Monday, March 30, 2009

More Chicken Tales

This time the toaster oven is off. (tee hee)

As I was saying last week – the baby chicks arrived at the feed store in Rineyville. I had ordered a dozen Dominique pullets to replace my aging flock of four hens. In the meantime, I'd lost Sampson the old rooster.

Therefore, I picked up a baby rooster while I was at it. Doms are the oldest breed of chicken in the US. They have also gotten rare. They are off the 'endangered' list but still under careful watch. I've noticed that they aren't broody, (which means they won't set and raise their own young.) The fertility rate isn't what it should be. Last year, out of some four dozen eggs in the incubator, we didn't get a single live chick.

Over the last few years I've raised a couple hundred ducklings. My luck with chickens hasn't been anywhere near a good. One reason is my dogs are chicken killers. The other is that I had no experience with chickens when we moved here. I thought they were as hardy as the ducks. NOT – not in the slightest.

Over the last three years I've gotten a bit more chicken savvy. I have some nice panels that will keep the chicks enclosed and safe from dogs and hawks while they have some outside time. The 8-foot panels worked great last year. Where I ran into trouble was when I thought they were big enough for the poultry fence.

This year I'm keeping the dogs in the electric poultry fence. It is easier for a chick to get out of electric poultry fencing than for a dog to get out. So we corral the predators, and the prey, to keep them apart.

In case of snafus I bought a dozen pullets when all I really need is a half dozen. We had more than enough eggs for us, and to sell when I had six hens. I think the ideal would be to have one hen raise a brood every year. Until I get a proven mother hen, we are buying chicks every two years.

Yesterday we moved the whole flock out to the tack room. I turned up the heat in the tack room, and put the babies in a nice big metal tub with a warming lamp. Today they were in good shape, eating, peeping and running around.

(Looking around the house cautiously.) Nothing on fire? Good, it's time to get ready for work.


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