Monday, May 31, 2010

Chick Announcement!

June 18 is going to be a big day for us - that's the day that the baby chicks are expected to hatch!!!  Yes, we are going to have chicks! 

We have had so many broody hens.  Most of them get over it after a month, but dear Bella has been broody for over 2 months now.  Poor girl.  And Zoner came back into season - she was broody a month, took a month off, now is broody again.  So, we gave in.

We kept 1 day of eggs from 28 May- that's 10 eggs.  We have 13 hens, so that means only 1 hen other than Bella & Zoner didn't give us an egg.  Bella & Zoner, being broody, don't lay anymore.  The other hen that didn't lay that day was Freckles.  Freckles is the original momma hen.  Zoner & Bella, sisters, are daughters of Freckles, so we still have some Freckles genes in our flock.  Freckles is older and doesn't give us an egg a day like the younger pullets.  We may get an egg every few days from Freckles.  So, that should give us a good mix of genes in the new chicks.  It will be interesting to see what they look like.

Here's a pic of the flock taken back on 09 May.  This was back when we had 2 guinea hens.  Zoner is the white bird on the left with the puffy face, Freckles is the white bird beside her.

My fav roo, Leggy.  I hope we get some leghorn chicks.

The most friendly hen is Lucy.  She is my fav hen, she is so sweet.

Big Red, one of the roosters.

We divided up the 10 eggs, put 5 under Zoner and 5 under Bella.  They both are so happy, so proud.  Bella is a little mean, she pecks us when we check her eggs, and her pecks have started breaking the skin.  Zoner is very gentle, but sometimes I find Zoner running around the chicken pen like a crazy hen, and her eggs are left unattended in the nest in the coop.  I don't know how long she leaves the eggs, but I touch them and they are not warm, but room temperature.  Can eggs handle that?  Zoner eventually returns to the coop and sits on her eggs again.  Zoner's a little spacey like that, she always has been.

Here we are in the baby room.  No roosters allowed near the nest boxes.  The roosters look at the hens while they sit, but they don't come close.  Here's Zoner on the left, Bella on the right, both sitting on their eggs.

I can't wait for the babies - these will be the first chicks from my hens.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Missing Guinea Hen

First of all, I just wanted to mention that I've been away from home for the past few weeks, so I haven't been posting, and the Razzberry Corner blog has been neglected.  But now I am back home, back to the farm life, and back to the blog!

Guinea update - the wild male guinea fowl has now been hanging around the chickens for the past 6 days.  He's always on the roof of the chicken coop, and flies down to be with the chickens often.  The roosters are becoming accustomed to him, and don't attack him as much as they first did.  The 2 guinea hens have been watching him, and are friendly and come up to him when he enters the chicken pen. The male guinea fowl comes into the coop every night and roosts/sleeps right beside the roosters and hens.  They will all be friends again soon.

The male guinea is MUCH prettier than the female guineas.  I think it's because he eats bugs and grasses/seeds and whatever guineas are supposed to eat, instead of being cooped up and eating chicken food.  Here's a picture of the boy guinea that I took today:

And here's one of my female guinea hens taken today:

Because he just looks so good and healthy, we decided the females had to be let free.  They need more nutrition than they are getting, it seems to me.  They are guineas, not chickens.  They were put back out of the chicken pen Saturday, and the boy guinea was VERY excited.  One of the female guineas immediately started hanging with her new guinea man, and started walking around following him.  The other guinea hen wanted only to return to the chicken pen.  The lead rooster, Muffin, was in the chicken pen calling her, and she was quite upset that she was separated from her chicken family.  For some reason the guinea girls do not fly, so she just ran around on the ground outside the pen trying to get back inside again.  The other guinea hen and her guinea man took off walking around the yard, eating bugs and grass and doing what guineas do.

Eventually the one guinea hen was allowed to return to the chicken pen, since that was all she wanted.  The guinea couple had disappeared around the yard, the hen following the male, he was showing her what to eat and where to go.

