Tag Archives: brooding

The Shake Up

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.


Cha, cha, changes

I gave up on trying to break the broody hen and instead set her on a clutch of eggs.  Out of my flock of 10 laying hens, one is raising chicks, now 2 1/2 weeks old and very adventurous.  When I toss scratch in the hens’ run, scurrying through the fence to see if they can have some too.


The littles are developing feathers and beginning to stretch out in size.  This afternoon I caught Mom teaching them to dust bathe.  It was amusing watching them imitate her as she rolled in the dusty edge of their run.


Three are sitting clutches of eggs.  We started out the week with 28 eggs total under them, but somehow they broke three and lost one, so there are 24 incubating.  The first hen started on May 30, the last on June 3, so we will soon be overrun with little fluffy chicks running around the pens.  This is severely impacting the egg production.  The coop and chicken tractor will suddenly be way too small to accommodate that many chooks, even for the 16 to 20 weeks until they are large enough to sort, cull, and butcher for the freezer.  In that end, Son #1 is headed here tonight to work with a plan he drew up to utilize the reclaimed wood from the compost bins, extra roofing from building the house and a couple of rolls of hardware cloth to build a simple cull coop in which to house them.  The plan will be a coop about 90+ square feet with a couple of low nesting boxes for raising babies or for egg laying by the more mature hens that are being culled.


I love that we are going to be able to use this old lumber, saved from an old farmhouse that was torn down and repurposed as the compost bins and now to be repurposed as the frame for the coop.  In preparation of these efforts and due to the tall grass outside the gardens and coops, I moved the new compost bin to a spot adjoining the garden and mowed the nearly knee high grass.  All of that was done before morning chicken chores were accomplished so as not to upset the chooks too much with mowing right around them.


The hardware to make the assembly possible was purchased today, tomorrow, we will assess where this new coop will be placed and construction will commence.  If we get it done, the sitting hens will be shifted to the new coop prior to hatching and will be contained within it until their chicks are large enough for the sort and cull.  The hens who are being good Moms are being doubled banded so that we know which ones brooded this year and decisions can be made about which of the mature hens will be saved over for another year and which will be replaced with new pullets.  Next year, Romeo will likely be replaced with another Rooster to keep some variation in the gene pool.

The egg production is down, but the potential meat for the freezer is up.  I will keep you on the farm to see how many little yellow fluffy butts will be running around in the next few weeks.

Love our life on the mountain farm.

Autumn Surprises

Today started sunny and at mid day, it is in the mid 60s.  A great day in the mountains.  We started out early to vote, hoping we will get someone in office who will help fight the Fracking Pipelines and came home for Mountaingdad to get in one of what he knows to be last rides on the BBH before it gets garaged for the winter.  It was a good day to work on more of garden close down and to get the garlic planted.

The bed that had contained the peppers and tomatillos hasn’t been used before for garlic, so it was raked to remove the fallen, rotting tomatillos and the stray pepper or two that didn’t get thrown to the chickens or brought into the house.  The bed was weeded with my awesome garden tool, smoothed and furrows dragged through the surface.  The bed was planted with 74 cloves of garlic.  I don’t know if I waited too long last summer to harvest, didn’t wait long enough curing time, but we have a lot of cloves that desiccated in their skins, as much as half a head.  If this year’s crop isn’t better, I will start over with new seed garlic next year instead of using cloves from what was harvested.

planted and mulched
covered to keep the chickens from digging it up again
While out there and after a couple more nights of freezing temperatures, I found more winter squash.  Most of these will go to the chickens, but there were several Burgess Buttercup and they are so delicious they will be kept. One was pared and cubed last night, roasted with Italian sausage, red onion,a green Ancho pepper, some whole garlic cloves and a few pieces of broccoli.  A meal in a pan and it was great.


Several small pumpkins were tossed to the chooks.  After finding Broody girl #2 on the nest again yesterday, but not having the heart to dip her hindparts in cold water, I just isolated her in the meat chicken pen for the day and left her there until dark. Once it was dark, I moved her back in the coop on a perch.  She nested herself once today but stayed outside after I removed her from the two eggs she had parked on.  Another one of the girls is molting.  The run and coop look “feathered” and the egg production is down to a maximum of 6 a day out of 12 hens.  Hopefully things will settle back into production soon.

Today I decided to start making my own whole grain chicken feed instead of buying the very unappetizing pellets.  I am finding that the chooks aren’t eating all of the pellets I put out for them and it is such a waste.  They never waste the 5 grain scratch which is a good start on home mixed food.  Add some flaxseed, sesame seed, oats, kamut, lentils, kelp and brewer’s yeast and you have a mix that is high enough protein for the layers, they like it, and it doesn’t turn to mush if it gets damp.  They don’t eat quite as much at a time either.  Since they get free range time for most of each day, they are also getting fresh grass, bugs and totally decimating some of my perennial herbs.  I had to put a low fence around one bed that they have decided is a good place to dig, dustbath, and just lay around in.

Another surprise in the garden was secondary broccoli.  The primary broccoli heads were harvested a few weeks ago but I left the plants in place.  With the freezes, they were relatively cabbage worm free and enough was harvested for a meal or two.


As a bonus, the chooks got the remaining plants tossed in their pen for their entertainment and whatever nourishment they can get from the leaves and the few cabbage worms lurking there.

The day has clouded over, though we aren’t supposed to get rain until Thursday.  It was a good day to be outdoors for a while.

Chick Day

Tractor Supply has had Chick Days going now for a couple of weeks, but they don’t carry the breed that I want.  My goal is to keep Cogburn, my Buff Orpington rooster, the two Buff hens and the one Olive Egger Hen and replace the other 6 with 10 more Buff Orpingtons.  That will give me 13 layers instead of 9 and will give me a pure heritage flock, except for the Olive Egger, whose eggs are just fun because of their color and easy to identify.  Hopefully, this will give me a self sustaining flock as the Buffs make good mothers and can raise their replacements and the table birds.  A few days ago, I reconnected with the gal that I bought my two Buff hens from last year when they were about 10 weeks old.  She has 1 to 3 day chicks and though I didn’t want to raise chicks again this year, I also didn’t want to pay $20 per bird for ones that are only a month younger than the layers I have since I wanted 10.  This morning we made a road trip to meet her in a town about an hour from here and did a parking lot exchange of money for 10 new chicks.  We took a towel lined cat carrier to bring the peepers home, with a side trip to Tractor Supply for starter feed as they can’t eat the laying mix for the big girls.



I have to admit that they are adorable at just a couple of days old.  However when you buy babies they must be kept warm and after my experience of having the brooder in the basement last year, I don’t want a repeat of that, so they are in a makeshift brooder in the garage with a heat lamp, which I also don’t like to use, but have no other option at this point.  Last year I used a large black plastic livestock water trough as a brooder, but it is full of split wood in the garage and I didn’t want to have to empty it. maybe later as they grow.  The makeshift brooder is half of a plastic large dog crate set inside a larger wire dog cage with the heat lamp hanging from the wire cage.  Pine shavings, a chick feeder and waterer in with them and a blanket over part of it, they are set for a while.


Hopefully, this brood will be a success and in 7 weeks they can be moved outdoors, the 6 hens from my United Nations flock will be moved to the chicken tractor for the young ones to be introduced to the coop.  Sometimes this summer, those 6 will go to freezer camp and my egg production will drop until the babies are ready to lay.


Hubby says I have an addiction, but at least I limited my purchase to only the breed I want and only females, so we won’t have multiple pens of different ages, and one of them full of testosterone like we had last spring when I bought 21 chicks over a two week period and had half of them cockrells.