Friday, November 26, 2010

Hens, and Chickens, and Kittens, Oh My!

Okay, so obviously this post is quite dated. Some of you may have heard that we got chickens waaaaaay back in the summertime. And then I mentioned in passing on Facebook that we got some baby chicks, and that kittens decided to adopt us. Here's more to the story.

First, the cats. Here they are, making a mess.
Beginning of October, a mama cat and her four kittens came onto the porch and decided to stay. We later discovered they were from the neighbor's. The mama cat has since left, and one of the kittens is no longer with us (I ran over it...I felt so awful!), but we have Smoky (grey and white), Sharpy (calico/tabby mixture), and Creamy (cream colored).

We feed them with scraps, leftover deer pieces, etc. They're doing alright in these sub-zero temps, since they have a shed to shelter them. They like to try and come inside, but then they never know what to do once they are inside.

And of course the boys love them.

Next, the hens and chickens.

We got 16 laying hens back in June and kept them at my husband's grandma's house till we officially moved into the log cabin in July. Then in about August, we had to butcher three of those hens, one had a goiter, and two had leg problems.

September 10 we got 50 baby chicks, 25 broilers (a faster-growing chicken with white feathers that is supposed to be ready to butcher in about 8 weeks) and 25 laying hens (that will be ready to start laying eggs in the spring).
Here you see what box they came in through the mail. You need to dip their beaks in water mixed with apple cider vinegar when taking them out of the box. You could do plain water, but the ACV is good for them.

Due to our complete lack of knowledge, we lost a lot of chicks. It didn't help that the chicks arrived, via USPS, on one of the coldest and wettest days we'd had. One thing you don't want to expose baby chicks to is cold and wet.

We also had some rat problems. And because the genetic make-up of the broilers is to grow very quickly, I think they're a less hardy bird, more prone to sickness. At least that's what it seemed like with ours!

We've had to keep one of the white broilers inside with us for at least a month because it had gotten one of its toes slashed by what we think was a rat, and so it couldn't walk properly. One thing that chickens do is pick on those that are hurt. So the others were pecking on that poor chick's leg till it was bloody! The chick's leg has since healed somewhat, but we've come to call it "Peg-Leg" because that's what its leg is like: a peg leg. We were finally able to return Peg-Leg to the coop with a bandaged leg, and it seems to limp around well enough without getting picked on too much.
Do you see Peg-Leg's bandage?

So the final count is 9 white and 16 black, I think. That is very poor for the amount we started with!

These are our laying hens. Their feed trough is in the middle. See the deer carcass in the background? They like to peck at that. During the warmer months, they are free-range and love pecking around for bugs, worms and frogs. Hens have their own personalities, and it's funny to watch them run around. Now there's snow everywhere and so they stay inside. We just lost another one due to poor health, so we're down to 12.
It's mid-December now, and we are planning on butchering the broilers in the next couple days. We've had them for over three months now, we probably should've butchered them sooner, but for whatever reason, just haven't. To be continued...

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