Fast forward a few hours. I went and checked on the chickens, and the male guinea fowl was back hanging outside the chicken pen.  The one female was still inside the pen with the chickens.  But the other female, the one that was let free, was nowhere to be seen.  Only the male guinea knows what happened to her.  We searched for her, but couldn't find her or any feathers or signs of an attack.  We have no idea where she went.  The male returned to the coop last night and roosted with everyone else.  No sign of the missing guinea hen.

This morning, the male has been hanging around the chicken pen, like nothing happened to the one guinea hen we put in his trust.  So now we are down one guinea hen. 

Maybe she will return in three months like the male did.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Return of the Guinea Fowl Part II

This morning our missing guinea fowl flew back into our guinea/chicken pen by himself.  He's been on his own for the past 3 months, but today he finally returned home into his old pen. 

We never put a roof on the enclosed chicken area, so the guineas can come and go as they please, but the fence is too high for the chickens to fly over.  Only the one guinea fowl discovered he could fly and left the flock.  The other 2 guineas are females, and they believe they are chickens and have no desire to fly away from their chicken family.

When the guinea fowl returned into the pen he was immediately attacked by the roosters.  We believe the guinea is a male. He entered the pen all puffed up, all proud to be home.  The roosters took him to be a threat; guess they didn't remember him from 3 months ago.  The guinea then flew up to the top of the garage and looked down at the roosters below.  The roosters tried to fly up and attack the guinea, but they just could not fly that high.

My husband put the 2 guinea hens out of the chicken pen so they could be with their brother.  The boy guinea was so excited to be with his ladies again.  The guinea hens only wanted to return to their pen with the chickens.  We originally wanted the guineas to be outside the chicken pen, free to wander the yard, so we figured this would be a good time to let them loose. 

Eventually the guinea girls were returned to the chicken pen, they just were not happy being free.  The "new" guinea is watching from above for now.  Eventually we hope he will integrate back into the flock.

I'll keep you posted on his integration!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Return of the Guinea Fowl

The missing guinea fowl was sighted! 

Some quick background ~ Last February one of our guineas flew away, never to return again.  That left us with only 2 guinea hens.  We believed the one that flew away was a male, but really don't know for sure.   He took off flying through the trees, my husband went after him, but he disappeared.  We both searched in the car for him, found him a ways down the road, but he flew away.  We tried to "herd" him towards the house/chicken/guinea area, but he flew in the wrong direction.

Then we had some major snowstorms, where it snowed several feet. We keep the chickens & remaining guineas in the coop with heat lamps.  They all were only 4 months old at that time.

We figured the poor runaway guinea died or made his way to a neighboring farm which has guineas.  The neighboring farm is a distance away (several miles), so we didn't really think he made it there, that was just hopeful thinking.

But last week my husband spotted the guinea near our chicken/guinea area!  Yeah!  The prodigal guinea has returned!  We haven't captured him, but know he's around. 

Maybe this is why our guineas have stopped laying??  Our guinea girls have been very uptight lately...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Guinea Hens Stop Laying Eggs

We have 2 Guinea hens here at Razzberry Corner.  They are inseparable soul mates.  They are the best of friends.  Where one goes, the other is sure to follow. 

They think they are chickens, as they were raised with chicks when they were little keets.  They are now the only 2 guineas in a flock of chickens.  They don't really look like chickens.  First of all, they have a horn on their head.  And a big, fat beak. And strange-looking wattles.  And long, skinny necks. 

They are much more vocal than the chickens.  They can make an array of sounds for different purposes.  They make an awful screaming noise when they are scared, which always works up the roosters and terrifies all the hens.  They are the early warning detection for the farm, warning everyone of anything.  Most of the times their warning calls are just false alerts, but they are always watching.

They sing when they are happy ~ when they are soon to receive treats, or when they are soon to go to sleep.  Their happy songs are beautiful.     

The guinea girls appear to be content.  They started laying eggs on March 24 and March 25, respectively.  They were 5 approximately months old when they started laying.  They both started laying regularly, and worked up to 5 eggs from each guinea each week. 

