Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chickens and Halloween

It has been quiet around here. Here as in the blog site. That is a sure sign our lives are anything but quiet. I'll give you a quick run down over the next few days going from the present, then back in time. First of all, I hope you had a wonderful Halloween. We did. Kirk and I went to the school parties to help out frazzled mom who attended one party and we the other. One child was a skunk, another a unicorn, and the oldest grade-schooler, an artist's interpretation of a deer, the artist being me.

All three costumes had tutu's. Tutus go with everything you know, or so Pinterest tells me. Thirty some hours of costume building on my part equated to three very happy children so I'd call it a success. The best part came when we sent the kid's and their mom off to meet up with her sister, our oldest daughter, to go trick or treating. We then went home and relaxed by the fire. Aw....., peace and quiet! Our first Halloween in the easy chair and no trick or treaters since we live too far out. I love seeing the joy on our grand daughter's faces but I am not a Halloween fan.

When it got dark, we headed out to gather eggs, plus lock the hens and goats up. I discovered that Rachel was setting. She has set before and I'm getting wise to the look. Besides I saw her in the same basic position earlier in the day. It's my fault really. I've been leaving the light on in the chicken coop at night. It is not that the girls are scared of the dark but egg production has almost ceased. We get two or three eggs a day at most and that is not enough for six hungry mouths. Our light hours have dipped below 14 as we are nearing winter solstice in December. 

Typically, I do not add artificial light in the winter and just put up with decreased egg production. Not this decreased. Last year we got by fine because the 22 hens laid so, so throughout the winter. The chicks came in the mail right before Easter in 2015 and started laying early fall and continue for a couple years before I put them can them and new chickens take their place. That is our normal routine. BUT, this year is different for several reason. We have only eight hens left from last year since the fox came hunting. 

This year we had natural hatches and the first was early April and it was four roosters. Roosters don't lay eggs. We would have normally not had chicks at all but would have waited until next spring and set up the incubator. Due to the addition of a new breed, Easter Eggers, and a new environment more conducive to setting for the Austrolorps, we had natural hatches. So glad we did since the fox reduced our numbers so drastically. But, it is a new experience for us and there are glitches to work out.

 The next two natural hatches began in May, a month later than April and continued through the summer months. That means the earliest batch of hens is due to start production now. Now when hours of light are waning too low. The next batch will mature in December. The darkest month. That is where the problem comes in. It works like this, light passes through the pupil in the eye to the pituitary gland which triggers egg laying by releasing a hormone to the ovaries. It takes 14 hours, or greater, of light hours to do this trick. 

 Of the older hens who survived the fox, the 3 Easter Eggers just completed a molt, having it delayed by hatching out chicks. Now with the light low they don't want to start up again. The non setting Rhode Island hen and the Wyandotte, the two Asian Blue hens who also don't set, and the earliest hen to hatch out chicks (an Austrolorp), are the only ones laying eggs. Now the Austrolorp, Rachel, wants to set again. That would bring us down to four hens laying eggs at a reduced rate so Rachel -- sweetheart-- I know it is my fault because I've given you too much light, but honey-- NO!! I'm not going to let you set.

A week and a half ago we bought a timer. The timer is suppose to plug into the socket in the ceiling light. Another light will then be plugged into the timer. This will increase the light hours to over 14 and yet not require that the main light be left on all night. This will save electricity. This should discourage Rachel. We bought the timer when we bought more fencing materials. Hence, the fence was put up because we desperately needed more pasture to feed the calves and the Halloween costumes needed done so the light was not set up.

Thanks to Rachel, this project has moved up the ladder in importance. Yet, what I really hope is:
1. That next year we will not have a fox problem.
2.That next year, since our hens were born at varying times, that they will molt at different times. I'm told they are suppose to. 
3. That the three hens left -of the five hens setters we started with-- will be better than ever at hatching and raising chicks and new hens will join the ranks. Of course that the hatches will be earlier in the spring also. 

Amazingly after 30 years of raising chickens, I still have no idea what I'm doing. Order chicks from a hatchery and raise them or even hatch them in my own incubator and raise them in a coop and chicken run set up and I'm pretty good. Only pretty good because when you have livestock new things never experienced before have a way of emerging from nowhere. Still that that scenario is pretty comfortable for me. It is when I shifted to free range and self-sufficiency hatching that the --I have no idea what I'm doing feelings emerged. That's okay because I figure if one does not feel that way on a regular basis, one is not stretching and growing by leaps and bounds. It is a humbling experience. And humble means teachable.

I think that is just where the Savior wants me to be. As I discover light and truth, I realize just how incredible this beautiful world is. Everything around me testifies of Him and the more I learn the more I know it was no happenstance that created such an intricately perfect world.

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