Flock Friday for June 21

Welcome to the second Flock Friday!

Okay, sure, I cheated with the bonus Flock Monday… but a good thing too, as I have 147 photos since then. I have managed to cull them down to just 30 for this post.

Let’s start with the Ducklings. They have definitely learned that I provide treats when I visit them in each morning:

Duckling treats

They love swim time:

Ducklings

Water flowing off the duckling’s head after dunking:

Ducklings

The buff ones like to keep an eye on me, hoping for more treats:

Ducklings

Water everywhere:

Ducklings

Ducklings

Ducklings

The brown-billed buff duckling still hasn’t been swimming, so I decided to show it (and wash it) by grabbing it and dunking it in the water… which of course it wasn’t too thrilled about, but I think worthwhile:

Dunking duckling

No hard feelings:

Ducklings

A quick look at the wild birds. I temporarily mounted my mobile cam on a post by the bird feeders, so I could watch them with the new feeders. I’m pleased to say that they are effective against the pigeons, that swarm in and clear out the feeders, leaving little for other birds. The pigeons can still eat the dropped seed on the ground:

Pigeons

Pigeons

Birds on feeders

On to the chicks:

Chicks

Chicks

Chicks

Chicks

Chicks

Me in the coop, with a chick on my hand:

David with a chick on the hand

Chick on the hand

Back to the ducklings:

Ducklings

Duckling

Little duckling wings:

Ducklings

Ducklings

Finally, a look at the older chickens. Here they are hanging out in the run:

Chickens

There was some excitement yesterday; it appears a chicken broke an egg, hopefully accidentally (it happens sometimes), then ran away with the shell (which is unusual). Others chased her, and there was some fun for a while. I hope they don’t get in the habit of that, though:

Chickens

Here I’m turning over some logs in the chicken run, to expose the tasty bugs hiding underneath:

David in chicken run

And me in the chicken coop, collecting eggs. The girls are hunting for dried mealworms that I scattered on the floor, their evening treat:

David in chicken coop

Sunset by the chicken run:

Sunset by chicken run

Chickens settling down for the night on the roosting bars, as the pop door automatically closes when it gets dark:

Chickens

In the morning, chickens squeezing out the pop door as it opens:

Chickens

I hope you enjoyed this flock update!

Flock Monday? Bonus chicks & ducks

I’ve been taking so many pictures of the chicks and ducklings each day, I can’t save them up for #FlockFriday. So here’s a bonus post to help your Monday!

Some chicks:

Chicks

Chicks

The ducklings are very messy (as expected), so I’ll need to muck out the duck house probably weekly, at least until they are able to go outside. I use a plastic container to collect the old straw using a small rake:

Mucking out duck house

Mostly cleared out; once they can go outside, I’ll probably hose it out. The duck house was designed to be fairly waterproof for a reason:

Mucking out duck house

Fresh straw:

Mucking out duck house

The two buff (light-colored) ducklings can be told apart by the color of their bill. One has a more brown bill, the other is more pink. Their description says “The female has a brownish orange bill with a dark bean and the male has a yellow bill.” I’m not sure that clarifies it for me; is “brownish orange” what I think of as pink, or brown? “Yellow” seems more like brown to me. Perhaps time will tell; certainly once their feathers come in it should be more obvious.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that the brown-billed duckling doesn’t seem to be as much of a fan of swimming; I’ve seen it drinking from the water, and wade in to the shallow end, but not actually immersing itself like the others do, or at least not as enthusiastically:

Brown-billed duckling

Here’s the pink-billed duckling in the water:

Pink-billed duckling

Intermission for a chick on top of the waterer:

Chick on waterer

Back to the ducklings:

Ducklings

Duckling treats:

Duckling treats

So cute:

Ducklings

There’s an expression “like water off a duck’s back” for a reason! Their waterproofing oils seem to be getting nicely established:

Ducklings swimming

Head shake:

Ducklings swimming

Ducklings waiting for swim time, as I fill the paint tray from a water jug:

Ducklings waiting for swim time

The jug is then refilled from the tap by the chicken coop, and stored in the duck house cupboard to come to room temperature for next time. Wouldn’t want them swimming in water directly from the tap, as it’s quite cold as it comes out of the well.

Once they get closer to being able to swim in the pond, I’ll mix in pond water, so they can get used to that.

