The Americaunas are 19 weeks old and one of the pullets showed to be a cockerel early on. In the past couple of weeks, he has gotten both quite randy and aggressive toward the young chicks, perhaps killing and inflicting pecking damage to a couple of them. A few weeks ago, I posted about building a new coop here, but we didn’t fully enclose it, so this week I made it my goal to make it secure enough for adult birds that are due for freezer camp come fall. With a 10 foot roll of hardware cloth and 30 some feet of metal poultry net, a few old rotting cedar posts to hold the poultry net to the ground, a couple of metal handles and a length of chain with an S hook and it was ready to go. I still needed perches and since it is A-framed and has poultry net stapled up to and over the tops of the nailers, that was a dilemma, but then I remembered an old hand made ladder of 13 foot long locust posts and nailed on slats. The ladder was too rickety to use, not pretty enough to display and so it was cut in half and the halves leaned against opposite walls to provide the perches. A fruit crate reconfigured as a nest box and away we go.
First move on the agenda was to capture Midnight and put him in isolation for a bit. He was surprisingly easy to capture with a close mesh fishing net on a long pole. He was not happy with me, but he soon had 144 square feet of space to himself.
Next move might have been a bit cruel, but of the 24 eggs that were being brooded last week by 3 hens we had only 11 hatch because of the two older hens abandoning their nests before full hatch to try to “adopt” the ones that hatched first under the younger hen. We then lost a couple from the chicken tractor, a couple injured and moved to the brooder in the garage, leaving 3 hens trying to sit on 7 chicks in one nesting box each night. At dark last night, those two older hens were removed from the nest, leaving the 7 chicks to the younger hen who hatched most of them and she settled right in to sit on all of them. The two older hens who are to be culls were put in with Midnight.
In a few weeks, they should begin laying again, I hope.
Momma is doing great with her brood, but really doesn’t seem to want to bring them outside of the chicken tractor and into the yard.
The two in the brooder are healing nicely, but may never be able to be reintroduced to the hen as one has a scab on his back that may take weeks to fully heal, so they may just stay in the brooder until they are fully feathered and can be introduced to the flock.
They are adorable and granddaughter is enthralled by them. The Brinsea brooder table will be here Wednesday and they will have that as a heat source instead of the heat-lamp.
Two nights ago, another hen flattened herself into a nesting box at bed time. I moved her and took the eggs, but last night she was there again, so we put 10 marked eggs from yesterday and the day before under her to start yet another brood of chicks. By the time they hatch, the littles will be feathered and will move to the coop, the mature hens except for the two younger hens that raised chicks this year, will be moved to the cull coop with Midnight and the two old ladies, the hen and her chicks will occupy the chicken tractor. As this summer’s chicks develop and we can tell who is a pullet and who is a cockerel, the cockerels will also be moved to the cull coop. By the end of the summer, the coop will contain the three Americauna pullets who should begin to lay by mid July, the two younger hens who raised good families this summer and 5 of this summer’s pullets along with Romeo (who needs his spurs trimmed again). That will be my over winter flock of layers and their beau.
The chicken tractor is too heavy for me to move alone and it lacks wheels, so I am going to buy two sheets of exterior grade plywood, a sheet of floor vinyl and some pavers and it is going to be leveled and set on a solid base to become a permanent brooder coop for next summer’s chicks whether hen raised or brooder raised.
I’m not sure about this outdoor chick raising. I thought it would be easier, but the abandonment, the predator loss and chick death is almost more stressful than buying day olds and brooding them in the garage for 5 or 6 weeks. I may rethink having a rooster and return to brooding replacement layers and meat chicks in the garage.
Today is almost 20 degrees cooler than the past couple of weeks and it is finally dry. A walk through the garden shows that the rain has engulfed the garden in weeds again. I should be out there weeding again, but I think I’ll just pick peas and berries and wait for another day.