30 September 2015

Fowl pox

Apparently, fowl pox is going to be an annual event here.  The past two autumns, I had noticed what looked like fungus growing on some chickens' combs ... last month, Lynn mentioned she had looked up fowl pox because a friend of hers said it was on one of her hens' comb.  So, I looked it up also, and yes, this is what went through the flock last October and the autumn before that as well.

Googling for treatment got me this article on fowl pox, and it pretty much sounds like chicken pox in people.  It's a virus, so antibiotics do nothing for it unless the bird is getting so rundown that a secondary bacterial infection tries to take advantage of the weakened immune system, and yes it is possible for a bird to die from it, although most only catch it once.  I haven't seen anything similar to shingles in chickens (which is chicken pox coming back in later adulthood) but I have seen mention of a vaccine for it like is now currently available for chicken pox.

Fowl pox can get ugly if it gets into the mouth, airways, and/or esophagus ... and that is called wet fowl pox.  The dry version stays on the outside with lesions on the face, comb, wattles, earlobes, and even legs and feet.

We'll be doing what we can: bleach-cleaning waterers, feeding fermented scratch twice a day, Nutri-Drench in the water, and vitamin crumbles on top of the wet scratch.  We have abetter chance of getting snowed in under a blizzard than being able to control the mosquito population here.  The neighbor to the north has a dug pond; the property to the south has a dug pond; the property to the west has a natural pond; and the state land to our east has a swamp.  Emptying buckets and wagons and whatnot here on our property does nothing for the number of mosquitoes.

Oh, if anyone wants pictures, there is Google image search.  Just be aware that "wet fowl pox" will get you some graphic photographs of what it looks like on the inside of dead chickens.

24 September 2015

Try try again

Yesterday I emailed Luanne with questions on troubleshooting my incubator hatch, and she sent me back two excellent links.  First was a paper from U of Cali Ag school all about incubator issues.  Looking through that, I saw multiple mistakes I made.  The second link is an article on BYC about troubleshooting incubator failures.  Between the two links (both now bookmarked here!) I realized it was not so much a question of why so many didn't hatch, but why I have two healthy chicks out of the attempt.

Before dinner, hubby suggested we go out on the (new) back porch to crack open the eggs and see if that would give more clues ... there was a nice cool breeze blowing and we were both curious.  Seven of the eggs made it almost to hatching, and at least six of them were Wyandottes.  Three or four were partially developed, while the rest were clear.  The little thermometer/hygrometer hubby bought with the incubator and egg turner records minimum and maximum for both temp and humidity, and it showed that at some point during the hatch we had a temperature spike up to 103*F, probably in those last couple days ... unless that is a record of one of the chicks sleeping on top of it.  Most of the clear eggs were from the red broilers, whom I have seen kick eggs around while scratching without a single care.  If I hatch another batch from them, I'll need to collect eggs as soon as I see them in there to keep the little "soccer hooligans" from scrambling them.

I have the tray and screen scrubbed and have loaded the incubator back up, this time with 26 eggs from Tiny and the Flashy Girls, and one egg from Feyd and Penny.  Here's hoping I do a little better this time around.
Wyandotte eggs in incubator

23 September 2015

Two chicks hatched

So only the two chicks hatched out of 27 eggs set.  The upside is they are both very bright-eyed and active, and I have one of each.  The downside is ... I need to figure out why the other 25 eggs didn't hatch.
one Meatie and one Wyandotte chick
Meanwhile, my primary incubators (disguised as feather dusters, aka Silkies) are growing up, and the two larger black ones I bought at the local livestock auction earlier this month have started laying.  The splash Silkie pullets shouldn't take too much longer to start laying, and then I will have seven Silkies that should go broody shortly after the New Year's.  Until they do, I'll practice with my electric incubator ... and hopefully do better.
the two black Silkie pullets with the splash cockerel

Silkie pullets

22 September 2015

Coop repair

Yesterday we found some big gashes in the wire of our chicken coop.
I spent yesterday until about 5:00 pm (1700)
working on the coop. I started by removing the face boards, at ground level, and the "offending" wire.
This was done to 4 panels. each roughly 6 foot tall and 3 foot wide.

