Category Archives: Chickens

2019 Chick Hatching Update

All 4 of Welly’s eggs hatched! One had some issues and we spent a couple days nursing it back to health.

Poor thing was so weak. It couldn’t even hold it’s head up.

Doing better after warming and feeding it an electrolyte solution.

12 hours after hatching it was apparent it was going to survive but it was not as vigorous as it’s siblings, so we kept it inside for another couple of days.

We named that one Nugget. After a day or so, we brought one of its siblings in to teach it to eat and drink from the waterer. Since we had been hand feeding it the electrolyte solution, it wasn’t catching on by itself. After another day or two, you couldn’t tell Nugget from the other except that we put a leg band on it, so we but them all back in with Welly.

So now we had 9 chicks. Three of them we knew were males. Time would tell for the others.

At just 4 weeks old, the Sex-link’s combs were substantially bigger than the Speckled Sussex’s. Hoped that meant the Sussex were female – it did!

And at 6 weeks old, it was VERY obvious that two of Welly’s chicks were male, and two were female. These are the two males.

Oh, and you know little Nugget that we put so much time and effort into reviving? Yep, one of the males!

So, we ended up with 5 males and 4 females. Figures!

And one of the white females got out of her pen when a neighboring dog happened to be visiting and got herself killed. 😢

So, now we have 5 males that are bound for the stew pot this fall, and 3 females that will be added to the flock.

Right now we are working on integrating the two chick flocks to each other. The mammas are back in with their original flock. We are not going to bother integrating all those boys to one of the main flocks when they will be gone in a couple months anyway. But in the meantime, we need them all to be in the same coop/run. And soon it will be time to introduce the three pullets into their new flock.

Ah, the joys of raising chickens!

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2019 Broody Hen Watch: Days 20/21- HATCH DAY! (And Day 12 for the 2nd group)

They hatched!

They hatched!

Well, 5 of them did anyway. 5 out of 9 is not the best ratio, but it’s better than last year’s hatch ratio. (2/7)

So we checked on the eggs on the morning of Day 20 (June 7th). And we found a pip!

That meant that there was a chick pecking it’s way out from the inside!

We also found one half hatched and slightly squished. I thought it was dead, so I picked it up and removed it from it’s shell to see if I could tell what kind it was when I felt it move in my hand! It wasn’t doing well at all though, so we brought it inside and tried to warm it up and nurse it to health.

But, sadly, it passed away.

But it wasn’t long until the one that had pipped earlier had hatched.

And, another was right there with it.

Still slightly wet

All told, we had three hatch on Day 20 and two more hatch the next day. There were 4 fully formed chicks in eggs that did not make it for some reason.😢

Of the five that hatched, three are sex-link hybrids and are all boys. Of course! 🙄 The other two are pure breed Speckled Sussex and we won’t know for several more weeks of they are male or female.

White spots mean boys

Overall, I’m fairly pleased that we got 5 chicks out of this hatch. I still would like to figure out what’s going on that we don’t get a better hatching success rate. I am leaning toward the idea that it might have something to do with our very low humidity here in the high desert. But five is better than none, or even just one or two, so I’m counting my blessings. I just really hope that at least one of those Speckled Sussex chicks is a girl!

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On June 9th (Day 12), we candled the eggs from our other broody hen.

There were 11 eggs remaining (one went missing) and it was very obvious which eggs were developing and which were not. There were a couple eggs that were just not fertilized. As I thought, Uno the rooster just couldn’t get around to all the ladies all the time.

Unfertile egg.

There were also some that had developed a bit but then died of for unknown reasons.

Blood in the fluid, no visible veins

If it had been day 5 or so, I would have said this one looked normal. But at day 12, it should look quite different, as you’ll see in a moment.

The black spot at the top was a developing embryo in the very beginning stages when it died.

There were 5 eggs that looked like the following pictures. Notice the obvious veins/blood vessels.

Because these eggs had white shells, the blood vessels were very easy to see with the light. We could even see the movement of the fluid inside as the chick moved around! Check out the video below!

