New Chickens for a New Year

New Chickens for the New Year

December 12th 2018 our first batch of new chicks hatched.  Hoover Hatchery shipped them out December 15th.  It was an order of 20 hatchery choice egg layers.  These chicks are the first of several orders intended to rebuild our flock following the devastating mink attacks.

No. It is not a good idea to order baby chickens mid December when the holiday season shipping rush has the post office swamped.  The heavy load of Christmas mail (apparently) delayed the delivery of the chicks enough that when they finally did arrive, they were quite stressed from the shipping and the cold weather.  Eleven of 20 have survived.  The rest were either DOA or failed to make it in the first 48 hours.  So no more chick orders before Christmas.

The next order was for 20 Dominique hens.  They hatched on January 30th and shipped on January 31st, 2019.  And the coldest blast of weather came the same day as the chicks were shipped.  Again, the post office delivery was late.  Tracking info on the shipments indicated both shipments routed through Memphis, then to Little Rock.  That was different.  Usually it routes straight through to Little Rock.  Not sure why, but it added an extra day or two to the shipment times.  Only 6 of this batch survived the ordeal.

The survivors are all doing very well, but only 17 additional hens to go along with the one surviving hen from the mink and dog attacks.

Our most recent addition, 25 chicks ordered, this time from Murray McMurray hatchery.  With the 25 ordered, they included two extras.  This time, the shipment, which originated in Iowa the same as from Hoover Hatchery, went straight through to Little Rock and then to our post office as has always happened until the previous two orders.  And they arrived on time, in good health and all are thriving.  This order compromised 10 Golden Wyandottes, 5 Silver Wyandottes, 5 White Wyandottes, 6 Speckled Sussex (1 of the extras) all females, and 1 straight run mystery rare heritage breed chick.

Also ordered from Murray McMurray and due to ship mid April is their Homesteaders’ Delight, package of 10 brown egg layers, 2 geese, 2 ducks, and 2 turkeys.  All are hatchery choice and except the chickens, are straight run.

Another Mink Attack

Chicken Killer Dog

More Mink Attacks, and a Dog Attack

November 2018 was a treacherous month in the chicken coop.

 
The mink came back for multiple attacks, particularly during the several days over the Thanksgiving week when we were out of town travelling.  In the additional attacks, the mink managed to kill 55 of the 57 chickens in the coop. All the attacks were at night, some early evening, some early morning hours.
 
The geese, after the first attack would not go back into the coop, as well as the two that did survive the mink.  The two survivors roosted in a cedar tree near the coop, while the geese stayed in the pool for night.
 
 The mink attacked and killed Lucy, the smaller goose, while she was in the pool.  Amazing that the mink was abe to approach the goose without the geese detecting the mink was there, until the attack.  The mink moved so quickly the goose had no time to react, and was unable to get away from it.
 
A pair of dogs, both wearing collars came though and killed a rooster, one of the two surviving chickens.  One hen has survived along with the goose.  The two were both in shock and have clearly been impacted by the violent ordeal.
 
Having the cameras posted in the coop and around the coop yard, I was able to keep an eye on the coop.  The first couple of attacks were over by the time I was abe to reach the coop, even though we could see it happening live.  Two more attacks came while we were away.  The mink did come back after killing the chickens, to retrieve one that was buried in the bedding.  I had not noticed that hen when I was clearing away the dead.  I used the Arduino controls to turn on the interior coop lights.  The mink was not bothered by the lights being turned on.  Next I turned on the fan.  The fan noise also did not bother the mink.  The lights on and fan noise in the coop gave me enough opportunity to sneak up on the varmit.  While not a direct hit, there were enough pellets in it, that it leaked out across the coop yard and left a trail to it’s den.  The mink will not be coming back.  I have no evidence that there was more than one mink and have not seen any on camera since.
 

Increasing Coop Security

 
After the first attack, we reinforced the wire around the bottom of the coop were we determined the varmit got in.  The chicken wire that was under the walls, and folded out from the coop and buried was just not enough to keep out the mink.  Last summer, we learned chicken snakes could also get through the wire.
 
