Sunday, April 28, 2013

Merry-Go-Round the Brooder


I hope everyone remained dry today as the monsoons of Ohio rained down upon us. So they wouldn't get jungle rot, the chickens stayed in Kennel Bar. They look innocent in their picture, but I believe they were smoking and playing pool before we came to the barn to do the evening chores.

At least the chick harassment has stopped...for now.

Dan and I play a game with the chicks every night. I like to call it "Merry-Go Round the Brooder". It is called this because the little buggers understand the concept of leaving the brooder, but not going back in like they should. A couple of weeks ago, Dan and I lifted the lid of the brooder to allow the chicks the freedom of roaming around their own "mini bar" during the day. This way they can stretch their legs and wings and enjoy their natural tendencies of pecking and scrathing around. Plus they are not trying to kill each other out of annoyance and crowded spaces. We placed a little ramp in the brooder for them, that dad made us last year, so they can get out of the brooder. We also placed another ramp (thanks dad!) on top of the brooder so they can get down to the ground.

Their tiny minds have discovered how to get out...we have yet to go in the "mini bar" and see that they have figured out how to get back in. Though be fair, we haven't waited until the scary darkness chases them back inside their comfort zone of lights and happiness. But personally, I don't think it would make any difference.

Because of this we engage in the daily routine of chicken chasing, snatching up the chicks one by one (or in Dan's case, two by two...he's real good at chicken catching)

and physically placing them back inside the brooder before closing the lid at night. This game is hard for's hard to chase a fast tiny creature and quickly bending down to grab it with a bowling ball in your gut. At first we would go round and around and around that darn brooder...

Chicken chasing is much easier when you can corner more than one bird at a time. So Dan put up a small fence that makes it so the chicks can't get all the way around and we can cut them off easier.

The little buggers are smart though. My little Fumm (who is also a rooster by the way...that's another post!) can fit himself between the end of the "fence" and brooder and create a hole big enough for the bigger breeds to cut through. The fence helps out a lot, but they can still leak through.

I'm not looking forward to the days when I have to do this on my own and Dan will be off planting until long after dark. These little squirts don't have too much longer to figure out the ways of the chicken world!

(It's funny because it's the same birds that are brave enough to leave the brooder everyday. We have some birds who have never gotten out!

                                                                                             ...cluck... cluck... cluck...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Too Sexy for My Comb


It feels so good to know that Spring is officially here and that Winter has packed her bags and moved on. I can deal with the occasional 30 degrees at night when the daytime temperatures climb back up and the sun comes out. The chickies must agree and thankfully, for now anyway, threats of a strike have ceased. We got17 eggs yesterday plus I have 9 dozen in my refrigerator. (I made another sign for eggs for sale and put it out this afternoon, but so far no takers.)

Spring also means two other important things around here: #1 Dan will be busy soon in the fields and I will be left with all these crazy birds and #2 it means Baby Shawhan will be here in just about 2 more months! I think the hens are excited to meet the new addition, but I think Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk could care less. All they care about is the fresh meat coming up in Flock 3 and wondering what is going to happen to them if there are any new roosters in there!

Having roosters is fun and not so fun. It's fun to see how and big and gorgeous they get and to hear them crow. It's also not so fun to hear them crow because it does get annoying, and they can get attitudes and chase you around. Amazing how a little feathered creature can terrorize you.

Anyhoo, I've been wanting to showcase the iconic feature of chickens in general for a long time now: the comb! Now that I have two different roosters who gladly modeled for me, I feel like that time has come. (Though I'm sure there is a plethora of information out there, I was not patient enough to do a very through I have sweet potatoes in the oven!)

Every chicken is equipped with a comb. It's that pink fleshy thing on top of their heads. It helps keep the chicken's blood temperature regulated: cools them off in the summer and warms then up in the winter. It is also something used to attract mates. The bigger and pinker the comb, the better...though OF COURSE the comb is bigger on the males. If a comb is bright red or pink, it is a sign of good health and screams, "YOU SHOULD MATE WITH ME SINCE YOUR OFF-SPRING WILL SURVIVE!" (I know this because Chicken Hawk told me so.)

