Friday, October 13, 2017

Bramon Acres Poultry Pedigree

We have decided that we want to keep record of our poultry breeding, not only for ourselves, but also so that our customers know the history of the chick(s) they buy.  When breeding chickens, it's important to know their color history since the genetics can get complicated at times.  Below is a sample of a blank pedigree form, so that you can get ideas to create your own!

Friday, October 6, 2017

How We Do It: Chicks

Since so many of you have asked, here is a series on how I raise our little feather babies!

The whole process actually starts before I even incubate my hatching eggs!  When I'm ready to put the eggs in the incubator, they're sprayed with our "Egg Solution" which is 1 part antiseptic mouthwash (the original gold kind) and 2 parts water.  This sanitizes them without taking away their bloom.  Once they dry, if the eggs are visibly clean, then I go on to the next step.  However, if the eggs are visibly dirty, they're sprayed again and I take a baby wipe (or a soft towel) and GENTLY wipe away any feces/dirt.  If the eggs are scrubbed, there's a high risk of destroying the bloom, which is essential for a healthy chick.  (The bloom acts as a protective force field to keep out any bad bacteria.)  It's better to have a slightly dirty egg than one without a bloom.

Now, here is another point I have to make clear before we continue.. if you provide a clean nest box for your hens, you will not have dirty eggs.  But my hens like to sleep in their box, and we all know they poop while they sleep..  I promise if your nest box is lower than your roosting bars (our nesting boxes and roosts are at minimum 12" apart vertically), they will no longer sleep in their box (unless they are broody.. but that's a whole 'nother story).

After the eggs are clean, we label the top (big rounded side of the egg) with an initial for their breed (O for Orpington, W for Wyandotte, etc.) along with the number for what batch we are on.  So if we have a Backyard mix egg and it's our 4th batch of eggs to incubate, the top will read BY4, or (like in the picture below) you can use a symbol instead of a letter.. just as long as you know what the egg is.

Then we label the sides "X" and "O" so that we know how far to turn our eggs each rotation.  

Labeling this way also makes it possible for us to stagger our hatches and not get confused.  (Staggering is when you set eggs one week and then set more the following week, etc. instead of waiting for one batch to finish before starting another one.)

Our incubators are dry (humidity between 25% - 40%) and set to 99.5 degrees.  We have also found we have better hatch rates if our eggs are initially set vertically, so all of our incubators are filled with the bottom portion of egg cartons (the tops are cut off).  We set the eggs upright (big rounded side up) and at a slight angle.

We hand turn them three times a day.  I remember to do so by doing it first thing in the morning (around 6:30-7am), after my oldest gets off her school bus (around 4pm), and right before we go to bed (around 10-11pm).  I am really looking forward to the day when we get automatic turners so I can "set and forget".

Other than turning, I leave them alone until it's time to candle them, which I do at 7 days, 14 days, and 18 days to track their progress.  If I find one is not growing or has stopped progressing, it is immediately tossed.  On Bramon Acres, we don't chance exploding eggs..  It's better to accidentally toss out one good egg, than accidentally keep one bad egg and lose the whole batch.  Just trust me on this one.

On day 18, the eggs are moved to The Hatcher (which is an incubator we keep specifically at 99-101 degrees and 45% - 55% humidity for the last 3-5 days of the incubation process).  They are laid on their side and left alone (no more turning) so that the chicks can get into position to hatch.  Having a hatcher not only helps keep a stable humidity, but also makes it easier to clean just one incubator (the hatcher) instead of all of them.  On day 21, I typically candle again to see if there is movement in the egg.  If there is, I simply put it back and let the chick do it's thing.  Sometimes it can take up to 25 days, depending on how your temperature fluctuated during the incubation process.. and some chicks just decide they want to be fashionably late!  If there is NO movement after 5-10 minutes of candling, then I go ahead and start the assisting process (which will be an article for another time).

After the babies have hatched, I move them to The Nursery (a dry incubator at 98 degrees) where they can fluff out properly and rest.  It's hard work birthing yourself into the world!  If you notice a chick is sticky or is having a hard time fluffing, run warm water in your sink and take a small soft toothbrush with a drop of dishsoap on it, and give the baby a gentle bath.  I know this should be common sense, but keep their head above water.  Chicks can drown very easily.  I typically hold the chick the entire time and use one hand to wash/rinse it.  Very carefully, pat it dry with a soft towel, and put it back into the nursery to finish drying.  It's very important to not let the chick get chilled.  A cold chick = a sick chick.  Also, don't worry about them eating/drinking immediately.  Chicks can survive 3 days without food/water after they've hatched, if they've absorbed all their yolk.

Once they are fluffed, I move them to Observation (a temporary indoor brooder that has an optional heat lamp, a teddy bear, a quail waterer, a feeder, and a mirror for them to play with).

