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).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I am a winner!

I have participated in many auctions over the years and occasionally I win the bid.  I cannot count the number of raffles I have participated in however!  I have not ever won a raffle - that is until a few days ago.  I saw a raffle come up on the Chicken Raffle Club page for 18+ Silkie hatching eggs from a breeder who has won several top awards for their birds.  Never thinking for one minute I would win, but holding out hope - I jumped right in and bought 4 numbers.  There weren't many numbers left, but I remembered the girl who bought the last number in a previous auction ended up winning.  I watched periodically to see when it filled up.  I then paid my money for the raffle and waited for everyone else to do the same.  I went on to church that evening and went on with my daily routine.  After church, I remembered that I needed to check on the raffle.  I looked in my notifications to see if there were any that would get me to the raffle page (lazy way of doing it I suppose).  There it was - a notification that I had indeed won the raffle.  I also received a message from the breeder needing my shipping information so that my eggs (did you read that - MY eggs that I WON - could be shipped out.  I was told Monday afternoon that I should receive them on Wednesday (today)!  First thing this morning the phone rang and it was the Post Office informing me that MY eggs that I WON were in fact there waiting on me to pick them up.  I could not cook breakfast fast enough (I had started it when the call came in or breakfast would have been late).  I also had an appointment to show some Seramas to a previous customer who wanted more.  She and her family came right after breakfast.  I always enjoy visits from customers!  They picked a pair that they wanted and we got their paperwork all done and they went on their way.  Anxiously I drove to the Post Office to retrieve my prize eggs!  We opened the box and the eggs were packed so well!  I had received 24 amazing hatching eggs!  I got a dozen Porcelain color, 6 white, and 6 buff.  I have unpacked them and let them rest a bit after all the shipping.  I will set them in my incubator this very afternoon and in 21 days I should be the proud owner of some amazing Silkie chicks.  The importance of this is that I WON, and also it gives me another blood line for my Silkie flock.  I will be adding pictures as they hatch in 21 days!  Stay tuned to see what I end up with!  I am so very anxious - like a kiddo waiting on Christmas.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Emmylou and the Peacocks

Our grand baby, who is now a little over two years old, has always had a fascination with our Peafowl.  She just loves them.  The first thing she wants to do when she gets here is see the Peacocks. We have had these peacocks and hens for around 2 to 2 1/2 years now.  We didn't expect that they would lay this season, let alone that they would be fertile.  Our peacock is still somewhat young and we just figured it would be next spring before we had any eggs of our own to hatch.  Much to our surprise, one of our three peahens started laying this spring.  First she laid three eggs and we immediately put them in the incubator on the outside chance that they would be fertile.  They were not. She laid three more and again we rushed them to the incubator in the hopes they would be fertile.  All three hatched this time.  We have two that are predominately white and one that is the normal beginning browns of an IB or Spalding (our hens are spaldings and the peacock is an IB).  We were so excited.  Emmylou was thrilled that we have baby peacocks now.  She named one Lucy and another Fred.  We have no way of knowing the sex this early, but she is hopeful!  We then got another egg or two and they turned out to be fertile as well.  This time, we involved Emmylou in the candling and all of that.  She was mesmerized to see that tiny pea-chick moving about in that egg.  Every time she came after that day, she wanted to see the baby peacock in the egg and we would show her again.  Then it hatched and we have another mostly white pea-chick.  This is the same kiddo that opened all her Easter eggs looking for the "babies" because she watched a chick come out of an egg one day.  She is our little farm girl.  She loves the birds and they love to see her coming.  They know she either has meal worms or feed in her bucket.  She is a walking, talking treat for them.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Loyal Pets

