Sunday, January 27, 2013

Momma PJ is in a class all her own!

Momma PJ, our silkie hen, is something else, you might remember her adopting the 36 new chicks that I put in the brooder when she was sitting. Overnight she decided to abandon the nest and took over being/trying to be Momma to all 36 of the chicks. It was funny to see all of them trying to get under her at once, some of them were pushed up under wings.

This was taken the morning after I placed the chicks in the brooder area. There were two heat lamps in the brooder area already but only a few of the chicks got under them, most wanted Momma PJ.

This is the new hatching from Momma PJ, they are a varied mixture. It seems that while Momma PJ wasn't sitting but laying her clutch of eggs other hens also laid eggs in the same nest. In fact there were so many eggs in her nest many didn't hatch as she couldn't cover them all. We decided that even thou she couldn't cover them all we would let chance decide which eggs hatched as we had no idea which ones were viable. Notice the water container, Momma PJ is a good scratcher, she fills the waterier at least once a day with wood shavings.

She is proud of her brood, there is always one or two who will get under her when she starts clucking and avoid being in a photo. Yesterday, we let her and the brood into the other part of the coop to give them a change but the guineas wouldn't leave them alone. When they get a little bigger then they will be let outside where the two roosters, PJ and Juan, will help her when the guineas get too close. Juan has found out he has spurs and how to use them. All four of the guineas will challenge him till he goes after them with his spurs then they run for their lives, it is about time he took his job of "cock of the walk" seriously. 


I have done some extra reading and found out that there is a better way of fermenting the chickens feed instead of my using bakers yeast. Just soaking their feed overnight is better than feeding it dry but fermenting is much, much better. In the states folks use apple cider vinegar with mother as a starter, something I can't get here. What I thought of and has been verified by my chemistry professor friend, Dr. Michael Kesling, was to use my natural raw milk yogurt as a starter. I took a large jar, put a 1/3 cup of yogurt in, added some cracked corn and grower feed then added enough water to cover by about an inch. In 36 hours it is bubbling away. Now I have a starter that will produce a lactic acid ferment which produces more good probiotics for the chickens. We have way too many chickens for the size of coop that we have which in most cases would be stinking to high heaven by now but due to the deep litter on a dirt floor and the fermented feed it has almost no odor at all, even today, with the temperature about 75 degrees. I'm adding more wood shavings continuously as the chickens and their scratching kicks a lot of the shavings out the doors so there is a little turn over of the shavings. Adding fresh shavings on the floor opposite the doors allows the chickens to start scratching in the fresh kicking the older shavings out the door. They get lots of scratching and we get what is kicked out to put around our plants.

Now as to my garden, shame on me, I haven't been doing all I can there. My tomato plants are doing well, I should have started them sooner for transplanting but then that is what all of this is about, learning what to do when and how. I'll get some photos of the area soon and post them. Too embarrassing to do them now. I may have mentioned that my bell pepper plants didn't make it so I am starting new ones. Other than a couple of beans plants and the tomatoes the garden looks sad. 

Well I am retired and with all the chickens and other chores something gets left behind so the garden suffers. Oh the Christmas Cactus that bloomed for Christmas is blooming again, one blossom is just about to open while another is only about half ready as a blossom. Sure is nice to see something that I like in bloom.

Until next time, keep on gardening and having fun!

 Art Sulenski
So much to do so little time!

Tickle it with a hoe and it will laugh into a garden....

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New happenings in the brooder!

Things are happening fast, not only are the black chicks filling out real nice but there are also new additions. Momma PJ, our awesome incubation silkie hen has had new babies hatching out.

She has been setting on a lot of eggs, some hers and some from our other hens. It seems like the other hen thought it would be good to lay their eggs in the nest where Momma PJ was laying hers. Well when she started to set we just decided to let things happen as they will.

The little fellow under her head is still damp from just hatching, when I took these photos yesterday there were 7 chicks, Caroline went in earlier today and there were 9. These you see will most likely be silkies but there are other chicks with a black strip on their heads and lots of black feathers, perhaps from the black beauty hen or as one reader named her, Flo, as the feathers on her neck and chest looked like lava flow.

Someone else had asked about the black chicks, they did not understand that the chicks were hatched somewhere else (they are from the Costa Rican Agricultural Administration), they are provided to home owners who want to have their own flocks of good layers and meat chickens. I like them as they are unique to Costa Rica and the eggs are large (they are supposed to be from relatives of Flo). You may remember the photo that I took the next morning after I brought the chicks home.

This was the photo that lead to the confusion, I don’t think I explained things correctly. Momma PJ had been setting on eggs in a nest in the brooder area when I brought the chicks home. I had heat lamps already set up for the chicks, what I didn't think of was Momma PJ getting off her nest and adopting the chicks. As you can see they took to her right away, the heat lamps were left on as not all of the 30 chicks could get under her at once although they tried.

The chicks now considered pullets and cockerels are 11 weeks old and filling out very nicely. We've had some strong winds and have all kinds of debris floating around the yard, the 3 pullets in the left background are just starting to lay, they were from some eggs Momma PJ hatched maybe last July or August. Some of the chicks Momma PJ is hatching now will look like these older pullets.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a nice sunny day without wind so Momma PJ will have the chicks out in the brooder and I can get good photos of the chicks which I will post to my blog.

More goodies to come from Costa Rica!

     Art Sulenski

So much to do so little time!

BTW, the feed the pullets and cockerels are eating is the fermented feed that I have been making for them. The FF is a mix of regular growth feed and cracked corn, fermented for 3 days. Also included is some raw milk yogurt that I have been making, the chickens, cats and dogs like that and it is good for them too, the process of making yogurt changes the milk sugar, lactose, into good stuff that cats and all animals can tolerate, the raw milk yogurt is even better as it has more good probiotics.