Friday, September 24, 2010

Our Black Australorp Chicks

Two more chicks hatched today, and another egg has a big crack. Tomorrow, we should have 4 chicks. They are Black Australorp chicks, an excellent dual purpose breed for meat and eggs.
Here is a pic of our chicks, after they dried up:

Here is a link to Wikipedia on Black Austrlorps:
[ Black Australorps ]
Here is an exerpt found in several hatchery websites:

"This breed originated in Australia developed from Black Orpingtons imported from England; and the emphasis of the breeding program was on egg production without sacrificing too much in size and meat quality. Some sensational results were made in the Australian program, and one hen set a laying record of 364 eggs in 365 days. Introduced into this country in the 1920's, they have become useful and popular and are certainly one of the best layers of light brown eggs of all the heavy breeds. A flock of Black Australorps with their glossy black plumage which has a greenish-purple sheen and their larger than average bright red combs make an unusually handsome sight. They are big birds, cockerels weighing 6 to 8 pounds at maturity and pullets 5 to 7. They have a pinkish white skin and plump bodies which dress out nicely once the birds have their final plumage. Pullets mature early and many will be in production between 5 and 6 months of age. They are quiet, gentle, and stand confinement well. Baby chicks are black with a good deal of white in the underparts and small white patches around the head and wings. We have handled this breed for years and think it is one of the best of the heavy breeds."

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Today, we had our first chicken egg hatch. It has been 23 days since we started incubating our eggs (the first egg failed due to incorrect hatcher settings). There are two more eggs that show cracks. We will see what we get tomorrow.
Here is a picture of the hatched chick:

We have 6 more eggs (including two cracked) in the hatcher, and 19 more eggs in the incubator. After hatching, they will stay one to two weeks in the brooder, then 2 to 3 weeks in the field brooder. By then, the broiler tractor with its shelter, will be available. The shelter will be necessary, due to winter approaching. It will be quite a challenge to raise those chicks in the winter. They should start laying in the Spring.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Attila The Barn Cat

When we moved in our new home, it became clear that the barn had a family or rats living in. The previous owner used rat poison, I found a few old samples in different areas of the barn, which I removed while rats were watching me, crawling on top of the metal structure of the barn. I opted for another approach. We went to the pet store and ask for a mean cat. The lady at the store seem delighted by our request, put a thick glove on, and extracted a gray kitty from the cat cage. "Here, I have what you need!" she said, while the kitten was hissing ferociously.
We let the cat loose in the barn, and fed him minimally, so that he wouldn't starve, but would be hungry enough to hunt. I choose a name which I hoped would represent the same thing to the rat as it did to my ancestors: Attila.
The following day, we found 3 small rats drown in his bucket of water. I don't think he killed them, I think they got scared and drown trying to escape him. During the following week, a total of 7 rats were found drowned.
After a few months during which we barely saw Attila, we did not see any more rats in our barn. At some point, we did not see Attila for several weeks. We could hear coyotes howling, so we feared Attila had become their dinner. Then, one day, I saw Attila while I had my camera on hand. Here is the first shot of Attila:

Attila was feeding in the plate I set for him. I approach a little more, and he stepped away. I had time to set the zoom and get a better shot:

I got a little closer, and Attila decided that was enough. See you later Attila!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In the barn

This week end, I went into the goat stall to take some hay. The goats have been out since Spring, so the goat stall was left undisturbed after a rough cleaning a few months ago. When I entered the stall, I noticed something unusual on the ground. Here it is:

Nice mushrooms growing off the goat manure. Here is a shot lower to the ground, showing the stems:

A day later, we went back, and notice that the mushrooms had grown:

They also had a different shape (notice the snake skin in the foreground):

Mike took a cool close shot of underneath the top:

If we want to grow mushrooms, we know now where the best spot will be. The goats will have their own shelter outside, to free up the barn. We were thinking of renting it for horses, but that stall won't be rented.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Incubator update 3

I candled the eggs in the incubator that were 6 or more days old tonight. The earliest egg is 14 days old. All the eggs 12 days old or more are now showing an embryo moving inside the egg, 6 out of the 7 first eggs (one was infertile) are developing successfully so far.
There are 7 more eggs that are 6 to 8 days old. 5 are definitely showing blood vessels, and 2 are uncertain.
The remaining 6 eggs are 5 days old or less, and are not developed enough to show anything with my simple candling method (holding the egg and a CFL light bulb in my hands). I should invest in an LED light bulb just for candling.
The oldest egg should hatch next Monday, the first birth on our farm. If he succeeds, that chicken will be pampered.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peacock & Field Brooder

The peacock was moved to the field brooder outdoors yesterday. Here is a pic of the field brooder, with our ~ 1 month old peacock inside:

