Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Count Your Chickens (or Ducks, or Turkeys) Before They Hatch

Lets talk chickens (because that's mostly what we do around here).

First chicken topic: Chasing the chickens (of course). When we first came to the farm we were determined to get the chickens to sleep in their coop to protect them from predators at night. We had all good intentions as we chased them around the farm and caught most of them. The next day we got a tad bit wiser and tried to corral them and coerce them with treats. It didn't seem to work too well but we were pleasantly surprised and incredibly proud of ourselves as new farmers when the next couple of nights Daddy Roo led his harem (most of them) home on his own. Since then a few of the wild chickens tend to wander and not head home on their own. We still have to be here every night at dusk to lead the chickens home.  We were recently reinspired to keep working with the chickens when the rooster started crowing at 3am roosting in the tree right outside of John's window. Since that night John has really taken it upon himself to be doubly sure ALL the chickens are tucked in inside the coop.

Next chicken topic: our chickeny plans. The farmers of Sweet Peeps had a power meeting a few days ago to come up with a plan. Of course we all had on our power suits! Imagine all of us in our filthy jeans, having just finished shoveling compost, dirt under our nails, work gloves in our back pockets, sitting around a table in Starbucks next to the table of very clean men in business suits. As John picked up his coffee I caught site of his finger nails and thought how dirty and gross he was but when I glanced back down at my own hands they looked just at bad. Terrible! Anyway, the plan is we will get a delivery of 60 peeps every three weeks and we will process 20 chickens every week. It seems like a really good plan but I think we won't really know until we're doing it. One tidbit I find incredibly amusing is that for the first month our peeps will be delivered every Wednesday. The next month however, they will come every Tuesday. John and Marissa claim that there is some secret plan behind this but I'm pretty sure it just happened by accident as John was marking in the calender and turned the page.

Final chicken topic: the peep show. This is actually a chicken/turkey/duck topic. Sweet Peeps recently had our first set of hatchlings We had so much fun candeling them and watching them grow. We had one egg we could see the heart beating in and as they get older you can hear them peep from inside the egg. We started off with four duck eggs, two turkey eggs, and a heap of chicken eggs. We were so excited when the first chickens started hatching. They seemed to be doing so well! We noticed though as the day went on that they seemed to be having a hard time getting out and realized that it wasn't humid enough in the incubator. Marissa and I helped a couple of the chicks out after they got stuck. We got lucky because we learned AFTER the fact the right way to do an eggceriansection. The good news is, we'll know for next time. Sadly, only one of our ducks even tried to peck out and none of them survived. Even worse than that, was our sweet little poult (baby turkey). It hatched with only a little help from Marissa and looked so so strong. It was in a safe, warm place overnight and we thought for sure that it would be our friendly farm turkey. This morning though the report on the poult was "it got even cuter overnight but also died". So in the end, of our many eggs, we have 11 peeps, no ducks, and no turkeys. Now we truly understand the meaning of "don't count your chickens before they hatch". On a happier note, at the same time as the incubated eggs were hatching our wild momma hen hatched six eggs of her own. Those little guys are doing so well!! Apparently natural really is better. Surprised? I'm not.

Farm Vocab Words

Poult: Young turkey
Keet: Young guinea fowl
Brooder: Relates to baby birds, generally refers to the place you keep baby birds
Broody: How a momma bird acts when she's working on hatching eggs. Usually means she's sitting on her nest and probably pretty feisty if you get too close!! Marissa learned this the hard way as momma did a sneak dinosaur attack because Marissa looked at her the wrong way.

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