Friday, May 23, 2014

New Camera

So I bought myself a new camera at the first of the year. Since my willing victims are the dogs and cats, you will be inundated with a ton of kitty pictures.  Some of my favorite so far:

Back in the winter I hung a bird feeder outside the dining room so the cats would have some entertainment.  It proved to be an excellent cat toy for my Mighty Hunters.  

Chicks pics tomorrow!  I have babies coming out my ears right now with all the hatching.  They are sweet little puff balls that tolerate my picture taking fairly well.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Still the worst blogger ever.  It has been another year.  Darn it.  Let's try again...

So hatching season has begun again.  I am running two incubators this year in an effort to keep up with demand.  'Bator one perked last weekend.  I ended up with four blue ameraucanas, two splash ameraucanas four welsummers and an easter egger.

They are impossibly sweet and fuzzy.  All of the ameraucanas will be going off to a new home this week, so numbers will be small for another week or so.

The other brooder has red pullets and speckled sussex from Tractor Supply.  My niece wanted to add to her flock and my sister didn't want to brood.  I love brooding, so I have the babies here.  They have reached that unfortunate phase for sure.  Bless their little hearts.

Incubator number two is running ameraucanas and welsummers.  The AMs are from my flock so they will all be blue or splash.  The welsummers are purchased eggs.  I need to darken up my wellie eggs, so I am infusing new genes into the lot.  Fingers crossed that I'll get a decent hatch out of that lot.  

Incubator number one was cleaned and fired back up again with easter eggers, olive eggers and buff orpingtons.  This is the first time hatching any of this mix so it should be interesting to see what they end up looking like.  For the EEs and OEs there is a splash rooster over barred rocks, buff orps and welsummers.  Should make for interesting babies.  Pictures will follow, of course.

Guster and Ivan the Terrible are completely fascinated by the addition of chicks to the dining room.  It is the best interactive cat toy EVER!  Thankfully their legs aren't long enough to reach the bottom of the brooder.  I do periodically find them laying on top fishing a paw around in hopes of making contact.  The chicks will eventually learn to peck back, so all is well.

Excuse the mess in the corner.  The other brooder has open sides and the babies had learned how to scratch up the shavings.  It is a very enthusiastic process that makes a huge mess!

Friday, May 17, 2013

I am officially the worst blogger ever.  Nope.  It's true.  It has been over a year since I have written anything.  Sigh.  I'm so bad at this.  It has been a busy year too.  Tons of craziness going on.  Let me explain... no let me sum up.

I hatched like crazy all last summer and then sold like crazy to balance the pens out.  I was pretty happy with how the Ameraucana pen was going, but then the splash rooster started showing gold leakage.  Not a good thing.  I got eggs from a new line and managed to hatch out a hen and two roosters.  The old boy went off to Camp Kenmore back in the early spring and the new boys have been desperately trying to make more chickens for months.  At some point I will separate them into different pens, but for now both boys are in there with all the girls.  The funny part is that neither one is really the alpha.  They are both scared of the older hens!  Silly boys!
Last September I came home one night to find an entire pen of chickens dead.  There were no marks on them.  They were just dead.  A couple were missing, but it looked like the others just fell over dead.  It was terribly sad since it was my pen of the original big chickens.  It was also terribly confusing.  What could do such a thing?  I ruled out poison and possums and snakes.  I thought perhaps a weasel, but there was no blood or feathers.  Just laid out chickens.  I set up a game cam thinking that I'd see raccoons or something similar.  Nope.  Check this out-

It's a bobcat!! And a coyote, but the coyote was just passing through.  I've known about the coyotes since I moved in.  You can hear them all around the house and I see them every couple of years.  But the bobcat is new!  ARG!!!
Thus began the bobcat saga.  He made repeated trips to my coops as evidenced by the game cam.  He enjoyed the lovely buffet that I set out nightly in the traps.  I caught him twice in the big trap.  It took him approximately 23 seconds to get out of that one.  People kept telling me to "shoot the thang", but I never saw him face to face.  Thank heavens!  After months of trauma he just quit showing up.  Either he decided it wasn't worth it anymore or he got shot during hunting season.  Here's hoping that he won't show up again!  He was a little too much country for me.  Sheesh!

