shavings are toxic, and then there are folks who use pine religiously.  Some folks are sold on hay, and some folks say it tends to mold and is a mess to try to compost.  So, I used pine shavings and threw some hay on top  and in the nesting boxes for good measure.  I love these chickens, but I don’t see any backyard chicken death epidemics and people are using these materials left and right.

So today, I reached out to my county extension office and asked them.  The agri-extension representative said,

“I can’t speak with authority about cedar shavings, but will try to find out. I do know that pine shavings and/or rice hulls are the preferred bedding materials for the poultry industry. I believe this is for the absorption value of these materials. I will forward your question to someone in the poultry department at TAMU and see what they say.”

TAMU is Texas A&M University, and as soon as I know, I will let you guys know.

So at least for the time being, the Hogwarts quartet are thriving.  And me? I’m still learning…

Chicken Mission

Hey Chicks, Come out and Play!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I brought the Hogwarts’ four home.  So day one, I donned rubber boots and jetted out to the chicken coop to visit. What can I say? I was excited.  Upon arrival, I called out to them, clucked, cajoled…no chickens.  So I rationalized, hey, maybe they’re sleeping in.  Who knows right?  New place, long drive home, I’ll give them some time.  So I worked around the yard.  I have fire ants in my raised garden beds and I had some eradicating to do anyway.  Basically, I just wanted to give them space.  An hour or so later, back to the coop I went.  No chickens.  I called out to them softly, coaxing, finally decided I’d take a load off and wait them out.  So I opened the door of the coop and had a seat.  Once sitting, this is what I saw.

These ladies were not coming out. Only one of them was even remotely interested.  So I began talking.  I threw out a few leafy greens.  I waited. Finally, Jenny Weasley came through!

I knew I loved that girl! Finally, somebody was going to come out and play.Yo, Jenny what’s up? Hey girl…

Hey Lucy, where did you come from?

Wizard?  I didn’t see you were here too…

Pixie?  Back off a little babe…

Jenny, wait! Where are you going? Don’t go!

Hmmm…maybe we should just give them a little more space…

Chicken Mission

Meet the Flockers

Are four chickens enough to make a “flock”?  I’ll have to google it.  For now, I’m going to use it.  Let’s meet the little flockers!

Jenny Weasley and Minerva McGonagall.  These ladies are 2 month old Black Sex Link pullets.  Jenny (on the left) is bold and inquisitive.  Minerva is on the shy side.  This breed can begin laying as early as four months old!

Here we have Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood.  Hermione (to the rear) is the bolder of the two ladies.  Luna (although nearest the camera in this instance)is by far the most introverted of the four.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call her flightly, but she certainly ducks out quickly if conditions aren’t ideal, and her feathers disarrange easily.  That was random, but it’s like her hair’s messed up.  I think it’s funny. Anyway, these ladies are two month old Plymouth Barred Rock pullets-also reputed to be great layers.  Although they won’t begin laying until they’re around 6 months old. That’s ok, ladies. Pace yourself…

If you’ve noticed a theme with the names, it was purposeful.  My ten-year old just completed the Harry Potter series, and she demanded an active role in assigning identify.  She took one look at Jenny Weasley with her bright red neckline and it was a done deal. It makes for a very unique interpretation of Hogwarts I think.  Hogwarts Henhouse….? Sweet.

 

 

Chicken Mission

Chicken Mission Accomplished!

We are “go”  for chickens!

I’ve been trolling Craigslist for weeks and quickly determined that given how little I know about chickens, buying my first batch of pullets from a state inspected breeder was probably the best route.  Fast forward to Tuesday of this week.  I took off work early and drove 45 minutes to Fowl Weather Farm, a not so distant breeder that seemed to fit the bill. The young proprietress of Fowl Weather Farm was helpful and professional and we ended the day Tuesday with four new friends and Chicken Mission accomplished!

I had intended to buy at least two Dominique (pronounced dominicker)  pullets and was open to the breed of the other two ladies.  I ended up with two Barred Rocks and two Black Sex Links.  Black Sex Links aren’t kinky.  A Black Sex Link is a cross between a Rhode Island Red Rooster and a Barred Rock hen.  You can tell what sex the chicken is by the coloring around its neck, hence the moniker of “sex link”.  And although their name shows a stunning lack of imagination, all should be great laying hens.  The Barred Rocks look just like a Dominique to the untrained eye, but apparently lay slightly larger eggs.  Eggs being the driving force behind this chicken mission, I was  fickle and opted for the Barred Rocks.  I have an egg dependency, you see. I’m not ashamed of it.