In the Coop

In the Coop... I have a SUPER exciting update...

I heard the eagle cry out... not a reassuring sound when you just let your hens out in their yard and the eagle is obviously within a few hundred yards.
First I ran into the house to get a look at the regular resting tree...
yep, there it is, not even facing the direction of the coop yard.
 Then I notice something....
Compare the BRANCHES the eagle is on... not the same! 
There were 2 of them - it's courting season
(Nooooooo, this is not the super exciting update!)

It's just one of those 'too cool' things! 
Of course a couple of crows chased them off a little later. 
Those branches are prime real estate.

Last Monday it was 6 degrees out  - I rushed out to check on my chickens (for frostbite), but the coop was at least 20 degrees warmer and they were all making contented noises.

I have 2 heat lamps and a dog bowl type electric water bowl (so it won't freeze). Unfortunately they don’t seem to know how to use it!
Last weekend one heatlamp blew it's tube (again)...the other one blew thru 3 tubes in a month, but it’s a better heat source.
It's quite a bad system with up to 3 heating devices at a time set up on one electric extension cord... Next year maybe I'll be insulating the coop with bales of straw on the outside. Or something. (Ideas anyone???) 

*Everyone I talk to seems to have the same kind of "do whatever works" system, it’s not just me (whew!)... but there must be a better system!
The feed store has a $47.+ tax 2-gallon plastic electric chicken waterer... Riiiiiiiight.

Good news is that the eggs are being fertilized – at least some of them! 
Jocelyn from Chicken Scratch took the time to examine my pictures and affirm my hopes. Then she told me the best way to check on egg fertilization is to candle them after a week in the incubator. (Who knows which hens will get fertilized, not all the eggs are showing the full bullseye mark).
Once fertilized, a hen can remain fertile an average of 2 weeks (sometimes longer). 

Not all are laying this winter- the breed is not marked an “excellent” layer, but “good”, and mine are almost 3 years old now).
They ARE supposed to be good mothers, so IF I had one go broody I’m sure it would be fine... but then the egg-eater might also be a chick-chaser? So if I get a broody hen I will definitely be separating the nesting hen from the rest of the flock.

We got 4 eggs 2 days ago and 1 egg and 1 "empty shell" day before yesterday – and 3 eggs yesterday, and 2 today (so far). 

They lay from 8am to 5pm... it's hard to catch the eggs before they freeze or are eaten! (I need a webcam, but I’m not getting one, lol.)
It does all seem to get complicated to figure all of this out, because not all hens seem to be laying... but maybe it’s that they lay every other day and one lays every 2 days?

I am thinking that knowing the actual layers is crucial because only they will be interested in sitting on eggs to hatch them.
It’s too early to lament or get keyed up-  it's winter now!
I have time to figure this out.
Yes, good news I have something to work with. But it's not the only good news....

I just spoke w/ someone in our subdivision who will be butchering 10 roosters this weekend and will let me come and learn/help. If I really mean what I say about creating some self-sufficiency in our lives, I have to do this eventually. Much better if I’m not doing it by myself the first time!
It could make a lot of difference - raising chickens a trade-off in food costs if I could do this on a regular basis. Even if I grow some supplemental feed it won't be enough unless I also process meat birds.

Nooooo, that was not the super exciting update! Sorry...

He also offered me his brooder machine to use whenever I want, since he no longer needs it w/ his 30-hen flock (they are raising chicks enough on their own, obviously). And, he'll give me some blue/green eggs to hatch too!
Isnt' that super exciting?!

I said I'd like to get the incubator at the end of February for an end of March hatch date, if this mild weather holds up. If not, then I’ll plan for an end of April hatch date.

Supposedly our mild winter is because of La Nina and will become a WET spring as La Nina fades. Whatever they mean by ‘wet’. We could definitely use rain.

I’m not sure how many eggs his incubator holds. 

I'm thinking I'll hatch up to 24 eggs with the incubator (some in the incubator will obviously not be fertile) and see how many hatch. 
Then as soon as one shows signs of broodiness I’ll let her hatch out 6 eggs naturally. This sounds like a plan. 
I'm not sure it's the best of plans though. 

Out of the results I hope to keep only 6 hens for myself (to make an even dozen hens -once Miss egg-eater goes bie-bie, if she’s still doing that- right now it's off and on).  

I could ALSO try to hatch out – like 4-- of the darker brown 'organic' eggs from the grocery store because they're fertile too! It might be a good find out what the breed is! The eggs are a rich terracotta color. (Yes, I'm still buying those $4. a dozen eggs!) I might add 2 in the incubator and 2 under the hen.
Any experience in this experiment, thoughts, or words of wisdom you have, feel free to share it! 

(cochin chicks)

I had a 'duh' moment yesterday after I realized that each of my birds has a different shaped comb on their heads.

I could therefore learn to tell them apart! 
Yeah I know! DUH!
I ran in to get my camera and get head shots of each of them, LOL, what a waste of photos.....thankfully it's only digital and not real 'film'!
But it was a learning experience all the same.
*She has 6 perfect spikes
I learned that taking pictures of dinosaur-heads is not only time-consuming and is a direct cause of suspicious looks from Roo, but if I make silly chicken noises to make them LOOK sideways at me, (need your profiles ladies!), the noise that seems to be a response from the rooster is really my jealous doggie crying at the door... and so this kind of activity must not be done when I'm trying to do two other things at once: at the end of the day trying to beat the sun and work around it's flare effects coming in the window so I'm rushing, nor when I'm trying to include the dog in an outing. 
He will never understand.

*She has 4 spikes

Plus when Roo wants to show me he's boss in the coop, he flaps his wings -and ALL THE DUST he raises is cough, cough, Blah! Then I get the 'evil eye'....
 * His suspicious, watchful, "look", just so you can feel the effect! 

I'm going to have to start giving him treats I think! 
Back out I go now, to check on the progress of the egg-eater who's setting on a nest, and get a pie crust into the's supposed to snow today!
Next post will exclude chickens, I promise. 

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