Sunday, September 27, 2015

All is Fair in Love and War! [A Ralph Post]

And so it is in the world of children! They just have no respect: for themselves or anything or anyone else. If something is in the way, they will go around it (seldom) or over it or under it or through it (most likely to happen). Children, animal, or fowl, that is the law of the land! And, so it is with our “children”.

Yesterday was a work day. We have five “pens” for poultry. I do need to do some major work in this area!

We had no choice. We had to order turkey poults and have them sent to Virginia. Or, wait and order next year. We ordered from Meyer Hatchery's last poult hatch of the year and had them delivered to our old Virginia address. And then we brought them down here to Kentucky. They have been a source of joy, and wasted hours of fun. They can be downright comical! 

Turkey Teenagers, much bigger than they were when we arrived.

We have two out buildings. The “washroom” is twenty-five feet deep and thirty-five feet long. The previous owners used it as a laundry room, with twelve feet on the end walled off with a door for his trophy room (cougar, bear, turkey, elk, deer, etc. mounts). He is an excellent bow hunter. We used the trophy room as a brood house.

As we brought things in from Virginia, we stored most of it in this laundry room. We want to paint, etc. in the house, so we don't need most of this stuff in the house. We just put what we absolutely need in the house and make do. The workshop is twenty-four feet by thirty-four feet or something close to that. The saws and tools and garden tools, etc. went in there.

So, we made do with what we had. We bought five sheets of half inch plywood and a bunch of two by fours. We went to the corner and ran one sheet of plywood out. We brought boxes from the other side of the wall (in the washroom) and lined them up from the adjacent wall out to the plywood and up to the top of the plywood (four feet). We put another stack on the other side of the plywood to hold the plywood up. And we covered the floor with Koop Clean litter from Southern States. We put in feeders and waterers and the poults. They were happy. A corner pen. We take out boxes for access to the inside of the pen.

And the first order of chicks came in on 9 September. They were one hundred Buckeyes and sixty Black Australorps. These pens are temporary. I didn't want to cut any plywood or two by fours. I'll use them later for something else. We put up a two by four next to the wall and nailed a sheet of plywood to it coming out from the wall. We did the same for the opposite wall. We put up two by fours and a sheet of plywood to connect the previous two sheets of plywood. This formed an eight by eight pen. None of the nails are all the way in. We left a quarter inch of the head sticking out to aid in the removal of the nails. The front outward corner is not nailed. I just slide it out to enter the pen. I close it back as I go in. So far, we haven't had any escapees. We covered the floor with Koop Clean. Added feeders and waterers and the chicks. They sure are happy in there. And trying to outgrow it. We are getting close to needing a chicken/turkey/guinea/duck house. And then we will need to sweep out the trophy room. And it will be as good as new. No damage done. We keep the litter changed and fairly thick. Thicker as they get older. 

The Buff Orpington's came in on 23 September, eighty of them. We basically did the same thing for them. Except we used a lawn mower box (large, heavy duty box for a push mower) and a watering trough. We had to split the order between two pens. They won't be able to stay in there very long (too small an area). We intend to move the poults out to the barn and they will take over the poult pen. Or, we'll do something else. Plans change. We have to be flexible.

Checking the "Buff's" at the post office.

Buff Orpington's...little yellow fluff balls. Some are very dark yellow and some more pale.

And then on 24 September, the keets came in, forty-two of them. They got the same setup in the other water trough, with the exception of adding paper towels on top of the shavings. We had read that they have weak legs and shouldn't be on shavings, etc. for a week or two. They recommended paper towels, hence, we used Viva paper towels. They are cheap and are fuzzy and have a tendency to “stick” together. Wow, are the keets small. And quick and vicious! They are also strong. Keets will lay down with their legs sticking out straight to the back. Another keet will walk up and grab that ones foot and pull on it. They will pull the entire keet backwards. And to make things worse, they will jerk their heads side to side. Vicious things!!! Keets are prone to leg problems. I can see why. We switched to an inline feeder versus a circular feeder for the keets. This is what we read was recommended for more than six keets. 

The keets at the feeder.....lets dive into our dinner is their motto!

On 30 September, the thirty ducklings should come in. That will finish us out until we get the sheep in March. Or there abouts.

The poults go to the barn and the Buffs go in the poult pen. The ducks go into the Buffs pen/pens. The Buckeyes and Australorps go to the barn and the keets and or ducklings go into the chick pen. Because of the water problems with ducklings, I suspect they may stay in the water troughs. And keets are good jumpers. The four foot walls may be needed. Plans are a work in progress and need timing.

