Poultry Update

DSC_0021Yesterday I drove out to the Quennel Lake Livestock Conservatory and picked up these two beautiful ladies. They are a pair of Welsumer (or Welsummer) hens.

Since lately I’ve been selling a lot of eggs to my neighbors, I needed to increase the production around here. Although these girls are in their third year, they are reported to still be laying well and were only $5 each. They are in lovely shape and will be laying eggs the color of wet terracotta. I was also told that they may go broody, so in that case I’ll probably find some fertilized eggs to put under them and see how they do.

DSC_0013Poor white chicken is going through a hard molt, the first hard molt I’ve ever seen here. She looks pathetic and her egg production has slacked a bit. Since she was at the bottom of the pecking order, she was delighted to have the two Welsumer girls show up so she could give them a few good pecks and move up the ranks. Other than that there seems to be no real squabbling amongst the hens. The new girls are sticking together and respectfully keeping their distance for now. The duck and the pheasant seem particularly interested in them.

DSC_0015The pheasant cock is still doing very well. He is a very calm and happy bird and makes delightfully musical little chirping noises. I have read that he will probably go through a molt this summer and that’s when his adult plumage will really come in. I’ve also read that it’s common for their tail feathers to get wet and freeze in the winter and get stepped on by other birds, causing them to break. I’m hoping that since he is now being kept in a covered run, that this will prevent further breakage. The tails are very impressive so it would be a shame for him to break it again. I’ve also hopefully lined up a lady pheasant for him this summer, from the same breeder that he originates from. Very exciting!

My Ducks

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The lilac drake

Muscovy ducks were the first livestock of choice here on my little homestead, and unfortunately met to an untimely end.

Since then, I’ve had many more Muscovies and am now down to just two, a nice little brown duck and a mottled lilac drake, both with white heads. I hope to get a second hen at some point soon to form a trio. Muscovies are great for urban or city coops because they are basically silent, brood their own ducklings, are prolific, do not require a pool and you can keep a male, unlike with most chicken bylaws.

I like the solid brown, bronze or black coloration in these ducks. I had a beautiful solid brown duck last fall who flew away permanently after my other duck went crazy and chased her out of the yard. She also killed my solid black drake by biting his neck until he bled to death. She foiled my plans good. Needless to say I was pretty pissed at her, and she ended up being culled. She was the mother of these two but I’m pretty sure they had different fathers. They seem like much nicer ducks than their mom, thankfully.

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The brown duck

Amazing Turmeric

I sure wish I had known more about healing herbs and plants when I was growing up, it sure would have saved me a lot of money, time and hassle. After trying more and more natural cures, I don’t understand how certain commercial products can be so popular. So many of them just don’t work. There are things that do work though, and they work very well. They are also cheap and may already be lurking in your spice cabinet.

DSC_0074I recently learned about turmeric while I was researching ways to heal my broken foot faster. Turmeric has many healing properties, but my current favorite uses are for acne and for wounds. Not just human wounds, but poultry and livestock wounds as well.

I already had a little turmeric in the pantry for use in making curries. Recently at the Superstore I saw them selling it in kilo bags. Really? Who needs that much turmeric? Well, if they’re selling it someone must be buying it. It was cheap. I had been reading about its many uses. I bought a package and brought it home.

It turns out I needed it almost right away. I have three young Muscovy ducks that are in the process of growing up to become new breeders. I had them separated from the main coop but decided to try to integrate them since they were getting pretty big. It turns out the chickens decided that it would be fun (and tasty) to peck out the pinfeathers coming in on their tails. After just one day all three ducks had big, bloody holes in their tails and it was obvious they needed to be separated again. The wounds looked very nasty and I didn’t want them to continue to pick at each other after they were separated, so I made a quick, runny paste with olive pomace oil and turmeric and slopped it all over their tails. I had read it worked well for open wounds. The ducklings all calmed down immediately like they felt relief from the pain. The next day, the wounds looked amazing. They were not red or angry and they looked like they had dried out and closed up almost completely. The color seemed to discourage any more picking. Turmeric and oil is now my go-to remedy for any poultry wounds. It’s amazing.

