Tag Archive | Silver Ameraucana

New Chicks

The newest baby chickens have arrived at Phoenix Farm!  They hatched out on 4/21-22, the first for 2019.  There are twenty-four babies, most are silver standard Ameraucana, some are silver crossed with black Ameraucana.  The pure silver ones look like chipmunks with the stripes running down their backs.

The new incubator is doing a great job.  The hatch rate for this first batch was 96%.  Only one egg didn’t open.  The babies are very calm, quiet and curious.  They watch everything with serious, studious expressions on their fluffy faces.  Even being stared at by a four-year-old and two large kittens didn’t fluster these chicks.  They are mellow, taking everything in stride.  I credit the new incubator for the birds’ temperament.  A stress-free beginning in a comfortable environment creates laid back chickens.  The investment in a Brinsea incubator was well worthwhile.

Advertisements

Blue Eggs

Just wanted to share the beautiful eggs my Ameraucana pullets are producing.  They started laying in late December and average four to eight eggs per day.  We have twenty hens.  Only the oldest are laying right now.  More will come online by the end of this month and by the end of March they all should be laying.  That will be just in time to start collecting eggs for setting.

I’m really liking some of the egg color.  My ideal is a robin’s egg blue.  I raise Silver Ameraucana, a variety that has had a lot of trouble with egg color.  The shade is often too pale and too green.  I have my fingers crossed that a good number of the younger pullets will lay nice color.  I’d like to have as many hens as possible for breeding.  So far there are four or five of the oldest pullets producing good blue color.

Personally, I like the variety of shades represented above.  They look lovely as Easter eggs, no dyeing required!  My customers who buy eating eggs really enjoy the brightly colored eggs, as do my young granddaughters.  They are fun for everyone!

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.

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.

Fox!

chick1

Here are some of this year’s chick hatch, all different ages together in a nice little flock.  They are safely within the wire and net enclosed run.  That’s because we have a fox!

For most of the summer, the chicks’ house has been open so they can go out and free-range at their pleasure or come in the house to get food and water or to roost for the night.  The doorway was covered with wire and had a small opening just big enough for young birds to squeeze through.  That way the adult chickens could not get in. In the morning when I did chores, I would spread scratch grain in their run and call them.  Soon, all the chicks would come rushing for their favorite scratch treat.

About two weeks ago while the chicks were eating their scratch, I counted them.  There are supposed to be twenty-three, but one was missing.  Because the birds move around quickly when they eat, I assumed I counted wrong and didn’t think much of it.  Then I began to have premonitions about a fox.  I shrugged them off.

Four days ago when I fed the chicks, none responded to my call.  I could hear them talking in the hedges and stands of daylilies and within other cover in the yard.  Suddenly, no one wanted scratch.

Then, when I went to tend the horses, I discovered the half-eaten body of one of my young black roosters in the paddock.  I looked the body over and suspected a fox attack due to the nature of the injuries.  That evening, rather than going to their roosts when it got dusky, the baby chickens came running to me.  I’m their mother.  They stood around staring at me and yammering.  I took them to their house and made them go inside.  It was a struggle.  The young birds were afraid to go in.

That’s when I realized a predator, probably a fox, had entered their coop the night before though the small opening and stole the rooster as he slept.  I counted my babies that evening and got nineteen!  Oh no!  I locked all their doors and reinforced the wire fence around the run.

The next morning one more little black hen was waiting outside the coop to join her siblings.  She had hidden in the hedge for the night.  So now I have twenty chicks.  The loss of a black rooster is not such a disaster.  He would have been sold for $2 otherwise.  Sadly, I don’t know what other babies were stolen.  Probably some lovely little pullets, knowing my luck.  I’m glad to say my most prized ones are still with us and not fattening some nasty fox.