I ended up ordering chicks in October and now have a pen full of welsummers ready to fill my egg cartons.  More pictures of them later.

More cat trouble started in August, but that is a tale for another day.  I will try terribly hard to actually write on this thing again.  I have tons of pictures to add to get us up to date and the craziness at my house continues.  I think people are no longer shocked when I share the strange happenings.  Apparently it's my normal.  Sigh.

More to come...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New babies!

I have a new rooster in my ameraucana pen. This is his first real hatch. His fertility rates weren't that great, but he definitely made some pretty babies. Hopefully he'll get the hang of the fertility business soon and I get a better hatch rate. In the meantime, these five sweeties popped out yesterday.

The lighter chicks are splash (meaning they will be white with blue smudges). At least two are splash. At least one is blue. I can't decide on the other two yet. They are either dark splashes or light blues. I'll have to wait for real feathers to know for sure.

They will live on the paper towels for a couple of days until they get their feet up under them good. After that they will move to shavings. So far they are all doing great!


Fagin has decided that Lucy is his dog. He snuggles up with her almost every night. Lucy is still a little wary of cat affection (they are not totally trustworthy, you know), but all in all she has accepted her roll fairly philosophically.

I'm sure the feline/canine truce will end with the advent of warm weather. The cats are definitely cold weather friends.

See how they grow

I have been really bad about updating baby pictures of this lot. They are growing like weeds and looking really mangy! They are two weeks old in this picture and growing feathers like crazy. They were all a little freaked out in this picture because I had just added the scary stick for them to play on. Silly babies!

They are now four weeks old and are really fluffy out. They still look a little mangy, but they are getting there. The one above is the black/lav split that is frosted with white. It's an interesting little thing.

The little black is smaller than the others, but just as fiesty.

The split, a buff and the blur is the lone ameraucana in the group. I think it's a rooster. It's sure zippy enough!

I moved them all into a larger brooder yesterday. You would have thought I was ripping their wings off initially for all the screeching that they did, but they seem to like the new digs. They certainly have more space. Since the big move they have all been exercising their wings and zipping all over the place. They have also been kicking shavings out of the brooder all over the floor. We have officially reached the messy phase. Thankfully they are almost old enough to move outside. I'm really just waiting for it to dry out some. It's so wet outside right now that I'm afraid they would drown!

So that's the first month of chickdom. They won't be full grown for at least 6 months, so we have a ways to go, but you can start to see what they will turn into eventually. All in all, a good beginning.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week one

The babies are a week old! They are all eating and drinking and pooping like crazy. Little wing feathers have started to pop out and everyone is getting zippy. They tend to sleep like the dead the first few days, but now we are active and starting to be verbal. Cheep, cheep, cheep all day now. Thankfully they conk out at night, so it isn't cheep, cheep, cheep all night too!

This is one of the buff silkies.

This shot got most of all of them. One of the buffs is hiding behind the larger blue chick (an ameraucana from my pens). The one in front is a buff. The tiny one to the right is a black silkie. The black one with white eyes on the left is a black/lav split. Apparently one of the combinations you can get is a "flashy" black. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it possibly means spotted with white. It will be interesting to see what that little one turns out to look like.

The black and a buff silkie

A better shot of the black/lav split.
They are starting to scratch around in the shavings and I have started tossing them a few mealworms every now and then. The danger at this stage is "pasty butt" where poop clings to their fuzz and clogs up thier system. Warm paper towels and some cleaning take care of the problem, but they don't like having their tushies cleaned. I've had to do it a couple of times and now they all eye me with suspicion when I open the brooder. Hopefully I can bribe them enough for them to forgive the indignity.

