Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall Hatch!!

So our legbar chicks arrived over the weekend.  Our first fall hatch was pretty small.  One of our young, new roosters proved not fertile so the hatch rate plummeted.  Blaze, Ice and Liam however are still producing great chicks from their ladies.   We hope to hatch more in 21 days to make up for our low numbers.

We got a majority of roosters in this batch.  Cute little guys, but re-homing roosters is always a challenge.  We plan on growing them out and then doing a breeding selection from them.  Anyone want a rooster?

We are quite happy that Blaze and his new hens produced very nice light chicks!  Look at these beauties!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Best Chicken Breeds for Young Children

Each day my little girls insist on helping with the chicken chores.  Sometimes this is quite stressful for me, because we own lots of breeds and lots of roosters.  I won't try to soften the issue: roosters and young children can be a horrible mix!  You have to be careful and watchful when they are together.  Both my girls have been attacked and had blood drawn by a free ranging cockerel.  The attacking cockerel is very lucky...to be run off by an enraged momma and still be living!   Yet even though one would think a chicken attack would horrify a child into not wanting anything to do with the birds, this hasn't been the case.  My girls still love them and hardly miss an opportunity to help feed them and gather eggs.

We have many breeds and raising them to standard has helped us pin point the breeds that are simply more suited for children.    Now I have not raised every breed, so I cannot say my selection is complete.  Yet of the breed we've raised here are the clear results:

The friendliest breeds for children to help raise:

Basque Hens (or Euskal Oiloa)

Basque Hens:  They are amazing with children!  My roosters are not only patient with young arms picking them up but also with a hen being picked up right in front of them and taken away from the flock. They very seldom get aggressive or protective towards my family.   The hens put up with being toted across the yard by young arms and seldom run away.  In fact, they run towards my children to see what treats they might be hiding. 

Here is my 3 year old toting around Jed, our new rooster.  He is mature and cocky with his hens, but has never shown aggression towards my girls or us.

-  These birds are fun for children because they are a small breed.  They tame up nicely when pampered and learn quickly to come running at the sound of food.  Our little hen is a Silkie/Cochin/Leghorn mix.  Luckly her Silkie/ Cochin side won over in her personality.  She is sweet and my daughter's favorite hen.  She is a bit more nervous then our Basque, but her small size is adorable and she fits nicely in the arms of my toddler (closely supervised of course). She lays a small white egg yet goes broody a lot.  I've heard from many other chicken owners that the Silkies and Cochins are wonderful with the children and some will even perch on their kid's shoulders and beg for constant attention.  They are labled by many as a "pet" breed.

Other breeds that we have not owned but I hear are wonderful, patient birds: 

Orpingtons- This is a very big breed, but gentle.  They are not intimated by children and their bulk makes them great for little ones to pet and follow around.

Dorking-  This breed is labeled as a great "Pet" chicken with a similar disposition as the Basque Hen.

Here is a list of more tamable birds that I hear also do well with kids:  Australorp, Barnevelder, Basque Hen, Booted Bantam, Cochin, Dominique, Dorking, Dutch Bantam, Faverolles, Houden, Java, Jersey Giant, Lanshan, Lincolnshire Buff, Naked Neck, Orphington, Plymouth Rock, Polish, Russian Orloff, Showgirl, Silkie, Sizzle, Sussex, and the Welsummer.


Below are some breeds you need to be cautious with.  I'm not saying that you cannot have a great child friendly flock of these breeds, but they tend to be more flighty, less friendly and nervous around people in general and the roosters are more aggressive and protective of their flocks.  Still, if you put in time and patience, just about any breed can learn to trust people and grow friendlier. 

Leghorns-  We own two full Leghorns and even though I love how they are real reliable egg machines, they are very cautious and flighty.  They are aggressive towards the other breeds and do not put up with my children at all.  In fact I don't think my girls have ever been able to even pet them.  After consulting with other leghorn owners, they tend to agree that these are great production birds but not bred to be very social.
This is Sadie.  She holds the record of all our birds on eggs production (over 300 a year) but she is quick and not eager to make friends.  The other hens stay out of her way because even though she is not the biggest, she sure is fierce!

Here is a Legbar Rooster with our 2 Leghorn hens.
Cream Legbars-   CAUTION CAUTION!!  This breed, although rare and beautiful, is simple not child friendly.  The hens act like typical leghorns (see above) and the roosters are over the top mean and protective.  My husband adores this breed and we've raised nearly 100 of these birds.  Of all our breeding, we do have a few hens that are sweet and come right up to us, but the majority of them stay back and are not naturally inclined to be tame.  The roosters have drawn blood on numerous occasions from my husband, myself and have even got my 3 year old when she wasn't careful enough gathering the eggs.  One of our roosters, Liam, will gladly chase you across the yard and I think he even hides sometimes so he can jump out and get me when I'm not expecting it.  We NEVER go into the Legbar fields without carrying a stick to gently ward off the roosters. 

