Thursday, May 23, 2013

Broody chickens 0 for 2, Chicks, Tractoring

So I didn't get anything to hatch. Again. The first time last year the roo was a dud. All the eggs had turned into liquid yellow water on the inside. None of them developed anything. This year we got a little further than that. I finally did eggtopsies Wednesday. That was day 25. They should have started hatching out Friday night or Saturday morning if they were going to.

I won't post pictures of all the gory insides. First off, ick, and second, my hands were covered in liquid chicken bits and no way I was going to be able to take pictures like that. Out of the 10 eggs we started with, and the 4 more she stole, 5 actually had something in them, besides yellow water. Four chicks looked like they made it to about day 17-ish I'm guessing. They still had large egg sacks attached to their bellies. All four of them were about the same size. Day 17-ish was also the day the broody hen stole a thin shelled egg and it broke over the others in the nest.

The last developing chick had actually pipped, or broken through, the inner membrane of the egg into the air cell in the top. From there it should have hatched, but again, eggs got broken over the nest. This time I think it was a squabble with someone wanting to lay in the box the broody was in. Now that the creepy meats are free ranging I haven't been banning the older hens from the chicken house. They had been laying under an overturned feed bin. I'm just guessing, but either the broken eggs coated the outside of the developing eggs and suffocated them, or there was some sort of bacterial or other ick transfer into the eggs.

I've been throwing the broody hen, Crooked Toes, out of the nest box trying to break her of her broodiness. No eggs, but she still wants to set in there. They don't leave the nest or lay eggs when they are setting and she's getting skinny. Once a day they run out, eat as much as they can hold, drink deeply, take the biggest broody poop you ever saw, and maybe sneak in a dust bath before returning to set and zone out. It's time for her to start eating and laying again.

Instead of wanting to set, today she decided to adopt all the older chicks out in the yard.

The older hens just chase them around like big bullies when they come in the feed. Not her, she bullies everything but them. This morning she fluffed all up, spread her wings like a strutting turkey and went after Bastard, the cat, when he got too close to the chicks. When I got home this afternoon she was laying out with them. I could see them darting nervous looks at her, just waiting to get pecked on the head like the other hens do. After I fed she got closer and closer as they ate. When they realized she wasn't going to chase them off, they all gathered around her. She kept setting down and spreading her wings trying to cover any chick that got near enough, never mind that at five weeks old, the creepy meats are almost her size. That one white one in front of her is a White Rock pullet, and the rest are creepy meats. 

She's actually making cooing noises at the White Rock chick as it preens it's feathers. All around I guess they're all happy now. Next time I get a broody, I'll put her, her eggs, and some shavings in a dog carrier, move the whole shebang into the brooder, and make sure she only has good sturdy eggs. It's gonna be a little while, since we put Kato in the freezer, and the new little pecker head is only five weeks old.

And now for shots of the newest chicks. No, I didn't get any more. I promised Scott I wouldn't bring home anything else that eats. Pete at Valley Co-op sure tried his hardest to get me to buy a turkey chick or two the last time I was in there though. It was hard to say no, but I did.

Growing by leaps and bounds they are. They just started using the branches as perches. Some of the them are really getting very pretty feather colors. Almost makes me want to keep one or two of the pullets as egg layers and see what I get for chicks with a cross with the Sagittas. The little Banty pullets is still tiny. The Easter Eggers are changing color as their feathers come in. I'm excited to see if they lay blue or green eggs. 

Scott borrowed Uncle Mike's tractor again this year. He tilled and corrugated the garden for me. It's been hard to not rush right out and plant anything, but a good rule of thumb around here is to not put anything in the ground until Memorial Day. Good thing too, cause we got frost last night. 

 The garden before, and full of weeds. 

Scott working working some tractor magic. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chicken Math

Do you see the tiny little bantam head in the middle of all the chicks?
How does, I'd like to get about eight chicks to replace the older hens turn into, "Oh heck, how did I end up with twenty seven chickens?" It's chicken math. People who have raised chicks understand chicken math.

When Scotty and I got the first batch of chicks we started with fifteen creepy meats, and six Sagita pullets. I lost one of the pullets due to unthriftyness. It was just lethargic and eventually went to sleep and didn't wake up. One of the creepy meats got it's head wedged under the feeder and died a day later. Of course I had to replace them. I got three more pullets.

