Flock Update

Time for a flock update 🙂

Up until last week nothing had changed with the big flock, everyone was healthy and most were laying well. Then Della, my older Ancona girl, had a prolapsed vent which I couldn’t fix and had to be put down. All in all it was not the most pleasant experience, but I learnt an awful lot and at least this time it didn’t cost me several hundred dollars in unnecessary vet bills.

At the same time Arabella TopKnot, the broody hen who raised our four outside chickadees, had decided she was over being a mother and deserted her brood – they were 12 weeks old, definitely old enough to be left alone. So Arabella went in with the big chooks and replaced Della. She may have even started laying already!

Two of the three roosters are destined for the table and will be done sometime in the next two weeks. I’m keeping Barney, my only Barnevelder, while the Gold Laced Wyandotte and Rhode Island Red will soon grace our table. Looking forward to eating chooks we’ve raised ourselves. We know that they’ve had a really good life – no overcrowding (our coop and run could house twice as many chooks as it does), lots of sunshine, natural foods and free ranging – the kind of life all chickens should have.

Unfortunately they’ve been free ranging into the neighbours too, so three nights ago the entire flock had their wings clipped. I’m hoping that will curb the more adventurous birds! I’ll find out tomorrow when I let them out into the paddock again.

Of the seven little chickadees we hatched late autumn, I know for sure that I have two cockerals – the golden mixed breed, who thinks he’s a big boy at 13 weeks, and the little blue/red Araucana – I saw him crowing this morning, so now I know for sure. Golden boy I’ve named Christmas because that’s when we’ll eat him 🙂 As we’re keeping the Araucana I’m calling him Arioso from Vivian French’s ‘Five Kingdoms’ series.

I’m still not sure with the two outside Light Sussex. I think I have a boy and a girl. If so, I’ve decided to call them Tom & Barbara, named after the main characters from the show ‘The Good Life’ a show that helped us in our journey of rediscovering what it was we really wanted to do with our lives. However, if Barbara turns out to be a he, he’ll become Dinner instead!

Fluffball (wheaten Araucana), Puffball (Light Sussex) and Skid (mixed breed) from the hand raised trio are still all looking to be girls. I’d really prefer it if they all were as it would fit in with my plans much better. These three will be the founding members of our home flock – the flock that will be working the garden beds around the house, so I don’t have to.

At this stage I’m thinking that the rest of the home flock will be made up of Arioso, Arabella TopKnot (who has some Araucana in her breeding) and Cana who’s a lavender Araucana. I’m considering adding my two Spanish girls to this flock as they haven’t yet proven themselves to be great layers. I’m thinking some Spanish Araucanas could be quite interesting, we shall see…Mostly I just want lots of blue eggs 🙂

Is it a boy or a girl?

Trying to figure out which of our seven chickies are boys is driving me batty. ‘I think it’s a girl, no I think it’s a boy…’ has been my thought pattern every time I look at them!

I KNOW that we have one rooster from the outside four – I thought he might be from two weeks old. When he started crowing at eight weeks, I knew for sure. At twelve weeks he’s doing the little dance for my older girls when they come close enough! He’s the little mixed breed fellow.

I’m almost positive that the outside Araucana is a boy, some of his tail feathers are long and curved, his face is much redder than the other Araucana and he’s definitely way more boistrous.

Of the two Light Sussex from the outside brood I’m almost positive that one is a boy (longer tail, some curvy feathers, bigger wattles, darker red) and the other a girl (short tail, no curvy feathers, smaller wattle and not as red). I only want one Light Sussex rooster, so if the girl turns into a boy we’ll eat him; if she stays a she, she gets to stay.

And at this stage the hand raised trio are all looking to be girls – I’d like it very much if they were!

Chickies 7½ Weeks On…

I’m happy to say that all seven chickies are alive and well! They’ve gone from this –
Hand raised chickies

to this –

Puffball at 7 weeks old

Puffball at 7 weeks old

Fluffball at seven weeks old

Fluffball at seven weeks old

I couldn’t get a nice photo of the three of them together, and believe me, I tried!

It’s amazing how quickly they grow. At seven and a half weeks old these guys are pretty much all feathered up and look like miniature versions of the adults, and in less than a year they’ll be producing eggs! I’m glad my kids don’t grow so fast!!

What have I learnt from this incubating and hand-raising experience? It’s fun, but it’s so much easier if the hen does it! I have discovered that I truly prefer the natural way – it takes longer, but there’s less mess and less fuss. So even though fertilised eggs were available at the Euroa Poultry Auction, I didn’t have a broody hen, and resisted the temptation. I have to say though, I was severely tempted the ducks, especially a lovely blue muscovy girl. We’re not ready for ducks so I resisted. However I did buy Kathy a lovely Araucana rooster who was heading for chop.

I’ve also noticed that the two pure bred, hand-raised chickies are much slower on the uptake when it comes to eating bugs. Skid, the farm chickie of the trio, snaps up earwigs and cockroaches with undisguised relish, while the other two regard them with a somewhat puzzled expression on their cute little faces. Yet the ones outside, pure breds and mixed, with Arabella Topknot have no such problems as they eagerly search for bugs and run about my feet like excited puppies.

