Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quick and Dirty Complaint

My return to Authonomy was a gesture of good faith. It appeared that the trolls and sock puppets had been taken care of. I brought my re-drafted novel and started up the charts in the old fashioned way. I was enjoying myself.

I was mistaken. There have been several attempts to have serious conversations about writing - but the trolls (who now have cutesy troll avis) ruin it by posting foul things like bad kids wanting Mom's attention.

Authonomy Sucks for Talking About Writing is the perfect example. Steve got 1 post - the trolls took over.

This is after the post where Team Authonomy laid down the law.

I have always thought that Authonomy was the perfect place to launch 'Swallow the Moon' because of the world-wide exposure. Right up until the last troll invasion it was working like a charm.

I've changed my mind.

Chicken World News

After last year's devastating losses the flock at Jordan's Croft at last has some good news. There are 22 new chicks from the incubator and 6 Buff Brahamas. Brahamas are known for their feathered feet and round bodies. I think of them as hobbit chickens.

 This is a nice Buff Brahama hen. Below is the rooster of the same breed. Pretty aren't they?

I was looking for a pretty chicken to paint.

I'd like to start painting again – so I wanted a pretty bird that wasn't zebra striped.

Another 24 eggs are due to hatch in 15 days. Since the last hatch was successful – it is likely this one will be as well. Only there'll be some cross-bred chicks – Rhode Island Red hens crossed with Mickey Finn – a cross-bred himself.

As soon as those eggs hatch I'm going to refill the incubator again. I haven't gone chicken crazy – I'm going to sell the youngsters at the farmer's market, keeping the largest hens for myself – and the prettiest for painting. Believe it or not – there is a huge market for chickens. People are looking for pretty hens for the back yard. I'm going to enjoy raising a slew of chicks.

These chicks are very tame; they come to me, perch on my hands and nip my fingers. I'm handling them daily, to keep them friendly. The balance of the chick-flock has already been transferred to Chicken World. They run and scratch inside all day and night. During the day they venture outside a bit – but the mud isn't any fun to scratch in. They like the thick bedding inside.

Things I wonder about –

I know very little about chicken genetics. I wanted to stick to one breed – but the Dominique breed didn't do very well here. The hens laid a nice amount of eggs – but didn't go broody until Smudge was 3 years old. The Barred Rocks I bought as Dominiques thrived – until the varmint killed them. The remnant of the flock could be called Dominiker as they are crossed between the Rocks and the Dominiques. These are what I'm going to stay with – at least until I get a better idea.

Mickey Finn is a Dominiker – a cross bred – the last two hens are also cross-bred. There is something called 'hybrid vigor' that occurs during cross-breeding. The offspring are more vigorous than either purebred parent. That's why there are so many cross-bred chickens – so what do you get when you cross two cross-bred chicken parents?

I'm going to try to get some more pictures and maybe some video of the chicks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

News from Chicken World

The Flock
Kiddy Pool Brooder

Chicken World Brooder

Today is another 'house and farm' day, not a writing day. However, I've pecked at this post until I got it done.

I'm moving a number of young chickens out of the kiddy pool/surround in the tack room to Chicken World – the coop inside the barn and outside pen complex. The little fools are flying out of their protected space. Once they hit the floor, they are fair game to the dogs and the varmints. I'm moving the flyer's in with the adults.

Crowded chicks, mixed ages even more so, will turn cannibal. The set up that works for 25 itty-bitty babies is WAY too small for them once they get a full set of feathers.

I have 4 week-old chicks with week-old chicks, the big ones need larger quarters, still sheltered but much larger. The little ones need more heat and better protection.

The problem is getting the adult flock to live in peace with the youngsters (without a mother hen to defend them). A mother hen is the Queen of the flock. She will beat the hell out of any creature who threatens her babies. My Barred Rocks are sweet tempered, but there are only 2 hens and the rooster. The others are 3 Comets and a Rhode Island Red – the Red hen is aggressive towards the chicks.

The rooster is the defender of his harem. This year I have Mickey Finn – son of Sony (killed by a fox), son of Sampson (who died of old age). Mickey is a cross between a Barred Rock and a Dominique. He's very good to the girls – most importantly this year – he's very fertile.

Since the turnover in the flock is so fast (I lost over 200 chickens last year) I band the chickens. I found it very frustrating to deal with 20 identical birds; I need a way to tell them apart. Therefore, the girls have blue bands and the roosters get a red band. Individuals have personalities although it can take 6 months or more for those to develop. The numbers help me get clued into behavior.

Smudge, band #2, was the mother hen. She was four last year. She would set some eggs in June and hatch a few chicks. If the duck hatched some, or if I bought a batch, Smudge would take them in as well. At one point last year she had 19 chicks. But she was killed when my own dogs got loose and all but three of that hatch were gone. Those birds are Micky, hens 22 and 23.

Seven was goofy – she would fly up to the loft then jump through the rafters to the other side of the barn for no apparent reason. She made a production out of it – squawking and flapping between jumps, never flying until she got to the tack room loft. Then she would fly down – a mere 3 feet difference between the rafters and the loft roof. Last year she went broody, taking over as the mother hen. She raised 16 babies until she was killed by a fox – that hatch was lost as well.

This year 22 seems to be the largest and darkest feathered of the hens. This means she has some Dominiker blood as those hens are much darker than Rocks. When I looked at the hatched babies – six are very dark, almost black. These are 22's babies, carrying the best of the Dominiker blood lines.

I had another rooster I called Rocky – he seemed to be Rhode Island Red and Dominiker. He was aggressive towards the drakes – who outweighed him by at least 5 pounds. Alas, the weasel got him this January. From the mess I saw – Rocky attacked the weasel first – it ripped his throat out. Then it killed the 2 hens he was defending. They were all in a heap, Rocky on the bottom.

This winter was rough – but with Spring comes the promise of renewal. Hatching chicks descended from my flock is a lot of fun. I hope to see this batch live their lives out in relative peace.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Chickens

Last year was an awful year to be a chicken at Jordan's Croft. The losses were staggering – 200 eggs, 30 expensive purchased chicks, a dozen hatchlings, 20 adults and pullets.

The worst was this winter, when every night some kind of animal got into the coop and killed at least one of the flock. I lost the secondary rooster and all but 2 hens. I was attached to my flock; I raised them over the last 3 years. I bought a trap. I caught two cats, a dog and a rooster.

With some help from friends, we secured the coop, stopped the killing – after 2 weeks I figured it was safe to buy a couple more hens.

I've been collecting eggs since the first week of March. They started hatching a week ago. I picked up 9 chicks at the feed store. Now I have 20 chicks and a small clutch of eggs. The problem with hatching is at least half of the hatchlings will be roosters. So you need to hatch twice as many eggs as you want hens.

The difference this year, as I no longer have hens to raise the chicks, is that I set up a secondary brooder in a kiddy pool. This area is twice as large as the 55 gallon water trough I usually use.

Additionally, I bought a very large brooding box. It will be heated with a 100 watt bulb and put in chicken world. The youngsters will be able to run in and out of chicken world, yet have a warm place to go back to when they get chilled. The investment has been large, in order to get over the losses.

Maybe this will be a better year.