That was an awesome experience!

A day or two after candling, another of the eggs got broken, so we are down to 4. But Welly is being a good broody Mama, so we are hopeful to get some chicks out of theses ones, too.

Her hatch date is tomorrow!

2019 Broody Hen Hatch Watch: Day 1

May 19, 2019

You may remember last summer when we tried to have some of our broody hens hatch some eggs for us. (You can read those posts here.)

We tried six times and only ended up with 2 chicks (both roosters, of course!). Sadly, after some research, I think a couple of those failures were from us handling and moving the eggs after day 17, which is when the eggs should be left alone until hatching. So we might had inadvertently cause some of the in-egg deaths. I’m crushed. 😟

But, we are trying again, and we know better this time.

One of our Austra-Whites, Bluebell, went broody last week. She was the mama that raised store bought chicks for us in 2017. Her sister, another Austra-White named Speckles, was the hen who successfully hatched the two chicks last summer.

Our 2018 chicks – a Black Sex-link male, and a Speckled Sussex male who is now one of our breeding roosters.

We never had any success in hatching with the three Welsummers or the Golden-laced Wyandotte who went broody, so when Bluebell decided to be broody again this year, I was happy. I know she is a reliable brooder and a good mama.

So, here we go.

We moved her to the brooder coop nest box, blocked off from the 8 week old chicks who are using the rest of the coop.

Our brooder box setup. Just shut the right door to keep the hen in, and the left one is opened or closed as needed for security or ventilation and to access food and water.

She was sitting on golf balls for a few days in order to adjust to the move before we gave her eggs.

Classic broody hen stink-eye

But after one night she had settled right in. So I figured it was safe to put eggs under her.

The next day (that was yesterday) we swapped out 9 golf balls for a dozen eggs we had been collecting from our breeding group from several days.

I’m pretty sure all the ones on the right are from our Speckled Sussex hen, Lizzie. She lays very light tan eggs, and usually it’s pretty easy to tell hers from the eggs that Feathers lays. But sometimes it wasn’t quite as obvious. Most of the ones on the left are from Feathers who is a Plymoth Barred Rock. They are both in with a Speckled Sussex rooster, Nigel. So Lizzie’s chicks will be pure breed Speckled Sussex. Feathers’ will be Black Sex-links, which means we will be able to tell immediately at hatching if they are male or female. And then there are a couple that I think are from our other Speckled Sussex in our other flock, which means they would also be pure breed. However, they could be from our Black Australorp, or our Golden Laced Wyandotte in that flock as well. In which case, the chicks would just be normal ol’ farmyard hybrids. Nothing special other than the fact that they would probably still lay some great eggs.

Hey, we should come up with a name for our sex-link hybrids. Every hatchery calls theirs something different dependant on the breeds of the parents. Black sex-links are almost always a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster and a Barred Rock hen and the offspring is almost always called a Black Star or Black Rock. Red/Gold sex-links have a much larger variety of breeds as parents, thus have many different “brand” names: Red Star, ISA Brown, Cinnamon Queen, Golden Comet, etc. Hmmmm…, Something to think about.

At any rate, we’ll hopefully have some Speckled Sussex and some sex-link and a couple mystery chicks hatching out in about 3 weeks. I will candle the eggs in about 12 days (I’m not confident in my abilities to candle on day 7) and their projected Hatch Date is June 8th.

I am sooo hoping this works this time. We really want an easy and natural way to replenish our flocks in order to be as sustainable as possible. If we can reliably hatch chicks, we wouldn’t have to purchase new ones, and we could sell some to offset costs.

I’ll keep you updated as we progress.

And this time, no moving of the eggs in the last 4-5 days!

Broody Hen Saga: Day 14

I candled our hen-incubating eggs on day 7 like everyone says to do. But I just couldn’t tell. They all looked too similar. However, I had a feeling that only half of them were developing. So I figured I’d give it another week or so and try again.

And this time the differences were striking! The 5 eggs (I was right!) that have developing chicks in them, very obviously have something in them.

