A lot has been going on around the farm and keeping me busy. We have a busy year ahead with some family excitement, our oldest son is getting married this summer. We have our other son coming home for a visit, he's in the military, and our daughter is preparing for prom, which is a big deal to a teenager. With all that happening in our family, I still get excited about our new baby chicks and our eggs in the incubator. This hatch, my second ever, is going well and there are 8 eggs growing and forming. Our rooster, that we purchased a couple of months ago, is busy keeping up with his flock and doing his job well. I gathered and placed 10 eggs in the incubator on the 10th of March. One went bad quickly and was tossed out immediately and another was not fertile after I candled on day 4, so I removed it. The remaining 8 are doing great, actually 7 are chicken eggs and we have one lone duck egg doing well too.
Today is day 9 for the eggs in the incubator and I checked them and could see the little chick embryos moving around. I took some video to share, although not the best video because I was tucked in the corner of my closet so it was nice and dark, you can see the little chick embryo moving around. It's very exciting! I told my husband I'm addicted to incubating eggs, the excitement is too much to handle. He said, "Oh no, we're going to have hundreds of chickens now." He might be right!
I just love seeing inside that egg and watching nature turn an embryo into a little fluffy chick and then a beautiful, fully grown hen or rooster.
Let's talk about chicken breeds! There are so many different breeds of chickens, literally hundreds of chicken breeds, and this is why it can be hard to decide on just one kind. Here at the Pierce Ponderosa farm, we started with ordering a rainbow layer pack from a hatchery, so that I could see what chickens I really liked best. The specific breed of chicken can be determined by why you plan to have chickens in the first place. If you are looking for egg layers, or if you are looking for meat chickens to butcher and eat, or if you want the best of both worlds, eggs and then meat you will have to know what type of chicken breed is best for your plans. Today, I thought I would focus on the Buff Orpington chickens.
Why Are They Called Orpingtons?
The Orpington Chicken is named after the town Orpington in Kent in the United Kingdom. This breed of bird was created in the late 1800's, so they have been around a very long time. This bird is considered a dual purpose bird because it lays eggs and is used for a meat chicken for the table. These are wonderful birds that are heavy and meaty if you plan to eat them or if you just want to enjoy them in the barnyard and gather their eggs, they make great chickens for the farm.
Tell Me More About Buff Orpington Chickens!
Chickens can have distinct personalities and some are more friendly than others. The Buff Orpington Chicken is a friendly chicken that is laid back and calm. Roosters can weigh as much as 10 pounds and the hens are quite large and can weigh in around 7-8 pounds. Their large size is what makes them wonderful meat birds. This breed of chicken can lay up to 200 or more medium to large sized brown eggs per year. They are resilient with the weather and can lay eggs all through the winter, where some breeds of chickens do not lay as well in the colder weather. Generally, the Buff Orpington will begin laying eggs around 24 weeks of age. Some may lay as soon at 20 weeks, but on average you can expect your first egg when they are 6 months old.
The Buff Orpington Chicken is a heavily feathered bird that looks round and fluffy. They have a single comb and their peachy to orange plumage looks like a soft setting sun when they run, heading your way for a treat. The Orpington chicken breed can come in other colors. They originated as a black colored chicken and there are white, and the rare blue, lavender and, of course, the buff that is a soft orange color and probably the most popular Orpington chicken.
Keeping Buff Orpington chickens is a delight. They are fun and curious and don't mind being picked up and held. They make great chickens for beginners and for children. Some chicken breeds can be skittish and flighty, but this breed is very docile. They can be so docile that they can end up being picked on by other breeds of chickens if you have a mixed breed barnyard. They are peaceful, content chickens and don't squabble with the other birds.
I love keeping this breed of chicken on the Pierce Ponderosa Farm. We enjoy the personality of the Buff Orpington and I like the fact that I don't have to worry about them through the winter because they are so hearty. I can't imagine not having my Buff Orpingtons running toward me every time I open the front door and step outside.
Do you have a favorite breed of chicken? I'd love to hear about your favorite chicken breeds. I have a few actually, it makes it hard to have just one breed of chicken around here when I love so many different breeds for their personalities and characteristics.