A Pretty Cream Legbar Hen hiding under our bushes.


Marans-  We also raise a lot of Marans.  The hens can be tamed and very sweet if you don't mind putting up with a protective rooster.  The hens are not naturally curious or eager to bond, like the Basque, but they still can be patient and handled if your children are careful around them and don't betray their trust.  Caution though, they don't easily forgive if roughly handled or scared.  One of our past Marans roosters:  Milly, taught my oldest daughter how to run in fear.  Now our flock rooster: Giddian, does the same thing but only when you approach his hens.  If you leave the hens alone, he ignores you.    Gorgeous breed, but they do better with older kids and adults.

Giddian's flock inside their coop. 


Of course there are many breeds I have not mentioned and I may come back and make updates later, but this is what I've learned from my experiences so far.  (BTW the splash Breda you see my daughter holding below is a timid breed, beautiful but mine rather stay up in a tree instead of coming down to socialize.  My daughter was most pleased when she found Snowy in her coop and was able to pick her up.  Snowy tolerated it, but let me know she was not happy about the attention by squawking after about 15 seconds of being handled.)

My children love our birds and they are extra careful and loving with our chicks and adults birds a like.  Watching them enjoy our poultry hobby makes raising chickens even more of a memorable and cherished family activity.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Fun Farm Packet for Pre-K children.

We love using the farm to help teach basic skills to children.  Here are a few of my ABC and Number creations that are perfect for Preschool and Pre-K students.  My own children enjoy playing with the learning cards, which are perfect for learning stations and Math Centers.  They also love putting together the crafts and working on the work/color pages.  My 3 year old now knows all her letters on site, capital and lower case and is distinguishing vowel sounds.

Here is link to The New Farm Unit
Here are the Station Centers

 The Download is available here:  The New Farm Unit

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Our New Young Basque Hens

We are growing out a new Basque flock that we are excited about. 
This is Tart.  She is already very curious and friendly.

This is Cherry Pie.  She is a bit pushy and I bet a daughter of Gloria.  I hope she makes a great layer, like her momma.

We look forward to seeing what kind of chicks they will produce in the Spring.  The flock will be 3 hens strong and have a new young rooster.  The whole flock will have bright yellow legs, something we are wanting to improve. 

The Basque standard states that yellow legs are the standard, not the grey legs that many of our current birds are sporting, including Doc, our mature rooster. Once we get the right leg color, we will work on other traits.

 I've really enjoyed our older flock, but they are about to go to a new home.  Some friends of ours have agreed to take the whole flock and let it free range on their 3 acres of beautiful, green and tree dotted land.  I bet the flock will be very happy there.  They will all move out in about a month. 

Our new flock should be laying in the Spring.  The new rooster is a pretty boy hatched from a Butter Cup and Popcorn which is a pair out of our young flock that we rehomed at 10 weeks old to a near by farm.  The two little hens we plan on keeping come from our hens and Doc.  We also plan on keeping Cotton, our first Basque Hen we hatched straight from Green Fire Farms.  So the flock will have a good, diverse gene pool.

This is Jed, the new Rooster.

Here he is trying to remove a thorn from his foot.  Poor guy.  Don't worry, he got it out.  You can see how yellow his feet are.

So far he is a nice mannered guy.  I think he will be mild mannered like Doc, but only time will tell.  He let me pick him up with no problems today.
This is Bree, she is already sold to a new home, but you can see her grey legs in comparison to Tart's below.  I was really tempted to keep her because her color is so nice.

Although not the standard, I really like Tart's speckled feathers.

This is Cotton, our oldest hen and beautiful in color.  Her feet appear really grey in this photo compared to the young pullets but she did have more yellow color when she was younger.  Some sources say that as a hen lays lots of eggs, the color will drain from her feet and beak.  The photo is also a bit washed out.  We would probably keep her anyway just because she is completely unrelated to our other birds.  We hope that as we breed her to the new Rooster, we will get offspring with her pretty color, and his pretty legs.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Preparing a Garden for Autumn in Texas

Herb Garden Today: Parsley, Sage, Oregano and Thyme
My spring garden is now at the very end of it's life.  Except for my herbs, which are growing strong and beautiful, the plants have died back and become unproductive.  I uprooted all my squash, cucumbers, and zucchini last month (July) due to the infestation of squash bugs and ants.  Those little pesky ants really wrecked havoc on my garden this year.  They destroyed my corn and ate away at the bases of my squash and even stood guard at my cucumbers, not letting me get to them without getting a few ant bites and stings (fire ants, yuck!)

