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Our older hens spent last month molting so we’ve had to buy eggs for awhile. They’ve finished molting now but because of the cold weather we’ve still had to buy eggs. One of our Rhode Island Red pullets has started laying every other day, and sometimes every day. Then about a week ago, one of our older New Hampshire hens started laying again so we’ve been getting an extra large egg every other day and sometimes every day too.

It’s been bitter cold here and the chickens hate the cold. They don’t like to get their feet in the snow so they usually spend all day hanging out in the chicken house. They always have layer pellets available. My husband has been taking them hot water which freezes in a short time. In the evenings before they go up for the night, they get some chicken scratch for a treat. They rewarded us with two eggs again today. I hope they will give me enough for all my Christmas baking.


Brownie thinks she's a person!

Our seven laying hens are now 20 months old. We’ve not been getting any eggs from them for the past month. They’ve been molting and are only now starting to look presentable again. Their appetites have not been good. Because it’s hard on their bodies to make all those new feathers and produce eggs, they’ve been taking a much needed break from their egg laying. Thankfully, we have Brownie’s four pullets she hatched out in late June who are getting old enough to lay. They’re mostly Rhode Island Reds which usually start laying by 24-26 weeks. They are just over 22 weeks old now. We had a nice surprise Sunday and got our first pullet egg from them. There have been three eggs so far, one every other day probably from the same pullet. The pullets start out laying small eggs, but the eggs they produce will get bigger as they mature.

Two of my neighbors gave me roosters last summer. “Elvis” is a Rhode Island Red and the other, named “Red” is a “Red Star”. He’s a cross between a RIR and probably a White Rock. The hatcheries are secretive about the breeds they use and wouldn’t give me a straight answer so I don’t know for sure. So far, our two young roosters have been good to the hens. Our last rooster ended up in the Crock Pot after he savagely attacked Brownie last year. Brownie gets along well with both of the new roosters.

Little Dove with her Chicks

Little Dove with her Brown Chick

Our Banty, Little Dove, went broody again this fall and hatched out four more chicks. Her last batch turned out to be all roosters. Two of her present chicks are from Brownie’s eggs and two are from the New Hampshire hens. Bill built Little Dove a small chicken apartment a little bigger than a dog house so he could lock her and her babies up at night. We’ve had a few nights down into the 20’s and were glad she only has four chicks to keep warm. It has helped having a long Indian Summer too. The chicks are five weeks old in the picture. They’re six weeks old now and have most of their feathers. It’s been very cold here lately, but they’re all doing well. I love to watch them scratching around with their mother and taking dust baths.

My son Josh gave me his old digital camera so I’ve been taking lots of pictures with it. Now I can finally share some of my chicken pictures with you!

We have three broody hens now. Little Dove was the first one to go broody. One day she was missing and I searched all over for her, afraid that a predator had gotten her. I finally found her in our old hay room that now serves as a storage room. I went back later and discovered a nest full of banty eggs. We made her a better nest using a barrel filled with hay and placed all her eggs in it. The next day she went back to lay her eighth egg and she stayed on the eggs. None of her eggs were fertile since we don’t have a rooster, so I got some fertile eggs from a neighbor. She is very shy around us so we were worried how we were going to replace her eggs with the fertile eggs. Bill reached out and touched her and she shot out of there like a canon. He then replaced her eggs with the fertile ones. She returned a short while later and went back to setting. She’s gotten more used to us since she’s been broody and seems to know we’re trying to help her. We put her food and water near the barrel and close it up every night with cinder blocks, a board and a refrigerator rack to keep predators out.

Little Dove takes good care of herself. She gets off her nest herself to eat and drink. Our other broody, Brownie, has to be taken off her eggs every day to eat and drink and exercise or she’ll starve herself. Since Little Dove’s hatch date is getting close, I’ve been spraying her eggs with water so the chicks won’t stick to the membrane when they hatch. I didn’t have time to spray her eggs before I went to the grocery store today so Bill did. When he lifted her off her nest she protested more than she ever had. He soon discovered the reason. In the nest was her newly hatched chick and another egg is pipping. Little Dove is finally a mother!

A week ago Saturday we noticed some egg shells in the barnyard. We didn’t think much about it at the time. I thought that maybe our Banty hen was laying in the woods and maybe our dog had found one of her eggs. A friend gave me my little Banty hen last month and I named her “Little Dove”. She’s an Old English Game Hen and prefers to roost in the rhododendron next to the chicken house at night instead of going into the hen house with the other hens. She comes into the open pen during the day to get food. She’s still shy around the other chickens and keeps to herself most of the time. She’s getting more used to us but still stays around the chicken house instead of coming down to the house during the day like our other chickens do. The chicken pen adjoins a pole building where we used to milk our goats. We put their chicken feed in there when it’s raining so their food stays dry. Since Little Dove was too shy to go into the chicken house to lay in one of the nest boxes, I put a wooden box filled with hay in the milk room for her to lay in. I found some golf balls at a second hand shop and put them in the nest because hens prefer using nests that are full of “eggs”.

My golf balls worked. The next day my husband saw Little Dove on the nest. She laid an egg in the nest. Some of the other hens liked the new nest box too and used it that day. That night I gathered the eggs and left two of them in the nest box with the golf balls hoping it might encourage Little Dove or another hen to go broody. But the next morning the two eggs were gone as well as the four golf balls! We found a broken shell in the yard outside the chicken house and we later found the four golf balls scattered behind the hen house. One had even been gnawed on. The golf balls had not only fooled the hens but some predator as well!