Anyway, as I said, yesterday was a workday for the poultry. We try to keep the litter fairly deep and per the age of the poultry and their activity. In other words, we play it by ear. If it needs changed, we change it. We try to insure we don't let it go too far past the due date for changing. And, so far, it has always been good and dry on the bottom, except where water has been spilled. I am sure we could have let it stay a good while longer, but we want to err on the side of caution and not encourage disease any more than necessary. We scoop out wet litter and replace it. We have a heavy duty home dust pan that works great for scooping litter. By the way, we switched to pine shavings for litter. The Koop Clean is not available locally and it was dusty. It was a mix of hay and straw chopped up into small pieces. Dust was bad and I didn't want it for them to breathe.

We had to change the litter for the Buckeyes and the poults. Yesterday was a three hour job. Today was a two hour job. Changing the litter wasn't so bad or long. Just scoop up the old litter and spread out the new litter. Not much to it. Just keep the youngun's out of the scoop and don't bury them under the new litter. The problem and time consumer is pasty butts. We have eighty Buffs and forty-two keets. And we have to pick each one up and check/clean its butt. They have real fine feathers on their butts and when they use the bathroom, it sticks to their hair/feathers. If you don't clean it off, they plug up, and everything backs up and they die. Oh! And did I mention that they are quick, as in fast. Try and catch one! We pick one up (after we catch it) and turn it up (while it is squirming) and check it's butt. If it is clean (most are) we put it in a separate box. If it is pasty, we must clean it. Fiona is the expert here. She uses a bottle with soapy water in it. Take the cap off. Put bottle opening to butt. Turn everything and everyone upside down. Turn back up. Set bottle down. Use toilet paper to gently clean the butt area. When clean, add the abused and upset fowl to the clean box. Fiona took my nose hair scissors (curved eyebrow scissors or whatever) and told me to go buy a new pair for me. She uses them to trim butts of the offending hair/feathers on bad pasty butts. We do a lot that are in the early stages before they get bad. We try to be gentle and calm them as we do this, just s bit of quiet gentle time after the 'procedure'. When we finish, it is time to catch everyone again and put them back into their original box. It isn't too bad of a job, just time consuming. Time that we could use to do other things. And it doesn't last too long. In a week to ten days, they will grow out of the pasty butt stage. With a hen, do they have this problem? I don't remember it. Then, why do we?

This morning, as we were putting the keets back into their trough, we saw that they had found a dry, narrow piece of straw. They were playing “keep away” and “tug of war” with it. One would grab it and run. The others would chase it and try to get it. They would run over, under, and through any one that got in the way. Sooner or later, another keet would get hold of the straw and a tug of war would ensue. And I mean a real tug of war. They are putting their all into it. And they are jerking their heads and pulling. For some reason, one or both will start running. They may be running one after the other or side by side at the ends of the straw. If side by side, inevitably the straw would “clothesline” another keet. That keet would be bowled over head over tea kettle. The two on the straw wouldn't even slow down. They would keep running. And on and on they would run with it. And everyone takes turns trying to get the straw. And we laughed and laughed. People do not realize what fun that there is in livestock. I am sure they consumed more energy with that straw than they took in today. It was a joy to watch. 

Fiona had peeled some potatoes. She asked me if I wanted her to cut them up so I could take them down to the chicks. I did. I dropped some in to the poults. They looked at them, shrugged their shoulders and walked off. So much for that. I went over to the Buckeyes. I dropped a few in for them in the front corner. A couple of Buckeyes wondered what was going on. They came over to investigate. One picked up a piece and dropped it. Another picked up a piece and shook it. This got the attention of others and they came over. They started picking up pieces and running to a secluded place to work with it. But there are no secluded places in there. And then it was the game of “chase”. One would pick up a piece of peel and run with it. They would run along all four walls and past the starting point and still running. With many others chasing at various points in the run. Almost every time, the one that starts with the peel does not end up with it. As he runs by someone, they will grab it out of his mouth. And then it is their turn to run with it. And another has a peel and is running in the opposite direction past each other. Or, into each other. Another will be doing figure eights. There were six or eight running with a peel at any given time. And each will have four or five chasing after it. The pen is full of emotion and everyone is excited. The noise is increasing and reaching a crescendo. And then someone will run into a wall, and instantly, it will go deafening quiet. And it would start again. Smiles all around for everyone. Simple, but so much fun. Children can be such fun! 

