Tag Archive | ameraucana chicken

Hatching Time and Odd Egg

Here is the first set of Ameraucana eggs for 2018.  They went in the Brinsea Ovation Eco 28 on the 8th and are due to hatch on the 29th.  There are some very nice colored eggs this year.  We’re still waiting for a few of the pullets hatched in September 2017 to start laying, but most of our 15 hens produce regularly.  The main rooster is named RB (Short for Rooster Boy) and he is a very handsome silver Ameraucana.

We have two back-up silver x black roosters and the hens are mostly silver x black.  The hens all have strong silver features.  Fingers are crossed that this next generation will be more of the silver type I’m looking to breed.

Silver Ameraucana hens tend to mature a little slower than other pullets.  They often don’t begin laying until they are seven to nine months old.  Most of mine start around seven months.  The pullets of some breeds commence laying as early as four-and-a-half to six months of age.  What I’ve noticed with early ovulation is the eggs are in the extra small to small range, due to the size of the hens’ bodies.  It takes several weeks for them to have large size eggs.  The silvers may take a little longer to mature, but they start in with a bigger, more usable (salable) egg.  This is a first egg from a seven-month bird that was laid last week.  It is a size large egg.  The deep color is typical for first eggs, although the band of color is somewhat extreme.  It is an odd but beautiful egg.

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Fall Chicks

Usually people think of chicks hatching in the spring.  There is no reason why chicks can’t be hatched right through September here in Maine.  By the time real cold weather arrives the young ones will be two months old, fully feathered and ready for frost.

I acquired a lovely new silver Ameraucana rooster in August.  There were still eight laying hens active in the coop, so I decided to collect eggs and try to get some offspring as soon as possible.  The babies hatched out yesterday through early this morning.  Seventeen new chicks have arrived here at Phoenix Farm.  They are so cute and very robust birds already.  They do not seem to require as much heat in the brooder as some of my hatches.

Four of the babies are black and the others have the chipmunk markings typical of the silver Ameraucana variety.  Some of the photos have a slightly more yellow tint than real life due to the light bulb in the brooder.  The little ones are mostly fluff at this point.  The thick down helps keep tiny bodies warm.  They typically sleep cuddled up to each other.  If they spread far apart to sleep, they are too warm.  If they try to sleep standing up, the temperature in the brooder is too cool.  The chicks resting in the above photo feel just right.

I have read that it is possible to tell the gender of silver chicks by their markings.  The females are said to have sharp, well defined caps on their heads while the males have more blurred, indistinct marks.  Using this information, in the photo below, the baby in the center on the feeder would be female and the one right behind her would be male.  I’m going to count how many of each I have based on the markings.  It will be interesting to see if this is an accurate method of differentiation.  Right now I can’t reliably tell the sex of a chicken until they are about 2 months old.  At that age the little roosters tend to show larger combs and brighter feather patterns.  Even at two months, I get fooled at least 10% of the time. It would be very convenient if the silver chicks have sexual dimorphism.

In a week the chicks will be old enough to go out in the barn.  I’m hoping the very mild weather we’ve been experiencing for the last few days holds through the end of September.

January Chicks

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The first Ameraucana chicks of 2017 finished hatching overnight.  Currently there are twenty babies, an excellent hatch rate any time.  The hatch is particularly impressive for eggs that were collected when the temperatures were at or below 0 degrees F and the majority of eggs set had been stored in the refrigerator for several days.  When the best breeding rooster for the next generation is killed by a weasel, any possibly viable eggs that could contain his DNA should be set.  Of the 42 eggs I placed in the incubator, 37 grew embryos.  Of those, 22 pipped and 20 hatched.  Had I owned a better incubator, I believe the hatch rate would have been higher.c3

In the photo above, the last two chicks to hatch are in the lower area.  They appear less fluffy than the rest because their down has still not shed all the albumen residue that keeps them wet and lubricated so they can escape from the egg shell.  In a few hours they will be as fluffed as the others.

I’m saving my pennies to purchase a Brinsea incubator to replace the styrofoam Hova-bator currently in use.  Had I known that such an early hatch was necessary, I would have begun saving sooner.  The usual hatching season begins in March for me.  By then all the hens are laying well, the days are long enough to assure good fertility and when the babies hatch, the weather is warm enough to keep the chicks in the barn.