My Summer Squash in May. I miss you! 
Then the heat hit and withered any remaining plants.  My tomatoes stopped producing and the fruit suddenly disappeared
when the squirrels discovered they could run across the field.    My eggplant got over-ripe and rotted on the vine (can you call that plant a vine?).  That was my fault for not paying attention to it and not having experience in growing egg plant.   My carrots were also left in the ground too long and even though they look great, they taste awful.  They were much better early in the season before they grew so big.  I miss my leafy greens, which all died in early June and I'm just glad I got some harvested before the heat and bugs took them. 

My squash plants in May
It may all sound sad, but I must remind myself that gardens grow by the season, and every season has an end. 

The tarp that is now over the tilled soil where my squash was.
I'm now clearing the ground, plowing it over, and preparing it for my fall garden.  After giving it a nice tilling, my husband helped me cover it up with a black tarp to heat the ground and hopefully kill off a few bugs and prevent a weed take-over.  I wish a black tarp would kill ants.....but no...I'll have to get at them with something else. 

Fall is a wonderful time in Texas to grow leafy veggies, spinach, kale, peppers, beans and a few other types of veggies, so I'm looking forward to being anew. 

The Back Bone Nursery here in Marble Falls Texas is where I buy my garden seeds and starters and this year they sent me a Fall list of things I can do now in August to prepare for an Autumn harvest.  Here are a few of their suggestions:

I hope these tips help you out a bit.  As you see.. I'm already using the black tarp mentioned above to control weeds.  I hope to uncover the ground here shortly and maybe I'll try planting pumpkin?  I hear it is hard to grow in Texas, but hey, I'm adventurous.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Good Luck on your own gardens and hang in there... the summer heat is almost over.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Breda and Silky

We moved our two pet Breda, Snowy and Rain Storm, to a private coop away from the other breeds.  Snowy is a Splash Breda and should begin laying very soon.  Rain Storm is our Blue Breda Rooster.  The new coop is very tall with high perches.  Perfect for their breed.

My husband is planning a large Cream Legbar hatch in the fall when the weather cools down.  I'm hoping to throw in some pure Breda eggs as well. 

Our only currently problem is that I put my little favorite hen: Silky, in with the Breda because she went broody in her other flock.  She is such a flighty bird that I thought she would do well with the Breda, who are also very lean and flighty.  She was immediately welcomed by both of them, no pecking order disputes at all, and now I don't want to remove her from her new friends.  Silky is a mix of the White Leghorn and Silky Breeds.  She is small and lays lots of little white eggs.  The problem will be that Snowy will also lay little white eggs.  How will I be able to tell which eggs to hatch?  I may end up with Silky Leghorn Breda.  ????  Not really what I was hoping for.
Look at Snowy's feet.  I love her feathers.  Breda roosters are comb-less.  It is one of their unique traits.  You should hear Rain Storm crow.  He sounds like a teenage boy trying to be a man, yet he will never out grow his high pitch.  At least his dad didn't.  His crow always made us grin in comparison to our other roosters. 

  I think Silky kind of looks like Snowy.  Kind-of. 

Posted by Anne- using my husband's account :)  oops.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Basque Hen Aprons

Our Basque Hens were looking a bit shabby while molting.  Our Rooster also was giving them grief and not letting their feathers grow back on their backs and wings.  So I ordered them some aprons and dressed them up!  Don't they look cute?   

The aprons are working very well.  The feathers are growing back and soon I hope my hens will be back to their beautiful selves.  The Basque are a favorite flock of ours.  They are definitely the friendliest chickens we own and I adore the gentle nature of the rooster with my little girls.  However, they are not big layers.  They lay every other day and sometimes won't lay for 3-4 days in a row.  They do lay large eggs, pinkish in color.  I call the color a pretty "coral" because that was the color indicated on my paint chart. 

Our flock of 6 hens gives us only 1-2 dozen eggs a week.  Ok for a small family that doesn't bake all that much, yet I have noticed that most people who raise chickens do.  Mind you though that it is the middle of summer, it is hot, and the birds are molting a bit.  They did laid a little better in the spring and their personalities make them wonderful pets.

Cotton taking a mud bath.  Her apron does not get in the way of her favorite activities.

Gloria in her new apron.  Gloria has a small body compared to our other hens, yet she is our best layer!  Our larger birds don't lay as much.  We are guessing that as a duel breed, some hens are more suited for "meat" then for laying.  Instead of getting one bird that is good at both traits, the breed has genes for both and it is a surprise what you get. 

Here is Princess.  She is a big bird, perfect for meat quality. She is young and should of started laying 2 weeks ago, but has not yet.  I blame the heat.  It will be interesting to see how well she lays, having such a large body type.  Compare her to Gloria above and you can see the body difference is striking.

