Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sad Day at Singleton Roost

When we first started with the chickens back in 2014, my cousin gave us a Phoenix rooster and hen.  We named them Woodrow and Charlotte.  They have been wonderful, gentle, great pets as well as amazing breeders for our Phoenix.  Woodrow has always been so easy on his hens.  Despite having long sharp spurs, he never once offered to use them on us.  We could pick him up, pick up Charlotte and his other hens, pick up chicks or whatever we needed to do and he seemed to understand that we were helping, not hurting.  I cannot say enough about the experiences we have had with this amazing rooster who has become a beloved pet.  He has given us gorgeous chicks with Charlotte and a few other hens we acquired. 

Woodrow was the first rooster to crow on this farm, and today we lost him.  He will be sorely missed!
Although we still have Phoenix roosters (his sons), there will never be another like Woodrow!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

We Could Learn a lot From a Chicken

In this day and age where everything is disposable from our dishes to some of our children, we would do well to follow the example of our feathered friends. 

Probably my favorite part of raising chickens is watching chickens raise chickens.  Have you ever just sat and watched the interactions of these birds?  Roosters are amazing.  They take their job very seriously!  Invariably a rooster will choose a few "favorite" hens.  This rooster and his hens form a "family" of sorts.  They stay together when free ranging and roosting.  Upon "flying the coop" each morning, the rooster will set about finding food.  When he has located what he's looking for, he will stand over it, pick it up, put it down and call for his hens to come and eat.  He will do this until one or all join him.  Normally the hens rush to see what he has found for them.  Roosters will make sure the hens have first shot at the food even if that means that he gets very little.  The rooster will also stay on guard, looking out for danger.  If he spots anything that he senses is dangerous, he will then "alarm" his hens and the rest of the flock.  They will all run for cover when this alarm starts.  He will fight for his hens if need be.  The Rooster is normally the last one on the roost.  We have one or two roosters that we call "yard bosses" and they are the very last to go to roost.  They make sure all the others of their roost are in before going to roost themselves. 

In this protective environment, the hens are free to go about the business of being hens.  Their main worry is laying eggs and hatching chicks.  Hens decide when to get broody (in the mood to sit on a nest).  A hen will find a place to lay her eggs that is hidden well and safe if she is not provided with a nest box.  Several hens may lay in the same nest.  Then when there are enough eggs or she is ready (which ever comes first), she will sit on any eggs in her nest.  We have often given a broody hen some eggs from a different breed because she went broody with no eggs.  She will brood for 21 days until the eggs are hatched, only leaving the nest for a few minutes a day to eat and drink.  During these 21 days, she will "turn" the eggs and keep them at the perfect temperature and humidity level to insure that they hatch.  All of this is done with her body.  We have had numerous hens pluck the feathers from underneath their body so that they are in direct contact with the eggs.  A broody hen is nothing to mess with!  She will defend her eggs with everything in her.  She first will offer up a loud warning accompanied by fanning her tail and wings to look menacing.  If that doesn't work, she will not hesitate to peck! A broody hen will risk her health and well being to sit on her eggs.  Her ferocity grows while hatching and caring for her young chicks.  Shortly after hatching, she will lead the chicks out of the nest to find food and water.  Their "mama" (and for many she is a surrogate) teaches them to scratch for food.  She will search for food small enough for the chicks.  Once she finds it, she picks it up, puts it down, and calls for the chicks.  She will peck the ground near the food to show it to them.  The chicks typically follow her around for 6-8 weeks.  They then start becoming independent.  Eventually, she stops being so protective and goes back to her normal life of laying more eggs.  Once this happens, it's a signal that she has finished her job as their "mama". 

Through all of this, the rooster cares for the hens and the chicks in most cases.  We have seen roosters sit on chicks to keep them warm while the "mama" gets out and about.  For a time, they are a family unit.  They take this very seriously!  If the rooster doesn't do as the hen thinks he should with the chicks, she will let him know as well.  She doesn't let anybody mess with her babies - not even "daddy". 

Over the years we have had Turkey Toms that would get the poults under their wings to keep them warm. 

