Eggs are back and other events

There are some good and some bad news with chickens.

. Egg production restored. Now we have a pack of eggs every day.

New record - 16 eggs in one day

New record – 16 eggs in one day

One chicken died. She didn’t look sick or wounded.

First dead chicken since February

First dead chicken since February

In the chick and mother cage the second hen that I added to help mom started to feed chicks and accept them at night. So I decided to buy more chicks for her.

The baby sitter hen adopted new chicks - ameraucana wheaton

The baby sitter hen adopted new chicks – ameraucana wheaton

But when i put her and chicks into the same chicken & mom cage, the mother hen really didn’t like them. She constantly attacked them and herded into a corner. The baby sitter hen doesn’t protect chicks.

As a temporary solution I put a small broody cage inside the large cage to give new chicks some shelter. The separate cage for them will be ready tomorrow.

broody cage inside mother & chicks cage

broody cage inside mother & chicks cage

A Natural Guild

walnut ,cherry,mulberry,blackberryWhile visiting our friends near Philadelphia, PA, they showed us a nice place with many fruits and nuts growing beside a golf course.

The place is called Bryn Athyn. It was a former farmland currently overtaken by suburbia.

In one spot I noticed a nice example of a guild, most likely grown on its own.

The spot  measures 12 by 10 feet. It’s a sidewalk lifted 4-5 feet above an asfalt road on  its north west side. The soil is  very reach sandy loam.   The main canopy tree is a black walnut, second layer are cherry tree and mulberry, then blackberry  bushes. Nettles are on the herbs layer.  It would be easy to complete the guild with an oak tree, thyme ground cover and grapes. All of these are growing on neighbouring plots.

The walnut  and cherry trees  look at least 30 years old,  the mulberry is younger – A good Proof of this guild stability.

Composting with Chickens workshops

The idea of these workshops came from Geoff Lawton movie “chicken tractor on steroids”. It implements Karl Hammer’s method of raising chickens without grains. Chickens feed on composting material and drop their manure into the compost pile. The pile is kept in place to let some anaerobic fermenting to better preserve nutrients and then turned once a week several times. In winter a pile should be large enough to not freeze.

Here is our procedure:

We move the coop 4 meters

We move the coop 4 meters

Then disassemble compost cage and reassemble it in front of the coop.

Then disassemble compost cage and reassemble it in front of the coop.I

Then turn all heaps in direction towards the coop, 2 meters

Then turn all heaps in direction towards the coop, 2 meters

Then we move the fence 4 meters towards the coop, leaving one heap outside. Three heaps and the cage stay inside the fence.

After tire workshop we have a lunch from eggs and farm vegetables

After the workshop we have a lunch from eggs and farm vegetables

Attempting to diversify forest

There is some new forest on the south west side of my plot. The forest grew on an abandoned field. It is still young and missing many typical local tree species. I decided to plant some oaks on open spaces. Young oaks need shade and protection from wind. I planted little large leaf oak tees under protection of large buckthorn bushes.

Young oak tree under protection of a large buckthorn bush

Young oak tree under protection of a large buckthorn bush

To plant  red oak acorns  I used pallets standings vertically.

Red oak acorns planted into a pallet installed vertically

Red oak acorns planted into a pallet installed vertically

Five new chicks adopted!

After long way in heavy traffic to the breeder, short travel back home and 3 hours waiting while it will get dark, I finally delivered chicks to their new home on June 19th. Mother hen happily exchanged them for unhatched eggs. Next morning they were looking like they always were together.

Adopted chick on the next morning, June 20, 2015

Adopted chick on the next morning, June 20, 2015

So I decided to move them to my new mother and chicks cage. It’s made by Geoff Lawton’s model, 2 by 3 meters, 50cm high.

Chicks and the hen moved to a larger cage

Chicks and the hen moved to a larger cage

On the next day I noticed that the hen looks too wary and probably a bit overwhelmed by the chicks, so I decided to add a baby sitter to help her.

Mother and aunt take care of the chicks

Mother and aunt take care of the chicks

I have chosen a calm low – rank hen from my silkies, and it worked! Now mother hen has some time for herself, while the aunt is entertaining the chicks.

Chicks behave differently when they have a mom. They have more energy. They are more independent and more inquisitive. They learn chicken habits really fast.

 

While observing the chicks I noticed one with crocked toes. So next time I’ll try to treat it.

A chick with crocked toes

A chick with crocked toes

First chick has hatched

First chick hatched on time

First chick hatched on time

The first one hatched on June 17th. It hatched from an egg from a white laying hen. He looks really happy and really likes his foster mom.

It’s June 19th today and no other eggs hatched yet. So I decided to buy five 1 day old chicks from a hatchery and put them to mama hen at night. Let’s see how will it work…

 

Snakes on the farm

One of snakes from my farm

One of snakes from my farm

I often see snakes on the farm. Some of them seems to return to the same places. This one likes a pile of buckets. There is another, larger one that lives in the storage shed. Those snakes seem non-aggressive. They rather retreat then attack when startled.

Snakes control mice and add biodiversity – so they are good for the farm.

No Eggs Week

After being almost a month on “only compost” diet my chickens stopped laying eggs. I called Ion, our bee keeper an a professional vet and he told me : ” Your hens are healthy but it seems like they need more energy to lay eggs. They can get it from grains or from insects and worms. You stopped the grains, but I don’t see much insects in your compost. So you have to let your chickens go free to search for insect everywhere or return to grains.”

I decided to return to grains. I can’t let my chickens to run everywhere. There are too many dangers and all beds are planted.

I think there are many reasons why there is not much life in my compost.

  1. The volume of compost is too small yet
  2. I don’t use fresh manure – only aged one
  3. It was too cold for insects until now

Back to grains...

Back to grains…

Mobile chicken coop is functional!

— Как вы себе представляете домкрат? Опишите своими словами.
— Такой… Падает, одним словом.
Ильф и Петров, Двенадцать стульев, Глава 31.

 

It took me almost the whole month to design and make a reliable platform for the chicken coop. But the hardest part was to lift the heavy structure 3 feet up and pool the platform underneath on very ruff and wet terrain. We were lifting the coop with one scissor and one hydraulic jack, and replacing the jacks with wide logs. Theoretically this should work smoothly, but in practice jacks tend to fall.

Instead of planned 2 hours the lifting took more than a day. Coop fell 3 times nullifying all previous efforts. At last our chief engineer, Gennady, suggested to lift the coop on long boards and put them on logs outside of the coop perimeter. This permitted the trailer to move freely and avoid touching jacks while maneuvering..

Chicken coop is mobile now. Two persons can move it.

Chicken coop is mobile now. Two persons can move it.

Mobile chicken coop on a platform

We can move the coop in 2 persons now. Chickens got access to fresh grass, at last…

We have a broody hen!

On May 26 I noticed that one of silkies sits in an egg box for too long. She didn’t leave for the whole day. When I tried to pet her she  pecked my hand. All are good signs of a broody hen. So I decided to take a chance and move her to a broody box.

One of silky hens decided to sit on eggs.

One of silky hens decided to sit on eggs.

I started to make the broody hen box same evening and finished it next morning.

Broody hen box is ready for a new hen

Broody hen box is ready for a new hen

I added some eggs from my white laying hens. And in the evening moved the silky into the new place.

Silky has accepted the new nest!

It’s May 31 and she is still sitting! The due date should be June 17th.