It has been a happy, growing week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Baby pictures

The five babies are out of the incubator and into the brooder. The red is from a heat lamp overhead. The heat keeps their body temps up and the red keeps them from picking at each other. It also means that they will go to sleep. If you use a regular light bulb the chicks are up all night long.

The tiny baby to the left still has some fluffing to do. It also got shrink wrapped due to humidity loss. After a day or so I will give it a bath to help it along the way. The others are fluffing up nicely though.

All five have had water and played with the food some. They aren't hearty eaters right at first. They eventually figure it out. Mainly right now they want to sleep. They will toddle about for several minutes, eat a little, drink a little, do some cheeping and then fall dead asleep. They are like puppies that way. Well, except for the cheeping part. HA!

So that's Hatching 101. We started with 25 eggs and have ended up with 5 chicks. The odds are pretty rotten for mailed eggs. I wish more had hatched, but at least I got these five out. They are looking good and will be a nice addition to the flock.

Hatching pictures

So the hatch got started with a pip on Wednesday morning. Nothing happened for most of Thursday, but there was a flurry of activity Thursday afternoon. By the time I got home from work there were two out and a couple more working on it. This shot shows one out (at the top of the picture) and another that is zipping (the broken up looking egg in the middle). The baby up top came out of the shell on the right.

They come out of the shell soggy and wobbly. After cheeping madly for a bit they settle down and take a long nap. It takes hours for them to really dry out and fluff up.

The egg below is the lone full size egg that hatched. This is an ameraucana. The baby looks HUGE next to the little banty silkies. In this picture it has started zipping. You can see the beak tip if you look closely.
They worked and worked at it for hours. I finally helped two out this morning. They had gotten shrink wrapped in their shells. Old timer wisdom says you shouldn't help, but I always give in and do. I can't stand for one to die just because the humidity is off. A little judicious chipping away at egg and liberally applied warm water get that chick right out of there. Plus, it's pretty cool for one to be born into your hand.
Final count right now (and probably the FINAL final count) is four silkies out and one ameraucana. Two of the silkies are buff. One is a black/lav split and one is from the BBS pen. I think it's going to be black as well. I had one splash that hatched, but it died during the night. It had obvious deformities and had not absorbed the yolk sac when it hatched. I sort of figured that it wasn't going to make it. That's the sad part of hatching. Sometimes they die and there is nothing you can do about it. Sometimes it is more humane to help them on their way. It is rotten to have to do it, but is the price you pay for hatching.
There are four eggs left that were viable at lockdown. I have no idea why they didn't hatch. The chicks were fully developed. I'll leave them in there another couple of days in hopes that something will hatch, but it likely is a done deal.

The Hatching has begun!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Little Overachiever

We have a pip! One of the BBS eggs has a tiny little pip. Technically they aren't supposed to start until tomorrow, but apparently this little guy can't wait to come out.
Hopefully by tonight the first chick will be out! Whoohoo!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The final countdown!

Today is day 18 and that means LOCKDOWN!! YAY!!

I candled the eggs one last time last night. I could see little heads moving around and toes flexing. Over the next two to three days they are just getting bigger. All of the assorted parts are fully formed now. They will absorb the rest of the yolk sac and their "belly button" will close up. That yolk sac is what provides nutrients over the next several days. Chicks don't really need to eat or drink for the first 24 hours due to the nutrition this yolk provides.

In the next day or so they will start pecking through to the air cell at the large end of the eggs. Sometimes you can hear them start chirping inside the shell. Sometimes you can see the eggs start rocking around as the chick squirms around.

Somewhere around day 20-21 they will peck through the outer shell. This is called pipping. Once they have a hole pipped, they will "zip". It is just what it sounds like. They peck around in a circle until the top pops off the egg, just like you unzipped it. Sometimes there isn't any time at all between pipping and zipping. Something they like to take a little nap to work up to the zipping part. Generally though it doesn't take them more than 24 hours between pip and zip.