Now I am faced with twenty chicks that must live in the house until they are old enough to go outdoors.  They will need to stay in with us for at least three weeks!  Anyone who has raised chicks knows they can get smelly.  They usually go in the barn after one week.  I will need to provide a large brooding area and consistent attention to bedding to keep the odor of chicken at an acceptable level.  The cats are another concern.  One of our cats, Chloe, killed some newly hatched chicks the first year she lived with us.  Since then she has mellowed, but we now have two one-year-old males who consider themselves mighty hunters.  The baby chicks will need to be enclosed in a cat-proof system.

Still, my hopes are high for a good outcome with these babies.  I’m certain many of them were fathered by my best rooster since he was the dominant male in the chicken house.  So far they are a beautiful hatch of silver Ameraucanas.  I look forward to seeing their adult plumage and the color of the eggs they produce.c2

 

First Snow and First Eggs

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Time to finish cleaning up the garden!

We awoke today to the first measurable snow of the season, about 1/2 inch of wet accumulation.  The white won’t last long.  The next few days will have temperatures in the 40sF with rain.  It’s pretty to see, dusting the trees, carpeting the lawns.  A warning of what is to come.

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Winter dusts the harvest decorations

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Snow never stops Otto from enjoying his favorite ball

The first snow of the winter is later than last year by about three weeks.  We have enjoyed a very warm autumn.  The ground has not frozen yet.  I am still harvesting the late apples and they are in good, hard condition.  I also collected my hazelnut crop, a total of eighteen nuts! b6

Next year should bring a better harvest.  Only the largest hazelnut bush produced nuts.  Hazelnuts require good cross pollination.  There are two other hazelnuts struggling to produce flower catkins.  They should provide enough to fertilize my largest plant next spring, as long as the deer don’t chew on them again this winter.  I trimmed my husband’s hair last night and collected the clippings.  Legend holds that hanging little cloth bags of human hair in the branches of trees will stop the deer from eating the twigs.  I’m giving it a try.b1

The pullets hatched in May and June have just started laying.  There are a total of thirteen hens.  Every morning the lights in their pen come on around four.  This gives them enough supplemental light to stimulate laying during the dark, dreary days of late fall and early winter.  We are getting an average of eight eggs per day.

b5The shell color on the eggs being produced by these young Ameraucana hens is lovely.   My latest flock is all silver or black plumage color.  I believe the blacks produce the deepest blue shade on their eggshells.  I breed specifically for the bluest shell color and things seem to be heading in the right direction!

 

New Hen

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Meet Prudy, the newest addition to the farm animals.  She is the first hen I’ve ever named.  Not sure why I did, there’s just something special about this chicken.

I spotted her in the chicken pen my veterinarian keeps in his yard beside the clinic.  The vet has six Welsummer hens he bought as chicks last year.  Suddenly, last week I noticed this silver Ameraucana hen in with them.

I’ve been struggling for several years to breed silver Ameraucanas.  I can’t seem to get the numbers up enough to keep the color strong.  Last year I had a gorgeous silver rooster, three silver hens and two black hens.  Black can be mated with silver to help improve the color.  Unfortunately, black seems to sometimes completely over-ride the silver.  From those six birds, this spring I got a lovely silver cockerel for next year, several black hens and two nice black cockerels.  No silver hens.

The black roosters are unnecessary since there is a good silver, so they are being sold.  Breeding the black hens may produce only black chicks next year.  The end of the silver line.  I have one silver hen left from this year’s breeding stock.  Looks like when I sell the year-old stock this fall, the silver hen will be retained for next spring.  Having an older bird with younger ones doesn’t always work well. They tend to be bossy and aggressive with junior hens.  I try to avoid it.  But I have little choice if I want to try to get more silvers.

Then, I realized, aha!  What about the silver hen at the vet’s?  A lot of people sell their laying hens when they begin to molt in the fall.  I decided to ask the vet if he’d sell his hen to me.  The vet, Dr. Danner, is a great guy.  Very empathetic and easy to get along with.  He said the hen was given to him.  A client had two hens and one developed a sour crop.  Dr. Danner was unable to cure the swollen, infected crop and the hen died, leaving one lone hen.  He said he didn’t even know what breed she was.  The clients gave her to him to put in with his birds so she wouldn’t be lonely.

He quickly agreed that she should come to our farm and maybe have a chance at making some babies next spring.  He knows a free-range life is idyllic.  He said he thought the hen is two years old, but still lays–brownish eggs. Next year she will be quite an old bird, yet she may produce enough eggs to have offspring.  I hope so.

