KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: chicks (page 1 of 2)

What Do Chicks Need to Thrive?

For those of you raising chickens for the first time, or just for those of you who are interested in the way we do things around here, this video gives you a brief summary of what supplies you need to make sure that your little ones make it through the first days.

We just received our 204 Red Rangers in the mail (we ordered 200 but they often send extra), and they are all set up and safe in their brooder space. They have lights for warmth, food, water, and space to explore and interact with each other. They also have guard geese living outside their brooder, which is an old, truck camper shell with hardware cloth added. Check out the video below!

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What’s Up at KW Homestead? Animal Picture Edition

We are running full steam here at the homestead this Spring season! Between selling our free range Pekin duck and duck eggs at the Corner Farmer’s Market, kickstarting and expanding our garden, and getting ready to offer the most nutritious, delicious, truly free range chicken in Greensboro, time is flying by!

But so much is happening here, that we wanted to share some of it. This brief post will focus on the animals here at the homestead, a quick check-in with some of the stars of the show.

pot belly pigs on pasture

Our young weaner pigs getting moved to fresh pasture.

dexter cattle pasture

Ruby, our new Dexter momma checking things out.

dexter calf

Little Johnny is doing great! He loves running around and exploring.

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The Red Rangers are out of the brooder and out on pasture!

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Our 2 African geese stand guard inside the electric fence and sound the alarm if anything goes awry. Or if they get bored.

Stay tuned for a plant update, and more details in the future!
And don’t forget to reserve your Free Range Chicken or Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey today!

Jenny Wren Babies in Their Nest!

What a wonderful sight to see, when you come out of your front door… A little nest filled with little tiny babies!

This nest has been occupied for 3 years, same nest and same plant. The jenny wren love their home here!

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Chicks (Now Teenage Chickens) Enter the Real World!

Last weekend we finally felt comfortable enough with the weather to kick the teenager chickens out of the house and make them grow up!!!

We have an empty nest now! Except, not really because we have the new ducklings to take care of!

Anyway, we decided to put the female teenagers in with the adult standards and add the bantams in with them. The teenage boys are in the old bantam tractor and Gimpsy gets to live in his own cage in the carport (except during cold weather).

Getting them out of their basement home was simple since they are so used to me picking them up and petting them.

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Teenage boys waiting in the cage to be moved to the bantam tractor.

The boys have adjusted just fine in their tractor (likely because they don’t have any other chickens picking on them).

The girls… Not so much.

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Some teenage girls trying to find their way in their new home.

When we first put them in the yard with the other chickens, they acted catatonic and really confused about life. Since that day, most of them are more well-adjusted. Others still run from all other contact with chickens and hide in the corner of the fence or the house. We think that given time, all of the teenage girls will integrate just fine with the rest of the flock (i.e. their mothers and father).

Gimpsy is doing fine in his cage, and has become more vocal since feeling like he is the king of his castle (that is, except when Bolt sticks his big, ugly mug up next to his cage).

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King of his castle!

More updates to come!

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A Big Pig, Turkey, Duck, and Chicken Update!

This year we’re hitting the ground running with a lot of new ideas and plans being put into action!

Pigs

You might have already read about our new potbellied pigs and their new weather-proofed pen! Here is the lowdown on our pigs: We have…

  • One adult male who is about 3 years old. His name is Gandalf and he is our breeding male. He still has his tusks, which makes him more dangerous than the other adults. Even though he is generally friendly (his old owner told us that Gandalf thinks he is a dog), he can still push up against you or rub up against you affectionately with his face and hurt you. We have to be sure that when we are near him, we wear thick pants and gloves.
  • Two adult females who are about 2 1/2 years old. They are sisters and we haven’t named them yet. They look very similar but one has yellow at the end of her tail and the other does not. We’re just calling them The Sisters for now. They are less interested in human contact than Gandalf is but are not unfriendly. They just have not been socialized as much as Gandalf, but I have noticed that they have become more interested in us when we come over to their pen.
  • Four piglets. Three of them are from one litter and are 2 1/2 months old and the fourth one is from another litter and is 1 1/2 months old. Half are males and half are females.

