Tag Archives: urban farm

Baby Chicks: Day 11

As certainly as the sun rises, baby chicks grow out of their fluff in an instant. It seems like every time I turn around, they are sprouting new feathers. These photos are from their Day 11 photo shoot.


Ponyboy


Goldie!


Sodapop


Two-Bit

Salmon Faverolles pullets and cockerels are supposed to look different by the time they’re two weeks old. We’re having a hard time making sense of the ‘sexing’ of salmon faverolles. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent wondering What is a “black feather”? and what exactly does a “salmon feather” look like? This is where life experience is better than google results. However, I think we have 2 hens and 2 roosters. Two-Bit and Ponyboy look very much alike, while Goldie and Sodapop’s feathers are the same. I just couldn’t tell you which two are which. This alleviates a lot of my “What if we hatch four roosters???” nightmares. I’m no expert though; I could be wrong about this rooster/hen ratio. Any salmon favs experts reading?

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three days-old

We have been working hard on our kitchen makeover, and got a little behind on the Salmon Faverolles chick photos. Hopefully you’ve been checking in on them on the Brooder Cam. They have just started to really get fun: eating treats and playing games of keep away. The photos I’m sharing today are from day 3.


Two-Bit & Ponyboy’s teensy wings


Goldie & Sodapop’s feet


Goldie


Goldie & Sodapop


Ponyboy’s wings in progress.


Feather feet.

More photos soon with tremendous growth to report.

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the backyard jungle

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The Littles

It’s about time for an update on our flock integration! We have taken to calling our segregated flock “The Bigs” and “The Littles,” and it just stuck. While they aren’t best of friends yet, I am happy to report we have made major progress. Go Team Littles!


The Littles


The Bigs


The Littles again – are you seeing the theme here?

When we last left off, Katniss & Primrose were being bullied by Pepper and, more tragically, were really bad at being chickens. Perching and scratching and basic chicken life-skills seemed to be daunting to them. We were told our Lavender Orpington pullets had been free-ranged on 10 acres. In retrospect, what breeder of expensive chickens lets them run so free? I’m pretty certain they never spent a day outside until they met us, and I was convinced they were permanently stunted.

The little hidey-holes I built them (Pepper demonstrates above) proved to be the solution we needed. Instead of getting cornered in the run when being bullied, they miraculously became adept at jumping on top of the boxes where Pepper leaves them alone (mostly). They still spend a lot of time hanging out on top of those boxes, but little-tiny bit by little-tiny bit, Pepper is less interested in bullying them and they get braver.

After the Littles moved outside, Pepper spent the first few long days we were away at work in solitary confinement inside the coop. We would arrive home to a happy little flock of three. Lenora and The Littles would be together, eating and acting like regular chickens. And as soon as Pepper was freed, she would chase Katniss & Prim up onto their box. Sad, but soon they were more confident and Pepper no longer needed to be separated. Baby steps.

They have started hitting important milestones like going up the ladder and going down the ladder. I can’t tell you how much we love chickens we don’t have to put to bed or wake up in the morning. However, they have been putting themselves to bed in the nesting boxes, which has caused some confusion for all parties.


Pepper laid an egg in the hidey-hole because her favorite nesting box was occupied. Pepper has never laid an egg anywhere but the nesting boxes before.

Other new chicken-like behaviors: running, jumping, scratching, eating scratch from a human hand, and just today I found them dust-bathing. Now, if only they could start spending time as a foursome before our flock grows again.

I leave you with my favorite chicken shot from recent days:


Levi & Lenora

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Bloomin’ Rhubarb

If you grow rhubarb, this is a familiar, exciting sight this time of year.

Last year, I put in a few new rhubarb plants. They were rather inexpensive and I thought I could fill in ye olde rhubarb patch a bit. Then, this happened.

The variety I bought is an old-fashioned rhubarb variety known for bolting. I would not have bought it if I had realized this at the time, but it was an impulse buy. Bolting occurs when the plant sends up a flower stalk in an attempt to produce seed. Bolting reduces the amount of energy the plant has to put into leaf growth. We eat the delicious leaf stalks of rhubarb, so bolting reduces the harvest and is an undesirable trait. More modern rhubarb varieties have had the tendency to bolt bred out of them. I am reminded of modern commercial turkeys who can’t reproduce without human intervention, but I want more delicious rhubarb so I prefer the modern varieties too.

The flower is a little alarming and it looks something like pink cauliflower. The gardener can simply chop off the flower stalk, and the rhubarb should return its attention to growing leaves. It would be preferable to chop it off before it gets this big, but we were busy.

Now that the flowers are gone, hopefully our new rhubarb plants will go back to making pie fillings. I’m not sure if I’m willing to tolerate this behavior, or if I should dig them up and plant a different variety.

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Flock Integration: Can’t we all just get along?