I wasn't sure I would be done in one day, the damaged wire was spotted just before Noon.(1200)
Katrina went to get the new wire while I got to work.

I decided to finish the job this morning. I could imagine myself rushing to finish.I knew I would be tired and very likely make a mistake in my rush to finish.

This morning i got started just after 9:00 and was done before noon with several short brakes. 

I found these pictures and thought I'd share them.

These were taken whike the coop was being built in 2013.

These was a year later.

And these are from this morning once the work was complete.

I have a few more plans to really finish the coop up but I have no problems putting the chickens back in there coop. 
I discovered a lot of problems that I will need to correct with the coop.
Mostly I am seeing where wood is rotting and boards are sagging.
I had never built something like this before and it's been a learning experience.

I should have a short video to add to this in a few days.
Thanks for reading!

21 September 2015


The eggs in the incubator have started to hatch this morning, a day and a half early.  A Meatie chick was the first out of the shell, and now a Wyandotte chick is out, with big feet and longer legs.

Luanne gave me detailed instructions for these last couple days in an email, and the big point she stressed was to NOT open the incubator until the hatch is done.  She stated every time she's had problems with "shrink-wrap" of the egg membrane on partially hatched chicks, it has been because she opened the incubator early.  So I have to content myself with watching through the window ... I won't open the incubator until Wednesday morning unless all the eggs hatch before then.

Hubby has his digicam up and took a bit of video after we had watched the Wyandotte break out of the shell, but still pictures are out until I open the incubator.  Oh yeah, we got to watch the first little Wyandotte kick out of the shell, then flop around clumsily.  His feathers still aren't dry yet as I type this, although the little early-bird Meatie looks to be dry now.

I feel like a little kid, with a big "wow" and excitement as I look at the other eggs, wondering which will pip next.

18 September 2015

Random notes on Wyandottes, breeding, and meat qualities

So this morning hubby and I slaughtered Hammy (NH slip), Castor (Americauna slip), and Tribble, the Cackle Gold-Laced Wyandotte cockerel who was not growing right.  Castor and Hammy were free cockerels from Luanne for caponizing practice, and are shining examples of why I need the practice.  Notes:

  • Hammy was nice and meaty, as expected, but what I didn't expect was how long it took to pluck him.  He was fluffy, and while that made for a beautiful sight in the sunlight, with his feathers shining orange, red, gold, and black ... it meant the flies and mosquitoes had ample time to find me.
  • Castor had a surprisingly meaty leg quarter on him.  I started to pluck him, but the skin on his lower breast tore off, so he was skinned.  Not much breast meat, but I didn't expect much meat on him at all, so the nice plump leg quarters were a welcome sight.
  • Tribble would have been the easiest to pluck if I had planned to pluck him.  As it was, I figured he'd be soup stock due to size.
I should probably mention that Luanne and also a couple folks who know her stock over on BYC all say her Wyandottes are not as fluffy as other exhibition lines.  Her Wyandottes also have a whole lot more meat on them than the hatchery stock I've previously and currently plucked.  That noted, I plan to breed towards less fluff than Luanne's stock currently has for the pragmatic reason that we will be plucking and eating cockerels and capons through the years I breed.  Luane's Wyandottes have a wonderful sheen to their feathers that dazzles the eyes and screams, "Healthy and quality bird!" and I definitely hope to keep that trait with the meatiness of flesh.  I just want less fluff to pluck.

Of course, this is a good example of why I am embarking on my unorthodox Wyandotte breeding project.  What I am wanting is not easily found: Wyandottes that are good for eggs, good for meat, and look good while doing it.  The hatchery stock is good for eggs, given their business model selects almost exclusively for egg production, while the more exhibition-oriented stock is rather fluffy (though meaty) but egg production varies.

Meanwhile, I grow impatient for Tuesday evening, when the first batch of Wyandottes should hatch in the incubator.

