Tag Archives: Hens

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!

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Bluebirds of Happiness

We have bluebirds!

About a year ago, the girls and I built bluebird houses following plans found online. (This is a really good website all about bluebirds and how to make houses for them with lots of different types of plans for houses.)

We modified the plans a bit to use materials we had on hand (mainly just swapping out black ABS pipe for the thinner PVC pipe called for on the plans), but basically we used the plans for the Gilbertson PVC house.

But we made them too late in the season and nothing ever nested in them. But this year they are fighting over them!

Yep, we have at least two “couples” who are arguing over who gets to build their nest in one of the houses. The cool thing is that one of the couples are Western Bluebirds and the other couple are Mountain Bluebirds.

Blue arrows are the Western and white arrows are the Mountain

Looks like the Westerns are winning as they are the ones I see perched on the roof all the time.

The bad thing is that this little coop that it is attached to is actually occupied this year with chicks. That means we go out there several times a day to check on and interact with the chicks. I hope it’s not too much human activity for the bluebirds.

Luckily, the door to access the chicks in on the opposite side from the bluebird house.

Here’s some pictures of us building the boxes last year.

Marked the inside rim of the pipe onto the board to make the bottom plug

Fits great

Nearly perfect. Notice the hole in the middle, along with not fitting 100% perfectly around the edges will allow for drainage if water somehow gets inside.

Drilling a hole to be able to screw in the bottom plug without cracking the plastic pipe.

Scraping the rough edges

Also cut holes near the top as vent holes.

Smoothing out the edges even more.

Checking for proper depth and hole size.

More smoothing

Placing the hanging block.

Attaching everything together. It is all upside down at the moment.

Painting it so it’s not so dark, thus not so hot in the sun.

Taa daa! Installed on our little brooder coop.

And the other one hung on the outhouse. Not sure if anyone is scoping that one out or not.

It was a fun little project, and we are excited that a bluebird family is moving in this year. We plan to have lots more birdhouses around the property as homes for our feathery friends!

Broody Hen Saga: final update

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that we did not have any cute fluffy chickies hatch. Otherwise their pictures would have been all over Instagram and Facebook.

So we’re done with our hatching trials for this year. I’m sure we’ll try again next spring. And in the meanwhile, I’ll be doing a bunch of research to see what might have been our issue. We really want hatching our own chicks to be sustainable.

So stay tuned. We’ll keep at it and bring you along for the ride. 😁

Broody Hen Saga: Day 19

*sigh*

I’m at a loss. I don’t think any of the eggs are gonna hatch.

We moved Summer into the main part of the coop in preparation for hatching (which could happen any time in the next 2 days).

I took the opportunity to candle the eggs again since we got her off them to clean her box (tried getting her to sit on them in the bucket, but she wasn’t having any of that.)

All of them have air sacks that are much too large for this stage of development. In one (top left in the collage below), you can see feathers that have developed, but again, there’s too much space in there. The chicks should be large enough to pretty much take up the entire egg by now.

We’re all sad that it looks like we won’t be getting any chicks.

I just don’t know why this happened. Summer was a great brooder. She was always on those eggs. Did they get too hot? Did she jostle them too much? Is there something wrong in the genetics?

The last time we got a hen to sit for the duration, only 2 out of 7 eggs hatched. And out of the 5 that were left over, 4 of then were fully formed chicks that died just before hatching. (One had never fully developed.)

So I just don’t know. Is it something we are doing wrong, or is it just nature and out of our control?

One day we’d like to be able to reliably hatch our own eggs, and maybe even sell hatching eggs. But if we can’t get them to hatch, then that’s an issue.

For now, I’ll leave them under her. A couple of them I’m sure are not viable, but there’s that one with the feathers that I’m not ready to give up on. There’s a part of me that keeps saying that chicks grow a lot in the last day or two before hatching. I have a feeling it’s not gonna hatch, but I won’t give up all hope till all hope is gone.

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: not a lot of progress in the last two months

So, last I wrote about the house, we were still waiting on contractors to come finish the siding and roof. Our house sat with only 1½ walls for 4 months till the new contractors finally fit us into their schedule. They finally started and I jumped in to help on a particularly windy day. In the process of helping, I learned how to do it.

So when some unavoidable delays happened again, we decided to take matters into our own hands.

Brushing off the dirt from the panels

And there were were, a family of rock stars who put the preliminary insulation, and siding up on 1½ of our walls, all by ourselves.

But then…

Before the contractors could come back and start on the roof, there was some trim work that needed to be done. And we REALLY wanted that roof. So, we continued working sun up to sun down in a push to get ready for the contractors.

With the help of some good friends

This picture makes me so happy. I love that my girl is old enough to be a huge help, but also to really remember this awesome adventure we get to have as a family.

