Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Chicken update

Hi friends.  I know you've been waiting for another chicken update, so here ya go.  Before we get started, I think it's important for you to know that I've crafted several clever anecdotes to share with you over the past several weeks, but now that I'm actually sitting down to blog, I can't think of a one.  So, unfortunately, no cleverness for you today.

The Bigs are all in various stages of molt.

Rocky has grown most of her feathers back and looks almost normal--we're just waiting on the tail feathers.  She might have even laid an egg the other day.  I got one that was pale, and definitely wasn't Koko-shaped and didn't look Indigo-shaped, either.  On that note, it also didn't look Rocky-shaped, which is why I say she might have laid an egg.  Who knows?

 Esther is mostly done losing feathers and is growing them back.  Her itty bitty feathers are so cute!  As you can see, she has one tail feather left to lose.  Esther definitely did not lay an egg the other day.

 You can't tell by looking at her, but you can tell by looking at the ground in the run and the floor of the hen house--Toasty has entered molt.  I'm concerned, because it's closer to the end of November than the beginning, and our temperatures have been well below normal (and less face it--our normal November temps are not that warm), but there's not a whole lot I can do, so I'm just observing for now.

One of the things I can do, and have, is switch the girls to a feed with a higher protein content.  Feathers are pretty much all protein, so growing feathers requires protein.  I've also been giving them high protein snacks, and I've been sharing a little bacon and beef fat with them from time to time.  It's not good to give them a whole lot, because their little digestive systems can't handle a lot, but since fat is harder to metabolize, it also makes the chickens warmer (humans, too.  If you're too cold, eat fat).

 Ah Hazel.  She's such a puff-ball.  When it's cold out and she fluffs up her feathers to keep warm, she looks like a turkey.  Hazel hasn't been laying very many eggs lately.  I'm hoping it's just the cold and the lack of light affecting production, rather than something more heinous. 

 Koko.  She's so smart.  Koko's at the bottom of the pecking order, so she's gotten really good at getting food and water when the others are less likely to go after her.  Like, for instance, when I'm distracting the others by standing at the door.

 And here's Indigo, standing on the roost on one leg.  It was colder that day, so she was keeping her other foot warm. 

Koko and Indigo are the only chickens who are laying eggs right now.  Usually we get just one egg a day, which is definitely not enough to keep up with consumption, especially since Bubby has decided he likes eggs now, and AKD is currently in residence--we could very easily go through more than a dozen eggs a day (and I look forward to being able to do that when production increases in the spring).  I actually had to buy eggs the other day, and I'm thinking I should have gotten more (yes, I do know that if we add a light and/or heat to the coop we will get more eggs, but I tend to agree with Lisa, of Fresh Eggs Daily, that the girls deserve a break in the winter, so no light or heat for us).

 I am really glad that we got the plastic put up on the outside of the coop a couple of weekends ago.  It was so warm that weekend (like, mid to high 40s) that I felt kind of silly putting it up, but then it snowed days later, and the run stayed nice and dry.  We lined most of the coop, not necessarily to keep the chickens warm, although the clear plastic does create a slightly warmer micro-climate on sunny days, but mostly to keep the snow out.  It provides a nice wind break for the girls, too.

 The chickens are not really fans of snow.  This was their first time out in snow for the season and they were back in within 5 to 10 minutes.

I've been letting the girls out for about an hour each day before sunset, which is great when the ground isn't frozen, but when it is, there isn't much in the way of fresh vegetation or bugs to find.  The girls do still enjoy getting out for a bit, though, and I enjoy not having to worry about them being carried away by hawks, because most hawks migrate.

You guys!  I've been picking out my next chickens, even though I can't get any more chickens.  Well, I could get two more, based on the amount of space we have, and if I was willing to let them free range, we could get more.  But no!  I cannot get any more chickens.  I just can't.  But there's plenty of room on the roost.  We could definitely get at least four more in there.  No.  Just no.  But chickens!  I never thought that I would be so affected by chicken math.  I feel so conflicted.  But I'm staying strong.  No more chickens until at least three of these are no longer with us.  In the meantime, I dream...

(and I entered to win a $100 gift certificate to a hatchery, which I will *have* to use if I win.  In which case, we'll be needing a bigger coop)

Here's my list:

  • Cream Legbar.  They lay blue eggs, y'all.  Blue!  And they have a feathered crest!
  • California White or Austra White.  I was planning on getting a CW this spring, but we bumped her for Hazel.  CWs and AWs are white with black polka dots!  And we need a white egg layer.
  • Maran.  Marans lay dark chocolate brown eggs.  And they have feathered legs!
  • Blue Laced Red Wyandotte.  These birds are just so pretty.
  • And Bubby thinks we need some Silkies.  Silkies are just so fluffy!  And they have black skin and blue earlobes!  And y'all!  They have five toes!  They're not very good egg layers, but they are so darn cute!
I have a problem, y'all.

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