Different breeds of chickens sport different types of combs. They come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of interesting names such as Cushion, Strawberry, Rose, Buttercup, Walnut and V-Shape. Most of our chickens wear the classic Single comb. As shown here by Cad-Buddy:

Another popular type is called the Pea Comb, which is breed-oriented and is characteristic of the Araucana, such as Chicken Hawk:

Cad-Buddy is definitely the top dog here on the Shawhan farm. It's funny because it used to be Chicken Hawk, who matured faster and who we knew right away to be a rooster. It took awhile for Cad-Buddy to blossom out, but once he did, he took over as alpha male. Cad-Buddy is already doing that head shaking thing, which I'd like to learn more about, and was something Foghorn began to do too. I keep waiting for Cad-Buddy to get aggressive with me...he hasn't yet, but I also don't go in the coop with him in there anymore. I don't do it because I'm getting nervous of him and once he senses that he'll get aggressive.

Isn't that bad...I let a rooster intimidate me?

Some of the Beefy Boys wanted to say "HI!" to everyone, so here they are!

Happy Spring to all!


                                                                                                            ...cluck... cluck... cluck...

Sunday, April 14, 2013



There have been a couple of "happenings" here on the Shawhan farm. For starters, we now open the brooder for Flock least on the warmer days, since they don't even act like they want out when it dips to cooler temperatures. Not everyone has had the courage to venture out of the cozy confines of the water tank, but the bigger broads like to get out and stretch their wings a bit.

We were going to wait until this weekend, but one morning Dan said an Orpington almost flew out on him. We decided then and there we better open the hatches and give them some more space. Already the Orpingtons are getting big! I am naming one of these Wynona by the way...since Wynona Judd was just on Dancing With the Stars. Plus I figure if "she" ends up a "he"...which is always my luck, right?...then we can name him Cletus T. Judd. Either way, I'll win!

Our poor little Bantams have yet to get brave and leave, though with their macho attitudes, I'm wondering why they are waiting. It's a good thing though, since they could probably fit through the kennel pieces where they are put together, and possibly escape or be caught in the claws of the barn cats.

(I need better pictures of this whole set up...sorry!)

Here is Dan showing one of the newbies it's OK to use the ladder and take a walk outside every now and then!

We also removed all the newspaper bedding and switched to sawdust. The chicks are already starting the motions of a good old dust bath and I am super excited not to have to perform the daily diaper change anymore!

Switching to the rest of the flock...

After successfully blocking everyone in the steer lot again, a certain Comet and Araucana were still flying the coop. For a few days we would have to chase down a Comet in the evening and put her butt back inside. I still don't know why a chicken is so head strong and insists on getting out every day, but stresses out how she will get back inside at night. Anyhoo, we didn't even know an Araucana was getting out until I discovered this:

which Goldie Locks was sitting on. As you can see there are more blue eggs than brown. Either two chickens were getting out on a regular basis, or the blue eggs were old. Either way we collected them and added the eggs to our hoard in the refrigerator. No worries though, the Araucana was spotted out just yesterday!

                                                                                          ...cluck... cluck... cluck...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Backyard Chicken Seminar


About a week ago I went to my first ever chicken seminar. (I've been meaning to post about this sooner, but with all strike drama going on, it had to wait!) It was hosted at Carney's Feed Mill on Rt. 50 close to Owensville. Plus it was free, so why not go and learn even more about chickens?

I was hoping I would walk away with new and valuable information...and I did. I came away with new knowledge, comfort in my decisions so far as a chicken owner and the confidence that I seem to know a little about what I'm doing. (Not to brag...hahaha)

The speaker that night was Trent Ardrey from Purina Mills. The place was PACKED! though part of that was probably due to the free food... I had to sit clear in the back since it was so crowded and yes, I took notes. I'm just going to basically type what I wrote down and share with all of you! (A lot of this pertained to raising chicks.)

