Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The chicken detective

When we first got out chicks they looked like this (and you can see how Dwight was rather pecked up by other chicks, her wing looks sticky because I put some homemade salve on it).


Right now, the girls are growing their feathers. There are lots of red-brown with white bits on them. It's kind of weird how the feathers grow in strips down their necks on the sides and the middle of their backs. They love being outside and practicing their chicken moves (pecking, scratching, dust baths). Chickens really like to play "keep away" it seems. Erin and I laughed hysterically when they were playing with a feather a week ago and today they were doing it with a piece of corn they found from the bird feeder. (Our pair of cardinals seem really confused by the chickens. The way they look at me they seem to be asking, "Why are they in an ark?") We let them play outside for over an hour - with constant supervision, not only human but canine and feline watchers were ever present as well.

This has to be Ruby with her brave self coming right up to the edge like that! Erin, who knew all the chickens on sight, is now also having a difficult time telling them apart. Maximus and Puff are still the smallest but which is which?


I like how some chicks have redder feathers than others (that may provide a much needed identity clue)!





According to the giant bin next to the chicks when we bought them, the sign said Red Sex-linked traits. There you go. After a little chicken research I now know exactly what that means. I'm thinking our pullets have a good chance of growing into this. Not bad!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Busy week

It's been pretty busy around here this past week. On Tuesday there was an almost hour long drive to Wake Forest to get my Top Bar Beehive (TBH for short). Richard, Mollie, Erin, and I headed out so we would arrive around sunset when those worker bees would be stopping to rest for the night. The guy we got the hive from also had chickens in a chicken ark in the yard (two Ameraucanas and I forget the other kind) which was also a big hit with us.

After it was late enough and most of the bees were in the hive, Ken (bee guy) put a piece of screen in their entrance and the hive was hustled into the minivan for transport. There were a few that didn't make it back to the hive in time, but he had two others in his yard, so I'm hoping they've been assimilated by now.

We got back to my house around 9 pm and it was dark so hive set-up was quick. It still needs some leveling work and I'd much rather a wooden stand than cinder blocks, but the chicks got priority this weekend. Here's the hive right now.

top bar hive

Isn't it lovely? Very aesthetically pleasing, sans cinder blocks.

The big work Saturday and today was The Chicken Ark. I found plans online that I liked at Catawba Coops for The Ark of my Chicken Dreams. Last year I wanted chickens and was thinking about building a permanent coop site, but chickens would make short work of that area and I'd like to put their frequent deposits (if you get my meaning) to better use and have less clean up in general. After seeing Ken's ark that he moves around the yard every other day or so, I was hooked on the idea.

Richard and I made a trip to our local giant box home store (hate that, but it couldn't be helped) and got everything on the materials list. The list looked pretty daunting, as did our cart at the check out! Richard has built things - patios, decks, compost bins, etc., but this was the first project that included regular use of a miter saw. How hard could it be? The visuals included in the plans were helpful and we sorted out the different dicey bits. Day one was basic framing, nest boxes, and roost.

richard working eowyn supervising

Today was roof cap, sides, and finishing. I take full credit for the crappy handles. I am a novice with a jigsaw and without a router to take off my edges, I'm afraid "primitive" will have to do. Richard's work, on the other hand, is amazing.

inside the ark

the chicken ark

The only bit left is the drawbridge style ladder for the hens to head up into the roost for the night. I scored a nice piece of wood today and it just needs ladder rungs and an install. This was a project under pressure since the girls are getting their feathers and outgrowing their hutch. I was sweeping up some of their shavings in the kitchen and all this stuff that looked like dandelion fuzz was drifting about and I realized it was all that chick fuzz they were losing. It's everywhere! Once you loose your fuzz you have to be an outdoor pullet.

the girls

This picture was taken late in the day, without the aid of much light and I apologize for that. They got to be outside for most of the construction and seemed only mildly interested in the goings on. I'm keeping an eye on the night time temps and as soon as it's 65 F - they're out!