A duckling stretching their wings:

Duckling stretching wings

Sleepy chicks; it amuses me how they fall asleep on the roosting bars and go limp:

Sleepy chicks

A couple of chicks roosting on the grit dispenser (grit is sand-sized chunks of granite, which they store in their crop to help eat treats, since chickens don’t have teeth… another expression):

Roosting on grit dispenser

Roosting on grit dispenser

The chicks are getting better at flying; I recently saw them on the nesting box bar (the nesting boxes are temporarily blocked off, until they are old enough to start laying, since I don’t want them sleeping in there):

Chicks on nesting box bar

Fortunately, the ducklings can’t fly (or even jump very high), so the half door is plenty to contain them. Good thing, or they’d jump out to get to the treats:

Duckling treats

Duckling treats

I’ll try to save subsequent pictures for Flock Friday. Or do I need a Flock Wednesday too?! They’re just so cute and fun to watch.

Introducing #FlockFriday

I thought I’d experiment with a new weekly feature on this blog: Flock Friday. I will try to post a selection of photos related to the assortment of avians around the homestead each Friday. Can’t let the cats have all the fun of a weekly feature!

For now, I’m just adding the pictures in chronological order. In the future, I might group by kind or something.

Let’s start with the chicks; one flew onto the waterer:

Chicks

Better seen animated; here’s a GIF:

Chick flying GIF

We just got a couple of new feeders for the wild birds (the second from the left, and the rightmost); both are squirrel-proof, so they close when a weight is on them, which will hopefully also stop the pigeons from cleaning them out:

Bird feeders

On to the ducklings; I got a new paint roller tray that seems to work better; easier access, and more capacity for swimming:

Ducklings swimming

Ducklings swimming

Here’s a pond cam shot of me spending time with the ducklings:

David with the ducklings

Big enough for all of them for now… but not for long!

Ducklings swimming

Another wild bird (swallow, I think) drinking from the pond by swooping low over it, dipping its beak in:

Bird & fish

It’s nice to be able to spend time with the ducklings and feed the fish at the same time:

Fish

Another visitor to the pond, the heron:

Heron

Last night the heat lamp in the duck house burnt out just after this:

Ducklings

Ducklings

Fortunately, the ducklings were all fine; they’re old enough now, and it wasn’t excessively cold last night, that it wasn’t too cold for them.

I changed the lamp with a spare as soon as I saw it was out (and have ordered more spares):

Changing heat lamp

Back to the chicks:

Chick with treat

Chicks

Chicks

Let’s not forget the older chickens, too:

Chickens

Chickens

Chickens

Chickens

Chickens

Chickens

Finally, let’s wrap up with more of the ducklings:

Ducklings swimming

Ducklings swimming

Hand-feeding treats:

Treats

Treats

Treats

Any more treats?

Any more treats?

More swimming:

Ducklings swimming

Ducklings swimming

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you think in the comments on the blog, Micro.blog, Twitter, etc.

Chicks & ducklings two days in a row?!

I know I posted a bunch of pictures of the chicks and ducklings yesterday, but I can’t help myself; I just have to post more cute pictures.

Yesterday and today the temperature is in the 90°s F (32° C), so I had the vent wide open, and the heat lamp off. I also gave them more swimming time to cool off:

Ducklings

Ducklings

Ducklings

Rapid exit:

Ducklings

Once the sun set, I turned the heat lamp back on, and mostly closed the vent, since it’d cool off a bit more than they’re used to overnight. Here’s a shot from the pond cam of the pond and duck house in the dark:

Pond and duck house in the dark

This morning, I took some more pictures while spending time with the chicks and ducklings. Here’s how I found the chicks when I arrived; they’ve really taken to the roosting bars:

Roosting chicks

A bunch more photos of the chicks:

Chick

Chicks

Chicks

Chick

Chick

A chick in the hand:

A chick in the hand

Heading over to the duck house, I gave them some more swimming time:

Ducklings

Ducklings

Ducklings

Ducklings

A treat in the water is the best kind of treat:

Ducklings

Ducklings

Watching the ducklings from the chair next to the duck house… dripping sweat in the heat, slightly tempted to cool off in the pond (not at all hygienic):

Duck house

I know I said the ducklings should only have short supervised swims for the next couple of weeks, but I decided to leave the tray in the duck house this afternoon, since it’s so hot, so they can cool off as needed. I am still supervising, just from the air-conditioned comfort of my home office, via the duck house cam. It’s a risk, that I hope I don’t regret, but the water is room-temperature, shallow, easy for them to get in and out, and they haven’t shown an inclination to stay in for too long at a time:

Duck house cam

Chicks & ducklings first treats & swim

The chicks and ducklings are two weeks old today, so I gave them a few bits of kale as their first treat.  (It’s generally recommended to stick to the starter feed at first, so they get used to eating that, then slowly introducing small quantities of treats.)

