Tuesday, May 28, 2013

So many kits on the ground, but not as many as we'd like.

As seems to be the refrain at the moment, a lot is going on right now. Less than last week due to the downpour over the weekend that kept me from working on the multiple outdoor projects.

As usual we will begin with the required order of operations, babies. Overall, this trio of litters has had far fewer babies than we'd hoped for. However, 2 of the moms are new, and two of them just had random bad litters from what we can tell, so here's hoping the next set is more productive! Start with Dawn's litter which can be seen Above. There may only be three of them, but they are growing well and quickly. One of them has had a bit more trouble than the other two, but I am partially putting that down to the rain and cold this past weekend. Starting Thursday and ending Sunday morning it was solid rain, and cold. I covered the corner of Dawn's hutch that water had come through in the past to prevent any losses this time. It seems to have worked out, but the smaller one had ended up out of the nest for a few minutes before I found it Saturday.
Next I'm going to Comet's litter and Halley's unfortunate failed first litter. Halley ended up giving birth to one gigantic baby at about 3x the size of a normal kit, but with no mouth. On the up side, she and Comet seem to have no problem being in the same hutch as each other with kits involved, and in fact Halley ended up dropping her kit in the same nest as Comet's living litter. That was the first time I rebuilt that nest this weekend. 
Obviously from my phrasing, it wasn't the last. With the never ending downpour over the weekend the nesting area ended up damp a number of times despite tarping over that area of the hutch. I just went in, pulled out everything that was wet and rebuilt the nest. Both Halley and Comet don't like when I do that, and stand there as they are doing Left and make sure everything is ok. Fortunately all of the kits that we expected to survive, survived the weekend. The runt didn't die to what we expected it to though. We expected it to die to just being the runt effectively. It ended up dying due to its mom not cleaning off its waste, and getting a bowel blockage. It's preventable, and it's a first time mom issue usually. Unfortunately it happened between when I left for work Monday and when I got home. That brought us down to 13 babies on the ground which isn't a thrilling number, but given the chaos and rain over the weekend, not as bad as it could have been if I hadn't been rebuilding the nest regularly.
Next, Twilight's litter. They are for the most part doing just fine, though one of them is definitely failing to thrive. All of the rest of them are growing at an explosive rate, but the smallest kit is 30+ grams smaller than its siblings, and has virtually stopped growing. At this age there isn't much we can do to help it, and we don't expect it to survive. If it survives until its eyes open we can add multiple food stations in so it doesn't have to fight for food. We will be watching it closely and trying to make sure we do anything for it we can.
Twilight has gotten protective of her litter again, though she still isn't as bad as she was with her first litter in terms of causing trouble while we're checking on them. She went after me today, but without the vigor of her attacks the first time. The Lady of the House suggested that it's probably because I didn't give her proper tribute in the form of giving her grass and clover instead of her preferred dandelion or raspberry leaf.
Twilight's older litter has been a source of pleasure and a very steady group. They are still strongly enjoying their grass, and Below Left we managed to get them to pose for a photo lined up by saturation as requested from the last photo of them clustered around their grass. They're still doing well, but due to how big they are growing and how quickly they are doing so, they're actually starting to get a bit crowded. They are still fairly happy with their space and having 6 bunny chase games going on from time to time, but some dominance fighting is starting to happen. If you look closely in thphoto Left you'll see that the right Blue has a nicked ear. It's not a big deal, but we do need to be watching them and make sure none of the fights get out of hand. I am also considering butchering the biggest kit or two early to make more space for the smaller ones to grow out, and reduce fighting since the bigger ones are the more sexually mature ones. Below you'll notice the little red blood spot that alerted me to look for a nicked ear.

Not all is hormonal aggression with Right is one of the big blues being friendly with me. I've been getting them used to being picked up. They're not huge fans of it, but have been getting fairly friendly about it. They often try to nibble on my torc though as you can see Right. For the most part they're very friendly about it and don't even try to move away when I pick them up. It's not always sunshine and bunny kisses, sometimes they decide to eat my hair or snuffle my neck which I suspect amuses them because I make funny noises and pull away.as you can see Below Right. At least though they are enjoying themselves, and when butchering day comes they will be used to being picked up and carried around. One of the young black kits is a bit more shy about it, but since he isn't being kept for breeding that temperament outlier isn't as big of a focus other than, take him first on killing day. The reason to take the spooky one first is to reduce how much the others get spooked by the regular in and out. As we take them out one by one there will be some trepidation, but if there's one panicking it'll affect the rest.
The big project we really wanted to get to this weekend that I just couldn't due to the rain was cleaning out the inside of the chicken coop to prepare it for flooring and whitewashing. With all of the rain was a strong reminder that we really do need to roof it before chickens go in it because the roof is a bit leaky right now. So yesterday evening when I got home from work we did at least a basic clean as much as we could with some of it still wet inside. We got so caught up with "let's do this!" that we forgot to get photos of the before state. It wasn't bad inside, but there were piles of stuff in the corners before we cleaned it up. Left is a photo looking in the human access door. Towards the left side of the photo in the middle you can see the inside of the sliding hatch to let the chickens out.  Over all it doesn't look at all bad in there. I will be building a new door because the old one is getting a bit warped from having not been on the coop for a while.  We are thinking of sanding the walls before putting the whitewash on. We figure it would help the wood absorb the whitewash and that it couldn't hurt to clean the inside up a bit.
 As you can see from this more inside picture there's a nice roosting shelf as well as the roosting bar. When I put linoleum down on the floor to make it easier to clean I am going to do that for the shelf as well, just so when we're stretching to get in there and clean we aren't also having to try to scrub with force, it can be just an easy sweep out. Given the high speed winds we get I'm also going to be making a little angled roof over the window you can see in this picture to keep the rain out.
The biggest difficulty cleaning the coop out was the nesting boxes hands down. We couldn't find the digging knife from the garden, so I ended up using the poking tool from the snow blower to help clean out the caked on gunk in the nest boxes before eventually giving in and using a knife to just chop out the matted feathers and other stuff. Once all of the cleaning out was done though it looks quite nice, and will be able to be re finished easily enough. Weather permitting by Friday or Saturday. One of the big things that must be done before chickens come anywhere near this coop, reinforce the wire over this window. Right now it's just chicken wire. In the suburbs that's probably fine, but with the size and determination of the predators around us, we're going to have to put hardware cloth over the window and around any gaps since there are predators that will go through chicken wire. On the up side, with the coop raised off the ground digging predators aren't going to be a problem for inside the coop, only the run. But talking about that will be for another day since I've gone on a bit with today's post! Thursday I'll talk a bit more about the positioning of the coop, the run itself, and the garden which is overall doing fairly well after the monsoon May!

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