Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Day 19 - Chicks are on their way!

These videos were taken last night on Day 18. All in preparation of the birth/hatching of the chicks!

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Day 17 - Countdown to Baby Chicks

Thanks to the folks who originally took this photo. I copied it after seeing it on someone else's site.

We are getting very excited around here! The babies are due to start hatching on Thursday, day 21. On Monday or Tuesday we will have to move the eggs off of the egg turning device in the incubator. This is to prevent the little chicks legs from getting caught! I had to look up a picture on the internet to let me know what the Silver Hamburg chicks look like. I am especially excited about these chicks because their breed is on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy list in the "watch" category.

Farmer Jeff spent part of the day building the first of two brood boxes. He is amazing! The both of us keep forgetting just how many babies we are going to have once the hatch takes place...I need to buy special medicated chick feed for them! I also mentioned that I would need to get a bigger chick feeder for them because I don't think our little regular feeders would handle it all. We shall see!

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Day 15 on the Countdown to Baby Chicks!

There is not much to report on the eggs/chicks. Things still look the same in the incubator. I need to refill the water trough more frequently and I still am guessing at the humidity. Eventually I will order a gauge from the poultry equipment catalog. The heat is finally holding steady, thankfully, so I don't need to worry about constantly readjusting that! Once we get to February 9th I will need to remove the mechanical egg turner and place the eggs onto the screened floor of the incubator. This will need to be done very gently and carefully. I have NO idea what I am doing, but will imagine I do! Act as if, right?

Life around here is getting busy. We are busy getting ready for farming. (Farmer Jeff has forgotten he also needs to help Chicken Mama rig up a brooder for the babies...!) We bought many packets of seeds (over 50!) at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Bank in Petaluma. Farmer Jeff and I were each walking down the aisles collecting seeds. We ended up spreading them all out on the floor, grouping them in food categories (cucumbers, radishes, beets, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, corn, beans, and assorted herbs) and interestingly enough, we didn't duplicate a single one! If you live near by you really should go and see the place. We swoon the whole time we are in the store. I feel myself growing faint and needing my smelling salts just thinking about it! Okay, not really...but it is simply amazing to experience if you are a farmer/grower.

Farmer Jeff has gone on to order yet more seeds from a couple other of his favorite seed places (Seed Savers, Johnny's, Tomato Growers Supply, Victory Seed) and the dreaming begins! He has been carrying around a diagram of how things are going to be planted at our furthest/biggest site. He is engaging a little crop rotation action.

We have set Feb. 15th as the start date for seeds and have actually planned when we can go away around the growing season. We can't leave the seeds because if they fail we lose the whole crop, but we may be able to get away later.

It is raining again. I feel as though I should have gills or at least webbed feet with all of the water. We are supposed to get 5 inches of rain from this storm alone. Last week we ended a 10 day stretch of rain with a total over 13 inches of rain. Crazy!

In between the rain Farmer/Inventor Jeff is out taking apart his portable smoker. He is removing the existing lid and will weld it onto/over the built in pig roasting pit. He will then add a rotisserie/motor unit to the portable smoker. If you get the idea that:
A. Farmer Jeff likes to build things, you are correct.
B. Farmer Jeff likes pork, you are correct.
C. Farmer Jeff can't sit still, you are correct!
When Farmer Jeff stops...he falls asleep!

I leave you with a picture of our sweet feral porch kitty, P.J., safely perched up in the tree.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 7 - Countdown to Baby Chicks - Candling Night!

(Photo taken from Univ. Illinois @Champaign-Urbana site "Chickscope"
To give you an idea of how many eggs we found NOT to be fertile and growing chicks, Farmer Jeff asked me in a very plaintive voice: "Can we PLEASE not have all of these chicks in the bathroom"?

We started with 41 eggs in an incubator which holds 42. I guess I thought I would be a little manic if I filled all 42 spots. I guess that is like an alcoholic not thinking they are an alcoholic because they don't drink before 5.

Well, we have 40 eggs that are growing and only one that is not. I guess one of the hens stayed in the hen house that day and was able to evade the 6 roosters. SHE should be the one we breed!

Now it is just a waiting game. OH, a friend and Chicken Mama in her own right advised me to keep the humidity in the incubator at 50-55% until the last 3 days at which time I need to raise it to 65%. WHAT!!! How in the world am I going to do that!!! Heavens...new things to worry about! Where is my Chicken World catalog when I need it!

