Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chickens and Kits!

As you may have guessed from the photo, the chickens are finally here!

They're still chicks, but not quite babies anymore as you can see from their size compared to my hand and the cat carrier. Right is how we brought them home from Michelle Chandler's house where she'd been generously keeping them with her chicks while we scrambled around trying to get everything set up for them. We put all 6 of them in the cat carrier, and got them home as quickly as possible. Learning experience, make sure there's something on the floor of the carrier or they'll slide around on the plastic at every single turn. That sliding stresses them out, and trying to cram something in under them after the fact is a bit of a challenge, and stresses them out even more. But even with all of that, we all got home safe and sound.

We picked up the chicks Saturday, and they stayed  in their coop on Sunday. But yesterday evening, we tried introducing them to the run. In the coop they're a bit standoffish, but happy to come over for food. In the run on the other hand we're actually a source of normal for them so while they were getting used to the run they spent most of their time clustered around the Lady of the House or I as we sat in there with them. Once they got more used to us they moved off and explored the area a bit. They all have very different personalities that we'll be talking about more as we follow the growing chickens. It looks like we ended up with 4 Americauanas, 1 Welsummer, and 1 we're not quite sure yet.

We definitely have one dominant bird, the very light colored one that stands out from the rest, she's a bit larger and a lot more determined to get what she wants than the others, and the others aren't inclined to disagree. The Welsummer which is Top Left staring at the lens of the camera is the most adventurous, but least focused on spending time around the other chickens. She investigates everything, and every time we put a treat like worms or bugs in she's the one that gets them. The others are too busy staring at them or trying to figure it out, she figures it out with her mouth.
One of our big concerns with the chickens was making sure Rico wasn't a problem, so we went to trying to get him used to the chickens right away. There are two basic ways that people tend to make sure dogs don't kill chickens. After the dog kills one, strap the chicken carcass to their neck for a week and let it rot while keeping them tied outside, and the other is what we're doing which is called desensitization training which is a positive mostly method. We tend to try to shy away from aversive training methods like tying a dead chicken to the dog. For desensitization training you bring the dog towards the exciting thing (Chickens), and find where the dog can still pay attention to you. You do obedience training and reward the dog for ignoring the chickens. You do this getting closer and closer until the dog can be right next to the chickens. We're only on day 1 of it, but so far it seems to be doing well. We are still doing this on leash, but we hope to have it so he can be off leash while we do chicken chores without being a problem, though he'll never be unsupervised around chickens.

Chickens aren't the only thing going on around here of course, as the rabbits continue to grow. We're preparing for the next breeding cycle to start. On Thursday we're going to be doing the first breedings with Twilight bred to Umbra, and Dawn bred to Dorado. Friday we'll do Halley and Comet. Hopefully this time both will have live litters so we can see how they do with two litters in the hutch. We actually expect it to work out fairly well given how they've reacted this time to sharing space while there's a litter on the ground. Both girls have been very protective of the babies, and while I haven't been able to confirm both of them feeding the babies, I know that Halley at least goes in and checks on the babies as much as their mother Comet.

This round we have one rabbit already showing Dorado's paternal influence in the set of its ears. Below Left the left of the three babies has Dorado's ears. For comparison Bottom Left is Dorado in all of his studly glory. Overall though we're happy with how the sisters litter is doing, and while the two of them don't have the best temperament, I think that it is nice to have the two of them together to keep each other company. If we can't get both breeding at the same time it won't be as good obviously because we'd be feeding twice the mother maintenance amount per litter, but it may well be worth it for happiness's sake anyhow. That's something we'll be watching and evaluating over time.
Speaking of happiness, and we don't have  a photo of them today, but Twilight's older litter is very happy, and we'll be sorry to see them go which will be happening soon. It's a shame that both of the blue kits are male because we don't need males, but they are both GREAT examples of American Blue. If they were female we'd be keeping them hands down. But, the genetic lottery wasn't that kind.

Twilight's current babies are also doing very well. As with her last litter, they're bigger than usual, and noticeably bigger than Dawn's and Comet's litter. We swear the blues grow faster, but it could just be coincidence. Getting good photos of them continues to be a challenge, even more so right now because we've done some re arranging of the hutches.

Bottom you can see the new arrangement of where Twilight and Umbra's hutches are. To try to avoid the problems we had last summer with heat, specifically with Umbra's heat sterility we've moved them into the woods. I'm considering moving the other hutches off into the woods as well. The micro climate is much cooler, they're in shade all day but still can see the sun, and are still close by. So far they seem to be happy with it, but the pictures from those hutches definitely come out a bit dark! Signing off for now, but on Thursday hopefully we'll have more chicken news for you.

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