Our long-term plans for the pigs are to keep the breeding trio as just that, and to allow each mother to have 2 litters per year. Their litters will be humanely harvested as meat once they have grown up.

Turkeys

You might have read our most recent post about beginning our turkey operation and raising birds for this year’s Thanksgiving!

We just ordered our turkeys the other day: 50 Bourbon Red Heritage Turkeys and 20  Heritage Turkeys that will be a mix-and-match of 6 heritage breeds. We plan to keep a couple  breeding groups so we can hatch our own eggs in subsequent years. We also plan to eat many of them ourselves! Yum!

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A baby turkey (called a poult).

Ducks

Around the time that we get our baby turkeys in April, we will also be getting some ducks to start a laying operation. We haven’t ordered these guys yet, but it looks like we’re going to be getting Cayuga ducks which are a beautiful black/green color, lay gray or even black eggs, and are very personable. We’ll also be getting another breed as well, to be determined.

duck

A beautiful cayuga duck! We can’t wait for those gray eggs!

Chickens

Since the winter weather has shut down a lot of our outside chores except for feeding and watering the animals, some of our ideas and projects have shut down too. For example, the chicken tractor that we began building a few weeks ago is covered in snow right now and still incomplete. Since our chickens have gotten even larger since we began the chicken tractor, we realized that we can simply add them to the adult flock in a few days once the weather gets a bit warmer. The bantams will leave their bantam tractor and live with the standards for a while, and the younger female chickens will leave their basement home and join the others. The tractor can then house the younger male chickens until we butcher them (leaving one barred rock and one hybrid male for breeding).

And, in three more months the new hens should start laying eggs, adding to how many eggs we’ll get!

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Starting the New Mobile Chicken Tractor!

With the chicks getting bigger and bigger (and messier and messier!) it is high time to get them outside and into the “free” world!

This weekend Jason and I started with our new chicken house/tractor idea. Since we started the homestead almost 2 years ago, our idea of the best chicken houses and pens have changed. Our first chicken house is still in use, housing our standard chickens and just a few bantams (these standards are the parents of our new chickens). This house is larger than the newer one and the associated pen once enclosed the house but now uses the house as a fifth side of the pen, giving the chickens almost as much space and making the entire contraption easier to move. More recently, the bantam mobile has become even more of a favorite. Its small size and light weight allows us to move it everyday, which gives the bantams access to fresh turf and cuts down on damage to the yard and grass.

So, based on our experience with a semi-mobile house/pen and a very-mobile house/pen, we realized that we really like the very-mobile design better. Our idea of the new house is this: a 12 foot by 8 foot chicken tractor that can be moved as often as we desire, by dragging the entire structure.

This structure is being made out of 1 1/4 inch black polyethylene pipe, the flexible kind! This will be really lightweight and allow for easy sliding!

We started on the base of the tractor, cutting the pipe to the right length and attaching plastic connections so that 3 arches can be added to the top of the frame. We anticipate that the arches will be about 4 feet tall at their highest point.

piping

The joints that will allow us to add the arches.

piping

The corner joints!

The final product will be half-cylinder shaped, like many greenhouses. But for now we have to deal with the issue of straightening out the pipe, since it has been tied in circles and kept behind the barn for the past half-year!

piping

Look how crooked these pipes are now! Don’t worry, though! We can straighten them out in the heat of the sun.

After we get the pipe straightened out a bit, we’ll add the arches to the frame and finish connecting the corners. The entire house will be covered by chicken wire (but the bottom will be open) and one half of the structure will be also covered in something (perhaps black roofing liner and a tarp) to keep out the rain and the wind and also house the roost bars.

We have yet to figure out where the egg box will be and how the water and food trays will be designed, but it’s exciting to finally get started!

Wish us luck!

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Counting Future Hens and Roosters!

4 weeks ago, when the chicks were 4 weeks old, Jason and I decided to take a tally on how many we thought would be hens and how many would be roosters. At that point, they were starting to grow little combs, but it was harder to tell than it is now at 8 weeks. So far, as well as we can tell, we were right about our guesses!