Once the shell has been pipped and zipped the little chick will push furiously with its little legs until it pops out of the remaining shell. They are wet and kind of slimy when they pop out. Generally they lay there cheeping and panting for a bit. Eventually though they will get their wobbly legs up under them and stagger around the incubator. Once one is out it becomes a game of chick rugby in there as they careen around and into the other eggs. It can get quite chaotic as some are toddling about and others are working their way out of the shell. Eventually they will all settle down for a long nap.

I leave them in the incubator for around 24 hours after hatch. Or until I can't stand it anymore. Generally I let them dry out in the incubator. Once they look mostly fluffed out I move them to the heated brooder. Moving them is a guessing game because once you open that incubator you make it hard for all the remaining chicks. You can kill the remaining chicks by opening the lid at the wrong time. Hopefully this lot will all come out together. Once one makes it out the others can hear it cheeping. This seems to encourage them all and all of a sudden you will have a ton of pips and enthusiastic zippers.

Still nothing much to see in there. Temps are holding steady at 99 degrees and humidity has been upped to 55%. The lid is closed and will stay that way until we have babies! Stay tuned. Unless something goes horribly wrong we should have babies by Saturday!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Update on Day 13

Well, life got busy and I have been bad about updating our progress. Truthfully, from the outside it doesn't look like much is going on. The incubator is still humming along in there. The cats are still napping on top of it. Temperature is still holding consistent at around 99 and humidity is at 35% or so.
I candled the other day. I tried to get pictures, but apparently my camera doesn't like to work in the dark. Check out this website though. They have some interesting photos.

Candling is great fun. These eggs are all beige, so you can really see what's going on in there. There are definite veins and at this point there is a dark vaguely chick shaped blur. Sometimes you can see the little chicklet move about. It is very, very cool.

Out of the 26 eggs I set, there are 12 still developing. There are 7 buffs, 3 blue/black/splash and 2 black/lav eggs still going strong. Out of the 14 that I tossed, about half had blood rings and the rest were clear. Blood rings happen when the embryo starts developing and then quits. It shows up in the egg as a dark ring when you candle. The ones that were clear were most likely damaged in transit. Eggs have an air cell that is easily detached with rough handling. Most detached air cell eggs just won't develop.

I wish I could get pictures for you, but you are just going to have to do a google image search. Suffice it to say, things are still perking along in there. Middle of next week we will hit lockdown and then in a week we will hopefully have chicks. Yay!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Starting the New Year

I don't usually start hatching until March. My girls are all on strike right now, so I don't have a ready supply of hatching eggs. Plus our weather is iffy until March or April. I have found if I wait and time my hatch to come out mid-March I can brood the babies in the house for four weeks and then move them safely outside and not have to deal with heat lamps and all that. Smart, no?

Well... this year I am trying something new. An online contact had a great mix of silkie eggs available at the end of December. She has gorgeous buffs and I am wanting to expand my genetic diversity. I decided to take the plunge and do an early hatch. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I'll be able to easily move them outside when the time comes.

Several folks have asked me about the hatching process. I will try to keep you updated as the next three weeks go by so you can see what happens. Step one is getting the eggs. I ended up splitting this order with a friend. They got here on Thursday and we were able to meet up over lunch to divide them up. I ended up with a dozen buff eggs and another 14 mixed up of black/lavender splits, splash, and blue/black/splash. Basically I can get buff, black, lavender, blue or splash out of this lot. I'm hoping for a couple of really good buff roosters and some lavendar hens. The rest will just be frosting and for fun.

Once I got the eggs home I let them rest until Friday morning. Eggs have a hard time in transit. The post office is not gentle with packages even if you mark them "Fragile". This seller had packed everything really well so we didn't have any that were broken. They can get shaken up though, so the rule of thumb is that you let them sit for 24 hours with the air cell up.

Friday around lunch time I finally got the incubator up and running. I do what is called a dry hatch, meaning that I keep the humidity really low. In the summer I don't add any water at all until the very end. My humidities in the summer tend to be around 30-35% with no help. Winter is a little drier, so I have added a small glass of water to help things out. I never put water in the incubator trays. I can't control things once the water is in there and I have no recourse should things get off. I have found that using a glass of water works both to up the humidity and to act as a heat sink to help stabilize temperatures.

