Picking up chicks

I had an early phone call from the post office this morning. It was one I was expecting.
The chicks I ordered from an in-state hatchery were there waiting to be picked up!

 The brooder was all set up and ready to go last night, all I had to do was get the box of peeping chicks home.

This hatchery sells the standard Cornish Cross(CX) broilers but also has the newer Freedom Ranger(FR) chicks. We ordered 25 of the CX and decided to try out 5 of the FR too. The FR's are the reddish-brown chicks above. They will be a slower growing bird that isn't supposed to have the possible leg problems the fast growing CX are known for. All the chicks made it through the mail and they even sent one extra CX as well.

After a quick dip of their beaks in water they were off and running in their new brooder. Their home for the next 3 weeks or so. For the first 4 hours I'm giving them water with electrolytes and vitamins only, to make sure they are well hydrated. After that I'll add in the crumbled chick feed to start filling up their little bellies.

It's hard to believe how fast these little chicks will grow. In 8 weeks they will be ready to send off to the butcher and will come home all nicely packaged and ready for the freezer. Giving us many Sundays of wonderful roasted chicken dinners!


And the total is...

... ten chicks!

I turned off the incubator today and put it away. There were a total of 11 chicks that hatched, 7 Swedish Flower Hens and 4 Wheaten Marans. One of the Marans didn't make it. Another one had pipped and half un-zipped but then stopped. After giving it a long time we decided to "help" it out. Yes... I know you aren't supposed to help them out of the shell, but it would have died otherwise. It very well may die yet, it's hard to say. It's not as strong as the other chicks but doing alright. It was shrink wrapped within the egg's membrane and just couldn't move around enough to work himself out of the egg. Only time will tell.

I don't have great pictures of all the chicks yet, just ones I took quickly on my cell phone. I'll take better ones soon. If you're a facebook friend you may have already seen these.

First the Swedish Flower Hens

And now the Wheaten Marans, only two pictures as they all look the same anyway!

Notice the feathered feet on them.

We also took a drive to pick up a few started chicks this weekend. I'll post more on those soon.

For now here's a picture of Emily with the Buff Laced Polish she picked out!


Fuzzy butts and peeps!

They have started hatching!!

So far we have 6 total, 3 each of the Swedish Flower Hen and Wheaten Marans.

Here's a picture of one of the Marans eggs un-zipping.

Some of them make quick work of it, others take awhile. It's lots of work to get yourself out of an egg you've called home for 21 days!

Once they make it out they aren't the cute fluff balls you'd expect quite yet. They take some time to dry off and pouf up. Looks like a bad hair day!

The new incubator doesn't have a lot of room for the chicks once they hatch so we have been scooping them out quickly and moving them to the old incubator that I have set up just to keep them warm and dry off. Otherwise they keep moving around on top of all the other eggs knocking them around.

Here they are warm and drying off.

The light colored chick front and center is a Wheaten Marans. If you look closely you can see it has feathered legs! The strip of wet sponge is in there to help keep the humidity high. I'll move them out to the brooder later today. The heat lamp is all set up and their water and feed is ready to go!

I can hear another one peeping in the incubator now!! Time to go check again.


Don't count your chickens before....

...they hatch!

Well I'm not counting them yet, but I do have a few eggs wiggling and a little chirping going on!

My wait for some Swedish Flower Hen(SFH) chicks is about to come to an end. I ended up bidding on and winning an eBay auction for 20 eggs from a person in Pennsylvania. It wasn't great planning on my part as they were shipped over the 4th of July holiday week so they sat for a day somewhere in the postal system. Add to that the extremely hot and steamy temps we had that week and it made for less than ideal shipping conditions for fertile hatching eggs! They were package very well, none were broken or cracked on arrival. In addition to the 20 SFH eggs I also bought 10 Wheaten Marans eggs from the same person. Those too were in great shape when I unpacked them.