We dug that out, and wrapped the bottom foot or so with hardware cloth, and folded that down around the outside of the coop.  The chicken wire we previously used for this purpose was only installed to go out from the walls, but we did not overlap the wire on the corners.  With the hardware cloth, we overlapped the corners and wrapped the wire around the corners.  The gap in the corner was where the mink got in initially.  We discovered this because the mink attempted to pull a baby chick through the hole, but the chick was not small enough to get through the space the mink was able to get through.
 
Around the top of the coop, there was some open space for ventilation.  This space was between the roof rafters.  This has now been closed up to prevent any access there as well.
 
On the to do list, is to put some expanding foam into the space formed by the ridges in the roofing sheet metal.  Also, I plan to pour some concrete in the front doorway to better seal up the space below the door, and behind it when it is closed. 
 

Other Thoughts

 
An improvement to the video monitoring might help.  Tweaking the motion settings for the cameras is under way.  There have been a few times where the predators have been inside the coop and have not been captured by the camera motion sensors.  Some of the settings configure the size, contrast, speed, and distance moved required to trigger an alert and record the video from that event.  At night, dust, flying insects, and such can be seen with the IR settings on the cameras and can set off false alarms.
 
Also giving some thought to putting some Arduino based PIR motion sensors around the coop, outside, to turn on outside lights and perhaps some on the inside the coop as well to turn on inside lights if there is some floor activity while the chickens are on the roost.
 
 

Jersey Giants Update

White Jersey Giants at 14 Weeks

So it has been about 14 weeks since we received our Jersey Giant chicks from the hatchery.  It is amazing how quickly they have grown.

 

The White Jersey Giants we ordered as a straight run, so no idea whether we have pullets or cockerels.  With our other chicks it has been pretty clear by this age what gender they are.  It has been difficult to see the differences with the JG chicks.

One week it seems one has a larger comb or more color in the wattles, then a day or two later that all changes and they look the same.

This week I noticed the tail feathers.  A couple of the chicks have tail feathers that appear to be just a little bit longer and curling downward making me think cockerel.

But, it is a rainy day today, something we have not had much of this summer.  I can’t help but wonder if the rain is having an impact on those feathers.  The mystery continues.

Our suspicions are that we have two of each.  Time will tell.

Liz Zorab of Byther Farm on YouTube inspired us with her Jersey Giant rooster, Big White, to give this breed a try.   Every now and again, she shows a glimpse of Big White and some of the rest of her JG flock.

This breed takes a long time to mature, so it may well be a while before we know

Chicken Killers – Dog Attack

Buff Orpington - Stone

Chicken Killers

The Buff Orpington momma hen and two of her ten chicks cruelly killed by someone’s dogs.

Silver Laced Wyandotte - Silver
Plymouth Barred Rock Hen
Golden Laced Wyandotte - Orange

It pretty well goes that if you have chickens, you will have predators. And we have had our share.  Foxes, raccoons, opossums, snakes, and hawks have all been visitors in search of a meal.  We  have owls big enough to carry off a full grown chicken, we have bald eagles that fly over from time to time, neither of which has made any attempt to grab a chicken and go, at least not that we have been aware of. Thursday however, two dogs with collars, and obviously well fed and cared for, entered the chicken coop and began their killing spree. Dead chickens in the coop, in the yard, in the garden, scattered all over. The worst of it, they killed the Buff Orpington momma hen and two of her ten baby chicks.  It was clear both of the dogs were involved in the killing.  Also clear, they were not in for a meal.  They were killing for the fun of it. The dogs were captured, and the owner found.  When she heard of the slaughter, her response was, well they are chicken killers, almost like it was humorous or of no consequence to her.  It was clear the dogs, or at least one of them has been known to kill chickens before. All told, eight were killed, two injured and our largest goose was injured. Of the two hens injured, I’m pretty sure only one will survive. The dog owner offered me $45 in damages, which I turned down. As our hens were purchased from Cackle Hatchery, I checked them out. https://www.cacklehatchery.com/eggs-and-adult-fowl/grown-fowl.html For a grown pullet, with shipping the cost is $110.  The more you order, of course, the less the price is, down to a minimum of $59 each if 8 or more are ordered. With the expectation of losing the injured Golden Wyandotte, 9 replacements would cost $531. I don’t know how to put a price on the personal aspect of the loss.  These animals have not been raised for commercial purposes.  We do not sell eggs, nor do we sell the meat. These have been raised as pets, with a lot of focus on sharing photos, stories, and live video with family and friends.  It was particularly sad that at least one viewer witnessed on live video the dogs in the chicken coop, killing the hens. I did not collect the dogs owners name, address or phone.  I did give her my phone number and suggested she go home and think on the matter, then when she decided what she and her family thought was the right thing to do, to let me know.  If and when I hear something, I’ll add an update to this post.  

