Chickens

Report for the year 2017

By the end of 2016 it became clear that chickens have the best potential of all activities so far. So 2017 became a year of the chicken!

 

Ava February 2017

Training the chicken- guard dog, Ava.

"Recycling" after - cage chickens. Many of them died soon, but many survived and laid eggs from June to december

“Recycling” after – cage chickens. Some of them died soon, but many survived and laid eggs from June to December

Ava guards chickens, march 2017

Ava guards chickens, march 2017

After loses of 2015- 2106. I decided to build chicken tractors, as a protection. They showed their efficiency later.

After loses of 2015- 2016. I decided to build chicken tractors, as a protection. They showed their efficiency and versatility later.

First incubation of 2017

There were many incubation attempts. Though the hatching rate was 20 – 30%, I learned a lot: dry incubation, better incubator insulation, better temperature control.

Many chicks hatched in 2017, but the best survivors were the first ones. Rabbits escaped later from a chicken tractor and disappeared.

Many chicks hatched in 2017, but the best survivors were the first ones. Rabbits escaped later from a chicken tractor and disappeared.

Many chicks were lost during the flood of May 2017.

Many chicks were lost during the flood of May 2017.

An attempt to interplant garlic with potatoes didn't yield much potatoes. Mostly because of luck of care.

An attempt to interplant garlic with potatoes didn’t yield much potatoes. Mostly because of luck of care.

Chicken tractors appeared to be very convenient to keep chicks with a broody hen.

Chicken tractors appeared to be very convenient to keep chicks with a broody hen.

chicken tractor in field

Chicken tractors performed really well in open field.

moles infestation

While chickens were doing well, worms got a problem – moles. I caught 8 of them with bare hands during the season.

Rooster with chicks

Another use of a chicken tractor and extra roosters. Roosters are good baby-sitters for chicks of 6 week and older. They teach to forage, heat chicks and sometimes are capable to protect from small predators like rats and mink.

Baby -sitter hen

My most important discovery of the year was the “golden hen”.

Hens live up to 8 – 9 years, but lay eggs only 3 – 4 years, why? My assumption is that like human grandmothers old hens can adopt ANY orphaned chicks! The only problem is how to convince the old lady… Here is a solution: chicks should be left in the chicken tractor under their heater plate. There should be no perches or other high places unaccessible for chicks inside the tractor. The hen lives in the same tractor and she sleeps in a place accessible for chicks. At night chicks “migrate” on their own under the hen’s wings. When all chicks sleep under wings and the hen starts to call them for food, heater plate can be removed! That’s it. Now this hen will accept any chicks straight from the incubator for the rest of her precious life.   She saves electricity, space, and so needed farmer’s time. She worth gold by her weight (if the dead metal can be compared to a living creature). Chicks survival rate is almost 100%. The chicken tractor can be moved to an orchard or a lawn – no electricity needed!  Picky, the hen on the picture, raised 45 chicks in one summer and died from a sickness in November…

Here is Picky with her 3rd brood of the summer.

Here is Picky with her 3rd brood of the summer.

One more use of a chicken tractor - a chick attraction for urban kids. It's easy to pack the chicks, load the tractor into a car and drive to a local market or fare.

One more use of a chicken tractor – a chick attraction for urban kids. It’s easy to pack the chicks, load the tractor into a car and drive to a local market or fare.

In October Philip came with an idea of getting goats and sheep.

In October Philip came with an idea of getting goats and sheep.

Philip built a temporary bioshelter that, in spite of some technical problems, performed very well during the very cold winter of 2017-2018.

First goats arrived. They were not in a best shape plus luck of our experience - we lost two of them by the end of November.

First goats arrived. They were not in a best shape plus luck of our experience – we lost two of them by the end of November.

Sheep arrived at the beginning of November

Sheep arrived at the beginning of November

Pond

Thanks to Philip’s help we improved the little pond at last!

By the end of November all chickens were moved to chicken coops joined together under a car shelter.

By the end of November all chickens were moved to chicken coops joined together under a car shelter.

The chicken coops didn’t perform well in the harsh winter. They need better insulation and a better chicken run shelter. We lost many chickens. Also we moved ducks into the same shelters, that might carried some deceases. Ducks themselves survived winter very well.

We got two alpine goats to compensate loses

In December we got two alpine goats to compensate loses

 

With some experience we started to walk with goats and sheep, training Ava as a shepherd dog.

With some experience we started to walk with goats and sheep, training Ava as a shepherd dog.

 

First chicks from the incubator

First chick hatched!

First chick hatched!

I restarted the incubator on February 14 with updated settings – temperature 38C, humidity 60%. Everything was going well, but on February 24 – 25 we had 12 hours power outage. The incubator cooled down to 15C. I was thinking that all is lost, but on March 6 the first chick hatched! Than on March 7 hatched 2 other chicks out of 15 eggs. Next day I opened all other eggs. There was 7 more dead chicks inside.So the fertile rate is 10/15 = 66%. Not so bad for winter.

In the darkness Farby was good with chicks

In the darkness Farby was good with chicks

I called up a broody hen Farby. Her current chicks are already 6 weeks old. I put her in a broody cage in the basement and slipped the chicks at night. In the darkness she was OK.

Farby rejected the new chicks and started to attack them.

Farby rejected the new chicks and started to attack them.

But when I moved the cage to light she started to attack chicks…

So there was no choice. Farby returned back to her old chicks and all were very happy. Chicks went under the light bulb until their new “electric hen” will arrive.

 

chicks under the light bulb

chicks under the light bulb

There was a funny consequence of this. Chicks learned an aggressive behavior from the hen and continue to attack each other sometimes.

 

Treating eye infections in chickens

 

Here is how I treat eye infections in chickens.

