Chicken Update

Well, it’s been fun and a little sad here on the chicken farm side of our little homestead operation. We’ve lost a couple of the male (meat) chicks in the past weeks. Our current count is 13 motherless chicks in the A-frame and 16 (still) with the mama in the cattle panel coop. We’ve had a few hawk predation problems, including multiple attempts yesterday and today. I haven’t been able to count if we’ve lost any today, but I can’t find the one little speckled brown guy, so I suspect he’s gone.

It’s all part of the learning process. We knew having free range birds would probably mean losses, but there’s no way of knowing unless you try. We’d rather have happy, healthy birds with a few losses than miserable, confined birds and no losses at all. (If we wanted chickens raised on chicken feed and not free-ranged, we could just go to the supermarket, you know?) Note that there have been no losses in the mother’s flock; that is telling. We will not be raising hatchery chicks again, I suspect. Or at least not without ample mothers to adopt them. I just hope we can get our hens to hatch out enough birds for our meat needs while still having enough hens laying eggs for us to eat.

Speaking of egg-laying hens…we are down to 1 egg/day for a couple of weeks. They’ve been moulting for what feels like months, and I might not be far off in my estimate. It’s been at least two months, perhaps more, but I haven’t kept good egg laying records. When they moult, they often don’t lay. Soon enough, they will stop laying due to limited daylight. So I’m anxious for them to lay again before winter really sets in, but I don’t think it will happen. It feels like we only got a few good months of egg laying in this year, which isn’t going to work for me, so I need to re-evaluate how we do things. More hens? Different breed? Cull the ones that don’t lay? (How do I know – they all look alike and lay the same color eggs?) Supplement with light in the coop to get them to lay in the winter? I don’t know.

We will be processing the meat birds (males of heavy dual-purpose breeds) in early December, we hope. They are getting big, but not big enough to eat yet. Our old rooster and the two teenage boys (born in June) are due to be processed, as well. We may just do them soon, as they fight and cause all kinds of chaos in the laying flock. Who knows; maybe the girls aren’t laying because the boys stress them out? If we pick out a new rooster from our current meat flock, he won’t be mature until spring, so the layers will get a break from the, ahem, attentions of the rooster, as well. Chicken mating is not a pleasant process. I don’t think the females enjoy it at all.

I hope to delve into turkeys next spring. I would like for one of our broodies to hatch out some turkeys and raise them, as turkey poults are legendary in their stupidity and difficulty to raise. Having a mom would help. I have to read up on it and make sure that the broody wouldn’t attack the poults (as they attacked all the dark-colored chicks in August). I asked around on BackyardChickens.com, and the consensus was that a broody won’t attack chicks she hatched herself, even if a different color, and mine probably attacked because of the adoption thing. I don’t know, I’m not convinced. I guess I’ll have to be willing to hand-raise the poults if necessary, and I’m not sure I’m there yet.

Okay, I have chick pictures, but they are old. So I’ll post more of those later. Any chicken questions for me? I get lots of questions, but I often neglect to post the answers, so feel free to comment here and ask for specifics. I’ll help if I can.

 

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