Category Archives: Chickens

Sunrise Chickens

Waking up early used to be pure torture for me, and by early I mean anytime before 10am. Now I do get up at 5am for work sometimes and if I wasn’t working, I would get up around 9am, but still, I’m a lover of some major sleeping in. That was the Before-Chickens era.

Nowadays the sky begins to lighten before 4:30am, with sunrise before 5:30am, which means I’m mostly up and out at the chicken coop around 5am. Now don’t get me wrong, waking up early everyday hasn’t become an easy thing for me to do, but it hasn’t been as dreadful as I had thought it would be neither. Sometimes I do lie in bed a few extra minutes, debating with myself whether I should just sleep a little more. But knowing how much the chickies love being outside at day break to gobble up insects that have moved into the run during the night, I trudge sleepily out to the coop. I call out to them as I open up the door, and they all come fluttering out, squawking excitedly. Pretty soon, they settle down, chirping contentedly as they scratch and peck and stretch their wings.

With a smile on my face as I stand among my little herd of chickens, all bathed in the warm summer sunrise, I realize that waking up at 5am has some very sweet rewards.Chicken in the sunrise 

It’s only 5:30am, but hey, why not have a little nap together on the roost?chickens in the sunrise

Ok so sometimes I actually get up closer to 6am than 5am, and a couple of times I did accidentally sleep in till close to 7am. Another confession, I am still looking forward to the time when the sun will rise at a much later hour.

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Transformation in the Blink of an Eye

It has been super busy here in the past month and a half, but finally, here’s an update on my little chickie pies. They now range from 8-11 weeks old, and they have transformed from tiny fluff balls, to awkward scraggly looking teenagers, to mini versions of their future adult selves in about 2 months. I look back on these pictures and am just amazed at how tiny they used to be.

Here they are, tiny and fluffy, playing on a piece of sod and a little roost in their brooder (which they outgrew very quickly).

new chicks

Another picture of tiny fluffy chicks playing with sod and a little roost. I have a lot of these pictures. I hadn’t realized how many similar pictures I had taken until I tried to pick some out to share with you on this blog. But to a proud chicken mom, each moment and picture is unique!

new chicks on sod

One of my sweet little speckled Sussex ran out to investigate the camera.

speckled sussex chick

More tiny fluffy chicks warming themselves under the Brinsea EcoGlow 50. We were very happy with it. The chicks were able to have normal wake/sleep cycles without a glaring light over them 24hrs a day. They were very active out and about away from the heat most of the day, and slept soudly at night underneath it. It uses 60 watts and we had it on for 4 weeks before we moved everybody out to the coop.

chicks under brinsea ecoglow 50

Here they are starting to turn into awkward teenagers, digging through the dandelions and playing on another roost the husband made for them. Notice the gorgeous feathering on the speckled Sussex’s wing.

roost in brooder

Here are the awkward teenagers sunning themselves on the roost. Notice the really awkward looking one standing up.

roost in brooder

Awkward teenagers peering at me with their beady eyes. Three in the background taking a dust bath. We had to add another big box to the original brooder box so they don’t drive each other, and me, crazy, hence the square cut-out door.

awkward teenage chicks

And this picture is from last week, mini-adults. They grow up so fast, literally.

chickens in the sun

And here is “my darling” whom I mentioned in the previous post. He was the friendliest chick from the start, was the first to hop onto my hand whenever I reached into the brooder to do anything, and eventhough he’s a much bigger boy now (at least I think it’s a boy), he still wants snuggle time everyday.

Columbian Plymouth Rock

Meet Our New Chicks and Brooder Tour

3 Fuzzy bums!

fuzzy bums

I’ve been wanting chickens since last summer, and on May 4th we finally picked up our chicks! We drove about 5.5 hours each way to get them, and it was a long and tiring day, the wonderful husband did all the driving. We ended up getting 25 chicks of various ages from day-olds to maybe 2-3 week-olds. A little white chick died a bit after we got home, it was very weak and couldn’t lift its head, and it was bent backwards. Then a speckled sussex died sometime overnight. The next morning we noticed a black australorp with droopy wings, not eating and drinking, so we quarantined it with a warm oatbag, some water and food, but it died that afternoon. Three deaths in less than 24 hours had us really worried, but we now have 22 very healthy and active chicks.

In total, we have 3 black Australorps, 3 speckled Sussex, and 16 others that are a combination of white Plymouth Rock, Columbian Plymouth Rock, and I think white Phoenix. I can tell which ones are the Phoenix since they have slate coloured legs, and I’m beginning to be able to see which ones are Columbians since their black feathering is starting to show a little. As much as I like baby chicks for their adorableness, I’m really looking forward to when they’re fully grown and their individual personality really shows. Plus taking care of baby chicks is a lot of work! They’re awake from 5am to 8:30pm and other than a couple of short quiet times, they’re constantly on the go, eating, drinking, digging, scratching, fluttering, perching, playing, all the while chattering non-stop.