Now we're at twenty two. I had four adult hens. Make that twenty six. After I moved them all outside I still had this big brooder crate that I only really got to use for a week and some change. We got to talking and really, fourteen chickens for the freezer wasn't enough and one of the pullets is a rooster. Twelve hens really isn't too many either.

Then again I've Really wanted the hens that lay green and blue eggs since I started with the chickens last year. D&B had some when I went in there the other day. Darn it. I just HAD to have some. They have such cute little muffs under their beaks too. Then there was the single little bantam pullet left that couldn't be left on her own. Just look, she's gonna have feathered legs and feet.

Chicken Math. When eight new pullets turns into thirty two chickens. So make that seventeen hens when they're all grown.
The two dark ones are the colored egg layers and the one with the cinnamon-ish colored head instead of the a yellow head. 

And back to the fourteen meat birds really isn't enough to stock my freezer. We decided twenty more would be good. Pete didn't have any more CornishX's but he did have a whole load of Red Rangers. They are a little slower growing bird than the CornishX. Box em up I told him.

So what am I up to now? 
  • 4 Jersey Giants
  • 2 White Rocks
  • 1 Austra White
  • 4 Amerauconas
  • 1 Bantam
  • 4 or 5 Sagitas
  • 14 Creepy Meats
  • 20 Red Rangers
ERM, I'm up to 51-52 chickens. Did I mention the Broody hen sitting on fourteen eggs? Thirty four of those birds are going in my freezer though. I want to smoke some, try canning some of the breasts. Some will be parted out, some frozen whole. That leaves me seventeen or so laying hens.

Tomorrow or Saturday the broody eggs should start hatching out if any are going to. She stole a couple eggs from the other next boxes, and I know for sure two of them cracked and leaked liquid chicken all over the other eggs. I don't know if that will affect anything. Yes I could just candle them, but I can't a find a flashlight around here, and I never remember before Scott goes off to work and takes his tool bag with him that has a flashlight in it. Plus I'm not really sure what I'm looking at. 

Did I mention my neighbor just ordered twelve Rhode Island Reds? She doesn't know why she ordered twelve and maybe would I like a few when they feather out? Oh yeah, and the older hens she already has, could they find a home at my house too when the new pullets start laying........

Chicken Math. When eight new pullets turns into 75 chickens. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Yay, irrigation season has begun, Pickled asparagus, Chicks outside full time

South Central Idaho is basically a desert. High desert, but still desert. Looking at Google Maps you see little green circles all over the place. All those green circles are from the irrigation pivot sprinklers. We grow a lot of alfalfa, corn, beans, and yes potatoes. Idaho is one of the top dairy producers in the US. Those cows eat a lot of alfalfa, and corn to make all that milk. There is a huge system of canals and deep water wells to make all those fields green. The big farmers use pivots sprinklers. Those are huge sprinklers on an arm that rotate around in a circle.

We don't have enough acreage to have to worry about that. What we do have is gated pipe. The water comes down the canal and fills a head gate. It's a big culvert pipe that sticks out of the ground. The head gate needs to be taller than any point down the pipe that it waters. It uses gravity to build up pressure to move the water down the pipe and out the gate. Water starts on Dave's acreage out back, then on to Andrea's, us, and then over to Rebecca. 

Those orange plastic thingies are the gates. We get our water every nine days in the evening. I go out and make sure the valve to Rebecca's is closed so all my water doesn't run out over her property. Then I make sure I don't hear any of my gates with water pouring out of them. It takes a little bit for the pressure in the pipes to build. With my big silly boots on I go through and open about every third or fourth gate about half way. The front pasture to the west gets watered overnight first. In the morning I have to tromp back out and close those gates while opening the ones to the short pasture to the north. By the time I get home from work it's all good and flooded and I close those gates and open the ones that run to the ditches under the trees and let that run over night. In the morning again I go out and close those and open the gates to the east pasture and it runs all day. In the evening I go open the valve at the end of the pipe and let all that water run to the neighbors, and walk my pipe and make sure all my gates are closed. Here's the result. A couple acres of green lush grass for the ponies and the calves.

This whole flood irrigating business will run through the first week or two in October usually. Every nine days. 