My second favorite use is for acne. I suffered a lot from acne as a kid and eventually had to go on Accutane to calm it down. I still get a few zits on my face now and then, usually right before my period. Generally they are of the blackhead/whitehead, raging red and angry type that I can’t leave alone because they look gross and hurt. Despite better judgement I usually try to squeeze these things to relieve the pain and of course this usually makes them worse. They weep and will sometimes resist healing, forming a new zit in the same spot. Until now I used my favorite (pre-turmeric) remedy, Polysporin; which works well for a lot of stuff but somehow not for zits. I think by keeping the area moist it’s counterproductive.

Well, the cure my friends is turmeric. Make a paste of water and turmeric and put it right on your zit. You will feel a warming sensation and any pain will instantly recede. If you have popped a zit and it is weeping, dot some dry turmeric on the spot. It will stop the weeping and calm down the redness and pain. You will be left with a small, dried-out spot that will heal very quickly. The only side effect is your fingertips and sink/washcloth may stain yellow. It will stain your face a little as well, but I’ve found this not to be noticeable enough to care about. Seriously, if you have acne problems, you need to try turmeric. It will change your life.

Trials of a Farmer with a Broken Foot

It’s been four days since I broke my foot. In that time period I have hopped, rolled, crawled, balanced, hoisted, scooted and cried from frustration. Let me tell you, a broken foot is not just an major inconvenience, it is a total lifestyle change.

Do crutches look easy to use? They are for the first ten minutes. I learned fast that you are not supposed to bear weight under your armpits and trying to will hurt you and possibly cause nerve damage. This means all of the strength needs to come from your hands, arms, shoulders and chest. Areas of my body that could probably have used a little work. Well they’re getting it.

On day two of my break, the rest of my body hurt way worse than the busted foot, which felt fine other than being very swollen and bruised, even though I was not on painkillers. My good leg was a tight ball of stress, my abs were so wrecked it hurt to cough and I was totally exhausted. Many times I found myself hungry or thirsty but did not have the energy to crutch myself the thirty feet to the kitchen. Not to mention I couldn’t carry anything back to my desk where I was set up anyway. Any eating or drinking had to be done standing at the kitchen counter.

All of this is nothing considering I have a small farm to take care of by myself. Usually my daily chores take about an hour, and consist mainly of feeding and watering the rabbits and poultry and collecting eggs. Outdoor rabbit tractors also need to be moved to fresh grass daily. The first day I managed to get the chores done to my satisfaction, even though the tractors had to stay put. It took me almost two hours and felt like I had just run a marathon. The only way to carry things was to abandon crutches and hop on one foot. This of course also entails hopping back to wherever you left your crutches, trying not to trip and fall on your broken foot. Sigh. Much spillage and panting ensued.

My life before the broken foot was very full, I was busy all day long running back and forth. Did I mention I also have a small business to run in addition to the farm? Well I do. Luckily I can still sit at a desk and stand at a workbench for short periods so I can complete these tasks with some competence.

I am very lucky to have help. This past weekend my lovely boyfriend came over and did absolutely everything for me. He cleaned my entire house, did all my chores, took me out to eat when I was hungry and fetched me whatever I required. He set me up with jugs of water in each room and even left me his iPad so I could play my silly games in bed. But alas, dear boyfriend had to go back Sunday night for a week of working on the Mainland.

Just the thought of getting down the back steps today and tackling the barn chores now tires me out. They’ll have to get done one way or another but I’m not looking forward to it. Yesterday I bought an expensive walking cast and the doctor at the clinic seemed to think I could walk on it right away. “You can do away with those!” he said pointing to my crutches. I was relieved, but also skeptical. Turns out I just can’t put my full weight on it so soon and I don’t want to either. The cast still helps a lot though with keeping the foot rigid and keeping the swelling down.