Our feathered friends are pretty amazing.  It would be nice to see everyone care for their children in such a way as these birds do!  We could learn a LOT from a chicken!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

So Ready for Spring

Here in Northeast Texas, we are just not seasoned for extremely cold weather.  Give us 110 degrees in the shade and we can deal (we may complain, but we can handle that).  It's hard to plan for the spring when you step outside and freeze.  We have managed to devise a plan for our little farm for this spring, summer and fall despite the current weather situation. 

We (mostly my husband) have managed to get the green house ready by building a planting table, installing a sink and water connection for watering our plants.  He has managed to schedule plantings and has several things sprouting in the greenhouse.  Our garden has been plowed, but not ready for planting yet.  Now we are facing the possibility of two weeks of rain.  This would make it impossible to use the tractor or tiller to finish getting the garden plot ready.  IT WILL BE DONE - eventually!  We have plans for a garden for us and some extra to sell. The deer who think we plant just for them are also counting on the garden.  Hopefully we will be able to keep them from eating the entire garden. We will also have watermelons, cantaloupes and a pumpkin patch.  This fall we would like for kiddos and families to come out and be able to pick a pumpkin and get the kids picture made with George (our pet turkey).  George will pose or do anything you wish for a few meal worms!  He is gorgeous but a bit of a mooch! 

This summer we will offer watermelons and cantaloupes for sale here on the farm.  We will have fresh eggs, chickens, turkeys, guineas and peafowl for sale as well.  We hope that some of you will make your way out to the Singleton Roost for a visit.  Oh yeah, there will be baby rabbits hopefully in time for Easter. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hickory Dickory Dock

If you have ever had chickens or other small farm animals that require having feed around, then you've encountered our next guest!  Yep - field mice!  They are the "clean up" crew for chicken pens.  Our pens and runs are predator resistant, but not mouse proof!  We try very hard to minimize the feed that is scratched out of the feeders by the chickens, but let's face it - there is NO WAY to avoid some feed being on the ground.  The mice dig nice tunnels from outside to inside the pens.  I have watched a grown mouse go through 1/2 inch hardware cloth.  Just when I thought I'd seen everything, I saw a mouse that started into a pen through the 1/2 inch hardware cloth and something scared it.  Before it got completely into the pen, it decided to go back out.  It didn't back up, but instead it threaded itself back through the hardware cloth, which rendered it STUCK in and out of the pen.  I am not good with the little rodents.  I am not afraid of them, but as with anything that appears from nowhere and is all under or around me - they scare me!  Our latest goal, is to set traps at night while the birds are up and see what we can catch.  I do NOT recommend this if you do not wish to know just how many rodents can tunnel into a chicken pen.  Our goal to rid ourselves of these critters has turned into a daily chore!  The larger birds and our barn cats catch and eat their fill and still we trap many many mice each day.  I am beginning to wonder just who will win this battle - THEM or US!  We are about to have to winterize our coops for the cold weather.  I wonder if they suspect that we are creating a warm cozy place for our birds, who will no doubt be happy to scratch out food all over the pens.  For any of you that are new to chickens or other small animals, I suggest you start out right.  Place mouse traps from the beginning.  Maybe if you start early and are diligent, you won't have to suffer the masses of mice! 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right...

Deer in the garden and skunks on the back porch - such are the days of our lives!  My poor husband plowed the ground for the garden numerous times in preparation for our fall garden.  When it was "just right", he bought some plants and we had some seed to plant as well.  He got it all planted and it was doing so well!  "Was" being the key word here.  He planted squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas.  Everything was coming up and doing well!  One morning he finds all the bean sprouts pulled up and eaten, the peas too, and the tops eaten out of all the pepper plants.  He also finds the tracks of the beautiful deer that we have enjoyed watching morning and evening for many months.  It seems that not only have they discovered the garden, they have eaten a good bit of it.  My husband, normally a tolerant man, is not in such a tolerant mood anymore.  Each morning we go and sit on the porch for coffee, as always, but now we watch as the young deer play their games all over the plowed land.  They chase and buck and have a wonderful time in the freshly plowed dirt.  This also seems to be their chosen place to bed down in the evening.  A neighbor loaned my husband some Night Guard predator lights to put on all four sides of the garden.  I couldn't help but notice the deer remained unaffected.  It seems they realize that the predator lights are for predators!  Since they are not predators, they are perfectly safe in that well protected plot of ground.  My husband, normally a tolerant man, is losing patience fast!  All that remains of the plants and seed he planted are the squash, zucchini, and a few tomato plants.  They must be saving those for later!  He has given our sons permission to hunt on our place this fall.  I am not in agreement!  We must find a way to have deer AND a garden!

