I do apologize for the erratic posting this fall. We just seemed to be going in circles there for a while. Now it seems things are sorted out a bit better. Our last broody hen should hatch this coming Wednesday. The Australorp hens ended up being quite broody, 6 of the 12 hatched chicks. The Buff hens did very well also 7 of 11. Sadly we had only one Buckeye hen go broody but she did raise "Henry" one of our young replacement roosters.
The year has taught us a lot about our chickens.
1: We probably do not raise them the most efficient way.
2: They run totally everywhere and it has shown us just how much space free chickens use.
3: They do well with non traditional rations and lots of bits and pieces. They do not bother the gardens with the space and natural lifestyle they live.
4: The Australorps go to bed earlier by about an hour than the Buckeye or Buff's do.
5: Hen raised chicks are incredibly healthy, we lost some chicks to aerial predators but none to disease.
6: A hen can raise a lot of chicks and will co-mother quite happily. Three Australorp hens teamed up to raise 22 chicks and a Buff and an Australorp are working on 19.
7: A hand raised chick does not necessarily become a pet. The little chick we found in the driveway is now a sweet and happy hen, an independent and feisty hen at that. She does come in to lay her eggs...clucking at the door to let us know she wants in. Then marching to the door to be let out.
8: If a chick is injured by a hawk, do not try to save them even if they are bright and determined to live. This was and still is something I have trouble with. We have "Oscar", he was lifted in the air by a hawk, the Momma hen [ A Buff] flew in the air and attacked the hawk, she saved the chick but he was hurt. He had puncture wounds on his back and couldn't stand up. He was bright though and tried to. The hen was frantic and had made such an effort I had to do my part. I took the chick, washed the wounds and treated them. I worked his legs as much as I could and had a box with soft blankets for him. When he was first hurt he could not stand up at all, he got his name from acting like an ostrich and stretching his neck as far as he could to see around him. Oscar it became. He was finally able to use his legs and is quite a "rooster". He does not know he has a handicap. He has a tremendous crow and despite a galloping way of getting around is doing very well out in the yard. Hens are learning to watch out for him. He is our boy though and the minute we call him he comes over to be picked up and carried around. However what do you do with a gimpy pet rooster?
9: Planting cover crop near the barn is a great thing for all concerned. Good for the land and fabulous for the poultry. The entire flock of chickens, turkey's and ducks are taking advantage of greens in winter. Daikon Radish are awesome, the tops withstand heavy grazing by the birds and the roots bore into the ground.
10: A lot of blogs and Chicken sites frown on buying Hatchery chicks. We found the hatcheries offered us the breeds and arrival dates we needed for our farm. The hatchery chicks were not perfect but have grown into a wonderful flock. The chicks they have raised are bigger and more structurally correct than their parents. They are laying younger. Overall for us the initial purchase through a Hatchery was just right.
11: We had no idea how much entertainment and delight having the poultry would bring us. They say laughter is the best medicine and they prove it. Yes there is sadness but the antics and companionship they provide far outweigh the tears.
Watching how our flock develops in 2017 is going to further their entertainment value. The wonderful home raised and drug free chicken we have eaten and have stored for future meals makes us look forward to our meals with a sense of satisfaction. So as winter weather looms in our forecast and the new year lurks just around the corner Ralph and I are laughing at our chickens and enjoying the afternoon sun. I mean really who else can get an egg just laid, for breakfast with out going out of the house!
God Bless you all and take delights in all around you.