At five weeks old the hand-raised trio went from the lounge room to the laundry – they kept escaping from the brooder! On one particular day I came home to find them all sitting in front of the fire! Very cute and all, except for the minefield I had to negotiate to get in the front door! Thank goodness we don’t have carpet so it was easily cleaned!!

Keeping Warm!

Keeping Warm!

We have decided that whatever their sex, the hand-raised trio are our pets and are going to become the first members of our home flock. Personally I’m hoping they’ll all be girls, and if we have to have a rooster, I’m hoping that Puffball (Light Sussex), Kael and I both like the idea of crossing him with our Araucanas to see if we can get a meatier blue egg layers. Won’t know for a while yet, I’m guessing though… However, the four chickies with Arabella Topknot are not our pets, so the roosters are in for a short, but happy life. I’m hoping for one Araucana and one Light Sussex rooster from this lot, but if I don’t get an Araucana roo I know where I can get one! The home flock will be used to work the garden beds I’m establishing close to the house – the chickies have already shown me multiple times just how eager they are to help with the gardening. When I’m pulling weeds, they’re there; when I’m digging holes, they’re there; when I’m spreading mulch, they’re there. You get the idea.

At almost eight weeks the chickies are doing well, but I know we’ve still got a ways to go before I’ll be reasonably confident of their survival – most of the first lot of chickies made it to six weeks, it was after that they started dropping like flies.

Laying Again!

Well the chooks went on a five week break from their egg laying duties, Welzy anyway, everyone else took considerably longer to moult and start laying again. My three white egg layers stopped laying in mid March, while everyone else kept going ’til just after Easter, and didn’t start again ’til June.

Welzy the WelsummerXLightSussex, Cana the Araucana and Miss Ruby the Croad Langshan were my champion layers and were the last to drop off laying – Welzy outlasted them all. Welzy and Miss Ruby started laying in June at the same time as the white egg layers who’d had an extra month off! Cana however, has only started laying again now in mid July.

It was quite disappointing having to buy in eggs! But the girls have ve started laying again and we’re extremely grateful to be eating our own free range organic eggs. The very first egg was a giant white one and a double yolker which Xavier had on toast for breakfast.

First egg and a Double Yolker!

First egg and a Double Yolker!

Once again Welzy is my champion egg layer and laying about five eggs a week, but Miss Ruby is right up there with her. And just in the last week the two Gold Laced Wyandotte pullets that survived our first disasterous chook season, have started laying. It’s so nice to have eggs again.

We’re getting just over two eggs a day out of five chooks (only half of them are laying) and those white egg layers of mine have been disappointing when it comes to egg production as they’ve stopped laying again! I think the two Spanish girls are going to relegated to the home flock with the pet chickens and bunnies – if they’re not laying they can scratch and hunt for bugs instead!

I’ve been told that if I can hatch out some chickies around Christmas then they’re more likely to lay through winter, so I’ll see if we can make that happen. I’m so glad the girls are laying again – it’s so nice using an egg from one of your own chooks – the beautiful golden yolks turn our custards and cakes really yellow without the aid of food colouring!

Chickies First Day Out

It was such a beautiful day today, a welcome break from the rain, that I decided to put the handraised trio outside in the portable rabbit run. I did have to move it to around the east side of the house as a nice cold wind was blowing in from the south west. I thought that it might be a bit too cold for the pampered three on their first day outside.

Chickies were a bit freaked out by the spongy wet green stuff beneath their feet so used to sawdust they were. I think the big wide space they were suddenly presented with was a bit startling too. And just to freak them out a little more, I put the rabbits in the run too! Funny to watch. Not sure who was freaked out more, the chickies or the rabbits.

I’m hoping that by Spring I’ll have these handraised chickies (boys or girls) and the bunnies all living together in chicken tractor of some kind. We’ll keep them close to the house and them to work on the various garden beds we’re putting in around the house. After harvesting the veggies we’ll put the home flock (which will probably include a couple of hens from the other flock, the ones who don’t lay all that much) to work clearing the bugs, fertilising and scratching so there’ll be less work for me.

Anyway, the chickies enjoyed their first day outside. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come. I’m off to investigate portable runs, houses and the possibility of rabbits and chooks sharing the same space.

Who.are these strange creatures?

Who.are these strange creatures?

Greetings small furry one

Greetings small furry one

Shall we go inside?

Shall we go inside?


Well, it’s been two weeks since our second lot of chickies hatched. All of them are feathering up quite nicely and growing well, and the best thing is that we’ve lost none of them. With the last lot we’d already lost two of the day olds we’d bought in for Scales to raise. Still, there’s a long way to go before I’ll be confident of their survival.

Below are tonight’s photos of the chickies with the broody hen in their outside house. The goldy brown one is a wheaten Araucana, the dark one is a black Araucana, the two light ones are a Light Sussex and a mixed breed farm chickie (there’s a little bit of black on the farm chickies wings – then again, I’ve just noticed a little bit of black on the wings of the Light Sussex too, so maybe the farm chickie is a pure breed afterall).