The eggs arrived on Friday July 6th. With how hot that week was I decided to set the eggs in the incubator right away instead of letting the air cells settle for 24 hours, in case they had started to develop during shipping. I just waited 24 hours before starting the auto-turner instead. This is my first time using our new R-com King Suro incubator. It's all digital, has a turning cradle and automatic humidity pump. So far it's been keeping the temp and humidity levels perfectly!

I candled the eggs on day 17 before they went into "lockdown". It looks like 10 SFH eggs will potentially hatch along with 6 Wheaten Marans. I'm not sure if I will keep the Marans chicks or not at this point. I was disappointed in the color of the eggs. I know Marans eggs have a range of colors but I expected them to be as dark or darker than my Penedesenca eggs. So I may put those chicks up for sale.

You can see a couple of the Marans eggs in the right corner in this picture.

In other news, we acquired another chicken coop! There was a 4' x 4' coop on Craigslist that we went to look at. I had been thinking about having a smaller coop that size built, possibly for some Silkies.  I'm not sure if we will get into Silkies or not, but it will work perfectly for a breeding coop. I will be able to have purebred hatching eggs available next spring! The SFH will be in the coop Dale built this year so I can put another breed in this coop. I'm thinking a blue egg layer. I'd love to get some Cream Legbars! However, I may have to settle for some Ameraucanas. I plan on getting a Penedesenca rooster to put in with the layer flock as well. It will be easy to pick out the eggs from the two Pene. hens in there and hatch those out too.

So keep your fingers crossed for a great hatch and I'll update in a few days on how things turn out!


Tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peas, Oh My!

So here are the updated photos of the garden taken yesterday. All the rain we've gotten this week has helped keep everything growing well and also green the lawn back up. The cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower have really taken off now too.

The empty rows in this bed are were the sweet corn has been re-planted. Keeping my fingers crossed that it comes up this time. I haven't tried growing corn in the square foot garden before but figured it didn't hurt to try. It's a 65 day variety so it won't get too big. The Space Master cucumbers are growing well and have started to climb their fence.

The tomatoes are growing well! I pinched off all the suckers today. By next week they should be big enough to start tying up on the fence.

The peppers have flowers on them and the carrots are looking good so far too. Now the Blue Lake bush beans I planted on the other side of this bed were growing really nice, until a furry little visitor came and nibbled on them.

Grrr... really hoping we can get rid of these rabbits!! Funny how they haven't touched the carrots!

Finally, the sweet peas are coming in still.  Have to get the kids out there to pick some more soon!

Next time I'll give and update on the DIY compost tumbler we built!

Wanted to leave you with a shot of some of the lilies blooming in the perennial garden right now.


How does your garden grow?

Our newly built raised beds were put into place back in May. We bought compost from Hsu's greenhouse supply in Brokaw and added peat moss and vermiculite to the mix and filled them up.

Dale cut some lath strips to mark out the square feet then we also added some T-post and fencing. On one bed the fence is along the 4 foot end as a trellis for the cucumbers to grow on.

The other bed has the fence going down the 8 foot center. My tomatoes were planted in two rows along both sides and will be tied up to the fence for support.

These pictures were from June 4th. I'll post new ones tomorrow to show how well everything is growing. The tomatoes aren't planted yet in these either. I had to re-plant the sweet corn this week as the first planting didn't come up. I used seed left over from last year so that didn't help. I also tried some older sunflowers and they didn't come up.

 These are the sweet peas I started under the plastic in the hoop house. They did really well and we are now harvesting lots of peas! The kids love to go out and grab them. On the right you can see the Russian kale is doing well too. We have had a rabbit problem though and the tops of most of the beets and chard have been nibbled off. We've been setting the live traps and doing some target practice on the ones we happen to see.

So far I really like the new taller beds. They are double the height/depth of my original raised bed and are easier to tend to. I've hardly had any weeds either!