Rooster Time Out

Rooster Time Out

Rooster Time Out

Hunter, Welsummer Rooster - Top rooster of the flock
Hunter, Welsummer Rooster - Top rooster of the flock

Hunter is currently the top of the pecking order for the roosters.  He thinks he is top of the pecking order for everything and everyone else too.

Recently, he has been attempting to sneak up behind me, and either challenge or attack me.  Most of the time he just gets close, flaps his wings.  This time however, he made physical contact and while not a particularly hard hit, it was a hit and it was with his feet.

As I turned around, it was clear he wanted to challenge and the stare down began.  He quickly thought better of it and left.  Rethinking it however, he momentarily came back for another look.

It was then he discovered the fish net and how quickly he was to be caught in the net. Surely, he was embarrassed as well as fit to be tied as he tried desperately to get out of that contraption.  To no avail.  In moments he was cradled in my arms, feet in the air, tail hanging and belly up.  No place for a rooster.

Hunter was accused.  The charges of attempting to flog the farmer were pronounced.

Hunter remained silent and still.  There was no denying the charge just as there was no denying his actions.

Guilty as Charged!

Welsummer Rooster found guilty of attempted Flogging of the Farmer
Welsummer Rooster found guilty of attempted Flogging of the Farmer

It was only a few moments before the verdict was announced, “Guilty as charged”.

Hunter attempted to stand up for the announcement, but found he was still restrained and cradled in the arm of the farmer.  Nothing to do but wait. Seriously?  Do the hens all need to see this?  And those pesky Geese too? Yes, and the other roosters as well.

Two Hours in Rooster  Time Out! 

So Hunter served his time out in the cage, and the cage in the chicken coop for all the hens, roosters, and geese to come have a look see.

It has been several days now since his time out, and his behavior is much improved. Clearly he thinks Rooster Time Out is so much better than Swimming with Dumplings.

 

Goosy was witness to the actions of Wayward Welsummer and recommended Rooster Time Out
Goosy was witness to the actions of Wayward Welsummer and recommended Rooster Time Out
Rooster Time Out
Rooster Time Out

Predator Problems – Possums

The Opossums have been the problem predator with the younger chicks, one having found its way into the brooder last fall and killed several of the 2 month old chicks.
With new chicks arriving this week, the plan was in place to head off the possums. Beginning last week the trap has been set out near the new hen house. The first four days, we captured three possums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems their normal range covers from 160 acres for females, to over 700 for males during mating season. To ensure they did not find their way back, they were transported about six or seven miles away. The Opossums were relocated to the riverbank, where they were released. Two headed for the brush looking for cover. The other headed straight for the river, crossing for the other side and never looking back.

Other predators here that have taken notice of our free range chickens include, foxes, dogs, cooper hawks, red tail hawks, and bald eagles. The foxes have had the most success and have had a devastating impact. The dogs, collared with spike collars, came and killed just for fun. The cooper hawks have made a few attempts, ruffled a few feathers, but generally aren’t big enough to snatch one of grown chickens. The red tail hawk likely could carry one away, but I’ve not seen an attempt, though they have made a few close passes. The bald eagle clearly could easily carry one away. It has made a fly by about tree top level but no attempt to snatch a hen. The bald eagles nest over on the riverbanks and have several trees they favor, so it is not uncommon to see them.

Sophia Red

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It is difficult for us to tell some of the hens apart, which one is which?  Particularly with the Barred Rocks.  The Wyandottes too are are very similar in appearance, but the differences are a bit easier to tell.  Except when they are all moving about with the rest of the flock, they sort of blend together too fast for us to distinguish individuals.

