Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chickens and the Chicken McMasion

We have a silly song at our house now.  It goes:  Baby Batam Chicken McMasion, Chicken McMansion, bok, bok, bok, bok, bok.   Back in the early spring of this year (when it was still snowing... might have even been winter), my hubby had already decided that we were going to try chicken farming.  We signed up with the local Extension/4H office for chickens in the classroom.  Hubby had a plan for a chicken coop based on our little white shed in the back of the house & a bunch of coops we've looked at the past couple of years.  He told his design idea to his friend, John G., and they got to building.  This is a mobile coop, currently being moved by our neighbor, who has a small tractor (but could be moved by our pick up).  You can see the door for people to go in on this end.  The dark door-looking space is actually for a window & there is an identical space on the other side.  This is before windows and painting.  You can't see in this picture, but there are three "doors" on the outsides to collect eggs from nesting boxes on the inside.  The whole thing was so fancy to me, and I would like a little shed like that for my own, that I dubbed the coop the "Chicken McMansion."
Not long after the coop was complete, the boys couldn't stand it any longer... they went to Tractor Supply Company and picked up some baby chicks.  We also got given some meat birds, from someone else hatching chickens in the classroom.  These are Cornish Crosses, and they grow very big, very fast.

These are white pullets.  All turned out to be girls, as they were supposed to be.  Pullets are full size birds (as opposed to bantams), and sexed, so that you know you are getting laying hens.  It was cold, and they still had their baby down, so they had to have heat lamps on almost all the time.
This batch got picked up the next day... at a different Tractor Supply store.  Over in the corner, you can see a couple of black birds.  They are our bantams, which are not sexed.  One turned out to be Wyatt's rooster, whose name is Rotisserie (just in case Daddy made him kill the rooster).  The other has a little bit of white and blackish gray.  That one is Ellie's bantam, her name is Tris (after the character in the book Divergent... because she was a little daredevil when she started flying.  The littlest chicken, and she was flying the highest!).  The other birds are red pullets, mixes with Rhode Island Reds (high production layers).

Here is the completed coop, with the chicken run and windows in the backyard.  The red glow is from the heat lamps for the little ones inside.  They got really stinky in the garage, so we were all ready to have some go out to the coop.  We wound up bringing them in and out because of the weather.

You can see the nesting boxes here with the nice plastic mats, that would be so great... in theory, because you can rinse them off when they get poopy.  Only, when our chickens started laying, they did not like the mats.  The boxes are now filled with hay from our land.
You can see the view from this side of the people door to get into the run. The kids and I painted the run. The coop was built with a lot of scrap wood from our old deck, so it was a lot cheaper to make than it would have been, had we used all brand new wood.

The little white pullets were the oldest.  We had to keep them separate, because they wanted to pick on the littler chickens.

You can see the hanging food and water.  We have larger food and water holders in the coop now.  These are in our second coop (a smaller A-frame style)... yes, we now have TWO chicken coops!

I got this last picture from my Hubby's phone, taken May 19th.  The chickens are about the same age as our new "babies" are now (yes, the kids got 3 more chickens and 2 guineas September 10th).  You can see the extra layer of wire that had to be added to the chicken run.  The little ones could fit through the chicken wire, so that is rabbit wire added to the bottom, to keep them safe.  We mostly kept them in the coop until they got to be full sized.  Once they got their adult feathers, they could keep themselves warm enough outside.  But we wanted to make sure they were safe from predators.  Now that they are grown, they get to free range all day long, from sun-up till sun-down.  

On the right, you can see Wyatt's black bantam rooster, Rotisserie.  Wyatt is thee Chicken Farmer now.  He researches them every day, cares for them diligently, and collects eggs.  He has figured out that Rotisserie is a Black Cochin Bantam.  Being a bantam to a chicken is like being a pony to a horse (it's all about size).  We weren't necessarily going to have a rooster, but our neighbors didn't mind, and we all fell in love with Rotisserie.  He is so unique and a handsome rooster.  The next one from the right is Tris, who Wyatt has determined is a Columbian Wyandotte Bantam (acutally with more research, we have decided she is a Light Brahma).  Tris is a champion layer!  Though her eggs are about half the size of a regular ones; once she layed 9 days in a row.  Then, you can see two reds...Wyatt might know who they are, but I can't tell you for sure (he says Fried Chicken is the one standing on the wood).  Wyatt has a red named Fried Chicken, and a white named Fried Rotisserie. Fried Rotisserie is the littlest of the whites, and she lays eggs almost as small as Tris does.  Wyatt has handled Tris and Rotisserie so much that they are very tame.
In total, we have 20 laying hens, including Tris, and one rooster.  That doesn't include the new chickens and guineas.  We have lost one meat bird to an animal that ate it's head off, a white chicken to a heart attack (?... not sure), and another white that a neighbor's dog killed, and a red bird that ran off with a flock of turkeys.

I teased my husband that my cousin knew she was marrying a pig farmer, but I didn't know I was marrying a chicken farmer.  Wyatt corrected me though... Wyatt is the chicken farmer.  The chickens have been a great experience in responsibility for Wyatt.  He knows so much about chickens now, and I am so proud of how he takes care of them.

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