Then suddenly, the eggs stopped.
April 19 was the last day each of them layed an egg.  Tomorrow it will be 3 weeks since they layed.
What happened?    


They are not laying anymore.  I've looked everywhere, the eggs are not hidden anywhere, there are just no eggs.  At first this didn't concern me, but since it's been so long, I'm wondering what's going on. 

The guinea girls don't appear to be broody.  They are not sitting on any kind of nest at all.  They are eating fine.  They are healthy.  They do not appear to be stressed or nervous at all. 

The only thing I noticed is that the weather here got very hot, temps in the 90's every day, back when the guineas were laying regularly.  Then on April 20th it suddenly got colder.  Now the weather has gotten warmer again, but still, no eggs.  Maybe they liked it warm, and are now adjusting to the sudden cooler temps?

And we used to feed the guineas and chickens cooked pasta (spaghetti, noodles, etc) as a treat back in the winter, but since have stopped the pasta in April, as we didn't want them to get fat.  They love pasta, but now they get more grass/greens as everything is growing.  Maybe they miss the pasta.  They also have a never-ending supply of mixed chicken and guinea food, treats of cracked corn, and sometimes even miscellaneous table scraps.  

Today I cooked up some noodles for the birds. Below is a picture of them eating the pasta. 

The Farming Friends website provided the below list of why guinea hens would stop laying:

  1. The age of the guinea fowl hen – as they get older the amount of eggs may reduce.
  2. The health of the guinea fowl hen – illness or parasites can hinder laying.  
  3. The time of year – the length of daylight can affect egg production.
  4. Changes in the type of food given – this may cause problems as the nutritional content of the food may vary.
  5. The introduction of new birds to the flock – this may cause undue stress for the guinea fowl hens as they re-establish a pecking order.
  6. Significant changes in routine – can cause stress for the birds.
  7. Housing conditions – unclean, overcrowded, dark and cold conditions can cause stress and or illness which may affect egg production.
  8. Handling and movement of the birds – transporting guinea fowl hens, overhandling, incorrect handling and sudden handling may hinder laying if this causes stress for the birds.
  9. Vermin and predators – the presence of rats, mice, cats, dogs and foxes may frighten the birds or cause undue stress.
  10. Become broody – the guinea fowl hen stops laying because she wants to sit on a nest of eggs and hatch them .

The only thing I can think of is #4, because we stopped feeding them pasta, and #7, because the weather got colder.  Nothing else has changed, we have not added any new birds to the flock, I have not seen any foxes or anything else around the flock, the coop arrangement has not changed at all.  I truly do not think the birds are sick or have parasites. 
Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Woodchuck's Near-Miss

Previously I posted how a woodchuck (aka, groundhog) had been killed in our backyard right near his home.  I thought it must have been done a fox, then I thought maybe it was an owl.  Yesterday another woodchuck came to visit, and he had a bare spot on his back where the hair had been pulled out.  Maybe whatever killed the other woodchuck hurt this one?

Isn't he just so cute?  So fat! And he gets fat from eating clover and grass!  It's always amazed me how vegetarians like the woodchuck can get fat!  And this little man just recently came out of his underground home after hibernating all winter.  He was even fatter last autumn when the hibernation was ready to begin.

He has a flower petal in his hair.  Many trees are flowering now, and little white petals are everywhere.

Yum, clover!  Notice how the left side isn't as fluffy as the rest of him in the above picture.

He was running in the above pic, so it was a little fuzzy.  You can clearly see the bald spot.

At least this woodchuck survived whatever is out there attacking them.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Good Morning!

Come on, it's time to get up and go outside!
I'm waiting!
I'm hungry!

Jerry waits patiently for his breakfast every morning...

He still has a look of desperation in his eyes.  He always wraps his tail around his feet to keep them warm. 
He's missed quite a few meals as a feral cat, but now that he comes to our front door, he gets his breakfast, and he knows it.

Jerry's looking for me at the front window, where I normally stand and watch him.  But I moved to the front door when I took this picture.

Good morning, Jerry!