Arabella's Chickies 2

Arabella's Chickies 3

Arabella's Chickies 5

These are photos of the hand raised three – goldy one is the other wheaten Araucana, light one is a Light Sussex and the one with black wings is another mixed breed farm chickie.




Which Rooster?

From our first lot of homegrown chickies we have three roosters. The plan was always to eat any roos we hatch, however, the roos crowing don’t bother our neighbours so now we have the opportunity to keep a couple for breeding purposes.

The Gold Laced Wyandotte was always destined for the tsble, so there’s no problems there. But then there’s Barney (my only Barnevelder) and Brownie (my only Rhode Island Red). Barney has always been a favourite – eats from my hand, tolerates pats and is easy to pick up and he’s a beautiful looking bird. Brownie, on the other hand is quite plain in comparison, but he’s a big boy and likely to put meat on the bones of any offspring.

However Brownie is scared of his own shadow and is forever running away when another chook looks at him sideways. I do wonder if that would change if the other two got the chop? Barney is not afraid and is busy asserting his rooster rights. And then there’s the added fact that I’ve got a new bunch of chickies coming through and three of them are Light Sussex – any roos from this bunch will also put meat on the bones of their offspring. And I’m hoping for an Araucana roo – really like getting coloured eggs 🙂

At this stage, Biggest and Brownie are for the pot. Barney gets to hang around a while longer. Of course, it’s always possible I’ll change my mind again!

Hatching – Day Two

3 chickies hatched yesterday (day 21). One Araucana & two Light Sussex. Still waiting for four more eggs to hatch – I think I saw another egg pipping. Maybe.

Kathy’s bringing her broody chook, the chickies and any unhatched eggs over. We’ll put any unhatched eggs in the bator and set the others up in The Broody Hen House and put two of our incubator chickies under her.

Xav desperately wants to hand raise one, so we’re keeping the Araucana chickie for him. If any more eggs hatch Kael will hand raise one too.

Of course if the broody doesn’t accept these chicks we’ll be hand raising all of them plus any eggs that hatch. At the last minute Kael decided he wanted to keep one of our incubstor chickies too, so the broody (who I’ve decided to call Arabella Topknot) only ended upmwith one extra chickie. We’re handraising a Light Sussex ss well as an Araucana.

Only one more egg hatched, another of Kathy’s mixed breed farm chickies. This one is white with a black tyre track on it’s head. We’re hand-raising it with the other two and have called it Skid.

Boys and Chickens

Boys and Chickens


I can hear chickies peeping from the incubator. I just put another tub of water in to increase the humidity. Upon lifting the lid Kael and I saw that a second egg had started to break – this time it is an Araucana. Yay!

I was starting to get concerned that nothing had really happened with our 9am egg, so I’ve just been on the web finding out how long it takes for chickies to break free of their shell once they start pipping it. Twenty-four hours plus! So no need to panic, thankfully.

I also found out that most people don’t help chickies out of the egg, but if they do, they won’t help until it’s been 48 hours. Hopefully that won’t be an issue.

Xav still likes the idea of raising two or three chickies himself, so we’d better get to work on that brooder box for inside.

On another note, I’ve done the second coat on the brooder. Looking good. However I’ve decided that I won’t be painting any other designs on it today. Instead I’ll be doing things like a final clean out of the brooder, disinfecting feed and water containers and mowing the lawn! Oh, and making lunch for the starving hoarde 🙂

Okay, the Araucana chickie has hatched! From it’s colour I’m guessing it’s one of the wheatens. It’s so tiny!

Fertilised Eggs – Day Twenty-One

The incubator day counter ticked over to day 21 at about 9pm tonight. Nothing’s happening yet… Everybody tells me they should hatch fine. Me, I’m not so sure. If there’s no sign of hatching in the morning I’ll be disappointed, even though I’ve been telling myself it will be a terrible failure and they won’t hatch coz I don’t want to get my hopes up.

Went to the Benalla craft/farmers market today and spoke to Tony the chook man. He had a couple of wheaten Faverolle girls with cute little ear muffs and I was sorely tempted. But with the imminent arrival of a bunch of chickies I’ve nowhere to quarantine them. Oh well, maybe next time. I told Tony that when my next hen goes broody I’ll get some Plymouth Rock eggs off him, hopefully he’ll have some by then.

Started painting the brooder this arvo – the first coat is done. I’ll do the second coat in the morning tomorrow, and if I’ve got time I’ll see if I can paint something intresting on it too. Maybe a mother hen and some chickies. Right now I’m trying to think of a cool name to give it but at the moment all I can think of is “The Chickiebator” or “The Broody Hen”.

Just starting the first coat

Just starting the first coat

Xav doing his bit

Xav doing his bit

While I was painting Kathy phoned to say that two eggs had hatched! An Araucana and one of her bitzers! Whoohoo!! Meanwhile nothing was happening in the incubator. And still nothing was happening at 5:30am when I staggered out of bed to help Xav. However, at 9am this morning, one of the Light Sussex eggs has started to crack! Still, as the saying goes, ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch.’