Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to Keep Your Chicks Cool When it is Over 100 Degrees!!!

Hot and Sunny Today!!!

So, today in my suburban neighborhood it is 106 degrees!!! It was that yesterday and looks like it will be that way tomorrow, as well.  It looks like all over the nation people are experiencing this extreme heat.  So, chicken owners should know that allot of the more sturdy, heat resistant breeds can handle hotter temperatures for awhile with plenty of shade and cool water to drink, but the more fat and fluffy varieties, like my Cochen hen, Baby, cannot. They can parish quickly in extreme heat! In fact, I almost lost her last summer when the temps got high. It is probably not the smartest idea to own a breed of this kind in the hot South, but I wanted a Cochen hen so badly. They are so cute and fluffy and such a sweet breed of hen. So, while we are trying not to melt in this heat, I've taken every precaution I can to keep my hens cool.

(My Large and Fluffy Cochen, Baby)

First of all I have fans going just outside of their run along with blocks of ice, and a nice tub of cool water for them to take a quick dip. They keep taking turns standing in the cool water. Baby, is probably hogging it the most. But she needs it! It really isn't good for chickens to consistently keep their feet wet, it can cause sores and problems with their feet, but they don't seem to stand in it for long periods of time. They are in and out enough that I think their feet are not staying water logged. Also, I believe that desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures.

(An old fashioned airconditioning system, but works fairly well.  And my gals will stand with their wings open to catch the cool breeze.)

(Cool tub of water.  Keep it shallow.  Mine is a little over ankle deep for my hens.  I wanted to get a photo of one of them standing in the water, but of course, they never cooperate when you bring out the camera!)

At night I have a battery powered fan going in their hen house, I keep their windows and top vents open. I have strong wire along the vents and windows to keep them safe from predators.

Another fun thing I have discovered that not only keeps my hens entertained, but also helps keep them cool and refreshed is popsicle treats, "chicken style", of course! I put some corn, fruit, and peas (most anything your chickens like to eat will do) in a bowl with water and freeze it and then I bring it out to them during the hottest part of the day.

(Chicken Popsicle Treat!)

 The chickens LOVE IT! And it keeps them so occupied trying to peck the treats out of the ice that I think they almost forget about the heat!

(The Chickens say, "YUM!")

 So, now we are waiting and praying for cooler temps to come soon!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is Meanie a Rooster???


Meanie with her brown and golden feathers

When we purchased Meanie and my other three hens from a chicken breeder, we were wanting four specific breeds that laid four different colored eggs. The chicken breeder was having a tough time catching the white egg laying Leghorn breed that I originally wanted, so while the farmer was running around trying to catch a Leghorn, Meanie ran up and I pointed at her and said I thought that she was pretty with her brown and golden feathers and the farmer quickly told me that she was a mix breed that laid white eggs. He also told me that she had just started laying and was laying almost every single day. So, I said, "I'll take her!". Of course, he caught her right away, and we loaded her up with my other three hens and as we were about to drive away the farmer happened to mention that the white egg layer that I had chosen was so mean that even his roosters were scared of her. "Uh Oh!", was all I could think. And yes, she was mean to my other chickens for several weeks and I considered many times taking her back. My husband and I even thought, at times, that she looked like she might be a rooster. Thankfully, as time went on she began to simmer down and even though she can be a little mean sometimes, she really is fairly sweet and well mannered. And I feel a little sorry for her, because she is very timid of us and I think this is because we were constantly having to chase her away from terrorizing the other hens. She also happens to be the slowest chicken I have. She is always the last to leave the hen house when I let them out in the morning, the last to go out and come back in when I let them out to run around outside of their pen for a little while, and even though I was told by the farmer that she was laying everyday, I have yet to see an egg, so she will be the last to lay an egg out of the four.

One day my husband and I noticed that she was starting to grow spurs on her legs like a rooster, so then I really started to wonder. I did some research online and found out that she is more than likely a chicken mixed with a game hen and they will often grow spurs. Whew! I was relieved to read this and assumed that it was probably true since we had never heard her crow. BUT she had never laid an egg, either.  At least not under our watch and her spurs continued to grow larger and larger! But, guess what?!? Today she verified that she is indeed a hen! She FINALLY laid an egg!!! Not exactly a white egg, but a kind of cream colored egg that is quite a different color than I've seen. I was so excited to find the egg late this afternoon when I went out to the hen house to give them some corn and scraps. At first I was almost in disbelief when my eye caught a different color egg than I was normally used to seeing in the nest boxes. But then I realized that Meanie must have laid it. Good 'ole Meanie. So, another little miracle in the nest box today and now ALL FOUR OF MY HENS are finally laying! Well, except for one, Whitey, who has gone on a brief break, because she is presently molting.  Her downy white feathers covering the hen house and yard like snow. Hens normally do not lay while they molt, but I'm sure she will be back at it in February or March and then maybe I will start getting four eggs a day. Whoo Hoo! :)
The Egg!!!

Compared to the other eggs it was very oblong

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Up Close and Personal

Once you finally get your chickens the next thing you wait for are the fresh eggs. I was so impatient with that. Everyday for two months, I'd go out several times a day looking to see if any of my hens laid. It seemed like it took forever! But when one of your hens FINALLY does lay that first egg it is so exciting! Such a little miracle! And actually, I still get excited going out to the coop to check the nest boxes looking for those little miracles. Out of my four hens, as I've mentioned many times before, only two have started laying. I noticed the first two did odd little things a few days before they laid their first egg. First of all, they got very "talky". I would come into their pen and they would just carry on the entire time I was in there when normally they were somewhat quiet. Another thing I noticed was that they spent a lot of time going in and out of the hen house and trying out the nest boxes. One other thing was that I would occasionally feed them eggshells as I had read that it gives them lots of calcium so that they will lay eggs with hard shells. If they do not get enough calcium their eggshells can become soft. They were supposed to LOVE to eat eggshells. But when I fed them the shells they never ate them, but right before they laid their first egg, they suddenly had a great liking for eggshells and would gobble them up! So, my two that are now laying always fight over the eggshells, but the other 2 could care less.

So, onto my "up close and personal" part. The oddest thing a chicken starts doing a few days before they start laying is something called the chicken squat. I'm sure you may be wondering just what the chicken squat is. I had no idea and I grew up around chickens, but our chickens when I was a child had a rooster. If you raise chickens that do not have a rooster this will be much more prevalent to you, because the chicken, even if it has hated being petted or touched in the past, will come right up to you and squat down at your feet and will want a pat on the back. This signals that they are ready for the attention of a rooster and are about to start laying, but since mine don't have a rooster, well then I guess they come to me and yes, this is beyond weird! But you have to get excited, because then you know your hens are about to lay a nice fresh egg!

(The chicken squat.  My other chicken, Whitey, must be saying, "Oh, honey, you must be about to lay an egg!")

Our cochin hen, Baby, has been "talky", checking out the nest boxes, eating eggshells, and squatting for about 3 or 4 days now and guess what??? She laid her first egg today! It could not be a more appropriate time, since it is New Years Day! So hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come! And I guess Baby is not a baby anymore. Happy New Year to all of my chicken loving friends. May you have a wonderful 2012 full of many blessings!

(Baby's first egg)

(The 3 chicken eggs I am currently getting - light brown, dark brown, and blue green (Baby's is on the left))