Well, in four short weeks, he’s gone from that to this:
See his wattles that are starting to come in? He’s turning into a man before my eyes! What’s a mother to do? Pretty soon he’ll be all grown up…
Yes, that’s our JB and I have to say that his name has gotten this blog quite a bit of unexpected attention. Apparently Johnny Bravo is still quite popular in other countries and I am suddenly getting dozens of hits from international Google image searches for “Johnny Bravo” and variations thereof. Kinda funny, no?
Anyway, he’s not the only one who’s growing wattles… at least one of his friends is doing the same. The camera is an amazing thing. Until I sat down tonight to go through my pictures, I had only seen the red patches under his chin – no one else’s. But it turns out I got a shot of the same thing on our other rapidly-developing Marans, so that puts him solidly in the male category as well.
He doesn’t have nearly as much white as JB, but I’m still guessing this is a boy. True, girls also grow wattles… just smaller ones that develop after the boys’. The more time I spend with them, the more I think that I have two girls at best, but heck if I know.
For those of you who read this that also are new to chicken keeping, you will know that chicken feed is a hotly debated topic. Organic vs non-organic, local vs non-local, protein content, protein sources, starter vs developer vs broiler vs layer… it’s enough to make your head spin. I will breifly mention here that I am trying not to let too much of the conflicting opinions get to me. My top priority is organic, and since finding organic chicken feed locally anywhere in the United States is dang near impossible, I order mine in, as most people do. Mine comes all the way from Virginia. I order from Countryside Natural Products, Inc. (a highly recommended source on the Backyard Chickens forum), and yes, the shipping is more than the feed for a 50lb bag. Sad, but true. I have been scouring the internet and local feed stores for a source and it simply doesn’t exist right now. I have found a few local people that are proposing that we get together and convice a local mill that there is demand if they will make up a custom mix for us. I will keep you posted on that.
Other than that, I know a few things about chicken feed. Chicks need high-protein feed because it takes a lot of protein to grow muscles and feathers. So, they need somewhere between 18% and 22%. Mine were on 22% the first week (I got a 5lb bag of organic chick starter with my chick starter kit from the hatchery), then I’ve been using Countryside since then, and their chick starter and broiler ration are both the same at 19%. Until last week, they’d been getting the chick starter, which is ground finer (called “crumbles”). Then I switched them to the broiler ration, which is the same feed, but with larger pieces that they can handle now that they’re older. They will be on this same feed until the first egg is laid. Then they will be switched to layer ration. Apparently this transition is critical. All the way until the first egg is laid, they are still growing and developing and need the extra protein. But then, as soon as it’s laid, they need the different formulation of 15% protein with extra calcium and other vitamins and minerals needed for proper egg development. Some places will sell you starter with a high percentage, then developer with a lower percentage, then finisher, and then layer ration. Each with a different protein percentage. As far as I can tell, this is overkill, so I’m sticking with Countryside’s plan. They seem to be doing well so far.
All this is not to say that they won’t be free-ranging. I plan to have my birds out on the grass to eat bugs and plants and everything else every minute possible. However, chickens are not native to North America. In fact, they’re not native to anywhere. They are all decendants of the Southeast Asian Red Jungle Fowl and have all been developed for different purposes and locations for hundreds of years since then. That said… the closest thing to a native environtment that could provide them with a balanced, wild diet would be a Southeast Asian rainforest. And, since my warp drive is in the shop, they’re just going to have to get by here in Washington. The point of all that is to say that chickens have a hard time scratching out an existence on North American free-range alone, and that certainly wouldn’t provide them with the nutrition they need to be good layers and breeders, so you must provide a balanced feed and free-ranging and treats are only supplements. Also, the feed I use is soy-free. This is because chickens are omnivores and need animal protein to develop properly, and soy-free feeds include fishmeal as the main protein source. That is all I’ll say on the hot-button soy topic.
Back to the Fun Stuff
As we’ve come to expect, this is a Lady B story. Actually – it starts out as a Lady B story, and then it turns into an “everyone” story. So, remember how I mentioned the other day that Lady B and Daisy Mae had taken to hopping up on the doorstep when I opened the door into their coop? And how Lady B knocked Daisy Mae off the other side and then chaos ensued as Daisy Mae hurled herself at the other side of the wire wall, trying to get back in? And how she never figured it out and I had to catch her and toss her, kicking and screaming, back in with her friends?