But first, here’s a shot from the chick cam of them exploring the roosting bars. A little surprising that they can reach the upper bar; it’s a long way for a little chick:

Chicks

Chicks sleeping on the lower bar yesterday afternoon (when the coop was warm enough to not need to be under the heat lamp):

Chicks

A shot from the duck house cam of a duckling stretching its tiny wings:

Ducklings

Overnight, the chicks snuggled together under the heat lamp:

Chicks

And ducklings under their lamp:

Ducklings

It took the chicks a few minutes to figure out that the kale was edible. Here’s the first chick to take a treat:

First chick treat

A couple of others chased her; what will become a normal behavior for them:

Chicks chasing

They soon figured out the treats:

Chick treats

A couple checking me out:

Chicks

Chicks

Roosting chicks:

Roosting chicks

I also gave kale treats to the ducklings, which they figured out immediately:

Ducklings

Duckling treats

I also temporarily put a paint tray with water in the duck house, so the ducklings could have their first supervised swim:

Duckling first swim

Ducklings don’t have the waterproofing oil when first hatched, so they can get chilled or even drown if left in water. So they can only have short supervised swims from two to five weeks old. Not only is this good training for them and their leg muscles, it helps encourage them to preen, which distributes their oil glands (or so I read; since ducks are a new thing for us, I’ve read guides to raising them; they are similar to chicks, but have some differences).

Why a paint tray? It has a gentle slope, making it easier for ducklings to walk in and out of the water. This tray isn’t ideal, though, as the lip too high for them to easily climb over. So I’ve ordered another from Amazon.

Here a duckling is dipping its bill in the water, which helps clean it:

Duckling swim

Found another treat:

Ducklings

Drinking from the tray:

Ducklings

More wading:

Ducklings

I removed the tray when I left the duck house. We’ll give them brief supervised swims each day till about five weeks old. After that, the tray will be left in there until they are old enough to go outside, once they are fully feathered, which might be around eight weeks old.

Ducklings & chicks update for June 9

The ducklings and chicks are about 1.5 weeks old now. I wasn’t able to post an update on them while away, but now that I’m back you can expect more updates.

Here’s an amusing shot from the duck house cam from before I left for San Jose:

Ducklings

They were so small:

Ducklings

An ominously glowing chicken coop, from the red heat lamp:

Chicken coop

The ducklings snuggling under the heat lamp:

Ducklings

Ducklings

So tiny:

Ducklings

The chicks:

Chicks

We had a catastrophe with the chicks: on my last night in San Jose, the chicken coops lost power, due to the GFCI outlet popping, probably caused by heavy rain. This doesn’t affect the adult chickens, but is a disaster for baby chicks, that need 90° F heat. When Jenn checked them in the morning, she was horrified to find three dead chicks. So we are now down to five.

I’ve added tests to my Dejal Simon app to watch the cameras, and alert me if they lose connection, which should help prevent another disaster like that. I also looked into other power loss alarms, but the few options had various drawbacks.

It was very sad to lose chicks like this; that was the first time that has occurred, and we’ll do what we can to avoid it again.

The surviving chicks are definitely getting bigger, able to reach the lower roosting bar now, via the mini practice roosts below:

Chicks

Chicks

Me spending time with the chicks:

David with chicks

They really like the roosting bar:

Chicks

In the duck house, I had paper and shelf liner on the floor to give traction while the ducklings were very young. But it had become rather soiled with spilled food and waste:

Ducklings

So as planned, I remove half of it, and added straw bedding, to transition to that:

Straw bedding

It was impressive how much the ducklings grew in a week:

Ducklings

Ducklings

Ducklings

Ducklings

This morning, I added some bricks under their waterer, to raise it up a bit, and added a cat dish with a bit of water in it:

Ducklings

The ducklings can drink from the dish if desired:

Ducklings

Or step in it, as a preamble to swimming, which they’ll be able to start next week (in a very limited, supervised capacity):

Ducklings

Preparing for chicks & ducklings

The new chicks and ducklings will arrive this week, so I have prepared the chicken coop and duck house for them.

I evicted the existing chickens out of the new coop and run, simply by giving them their usual morning treats in the old run, and closing the hole between the old and new runs while they were busy with that. There was one hen in a nesting box in the new coop, so I carried her into the old run.

