Broody Hens and Spoiled Chickens

One of my Black Australorp hens (a one-year old) is broody.  She started sitting in a nest box a few days ago.  For the first couple of days we kept moving her to get the eggs out – there was one egg the first day and none the second day.  The third day, I put four eggs under her that I found in the other boxes – I’m going to give her a chance and see what she can do.  I don’t think she’s laying eggs at this point, since she’s broody, and she hasn’t come out much for others to lay their eggs in there.   I’m a little worried because we are getting into late august – if she can hatch them, the chicks would be born in mid September.   We sometimes get snow by Halloween, so I may have to have a contingency plan for chicks if we do get any from this. We’ll see.

My broody hen
My broody hen

I was in the coop earlier and my Speckled Sussex hen was really upset that this broody hen wouldn’t come out of the box, because she wanted to lay an egg.  She kept squawking at the broody hen. There are three other nest boxes.  I showed the Sussex hen the other boxes, and I think she laid an egg in one of those.

I like spoiling my chickens with occasional yummy treats – they get a lot of vegetable scraps and some bits of bread sometimes. Yesterday it was hot outside, so I gave my chickens some watermelon as a treat.   They really love it – they will pick it till there’s just a thin bit of rind left.

Hens with the watermelon
Hens with the watermelon
More watermelon
More watermelon
The roosters with watermelon.
The roosters with watermelon.

I have separated out the roosters from the hens again.  The boys wouldn’t leave the ladies alone.  I have two Production Red hens that wouldn’t even come out of the coop.  I’d go to pick them up and they’d duck down like they do when they’re about to be mounted by a rooster.   The 6 remaining roosters were just too much for the 15 hens.  We are planning to cull some of those 6, we are still not sure which ones.

My Sumatra hen flew up on my shoulder today when I was in the coop.  That was a little weird.  She’s smaller than the other hens, and probably always will be – they are a smaller breed. But it was funny that she flew up and sat there.

My Black Sumatra hen.
My Black Sumatra hen.
Advertisements

Sunflowers!

I love sunflowers. They are my favorite flower – I even chose them as my wedding flowers.  I have about 7 or 8 sunflower plants that are growing very well.  Last week, one of them bloomed.

My first sunflower bloom of the season (sorry for the fuzzy picture).
My first sunflower bloom of the season (sorry for the fuzzy picture).

The funny thing about this one, is that it is not very tall:

Here is a picture of the above sunflower, along with my son to show the scale. My son is just under 4 ft tall.
Here is a picture of the above sunflower, along with my son to show the scale. My son is just under 4 ft tall. I think this bloom was about 2 to 2.5 feet off the ground.

This morning I woke up to find this flower bloomed:

My tall orange sunflower. This one is taller than me, it's maybe about 6 ft tall.
My tall orange sunflower. This one is taller than me, it’s maybe about 6 ft tall.

I planted a bunch of different kinds: some orange, some lemon yellow, and some giant mammoth sunflowers.   The rest of the plants are on their way, they all have flower heads forming. It will be interesting to see what they all look like when they bloom.

The harvest season begins

This is my favorite time of year.  I love when I can just go to the garden to pick dinner.  My vegetable plants are really starting to produce for me.  I had some chard and kale already this season, but the last few days my zucchini and yellow squash have started to have large enough squashes to pick.  Yum.  I have a lot of plants so I know I will eventually be overrun.

squash
Yellow squash and zucchini, waiting to be sliced. I sauteed these two up with some onion. These were about 6 inches long each (the cutting board under them is very tiny, in case it makes these look gigantic).

This year I have 5 zucchini, 2 yellow squash, and I think 4 acorn squash plants. Last year I had 3 or 4 zucchini plants, and by mid September I was very tired of zucchini.   I froze what we had left and didn’t eat any for a couple months.  They were very delicious in the middle of winter when I wasn’t sick of zucchini any more.  This year I received a pressure canner for my birthday, so I’m planning on using that to can a lot of our harvest.  I also plan on freezing some things.

I have gotten some pea pods, but not enough to do more than just eat the peas straight out of the pods.  My son has been enjoying that. I worried my peas wouldn’t like the heat we’ve been having but they are doing well.  Next year I will have to have more plants.

My beans have been producing well.  I actually got enough from my first harvesting of them to use for a side dish for tonight’s dinner:

Yummy beans.
Yummy beans.

I started with some green bean plants, but they didn’t do very well at first. I wanted more plants, so I bought a packet of purple beans.  They really took off, and I’ve been getting more purple beans so far than green.  The green plants are growing taller than the purple, and I can tell they are going to produce well – there are a lot of flowers and baby beans growing along the vine where they’ve climbed up my string support system. They are even climbing one of my sunflowers.  Last year I had a few bean plants, but I never got enough beans at one time to cook on their own; it was always just enough to cook up with something else.  I’m hoping to can or freeze some this year – hopefully I have enough to do that.