I plucked her from her warm roost at the vet’s after dark on Monday, popped her in a cat carrier and brought her to the farm.  The first day she was separated from the other chickens in a pen where they could see each other.  When the hens went out to free-range in the afternoon, I let her have the run of the hen house.  She was very curious and explored all over.  She is friendly and hung around me talking in soft little clucks. She can be scooped up and carried with no fuss.  An unusual chicken, indeed.

This morning Prudy was anxious to be released from her small enclosure.  I let her out with the other birds to eat scratch.  Perhaps because she is a year older than the other hens, Prudy is barely phased by the glares and disgruntled squawks of the younger birds.  She mostly ignores them.  If one gets close and wants to fight, she turns her back and moves away.  She likes the rooster and he took to her in no time.

This afternoon after I let the hens out to free-range, I kept her and the rooster together in the hen house for a couple hours.   They got along, no problem.  So I released them both to free-range.  Prudy spent the time exploring by herself.  I lost track of her after awhile and couldn’t spot her.  It made me worry I’d let her out too soon and she would forget how to find her way back to the roost.  No need to fret.  At dusk she ambled out from under the hedge, went straight to the barn and in with the rest of the flock.  I have never seen a new chicken assimilate as easily as Prudy.  Nothing seems to ruffle her feathers.

She is not a fine example of a silver Ameraucana.  Her feather color is a little off, her eyes are rather pale, her comb is too large, as are her wattles.  And she lays brown eggs.  Ameraucanas are supposed to have blue-tinted eggs.  Luckily, the young rooster was hatched from a very blue egg.  The blue gene is strongly dominant.  If Prudy manages to make any little girl chicks, they should have the blue gene from their father.  In her favor, she does have muffs and tufts of feathering on her head, as a good Ameraucana should.  Her skin is white, another required trait.  And best of all, she’s silver!

So, if I’m very lucky, there will be two silver hens for breeding next spring and they might even give me some silver pullets. Perhaps her calm demeanor will rub off on the other silver hen and she won’t pick on the younger hens. Hope does spring eternal in the chicken breeder’s heart.

Chick Adventures

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The Ameraucana chicken fledglings are three weeks old in these photos.  They are just beginning to explore the big world beyond the enclosure where they were kept safe as hatchlings.  The chicks stare out from the safety of the barn into the great green world.  The lure of grass, sunshine and tasty bugs helps them overcome their fear of the unknown.

Sunlight streaming through the barn door makes a wonderful place to stretch out.  Chickens originated as jungle birds.  The love of warmth is in their genetic code.  The little guys plop down wherever the sun is bright to spread their wings and absorb the heat.  Their response to sun seems automatic.ck3
Hatched in early May, these chicks are growing fast. Their fully feathered wings and relatively light-weight bodies make them good fliers. I have to cover any buckets holding water to avoid calamity. Chicks have accidentally flown into water buckets in the past and drowned. Because they are not swimmers, they panic, inhale some water and quickly succumb. The same thing happened to a wild turkey poult in my horses’ watering tub last year. Very sad.ck2

These young chickens grow more brave every day.  In a gang, they adventure farther from the barn and discover new places where they can hide quickly if danger threatens.  Soon their sixteen little siblings that hatched last week will join them in the barn.  With plenty of exposure, the two ages of chicks will come to tolerate each other.  When this winter arrives, they will be friendly enough to form one big flock.

Chick Hatch Results

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The chick hatch is completed and there are twenty-three Ameraucana babies.  Three are not doing too well and may not survive.  Still, I’m very pleased with the result, a great hatch for me.  Many more would be too much at once!

The little ones are now one to two days old.  The photo was taken this morning.  All are bright-eyed and active.  They are starting to eat and spend lots of time sleeping under the brooder light.  Before too long they will be running around in the barnyard.

Today I set the eggs for the second hatch.  If all goes well, more babies will be popping out in twenty-one days!

Update 5/9/15:  I miscounted, there were actually 24 hatchlings.  Unfortunately 2 or 3 were not very strong and one has passed away.  The others are holding their own at the moment.  It is normal for some newborn chicks to not survive.  The rest are all very healthy right now and eating like tiny horses.

Here are their parents, silvers, black, wheatens and blue wheatens.

Silver rooster with silver and black hens

Silver rooster with silver hens

Wheaten and blue wheaten roosters with wheaten hens

Wheaten and blue wheaten roosters with wheaten hens