Asparagus season is here too. It grows wild on the ditch banks and at the edges of the fields around here. I never had it before I moved here. It looked weird and I wasn't about to taste it growing up. Scotty made me try a piece. Holy crap was it good. Even raw, right out of the ground I like it. I drive slowly up and down the back roads looking for either the orange mass of dead fronds from the year before, or the new bright green fronds that seem to shoot up 12 inches over night. It doesn't last long so I pick as much as I can find. This year I tried pickling it.
The neighbor down the road gave us a few jars last year that she had made, and oh man it's so good. I couldn't get a hold of her so I went exploring on the internet. Cause that's where I find every thing dontcha know? I ended up trying the recipe from this site.  

Spicy Pickled Asparagus
     4 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit your jars
     3 cups vinegar (half apple cider vinegar, half white vinegar)
     3 cups water
     2 tablespoons pickling salt
     4 tablespoons pickling spice
     1 tablespoon red hot chili flakes
     4 garlic cloves, peeled
     4 slices of lemon (I didn't have any lemons so I used a few splashes of lemon juice)

  1. Sterilize your jars in boiling water for 5 minuets
  2. Put the lemon slices in the bottom and pack the trimmed asparagus into the jars. Tuck a garlic clove                down into the spears. 
  3. Bring the vinegar, water, and spices to a boil. Pour into jars on top of asparagus leaving at least 1/2 inch of head space.
  4. Put lids and rings on the jars and process in hot water bath for 20 minuets for quarts. (You can skip this last part if you plan on just putting your pickled asparagus in the fridge).
  5. Wait at least 24 hours before eating, to give the asparagus spears a chance to get sufficiently pickly.

The chicks are officially outside chicks now. They have enough feathers, and it's warm enough that they don't need a heat lamp. The big hens have been kicked out of the run and they're pretty damned miffed about it. I didn't want them picking on the chicks, and the broody keeps stealing their eggs. They keep laying in the other boxes, (Duh) but the broody hen keeps stealing the eggs before I can get in there. This is bad because A) I'm hungry at breakfast time, and B) she'll only set for a day or two after the chicks hatch, if they do.

The old hens keep looking it at the interlopers to their run like, "Hey, why are they always eating and I can't get some too?"

So I opened the door to the run and let the little buggers out and the old biddies in. The older hens were not impressed with the grower crumbles the chicks were eating and with a few pecks to the little ones to show their displeasure everyone hunted bugs. 

I still have one pullet the is smaller than the rest, and very much smaller then the creepy meats. 

I totally understand why Carolyn's daughter won't go in the pen with the freaky little feathered mutants. They're hopping up on my feet, pecking at my legs and trying to trip me to make the food get in the bowls faster when I go in there now. I do this weird shuffle slide with my feet so none of them can get under foot and get squashed. I look like the pied piper of ugly, half feathered, huge legged little chickens when I walk out in the yard when they're out. They're all jumping along behind me begging for food. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Processing chickens, Kato goes to Freezer Camp, Norman the bucket head

Having a mean rooster was kinda funny in the beginning. Did he really just jump at me? It was cold and most of the time I was out doing chores in my carhart overalls. Scott found it rather amusing as well. Six pounds of rooster was attacking 220 pounds, of 6'2" biker turned homesteader. He'd wait till you weren't looking and then come running up behind you and pounce.

The weather got warmer and it started getting annoying. I'd go in to feed the girls and he jump me. The first time he did it without the overalls on It HURT! I wasn't sure if it was the claws he was hitting me with first, or the wings he was beating me with, but that just wasn't going to fly around here. I chased his feathered ass around the chicken run till I pinned him in the corner. I snatched him up and held him by a wing and his legs and gave him a good shake or three. Then I carried him around upside down while I did the rest of my chores, and threw him back in the chicken run.

 I only had to stomp at him to get him to knock his crap off. Once I turned him out to free range with the girls  he'd get a wild hair up his butt and think about coming after me. I'd throw my hands up of my head, growl, and run at him. That was enough to make him back off. It was getting to be a bit of a pain to always be on the look out for Kato.

Scott called me at work one day dismayed that he killed my rooster. Kato jumped him from behind while he was feeding the horses and out of reflex Scott snap kicked him to the head. He called me back 15 minuets later to tell me Kato was up and pecking again. He was starting to go after Scott every time Scott was out in the yard and had his back turned.