I have a lot of green tomatoes forming.  I’m growing three varieties of indeterminate tomatoes, and the plants are going crazy.  I have been consistently pulling off suckers from the plants, and now because there are so many baby tomatoes, I’m pulling off extra flowers too, in an effort to let the forming tomatoes get bigger faster, and possibly ripen on the vine.  I worry that they may take too long if I don’t do that – last year I had to let my tomatoes ripen in the house.  Our growing season isn’t very long – we may get frost by mid September.

It’s an exciting time of year.

Grown up chickens

young hens
young hens

Our youngest chickens are (mostly) grown up now – They are just over 3.5 months old.  They are still a bit smaller than everyone else, but they are getting there.  I have finally figured out for sure what we have – Out of all the chicks we received this spring that lived (14 chicks, in two batches) we got 6 hens and 8 roosters.  We still have 6 of those roosters, and of course all the hens.  Our oldest young hen, a Speckled Sussex, laid her first egg a couple of weeks ago.  Her eggs have been about 1/2 the size of everyone else’s.  The first egg was small, and I thought they’d get bigger but so far they haven’t.  They are still good eggs so that is fine.

The small egg is from our speckled sussex. The larger one is a typical one from our adult 1 year old hens.
The small egg is from our speckled sussex. The larger one is a typical one from our adult 1 year old hens.

Here is our Speckled Sussex – she does not like to pose for pictures, and she’s been mostly hiding inside the coop to stay away from the roosters.

Our hen - I had to hold her to get her picture.
Our hen – I had to hold her to get her picture.

Our other hens are getting close to adulthood:

Here is one of our Brahma "twin" hens.
Here is one of our Brahma “twin” hens.
Here is the other Brahma hen.
Here is the other Brahma hen.
Our Cornish hen.
Our Cornish hen.
Our Buckeye hen.
Our Buckeye hen.
Our Black Sumatra hen.
Our Black Sumatra hen.

Our young roosters are growing too, and getting into mischief.

Here's our Splash rooster - I thought he was a Brahma because he has feathered legs. But I read that Splash Marans can have feathered legs as well. I am 99% sure he's a rooster, but I have seen another rooster try to mount him...
Here’s our Splash rooster – I thought he was a Brahma because he has feathered legs. But I read that Splash Marans can have feathered legs as well. I am 99% sure he’s a rooster, but I have seen another rooster try to mount him… He tries to mount the hens as well, but he’s not very successful.
Here is Wonky top - he is probably a Cuckoo Maran. He's ruffling his feathers in this picture.
Here is Wonky top – he is probably a Cuckoo Maran. He’s ruffling his feathers in this picture. He lost a lot of his tail feathers from getting picked on by the bigger roosters a few weeks ago when we tried to put all the roosters in their own pen.  He didn’t do very well – he’s doing really great now with everyone together.
Here is our Dorking rooster.  His feathers are getting really pretty. He's pretty calm, it could be because he's at the bottom of the rooster pecking order though.
Here is our Dorking rooster. His feathers are getting really pretty. He’s mostly pretty calm, it could be because he’s at the bottom of the rooster pecking order though.
Here is our Delaware rooster.  He is one of the older batch.
Here is our Delaware rooster. He is one of the older batch.
Here is Big Red, he's a Buckeye.  He was getting a tiny bit aggressive for awhile, but he's toned it down.
Here is Big Red, he’s a Buckeye. He was getting a tiny bit aggressive for awhile, but he’s toned it down.
Here is our big beautiful Brahma rooster.  I really want to keep him, but he has lately become a bit aggressive with me.  I'm trying to break that out of him (just showing him I won't take his attitude) but we'll have to see.  I can't keep a really aggressive rooster. I'm hoping he comes around.
Here is our big beautiful Brahma rooster. I really want to keep him, but he has lately become a bit aggressive with me. I’m trying to break that out of him (just showing him I won’t take his attitude) but we’ll have to see. I can’t keep a really aggressive rooster. I’m hoping he comes around.

I haven’t taken that many pictures of my older ladies lately – I need to get some chicken saddles.  They have a bit of feather loss from the roosters, and a little from molting, I believe. Here are a few of them:

Here are some of the older ladies out in the pen.
Here are some of the older ladies out in the pen.
Here's my bare-backed Barred Rock hen.
Here’s my bare-backed Barred Rock hen.
Here's one of my white hens - she likes to reach through the fence for grass even though they have grass in their pen.
Here’s one of my white hens – she likes to reach through the fence for grass even though they have grass in their pen. You can see he head has a bald spot from the roosters’ antics.

Overall, the chickens are doing well.  I need to cull at least a couple more roosters though. And get some chicken saddles for the ladies.

