Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Chickens Are All Grows Up

I thought I would give an update on my chickens since a lot has changed in 3 months. I spent many hours patching up all the holes in the fence to keep the dog inside. Over the course of a month, it was a battle between us. He found rotted pieces of fence or low places he could jump over. He even broke out going under the house and knocking a downspout down in the process. I thought I finally had him until he decided to jump the porch fence despite the 5 foot dropl. In the end a plastic coated wire leash was the solution. Now he spends his days on the front porch where he wants to be.

I tell you this because in my failed quest to contain the dog in the backyard, I succeeded in keeping him out and the chickens in. I was finally able to let them free range. I simply open the door in the morning and close it at night. In the picture below, you can see how different the run is compared to the lawn. The run used to be as green. The lawn has since been scratched up in many places but is mostly still green. I really think the chickens are much happier now.

This picture taken a couple weeks ago shows how much bigger and healthier they are now. The reddish colored ones which I now believe to be the Sex-links breed look a lot better. Some of them had been missing a lot of feathers.

As I mentioned in my last chicken post the screen I put over my droppings pits didn't allow the droppings to fall through. I swapped it out for some plastic coated chicken wire. Despite the larger holes it is still pretty sturdy for the chickens to walk on and allows the poo to drop through. I can get away with cleaning it every two weeks though one week is better.

At some point in the late fall my chickens stopped laying eggs. I really didn't understand what the deal was. I actually had to buy a dozen eggs at the store. Then I read that egg laying is related to sunlight and that a light in the coop would help. I installed a 60 watt bulb on a timer to give the chickens solid light from 5am to 7pm. After a few days, they started laying again.

In December we had a week of temperatures in the teens. I felt pretty bad for the hens. I put towels over the openings under the roof and the door to prevent drafts and keep the body heat in. At night I put coals from my wood stove in between two metal pans and put them in the coop to add some heat. The water froze every day so I put out a pan every morning. I'm glad the birds were all bigger and fully feathered. They made it through the week with now problem.

Over the course of the last month the egg production has steadily increased. I started noticing some really small eggs mixed in with the normal eggs. I figured out that the small ones were the first eggs of one of the hens. As of this week I'm up to 6-7 eggs a day including the small ones. I expect over the course of the next month the tiny eggs will be replaced by normal sized ones. Below is a picture of the spectrum of egg sizes, shapes and colors they are laying right now. They range from "just bigger than a quarter" to "can't close the carton, jumbo sized".

While the one on the left is pretty darn small, the one on the right is dog gone big too!

The next big project that I'm working on is hooking up rain barrels to harvest rainfall from my roof. As part of that project I plan to hook up a new chicken water dish that will be fed from the rain barrels. If it works like I plan, watering the chickens will be one less task for me to worry about.


PS said...

Wow, you've learned a lot about chickens. Hope your watering barrel scheme works as well as our windowsill setup at Walker.
Have you ever thought about growing hops? I hear Oregon is great for that. I tried planting a few rhizomes this past year here in Indiana without much success.

Sassmouth said...

PS, nice to hear from you. I actually thought about our drip irrigation scheme at Walker in designing my system. I should have the advantage of more water pressure than a gallon pitcher this time. :)

I have been thinking about hops. I have a lot of planning to do for the next growing season.