Connect with Us!
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was free ranging, that's why! There are a lot of opinions on chickens in coops and free-ranging poultry, and both have a lot of valid points. What happens to free range chickens, is a question that The Pierce Ponderosa hears often.
First, let me tell you my story. We started out with a chicken tractor. What is a chicken tractor you ask? It's a movable coop that you can move around the yard so that the chickens have access to green grass and insects after they have eaten all they wanted in the other spot. I didn't find it to be an ideal situation. My yard looked like it had some strange disease, in certain spots it was lush green and grassy and in others it was brown rectangles of dirt. Moving the tractor was a lot of work. We had to pick it up and move it around all at the same time shifting the chickens without letting them get out or smashing them. It was a headache.
I then decided that we needed a nice big run with a chicken house. My husband went to work on the chicken house and he and my sons fenced in a big, grassy area. That grassy area lasted a very short time and then turned into a mud pit after a lot of rain. I slipped and fell a couple of times and hurt my back and my pride, as I laid there in nasty chicken poo trying to get up, like a turtle on it's back, so not to touch any more chicken poo or mud. We had dogs get into the chicken run and kill a lot of our chickens and my heart was broken. I felt like I had set them up to be killed because they had nowhere to go when they were being attacked. I decided this was not an ideal situation.
I started reading about free range chickens and the more I read and the more I researched, the better it sounded to me. I left the door open to the chicken house and let them out into the world. I stayed with them that first day, and only thought that I would do it supervised. I did that for some time but finally I realized how happy my chickens were and how this seemed like a healthy way to raise them. Today, I still free range all of my chickens on our eighteen acres and we have happy, content chickens here on the Pierce Ponderosa.
You will hear people speak about predators with free range chickens. Yes, there are a lot of predators that love a tasty chicken meal, including domestic dogs like the ones that killed all of mine. I've written a post on 15 Chicken predators, and you can read more about the predators that go after chickens. I know that we don't want to lose any of our precious chickens and we fall in love with each and every one of them. But, in reality, we do lose chickens to death. Even chickens in coops get ill and have issues with health and can die. The circle of life means that if we are letting our animals out of our control, that they could disappear to a hungry owl or hawk. I can't fault hawks and owls and other creatures for snatching a bird because they are looking for a meal and are just living their lives. It makes me sad when it happens. I haven't lost as many birds to predators while free ranging as I did when I had them in a coop. I have Great Pyrenees and they are very protective of our livestock and they keep things away from our property. There are a lot of predators that can get into housed chickens and kill them. Raccoons, opossum, foxes and other animals can dig into a chicken coop and reap havoc, killing all the birds. If runs aren't covered, you still have issues with hawks swooping down and snatching a bird from their safe zone. Honestly, in my opinion, there are just as many ways to lose your birds to predators in a safe chicken coop as there are with them ranging freely and doing what chickens like to do best.
I love watching my chickens and seeing them scurrying around pecking and hunting for bugs. I feel so loved when I open the front door and they all come running from every direction, knowing they are due for a treat or just to say hello. For me, free-ranging my chickens just feels right. I can't imagine not having those heart melting moments from the kitchen window because they are all cooped up out of my view.
I have taken precautions to limit loss with my free range chickens here on the Pierce Ponderosa. I have Guinea fowl that acts as an alarm if there is anything out of the ordinary in the barnyard. They screech and run around insanely and allow me a chance to get outside to take a look. Like I mentioned before, I have livestock guardian dogs that help to keep predators away and I have a nice big rooster that watches his girls and is ready to put his life on the line for them. The same goes for my ducks as well, I always make sure I have a Drake to protect his ladies. And, I don't discount the intelligence of my chickens. They keep watch on the sky and are cautious on their own. They have plenty of places to hide and get out of harms way if there is a predator lurking around. People say chickens are dumb, but I disagree, I think they are very intelligent and know just how to do what they are supposed to do. With all these precautions in place, I will admit I've lost a bird here or there, but nothing like the slaughter when I had my coop. I had a bird bitten by a snake and one that wandered off into the open pasture alone and was taken by a hawk. But, for the most part, my free range birds live a fairly safe existence and are happy and content.