Farm updates Early August

I haven’t posted in over a week, because I went to California to meet my new niece.  Before I left, this was my garden (taken on 7/23/15):

Here was my garden just before I left for vacation.
Here was my garden just before I left for vacation.

I came back less than 7 days later and my garden had exploded:

My jungle of a garden.
My jungle of a garden.
There is a pathway here, somewhere.  The calendula has fallen over into it, because the squash plants are pushing it over, I believe.
There is a pathway here, somewhere. The calendula has fallen over into it, because the squash plants are pushing it over, I believe.
My tomato plants were separated by the aisle, and they have decided to join hands. I had to re-separate them (it didn't work very well - I'll have to tie them up more).
My tomato plants were separated by the aisle, and they have decided to join hands. I had to re-separate them (it didn’t work very well – I’ll have to tie them up more).
I have tomatoes! They are getting pretty big, I didn't even see any fruit starting before I left.
I have tomatoes! They are getting pretty big, I didn’t even see any fruit starting before I left.
My tinier tomatillo plants are getting large now, and one has flowers. That gives me hope that I will have fruit this year. The largest plant has had flowers for awhile, and just keeps growing.
My tinier tomatillo plants are getting large now, and one has flowers. That gives me hope that I will have fruit this year. The largest plant has had flowers for awhile, and just keeps growing.
My Black Eyed Susan Thunbergia through the corn/sunflower jungle. I have some regular Black Eyed Susans and calendula planted between the corn, and those are getting very tall also.
My Black Eyed Susan Thunbergia through the corn/sunflower jungle. I have some regular Black Eyed Susans and calendula planted between the corn, and those are getting very tall also.
One of my tall sunflowers. Just taller than me right now, and starting to form a flower.
One of my tall sunflowers. Just taller than me right now, and starting to form a flower.
I have peas! These need a couple more days and then I will pick them, there are several on the plant so I'm excited for a decent pea crop this year. I only got a few pods last year - the plants really faltered.
I have peas! These need a couple more days and then I will pick them, there are several on the plants so I’m excited for a decent pea crop this year. I only got a few pods last year – the plants really faltered.
My cucumbers are getting flowers, and growing well. I hoped for more, but not all my plants took - I ended up with three plants. I love making pickles.
My cucumbers are getting flowers, and growing well. I hoped for more, but not all my plants took – I ended up with three plants. I love making pickles.
My beans are going crazy, climbing to the top of my tree-poles.  I wonder how tall they would get if they had all the room they wanted.  I have tiny beans forming all over my plants.
My beans are going crazy, climbing to the top of my tree-poles. I wonder how tall they would get if they had all the room they wanted. I have tiny beans forming all over my plants.

The chickens are doing well.  We had planned on starting to cull some roosters when I got home. A couple on the shortlist have redeemed themselves for now.  We culled two on Sunday – one was getting very aggressive and had pecked my son, and the other was picking on the rest of the big roosters.  We will need to take out a couple more before winter, but the ones we still have are behaving better.  One of our youngest roosters, Wonky Top:

Here is Wonky Top.  My husband named him, because of his goofy comb.
Here is Wonky Top. My husband named him, because of his goofy comb.

Wonky’s comb has been straightening out.  He has straightened out too – he was going to be one of the first we took out, because he didn’t get along with anyone – he was really skittish, and he fought with everyone. We had separated the roosters from the hens for awhile, and he would get picked on by the bigger guys, and then escape. Each time we caught him and put him back with the roosters, he would escape again, and then evade capture for most of the day.  I finally put him in with the hens.  He stayed there while I was on vacation. When I got back I thought my roosters were bored being over in their side (we had them in the grassless side because it was easier to get them in at night), so I put them with everyone again.  Wonky then asserted himself, pretty much saying “you’re on MY side now!” and he wouldn’t take any flack from the big guys.  Now he doesn’t seem so skittish, and he’s getting along with everyone better. So we have decided he can stay, for now.  I suspect he’s a Cuckoo Maran – I really wanted some Marans (the hens can lay darker brown eggs ) so if possible we may keep him for breeding. We will see.

I was planning on keeping certain roosters based on looks, for breeding purposes, but we are starting to cull based mostly on their behavior, especially toward us.  Our big Black Langshan rooster was one that we took out this weekend, since he flew up on my son and pecked him in the chest.  That was the deciding factor for him.  We were planning on keeping at least two – I read that if you have 3 or 4 they can get along better than having just two.  We’ll just have to play it by ear with them.

The chickens are enjoying their outdoor shelter – we allow them in the coop anyway, but this shelter was already in the part of the run that I have them in right now, so we left it (it’s a little large so we’d have to disassemble it to remove it) – they have learned they can go on top of it. That puts their heads only about 6 inches from the top of the fence.  They have not seemed to figure that part out yet though – I was worried they would jump out but nobody has so far.

My chickens having fun sitting on their outdoor shelter.
My chickens having fun sitting on (and in) their outdoor shelter.