12 September 2015

Homegrown chicken dinner

I think we have hit the magical sweet spot on cooking up cull cockerels!  We had one of Luanne's cull Wyandotte cockerels last night for dinner, and the taste was simply awesome.  First, we slaughtered five Wyandotte cockerels Sunday morning to make room for the new Silkies I had bought Saturday night at the local livestock auction.  The carcasses rested in the back refrigerator for five days, then hubby mostly plucked one Thursday while I drove to an appointment, then he brined it (standard issue 1 cup salt to 8 cups water) until yesterday morning, when he put it into the offset smoker for a couple hours with cherry wood chunks for the smoke flavoring.  Then we moved it to the big crockpot and let it go on low for another three hours.  When hubby went to lift up the chicken after we decided it was done, both drumstick bones came right out and the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender.

We just finished up the leftovers for lunch, and this was the fastest we have eaten an entire cockerel.  My friend Lynn had a leg quarter last night when she came by to get ten guineas.  I asked if she had supper yet, and when she said she hadn't I offered her some chicken.

"Home grown, too.   Wyandotte."

"Oh, now you're talkin'!"

Lynn agreed with hubby that the brine was a little too strong, so when I put it into the last three carcasses I added 2-3 cups more water.  Our plan is to smoke them, then cut them up for canning.  We'll see how many end up in jars, as opposed to the crock pot.  Maybe we'll get pictures this time.  Maybe.

11 September 2015

Guinea keets update and pics

So, the guinea keets are feathered enough to no longer need the heat lamp.  They aren't quite to the ugly adolescent stage, but they are close.  I decided to snap a couple pics because at nightfall this evening, I will go out and catch the eight whites and two remaining pieds ... assuming there has not been an unobserved escape.  Two of the white guineas have wriggled out under the frame after digging around.  The first escaped the other afternoon when Lynn was here visiting, and flew up onto the roof even.  The second made its jailbreak this afternoon, but was afraid of Little Girl, the "runt" of the black phase blue laced Wyandottes from Luanne ... even being the runt Wyandotte, she is still the biggest bird in her tractor.  So, hubby and I managed to catch today's escapee, without help from Little Girl or Flaca.
assorted guinea keets

assorted guinea keets
I'll try to give Lynn a call right before I go out to catch the guineas for her, but I suspect she'll already be on the road.  Her husband finished up the pen this afternoon, and was wanting to come pick them up the moment he finished.  He is really hoping these guineas eat every tick on his property.  According to Lynn, ticks really tear him up each year - I know they certainly love to feast on hubby and me both.

08 September 2015

Only one chick

Solamente un pollito ... that is all that hatched under Maria's hen: just one chick.  A couple mornings ago, we heard the hen get very upset.  Apparently, her nest was robbed by local wildlife, which ate most of the eggs as they were pipping.  It is a big downer, as I was anxious to see Tiny's first chicks, but it is a known risk when letting a broody hen pick where she'll nest and brood.

I think the sole chick is one of the Eileen's.

01 September 2015

New toys (mower and incubator)

We bought some new toys recently, and have been putting one to use when it has been dry enough but not too hot.  Toy number one: an old-fashioned reel mower.  Not a single gas-powered mower would start last week, and hubby suspects water in the gas tanks between all the rain and the high humidity.  I've wanted one of these for a couple years, so when hubby agreed to the suggestion I went right in and ordered it.  Here is hubby putting it together.
hubby assembling the reel mower
No pics of either of us using it ... we both get pretty sweaty and grubby, and for a while it is going to continue kicking our (*donkeys*) until we get in better shape, but at least we can keep a few areas clear in between the rains.

Toy number two was something I had not planned to get, but Luanne recommended it not only for off-season hatching, but as a backup if a hen quits her nest.  I hadn't considered the idea of a hen quitting, but sometimes they can get upset or scared enough.  So, here is the GQF Hova-Bator Genesis 1588 incubator with an automatic egg turner.
incubator set up and ready for eggs
I just set my first batch of eggs - twelve gold-laced Wyandotte eggs from Tiny and the Flashy Girls, and fifteen eggs from the Meaties, Spikey and the red broiler pullets.  If everything goes just right (HA!) there will be twenty chicks from Tiny on the ground by the equinox, as Maria's hen is still setting the nest of eggs we put under her.  Here's hoping.