Also that morning I discovered the three most recent rabbit graves, one about two weeks old and two dating back to spring, had been newly dug up overnight.  It was obviously the work of either a fox or small dog by the size of the holes.  So, I’m pretty sure it’s a fox.  There was nothing edible in the graves.  That didn’t stop the creature from digging them up again the next night.  Now they are weighted with rocks.chick2

All the chickens must now spend most of the day penned up.  I have no idea when this fox may try another sortie against my birds.  They are allowed to free-range for about two hours in the evening while I and the German shepherds are outside.  So far no fox has shown its face.  The older birds are indignant about the restrictions, but the younger one actually seem relieved.  They happily go to roost in their safe, locked-up house at night.  During the day they act content to be within the protective wire of the run.

Watch out, Mr. or Mrs. Fox.  Your days are numbered.  If I see the animal in the yard, I will get rid of it for good.

 

Chick Update

a1

The third hatch of Ameraucana chicks finished this morning.  Currently there are 14 babies.  Very cute and alert little guys who are already eating the chick mash.  I’m glad to be done with hatching for this year, it is a chore.

The first two hatches are growing well.  They spend every day free-ranging around the barnyard.  The first hatch from 4/19 has eight young birds, including a beautiful silver pullet (right front.)  It is hard to catch these guys long enough to get a good photograph.  Here I slowed them down with some scratch grains for a pose.a4

a3The second hatch from 5/14 has thirteen chicks.  They are growing fast and have nearly completed their first fledging.  These little guys are real adventurers and even harder to capture in photos than their older siblings.a2a5Here the two hatches mingle at the feeders.  The older chicks chase the younger ones some, but they are getting more and more tolerant with exposure.  By fall they will be one big flock.  I must set up the feed stations inside pens with narrow entries so the adult chickens can’t steal the food.

Getting Ready To Hatch Eggs

eggs

Hatching Eggs

Time to hatch baby chicks!  I’m collecting eggs from my silver and wheaten Ameraucana chickens to put in the incubator.  I can incubate 42 eggs at once.  Saving eggs to hatch takes a little effort.  The eggs must be handled gently to protect the tiny germ of chicken inside.

w2

Wheaten hens

I collect several times per day, so the eggs are less likely to get dirty or too warm or cold.  The eggs are marked in pencil with the laying date and parents’ colors.  Hatching eggs must be kept around 50 degrees F.  This temperature will hold the embryo in stasis for about 12 days.  After that the egg is too old to have a good chance of hatching.  The humidity in the storage area must be held at 75% so the inside of the egg doesn’t dry out.

Eggs for hatching should not be turned so the narrow end is up.  This can put too much pressure on the air cell at the top of the broader end of the egg.  If the air cell ruptures, the chick embryo won’t have air to breathe just before hatching and will suffocate.  The eggs have to be kept clean.  Dirty eggs can introduce bacteria and disease into the incubator. Never wash eggs, the protective waxy coating will be stripped away and the egg will lose too much moisture.  Hatching eggs should never be tightly wrapped in plastic as this can also suffocate the embryo.

While the eggs are held until I gather enough to fill the incubator, they must be turned daily and placed at a 45 degree angle.  This prevents the embryo from sticking to the side of the egg.

w1

Wheaten Ameraucana rooster

s3

Silver Ameraucana rooster

I have two colors of Ameraucana roosters: silver and wheaten. The silver has three hens.  All his hens are silver, except one appears to have a little wheaten, she has more brown than the others. The wheaten rooster has eight hens.  Four are wheaten or blue wheaten and four are brown red.

This year I am buying some hatching eggs from purebred Ameraucana breeders to introduce new blood into the flock and to *hopefully* improve the blue color of my eggs.  My expensive purchased eggs should arrive next week and will also go in the incubator.  These eggs are shipped through the mail, a tough trip for chick embryos.  The hatch rate is lower for shipped eggs than ones from our farm, but it is still the least costly way to add new blood.

w3

Wheaten rooster and hen

s1

Silver rooster and hens