Life is too short to put up with a mean rooster, but I really wanted some chicks from him and my Jersey Giant girls. Then it dawned on me. I have a hen sitting on 14 eggs. (yes she's stolen two more eggs from the other hens.) I don't need that mean old bastaige any more. That and I'm pretty positive one of the new chicks is a roo. Off with his head.

Actually I was helping the neighbor process her three creepy meats today. We didn't off with anyone's head till they were already dead. I found a very good video on youtube. They addressed the problem of the creepy meats having shoulder too wide and necks too short for the cones most people use/make for non creepy meats. They used an empty milk jug. Cut off the bottom and cut out around the pour spout. It worked perfectly. We did mount ours to a saw horse instead of one person holding it.

The question came up between Scott and I on whether to take their heads and then let them bleed out, or cut their throats. I liked the thought process in this video and we did it the same way they did. Pull down the head to stretch the neck, a quick slice against the side of the neck where it meets the head and bleed out into a tote filled with the shavings I pulled out of the brooder pen. Later it's emptied into the compost heap. They still jerked and flapped as their last nervous response took over, but it wasn't the running around flapping with your head cut off that every one imagines. A quick dip in a pot of boiling water and the feathers came out ever so easily. All in all it was a relatively easy process.  Kato met his end today and with a quick prayer of thanks, he's now sitting in my fridge to chill over night, and then into the freezer he goes.

And for Carolyn at Krazo Acres Norman the Bucket Head.

It's not stuck on his head this time, but he still flips it up over his head. I really need to get one of those one that hang on the fence. I only had it tied to the fence with one piece of twine and he could get his head through under the handle. I tied it with a second piece so he couldn't get his head stuck through. Silly calf. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The new brooder, First day outside, They sleep like the dead

I love having a handy hubby. Any time I need something built or fixed, he's right there to make it happen. The  chicks are not so little fluff balls anymore. The creepy meats are looking downright creepy, all half feathered and loosing their down. There is starting to be a bit of a size difference between the creepy meats and the hopeful pullets. I'm pretty sure one of them is going to be a rooster.

We've had this crate that Scott brought home from work, hanging around out in the yard for about a year. I saw a potential chicken/chick pen, Scott was thinking a compost crate. It's sat and we've done nothing with it. We walked out in the garage last week and one of the creepy meats had it's head poking out the chicken wire on top of the water trough/brooder. It was time for a bigger enclosure.

Scott and I brought the crate into the garage and cleaned it up. Got rid of the spider webs, dirt and crud. 

There's been some old pieces of plywood hanging out under a tarp behind the wood pile, just waiting to be put to some use. One piece was just about the perfect size for the floor. 

Scott took a grinder and smoothed off all the sharp points from the nails holding the crate together. 

 There was a gap between the slats of the crate and the inner supports. Some pallets Liam, Uncle Jeff, and Scott took apart provided the 2x6's he fixed to the inside to keep the shavings and the chicks from falling out.

The smaller holed chicken wire was the only purchased part to this project. Scott stapled it to the outside while I stretched it. (Or took pictures)

The new brooder was moved into place and shavings added. It takes a bit more shavings, they have a lot more room. 

A couple of sticks from the trees for perches and we have happy chickens. 

Today was their first day out side. The creepy meats are down right ugly. 

I have one tiny little red pullet. She is the pluckiest chick too. Her tail sticks straight up in the air and that made me think rooster, but her wings and tail feathers grew in faster than the other chicks' and I don't see the beginnings of bright red waddles like I do on one of the bigger pullet candidates. 

I put up some old warped boards around the inside of the big chicken's run and turned em loose. 

One of the older girls looking in and wondering why she has to use the barrel nest box outside the run. 

If you've never seen these little puff balls sleep before, don't be alarmed if you wander out and look in the brooder while they are sleeping. You might think you have a whole pen full of dead chicks. This is how you think of them sleeping. All cute and roosting on a stick.

This is what you really see. Necks stretched out, flat little dead birds. 

And then as soon as you gasp in dismay, and moan, "Oh No!" They all pop up cheeping and complaining that you interrupted their nap. And dang it lady, where's the bleeping food?!


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