Here is the whole flock, minus Princess.  They enjoy picking though the cut grass for the bugs that hide there. 

I had a request to update you all on Poppy-Seed and Princess:  They were accepted into the flock by the end of the 2nd week.  Poppy Seed seems to be up in ranks with the other birds now yet Princess is still on the tail end of the pecking order.  She still doesn't roost with the flock and still wanders off on her own, but the other hens have at least stopped pecking her every time she approaches the feeder.  Yesterday I even saw her budding up with Cotton and hunting bugs on the opposite side of the field of the others, so at least Cotton views her as part of their flock now.  Princess is young, but I think she will outgrow all these older hens soon, so they better start being nice.  I can see Princess taking the top hen spot when she finally realizes her size.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Poppy Seed and Princess

Poppy Seed

Our older hen Poppy Seed and our young hen, Princess, paired off and have become good buddies in our Basque flock.  The other hens are still very mean to Poppy Seed.  They also try to peck on Princess but she is too quick to catch for them and runs circles around them. 

  Today I went out at mid-day and it was very hot.  I noticed the Basque hens had taken up a resting spot right next to the water in the shade.  Poppy Seed and Princess were hiding under some shade boards on the other side of the coop, but seemed to be panting heavily and miserable.  So I took the water bucket and tried to give it to them.  The other Basque hens did not like this and tried to crowd me, but I shooed them away time and time again.  After they had many failed attempts at getting their bucket back, they gave up and left me and Poppy Seed and Princess alone.  When the two birds noticed the other hens leave, they immediately helped themselves to the water.  Then they dared to walk towards the feeder.  Wow, you would think they tried to steal precious gems from the other hens or something!  The other hens rushed in and started to peck the outcasts and soon had beaks full of feathers.  I thought Poppy Seed and Princess would run off for sure, but no, they ran in a circle, getting pecked, and then straight towards me.  Poppy Seed stopped right under my legs, and Princess, she stopped in front of me, looked up and paused for maybe 3 seconds to give me fair warning, and then jumped right into my arms, and up onto my shoulders. 

Well, what could I do?  I walked both hens out of the field and let them stay in the play-yard.  They got fresh, cold water and a shady flower bed all to themselves, which they immediately dug into and made a bed for themselves to lie in. 

Yes, that is nice for them for this afternoon, but they cannot always stay in my backyard.  I prefer a play area for my kids that is chicken-poop free.  So how can I get the Basque flock to adopt the two cast-aways?  I know the pecking order has to be established, but how long should that take and when does the pecking show-down stop?

I hope I will be able to give you better updates later on these two.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Meet Ice

Now to introduce our final Cream Legbar Rooster:  Ice.  Ice came to us with a hen named Robin- who had just hatched some chicks.  We learned from her that momma hens can be very protective- just like papa roosters!  They were both mature birds and we bought them a special "house" coop upon their arrival in which they stayed for a few months until the chicks were old enough to introduce the rest of the Legbar flock. 

We now have 3 Legbar flocks, each lead by one of our breeding roosters:  Ice, Liam and Blaze.

Ice posing for me today- 5-30-2013
Ice crowing at me- telling me not to come to close.  He is the master of this side of the barnyard!

A nice portrait of Ice

Blue Breda

One of my favorite breeds of chicken is the Blue Breda.  Breda comes in 3 colors: Blue, Black, and Splash.  Our first Breda were acquired by a random egg sample we got at an auction from Greenfire Farms.  Two hatched: both Blue.  We raised them up and then hatched their eggs and now have blue, black and splash.  These birds lay a medium white egg and look very fancy.  They are fast and can easily keep distance between themselves and my children, who like to catch chickens for fun sometimes.  The prefer the highest roost and would love a tree or two to fly into.  We raised our young Breda with Legbars and other breeds and I've noticed the Breda seek their own out and enjoy leaving the other birds behind.  So can I say they act kind of snobby?  Well, maybe... yet they are very beautiful and mild in manner so they are welcome and a fun addition. 

Some fun facts about Breda:  The rooster does not have a comb.  Just waddles.  He still crows, but ours have been more mild mannered then other breeds of roosters.  His crow is also high pitched and more shrill then other breeds.  They seem to frighten easily, so don't brake their trust if you want them to be tame. 

The cutest chicks!  Don't you just want some!

Young birds.  The pullet is in the front and the young cockerel is in the back.  We couldn't tell their gender when they were this young, but we found out later on.
A Young Cockeral
Can you tell if this is a hen or a cockerel?  We know, but how about you?  This is our black Breda.

Here is our current 3-some.  We have a blue, black and splash Breda.

Our splash Breda Hen.  Hard to catch and not tame at all- but sure pretty.