The old coop and run is more than big enough to accommodate all of the existing chickens. Keeping them separate will avoid the older ones picking on the youngsters until they are grown, among other benefits. Eventually, they’ll be slowly integrated; probably around the end of the year.

I then removed the poop tray, water dispenser, feed tube, and all of the bedding from the new coop:

I also covered the nesting boxes with scraps of plywood, to prevent the new chicks from sleeping in there; I don’t want them using it until they are ready to start laying, probably around October:

I then added fresh bedding, a heat lamp, a thermometer to check the temperature, and the chick-sized roosts, feeder, and waterer:

In the duck house, I added shelf liner on top of paper as bedding (the shelf liner will give them traction, and the paper will adsorb water). This is just for the first week or so, then they’ll have straw bedding. I also turned on the heat lamp, and added a thermometer, a chick feeder & waterer that should work for the ducklings too, and the camera:

Here’s the mounted camera:

Wires going into the cupboard; the vents above the door are temporarily closed to retain the heat while the ducklings are small:

In the cupboard, all the wires are somewhat tidily arranged via hooks:

A view from the duck house cam:

Now all we need are the ducklings and chicks! As I write this, the chicks have shipped, and will probably arrive at the post office tomorrow; still waiting for the shipment of ducklings.

New chicken & duck cams

A couple of days ago I set up four new cameras around the homestead.

Two were for the chickens. We have two coops, each with a run (that are separated by a fence, but with an open hole so the chickens can go between them, for now). The old coop had an old low-quality camera mounted in the ceiling, and the old run didn’t have a camera at all.

So I replaced the old coop camera with a new one, mounted on the wall for a better angle.  This camera has a wide field of vision, about 100°, so can see most of the coop:

Camera

Here it is in context on the wall behind the door. The coop is very cobwebby!

Camera in coop

This is me looking at the camera viewing app on my phone, to check the position during installation:

David and chickens in the coop

And here’s the view from the camera once the angle was tweaked:

Chickens in coop

Another example, with a bunch of chickens roosting:

Chickens in coop

As evening sets in, most of the chickens roost in the new coop, but a few roost in the old one:

Sleepy chickens

The chicken pop door automatically closes after dark:

Pop door closed

As mentioned, I also added a camera in the old run. Here you can see the old camera for the new run on the left, and the new camera for the old run on the right (confused?!):

Chicken run cams

Here’s an example of the view from this camera, showing the old coop:

Old run cam

A screenshot of the camera app, showing all four chicken cams.  I like how the two run cams line up to a panoramic view of both runs (with a little overlap):

Screenshot of cameras

I also set up two cameras to watch the (future) ducks. Here, I’m installing the outdoor camera to watch the pond. I have the camera running so I can check the position:

David by pond

Here’s the pond cam, mounted on the pond deck:

Pond cam

The view from the pond cam; it can see most of the pond:

Pond

Finally, I also set up an indoor cam for the duck house, though since I’m still building that, in the meantime I’ve placed it to watch Pepper’s bed in the front of the shop:

Cat in shop

(I’ll have a few more pictures from that cam in tomorrow’s Caturday post; stay tuned for that!)

Chicken coop pop door opener

Recently the pop door opener for the old chicken coop stopped working. The pop door is the small door that enables the chickens to go from the coop to their run. It has a door that slides closed at night (on a light sensor), and open in the morning.

So, I purchased a replacement.

One likely factor in the failure of the old opener was that the cord went through the wall then horizontal then vertical, via three pulleys. This complicated system would have put more strain on the motor. Plus, I had a fairly heavy pop door. Here’s the old system, when it was first installed (in January 2016; wow, seems much longer ago):

So in addition to replacing the opener, I simplified the cord system. It still goes through the wall, since the light sensor needs to be outside, but there are now only two pulleys, on a more direct path. Here’s the inside of the new opener, and the pulley above the hole in the wall:

The opener control panel, awaiting installation:

Installed control panel:

On the inside, the hole and second pulley:

The cord now goes straight down from the hole:

The wooden door is also more lightweight now; thick plywood instead of solid wood. Not quite as secure, but should still suffice.

I expect this new setup should last much longer.

Backyard Poultry magazine article

I wrote an article that appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine, describing the chicken coop I designed and built last year.

The article covers six pages, most of it my photos. There’s an excerpt available online, but the article is only available to subscribers of the magazine.

You can see more of the coop on the Yellow Cottage Homestead blog; if you prefer, you can filter to see only chicken-related posts, or alternatively look at only posts about the chicken coop.