Before we thought about their sex, we divided them up based on their assumed full-blood or hybrid status. Then we guessed about the males and females within each type.

When we were guessing, we looked at:

  • Comb size and color
    • Males have larger and pinker combs
    • Females have smaller and yellower combs
  • Leg color
    • From what we read about the Barred Rocks, males and females have differnt leg colors. Even though some of the chickens are hybrids and not full-blooded Barred Rocks, we though we could at least use this trait to help us think about the Barred Rocks in the bunch.
    • Males have oranger legs
    • Females have grayer legs
  • Feather color
    • Among the Barred Rocks, males have more white in their feathers, since having “barred,” or “speckled” feathers is a sex-linked trait of which males carry 2 genes while females have only 1.
    • Males are lighter
    • Females are darker
  • Body size
    • Males will grow to be bigger than females, but at 4 weeks guessing based on body size is a lot harder. We still tried, though!

Deciding on the sex of the hybrids was a lot harder than the Barred Rocks, for obvious reasons and for those listed above.

Barred Rock Rooster

Barred Rock Male

 

Hybrid Rooster

Hybrid Male

 

Barred Rock Hen

Barred Rock Female

 

Hybrid Hen

Hybrid Female

These are the numbers that we came up with:

  • 13 full-blood Barred Rocks
    • 7 males (we included Gimpsy in this count–even though he was small-bodied and didn’t have much of a comb–because he had lighter feathers)
    • 6 females
  • 8 Barred Rock and Buff Orpington Hybrids
    • 3 males
    • 5 females

And what do you know? Gimpsy is a boy and we are mostly sure that our guesses were correct. We can’t wait to tell for sure!

This puts our total at 11 hens and 10 roosters. That sure is about a 50/50 split! This means that in a month or so, we’ll have 11 more hens that we’ll raise to be layer hens, 1 Barred Rock rooster for breeding purposes, 1 hybrid rooster for breeding purposes (we’re for sure keeping my favorite, friendly rooster), and Gimpsy–who we’ll probably have to take care of in special ways.

And that means we’ll have 7 chickens in the freezer for eating! Thank you, Mother Nature.

And then, we’ll start the cycle all over again with another batch of eggs…!

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Almost Grown Up: 7 Week Old Chickens!

This video gets up close and personal with the 7 week old chickens!

At this point in their development, you can see who the hens will be and who the roosters will be! The roosters have well-developed combs and a few of them are even starting to crow! For most of the chicks, you can tell which are hybrids (crosses between Barred Rocks and Buff Orpingtons) and which are full blooded Barred Rocks.

Check out the video for more info!

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Chicken Nipple Waterer for Chicks with a Soda Bottle

Our chicks are growing fast, and as they get more and more energetic and active they end up messing up their water more frequently. They kick up their pine shavings and poop in their mason jar waterers which necessitates constant dumping, cleaning and changing on our part to ensure that they have access to clean water.

Chicken nipples (get your head out of the gutter!), use gravity and simple mechanics to keep their water clean and their bedding dry. We eventually want to transition our entire chicken operation to nipple waterers, but we decided to start first with the chicks.

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Installing chicken nipples is simple. We got a pack of 25 that screws into a pre-drilled hole in your container. Easy.

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We hope to use 5 gallon buckets outside, but decided to first try a 2 liter soda bottle or the chicks. 1 hole with a 5/16 bit in the cap, a quick tightening with a pair of pliers, and a few loops on a piece of rope and our soda bottle nipple Waterer was ready for action.

The nipples are red, which apparently attracts the eye of chickens, and within seconds of adjusting the Waterer to eye level the first few brave chicks were pecking at the nipple and drinking water. Success!

One quick note, it’s important to make sure that you avoid creating a vacuum inside of the waterer. With a bucket, just leave the lid a little bit cracked to break the vaccuum. Our solution with the soda bottles is to just poke a tiny hole in the base by where it hangs. This is enough to break the vacuum and ensure that the water flows freely out of the nipple when the birds peck it.

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Right now we have just the one nipple Waterer, in addition to the two mason jar waterers but I want to build at least two more. It seems that most people use 1 nipple for anywhere from 5-10 birds, so 2 or 3 should be fine for us.

