Monday, June 24, 2013

Look what came in the mail....

Each year we order more newly hatched chicks so that we always have young hens to lay eggs for market. Our replacement hens are to keep up egg production, not to really "replace" the older gals. We let the older ones just retire on the farm.  As hens age they lay fewer & fewer eggs.  The eggs from the older hens are also more likely to have flawed shells or otherwise end up as culls.  In order to keep all of our customers happy, we need to continually add new layers & this was the day the latest newly hatched pullets arrived.

The post office calls early in the morning to let me know that I can come on to town to retrieve them.  I always get there before the post office actually opens for business but if I knock on the door someone peeks out & hands me my birds.  I can usually hear them even before the postman opens the door.  This time there were supposed to be 150 little ones cheep-cheep-cheeping away in the two large boxes.  I loaded them up & they serenaded me all the way home.
There are dividers inside the big boxes so that there are four sections inside.  The chicks are packed in tightly enough that they stay warm & also don't get banged around during handling.  They left Iowa on a plane yesterday but when newly hatched are good for about 48 hours without any food or water.  I love to peek through the quarter-sized air holes.
Once I got home I had to move them all the way out to the stable & spend a good bit of time getting everyone safely set up.  This time Moo-fasa, our Dexter bull calf, was very interested in seeing what I had in the wagon.
I managed to dodge a few more cows, a sheep & two of the Livestock Guardian Dogs as I made my way to the stall in the stable where we will raise out the little hens.  I left the boxes in the stall while I finished my preparations.  I had to fill waterers & feeders.  We use empty water troughs to brood them in so each had to be lined with paper towels.  I will add different bedding later but I want to start them on the paper towels so that they can find their food easily & so that I can just pull up the towels each day & clean up.  I not only filled the waterers but I also filled a small pan with water so that I could dip the beak of each bird in it for her first drink.

I finally pulled my milking stool up between the shipping crate & one of the empty watering troughs so that I could begin to unpack the little gals.  This time I had ordered a random assortment of brown egg layers so I was interested in seeing what I might find.  From the looks of it, I have a nice mix of birds.
I was particularly tickled to find a fair number of Turkens in the mix. They are funny looking chickens who are also referred to as Naked Necks.  They are good layers & I like to see them among the other hens but my sweet husband thinks they just look weird.  I know he will laugh at how many we ended up with.  Here is a birds-eye view of one.
I spent a good bit of time dipping beaks, gently placing the birds in their new home & then watching to be sure that they found their water & feed.  I counted as I unloaded.  Although I ordered 150 birds, the company that I work with is good about throwing in a few extras just in case.  I ended up with 156 busy birds.
Once everyone was loaded in I went back into the house for some lunch.  The whole process had taken a good two hours.  When I checked back an hour later everyone was looking pretty good.  I did adjust the height of one of the heat lamps as it was too low.  The birds showed me that they were too warm by avoiding standing directly under the lamp.  You can see that on the left hand side of the above picture - the birds have separated into two groups, leaving the center of the trough right under the lamp empty.  Once I adjusted the lamp they began to stroll around the entire trough.

I did have to laugh when I was setting things up.  I had walked outside the stable to wash out the waterers.  The wagon that I used to haul the bird boxes back to the stable was about fifteen feet from the far door. As I walked in I caught Ralphie, one of our ornerier goats, with his feet up in the wagon.  He was pushing it along & did not stop until he got to the far door.  I managed to get a quick picture.  I think the lambs saw the camera & wanted me to know that they had nothing to do with this stunt.

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