We got the trim all on and it was time for the roof.

But first…

Yep, that’s a fire pit. INSIDE our house. How many of you can say you’ve done that?

And then the day finally came that the roof started going on!

Oh Happy day!

Pajii got to help!

Finally! The roof was on, but there was still a bit of trim work to do before we no longer had the equipment. So once again, my brother and sis-in-law jumped in to help out.

And then it was done, done!

We still have to cut in the doors and windows, but at least it’s “dried in”.

So the exterior structure of our house was done. And so was I!

This is what happens when you hurt your knee but don’t really take the time to slow down and heal. It keeps getting worse until it’s so bad you can’t walk on it any more!

So, I was laid up for about a week, waiting for my knee to heal well enough that I could get back to work.

But in the meantime, we had one more job to do with that equipment.

Putting in our cistern tank.

But let me back up…

Last summer, we needed to rent a large excavator to widen our garage pad. We also dug the hole and trench for our cistern system (say that three times fast!). A cistern is a fancy way of saying a water tank. This one is specifically a holding tank that we will fill with our well water and use as the water for our house. Being off grid, this is the best system.

But in order to get the tank in the hole, we needed to prep the hole and run the line for the water.

Remember the part I said the hole and trench were dug last year?

Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. And this picture is after Pajii had cleared all the big rocks out! But that entire trench had to be bedded in sand for the pipe to lay on. And how do you get dirt up a 175 foot long trench that is 3+ feet deep and only 2 feet wide?

With buckets. Lots and lots (and lots and lots) of buckets full of sand! In fact, that’s how I hurt my knee, all the way back at the beginning of June. Carrying those heavy buckets (each one weighs roughly 40lbs when full!)

And where were we getting the sand for most of the job?

From our own sand pit, of course. We bedded and covered nearly a hundred feet of pipe on a very steep hillside by “mining” sand from our property. A lot of extra work, but it was free, and we had the time (we were still waiting for the contractors at the point.)

So fast forward several weeks. The contractors came and went and we had abandoned the trench prep in lieu of working on the house (because, priorities), I had begun to heal from my knee injury, and we were looking forward to finishing the cistern and starting the next phase of the journey.

But that was not God’s plan. My Dad’s health took a drastic turn for the worse and it became apparent that he should no longer be living alone, and therefore, his house on the other end of town needed to be sold. So, very reminiscent of when we dropped everything and moved to Oregon in 2014 to care for Hub’s ailing mom, we dropped nearly everything to care for my ailing dad and get his house ready to sell.

That was at the end of June. It took two months, but I’m happy to say, PopPop is now settled in here with us (in his own trailer), his house is in escrow, and we only have one more load to bring home from his house.

But in the midst of all that, we needed to finish the cistern. And we needed to do it quick. We had already put in so much work to it, that to leave it at the mercy of the elements was just stupid. So, while we still had the equipment we used for the siding on the house, we put in the cistern. Then we had to bring in load after load of DG (saving us the time and effort of shoveling it from our own property). But, how do you get the DG from the trailer on the road, down 15+ feet to the hole that the cistern is in?

That’s right, some of our roofing and siding scraps. The sand just slid right in. Quite ingenious, if I do say so myself.

And so easy, a 5 year old could do it.

Then it was another while before we could get it finished. That entailed hooking up the supply pipes, etc to the tank.

Hubs is inside the tank, putting holes in it!

Starting to fill in the hole to cover the tank

And that brings us up pretty much to the present. Here’s an updated picture of the dianthus bush I planted.

The dianthus has not done too well in our hot summer, but the alyssum, petunias, zinnias, and marigolds that I planted around it have just about taken over!

And we’ve got another broody hen who has been sitting on golf balls for 5 days. I put 9 fertile eggs under her this evening. This will be hen #6 that we’ve tried to get to set till the eggs hatch. It has been misadventure after misadventure. But I’ve learned a lot and have great hopes that this clutch of eggs will be the one!

We did have two chicks hatch from our very first broody hen of the season.

I’m not sure why only two of the 7 eggs survived. Of those other 5 eggs, one chick was half hatched, three were fully formed as far as I could tell but had died before hatching, and one had gone rotten from the beginning of the brood. But I was totally excited to get two of our very own, completely home grown chicks! Too bad they both turned out to be boys. 🙄😒

And now, for the truly, truly up-to-date update:

We’ve started working on the Septic System: Phase 2! By the end of the week, we should have a complete septic system. Hallelujah!

Using a friend’s transit level to lay out the septic field.

The middle one of the three required leach lines marked out.

And today, we started cutting the trenches. But that’s another post for another time. Right now, I am t-i-r-e-d. And we still have at least another two hard days of work till we can call for inspection.

Nighty night. Don’t work too hard!