Yeah. Things were different with Lady B. The other day, I was sitting on the doorstep and she hopped up on it and then down off the other side to explore the other half of the shed. She proceded to calmly walk around, checking out everything – the buckets of feed, the extra wooden boards, the orange extension cords for powering the heat lamps… she grazed on a few scattered pieces of grain around the feed buckets…
she pecked at the basket of strawberry tops I brought as treats…
and then she calmly strolled back over to the door, hopped back up on the step with me, and then hopped back in with her friends… all with nary a care in the world. I have to admit, I thought at first that maybe this would be the normal way for a chicken to do this and that Daisy Mae was just a spaz… but, as you can see… some of the others hopped up to watch her while she was out there, and they started getting ideas about proving me wrong.
All I can say is that none of them went out there with her, but shortly afer she came back in, they all started trying it… one after the other… and they were all exactly like Daisy Mae… out of their minds with panic about getting back to the other side and no clue how to do it. Over the past two days, I’ve had to catch and return at least 5 or six different chicks. I don’t know how many ways I can prove it to you – Lady B is a star. And a genius. And a supermodel. Duh.
See? She went back and forth along the wall and even right under the doorstep but didn’t have a cllue how to get back in. Peeping in terror the entire time. Silly chickies, tricks are for Lady B :)
Speaking of Tricks
I have to admit that I’ve been less than thrilled lately because I’ve been having to go back to cleaning the waterers more often because they are again scratching some shavings into them on a regular basis. This wouldn’t be so bad, except poop ends up in there too. Now, I had been assuming that the poop was getting flung in there with all the scratching, just like the shavings. Turns out I was wrong.
That’s right, Lady B is up to her old tricks. Perching on the waterer is a bad habit. She might be my special angel, but this doesn’t exactly make me happy. She has an entire funhouse full of ramps and perches and she has to go back to perching on the waterers. Charming. I have been holding off switching them to the new, grown-up waterer because you have to make sure that they’re too big to drown in it before you switch them. Some of them are still a bit small, in my mind, and so they’ve still got the baby waterers. It would really suck to find a drowned chick. So instead I wait… and clean poop out of the water.
Lisa, the Carpenter
Don’t laugh. It’s not nice. Maybe I’m a skilled carpenter. You don’t know. Maybe I build whole houses all by myself in my spare time for fun. Hey, it could happen.
The other day, I noticed that when JB and a couple of our other large-ish feathered friends jump onto Brian’s homemade baby perch, it now wobbles and threatens to tip over. Also, as they get older, more and more of them are going to want to sleep on perches and there’s just not room enough for all of them, and they can’t quite fly up to the permanent ones yet. So, I got creative. I rummaged through the pile of scrap wood from the project, found what I needed, borrowed Brian’s drill, and built me some perch steps.
For the record, I didn’t have my camera with me when I took this out to the coop because my hands were full, and knowing me I’d break something… but Lady B was the first one up on it in a matter of seconds. Was there ever any doubt?
I’m not sure if I mentioned the other day that it was sunny and not entirely freezing and so I thought I’d see if the babies would come out into the run for the first time. They didn’t. I opened the doors and they might as well have been the gaping jaws of starving alligators. The chicks all ran screaming into a corner and wouldn’t go near the doors. After a while, they calmed down a bit and the best a couple did (Lady B, Daisy Mae, JB) was walk over and glance out the door timidly. I eventually gave up because it was pretty windy and still plenty muddy, so why even bother? And since then, it’s been back to rain/snow/sleet/hail/wind/freezing so no more chances thus far. It won’t be easy when I finally do get a real opportunity to let them out of there. So, I’m working on a plan. My big idea is treats at this point. Lure them out with treats. I have no idea if it will even work, so if anyone has any ideas, I am open to suggestions.
That said, we do have another problem. I didn’t realize at the time of bulding because this is all new to me, but we are going to need some sort of barrier for the shavings so that they don’t all fall out the doors when they are opened and then get stuck in the hinges when I try to close them again. Again, I am working on a plan. Any ideas are welcomed.
A Few More Chickie Pics
In Other News
I am way sleepy, but I will mention here that we finally got so fed up with our kitchen sink that we couldn’t take it anymore and we got brave and decided to install a new one ourselves. I will spare you the details, but essentially, the sink was too small and the faucet was so in the way that we couldn’t wash any of my larger pots and pans. Here is a brief pictorial.
And the rest of the story is that he then did a bunch more work and we ran into a few problems and it took two days because the old sink hadn’t been installed properly, but eventually we got it done and it pretty much looks like it does in that last picture, except the other hole is covered and there is a saop dispenser… and I didn’t take anymore pictures and now there are dishes in the sink so you’ll just have to settle for that pic for now :) You get the point.
SO MUCH NICER THAN OUR OLD SINK! HOORAY!!! Now we can actually wash dishes without breaking them or covering the entire kitchen and ourselves with water spray! Yay for Brian the Plumber!!