 

Newy had a bad eye infection

I prepare a strong tea: for 1 tea spoon of black tea leaves – 1/2 cup of boiling water. Let the tea to stay for 1/2 an hour and cool down. Then gently wash the sick eye with tea using a cotton swab, wiping out any discharge with a paper napkin. I do this twice a day, in the morning and at the evening.

One hour after the tea I put some petroleum gelly on the closed eye to prevent clogging with dry mucus.
I continue with the tea for 1 week,  then stop the tea and use the gelly only. At night it’s OK to put the gelly after the chicken is asleep. Just wake her up gently, carefully open eyelids wipe out any discharge and gently put the gelly on the closed eye.

 

Newy 2 weeks after the treatment

Newy 2 weeks after the treatment

I noticed that younger chicks with eye infections retard in growth. They catch up later. A slight sign below the eye will remain.

 

A new 48 eggs incubator

At last I got the my incubator!

48 eggs incubator

48 eggs incubator

The idea behind it is simple. A hen can hatch maximum 5 – 9 chicks, but she can raise 12  – 20. So instead of running and searching for chicks for adoption I can start an incubator in parallel with the broody hen. The chicks for adoption will be ready right in time!

 

Incubator is on!

Incubator is on!

I couldn’t hold myself and started the incubator with what eggs I have now. Some of those eggs are 2 weeks old. They also were exposed to cold for some time ( but never freeze). So the chances are miserable. But I know for sure both mother and father of those eggs and there is always a hope!

 

Winter on the farm 2

On New Year eve winter at last came to Montreal. I am not sure about people, but chickens are happy for sure!

Chickens meet me on the snow

Chickens meet me on the snow

The old tempo tent holds well and gives enough protection for chickens to spend all day outdoors.

Tempo tent serves well as a chicken run and a storage for compost

Tempo tent serves well as a chicken run and a storage for compost

 

Farby managed to hatch a chick! And I added her 3 more so the first one would’t be bored. Farby sat on eggs in total for at least 31 days!

Farby hatched a chick in January

Farby hatched a chick in January

There is less danger of predators in the greenhouse so I  simply turned the broody cage on the side to let Farby and here chicks wander around. Other chickens greeted them.

Farby and chicks can roam free in the greenhouse

Farby and chicks can roam free in the greenhouse

 

To protect winter greens from frost (and from chickens) we covered them with a layer of plastic. This seems to work well so far.

Winter greens under double cover

Winter greens under double cover

Winter on the farm

Late start of the previous 2015 year winter gave us a chance to finish all planned preparations.

Mobile chicken coop parked for winter. I added a tempo tent as a chicken run and compost cover.

Mobile chicken coop parked for winter. I added a tempo tent as a chicken run and compost cover.

We moved the mobile coop to the main farm,  attached its water heater to electricity, added a tempo tent for chicken run, prepared the greenhouse and planted winter greens.

Attempting to store seed potatoes in woodchips

Attempting to store seed potatoes in woodchips

I even had time to set an experiment to store potatoes, recycled from the grocery store. I dug them into a pile of wood chips.

Though, wet and warm winter start was  not good for chickens. I lost many of them to deceases. Most likely because of stale water under the coop and around it.

chickens dead from decease because of wet and warm winter

chickens dead from decease because of wet and warm winter

In spite of all problems chickens continued to lay eggs. The egg productions drastically dropped, but never stopped entirely. Even in the shortest day we had some eggs.

Eggs laid on shortest day of the year

Eggs laid on shortest day of the year

The funniest of all was a hen called Farby. She decided to get broody, probably to cover the losses. I was routinely taking her eggs, but she sat on new eggs each day. Finally, on December 23rd I got 6 straw bales as a present. I took this as a sign to let the nature prevail. So Farby got her private quarters with straw the same day. By this time she was sitting on different eggs for at least 10 days.

dr. Squicky on eggs second time in the same year

dr. Squicky on eggs second time in the same year

 

 

 

Preparing for Winter

A yearly load of autumn leaves

A yearly load of autumn leaves

As usually I collect bagged leaves. For different reasons I need more of them each year. They are good bedding for chickens and worms, good “brown” material for compost and good mulch for garlic. I collect only plastic bags. They keep leaves dry and slow down decomposition. If left on the street they will be collected by garbage removal service. Municipality compost accepts paper bags only.

 

A new automatic door for the chicken coop

A new automatic door for the chicken coop

At last I installed an automatic door opener on the chicken coop. Now, at least theoretically, I can visit my coop only once a day at a convenient time.

 

I finished planting my garlic and started sunchocks.  Also some worms will move into the greenhouse soon.

Recovering from losses

To compensate losses I decided to go shopping for new chickens and soon found on kijiji a sale-off from a breeder. The price was very good, the chickens were healthy. The only condition was to take them all. So I got a funny variety of domestic poultry.

Ameraucana rooster (named Mars), and 3 hens. One hamburg bantham hen, 2 little black hens

Ameraucana rooster (named Mars), and 3 hens. One hamburg bantham hen, 2 little black hens

 

Also I got a large family of ornamental chickens of type Phoenix.

phoenix chickens.

phoenix chickens.

 

I exchanged adult phoenixes for laying hens from Nathalie. And egg production slowly got better.

Now eggs became more colorful.

One of my fears was to loose a rooster in unavoidable competition between newcomers and my old rooster. But all ended relatively good. After a short fight my rooster Petrus accepted superiority of the new rooster whom we called Mars. In this fight Mars lost his only spoor, but didn’t give up!

Bad day for chickens

A predator visited my chicken coop on July 28th. It used a brute force technique against the electric fence. Simply jump over, putting the belly on the fence. The electric shock power was week after heavy rains at night. It could be a raccoon, but the fact that it came by the road and clear experience with jumping over fences… Read more →

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