I’ve seen some creative designs using pvc, barrels, and hoses, and I’m sure we’ll set up something pretty cool for our Banty tractor, the standards, and any other fowl we add next spring!

chicken birth anomalies, part 3: a chick who needed help hatching

despite having a really great hatching experience for our first batch of chicks, there were still some anomalies in our new population of chicks. of course we’ve had some chicks who took longer to hatch then others, or some chicks that appear to be smaller (a little more runty) than the others, but this is to be expected. no chick is the same, of course!

beyond these “average uniquenesses” among our chicks, three particular anomalies stand out from this experience:

  1. a chick born with part of her yolk sac unabsorbed
  2. a chick born with an underdeveloped leg
  3. a chick that actually needed help hatching

i want to describe these three different anomalies and how we’ve dealt with them/plan to deal with them. this post focuses on the third…

anomaly #3: 

the very last chick that was born in this bunch was born with my assistance. he was born over 3 days after the beginning of the hatch was supposed to begin, and it had been 24 hours since the next-to-last chick had been born naturally.

eggs

the inside of the incubator, looking rather empty near the end of the hatch.

just a reminder, all of the other chicks were born naturally, by themselves, without any intervention from me at all. and this is the way it should be, since nature can almost always do “its thing” without any major issues. chicks need to be born based on their own timing. sometimes they need a little extra time to absorb all of the yolk sac into their abdomen (from which they are provided with enough nourishment for a few days and do not need food or water). other times they are still absorbing all of their blood (that was once coursing through the vessels inside of the egg). you should always try not to intervene, and only do so as a last resort.

this is what happened with chick #22. he had pipped through his shell over 24 hours before, pipping all the way around the perimeter. in the previous hatches i witnessed, once this “perimeter pip” happened, it took about 30 minutes for the chick to come busting into the world. but chick #22 was still inside, 24 hours later. i checked him out a few times, moving his egg, and could still hear him peeping inside… a good sign! hoping that a poke or two might motivate him and get him going again, i was disappointed when it didn’t.

so i looked closer… the membrane directly inside the shell had dried out, and was not moist and flexible as it had been during the other hatches. since he was the last one in the incubator (besides 2 other eggs that we later determined had died during development and were not viable anymore), i wondered if him drying out had anything to do with all of the other chicks (and their moistness) being removed. the humidity reading on the incubator still said it was normal inside, but you never know what was happening inside his shell.

after doing some research, i learned that if a chick’s membrane dries out too much, it might get stuck to the chick and keep it from moving around in its shell and being able to break free. it was clear that this is what happened to chick #22.

broken egg shells

some of the hatched egg shells from the chicks before chick #22. see the membranes inside?

so, i washed my hands, got a knife and a damp cloth, and opened up the incubator. i worked fast so that the little dude wouldn’t get chilled. using my knife, i slipped the very tip into the opening of the shell and pulled outwards, gently. this pulled part of the shell away and allowed me to peel the rest of the shell pieces away with my hands alone. before i fully removed a shell piece, i had to see if it was “glued” to the little chick before i pulled it away–since chicks have very sensitive skin and i didn’t want to hurt him!

a few of the pieces were stuck to the chick, pinning his body and head in a certain position. as i worked, i could tell that i was saving the chick’s life, since he was way too stuck in there and would not have been able to peck or kick his way the rest of the way into life.

where shell pieces were glued to him, i used my damp cloth to wipe at the spot until they came free, and then moved on to the next spot. once he was free, i tried to dry him off a little bit, and then i closed the lid to the incubator and cranked up the temperature to 100 degrees to warm him up and dry him off. he seemed just fine in there, acting the way all the other chicks had acted after hatching. i left him in there until he had dried some, and then moved him to see the rest of his siblings under the heat lamp. thinking about how he had been in his shell (potentially using up 24 hours worth of his nutrient-dense yolk supply ),i didn’t want to risk keeping him in the incubator too long without food or water.

so that’s the story of how i got to be a chicken midwife, and man was it super fun! i’m not too cool to admit that i was way proud of myself afterwards! next up on my wish list… being a midwife to mammals!

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