Wednesday 15 February 2012

From Pigs to Chickens

Now that the pig plan is more or less sorted out, it's time to figure out the chicken plan.

We brought our first chicks home in May of 2009.  In the Spring of 2010, we hatched our own birds.
I had made an incubator and we collected the eggs and put them into the incubator all at once.
I tried 2 batches.  The first batch I lost due to a temperature spike.  We live at the end of the hydro line and our voltage ranges from just under 100 volts to 125 volts.  The eggs can handle some temperature variance but mine got too hot and died.  My second batch did better but the humidity was too high.  The chicks developed but did not hatch well.  Too dry and they die.  Too moist and they can't break the shell open, or the navels don't heal.  The third attempt was with our broody hens.  We let them incubate and the results were good.  We ended up with 45 birds in all.  I had wanted more, but it just didn't happen.

Last year, 2011, we bought our day old chicks.  I felt that the gene pool would be too shallow if I carried on with what I had. This time, I planned to keep enough breeders to carry on our flock without outside input.
Unfortunately, the birds were not so true to the breed characteristics.  There was some mixed blood in there and so those birds really aren't ideal to develop a flock with.
However, after considering it further, the five roosters that we kept are not too bad.  They are good tempered and pretty good looking.  Many of the less desirable hens we ate, so the remaining birds are mostly good.
There was some concern over their laying ability but our numbers are up so my fears have been allayed.
So, instead of buying fresh birds this year, I will stick to the original plan and hatch our own birds this year.
I could buy a store bought incubator but I don't feel that would be in line with our intentions.

Little Goldie Prefers the Porch

The Woodshed
One of the characteristics of our Gold-Laced Wyandottes is that they will raise chicks. Many breeds have had that trait bred out because they stop laying when they go broody. It only makes sense to have the hens do the work since they will be the best at it.  The trouble is having the proper infrastructure in place.  There is that pesky problem again. You see, the broody birds and the chicks must be separated from the rest of the flock. There are many reasons for that.  Up until recently, I haven't had the extra room to do that so I have avoided using the hens to rear chicks.  Normally, the laying flock is in the actual chicken coop, and our new birds live in the woodshed.  Ideally, I would like to use the woodshed for wood, but it makes a great chicken coop.

The Coop

This Winter, our layers and roosters are in our little barn.  The chicken coop is empty because it is too far from the house and too expensive to heat (propane).  The woodshed.....well the woodshed is empty too, but if I do this right then maybe this year I can put some wood in there instead of chickens.
This post is going to turn into a book.  Let me tell you what the plan is.
I will leave the layers and roosters in the barn.
I will freshen up the chicken coop and when the layers go broody, I will move them in, but keep them from leaving (which they wouldn't do anyways).

As the layers lay eggs, we will put the eggs under the broody birds in the coop.
As the chicks hatch, we will bring them into the house where we have a kids pool and a heat lamp set-up.
When the chicks are vibrant enough, they will be put back into the coop.
Once we have enough birds, the broodies will go back to the barn and the new birds will have the coop to themselves.  Once they are big enough then they may go outside.

Sounds good then.  My goal this year is One-hundred new birds.  Then I will truly be a chicken man.
There is another project that needs to go along with the 100 chickens.
I have fencing that needs to go up to keep all of the chickens contained.  They will have lots of land to roam freely on, but I'd like to keep them away from the house.  I have only one grievance with free range chickens, and that is that they can't be litter trained.  One hundred chickens-worth of poo around the house and on the deck, and everywhere else for that matter, would be too much.

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