Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chicken Run Follow up and Pics and Christmas Begins

  Good morning! Well, we've been keeping pretty busy here a the farm. My laptop broke again but Jordan generously let me borrow his so I could do some writing and catch you all up on what's new. Some people are saying they can't read about the chicken run so here goes again, with pics this time.

Zakk felt really good about helping chickens
  Our chickens from the Chicken Run (rescue of battery hens) went well. By the time we got the poor things home they'd traveled about 200 km in cardboard boxesand it was dark outside but it was a good time of day to introduce them to a new home. We put them all in the prepared barn with good food, fresh water and heat lamps because we expected that they'd be used to a controlled environment and would perhaps not have all their feathers. As it turns out, their body conditions weren't too bad but they did look terrible. Many had toenails over an inch long and huge bald patches from constant feather picking. Other things we learned quickly was that they spooked very easily, didn't know how to drink from a water pail, and couldn't jump of hop onto a roost.

Kate helping unload the truck
   It's been a few weeks now since they came home and they're just about ready for roosts now. Their muscles have been getting stronger and more coordinated and they are finally learning to sleep sitting down instead of standing up. They are now much less skittish with people but the funniest thing is seeing all their feathers growing in. The way feathers grow is a little spiky tube leaves the skin and once it reaches a predetermined length it opens up from the tip. Consequently the chickens are currently covered in fuzzy down and an array of spiky feathers. Their combs are now more red and less floppy. They look hilarious, but so much better than the first day they arrived and I can't wait to see how they look in another couple of weeks once all their new feathers are in. At that point I'll adjust their diet so their protein is a little less and there's less corn, they can go onto what is closer to a normal chicken diet.

You can see how pale their combs were and
the state of their plumage on day 1.
  Their food is one of the things we planned ahead of time. I knew they would be stressed and potentially hungry and dehydrated when they arrived so we pre-mixed their ration and filled the feeders. The water has stress-aid added, it's an anti-biotic free form of gatorade for chickens and animals that has vitamins and electrolytes. The kids laughed because it's even the same colour as orange gatorade. After a week of the vitamins they are now back to plain fresh water. Their food took a little more thought and math. We bought soy meal which is 48% protein, cracked corn which is 9% and regular chicken mash which contains 16% protein. Knowing they'd need the corn for warmth and the higher protein I mixed a garbage can full at the ratio of 1 corn, 1 soy, 3 lay mash for a finished protein content of 21%. We've been adjusting it slowly with the idea of eliminating the corn, we just put it in there because corn produces a lot of heat as it's digested and it's easier to heat a chicken from the inside than heat the barn to 76 degrees. Soon I'll have them just down to 18% once they are done laying and taking a well deserved rest. We don't have any supplemental light in there and are now down to 6 eggs a day from 100 chickens. Once Spring comes and the days lengthen I'll have lights on for them in the mornings and they will start laying again. At that time they will be on a regular lay pellet for food, be able to forage outside, and I'll give them some crushed oyster shells for added calcium.

Pretty bald, but not the worst by far, many
had large bare patches of reddened skin.
  The battery hens have been joined by a small flock of barred rocks including a rooster and are all getting along very well. There are no more than the usual pecking order squabbles, we ended up losing 2 of the rescue hens who we noticed right away weren't doing very well, but at least they got a week of peace and freedom, and they're learning how to be more normal chickens. The hens have room to fly around, scratch through the bedding, explore the barn, eat and drink whenever they like, and learn how to be normal chickens again. This week their covered run will be finished and on nice days they'll be able to venture outside onto the grass covered ground for the first time. I will likely have to build a small ramp unless I can see that they're all able to jump back over the sill of the door. There is a very heavy duty clear tarp over the top of the south facing run and I'm going to finish the sides in plastic sheeting. This will allow me to use the structure for a greenhouse in the future, should add a little warmth to the barn on sunny days, and will keep the grass growing longer so they have a nicer outdoor play environment. Having the barred rocks is helpful because they're used to being outdoors and will teach the other hens by example.

  Well enough about the chickens. We got a larger trailer for Chris to live in when he's home. We bought a chevy trail blazer to fix up and use as a farm vehicle, and we're now into the season of Christmas parties. Last night we had our Dinner with the Grinch at church and it was a lot of fun. Good food, good friends, and amazing clothes and hair! lol. We delivered some meals to shut-ins afterwards and later today I'll reduce the leftovers into soup and stew meat. For Christmas I'm doing a lot of baking as usual but I'm also celebrating our British heritage by making dark fruit cake and I made a big batch of steak and kidney pie filling that I'm going to make into pies this afternoon. I have some cookies to make for the grandkids and then I need to get their packages mailed tomorrow. It's less than 2 weeks until Christmas so I must get them on their way.

  Well that's all from me for this morning. If you get busy and don't have a chance to read again before the holidays, Happy Christmas! I hope that whatever you celebrate you have friends and loved ones around and feel the joy of the season.



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