July 29, 2010

Chickens For Sale!!!

It was inevitable!  I had big plans and now I have big flocks of chicks, pullets, and hens!!!
You name it, I have it!!   Grey, white, speckled, barred, solid, and shaded.
Young, old, and everywhere in between.
I do have most of the young pullets chosen for my own personal flock this winter, and am ready to sell any extras someone may want.
I have yearold hens of Austra White, California White and Black Australorp.  These are purebred that I ordered from a hatchery last summer.
Here is a photo of several Austra White hens for sale:  I have an orange band on any hen that I find laying in the nest, and I will sell the ones that are laying.
I have 5 Black Australorp year old hens, and one 4 month old pullet that is 1/2 BA, and 1/2 AW, that looks and acts like BA.

I have 6 young AW and CW pullets (aged 3 1/2-4 months), as well as 2 1/2-3 month old Grey/Black Star pullets..... Later, I will have Silver Leghorns and Partridge Rocks as well as more AW and CW.

I also have 2 week old chicks, if anyone is interested.  They are with hens at the moment, but they are not breeds I want to keep and if someone wants them, without the hen, let me know!  They are:  3) Buff Orphington and 7) Silver Laced Wyandotte and SLW/Dark Cornish cross.
Here are four of the SLW/Dark Cornish or SLW:
The story behind these late chicks is that I wanted to take a 'hen and chicks' display to the Phillips County Fair, so asked my sisterinlaws and their mother for eggs, and set three hens with four different breeds of chicks.  When they hatched, I moved the chicks around until one hen had three of each breed, and took her to the fair! 

Anyone want to buy a nice hen with no name????

In all the hatching and experiementing with incubation... and seperating my roosters, marking eggs, pedigree hatching cages, banding baby chicks, etc... I had lots of fun with 'known parentage' chicks.
BUT, there were also a few eggs from other hens, especially the neighbor's hens.  I had given her one of my 'handed-down' grey roosters last fall, and since 2/3rds of her flock were hens from my 'handed down' speckled hens.... I bought some eggs from her, hoping to get a grey rooster from one of her older hens of my 'old breed'.  I did.
BUT, I also hatched some chicks from the remaining 1/3 of her flock which were Black Star hens.  I don't want to keep them for breeding next year, but these Grey/BlackStar cross pullets seem so nice and gentle.
No, you can't have this one, I promised it to the neighbor, thinking she would love to have such a pet!!!
But this hen, and one rooster from the same hatch, are so gentle!!  I didn't give them any different attention than the rest,  (I have so many chicks, I don't have time to spend in any one coop!)... but, they just naturally hopped up on my foot, or knee and just love to be 'scratched' on the breast!  You would think it would feel funny/awful to have your feathers pulled forward and rubbed around, but they seem to love it!! 

California White -- 2nd generation hatching -- Summer 2010

The second hatchery order of  'Austra White' was actually California Whites, as I did some internet research and after the first incubator came off!  I had 1/4 barred chicks that looked exactly like one of the parents of the California White, body shape, size and coloring.
I enjoyed the California Whites... they probably layed one more day per week than the Austra White, and their eggs were round and pure white, while the Austra White had tinted, oval eggs.  Two CW hens ended up being such pets they just seemed to deserve names!!!
They are beginning to molt the first of any of the rest, however... and the AW pullets began to lay several weeks before the CW pullets.
Here is a California White 2nd generation pullet:

Austra White --2nd generation hatching -- Summer 2010

Since the Austra White is a hybrid, as opposed to a breed, crossing a Black Australorp rooster and a White Leghorn hen, I wasn't sure just what I would get hatching their eggs.  I had AW hens and an AW rooster.  My mom had kept the same flock for many years, gradually noticing a change in leg color, etc. but still the same good qualities.  Eventually, their size diminished to a typical Leghorn size, and the occassional black feather disappeared. But we are talking 35 years!!!
I found I got approx. 1/4 chicks that looked exactly like the original cross:  with moderate black feathering, black legs, and a bright red, rounded comb and wattle. 
Approx. 1/4 look typical White Leghorn, with narrow, high combs, and yellow legs.
Approx. 1/2 are like the original cross, body shape and size, but with smaller comb and wattle, and white/pink legs.
Here is a photo of a hen like the 1/2:

They are great.  They began laying at 3 1/2 months of age and have the same easy-to-get-along attitude as the parents.

Partridge Rocks -- Summer 2010

I also tried Partridge Rocks... I will update this post later... no photos today.  The chicks are average in most points, although they definitely are blockier than the other lighter breed chicks.  But in actual length and width, they are about the same, although a bit deeper.  I will compare these with the other for length of time to butchering, first egg, and how well they do during our cold, cold winters.

Silver Leghorns -- Summer 2010

I also ordered Silver Leghorn pullets with a few cockrels this spring. This photo doesn't do them justice: they really look sweet... with their soft salmon breast coloring! So far, they seem calm, gentle and very friendly!! Size wise, they are not as large as the Dark Brown Leghorns I ordered at the same time, so will keep this in mind as a point to compare at butchering age.