We moved the nest box and golf balls into the chicken house since we didn’t want to train them to lay where it was so unsafe to go broody. We set a Hav-a-Hart trap behind the chicken house that night. The next night nothing came around but the following night we heard a disturbance in the chicken house. Our first thought was that something had gotten Little Dove outside. When my husband reached the chicken house, Little Dove was still there in the rhododendron. When he opened the chicken house door, feathers were flying everywhere. Two hens were off the roost squawking frantically. A raccoon had been caught in the trap behind the chicken house. It seemed odd that they would be so upset since the coon was in the trap and not the chicken house. The next day Bill noticed that some golf balls in the nest box were missing. Two had been taken across the floor into a corner. One was gone. Something else had been in the hen house with the chickens that night and had found a hole where it was planning to take out the golf balls one by one. I’ve heard stories about weasels wiping out a whole flock of hens in a night. They can squeeze through very small spaces. Or it might have been a rat. We were thankful that whatever it was had been frightened away by Bill and hadn’t harmed our hens. We slept with our bedroom window open so we could hear the hens if they were in distress. Bill tightened up the chicken house even more, putting rat wire in spaces he thought something might try to enter. We caught another raccoon behind the chicken house the night before last and Bill killed it. We leave the chicken door and pen open during the day so the hens can go in and out to lay eggs. Yesterday Bill found a five foot black snake in a nest box which we put in a pillow case. He took it some distance away and let it go.

The golf balls are still in the nest box and Little Dove has been going into the chicken house now to lay her eggs. If she goes broody now she’ll be in a much safer place.

All this has made me think about our fierce enemy, Satan, and how helpless we are without God. It has also given me a greater appreciation for our Great Shepherd who never slumbers or sleeps as He watches over us night and day.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Bill had to kill our rooster yesterday. He’s never had any problems with him, but Brownie and I did. Our rooster was a beautiful Buff Orpington and he didn’t like Brownie. She’s our favorite hen. She’s the only Speckled Sussex we have left now. Our other hens are New Hampshires and one is a Buff. Brownie was born with one crooked toe on each foot but she manages to walk and roost just fine. I read that a too cool incubation temperature can cause this deformity. She’s more of a loner than the other hens. I was hoping that Brownie might go broody and raise up a brood of chicks to hang out with, but she hasn’t so far.

Last fall, Rosy our dog and I were returning from a walk and walked past the rooster with his hens. We were all on a narrow road that leads back to our house and the hens were scratching around there. He must have felt threatened and thought I was going to hurt his hens . He came at me suddenly. I had to pick up a big stick to fend him off. My husband takes care of the chickens, so since he wasn’t used to me I didn’t blame the rooster too much for being protective.

The poor chickens have spent much of the winter confined to their small yard because we’ve had so much snow. Since it’s melted, they’ve enjoyed running free and finding bugs to eat and have been rewarding us with lots of eggs. I went up to the hen house the week before last to take some straw to the nest boxes and our rooster came running after me. I hit him enough to break two sticks on him but he still kept coming at me. I got a bigger one that wouldn’t break but he had given up the chase. I made a point of feeding him with Bill there the next day trying to make friends. I later went out to weed the strawberries but I took the broom along just in case. While I was weeding, he was scratching around with his hens seemingly minding his own business, then he’d come at me, flying like roosters do when they want to fight. I would stand my ground and hit him with the broom to fend him off, but he was determined and kept coming back for another attack, After several more times, I gave up and went inside fuming. I didn’t want to hit him hard enough to “teach him a lesson” and make him afraid of me. I read some good advice on the Homesteading forum. If you have a mean rooster, send him to freezer camp.

Last week he jumped on Brownie for no reason and left her head bald and bloody. Then after she had healed a bit and scabbed over he’d peck her head again . She was afraid to go in the hen house one night because he was on the other side of the door ready to attack her. Yesterday morning he went after her again and left her head a bloody mess. That was the last straw. He was in the Crock Pot that night.

So I’m starting another science project to incubate some eggs. I found out that the hens will still lay fertilized eggs for a week to ten days after being with a rooster. I made a homemade incubator from a Styrofoam cooler that came with Omaha Steaks we’d gotten as a gift. My incubator doesn’t have a fan or anything fancy and it loses a lot of heat whenever I open it up. I cut a window in the top and put a piece of glass in it so I can see the thermometer inside. I used a drop cord for the light, hanging it from the top and put in a 15 wt bulb. I placed a tomato sauce can inside the cooler to surround the light. I punched holes in the sides and top of the cooler for ventilation. There are two pyrex custard dishes with water inside to provide moisture. I’ve never done this before, but we did have broody hens at my parents farm. They made it look so easy. I hope that some will hatch. I’ve been testing it, poking bigger holes in it trying to get the temperature regulated. Tonight it’s staying close to 100 degrees, which is within the range I’m aiming for. If the temperature stays pretty constant tonight and tomorrow, I might put in some eggs tomorrow.
Brownie is now our happiest hen. Her wounds are healing. She’s been singing a lot today. Maybe we can raise up a nice rooster just for her.

July 2018
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