Day 15, rather obvious

The 5 eggs that never developed (or stopped early) still look like a regular, non-developing eggs when candled. I did notice that several of them had cracks in the shell like the picture below. No telling when that happened, but I’m sure it didn’t help.

Non-viable with cracks in shell

So, out of the 10 eggs that were originally under Summer, only 5 are viable. I sure hope those five actually hatch. One more week to go…

Broody Hen Saga: Day 3

9/1/18

[If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook- @castlerockhomestead – you’ve probably already seen this info, but I put it here for posterity and for those few of you who missed it. 😉]

This is “Summer”. She is a broody hen. That means she wants to sit on eggs and hatch them out into cute little fluff balls. But she is a chicken. And chickens really are kinda dumb. It’s all hormones and instincts that tells her to sit there. Some breeds of hens have a very strong broodiness gene and will be very dedicated to sitting on those eggs. Silkies and Orpingtons come to mind. But Summer is a Welsummer. They are not known to be particularly boody, although all three of our Welsummers went broody this year, and this is the second time for this one.

So, we’re trying again. Summer went broody in the nest box of the main flock coop. So I put a cardboard box in the nest box with some golf balls in it and let her sit on those for a day or two (that way I could take all the real eggs away from her but she would stay broody). Then one night, I moved her, cardboard box and all, to our brooder coop.

Our brooder coop is a small coop that is perfect for raising chicks in, once they hatch, and the nest box works perfect for a broody hen as well.

By blocking it off from the main part of the coop, the hen has enough room to get up and stretch her legs and get a bite to eat or a drink, but nothing to distract her from going back to those eggs.

The other three times we’ve tried to get Welsummers to hatch a clutch of eggs, they tended to get distracted and leave the eggs long enough that the developing eggs got too cold and died. Actually, the last one was in this same setup and was doing great, until the door got left open and she abandoned her eggs.

So here we are, with another broody hen and a new clutch of eggs. I let her sit on the golf balls until I had collected enough of the right eggs from our smaller breeding flock, then one night, out came the golf balls and in went the fertile eggs.

I put 10 eggs under her and the hatch date should be on September 18th. I say “should” because we did have a hen successfully hatch 2 chicks earlier this year and they hatched a day early (both males…of course) .

Hopefully it will be uneventful smooth sailing from here on out. We will candle the eggs in a few days and see which ones are viable. Then we wait.

Homestead Update: Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Sorry about that. I kept hoping for the “big reveal” on our house, but, well, things keep happening to keep it from being done. And by done I mean dried in (meaning the siding and roof is on.)

So I guess for now, here’s our “big reveal”. We have the frame of a house!

We hired a contractor to put the structure up for us. He started the week after Thanksgiving and did pretty well getting to this point. But then his wife had a stroke, he had some equipment trouble, we’ve had some weather related delays, and the holidays rolled around, so there the frame sits.

One of those weather delays was a bad windstorm. It blew about 30 of our siding panels and some of our rolls of insulation off the house pad into the ravine. And then it promptly snowed. We were able to get them all stacked together with rocks on them so they don’t blow any more, but they are still down there. Hubs and I have been sick with bronchitis since before Christmas and haven’t been able to do much.

Lately though, I’ve been feeling a bit better and have been able to do a bit of work around the place. I cleaned out the chickens nest boxes and today I’m hoping to get our flocks rearranged. We have two roosters (technically I think they are both still cockerels) in one small flock and I want to get then separated before the younger, bigger one starts challenging the older, smaller one.

Besides, I want all the hens to be in with the correct rooster for when we start our breeding program. Nigel (pictured below with “Lizzie” two months ago) is our man man. He will be our breeding rooster, but right now, he’s the non dominant male in a flock of 12.

I am planning on moving Fritz (our frizzle Cochin bantam rooster) and a couple of his girls up to the upper coop and bringing a few of those girls down for Nigel. And I want to do that now while their egg laying is already disrupted by the winter.

Although, they have started picking up a bit!