If this wasn't enough, I went upstairs a little while back and could smell the faint smell of skunk.  I just figured it was somewhere on our property.  Upon returning downstairs, I went to the front door to smell and there was no smell in front of our house.  I walked into the living room, where my husband was watching TV and he remarked that he could smell a skunk.  I asked him if the entry under the house had been closed after the termite inspection.  I'm always a little leary of under the house after the skunk incident of 2001!   He assured me it had.  I pointed out to him that there was no skunk smell in the front yard.  He immediately heads for the back door and throws it open to see if  he can smell it out there.  Well, needless to say, he could smell it alright.  It was up close and personal on the back porch.  Still not knowing for sure if the skunk was just out back or where, he tells me to look out the patio door that also opens onto the screened porch and see what I can see.  I go and find a flash light and start looking through the patio doors to see if it's on the porch. Meanwhile, he has gone and gotten in his van to pull around back and see if he can scare it off the porch if it's on there.  I see it there, on the opposite end from the pet door, running back and forth scared and no doubt spraying!  I run and flag him down and tell him it's on the porch for sure.  He pulls his van to the door and starts flashing his lights and honking.  The skunk heads for the other end and gets to the pet door and goes out about the time my husband decided to get out of the van and see where it was.  I'm yelling and waving the flash light at him to get back in the van, and of course he looks at me puzzled and says, "what?"!   Finally I get it across to him that he must get in the van quickly!  I just knew the skunk went out the door and headed his way.  Fortunately it left but not without leaving us something to remember it by.  The house smelled terrible all night.  The next morning was some better!

All of this happened within a matter of days, and people think country living is boring.  Really?  It reminds me of a song from my younger days - "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you!"  Here we are stuck in the middle of a life we absolutely love - deer, skunks and all!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

These are not my Grandmother's chickens!

"Let's just raise a few chickens", he said!  "It's no big deal," he said.  Well that depends on if you want a few eggs for your family, or to show and sell rare breed chickens and chicks and eggs.  These aren't my grandmother's chickens!  A lot of hard work goes into the care of the birds, and a lot of paperwork and behind the scenes work is expected as well.  Both being massively important to your success!

Those of you in the chicken business know that you have to be registered (in Texas anyway) with the Texas Animal Health Commission in order to be able to take your birds to shows or sales away from your home.  That is a once per year visit with the inspector who comes to count your birds (this registration is based on the number of birds you have).

Then we must also be PT tested once per year.  This did require an appointment with one of the few folks that travel the state and do this for A&M.  We have recently been told that the free testing stops September 1.  They are offering classes to train people to be able to travel and do this testing for a fee.  The choice for us, is do we train and test our own birds and others for a fee, or do we find someone close enough to come and test and pay them the fee?  We have made the decision for my husband to try to get into a training session and be able to do this locally for us and surrounding farms.  Most of the current training sessions are hours from our home and would require travel and hotel expenses (not a deal breaker but an additional expense).

Moving past that, once we are PT tested and all is clear, we made the decision to become members of the NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Program).  The first level of NPIP requires PT testing and $100.00 per year for membership.

We chose to add the testing for Avian Influenza to our NPIP certification.  Now twice a year, a traveling Avian vet comes to our farm and tests 30 birds(based on number in your flock) to be sure that we are Avian Influenza H5/H7 clean.  This has never been free and is quite costly but worth it.

Many of these things are necessary to be able to legally ship birds to other states.  If we choose to  ship out of state, some states require permits to import the birds. This causes more paperwork.