The doctor at Emergency didn’t really give me any helpful info at all. He said I should get a walking cast when the swelling went down and gave me a Dilaudid. Then he told me I could go home and walked away even though I was sitting in a locked wheelchair in the middle of an empty waiting room. I had to twist around, depress the lock on the handle of the chair and concurrently inch myself backwards back to reception with my good foot where the nurse said “Wow you’re coordinated! Those chairs aren’t designed for patients to move themselves.” I told her I figured that out already. She looked at my bare foot and smiled. “Not broken after all?” I told her yes, it was broken but the doctor sent me home. She looked confused and said “He didn’t even give you a splint, nothing at all?” I said no and asked if she would please call me a cab.

Considering I pay about $85 a month for healthcare and haven’t been to the doctor in maybe 5 years, I was pretty underwhelmed by the service at the hospital. They didn’t even have a pair of crutches to loan me so I could get home.

Is it weird that I’ve been training my wolf mix to pick up household objects and hand them to me for the last few months? Was I anticipating this accident somehow? Too bad he can’t take out the garbage.

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The Easiest and Best Coturnix Quail Brooder

Many designs for chick brooders exist out there, but most of them are high-maintenance, hard to clean, or labor intensive to construct.

I’d like to share with you the best design I’ve come up with for brooding very small quail chicks (or chicken chicks or ducklings). The parts are cheap and easy to put together and clean, the water stays crystal-clear without drowning incidents or changing five times a day. The chicks stay healthy and there is a minimum of care involved.

DSC_0003You start with a standard Rubbermaid bin, the one foot tall size works best. Remove the lid and store it. This gives you a nice solid-walled brooder that will protect the tiny chicks from drafts which can chill them. If you decide at some point that raising chicks is really not for you, you still have a usable bin.

Line the bottom of the bin with shop towels (as seen here) or paper towels. Anything slicker, even newspapers, will cause traction problems and you could end up with spraddle-legged chicks who will not survive. Place a shallow saucer of food and also sprinkle some food around on the floor of the brooder so the babies can easily learn to peck at the pieces.

DSC_0019Nutrition is very important. Quail grow incredibly fast and will run into problems if fed incorrectly. I use a 26% gamebird crumble throughout their lives and they do very well on it. You don’t need to pulverize the crumbles, the chicks will find pieces small enough to eat.

DSC_0002Now you need to create a mesh top for your brooder to provide ventilation, keep quails in and prying fingers and paws out. I created this top easily using a piece of 1″ by 1/2″ galvanized wire mesh, normally used for rabbit cage flooring.

Cut a piece that is 26 inches long by 20 inches wide. Remove a 2″ square from each corner so you can bend the sides to form an overhanging lip. Use a piece of 2 x 4 lumber as a guide and a hammer to bend your sides up at the seam and fasten the corners together with small hog rings or j clips.

DSC_0006DSC_0005Next, cut out two 5″ by 1″ slots in the center of each short side to accommodate the handles. If you bent your sides and corners neatly, everything should fit perfectly.

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Brooder with drinker flap open

Next you want to cut out a square in one corner to accommodate your drinker or waterer. You will need to customize the size of the opening to fit whatever container you use. Then cut a square that is 1″ larger on three sides to fit over the opening like a flap. Connect at the hinge with more hog rings.

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Brooder with drinker flap closed

Now you need to construct your waterer. Mine is made from a small plastic honey specimen bucket with a lid, but you can use any small plastic container with a lid such as a clean, large yogurt container. As long as you can fit your hand inside to install the nipples it should work. If it has a handle, even better. If not, you may have to add one with a piece of wire or cord.

I find that two nipples are sufficient for the amount of quail that can fit in this small brooder. Make sure you buy high quality nipples as the cheap ones may leak and/or fail. These ones cost me over $8 each, but they’re worth it. Install your nipples carefully and test to make sure they are working and not leaking. To install, just drill a hole slightly smaller than the nipple and push it in tightly. Always retest your nipples when refilling to make sure they are still functional.

