This last weekend we cleaned the chicken coop. . We have a three section coop. Section one is the main coop and it is 10’x15′ and houses the feed and water for the laying flock. Section 2 is 10’x5′ and it houses the roosts and nest boxes for our main flock. Section 3 is a section we use as an extended brooder, rooster pen, and isolated breeding pen. What we clean out gets spread onto our hay field as fertilizer.
We have had last falls hatch of chicks in section 3 for the winter. The little pullets are looking very nice and were ready to mix into the main laying flock. After we cleaned the coop we left the pullets in with the older hens. I figured there would be a ruckus while they all got used to each other but they all blended in nicely. The young pullets did look a little confused, but started to eat well after a short time. The 2 pens were only separated by chicken wire so they were weren’t really strangers.
I am looking forward to the young pullets to start laying soon. There are still 4 young roosters that need to go into the freezer. Hopefully this next weekend we can start to work on that. Fried chicken really sounds good about now!
I need to order some chicks or get some eggs set to incubate. I need to have a clutch of spring chicks so when my fall hens molt, the spring chicks will hopefully carry us through. We are trying to decide which breeds to keep and if we would like to incorporate a new breed. We do not have Buff Orpingtons, and since we both are partial to that breed, we will probably add a few.
I will be ordering a few broiler chicks to raise to sell at the farmers market as well as to put a few our freezer. I have not decided which breed of those to get either. I am trying to decide between the red broiler cross and the Dixie Rainbow type chickens. I do know that the White Cornish cross is definitely not an option. I need to get my chicken tractor cleaned up and ready to roll.
Unless you have a broody hen or a capon* to tuck your knew little chicks under, you will need a brooder box to get them started. The new chicks will need to be at 95º which is hard to do unless they are confined to space with a heat lamp.
My Brooder box is just a wooden box that I rigged a lid over. The lid is attached with hinges to the wall and rests on the box when closed. I placed a latch and loop to it, to be able to hold the lid up to the wall when tending the baby chicks. The box is placed in free standing and can be removed for cleaning or if it is not going to be in use.
I made a rail in which to attach the heat lamp, it is also removable. Notice I have a clear heat lamp, they work just as good as the red style. The red style is used to prevent chicks from pecking at another if it gets a wound. The red colored light masks the wound, and makes it less visible.
It is important to keep the chicks supplied with fresh drinking water, and food at all times. Their small bodies need consistency at this young age. Paper or wood chips are the best substrates to use in your brooder box. I start out with paper and when they start to eat well out of the feeder, I switch to more wood chips.
*Capon– When chickens were kept on almost every farm for food and eggs, capons were an important component. Capons are surgically castrated roosters. A flock with too many roosters is not a healthy flock. Too many roosters over stress the hens, They can become mean and aggressive, and their meat grows tough and stringy with age. Surgically castrating the roosters made them docile and more hen-like. Plus the added bonus was in the meat quality, the reduction of hormones allowed the capon to continue to grow to a bigger size and retain a great quality of meat. Before the popularity of the genetically engineered Cornish crosses, the capon was the sought after bird for the table. Capons were once shipped all over the country and sold at a premium.
If you would like to read more about capons, let me know in the comment section.
I knew as soon as we got our first baby chicks from the hatchery that we were going to need an incubator. I do not do anything without research and a lot of thought. My verdict on an incubator was to build my own, and then expand if necessary.
For the controls, I chose a kit from Incubator Warehouse. The Incukit is designed to be attached to a container of your choice. I have frequently seen them used on a variety of coolers. The kit is a very neat set of stacked components, a digital thermostat, ceramic heaters, and a circulating fan. The unit also comes with hardware to attach to your cooler. You can find the info on the Incukits here: Incubator Warehouse- Incukits
I chose a thick walled cooler from walmart as our cabinet. I had to modify the lid to accept the Incukit, but it was under $10 and a great size to get started.
The layout of the inside of our incubator is just big enough to hold a tray for water to add humidity, and an egg tray that will hold 30 eggs. I use 4 tin cans (empty) to rest the egg tray on to set it at a 45 degree angle. to turn the eggs you just have to alternate sides resting in the up position on the cans. This allows for you to turn the 30 eggs at one time.
I label my eggs with the date and put a mark to give the egg an identifiable position. If you have eggs put in at different times, you can leave the egg tray in one spot and rotate each egg. This will allow you to stop turning some of the eggs , but not the entire tray.
Here I have a partial tray with 2 rows nestled onto the large tray , this will allow me to just turn the 2 rows independently if needed.
I will be collecting eggs over several days t o fill the incubator. I have 3 hens laying, so it will take a few days. Now we just play Mother Hen for 21 days and wait for them to start hatching.
Our baby chicks are doing awesome! 2 weeks old and growing like crazy. I can’t believe how many new feathers they have already.