What is your opinion on free-ranging chickens? Do you prefer to keep them in a house and coop or let them wander freely around your property? I would love to situate my farm so that I can run my animals to keep my land healthy like Joel Salatin does at Polyface Farms in Virginia. If you ever get a chance to read his books or check out his website, do so, what he has done is amazing. We aren't that point yet, we need to continue to build our livestock and add our pigs and cows to our farm. Once we get ourselves in the right situation, I'm planning on following his advice and only hope to see a fraction of results like he has done. But, I digress, back to free ranging chickens!
I wanted to share some of the benefits that we have from free range chickens, besides their freedom that really struck accord with me and helped me to decide to free range.
There are a lot of studies about higher nutritional levels in eggs and the meat of chickens that are raised on pasture, and that is great news. But, for me it's more about the happiness and quality of life for my chickens. They give me so many benefits, the least I can do is make sure their lives are as happy as I can make them while I am raising them.
Connect with us!
Are you going to bring a few or many adorable baby chicks home to raise? When you do, you want to be prepared for their care and feeding to help them stay healthy and grow. Let's walk through the items you will need.
You Will Need A Brooder
What is a brooder you ask?
A brooder is the home to chicks until they are old enough and big enough to be moved. You can make an easy brooder using a large plastic container, a brooder light and bulb and litter in the bottom to keep them clean and from slipping around on the plastic.
You will need to move the chicks into a larger home after a couple of weeks, and the brooder you keep them in from the start will need to be cleaned daily and sanitized.
After you get their brooder prepared and ready for the chicks, you will need to have a few more supplies on hand. You will need a feeder and a waterer. Personally, I like the waterer bottom you can buy that attaches to a mason jar. It's small enough to fit inside without taking up a lot of room. I like to buy the long slender feeding tray with a cover to keep the chicks from walking all over and polluting their feed. However, sometimes you have to use what you have so a small shallow dish works with food and you can purchase a waterer at your local feed store.
You will need a special feed for chicks. They need medicated chick starter and will remain on this diet for a few weeks. How long you ask? Chicks should be fed starter feed until they are eight weeks old. At this point, you can switch their feed to Starter/Grower feed. At eighteen weeks, you can switch them to Layer Feed to help them produce healthy eggs.
The medication in the medicated chick feed prevents the chicks from getting coccidiosis. What is coccidiosis?
Coccidia is a nasty issue caused by a parasitic protozoa. It causes runny stools and dehydration and it can kill a chick in a matter of hours.
Feeding chicks medicated feed does not protect the chicks from this condition it only prevents it. Keeping chicks in clean and healthy conditions will help to prevent any health issues in chicks.
Raising chicks is rewarding and it's a lot of fun for the entire family. Children love watching and visiting the baby chicks. Be careful though with handling them, especially children, they are very fragile when they are tiny and new. Now that you know what you need and are ready to bring those adorable fuzzy chicks home, you can go out and get them.
Let us know how your chicks are doing and how they are growing. Share some photos with us so we can put them on our blog and let you brag about your precious babies.
Do you want to learn how to hatch eggs using an incubator? Let's be honest, baby chicks are the most adorable creatures and who doesn't want to watch them come into the world and hatch from eggs.
I want to use my new incubator and hatch eggs. My batch of hatching eggs arrived today. I have been doing some very intensive resarch to make sure my hatch goes well and I am successful and I'm going to share that with you.
What have I learned so far?
To get started, first we have to obtain an incubator. From my research, I chose to get one that had a fan that would circulate the warm air evenly. You can purchase less expensive incubators, but I wanted one that I could hatch a lot of eggs if I got good at it. There are two kinds of incubators, the kind I opted for, forced-air and still-air.
By no means do I expect you to use this ad that I have added. However, I do shop at Amazon for a lot of the things I purchase online so I chose Amazon. I wanted to show you two different kinds of incubators. I offered a link to Amazon for the two incubtors, the one that I have purchased and will be using, and another that is a still air incubator, that I have heard really good things about. Had I opted to use a still air incubator, I would have purchased this Hovabator. First, because it's been given good reviews on and off line to me, and because you can add an automatic egg turner to this brand and model.