Here they are eating. We give them non-medicated chick feed which we lacto-ferment. For more on lacto-fermentation of chicken feed, see here. It doesn’t look very appetizing, but it doesn’t smell bad. It smells just like sauerkraut, the real kind that’s made with just cabbage, salt and water. I find using the traditional chicken waterer to give them fermented feed is better than using a big dish, otherwise they like to hop right in and get all wet.

Fermented Feed Chicks

Here they are basking in the sun and playing with a piece of sod. I also dig up whole dandelions for them and they love to scratch and peck at them too.

chicks playing on sod in brooder

You can see the chicken nipple waterer we use in this picture. It keeps the water clean and the bedding dry. We also add a bit of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the mother in their water. For the first week, I also put some organic, unpasteurized honey in the water as well.

sod in brooder

Here’s a little video of the chicks scratching at the sod and bedding. We use the deep litter method and with 22 chicks in the house, it doesn’t stink! Once in a while you get a whiff of something, but then I just go and aerate the bedding with a garden trowel and add more pine shavings. Plus the chicks are really good at digging and fluffing up the bedding themselves. Now the brooder may not smell like poop, but there is a slight sweet musty smell that’s not unpleasant. The bedding is probably about 5-6 inches deep now.

And here’s a video of them taking a short afternoon siesta. I have come to treasure these short quiet times. We use Brinsea’s EcoGlow 50 instead of a lightbulb to warm the chicks. It’s like a mother hen. If they need warmth they huddle underneath it, but I have to say, the chicks spend the majority of the day running around eating and scratching. The room temperature averages around 21C or 70F and they seem very comfortable and active. It also provides a more natural day/night rhythm instead of having a light on them 24/7. The only downside to the EcoGlow is that the chicks love to perch on top of it and make a poopy mess.

As for naming them, I simply call them all “Chickie Pie”. Except for one Columbian who likes to hop onto my hand and roost on my arm. I call him/her “my darlin”, I don’t know if I’ll be able to eat that one.

I’ll end with this little speckled Sussex, all tuckered out from a very busy morning.

speckled sussex taking a nap

Updates Galore

Ok here goes!

Winter Vegetable Garden

Ummm, so I think the last time we really picked any veggies from our winter garden was on New Year’s Eve when the husband cooked an amazing meal for us. There was duck and poached pears involved, among other deliciousness. But we really didn’t shower it with the love and attention it deserved. I think we might have cracked the window covers on the green house boxes once on a sunny day, and cleaned the snow off them once. Also, the husband reported back around January that some moles or voles have been digging under the green house boxes to get at our Endive and our Merveilles de Quatre Saisons (fancy heritage French lettuce). Apparently the little fuzz balls have expensive taste. You can see what the winter vegetable garden looked like in November here. Anyways, pretty much the only one that’s barely hanging on is the frilly kale, everything else has disappeared, leaving behind them nice clean patches of soil. We also experimented with whether we could store carrots in the ground over the winter…we could not, they turned to mush. Perhaps if we had a constant snow cover and did not have so many feeze/thaw cycles it would have worked. But the parsnips seemed to have stored better in the ground, the husband harvested quite a few on Monday.

CHICKENS!!

Hopefully by the end of April we’ll be driving to the mainland to pick up our chicks. I had requested 12 black Australorps and 12 speckled Sussex, but it looks like the speckled Sussex won’t work out and we’ll be picking 12 of whatever else the breeder has hatched at the time. We’re aiming for standard bred, dual purpose heritage chickens that’ll be a pleasure to raise on our homestead, and a pleasure to eat. We’ll have to wait around 5 months to taste our first home-raised chicken and 6 months for eggs. We have spent months researching and preparing, and we’re excited!

Maple Syrup

Boiling down Maple Syrup

We boiled down the last bit of sap we collected a week ago and pulled out the taps. I thought to myself, it’s a good thing it’s still cold outside and we need the heat in the house anyways, but for two days it was over 26C in the livingroom and it was hot!

Spring

First Crocus

First Crocus

I never understood why new years start in the winter. For a farmer wannabe, the new year starts when you see your first crocus. But I suppose that doesn’t really work for southern farmers who don’t get to experience all 4 seasons. And for those who know me, yes, I do have some reservations about the upcoming season of black flies, mosquitoes, horseflies, june bugs, earwigs and wasps. Here’s to hoping no wasps inside the house this year, and no black flying beetles that buzz and float into the washroom as I’m sitting on the throne.

Garlic sprout

Some of the garlic we planted in the fall have sprouted! Did I mention that we’re supposed to get 10-15cm of snow tonight and tomorrow and that I’m a bit worried for them?!

Thankful

Well I think that’s about it. It has been a quiet winter, yet dotted with some life changing events, the sudden death of a young friend, and some health issues in the family. But in the midst of it all, we could still see how good Jesus is, and we’re so thankful, and we’re filled with hope.

