Fly Away, Stork! You are One Too Many!

About two weeks ago, the post office called again in the early morning.  The stork had made another visit.  This time he brought 26 chicks of several varieties: Anconas, Black Australorps, Pearl Leghorns, New Hampshire Reds, Columbian Wyandottes, and two Speckled Sussex cockerels.  In addition, the hatchery sent one Buff Cochin as an exotic breed “bonus”.

Mark has since sold nine of the chicks and one of the cockerals.  We are down to a total of 22 birds, including the five keets.

To say Mark has been busy is an understatement.  I believe he added 20-30 minutes to his mornings.  Let me add that while I was more than willing to help with his goat project, I’ve been less so with the chickens.  I will hold and pet and coo but I would rather not clean their boxes.  Nor has Mark asked me.  It is one big YUCK.  Mark is very faithful about it but it’s pretty much a losing battle.  They poop a lot!

We have three brooder boxes.  Each box, which is a actually a plastic tub, is covered with a wire screen which Mark made.  On each screen he placed a lamp with a 75 watt bulb to keep these babies warm.  Mark opted for the lamp and 75 watt bulb because heat lamps are a fire hazard.  So far, his set up has worked very well and we haven’t lost any chicks.

Brooder Box

Each day Mark changes the bedding and gives them fresh water and food.  Their bedding is pine shavings covered with paper towels.  The paper towels keep things a bit cleaner and make it easier to wipe out the boxes.

Bird in Hand

Mark chose these chicks for their egg laying ability, disposition and their cold weather hardiness.  Some of the birds are Heritage Breeds such as the Black Australorps, Columbian Wyandottes and Anconas.  Heritage Breeds are those listed as threatened, recovering, critical or watched.  Eggs  from the store come from commercial hybrid chickens.  The commercial birds are bred for their ability to produce eggs fast enough to feed the American public; basically egg laying machines.

Our chicks are two weeks old now and beginning to molt.  They are looking a bit bedraggled.

Chicks

Remember the guinea keets?  They’ve grown a lot in three weeks.  Here is our first born in the front:

Older Keet

You can see the vulture-like head starting to develop.  All I can say is they better get gorgeous plumage and eat their weight in deer flies because that head is just a bit freaky.  I’m not sure I want them hovering over me while I walk the dogs or take a swim.

Here is Rooster Cogburn.

Cogburn

Rooster Jake Cogburn because I like the name Jake but Mark came up with Cogburn and I like that, too.  He is a Speckled Sussex and will get deep mahogany feathers.  And a loud voice.  Sigh.

This is Palma and Fuzzy:

Palma and Fuzzy

Little Palma was touch and go for awhile.  She had problems with her poo caking up on her bum so we gave her some ground up oatmeal and electrolytes in her water.  Mark wipes her bum everyday.  When she peeps it kind of sounds like, “Wiiiipe meee oofff!”  We also separated her from the rest since she is small and needed to gain some strength.  I named her Palma because she will sit so nice and sweetly in your hand.  She seems to be on the rebound now so we put Fuzzy in with her.  Fuzzy is our “bonus” Buff Cochin and Jess’s pet bird.

All the birds move to a coop in two more weeks which, translated, we have two weeks to build a coop.  As it is the girls are starting to test their wings and make a flapping fuss when they realize they are going to be fed.  I hope they/we can make it two more weeks.

We have heard that there is nothing like a farm fresh egg.  The girls should start laying in November.  Let’s see, sixteen chickens laying one egg a day.  Yikes!  When you visit us bring your egg cartons.  PLEASE!

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Father Hen

Happy Father’s Day to all the GGs today!  I hope you get your golf game or breakfast in bed or bar-b-que or all of the above.

My GG Mark got five more babies for Father’s Day.  Here they are:

Keets

Do you know what keets are?  I didn’t either until a few days ago.  Keets are guinea fowl babies.  Guineas are an exotic bird similar to peacocks but smaller like a chicken.  I won’t show you a picture of an adult because the head will freak you out a bit.  They look, to me, like a cross between a dinosaur and a vulture.  But the feather colors are gorgeous.  We are having fun trying to determine what colors these little guys will become after their molt.  So far, we’ve identified royal purple and lavender.  Two of the keets have us stumped.