DIY rain barrel

Up until this week June had been a very dry month here in Marathon County. In the last few days we've been blessed with a few inches of rain. We had our rain barrel all set up in time and just one inch of rain filled it right up!

Here's our set up:

We started with one IBC tote that Dale got from where he works. You can also pick these up on Craigslist pretty often. Before using it we rinsed it well and used a green cleaner to get out any residue left over from the product is once held. We also had a great heavy duty wood stand made by my step-father to put it up on.

I put a couple of coats of a clear wood water sealer on the stand so it will last for a long time. The tote itself we took out of the metal frame it's in. It comes out really easy. To help prevent algae growth once the IBC tote is filled with water, I spray painted it dark grey to keep the light out. I used one of those paints they make just for plastic and I highly suggest getting a spray can gun tool. It makes the job so much easier! I picked the color so it would blend in with our pole building and the chicken coop it will be next too.

When we had the gutters installed a few weeks ago I asked them to leave an elbow at the height where the tote would be later. From that we used two flexible downspout extensions to tie into the top of the tote. Dale used a 3" circle cutter on his drill to cut a hole into the cap to fit the downspout into.

The two pavers are there to support the plastic downspout. We wanted to leave enough room to walk through behind the coop and between the pole building and that left the downspout with some sag. During a heavy rain we were afraid the added weight might add too much for it so the pavers are helping hold it up for now.

A few fittings from the plumbing department were needed to get the connections all set up and now we are in business! One side of our 40 x 32 pole building's roof runs off into this rain barrel. A half an inch of rain filled it up half way. It can hold 300 gallons total. Dale also drilled several over flow holes in the cap so the extra water just flows up and over the top. We re-used 9 patio blocks to set and level the rain barrel on and also so the over flow water won't make a mess around the base.

So there you have it!! For under $75 we have a great DIY rain barrel made from an IBC tote!!

I've used it several times already to fill up the chicken's water and I was surprised that the water hadn't really warmed up much yet either.


More progress on the new chicken coop

It's been quite some time since I did an update on the chicken coop construction. Well, things are looking great! All 4 windows are in. The siding got two coats of paint. The trim is almost all up and painted and it's been moved into the final position now that the concrete has cured.

You are looking at the east facing side with the two sliding windows and the chicken pop door. Our DIY rain barrel is just to the right of the coop catching water from our down spout. This is the side of the coop that the 10 x 10 run will be attached to.

This is the south facing wall. Still need to build a door. The inside has one coat of primer so far, with one more to go before the final coat of white.

I'm still waiting on getting my Swedish Flower Hen chicks. It will  be a couple of weeks so there's lots of time to finish up work on the new coop.


Growing up and moving out

The turkeys are 4 weeks old now and getting big. It was time for them to move out of their brooder in our pole building and out into their coop. They made the trip out yesterday along with the 4 broilers that are keeping them company.

We had let the grasses and weeds grow up in the coop from last year so now they have some greens to eat and scratch around in. One of the turkey poults didn't make it. It had been showing signs of splayed leg and after treating it for over a week it just wasn't improving and had to be culled. The other two are doing great!

We switched them over to an organic 28% turkey feed a couple of weeks ago. We are very lucky to have a feed mill in town here that mixes their own organic feeds. Yes it's  more expensive than conventional feed but if we are going to raise our own turkeys why not do it as natural as possible.

There's been lots of other things going on that I need to post updates on so stay tuned!
Better yet subscribe to my blog and you won't miss a thing!


The turkeys are here!

I got the call from the feed store this afternoon.

The turkey poults we ordered were in!!

This one was pretty sleepy when I got them home. We ordered three Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys. We can only get the bronze and white hybrids at our local feed store. It's hard to find a place to order just a few turkeys from so we take what we can get. These came from Sunnyside Hatchery in Beaver Dam. The hatchery has several delivery days where they drive up all the chicks that are ordered.

