Posts Tagged chickens

Goodbye to the Cockerels

Back in August we purchased nine 6 week old chicks from Manor Farm in Ilminster.  The guy there said he could sex them and that he could sell us just pullets, but if any turned out to be cockerels he would swap them for us.  So we looked after them, fed and watered them, and watched as 2 of them turned out to be beautiful cockerels.

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The above chappie is a French Copper Maran.

The other cockerel was a hybrid between a Buff Sussex and a Speckled Sussex.  He was a really handsome chap.

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So yesterday afternoon we took them back and swapped them for 2 Rhode Island Red pullets, which seem to have joined the flock OK.  Here they all are having a feed this afternoon.

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As you can see we have a real mix of hens, from Warrens, Welsummer/Black Rock cross, Buff Sussex, Speckled Sussex, French Copper Marans to name but a few.  We also have a large hen we call “Boots” as she has feathered legs.  We hope she is a hen and not another cockerel.  This was one we hatched from an egg, so we are not quite sure yet, but she is fabulous.

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We think “Boots” is a Brahma which is why she is so big, but the guy at Manor Farm said if they had blue colouring in their feathers they were more likely to be cockerels.  And she has, so we will have to wait and see if she starts doing “Cock a doodle do” or jumping on the other hens.  We also have raised from chicks a cute little Apenzeller cockerel (below) who we call “Ted” as he looks like a Teddy Boy, and 2 really handsome Buff Sussex cockerels – any takers?  We do need to say goodbye to another couple of cockerels.

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It’s all fun in the hen run here determining who is who.  The problem with raising chicks from eggs is that 60% turn out to be cockerels and then you have to find homes for them.  Our cockerels raised from eggs are all pure breeds, so it would be a pity not to find good homes for them.

As regards the egg-laying birds, they are not happy with the shorter day light hours and the cold weather.  We are getting 4 or 5 eggs a day, but out of a total of 26 chickens that’s not really a good average. The people on my egg round are complaining that I’m not selling enough eggs at the moment. I’m hoping that when the days get longer and warmer next year and the chicks come of age we will get a lot more eggs than that.

We still have some vacancies in the B&B for December and all of January.

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New chickens join the flock

Yesterday we took delivery of 6 new Brown Warren hens who are 19 weeks old.  They came from a poultry farm where that is all they do, raise chicks from eggs and bring them on to point of lay.  We have had chickens from there before and they have been absolutely fine, without disease or any problems.  Brown Warrens are really good layers, nothing special to look at but very reliable birds.  Firstly we put them inside the hen house. They took a couple of hours before they ventured down the ramp to have a peck about, but they didn’t go far. They stayed very close to the hen house.

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Neil had to help them up the ramp last night as they hadn’t got the idea of going to bed when it got dark.  Today they were again reluctant to leave the safety of the hen house and stayed mostly underneath.

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I’m sure it will take a few days for them to acclimatise into their new surroundings and then the new pecking order has to be established with the older hens.  It is possible it will be 4 or 5 weeks before they start laying.

The baby chicks were playing up today.  We have given them a new feeder and they have decided it is something to fear as they wouldn’t come down the ramp into the run today but stayed up top in their hen house (a different one to the other hens) and were churning up the straw good and proper today.  They have grown so much, being nearly 7 weeks now.

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We still have some vacancies in the B&B in August and September so contact us for more details.

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Big chook becomes a rooster

When we hatched our chicks last July we had no idea if they were hens or cockerels.  I thought we would find out pretty soon on, both developed along the same lines and in spite of looking up how to sex baby chicks on the interenet I could not tell.

Then gradually one chick started to grow larger than the other and I thought maybe this one will become a rooster, but there were no tell tail signs.  When they were large enough we integrated them into the existing flock and both got picked on and chased away from the food.  So we started sprinkling the food in 3 or 4 places around the run so that the new 2 had a chance of some.  Over the weeks this problem resolved itself and now they all eat peacefully together.

Big chook won’t roost like the others at night, he always stays in the nest box.  He certainly grew and grew and is now one and a half times bigger than the other hens.  Then he started to grow lovely feathers and curly tail feathers but didn’t crow and showed no interest in the hens.  I thought perhaps I had a gay cockerel!!

Then after 9 months he started to jump on the hens and 2 weeks ago he did his first “cock a doodle do”. So we know he is very definitely a rooster.

What a handsome chap he is too. He is half Welsummer and half Black Rock.

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Last week him and the girls were dustbathing in the churned up earth in the sunshine.

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Since then we have had rain and yesterday more snow, so no chance of a dustbath today.  We need to move the hens enclosure as soon as possible as they have churned up all the ground and there is no more grass where they are.  Still they are back laying well.  Most days we have 8 to 10 eggs from 13 pullets and one day we had 11, so they can’t be too unhappy, but we will move them soon. We have lovely fresh eggs for our B&B guests.

