Sad Day

It’s a sad day. Last night as we sat at the table drinking wine and telling tales before dinner, we watched a smug looking red-shouldered hawk fly unusually low past the house. Seeing a hawk is almost always a good thing, except when your hens are out foraging for the day. We bolted out the door and over the hill to the chicken coop.

Eventually we found her, a pile of feathers and a fatal wound. There was very little blood, and it looked like the hawk, who was far too small to carry her away, chose to eat his meal there on the ground where he took her down.

Fauna was by far the most charming of all our hens. A huge Barred Rock, she was totally tame, and had a quirky personality. She had an odd habit of occasionally jumping up into your arms for a snuggle. She was clearly quite old (we got her from another farm and have no idea of her actual age) and had some health problems – a chest rattle that defied diagnosis and scars from a bad case of mites on her feet. She laid eggs rarely, but with great fanfare. Most importantly, she was in charge of the flock, taking on the job of rooster, always charging forward at the head of the column, and always the one to run up to greet you when you came by.

It could be that is why she was the one to be taken. Perhaps she sacrificed herself so the other hens could escape. It’s probably a fantasy, but it’s a nice way to remember her.

So long, Fauna, you were a good old girl and you will be missed.

Chicken girl

Alive and Stinking

Chicks day 4

I mentioned at the end of the last post that there was one little chick I didn’t think would make it.  Well, it appears that my second attempt to force the little guy to drink some water was successful. Four days later, they are all still alive, starting to sprout real feathers on their wings, and are stinking up the joint like you wouldn’t believe. Thank god we designed to brooder to be outside. Gag me! Until they get a little bigger we’re just going to deep-bed them, meaning add more and more clean chips on top of the dirties.  I want to properly clean out the brooder, believe me, but I can just imagine 26 tiny heart-attacks caused by Godzirra (that’s what we call ourselves when we open the lid to feed or change their water) tearing apart their little chicken city. We’ll wait until they get a little older and feistier before we go in and destroy Tokyo.

A Cozy Chick Brooder . . . and Chicks!

So I’ve been meaning to do a post about our ridiculously awesome chick brooder, but we had a bit of weather this week and it kept me from going out and taking pictures.  The brooder was quite a project because we wanted to be able to keep it outside, rather than having those little poop machines stinking up the house.  Being that it’s winter, that meant it needed to be weather-proof and, most importantly, well insulated.  But that clever fella, he figured out how to build it strong and warm and pretty darn efficient, and on a tight budget to boot.

I had planned to get the brooder post up this afternoon, and then be able to post pictures of the chicks all moved in tomorrow after they arrived.  Well, this morning was a whirlwind – I was on my way out the door to go to work when I got a call from the post office: the chicks came a day early! So here are some brooder-building pictures (not as many as there should have been, sorry) and some little puffball pictures to finish it off.

We spent about $8 on 2x2" sticks to make the frame, and $2 on screws. The plywood is recycled from another project.

We spent about $8 on 2×2″ sticks to make the frame, and $6 on screws and hinges and such. The plywood is recycled from another project.

We ended up settling on a 4x4x2 1/2' size, which will be plenty big enough for 25 chicks, but probably not big enough if we ever want to raise more than that.

We ended up settling on a 4x4x2 1/2′ size, because it fit well with the materials we had.  It will be plenty big enough for 25 chicks, but probably not big enough if we ever want to raise many more than that.

Here's the finished box. What I failed to show you was the part where we insulated it with batting from some old, flat pillows and added interior walls, and then caulked all the joints!

Here’s the finished box. What I failed to show you was the part where we insulated it with batting from some old, flat pillows and added interior walls, and then caulked all the joints to keep the drafts out!

The fancy orange bucket in the previous picture is just a rain cover for the heat lamp, which is attached to the roof of the brooder. Also, the fancy duct tape across the top is just to have the metal hinges of the door to keep rain out.

The fancy orange bucket in the previous picture is just a rain cover for the heat lamp, which is attached to the roof and shines through a hole cut into the top. Also, the fancy duct tape across the top is just to cover the metal hinges of the door and to keep rain out.

None of the feed store folks knew what we were talking about, but we finally found this neat thing at Home Depot - it's a thermostatic switch that turns the heat lamp off and on according to the temperature in the brooder. Only $20!

None of the feed store folks knew what we were talking about, but we finally found this neat thing at Home Depot – it’s a thermostatic switch that turns the heat lamp off and on according to the temperature in the brooder. Only $20!

And here they are! 26 day old Freedom Ranger chicks. So far they are all alive although there's one I'm a little worried about. Good thing the hatchery sent us an extra.

And here they are! 26 day old Freedom Ranger chicks. So far they are all alive although there’s one I’m a little worried about. Good thing the hatchery sent us an extra. It is pretty darn chilly today, but they are all warm and cozy in their box.

Pots of Gold

barrels and feed

Well, it’s here. Contained in these two lovely (truly, they’re quite pretty) 55 gallon barrels are 500 pounds of organic, soy free chicken feed. This represents the largest single expense of the broiler chicken project, coming in at around $250. Now that the decision is made, the money spent, and the goods in hand, I am quite pleased.  We got a great deal on the barrels ($15 a piece for barely used, food grade metal barrels with locking lids!) and shipping ($20 – woulda been $110 had I not hooked up with some other locals who also wanted organic feed from the same place), and a discount on the feed due to the bulk order, all of which which made us feel like wise buyers.  The chicks arrive in two weeks from the Freedom Ranger Hatchery in Pennsylvania.  I still cannot believe those little puffs manage to survive two days of transit in a cardboard box, but I guess they do. Hopefully!

Next up: the world’s most overbuilt chick brooder