As you can see there is a large price difference between the still air and forced air incubator. So, if your budget is tight, a still air incubator might be the way to go.
Obtain Your Hatching Eggs
If you have a rooster then you probably can use eggs that your hens are laying to incubate. If you do not have a rooster, then you have to obtain hatching eggs from another source. There are several ways to obtain fertile hatching eggs to incubate.
There are many reputable hatcheries where you can purchase eggs. I have never purchased eggs from my favorite hatchery, McMurray Hatchery, but they sell them and I could buy them. I have bought many, already hatched chicks from them and have always gotten healthy chicks.
I chose to try buying my first batch of eggs through Ebay. I decided to do this because I wasn't looking for breed specific chickens. I didn't want to invest a lot of money into my first eggs in case I didn't have a good hatch. I bought a dozen barnyard eggs. This means I will get twelve mixed breed chicken eggs. However, I got fourteen eggs and am very thankful for the extras.
If you know someone or know of a local farm or homestead, you can ask them for eggs to incubate. That is another inexpensive way to try hatching chicks.
Preparing To Hatch
It is recommended to test an incubator for twenty-four hours prior to putting the eggs inside to incubate. I have done that with my incubator and am ready to get started. Now we are all in virgin territory. At this point, I will have to follow these instructions myself once my eggs are ready to go in the incubator tomorrow. I will be keeping notes and updating my hatch process to share with everyone as my hatch progresses.
Once the eggs arrive they should sit for twelve to twenty-four hours, pointy side down, before being placed in the heated incubator. Eggs should be incubated within seven to ten days after they are laid. So it is important to know that your egg source is sending you freshly laid eggs. Once the eggs are placed in the heated incubator, make sure the temperature is correct and that you do not open the lid for the first day. I read a good tip, that I will be using on my eggs. Mark each egg with a non-toxic marker, A, B, C, and D. The top, bottom and each side, so that you know the eggs are all being turned properly
Now We Wait
If hatching chicken eggs, we have to wait twenty-one days for the hatch. Now that we have gotten our eggs and put them into the incubator, we wait and watch and make sure the temperature and the humidity stays correct and hope that we have a good hatch. From what I understand, you can't expect 100% hatch any time. And, with shipped eggs it could be as low as 0 to 25%. With that knowledge, I will hope for the best, especially since this is my first time and all an experiment for me.
Our incubator came yesterday and we tested it out last night and made sure it worked properly. I think it's going to do a great job hatching chicks, it works great. I won the bid for my hatching eggs on eBay last night too and got an email about them being shipped. So, now I wait, and they should be here next week.
I decided not to order breed specific and lay out a lot of money for my first batch. I ordered a cheaper "barnyard mix" and will see what we hatch out of the dozen I ordered. That is if all twelve get here in one piece! I really need to get a nice virile rooster so that I can gather my own fertilized eggs. Our rooster was doing his job protecting the hens and got snatched up by a hawk. It was heartbreaking! He was a great rooster and we miss him terribly. RIP Beetlejuice! That is part of farm life dealing with predators. However, since we got the Great Pyrenees we have not had any more predator issues so far.
Battling predators with free-ranging animals can be one of the biggest issues hobby farmers have on their farm. There are so many different predators that can destroy a farms livestock. For chicken keepers, there are more than I can count on one hand.
Do you deal with predators? How do you protect your free-ranging birds? I'd love to hear other tips and ideas since this is such a prevalent problem for all farmers.
Hi! My name is Jaymie and I'm married to my best friend and have three children. We live on our hobby farm in the north Georgia mountains and love it!
All work on this site is copyrighted. Please do not steal our content. We will gladly grant permission to use our photos and content if you ask and give credit. Do not copy posts in their entirety. You may share a link and an excerpt, but give credit. You may pin images from my blog, or share them on your website. However, please give credit. Provide a link back to my site and include the following line in your caption: Photo courtesy of www.pierceponderosa.com.