We were only getting 4-6 eggs a day out of 30 hens for about 2 months. Our older flock went through their first molt and thus stopped laying. And the younger flock just hit maturity when the light faded for the winter (hens need approximately 14 or more hours of daylight to lay optimally.)

But we are past the solstice so the days are only getting longer now, the older flock is past their molt, and the younger flock is moving into their prime laying time (they lay the most eggs their first year of laying.) So now we are getting roughly 10 eggs a day. And it’s only gonna get better from here.

Lately we have been having some beautiful weather. While the rest of the country freezes, we’ve been wearing t-shirts and having picnics.

And doing crafts outdoors.

And going for walks in the hills above our house.

The weather is supposed to turn chilly and rainy, possibly with snow, this weekend.

And I heard from our contractor again today, and there’s been more unavoidable delays. So sometime in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will have a roof and sides put on our house. But for now, it’s still pretty cool to walk out our trailer door and see that frame rising toward the sky.

And once it is “dried in”, we get to go to town finishing off the interior. That’s going to be a blast! And honestly that’s really the only thing on our resolution list for this year. Get. The. House. Finished!

For now, I’ll leave you with one more picture of our frame until we have more to report.

House update: concrete slab pour

The post you’ve all been waiting for!

I know, I know, it’s been nearly a week since I said we’d get the slab poured, and here I am just now writing about it.

But really, it’s only been 3 days since it was poured. Yep, that’s right, it was done this past Monday, not last Friday.

Yeah, the overnight lows were forecasted to be down around freezing for Friday and Saturday night. Frozen concrete is not a good thing. And while there are steps you can take to make sure the slab does not freeze, waiting an extra couple of days for the temps to warm up is an easy fix.

On top of that, none of the concrete companies in town could do a Friday pour before noon. Doing a slab this size takes about 8 hours. It gets dark here around 7pm right now. I think you can see the problem there.

So, we decided that it was best to just wait till Monday.

It was chilly that morning before the sun hit the pad.

But the crew was there and the cement showed up right on time.

The interior footers were poured first.

Then they started on the slab.

Flower Girl didn’t want to miss a moment, even when she was so cold. But the sun came up and we all warmed up.

There wasn’t much for us to do other than watch.

But watch, we did!

And then spent a few minutes stabbing in the bolts for the walls.

Pajii gave it a go.

Princess Girl looked over the plans to make sure we were doing it right.

I had a moment of panic when I did some measuring and thought we were an entire inch and a half off. Till I realized I was measuring to the wrong side of the form boards. Whew!

Lots and lots of bolts.

The concrete crew we hired did an efficient job.

Looks like he is standing on the edge of a huge drop off. In reality, there’s enough space on the other side of the house for a cement truck to pull up there.

More finishing.

The last thing to do was cut the relief cuts to hopefully control some of the cracking. Our concrete contractor uses a big machine to do the cuts rather than a skill saw by hand.

Here it is with the concrete blankets on. My brother and my dad were each able to loan us enough blankets to cover half the pad. We decided that since we got them for free, it couldn’t hurt to use them. Better safe than sorry.

On Wednesday we started taking down the forms. We can’t take off all of then yet because that’s what the plastic is stapled to.

Since we are going to stain the slab and use it as our finished floor, the concrete guy didn’t want to put on a chemical seal/cure on it. So instead, we wetted everything down then covered it in 6mil black plastic to keep the water from evaporating. This will allow the slab to slowly cure over the course of a week or so without adding something to the top that will make the stain not work.

Pajii and Princess Girl took off all the blankets today. I stayed inside out of the pounding wind because I came down with a cold on Tuesday (great timing, right).

Instead of working on the house, I’ve been resting and recuperating and making chicken stock out of the carcasses of the chickens we processed over the weekend.

One of these pots of stock got canned into jars. The other became soup for dinner tonight. Hopefully it will help me feel better. This not being able to breath thing is getting old real quick.

The next stage of building the house is getting the metal frame up, but that may take a while. In the meantime, we need to finish up our septic system and fresh water cistern and get started on the garage. Still got a lot to do. But it’s moving forward. Slowly but surely.