 We register all sales of birds from our farm with the NPIP.  We also provide a certificate stating that we have been PT Tested.  The NPIP paperwork shows that we are AI H5/H7 clean as well.

We also must have a Game Bird Breeders License renewable each year to own and raise Eastern Wild Turkeys and Lady Amherst Pheasants.  This requires that we report who we sold to, how many we raised and how many were lost (to illness or predators) ending with the number we have left on hand at the specified time.  We send this report, and application and our $27.00 fee to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  We then receive our license.

After we get past all the testing and paperwork, there is the matter of going to shows, sales and advertising our birds online to sell them.  Ads must be kept up to date with birds sold and such.  We will also begin showing some of our birds this next January.  Showing and winning is great for your farm and your reputation of raising good quality birds.

Several days a week I try to write this blog, update pictures and ads for selling the birds, and just generally keep everything straight.

We are constantly hatching chicks and improving our blood lines when possible.  We allow our birds to free range whenever possible, as this makes for healthier happier birds.  We spend a lot of time with and on the birds here.  We don't keep aggressive birds around due to the fact that our granddaughter enjoys visiting with and feeding the many varieties of birds.

We welcome folks out to our place to visit and choose the birds they want.  We want them to see the birds in action and be able to interact with them when possible.  We do take measures to keep our birds safe from outside illness as well.  We want to have a farm that people enjoy.  Give us a call and set up a time to come for a visit!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hatch Day!

Probably the best days on any farm are the days when new animals are born or hatch, whichever the case may be.  I would liken it to waiting for Christmas morning or your birthday.  Today is just such a day at the Singleton Roost.  We have several broody hens around the farm, including two Silkie hens and a couple of Serama hens.  Two of my blue cream Silkie hens are due to hatch any day now.  The normal gestation period of chickens is 21 days.  Ours can hatch anytime after about the 19th day so we start anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new chicks a few days ahead of schedule.  The heat has been dreadful for a few weeks now so we watch them carefully.  We make sure to know when the hatch occurs with the broody hens so that we can have cool clean water available for the chicks within a few hours of hatching.

Normally I get up and have coffee on the porch (one of my very favorite things to do even in the hot summer and cold winter months).  After a cup of coffee, I get breakfast started and my husband and son go down to let chickens out (most of ours free range) and refill waterers and such.  They also check the broody hens to see if anything is happening.  This morning my husband returns with the news that I have 3 Silkie chicks so far from one hen.  We think the other hen started setting a few days later so hers will be a few more days.  He gave them water and feed for the chicks when they are ready to bring them out for food.  Normally the hen will stay with the nest until she feels all the eggs that are going to hatch have hatched.  This could take 24 -48 hours.  The new chicks will do fine until then with the exception of possibly getting to water.  He put the water by the nest box for the chicks.
Now the rush is on to get done and get down to the barn to see the new babies.  We also have some in the incubator due to hatch any day now.  We will have a busy few days with all the hatching going on.  One of the Serama hens will possibly have eggs hatching today or tomorrow.  She and her chicks will move in to a brooder pen in my cute little chicken house.  The Serama are much smaller and the nest box if up off the floor of the pen so we will move her to a better pen to get the babies up and going.

Our grand daughter, Emmylou (now 2 years, 4 months old) will be here this evening to spend the night with us.  She is a chicken addict.  She is always amazed when the chicks pip and start unzipping their shell.  She loves to be here when we candle as well.  Emmylou is quite the little farm girl and knows all about the baby chicks growing in the eggs.  At Easter, she ran around the yard finding her plastic eggs, opening them, dumping the candy on the ground and moving to the next egg and repeating the process.  Finally she looked up at me and asked, "Where are the babies?"  That's when we realized she was running about trying to find her some baby chicks.

Also, I recently won a raffle for some Blue Cream, Buff and White Silkie hatching eggs from one of the better breeders.  I set those eggs on Thursday and they will be due to hatch on August 10!  I am extremely excited and cannot wait for those to hatch.  They come from championship bloodlines and will be a nice addition to my flock (adding another good bloodline).