Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ladies need a new pair of shoes.

Well actually a new pair of nesting boxes. Or more like a dozen new nesting boxes.

It's kind of sad to see them cramming two chickens into a nest and the others waiting in line on the perches. See chickens can be a little silly.

They say that chickens don't have preferences to nesting boxes. They say you need 1 nesting box per 4 birds. We have 40 chickens that are fully mature and laying eggs. So we should need 10 boxes. Well we have 10 boxes but the girls seem to prefer 5 boxes in particular. But not all the ladies, just about 20 of them.

It's ridiculous. They could very easily choose the box to the right or to the left. They are the same material, the same size. But no, they like the top left two and the bottom right two. So they lay on the ground in front of the nest boxes waiting to get inside.

The time came for us to open up their options. And we have 25 more birds who will need boxes available to them in a couple of months. The brooder pen is really much bigger than it needs to be and we will only be using it to brood chicks every 2 to 3 years. So we're going to use it for more nest space in the mean time.

We didn't want to spend money on materials, the chicken enterprise has cost a bit more than we anticipated. My husband is a bit of a hoarder. And not particularly good at organizing. So all sorts of things are tucked away in various cubbyholes throughout our property.

This happens to be a good thing when you're building housing for animals. They aren't picky as long as it works. So we rounded up 12 five gallon buckets and created a wall of lovely nest boxes. They fit perfect four across three rows high.

Now if they can just use them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I love chickens

I remember when I was a little kid, maybe 4 or 5, my family would go to stay at a small farm on Lopez Island.

Every morning I would wake up as soon as it was light out. Excited to get up and go see the animals and walk around in the grass. My brothers would go rabbit hunting and my mother and I would go collect eggs and talk to the pigs.

We don't have our own farm yet. I think it's just a matter of time and saving. But we've made due with the space we do have and started raising chickens about 7 years ago.

I still love the sound of chickens making a racket in the morning. And I love the sound of Elvis crowing.

My favorite thing is still going out and collecting eggs. I let the ladies out into the run. They run the length of it, getting up speed and flapping to propel themselves along. They're always looking to see if I've put out scraps for them and aren't shy about it.

Then I go check on the babies and collect the eggs. I know that chickens won't make me a ton of money. And we'll be lucky if we break even.

But there are few things more satisfying that walking in with a pocket full of eggs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How to get eggs

Winter, as I have said before, is a time of relaxation and hunkering down. There are few projects to work on other than cleaning the inside of the house and organizing the summertime build up.

This winter though, we have been spending some extra time perfecting our chicken and egg production.

Over the past few years we have ramped up the number of birds, increased our covered coop area and in general taken a more serious attitude towards raising chickens.

We currently have about 70 chickens and we will likely taper back to about 50 in the next year or so.

As the number of our flock has increased we have come to understand the subtleties of poultry in larger production.

We find that when your flock is less than say 15 birds you can get away with a lot less in terms of attention and materials. Once you increase your numbers you really have to significantly increase coop space, roost area, nest space and most importantly feeding space.

We had 4 round feeders available for the 50 or so adult layers and 2 for the chicks. The chicks have been doing just fine with this arrangement, but the layers were not.

Our egg production was low, like really low, and we finely figured out why. The chickens were producing about 2-3 eggs a day. We have lighting on them to counter the low light of winter. We used layer pellets and plenty of water. Snacks, oyster shell, ect. And so why were we getting so few eggs?

Well the funny thing about our chickens is, they apparently don't like pellets and they don't like to take turns.

We assumed the chickens would eat and then go outside leaving the feeders for the next batch of chickens to eat from. But that wasn't happening. The chickens would eat what they could get to, go out into the run and stay out there hungry and looking for food. For some reason it didn't occur to them to go back into the run to eat.

So handy husband David built a tube feeder out of 4" pvc pipe. It runs the length of the coop and allows for 30 or so birds to eat at one time.

The next day we got 9 eggs.

One month later we're now getting over 2 dozen. Pretty cool!