Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wild Garlic

Guv'nor found some wild garlic the other day growing out by the hay barn and brought a few bulbs up to the house to show me. I'm planning to let them dry out first, then I'm going to put them in some brine and save them. I tried two methods last year: braiding and fermented versions. And I decided that the fermented version is the easiest by far and most practical to use later.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Broody Hen 3

A couple weeks later, I discovered I had two more broody hens in the main coop. So I thought I would extend my experiment a little farther.

For a day or so I let the two hens sit on wooden eggs to see how reliable they were. I moved one hen into the small A-frame coop with the mama hen and her chicks, but on a different end. I left one hen in the main coop. I had two objectives: to see if two broody hens could live in the same confined area and to see if a broody hen could protect chicks among grown chickens.

I made another trip to the farm store. This time I bought five Barred Rock, another breed I didn't have. These are black but with white and black wing feathers. I also bought five Leghorns. The chicks are solid light yellow, but will grow to be solid white chickens. Both breeds will be easily distinguishable from the others.

I put the chicks straight in with the hens, not bothering this time with a warmed area. The five Leghorns went to the A-frame coop and the Barred Rock went into the main coop.

I could tell almost immediately that the Barred Rock chicks in the main coop were going to struggle. There was just too much activity in there and it was disrupting the balance with all the chickens. I was afraid it would upset the production of eggs, too. The following morning one of the little black chicks had fallen down a crack and was dead. And the mama hen was out roaming, leaving her chicks to fend for themselves. So I moved them quickly to the A-frame with my good mama hen. She didn't even seem to notice I'd added a few more chicks. When you have eleven, what's four more?

The hen in the A-frame, supposedly looking after the five Leghorns, was doing a fair job looking after the chicks. But after a week or so, the two hens began to fight each other, both being protective over their chicks - which were mingling freely. I ended up moving her back to the main coop. This left my good mama hen to look after 20 chicks, which she did very easily. Once the chicks have plenty of feathers, they don't need the mama hen to keep them warm. 

The conclusion to my experiment was that I had more success when I separated the broody hen from the main coop. The A-frame coop we have is perfect for this job because it has both a warm spot upstairs, and a safe and secure area on the ground for roaming as the chicks get older. All hens are different, but if you find a good mama, she can protect up to 20 chicks, especially when the weather is warm. I will definitely do this again when I am wanting more chicks.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Broody Hen 2

After three weeks and five eggs, I was left with one little black chick. I felt sorry for it, being on it's own. I also thought it was a lot of trouble to keep it separate and give it special feed and watering every day.

So I went to the farm store and bought ten chickens for about $2.50 each. I chose Rhode Island Reds this time, for a change since I don't have that breed, and would be able to quickly tell who was who in the coop.

The lady at the farm store said something sarcastically like, 'well good luck with that'. She hadn't had much success sneaking in chicks under a broody hen. She said the hen would either ignore them or peck at them, either way the chicks would probably die. Oh well, I thought, it's a $25 experiment.

When I got home, I put the chicks in a tub with a heat lamp for a few hours until I got myself organized. I put a couple of chicks out in the coop, pushing them under the hen a little, just to see how she'd react. Initially, she acted a little aggressive and protective of the one little black chick. But after about a minute, the hen was accepting and began to cluck to them. So a few hours later, I put the rest of the chicks out with the hen.

I kept them locked up a few days for safety, warmth and a little bonding. Then I opened the trap door and let them out (actually downstairs for this coop) on the ground.

The mother hen just instinctively knows what to do and how to take care of the chicks, even though she'd never done it before or seen it done before. A few times I went to check on them and couldn't find a single chick anywhere. But when the mother hen moved, all 11 chicks were tucked in every available space under her.