We hatched a mix of eggs from our flock to replace some hens lost to critters. Our roosters are 2 Speckled Sussex and 1 Rhode Island Red, and our hens are Speckled Sussex, Rhode Island Red, and Barred Rock. So we have some Black Sex Link, Speckled Sussex, and Rhode Island red- Speckled Sussex Cross baby chicks. Our Rhode Island Red rooster is the less dominate rooster, and I am not giving him credit for many of the offspring.
I need to start handling the babies more, they are a little too flighty for me. I do not like to have birds scattering every time I enter the coop, it could cause injury and undue stress. On our farm I like things to be very calm, the calmer the better. In my opinion , stress lowers output.
As I was writing this last minute post, I realized I needed to take some better pictures of our brooder and share that as well. So, stay tuned!!
We have had a thief in the night. I believe a raccoon has the belief that we should supply him with nightly meals. It has killed 2 chickens and has been cleaning out the dog and cat feed in the horse barn. We suspected something last week but it is now confirmed.
We found one of our hens killed in the coop this week. The darn raccoon was climbing up pipe fence to the metal roof in order to climb in a vent. In all of our efforts to secure the coop, the little thief found the one weak point. We never expected anything to come up from the fence. Due to the dew on the grass and a few dirt patches we were able to track its movements along the fence and onto the roof..
In the barn, we have been putting our bags of feed into an animal carrier to secure them at night. The raccoon has been reaching in and trying to pull the bag through the door grate. In doing so, it has been pulling about 25 lbs. around the floor. That feat has matched the size of foot prints found on the fence. We are dealing with at least one adult maybe more.
I am reluctant to deal with the situation with a gun. I feel the power of any gun that I have will be too much around the buildings and other animals. I really don’t want to wake up the neighbors, or draw suspicion to our farm. I have too many cats to use any trap including a live trap. And I really don’t think he will leave just by asking . So, I have purchased an air rifle to use to deal with our thief. Now the hunter becomes the hunted. Tonight I will be ready. I am on farm protection duty!
We have been spending all of our free time getting our “to do” list knocked out. Our focus on growing the scope of our farm has added a lot of work this summer to our list. With a lot help from my parents, we are slowly getting caught up.
Our main goal this year is to increase the number of revenue streams on our farm. The hard part about adding different revenue streams, is to not spread yourself to thin. There is only so much time in one day. You must not cut your free time too short or you will burn yourself out and the farm will become a drain.
Our goal this year is to increase our number of sows, and in doing so we are now producing feeder pigs and fat hogs from different breeds. We were already breeding Ossabaw Island Pigs, so adding a few more litters of babies a month will not over tax our infrastructure or allocated labor. We did need to add more pens and build a few more huts, but we also put in a new alley system to make feeding time run smoother. With the new alley, the time it takes to feed has actually decreased. The alley will also allow us to break one more large pen into three, which will let us better manage our growing herd.
We have farrowed 4 litters of babies this past week. Our new pens and alley made that easier. We did not plan on so many at once, but nature sometimes makes its own plans. Next year we will be scheduling our litters to better coincide with the market. We had times this spring that we sold out of feeder pigs, and we are constantly running a reservation list for Ossabaw Island pig breeders. Our new pens will allow us to keep a surplus so we will not miss any sales. Plus the surplus will lead into another revenue stream already in the works to be implemented some time next year.
We have also just about completed our chicken coop. We have been been selling a few eggs, but we will be able to focus more on that. Also with the coop done we will be able to breed 3 separate breeds and a popular egg laying hybrid. The completed coop will allow the farm to increase the number of products that we can sell, which will hopefully draw in a few more customers.
We must constantly reevaluate where we are on our path, and we must be constantly searching for the roads that will lead us to our destination. -Brett
We have a rooster that lives in one of our pig pens with some grow-out gilts. The rooster eats with the pigs, hangs out all day and roosts on the bars of the pen at night. He is first to the feed trough in the morning so I usually scatter a little grain for him to peck at while I feed the pigs.
Last night I was feeding the pigs and not paying attention. Not paying enough attention to the rooster, I guess. All of a sudden he was attacking my leg, jumping at me and flogging me with his wings and trying to spur me with his feet. He attacked me twice before I realized what was going on. What a crazy feeling. Who knew a light weight little bird could hit with that force. Good thing it was not an Ostrich, I would still be laying there.
It turns out that this chicken is trying to protect his pen mates. Every time I reached down to pet one of the pigs the chicken started towards me. If I stopped petting the pig he would stop, If I continued to pet the pig he would try to flog me. I really don’t know if this is a good thing or not. How many times would a pig really need to be protected by a rooster? What could a rooster protect a pig from that the pig couldn’t protect itself from?
We have had a great spring with these hens laying eggs. But our temperatures this week have been in the 90’s and they have dropped off on production.
We have not finished the complete coop yet. The part we have them in is a little too small for them, I have a lot of venting but i think it is a little too close for comfort. I believe when we get rest of it finished the increased room will take some stress off and they will continue to lay better even on hotter days.