The feed store usually gets 25 broilers and brown layers to sell in addition to the customer orders. I picked up 4 broilers to go into the brooder along with the turkeys. I have read that they help the turkeys learn to eat and drink. I guess they aren't the smartest bunch! LOL  That way they have some company too.

I started them all on medicated chick crumbles and will stay on that for 2 weeks before switching out to an organic turkey grower (28% protein) that is milled locally. We haven't really gone the organic route before but after finding the mill in town mixes their own right here we are trying them out. I think it will make for a really tasty Thanksgiving meal!

Now I wonder if we should name them???


DIY Compost Tumbler

If you enjoy gardening then you know all about the benefits of using compost. Black gold it is often called. It adds needed nutrients and helps correct problems with your soil. If you have a heavy clay soil, add compost to loosen it up. Dealing with sandy soil, adding compost will help it hold onto moisture. I've never heard anyone say they used too much compost in their garden.

But where do you get compost? Well you can buy plastic bags of it at garden and home improvement stores. If you are lucky, your community may have a yard waste site that composts all those yard clippings and lets you come pick it up for free. Many people who garden have their own compost piles tucked into areas of their yards. We have been composting here for a couple years. We haven't used anything fancy, just piling all the material up and turning it over occasionally. Grass clippings, bedding from the chicken coop and garden waste were all added along with some kitchen scraps. Every few weeks it would get turned with the tractor. The pile would sit and be added to during the growing season, by the following spring the compost would be ready  to use.

I would sure like the process to go a bit faster than that. In order to "cook" the compost faster I started looking into compost tumblers. They hold a smaller amount of material, keep it aerated, help the compost heat up and make it easy to mix often. You can spend a lot of money on pre-made tumblers. While browsing Pinterest  I saw a tutorial on making a tumbler from a large plastic barrel. It looked pretty straight forward so we started to gather the needed materials. The 55 gallon barrel came from a family member's work for free. We purchased the treated lumber from a home improvement store along with the PVC pipe, flange and hardware. The screws, bolts and closet rod we already had. The total amount of money spent on materials was about $35. Not bad at all!

The tutorial we used is posted HERE. A few measurements had to be adjusted because the size of our barrel was different and Dale made a few other minor changes he felt improved the design. Over all the tutorial was great so check it out.

Here is our process:

Start with the barrel, cutting out the half circle that will become the lid.

Use a file to smooth any sharp edges left by the jigsaw.

Attach the hinges to the lid. 

Now add the window sash latch which will hold the lid shut.

Now it's time to cut some holes for the closet rod.

And the larger hole for the toilet flange.

Attaching the toilet closet flange that will become the air vent and 
adding a piece of screen to keep out critters.

Cutting the holes in the 3" PVC pipe, this will let the air flow inside the
tumbler keeping everything well aerated.

Time to cut lots of air holes around the barrel.

Wood all cut for the base.

Assembling the tumbler, the closet rod going through the barrel and the PVC pipe inside.

Attaching the uprights and the base.

Adding the legs to the base.

Finished Tumbler!

Now I need to put it to use! I'll let you all know how it works. 

Be sure to go to the Tutorial for all the details on assembling the tumbler.


Building more raised garden beds

Today was a bit too cold and windy to work outside on the chicken coop. Instead we set up in the shop to work on building two more raised beds. They will be in addition to the 4' x 16' raised bed we put in back in 2009. This time we used green treated (arsenic free brand) 2 x 6 x 8's. Dale cut everything to length and used screws to assemble them into 4' x 8' boxes, two rows high so they will be 12" deep. Then we ripped a 2 x 4 in half on the table saw to use as extra bracing in the corners.

Now we need to put landscape fabric over the bottoms and put them in place. We will use a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and compost to fill them up with. Our compost pile from last year looks pretty good but we will need quite a bit of it. Our neighbor gave us a load of cow manure to, but it's too fresh to use right away. Once that's had some time to age it will be a great addition! 

Our next project will help us make more great compost and make it faster too! I will post about that as soon as it's finished.

Popular Posts