Why I’m Dreaming of Chickens by Day & by Night

The chickens you see in the header are not my chickens, if only they were. No, these chickens belong to the Fortress of Louisbourg, and from what I can tell, they are a Mille Fleur variant of some breed of heritage chicken. Aren’t they beautiful? I snapped their picture three summers ago, little suspecting that my life’s path would lead into the country.

Let’s see if I can condense months of research and prayerful rumination into short concise points:

  • The chicken meat we purchase at the supermarket are all Cornish Crosses which, if they’re actually able to mate can’t reproduce Cornish Cross chicks. The only people that can reproduce Cornish Cross chicks are those who work at Tyson Foods, Maple Leaf Foods, and other large corporations depending on the country. That means anytime a farmer needs more Cornish Crosses, they can’t breed their own but must purchase them, a wholly unsustainable practice, and makes lots of money for those large corporations who carry out so many morally questionable practices.
  • The Cornish Cross were bred for fast growth, and can be processed in 37 days compared to the normal processing time of 126+ days depending on the breed. The Cornish Cross grows more rapidly than its heart, lungs, and other vital organs can handle, thus they frequently die of respiratory and cardiac failure. They also grow too fast and too big (particularly the breast muscle, which is where the money’s at) for their pelvis and short legs and often can’t even walk but waddle or just sit, or their legs are simply broken from its weight.
  • Chicken farms that supply meat for major corporations and thus the supermarkets house the Cornish Crosses at a density of about 25,000 chickens per warehouse. Usually one worker would look after about three of these warehouses. Because of this overcrowding and unnatural environment, the top beak of the chicks are either grounded or melted shorter than the bottom beak, which research has shown to cause acute pain for the chicks, so that the chickens won’t peck each other to death. The overcrowding and poor immune system of the chickens also require vaccinations and medicated feed in order to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • A chicken that lives and dies in 37 painful and distressed days while eating highly processed and medicated feed, which by the way contains genetically modified corn and soy that has numerous known and unknown deleterious effects on the environment and human health, can’t possibly be good for the people who eat it.
  • Even at the local farmer’s market, the only chicken we can buy are Cornish Crosses. They may have lived in better environments out of doors and on green pasture, but they still grow way too fast and can’t walk and breathe right.
  • Eggs we buy at the store come from hens packed into battery cages, each one living on less space than an 8.5×11 piece of paper for 2-2.5 years before their egg production drops and are slaughtered. Due to overcrowding, these hens are required to undergo the same treatments as the meat chickens. All male chicks from the commercial egg production strain are killed en mass as they don’t lay eggs and are not good enough to be meat chickens.
  • If the egg carton advertises its eggs as “organic”, it means the hens were fed non-medicated and non-GM but still highly processed feed, and still kept in battery cages. “Free run” eggs mean they’re not kept in cages but on the warehouse floor, and “free-range” eggs mean the warehouse must have some sort of access to an outside area of a specific size, neither has anything to do with the feed they get. Even if each hen gets more space than in a battery cage, it is still much too overcrowded in my opinion.

It’s not just the poultry industry, the entire food industry and agri-business is off kilter because it is founded on all the wrong motives. Basically, we want things cheap, easy, and fast, regardless of the sanctity of animal life, our all-important role as stewards of the resources we’ve been given, and that healthcare is costing us more every year.

But hey, I’m no purist. I still succumb to the temptations of McDonald’s once in awhile, and right now we still buy meat from the supermarket. I loathe to do these things but I realize that change does take time, so we just do our best one step at a time.

Steps we can take:

  • If you’re permitted to own a few chickens in your backyard for meat or just for eggs, go for it. If you’re not allowed, find like-minded people in your area and speak to local government representatives to change the existing bylaws.
  • Try to buy your meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit from local farmer’s markets. Get to know the farmer, find out how their animals are raised and how their fruits and veggies are grown. Ask lots of questions and support the local farmer.
  • Ask farmers at the local market if they sell heritage chickens instead of Cornish Cross. It’ll likely be very hard to find, but if enough people ask for it, things just might change! Vote with your dollar!
  • Grow your own vegetables in your backyard, or even your front yard, in bins and flower pots, bags and glass jars.
  • Try to buy organic where you can. To be certified organic in Canada, fruits and vegetables must not be genetically modified and must not have been sprayed with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and livestock must be fed organically grown, non-genetically modified and non-medicated feed, as well as no hormones allowed.
  • Try to decrease the number of times you eat out, and find restaurants that support local farmers.

Rather than thinking of yourself as someone who is against all the things that are wrong with our food industry, think of yourself as someone who is for food that is healthy and wholesome because it has been raised and grown by loving stewards whose desire is the health and wellbeing of his livestock, his customers, and the earth.

So which chicken breeds am I dreaming about? That will be the subject of another post!