I'm not sure if I am describing the loyalty of this little hen and rooster, or that of my husband.  I'll let you decide.  When we first started getting involved with the chickens back in 2014, I ordered two trios of Serama from a well known breeder in Florida.  This man was very friendly and kind, and with my order sent us two Cochin Bantams ( a hen and a rooster) for our son to have.  These little birds quickly won our heart.  My husband immediately grew fond of them and named them Kong and Annie.  Kong was a feisty little guy.  He was blue in color and Annie is black.  They were both very small Cochin bantams.  We fed them meal worms daily.  Annie quickly reached a point that when we whistled, she came and jumped in our lap for her treats.  Kong was always somewhat cautious.  She loved Kong, and stayed right with him when they free ranged.  Kong developed some sort of irritation on his neck and the feathers came out.  We tried and tried to find ways to help him heal, but nothing helped.  Soon we lost Kong.  Annie was our only Cochin Bantam then.  She was visibly lonely but still very fond of us.  Before long, we were given a  Mille Fleur Cochin Bantam that had been rescued and needed a home.  We jumped at the chance to have a friend for Annie.  During all her time with Kong, her eggs were never fertile.  We tried and tried to hatch chicks and it just wasn't happening.  The new rooster was named Willy (just like my husband).  This was his name when we got him.   Willy and Annie became fast friends.  Annie still loved to jump in our laps and eat treats.  Willy has always been somewhat more cautious.  He likes his treats dropped on the ground.  Annie's eggs remained infertile.  She finally went broody a couple of times and we gave her Serama eggs to hatch so she would have babies.  She is an excellent mama.  Soon she just stopped laying altogether.  She didn't go broody anymore and just hung out with Willy.  They are faithful friends.  Annie is nearing 3 years old and hasn't laid an egg in probably a year or longer.  She and Willy became just pets.  My husband became extremely attached to this little pair. Now my two year old grand daughter likes to go to the secret garden and feed Annie meal worms one at a time.  Annie loves meal worms and she loves Emmylou too.  She comes right to her and takes the meal worms.

A while back we noticed that Willy was slowing down.  (we have no idea how old he might be as he was a rescue).  Nothing in particular seems wrong with him, not respiratory, not mites, not any of the normal culprits.  We think he is just getting older.  He will still get up and walk a little and he eats and drinks.  He just seems to be tired.  This breaks my husband's heart.  Annie is still active and likes to free range and Willy has gotten to the point he will just go out and find a cool spot to sleep after he eats.  One day when Willy seemed to tired to go out, we left them in their cage.  Annie is very attentive and tries to coax him to get up on the roost, or just get up.  You can hear her almost "talking" to him at times.  This particular day,  I went over to check on them and much to my amazement, there was an egg.  Annie had laid an egg.  A few days later there was another.  She has been laying occasionally since that day.  After much deliberation, my husband decided that while she is laying, we need to get her one of our other Cochin bantam roosters so that possibly we can get some chicks from her (that was always our wish).  For a few days we put a new young rooster in with her and she wanted no part of that.  She stayed at one end of the secret garden area and he was scared to death of her and stayed at the other end.  Each night we put her back in her cage with Willy (who now stays in a lot more).  She goes into the Secret Garden during the day to free range and get exercise.  Each evening she meets us at the gate to go "home".  We decided to try another rooster to see if we could get some fertile eggs from her.  Willy has been out less and less with her because he is just tired.  Finally and much to our surprise, she likes the latest rooster.  Hopefully we will finally get some "Annie" chicks to raise.  We still occasionally take Willy out there as well. Some days he will walk around and others he just rests.  He is a cherished pet and is well taken care of and will be until he is gone.