I like what he said about how there is no one way to do things

The number one reason people own chickens is to watch them...not necessarily for food, but for the pure pleasure of having them around.

As a pet, a chicken can live to be 15 or older, but after 3 years of age their egg production decreases significantly, if not stopping all together.

Predators include opossums, raccoons, fox, dogs, hawks, skunks, owls...the best fencing to keep out predators is 1/2 inch by 1 inch welded wire.

Chickens need about 2 to 3 sq. feet per bird inside an enclosure...especially meat birds.

Basic necessities are food, water and dry bedding (moisture breeds bacteria). They will drink twice as much as they eat.

Temperature inside the brooder for new chicks should be between 90 to 95 degrees F.

Avoid putting chicks with older birds, not only for physical protection but also for protection for disease.

He talked about pasty butt! Due to stress and temperature, stool will stick and harden under the heat lamps. Once this happens a chick can't expel it's waste and could potentially die if left untreated. (You all giggle...wait until it happens to you.)

Chickens can be cannibals...they have a pecking order...the can be curious and peck one other...pecking because of boredom and/or overcrowding. Also, bright lights stress them out. It's good to have a red light in a chick brooder since it's less stressful....we have red lights in ours this year.

Also, hens will peck because they are hormonal right before they begin to hens obviously PMS too!

Cocciidiosis is when the parasite cocci enters the small and/or large intestine....reminds of me the stomach flu. It's orally ingested from the ground, feathers, waterer, etc. The cocci reproduce and the eggs disrupt the G.I. tract, making it hard for the hen to absorb what she eats. Symptoms include loose stool, blood in stool and droopy appearance. It's mostly in younger birds since older birds build up immunities and will fight it off. Best treated with Amprolium, which is NOT an antibiotic, therefore there are no traces found in meat or eggs. There is no "holding" period. Amprolium is absorbed and stays in the G.I. tracts...not absorbed further into the chicken's body.

Like I said, it made me feel confident in what I've learned over the past couple of years and that we seem to be doing something right! If I ever hear of another seminar about chickens, I'd love to go. As with any animal, you never stop learning!

Or in the case of chickens, laughing or pulling your hair out!

                                                                                ...cluck... cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp... chirp...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Guess They Weren't Kidding...


It is obvious to me now that our chickens weren't joking about going on strike. The other day I came home to find at least half or more of our birds outside, wondering around like they owned the place...OK well, Flock 1 was strutting around with an attitude...Flock 2 was a bit more timid in their protest.

I have also discovered the Beefy Boys have been throwing the chickens their support on the current issue and were helping them escape. On two different occasions, two separate holes were found in their fencing where the chickens were slipping through.

Members of Flock 1 told me they weren't too concerned about the consequences of their protests since they are so close to retirement anyway. In fact, 3 of them took it upon themselves to begin their vacation to the asparagus patch and take a nice dust bath. Thankfully, no green sprouts have surfaced yet, or else they could have been damaged.

Members of Flock 2, however, had different motives, and they weren't so nice as a day in the dust. They spent their time taunting the chickies of Flock 3 with nasty remarks, threats and even name calling. Several members were spotted on top of the brooder (real fair when the chicks can't go anywhere), but ran once they saw me. I was at least able to snap evidence of them in the vicinity. This report will officially go on their records. Let it also be known that the bullies included none other than Ann Cluckwells, Jennifer Clucknorth and Neely O'Cluck.

The day of protest did not end there. We only got six eggs yesterday...a record low since the initiation of Flock 2. Needless to say, Dan spent his evening chasing chickens and plugging up their escape routes. It must have worked. The discouraged chickens returned to work today and gave us 13 eggs.

With all this protesting going on, it makes these two look like the angles of the barn!

                                                                         ...cluck... cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp... chirp...