Dutch Bantams --- new for 2010

I am trying three new breeds for 2010.  I was pleasantly surprised with the Porcelein Dutch bantams.  This breed was an after-thought as we were ordering other chicks, and I had originally ordered a different color.  But the hatchery substituted Porcelein.   And it turned out nicely!!!  A neighbor and I split up the chicks when they arrived, and just recently swapped back and forth until we each had the pullets and cockrels we wanted! :)  The rooster pictured here, Porch, was handraised by the neighbor and loved to perch on top of everything, just to see what was going on, hence the name Porch!! :)  Here he among his girls.

I also have a pair of Light Brown Dutch bantams.  I don't have a great photo of them but will add them later as I watch and review the breed.

July 11, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The last set of the incubator came off... and I was resigned to the fact that here was yet another batch of chicks I would have to raise without the help of a mama hen!!! They stayed under a light in the porch for four or five days, simply because the older batch of chicks were still in the little pen that was the usual 'first brooder'.
One morning, while milking, I realized I had been seeing a speckled hen in the barn for several mornings... I expected her to have come in the open door, as many do.  But today, I had closed the door immediately behind myself.  The hen came out to the cat milk pan and wandered around... soon, it dawned on me, she was acting like a setting hen does... out for her stretch, bathroom break, and a bit of food!!!
I watched her carefully, and from behind the cow... and soon saw her disappear in the west corner of the barn.  That night, I did a little exploring, and found her sitting on a nest of 28 eggs!!!  I candled them and either they were just started or were not going to be good.  I think she had just begun remaining with them that night, although I remember seeing her in the barn many days in the past.  I had the great idea to give her my incubator chicks, even though this 'grafting' often doesn't work with a hen that hasn't set on a nest with eggs at least a week!
The next night, I slid a chick under her, and the next morning, I gave her one or two every couple of hours.
After noon, I took the rest to the little brooding pen, and then gathered her and the 6 that she had... and put all the chicks together, and set her in with them.
For the next twenty minutes, I watched, and soon began to worry.  She was still acting like a setting hen going for her stretch and activities!  She wandered all around the little pen, then slowly jumped over the front board, walked past me and began to explore all corners of the little shed.  Soon however, she came back, took a few good looks at me, and jumped back in with the chicks.  She stood and stared at them, still and silent for about 5 minutes, then picked up a bit of 'chick mash' and dropped it and began to break it up with her beak.  I knew then it would probably all work out.
However, the chicks had to learn to be with a mama, every bit as much as she had to get used to the idea that she suddenly had 23 chicks!!!  They had not been used to going under a hen!
Later that night, as it was cooling off, 2/3rds of the chicks were huddled in a corner, some distance from the hen.  I waved my hand over them, trying to get them to peep, move, run to her, or something.  They were used to me, from being in the porch, and didn't move.  Soon, the hen couldn't stand it  any longer, lifted up a few inches, shuffled over to the big huddle of chicks and just sat down on them!!!  Then she gave me the 'stay away, they are mine' look.  I knew then it was going to be okay!
Here is the GOOD hen:
Now to the BAD:
I ordered bantam chicks from a hatchery, planning to put them under a setting hen due to hatch that same week.  I had four eggs under her, and she hatched 2, so added 11 bantam chicks to her brood.
She was an okay mama, but not very vocal.  In about two weeks, she stopped clucking to them at all, and at three weeks, she laid several eggs.  I had them in a small coop and locked into an attached run, so she couldn't have left even if she had truly wished.  But when I moved them to a little pen close to the main coop, she flew over the fence and left... and didn't want back.  I had to move the bantams into the feed room of the main coop, because of the gnat problem, and so I put her back with them for the first night, to keep them calmer.  She wasn't mean to them, but she surely didn't want to be bothered with them either!  Today, I put a band on her leg, and let her go back to the main bunch.  The chicks are 6 weeks old and I will keep them protected, so they can go on their own!
Here is the BAD hen:
Last, the Ugly:
My sisterinlaw loaned me a setting hen, a few days before one of our hatchery orders was due to arrive.  I have done this 'grafting' of chicks onto a foster mama many times, but this time the hen just would not leave her nest!  She loved those eggs, and didn't want a 'ready-made family'!!!  So, I put eggs under her and let her work for her kids!!!  She came off last week, and is a very good mama to her 7 chicks!
But she had set at my sisterinlaw's coop for about two weeks before I brought her home, and she sat for another week while I tried to get her to take the hatchery chicks... PLUS, she then sat for three weeks on the eggs!  So, she had been setting twice as long as usual... and she does look like a bedraggled mama!!!
Here is the UGLY Hen:

Update on Black Australorp...

Update on the Black Australorp hens...
During late winter, the shell quality deteriorated rapidly on the Black Australorp eggs.  They became gritty, and very fragile. None of the other hens in the same coop, on the same feed, produced eggs of thin shells or uneven texture.
HOWEVER, the egg shell quality returned to normal in a month or six weeks, and has continued just fine.
They lay well!
Of the five hens, I had only one set during the spring season... and she was not as 'dedicated' as a good hen should be.