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Little chooks join the adults

Our two remaining little chooks as we call them are now 16 weeks old.  We decided it was time they joined the adult flock and were integrated into the proper run behind an electric fence.  They have grown so quickly, from newly hatched chicks into amost fully grown.  One is larger than the other, with a proper comb and lovely colouring, brown amongst the black.  The other is smaller with no comb at all!.  We are hoping they are both pullets ie female hens that will lay eggs as opposed to cockerels, but for the uninitiated it is still difficult to tell.  We will have to wait a few more weeks to see if they start crowing!!.

Our two 16 week old chicks

So last night at dusk when they had gone up into the hen house we picked them up one at a time and ringed them (so we could tell them apart from the other black rock hens) and cut their feathers on one side to stop them flying out, and then popped them in the other hen house with the adult hens.

This morning when I let them all out, these 2 were slightly reticent about coming out of the hen house, and as soon as they went near the food the others chased them away, and they hopped back into the hen house for cover.

We’ve just been down to prior to lunch to scatter some bread around for them and the larger one seems to have got the idea, but the smaller one is just running around clucking like mad.

It will take a couple of days for them to settle down and for the new pecking order to be established.  It will probably be another 8 weeks before they start laying eggs if they are pullets, so we will have to wait and see.

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Moving the chooks

As our baby chicks are now 4 weeks old we wanted to move them and their mum, Mrs Speckledy out of the ark and into the old hen house with an enclosed run.  We had purchased a new hen house for the other chickens, so we put that in place, added an electric fence and on Friday night moved them out of one hen house and into another, so that in the morning when they were let out they would be in their new run.

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The next day we cleaned out the old hen house and made it ready for Mrs Speckledy and the babies, but catching them to move them proved slightly problematical.  Firstly Mrs Speckledy thought we were killing her she made such a racket, but as we moved her first, she obviously didn’t want to be separated from her brood.  Next it was the turn of the babies, but they are fast!!  One jumped out of the ark when we opened it and made a bid for freedom.  Good job we had taken the fishing net down with us, so we were able to catch it.

Neil with the little brown chook

The little ones squeaked like mad as they didn’t like being separated from Mum, so we moved them as quickly as possible.

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It took a while for Mrs Speckledy and the baby chooks to come down the ramp and into the enclosed run, but they soon got the hang of it and there is a lot more space for them in that run.

The other hens were enjoying the long grass in the orchard as new turf to spuddle about in.

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They soon made themselves a spot to have a dust bath and they scattered all the bark that we had put round the base of the trees.

the light sussex in their new area

So all in all a successful move for all the chooks.  Our original hens laid 11 eggs (out of 13 hens) on the first day they were in their new hen house and area, so I don’t think they were too traumatised by the move.

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The chickens get a treat

The other day a friend gave us a whole pile of left over bread for the chickens.  The chickens go mad for bread, they grab a bit in their beak, run off to find a quiet spot to eat it and then run back for another bit.  When they hear our feet on the gravel they know we are coming and they wait by the fence expectantly.

The chickens waiting for us

Then as soon as I throw them the bread they tuck in straight away and all you can see is their bottoms in the air as they peck away. 

 

 

  

 After they have finished the bread they return to “spuddling” about in the run.  Spuddling being a local word for scratching about.  Some of them found some nice dry earth to have a dust bath.  Above is a picture of our remaining Cream Legbar hen, looking very handsome at the moment. She is the one that lays blue eggs.

A friend came to see us recently and was delighted to collect the eggs from the nest box, something of course that we take for granted as we do it every day. The girls are laying well at the moment, most days we get 12 eggs from 14 hens.

our friend collecting the eggs

So if you want to taste our lovely fresh eggs visit us at www.lodgehousebandbsomerset.co.uk

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Goodbye Mrs Cream Legbar hen

We have had to say Goodbye to one of our Cream Lebbar hens.  She was so poorly she couldn’t even stand up in the end.  I said to my husband, if this were a cat or a dog, you would take it to the vet and have it put down, so perhaps we should despatch this hen and put her out of  her misery.

It’s not a very nice task, but I didn’t have to do it.  Neil wrung it’s neck and put it out in the woods as fox take away.

A couple of weeks ago this hen was standing away from the flock and fluffing up her feathers.  She didn’t seem interested in food, and wouldn’t come running when we threw down bread or grain.  She became more immobile as the days progressed, and got that she wouldn’t go up the ramp into the hen house at night, and Neil was lifting her up and putting her in the nest box.  She wouldn’t come out again in the morning and again we were lifting her out. Until she was just so weak that it was cruel to keep her living any longer.

We spoke to a farmer friend of ours who suggested it might be a respiratory disorder but it is difficult to know without taking the hen to the vet and economically it just doesn’t add up to take a £10.00 hen to the vet and pay £40.00 for advice,  –  you could buy another 4 hens with that money.

So it was Goodbye Mrs Cream Legbar. At least the other 14 all seem healthy enough.  We had 14 eggs from 14 hens yesterday, so can’t complain at 100% production.  The hen that died was the only one that laid cream eggs, the rest are shades of brown, with the other cream legbar laying blue eggs.

So there we are – life in the country, where death is all part of the circle of life.

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