The solution was to add some colored leg bands, or ankle bracelets into the mix.  Being able to tell them apart more readily, individual hen behaviors become much more obvious.

Somewhere we saw or heard a description of the Silver Laced Wyandottes as the Sophia Lorens of the chicken world.  Seems an apt description.  So the hen shown above, is wearing the red color ankle bracelet has become known as Sophia Red.

By  chance, the two hens with the purple ankle bracelets, are both at the top of the pecking order as best we can tell.  The Barred Rock now known as Queen and the Wyandotte as Sophia Royale.  Purple being the color of royalty and their individual behaviors seemed to be a good match.

 

Available on Amazon.com

December 2016 Egg Production

Crazy month this December. A few big swings in temperatures, some chicken chasing going on, and the presence of a fox all made for some changes.

Production pretty steady until the 11th, which brought about a drop. The 10th was visitor day, and a couple of the young boys took great delight in chasing the chickens.
Okay, so we did get a certain level of enjoyment watching the boys and chickens on the run! The boys of course had no chance of catching one. While we did not have an issue with the chicken chasing, the hens showed their protest of the event by cutting production the next day. Well, I guess that backed things up some, so the day after that, the 10 hens laid 11 eggs, one with no shell, just the membrane, likely from the hen that laid two for the day. Another 10 days or so goes by, and another day of low production, followed by 11 eggs, again one with no shell. Not sure what the reason for the drop this time.

The 23rd, and again on Christmas eve, we had a problem with the light on the timer. Christmas day, the breaker popped, so something in the electrical system shorted out.
Low production on Chirstmas day. The electrical was re routed for the lights and back in order.

The 26th, as I was going down to the chicken house to feed them and close them up for the night, a red fox appeared, made several attempts at snatching one of the hens. It got a mouthful of hen just as I caught up to them. My appearance and noise as I came after it startled the fox. It dropped the the Silver Wyandotte, Sophia Red, and made for the woods.

On the 27th one of the hens was missing when I went to close them up, but she was there the next morning, unharmed. The 30th however, was a different matter.
The fox appeared while we were away, and killed 8 of the flock of 17. Michael heard the commotion and went out for a look, just in time to see the fox carry off one
of the chickens. Of the 10 hens that were laying, 4 were killed. All four were Plymouth Barred Rock. The fox also killed 3 Buff Orpington cockerels, and a Rhode Island Red pullet. The cockerels and pullet were 17 weeks old. The Barred Rocks were 42 weeks old.

Blue Egg count was 25

[show-rjqc id=”8″]

 

Update on New Chicks

The end of October came the predator. A nasty looking Opossum, on the hunt for fresh meat.
I thought perhaps the brooder was secure enough against pretty much all the predators in our area, except for perhaps a racoon.
But it was the possum that created the problem. Just as my daughter was arriving home, she heard toe commotion in the chicken yard.
She investigated and got there just in time to see the possum escape from the fence and into the woods.

A little later, we again saw the creature but was unable to help it meet its demise. Another day perhaps.

The possum killed half the Buff Orpingtons, a cockerel and both hens. So 3 Buff Orpingtons left, all cockerels. So much for the idea of having some broody hens in the future.
Guess we will try again in the Spring next time the farm supply has chicks in stock.

Also killed was one of the Ameracauna chicks, and another Ameracauna was injured. So far, surviving, and seems to be getting better.

The rest were quite shaken and nervous. Since they were about 8 weeks old, we put them in the hen house with the first batch of hens. Neither group was very happy about the situation.

One of the Barred Rock hens in particular, top bird in the pecking order, took great delight in letting the little ones know the possum wasn’t the only one interested in seeing to their demise. But with a little time, that should settle out. Its been about three weeks since the incident, things are much calmer, the little ones are getting quite a bit bigger, but still, they are not
particularly interested in getting along very well. About the only one that is getting harassed to any extent however, is the Ameracauna chick that was injured. That chick is pretty good at getting away, even hopping along on one good leg, and favoring the other with the injury. The others in the little one’s group make a bit of an attempt to protect the injured one, but are still so afraid of the older hens, well – its every chicken for itself.

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