Well, I guess this is the end of organic waste. Now all kitchen waste will become walking compost. No more composting by us. We will get compost and laughs! From the chicks! Bio-security aside, is there a market for letting people laugh at the antics of our animals? Food aside, the love and joy and antics of animals is compensation enough for having animals.

When we got the poults, I wasn't around much – always on the road. Fiona and I had talked. We wanted to spend lots of time with the animals so they were used to human interaction. Several times a day, she would go out onto the back porch and talk and handle the poults. When she opened the door, she would start going “turk, turk, turk” to them. They imprinted on that and started coming to her. She would reach her hand in and they would come up to her and lightly pick her fingers. They learned she wasn't a threat. We still do that. The door is right next to their enclosure. As we open the door, we start going “turk, turk, turk” and they start responding right away. They are coming to our side of the enclosure and may fly up onto the top of the plywood. They don't come right up to us, but they do come to us. And they just talk and talk to us. When we enter the pen, they don't really run from us.

With the Buckeyes and Australorps, we were in the process of moving and didn't get to spend much time with them. They are more skittish and run from us. If we lean over the plywood, they run. Our hope is their breed. Black Australorps are friendly and docile and calm. Buckeyes are curious and friendly. They will come up to you to see what you are doing. I am seeing this with both birds. As I enter the pen, they are still running, but not as far. And then they are turning around and coming up to me and climbing onto my feet, pecking my boots. But they are still flighty. If I move too quick, they run. And I can't throw anything or swing anything over their heads without them squawking and running. I think they will come around. And our secret weapon is the Buff Orpington's. They are also calm and docile and friendly. They will end up being housed with the Buckeyes and Australorps. They will lead the others to come forward and to be more friendly.

And now, back to pasty butts. We read that we need to have interaction with the keets to keep them calm and at home as adults. We need to handle them and eventually hand feed them. House them with the chickens to encourage them to enter the chicken house at night. Our pasty butt problem is a blessing in disguise. But, when the problem goes away in a week or so, we need to continue interaction with the Orpingtons and keets. We are looking forward to having a nice flock. And lots of fun. In the main time, we'll continue to work with the Buckeyes and Australorps.

If you have animals or livestock, take the time to make them part of the family and have a few good laughs with them. It's good for the blood pressure. And it uses less energy to laugh than it does to frown! I think Fiona is going to put in some photos and videos. They will give you an idea of what is happening, but won't show the whole picture that we get.

May God put some laughter and joy and blessings into your lives.

Ralph and Fiona


  1. Holy mackerel, that's a lot of baby poultry! We never had problems with pasty butt problems with our chicks. Also we put their drinkers up on 2/4's to keep litter out of the water. They can jump up to drink. I will be watching with great interest as your keets grow and start raising real heck, lol. We always use pine shavings for our hens. It gets rototilled under and by next year it is all composted. Good luck to you!

    1. We have the waterers and feeders on firebricks that are a perfect height...except for the keets. They are so small their feeder is on the ground and they do so like to crawl into it and sleep! We haven't had too many bad butts but we do check.
      The keets are going to be a challenge for sure. I also think 95% of the turkey's are Tom's!

  2. We found that the temperature has a lot to do with pasty butts. Lower the temperature in their enclosure if you can, or lower the wattage of the bulb you are using for their heat source. Instead of the typical 95* for the first week, we usually shoot for 90* for our baby chicks, with plenty of room to get away from the heat source. With this practice we haven't had near the pasty butt problems we did in the past.

    You two are going to have lots of meat to put in the freezer and in your canning jars. Good for you! Any goats in your future?


    1. Thank you for the heat lamp informtion. The only heat lamp on now is for the keets. The room is 12' x 25' and the temperature stays about 85 degrees. We do not have too many pasty butts but check to handle the keets and chicks. It is a lot to do with the handling. We did not have any pasty butts with the Australorps at all.
      As to goats, we are looking locally at first but we have to get the chicks and house in order before we add any more projects! :)

  3. Good luck with your poultry project!
    It is a lot of work, but I am sure the rewards will make it worthwhile.

  4. glad to see you in your new home and prospering.

  5. I have read not to give chickens raw potato and onion peelings, so those go straight to the compost pile. You may want to check this and decide for yourselves. I don't want you to have any sick chicks!

    1. Regular potato peels are full of nutrients and good for chickens, they can be fed raw or cooked. The danger lies in sunburned or green colored potato peels, these peels are toxic to both chickens and people. Thank you for your concern.

  6. Thanks for clearing that up. My chickens thank you!