I also line the wire with the cushy shelf liner. It makes for really easy clean up when all is done and it provides a solid footing for the young chicks. It also helps to keep the eggs from rolling around so much.

The eggs went in around lunch time. The seller very neatly wrote colors on the ends of the eggs so I am using that as my direction marker. I had three ameraucana eggs from my pen that I added in as well. I have a new rooster in that pen and I want to see what he is doing. In for a penny, in for a pound I guess.

This is a shot of the incubator doing its thing.

The shot glass looking thing in the top left corner is my water. It's actually a really snazzy measuring cup, but size wise it holds about as much as a shot glass. Humidity is all about surface area. I have a couple of different size glasses that I use to get humidity where I want it. So far this is holding humidities at about 28%.

The grey thing at the bottom is a thermometer/hygrometer unit. These are seldom accurate right off the shelf, so it is a good idea to calibrate them before using them.

So everything is humming along in there. The incubator is a Genesis Hovabator 1588. It has a built in thermostat and holds temperatures really well. All I have to do at this point is turn the eggs. Some say to turn 5 times a day. I pretty much turn them once a day. The hens don't seem to turn them five times a day. Turning them keeps the developing chick from sticking. I tend to leave shipped eggs alone for the first little bit. I'll start turning twice a day after about a week.

So that's it for the next week or so. On day 10 I'll candle to see what is developing. By then I should be able to see veins running around the inside of the egg and a dark spot that is the developing embryo. Fingers crossed!

The only problem at this stage is keeping the cats off the incubator. It is a nice, toasty place to catch a nap!

Stay tuned!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chickeny Carl Douglas

Everybody was kung fu fighting...

Those birds were fast as lightning...

In fact it was a little bit frightning

But they fought with expert timing.
'Cause everybody was kung fu fighting!

And now, for gratuitous pet pictures

It has been a while since I posted random pet pictures. I know it has left you sad and forlorn. Never fear though! Gratuitous pet pictures are here!

Lucy Lu fearlessly guards the kingdom.

While Lily looks for bad guys to bark at. Or imaginary things. Whichever shows up first.

Fagin the Imaginary Cat takes a nap. Sort of.

Lily and Lucy join me for a Two Dog Night on the sofa.

Lucy sometimes has issues with the paparazzi. Poor baby was trying to nap.

This concludes our Gratuitous Pet Picture segment. We will now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Ameraucana flock (and friends)

The chickens are all enjoying the cooler temperatures and time out in the yard.

This is the bulk of the ameraucana pen. At the moment I have 2 barred rocks, 6 black hens, three blue hens, a splash cockerel and a blue rooster in there. The blue roo and four of the black girls will be going to new homes before winter. I hope to hatch out a ton of splash and blue babies from this pen next year.

Won't it be interesting to see what a splash AM crossed with barred rock looks like?

This guy will be my new flock rooster next season. He hatched out earlier this spring and is coming along nicely.

Beatrice, one of the original hens

Lady Margaret, also one of my original ameraucana girls

The ameraucana flock has done well this summer. It has been the summer of cranky, broody ameraucana hens though. Thankfully they have shut down for the winter and are back to happily marching around the yard gobbling up bugs.

Random freaky chickens

This has been the summer of freaky deaky chickens around here. Somehow I have ended up hatching out a herd of mutts. Oh well. They ARE awfully cute!

Meet Elvis.

She is from a buff silkie daddy and a blue sumatra mama.

This is Priscilla the frizzle.

I'm not exactly sure what she is. She came from eggs a friend sent me. I think she is part frizzle ameraucana and part something else. It will be interesting to see what color egg she lays.

This little guy doesn't have a name. Hopefully soon he will have a new home. There are actually two of them out there that look like this. They came from eggs that were supposed to be pure cochin. They seem to be a silkie/cochin cross. They are both adorable and super sweet though.