As I said in the beginning, I'm not sure if this story is about my husband's loyalty to these two little birds, or their loyalty to each other.  Maybe it's a little of both.  I have learned in these years of raising chickens, that they do in fact make wonderful pets.  They have individual personalities and habits and are easily trained  to come to you.  Hopefully I will soon be able to tell a story of Annie's chicks!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stop and Smell the Roses

At times day to day life blocks the view of our many blessings.  We tend to get bogged down in what we are doing, and forget what we have already done.  Our goal began, and remains, to create a family friendly farm that we can share with others who come just to see the birds, and with those who wish to purchase some of our rare breed chickens and other birds.  To clear our view, we need only grab a cup of coffee or glass of tea and head to our big cedar rocking chairs on the front porch.  This is the perfect place to gain back our perspective.  From such a vantage point, we can often catch a glimpse of our resident deer making their way across the yard and the field that is between the house and the barn and into the pine thicket where they disappear for the day.  As the roosters begin crowing to signal the beginning of another day on our beautiful little farm, we can hear the peacock calling and being answered by the neighbor's peacocks.  The guineas begin making their distinctive noises as well.  Our cool morning breeze is filled with these and other pleasant and familiar sounds as we start our day.

We will often enjoy coffee breaks periodically in what I call my "Secret Garden" between the barn and my quaint little chicken house.  We can actually see most of the birds from there and watch them as they free range in the large fenced corral area that joins it.  The farm is still very much a work in progress.  There is a beautiful picnic area already in the works under my favorite huge oak tree.  It's a beautiful shaded area with two rustic picnic tables built by my husband with cedar from my grandparent's old homestead.  He also builds picnic tables to sell, for those folks that like the beauty of rustic cedar.  There are also two old tractors that sit in that area and provide a backdrop for pictures.

Since we raise and sell some rare chicken breeds, turkeys, guineas etc, we have already started having some visitors.  Their reaction to our effort is priceless and serves to remind us of what we are surrounded by daily.  Our friends and family also enjoy feeding the birds and interacting with them.  We spend a lot of time with our various birds to ensure that they are calm and docile in temperament.  Our two year old grand daughter is able to walk among the largest of the birds without fear.  She has her own feed bucket and feeds the birds regularly.  They know when she gets here, the gravy train begins.  Normally they rush to her and the little blue bucket to see what she has for them.  She enjoys feeding some of our largest roosters one sunflower seed at a time from her fingers.  They take it very carefully and wait patiently for the next.  Both she and the birds are thrilled with the visit.  We recently added a pair of beautiful rabbits that we also try to spend time with and tame.

We hope that at some point, you too can come and enjoy some time on the farm with us.  We are richly blessed and would love to share that with you and your family.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Emmylou and the Easter Eggs

A short time before Easter, our two year old granddaughter, Emmylou, came for a visit.  As usual, she wanted to see the chickens, and feed the peacocks and turkeys.  There is not a lot that she wants and doesn't get around here, so we took her to the barn to see the birds.  First of all, she has now claimed all the Silkies as hers.  We got her a little blue "feed bucket" with a shovel to help her feed the birds (and use less of the meal worms).  She gathered up her bucket and off we went.  After a time, she decided she wanted to see the baby birds.  They are kept in aquariums in the barn bathroom for warmth.  We walked back into the barn and realized that an chick was hatching in the incubator.  Knowing how much she loves the baby chicks, we thought this would be a real treat for her.  She watched intently as the baby chick made it's way out of the egg.  She was so excited.  We took her back to the house to hang out and play until her parents arrived.  We had no idea the impact the chick hatching had on Emmylou.

My son and daughter in law had the family over to their place on Easter Sunday for lunch and an egg hunt for Emmylou.  The eggs were carefully stuffed with candy and "hidden" all over the yard.  Emmylou took her Easter basket and began to pick up eggs.  She would open them, look inside and throw the egg and the candy on the ground quickly moving to the next egg.  This puzzled us all because it's normally the candy she is after.  After opening a few eggs and throwing them down, she looked up at me puzzled and asked, "Where's the baby?".  She had been systematically opening each egg and discarding it and it's contents in search of a baby chick.  We have to be careful with our little ones because we never know what makes a lasting impression.  I was thrilled, to say the least, that she not only remembered the chick coming out of the egg, but was looking to find her own chick in those Easter eggs.

Emmylou is such a joy around our farm.  She is full of wonder and excitement.  She has no fear of our birds and they know when Emmylou shows up - so do the mealworms!