Poor little Katniss and Primrose. They’re beautiful, certainly, but sometimes that’s not enough. They seem to be inadequate at being chickens. They aren’t comfortable with basic chicken skills like “scratching and pecking at the same time” and “perching on a stick.” There are certain chicken behaviors that I believe(d) to be inherent to “chicken-ness” but these two are continually teaching me that in fact not all chickens have survival instincts.

But we’re fed up with having chickens in our house and I started to have nightmares about them starting to lay while they still lived in the brooder, so they got booted out to the coop. We’ve been nervous about flock integration. The “pecking order” is a very real thing, in that chickens actually peck each other to establish a social hierarchy, sometimes injuring or killing each other. It turns out that our concerns were not unfounded.

Lenora, queen of the roost, could not care less about the little chickens. She’s got a really busy calendar and so much to do. She can’t be bothered with some little newbies and simply ignores them 99% of the time.

But Pepper is another story. My theory is that Pepper is second in the pecking order, and she has more to lose with the integration of new birds. She definitely doesn’t want to play second fiddle to younger, smaller, dumber birds. Or maybe she just can’t respect them in their inferior chicken-ness. I’m no chicken sociologist, but either way, this is the face of our bully bird.

She chases them and tries to peck them; they cry desperately and run. No one has drawn blood yet, so we’ve been trying to stay out of it and let them work it out themselves. It’s painful to watch, though. I want them to cuddle up and sing Kumbaya, you know? Until we get there, we’ve been free-ranging a lot to distract Pepper, and Krista built some hideouts for the Littles to escape to.


Unfortunately the Littles don’t seem to be smart enough to hide inside the boxes yet, but they learned to stand on top when Pepper gets aggressive — which is progress! Two days ago they flapped and squawked and tried to fly through the fence when she came at them. Keep your fingers crossed for some peace in the hen house soon.

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weekend chickens

We’ve had some actual, bona fide sunshine here in Olympia this week. Fingers crossed it keeps up. This, of course, means chicken photos.

Leave it to Levi to accidentally behead or precious squirrel. At least no real animals were hurt.

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chicken check-in

We still have the chickens separated for the sake of quarantine.

Katniss & Primrose are still inseparable.

And they are growing like weeds.

Unfortunately, the weather has been mostly terrible so they have been pretty cooped-up. They need a lot of practice exploring the world, because they have a lot to learn about it. It’s so strange to have babies in the house again. They are getting braver and testing their wings little by little. We have read that we need to quarantine them for 30 days, but I’m not sure how easy it will be to keep them separated for so long. We are anxious to see how Pepper & Lenora treat the little ones, and to get these ladies out of the brooder and into the world.

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mystery feathers

I have a question about chicken feathers. Not when they get all ruffled like Ramona here. I love when they do that. My question is about Pepper Walker.

Chicken experts, please tell us novices – why does my chicken have whiskers on its butt?

None of our other ladies have these sticking out, hair-like feathers. I thought this might be a temporary thing, but they seem to be sticking around.

You know what is not easy to photograph? Tiny hair-sized feathers on your chicken’s butt. They sure enjoyed the glimpse of sunshine we got in the afternoon.

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Smart Water for Chickens

We have been surprised and delighted to find that keeping chickens is lower maintenance than we expected. The only chore we try to pawn off on each other is changing their water. We have a standard metal waterer that they like to stand on, which means inevitably they poop in it. We could get creative with what we have, but even if we stopped them from standing on it the water still gets dirty. We wanted to try something with a smarter design, so we got online and ordered some poultry nipples.

I ordered from this seller on Amazon and received them almost immediately. It cost $11.49 for five nipples, including shipping. If you don’t have the ability or tools to put one together yourself, you can order a bucket with nipples already installed for $35 from The Garden Coop folks.

Then we went to our co-op to get a food grade bucket. Instead of buying something brand new, we paid 50¢ for a used peanut butter bucket. Ramona approves.

The order included handy instructions for “Mounting your nipples.”

The special tools you need are a drill, a 5/16 drill bit, an 11mm nut driver for the drill, and thread tape. Thread tape is in the plumbing section and costs about a buck. It makes the fit more snug to prevent water leaks. You can also add some silicone caulk, but so far this seems to be water tight. I pre-drilled the holes with a smaller bit first, because I have cracked plastic when drilling through it before. This bucket is pretty tough, though. I did run into a problem. My nut driver was the right width, but not deep enough to fit over the poultry nipple. I tried for awhile to screw them in by hand and it absolutely wouldn’t work. I finally had to jury-rig a socket from a wrench set and a screwdriver bit on the drill to get the nipples attached. Success!

The chickens are like this:

They started pecking at them in under a minute. Fingers crossed that they figure it out! We are leaving the old metal waterer in the coop until we are certain they all are experts at drinking water from a poultry nipple. If these babies can do it, I think our flock can too.

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