Mark started this project about 4 weeks ago with an incubator and twelve eggs.  The incubator is just this little styrofoam jobby-do.

Incubator

Mark set it up a day or two before the eggs arrived.  They came by mail and the post office called about 6:00 one morning to tell us they were waiting to be picked up.  Who knew eggs come from the post office?  A whole new birds and bees scenario.

The temperature and humidity have to be just so.  Mark  kept a log and recorded the stats each day.

Incubator set up

Guinea eggs take about 28 days to hatch versus 21 for chicken eggs.  The automatic egg turner continuously and very slowly turns the eggs.

Guinea Eggs

On or about day 18, we “candled” the eggs.  Jess is practiced at this.  Her class hatched chickens this spring so she showed us how to do it.  You shine a light through the egg so you can see what, if anything, is growing.  We had three empty eggs.  The rest were full and Mark and Jess even saw the some of the babies move inside the egg.

Monday morning Mark got his first baby.  The big guy in the center:

First Keet

Actually, we don’t know their sex.  When they feather out we should be able to tell.  Or when the keets start calling.  Right now they peep.  As adults the hens make a sound like “buck-wheat, buck-wheat”.  The boys make a call like peacocks.  Yes, the neighbors will love us.

Tuesday brought another keet.  We thought that was going to be it but then Wednesday two more hatched.  Thursday morning Mark found one hatching in progress but the little thing was struggling.  Mark had to make a decision between losing it or helping it.  All the books say don’t interfere with the hatching process.  There is a membrane that is attached to the shell and keet that  is difficult to separate.  Mark went online to see if he could find a way to rescue it.  He painstakingly worked about 15 minutes very carefully removing the shell bit by bit.  The baby was very weak and we were worried we were going to lose it but, miraculously, it survived and is doing well.  It’s the little cutie in the front:

Keet 5

Mark paced like a new father all week.  He hatched five keets out of twelve eggs.  Actually, not a bad success rate for fertilized eggs in the mail.  They are all living in the brooder box for the next six weeks until they get feathers and can live outside in a coop.

Brooder Box

Don’t worry.  The one on the left is just fine.  It’s a little disturbing how they look when they are asleep.  Sometimes they have their legs stretched out behind them.  I still have to tap on the box to wake them up to convince myself they are alive.  Kind of like Shirley McClaine in Terms of Endearment when she pinches the baby.

And why guineas you ask?  They supposedly keep your property free of rodents, snakes and cut down on the insect population.  If they can reduce the deer flies I will be one happy camper.  (I will have to post a picture of my dog-walking outfit.  It’s basically deer fly armor.)

But why guineas for Mark?  I think he just likes being a dad.

Milking Lesson

When people find out we have goats, we always get the same response, “What are you going to do with them?  Milk them?”

Milking is certainly in our plans but that won’t begin for another year and a half.     Of course, Marigold and Dannon will have to be bred first in order to draw the milk.  That won’t be until the fall of 2013.  So for now, they are our pets.

However, on the day we picked up the girls from Ober-Ridge, we had a milking lesson.  This is the first time I ever milked ANYTHING.

Milking a Goat

It felt very awkward but I did manage a few squirts into the bucket.  The goat, I think it was Satin, was very patient with my clumsey attempt.  She was intent on her grain.  They were all intent on their grain.  Grain seems to be goat nirvana.  The does crowd the gate waiting for their turn.  They charge out of their pen and leap onto the milking stanchion as soon as the gate is opened.  I imagine it’s double the pleasure since they must get some relief from being milked.

Mollie and Paige, at Ober-Ridge, tell me it gets easier with practice.  Paige is a pro.

Milking an Oberhasli

Fast and rhythmic.  I think they told me it takes about 15 minutes to milk 5 does.  I think it will take me 15 minutes for one doe.  Hopefully, Dannon and Marigold will tolerate my ham-fisted attempts in the beginning.

In the meantime, while we wait for milk and since you’ve already seen Jessie’s milking costume, I’m trying to decide on mine.  What do you think?

This?

Milkmaid

Or something a little more modern?

Modern Milkmaid

I just can’t decide.

One last picutre:

Paige and Marigold

This is Paige saying good-bye to Marigold just before we left Ober-Ridge.  I get emotional over animals anyway but this about broke my heart.   Trust.