I go ahead and introduce the first chick to their water (which has a squirt of nutridrench) by dunking their beak into it twice.  This chick then typically teaches the other chicks (monkey see, monkey do..).  While chicks are in Observation, I make sure they learn to eat/drink correctly and are healthy, strong chicks.  I watch for spraddle leg, pasty butt, and other signs that they aren't ready to go outside.  I also take this time to hold them and love on them.  Healthy chicks usually only spend 3-4 days in Observation.

When they're ready to go to the Brooder (which is an outdoor pen within the chicken run lined with 1/2 inch hardware cloth and has a small shelter, a feeder, a waterer [with apple cider vinegar], and a couple of branches for roosting), I take them out on a warm, sunny day and show each one where the water and food is.  I feel like this Brooder is what makes our chicks so social.  They are able to observe the big world around them, while being in a safe environment.  This also allows the bigger chickens to see them and accept them as part of the flock, without risking injury to the little ones.  Once they are fully feathered and are big enough to fend for themselves, we let them interact with our bantams.  If they are standard size birds, they eventually graduate to the big chicken pen.  And that's the basics of how we raise our chicks!  If you have any questions or any suggestions for another post, please leave a comment below or email me!!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Our First Farm-Raised Chicks

I am proud to announce that our first farm bred to eggs to chicks have finally made their appearance. 

Bramon's Pride (RiRi)
Bramon's Joy

I bought their father (Tron) from a man at a Tractor Supply Swap in Broken Arrow, OK (and he happened to actually be from Wagoner, OK).  His parents were both stunning Lavender English Orpingtons.  I actually bought him as a pair, but sadly the Lavender hen he came with had to be put down due to an upper respiratory infection.  He is now the leader of our flock and is a gentle giant around my daughters and their friends.

Tron (shown regrowing his tail feathers after a molt)

I bought their mother (Bluebell) from a lady that lives way northeast of Coweta, OK.  She said that Bluebell came from a Blue English Orpington hen and either an Isabel Orpington rooster or a Silver Laced Orpington rooster (she wasn't sure which, but those were the only options).  Either way, she was stunning and I knew I had to have her.  She was a sweet hen, began laying one egg a day for 11 days, and then had a heart attack and died.  I was devastated, but unfortunately with chickens, sometimes these things just happen.

Bluebell always posed so beautifully for the camera

Thankfully, I had saved all 11 eggs and put them in the incubator.  Yesterday and today, the first two eggs hatched into these gorgeous Lavender English Orpington chicks.  We named the Bramon's Pride (RiRi for short) and Bramon's Joy.  RiRi hatched on October 2nd, and Joy hatched on October 3rd.. right on schedule!  Since they are Lavenders, I highly suspect that Bluebell's sire was the Isabel Orpington Rooster (you need two Lavender genes to produce a Lavender chick).

Bramon's Pride (left) and Bramon's Joy (right)

The next 7 eggs hatch date should be October 9th, and the 3 eggs after that should hatch on October 16th.  Fingers crossed that the other babies have healthy hatches and that they all turn out as pretty as the first two did!

** I also created a Poultry Pedigree for these babies (and future ones).  Stay tuned for my article with the download for the blank version!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Buff Orpingtons and Jumbo Pekins

I am very pleased and thoroughly excited to introduce you to our new members of the family: 3 Buff Orpington chicks (hatched 4/20) and 3 Jumbo Pekin ducklings (hatched 4/25)!

Three little Buff Orpington chicks

Three darling Jumbo Pekin ducklings

For their setup, we used a storage tub, the bottom of a dog crate, plastic plates, a paint tray, and cabinet liners (that we already had lying around the house).  We bought pine pellets for their bedding (not only does this absorb moisture like a champ, but it kept our living room smelling beautifully instead of like a farmhouse), and of course waterers and feeders.

We then set up an animal playpen around their area to keep the curious cat away from them, lined the playpen with blankets to keep their area from getting drafty, and then plugged in our small space heater to keep the babies warm. (check out The Chicken Chick's Chick Care which includes safe temperatures).

Now as cute and fluffy as they are, their personalities are as different as cats and dogs.  Literally.  The chicks are more like dogs while the ducklings are basically cats.  Chicks love to be held and just enjoy being with you.

Cuddle time with the chickies while watching Saturday morning cartoons.  The chick being held by my oldest (at the bottom of the page) is even taking a nap.

While ducklings... well, they don't want anything to do with you until they're positive that you don't want them (which never happens here hah).  Regardless, the tiny little things are precious and we love them to pieces, just like we love our cat.  We have held them just as much (if not more) than the chicks to try to get them used to us, but I am suspecting that they have already imprinted on each other which is going to make bonding with them more difficult.

This is our first step to starting the little animal department of our homestead.  I'm very excited about this adventure, and will keep you updated along the way!  I'm also thrilled that my children will have this special experience and hope they remember this part of their childhood fondly.