Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chicken farming and another chapter of raising a backyard flock

Eleven weeks ago, we started our next generation of chicks. I'm not sure if I think they are the second or third generation. Or maybe it is actually our 4th, since we started with 3 "adults, 4 "teenagers", and 2 "babies". I had always thought that would be enough but I joined a Facebook group (OK, multiple Facebook groups) all about raising chickens and many of them were hatching eggs in incubators and I caught the bug. Our results were not nearly as good as theirs and ended up with only 1 out of a dozen eggs. But because chickens are a flock animals, our poor little Cinnamon Queen needed some siblings. A quick trip to the feed store and we came home with 1 Aracauna and 1 White Plymouth Rock, now known as Biscuit, Gravy, and Honey.

We kept the three, first in a small bird cage, then moved to a plastic storage box, and finally into our good sized gerbil/hamster cage. Although a dining room should be for dining, it soon felt more like a nursery. Little baby chicks are fine in your house but once they get up to more of a teen age, they soon wear out their welcome. As soon as it was past the risk of a freeze, the whole kit and caboodle of them were moved outside with their bigger sisters. Within a short time, we took them out of the cage and let them mix in the rest, all of which seemed much larger than them. It's still about 4 weeks until they will get full size, so in the meantime they keep to themselves but have learned to race in when treats are given in an attempt to grab their fair share.

Annabel is the primary caregiver of their chickens and a little over a week ago she came in telling that Pollo, one of the original "teens" was holed up in the dog house, which is their favored nesting box. She had thrown her out but pretty quickly, Pollo ran back in. This went on for several days and during that time, I read a book, "Once Upon a Flock", a story about another person who caught chicken fever.

Reading about her flock, I recognized that Pollo was broody, in other words, she was sure that she had a "clutch" of eggs and would stay on them until they hatched, and she would have babies. There are plenty of resources that tell you how to break a broody hen out of her broodiness, but after reading that book, where she put fertile eggs under her broody hen, and she actually stuck with it until they hatched, made me wonder if Pollo would want to give it a real try.

So I posted in my Facebook chicken group about my broody hen and a friend who has roosters, offered me a few fertile eggs to put under her. After meeting up, I came home with a half dozen eggs of various colors, which may or may not be fertile.

Annabel and I cleaned out the dog house, after throwing Pollo out, and loaded it up with fresh straw, and put the eggs in. At first we were sure she had decided she was through with being broody but eventually she made her way back in and took a seat, adjusting the straw and eggs to her liking.

Tonight marks the 6th day, a day before you are supposed to "candle" them, but we were really anxious to check to see if any of the eggs showed signs of developing. We weren't quite the experts when we did the incubator eggs and skipped this step until much later. By then, we weren't sure what to look for but knew that most of the eggs looked alike and only 1 looked different, and of course, that was the only one to hatch.

Tonight we borrowed Dad's high powered Maglite and went to "candle" our eggs. Woo! Hoo! Right now, quite a few look like something is beginning to develop. Pollo is doing a great job and we hope she will stick with it. Only 15 more days and we will see!

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