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.

2018 Coming to a Close

End Of The Year - Assessment

So What do you think?

Not a particularly great way to end the year.

2018 was a decent year all in all. 

There were plenty of eggs to be collected and shared.  Lots of entertainment, and perhaps most important for us on our little patch in the woods, is the chickens did a remarkable job with insect control.  The year was noted in several news articles as being particularly bad with the high numbers of ticks.  A walk in the woods here and talking with neighbors confirmed the presence of high numbers.  We also contend with chiggers, spiders, and numerous other creepy crawly bugs here and in our garden.

Early in the season, the chickens began their free range expansion beyond the clear areas and into the fringes of the woods.  First we noticed the far fewer number of spiders, and then the fact that we were not getting any ticks crawling on us when we walked outside.  The mud dobbers and other wasp populations were also down, likely because they too feed on the spiders.

Garden pests were still in abundance, particularly the tomato horned worms, but toss those out to the chickens and they were a tasty snack quickly pecked to pieces and eaten.  Converted to eggs, kind of like magic.

But the memorable event of the year of course was the mink attacks.

We had increase our flock size up to 57, knowing that we would have some predator losses in the winter months and tried to allow for that.  Past winters have seen the predators come by for some fast fresh chicken dinners and they have had some success.  And for the occassional loss to a predator, well that is expected when free ranging.

But to lose nearly the entire flock in such a short time frame, and in the coop during the night was a shock.  We certainly learned the coop was not nearly as secure as we thought, and that there are more varmits out there that like chicken than we ever imagined.  Enough to cause us to take a pause and rethink our whole approach to the free range chicken.

So our first action was to clean out the coop, remove the roosts, nest boxes, etc., and identifying every area we could that might allow a varmit or other critter intent on chicken dinner, and securing that area.  The entire area around the base of the coop has been cleared out, and wrapped in 1/2 inch hardwire cloth, with coming down into the ground and extending away from the coop for a foot or so, overlapped and buried.  The overlaps are also tied together so a mink cannot weasle its way in between the overlap as it did with the chicken wire we had down previously.  The hardware cloth should also help keep the snakes out of the coop as I think they were just slithering through the chicken wire.

Also, we are sealing off the under side of the rafters where they extended beyond the walls.  Those had been left open for ventilation.  While not enough space for a raccoon or opposum, doubtful a mink would have a problem getting into that space.  Where the metal roofing is attached, we will be sealing off those ridge spaces with expanding foam.  Still to come is a concrete pad under the doorway, so when the door is closed, it will close against a ledge to keep the door sill area secure. 

I’ll try to add some photos later to show all the imporvements.

Next post, I’ll go into more details on the plans for the new year.

IP Cameras in the Chicken Coop

Monitoring the chicken coop with a web cam?  Yes, I do.  Several of them in fact.

And even send video to live streaming onto YouTube from time to time, like when the hen goes broody and the chicks are about to hatch.  It is a great deal of fun to hear from the granddaughters that they could watch the new chicks peek their heads out from under the momma hen.

So what is involved?  The simplest is to get a wireless IP camera and monitor it with your smart phone.  Generally the apps come with the camera or a qr code link to scan the camera to install the app.  Once the camera is setup, they can be monitored on your phone, your tablet, your pc, or remotely via a cloud service.

There are many options once your camera is setup.  Blue Iris and similar programs allow you to monitor multiple cameras on your desktop pc and send alerts via email if an alarm condition is met, such as motion sensor, or sound sensor detects an event.

Cameras can be fixed or include PTZ, Pan,Tilt, Zoom features which allow you to remotely control the camera view.  Some cameras include audio monitoring and some even have two way audio.  Cameras are sometimes equipped with IR,  generally known as Infra Red, so they offer night time viewing as well. These “see in the dark” cameras are a real bonus for monitoring your flock at night.  With Cloud storage or an internal SD card storage, many cameras will record the action so you  can play it back later.

I started out in 2014 using a pair of D-Link DCS-930L cameras.  These are 640p resolution, do not offer night viewing and are a fixed view.  Later, I bought a Foscam R2, a couple of Deecam D200 and then an Amcrest camera.

As the price of the camera went up, so did the quality of the image, the features and quality of the software and the overall satisfaction in the camera.

It goes without saying then, my favorite camera in the chicken coop is also the one that was the most expensive.  So that camera is mounted where I can take advantage of the better image quality.  This one is the Amcrest camera.  I bought the silver color as it was a few dollars less than the more popular black and white colors.  For the chicken coop, it really does not matter what color the camera is.  I have 32 Gig SD memory cards installed in the cameras.  The Amcrest camera allows easy access to view video recordings.

The Foscam R2 camera is set to be able to see the west end inside of the chicken coop.  For evening and night viewing, it is usually pointed to the roost to enable us to do a chicken count as the chickens are settling in for the night. During the day, we frequently have in pointed downward to look into the next boxes to monitor the hens as they go about their egg laying activities.  We can get an idea of which hen is laying, which ones are just testing out the nest boxes and watching for a hen going broody.  The Foscam R2 field of view is a bit less of a wide angle view than from the Amcrest.  Fully zoomed in they are about the same.  The R2 preset functions seem to be easier to use than the Amcrest preset functions.  I do use the preset function on the R2 more than I need on the Amcrest so it might just be a familiarization with the controls that are the real difference.

The Deecam D200’s were less than half the price of the inside cameras, but give me two more views.  These are mounted under the roof so mostly out of the weather, and are looking outside the chicken coop.  As they have the PTZ movements, I can see most of the outside area around the coop.  The biggest downfall on these cameras is in the night vision, and while it works well enough to see predators approaching the coop, they do not have the great imaging I would like to have.  And they do not have nearly the flexibility in the software as do the Amcrest and Foscam cameras.

The Deecam cameras I purchased online from Wal Mart.  The process went well.  However, when I attempted to contact the company selling the cameras for some tech support, I got no response.  None. Notta.  Not even a no we won’t help with that.  Nothing.  Perhaps this is why they are no longer listed. I think I got my money’s worth out of the cameras, but I don’t recommend them.

The D-link 930 cameras gave me an inexpensive intro into the cameras and a few are still available.  These are way behind current technology and really not up to performing many useful tasks in watching your chickens.