PS: Farmer Jeff is going to build a brood box that will be set up in the greenhouse! He is excited he gets to build something! Whew!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 6 - Countdown to Baby Chicks

The last few days have been blessedly uneventful. I was afraid that the rain and subsequent wind would knock our power out, and that, in turn, would knock out the incubator! I was worried I would end up with eggs under my shirt, but thankfully that didn't happen!

This is my first time as a manipulator of life and I keenly feel the responsibility. I check the incubator temperature every few hours and have had to make minute adjustments. The heating apparatus is not terribly sophisticated. The temperature is controlled with the loosening of a wing-nut and the turning of a little non-specific lever. I am SWISS! I want precision! The other funny part of this is that the little thermometer that sits on top of the eggs migrates to the back of the incubator because the eggs are in constant motion via the auto egg turner.

The first time we let a hen sit on eggs and then hatch them, we tried marking them with a pencil X which quickly disappeared because of the constant rotation the mother instinctively performs for even heating. If I didn't have the auto turner, I would be opening it up and hand turning it many times a day. Not good.

One of the banner days in the incubator is Day 7. That is the day that the eggs will be candled to determine if there is growth taking place in the shell. There are all kinds of warnings about washing your hands before handling the eggs, that the simple naturally occurring oils on our fingers can be sucked into the shell and damage the embryo. Farmer Jeff is going to bring some latex gloves home from work so we can do it and not risk damage.

Farmer Jeff, after I carefully explained what I was going to do on day 7, went to the garage, took an empty steel cut oatmeal can, cut out a hole, and then painted it black to match the lamp over which it will sit. This is the ideal set up for candling, which as you can tell by the word, used to be done with candles.

Banner News!
We put bands on the feet of the 3 little chicks we have been tending to for 3 months. We didn't want to let them out before we traveled because we wouldn't be around to watch them and then we hesitated due to the rains. We took advantage of the break in the rain today to band them and integrate them in with the rest of the flock. I felt so bad...the first thing they did was flap their wings. They haven't had enough room to stretch out and do that in the cage I kept them in. Sorry, Girls!
(I just went outside to make sure they all made it back into the coop and ended up having to pick up the darkest one and slip her into her now open old cage with her sisters.)

Tomorrow night, Day 7, candling! We did a little test and both of the Ameraucana eggs we checked are growing! WooHoo!!!

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 2 - Countdown to Baby Chicks

Here is a picture of the incubator all loaded up with eggs. There are 30 Ameraucana eggs (I can tell because the eggs are green), 6 Silver Spangled Hamburgs (that I always call Star Spangled) and then 5 assorted "mystery" eggs. I want more Ameraucanas because that is what catches folks eyes when buying eggs. I bought a breeding trio of the Hamburgs because they are on the list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the breed is actually at risk of becoming endangered.

Because I have very active Roosters, if you catch my drift, I am confident the eggs are all fertile. I will "candle" the eggs on day 7 to see if there are little embryos forming. If not, I toss the egg. *At this point I could replace the eggs with another set of eggs, but I don't think I will this time around.

When I awoke this morning the temperature in the incubator was up to 105 degrees, which is 5 degrees too hot. I have played with the little, somewhat inaccurate, temperature gauge to lower it but will need to check again in an hour.

Stay tuned!

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

More Peepers, Coming Right Up!

How many people can honestly say they got EXACTLY what they wanted for Christmas? I CAN!!! My Honey gave me an incubator! Now I can raise my very own chicks! (Can you tell I am excited?) I have been doing some research on breeding chickens and have discovered I need to have 4 separate breeding groups which has one rooster and at least 8 if not 10 hens.

(This is Martha. She is a Blue Wheaten Ameraucana)
Why do I want to breed them, you might be asking. I am in love with the Ameraucana breed. They are docile, good layers, have great personalities and lay green or blue eggs. By breeding my own I will have a "closed" breeding system.

There is a terrible disease, Marek's, that kills the females just as they are about to begin laying at 6 months of age. There is a vaccine, but it is available in doses of 1,000 and is only good for 24 hours. My incubator holds 43 eggs. You can see that the doses are just not worth it. I would like my babies to be resistant to the disease. We shall see. I may change my mind 8 months down the line!

Before I can get any more invested in the breeding plans, I need to expand the chicken housing for the breeding families. Thankfully Farmer Jeff likes to build things!

Happy New Year! May all of your wishes come true!

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