The field brooder is a 4FT*8FT pen with half covered and heated, and half open, on grass, with chicken wires overhead. This is an invention of mine which I thought would help chicks to get more progressively acclimated to outdoors. They can come in and out of the heated area, as if they were coming in and out from under their mother's wings. They choose how long they stay in each area. The heater is on a thermostat, the temperature is adjustable. The field brooder is on wheels, so it can be moved when the grass gets dirty.
The broiler chicks love getting on the grass, and they can be moved outdoor a lot sooner that normally, usually at 1 week of age instead of 2 weeks. They are then moved from the field brooder to the bigger unheated chicken tractor at 2 weeks of age (this was done yesterday for our latest broilers). Compared to the conventional brooder/tractor method, this brooder/field brooder/tractor allows the chicks to be put outdoor one week earlier than normal.
Since we are done for the season with broiler chicks, we are now using the field brooder for our peacock. A peacock should normally stays 4 months in the brooder. Our peacock just left the brooder at one month, and will spent his second month in the field brooder. This morning, after his first night outdoors, he was the center of attention of our free ranging birds. The layers, ducks, turkeys were all around, and even roosting on top of the field brooder, getting acquainted with the new kid on the field. Too bad I didn't have my camera on hand, it was just hilarious.
Here is a close up shot of the peacock in the field brooder:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chicks in new tractor

We moved the broiler chicks in their new tractor yesterday, they were getting crowded in the field brooder. They went from 16sqft of pasture to 50sqft, and they are loving it:

The tractor is made almost entirely of recycle material (wood from the old deck, roofing was given to me). I added a shelter area since it is getting rainier, and nights are cooler. This is the shelter, open for the pic:

This is the whole tractor, with the shelter attached:

It takes the chicks two days to make the grass dirty, and at the rate their feed intake is increasing, I will soon have to move them twice a day.
I hope this tractor will be big enough to hold 25 broilers. We'll see next year, this is our last batch for 2010.
Now that the field brooder is empty, the peacock, which is still in the brooder in our living room, will discover the great outdoors. We will set him in the field brooder.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Incubator Update 2

It has been 9 days yesterday since the first egg was set in the incubator. 7 of our eggs are at least 7 days old, so it was a good time to check these 7 eggs:
I found 4 eggs with blood vessels, one 8 days old egg clear (probably infertile), and two 7 days old eggs speckled, with no blood vessel yet. Speckled eggs are more difficult to successfully incubate, so those may be bad too, but I'll give it two more days to decide. The clear egg was removed from the incubator and put in the compost pile. It is risky to keep bad eggs in the incubator, as they may get infected with bacteria which will decompose them, producing gazes that will eventually make the egg explode, contaminating (killing) all the other eggs in the incubator.

I also added a piece of wet cloth inside the incubator to maintain high humidity.

So far we have 4 out of 7 eggs developing blood vessels. That is the furthest we managed to go, our previous attempt failed to reach that milestone. Blood vessels show that the egg is fertile, and started to develop, so from that point on, it is all about temperature and humidity, for the 13 to 14 days that remain until hatching (21 days total).

End of September, we may have peeping sounds coming from the incubator.
This gave me another business idea: next year, we may sell chicken tractors with up to 8 laying hens, to get you started with your own fresh eggs immediately, like a turn-key system. The chicken tractors are A-frame 5FT by 10FT (50 sqft), and can easily hold 8 hens. They need to be moved regularly, for the comfort and hygiene of the hens, so they are build on 4 wheels. These are similar to the tractors we are using on our farm, so it is a proven design.
Pictures of our first tractors (built from recycled material) will be posted soon. If we ever sell tractors, they will of course be built with new material.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Incubator Update

Our first egg has been 6 days in the incubator, with the three following, 5 days. So I decided to candle these 4 eggs to check for embryo development. Normally, candling should be done at the eighth day, when blood vessels start to be visible.
One of the four eggs tested showed barely visible blood vessels. This was an egg from Sept 1st, so only 5 days of incubation. The 3 other eggs did not show blood vessel. Two were dark, and one clear. It is probably too early to tell. I may also need a stronger light than an LED flashlight to candle my eggs.
Nevertheless, I know that at least one of my eggs is fertile and developing, so that is a success so far. I will post regular updates of the state of embryo development. This is another pretty exiting project! The fertile egg should hatch on Sept 22nd. Stay tuned!

Here is a good guide about candling eggs:
[ Candling Eggs ]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Laying Flock

Our flock of laying hens born in 2010 comprises the following:
- 6 Bared Rocks, not all sexed yet, there may be some roosters.
- 1 Leghorn (we had 2, the coyotes got the second).
- 3 Wyandottes
- 8 Ameraucanas
- 2 Golden Sexlink
- 1 Black Sexlink
- 1 Rodhe Island Red.

22 laying hens total. They are still immature, we are getting between 4 and 7 eggs a day. The only one laying every single day is the Leghorn.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Another Welcomed Wild Guest

This morning, during my tour, I found a Red Backed Salamander trapped inside a bucket. We had about 2 inches of rain during the previous night, so the bucket was half full of water. Here is this beautiful salamander:

Here is the Wiki page on Red Backed Salamanders:
[ Red Back Salamanders ]
And here is a good link about Amphibians of the Skykomish watershed:
[ Amphibians of the Skykomish Watershed ]
It is always a good thing to find salamanders in your yard, because they are extremely sensitive to harmful chemicals. They are a good indicator that the place where they live is free of those chemicals. They also feed on bugs such as ants or small spiders.
BE CAREFUL though, as some salamanders and newts secrete a poison on their skin. Handling them bare handed may result in a rash. If you handle food with contaminated hands, the result could be deadly. Don't handle them bare hands (like I did, I didn't know until I looked up for information).