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Chick drinker with nipples installed

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Drinker supported by mesh lid

Your drinker should fit snugly over the mesh and hang inside the brooder. When theĀ  chicks are very small you will need to adjust the height, beginning with having the nipples only an inch or so above the floor. To do this you will place the drinker inside the brooder and hang it from the mesh at the suitable height with S hooks.

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Drinker height adjusted for newborn chicks

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With safety flap closed

Now you just need to add a heat lamp overhead at the correct height and fill up your waterer. You can see my heat lamp has a metal safety grille which needs to be removed as the chicks need the bulb itself quite close to the mesh top for the first week or so.

The chicks learn very quickly where the water is and it won’t need to be refilled for at least a few days and up to a week. The water will stay sparkling clean with almost zero maintenance. An added benefit is it provides a small shaded area for overheated chicks.

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Ready for new chicks!

This size brooder will hold approximately 60 quail chicks (at an absolute maximum) for the first couple of weeks. The chicks will tell you if they are too hot or too cold so pay attention to the noise they make and their activity. Make sure the heat lamp is not placed directly above the water as chicks don’t like water that is too warm. Also keep it away from the sides of the bin as they may melt.

As the chicks grow and poop, add layers of woodchips (not cedar) or wood stove pellets to the floor and adjust the drinker height accordingly. I don’t clean out my brooder until the chicks are taken out, I just add more bedding as needed.

If you have any more questions about brooding Coturnix Quail chicks, ask me in the comment section below or check out my Coturnix Quail Chick Care Sheet. Happy brooding!

Muscovy Duckling Update

DSC_0006The four ducklings that were born here are almost a month old. They sure look different! They’re living with one of the chocolate ducklings I bought at the Poultry Swap earlier this month. She was being aggressively picked on by the older ducks (and the other chocolate duckling) and much prefers being housed with the younger ones.

They have a nice large corner of the barn to themselves and they get to go outside to bathe and forage every day while I complete my outside chores. If I stand still in one place too long, I’ll soon feel little duck bills tasting my shoes.

Poultry Swap Day

Well, the rabbits were packed up and trucked off to the swap this morning. As I predicted, there were plenty of admirers but no buyers. I did give out my number to a few people though, which will hopefully translate to some sales later on.

There were lots of things on offer, it was probably the best-attended swap I’ve been to so far, even though it was rainy. I managed to pick up a few excellent new additions to the homestead and only spent a grand total of $56.

My first purchase was something I’ve been wanting for a long time… Homing pigeons. Ok, I did want fantail pigeons, but I needed birds that could occupy the upper quadrant of the chicken pen and fantails are not great fliers. Plus, with homing pigeons you can drive them miles away and let them go and they find their way home. You can’t have that kind of fun with a fantail!

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My five new homers

The second purchase was a pair of chocolate Muscovy ducklings. I know, the last thing I need is more ducklings but I really want the chocolate color, so hopefully they will stay on as breeders. The other, older ducklings will probably all be going to freezer camp at the 12 week mark, around the beginning of August.

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Third purchase was another long-time desire of mine… Barred Rock chickens! Barred Rocks were the breed I wanted first when I moved here, but somehow it never worked out. Today I purchased a young pullet and cockerel pair from a lovely little girl who told me they have been kissed goodnight every day since they were born. They certainly are very friendly birds. I’m going to try making my version of a “No-Crow” collar for the rooster to see if it actually works. It’s just a little fabric collar that goes around the neck and prevents the rooster from getting a full big breath of air to let out a big crow. I’m skeptical but it sure would be awesome to hatch out my own chicken chicks!

My final purchase for $6 was a dozen pastel green Ameraucana hatching eggs. They’ll be going into the incubator with the latest clutch of quail eggs in the next few days. I’m very excited to see what develops!

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