Monday, April 18, 2016

Lets Talk Genetics

*Let me just say I'm loving this whole blogging thing, its a great way to keep me writing. Hopefully you readers enjoy my posts and much as I do making them!*
Now lets talk genetics!
I've probably learned more about genetics in the last year with this adventure than I ever did back with like 6th grade science. Chicken genetics are just way more interesting than that monk guy with his tall and short peas and what not.

One of the first interesting things I picked up on with the first generation was the sex-linking. 
For those not in the chicken loop, sex-linking is when a breed of chicken is gender dimorphic (Now isn't that a fun word!) Specifically it's when you can tell whether a chick is a male or female from the moment it's born. 
When you cross a White Rock hen with a Rhode Island Red rooster equals a brown sex-linked chick.
Problem is we don't have a WR hen and RIR rooster, we have a WR rooster and a RIR hens. So this cross did not produce an immediately sex linked chick BUT the adult are still gender dimorphic!! WHAT? Yup with this cross the roosters look like this:
And the hens look like this:

Now isn't that cool!?

It's just been plain interesting to see how the different colors react together. For the most part I think the white/barring of the rock is dominate over the reds and yellows. 
With the fruition of the second generation though the reds are coming back, (recessive traits are so much fun and surprising I love them.) 
for example, Chipmunk! She's about 10 weeks old now.
I'm thinking chipmunk's dad was Alfredo, he obviously had a suppressed red gene in him.(recessive genes that are suppressed by dominates sometimes express themselves in little ways, a red feather here and there amoung white speaks of a red coloring suppressed but dying to come out in the next generation if given the chance.) most of the roosters have little yellow or red feathers mixed with bars and white. Even Tortelini my pure white easter egger mix has a tiny red feather hidden in his saddle feathers! 
Tortellini's little red feather.
Alfredo's red feathers is MUCH more prominent  though, he has lots of red spots on his wings.
I'm thinking her mom was a RIR hen, maybe one of the RIR hen crosses but definitely RIR. That makes her at least half or 3/4s red, which is enough to finally overcome that white and barring, and this time it's the white and barring that's struggling to come through not the red.

I've also noticed in the second generation that the barring is now coming out as more like mottling, I've got some of these white birds that have a crazy amount of speckled/mottled wing feathers. They still some what cluster in a barred pattern the barring is almost slowly denigrating.
Although there may be some colorful ones in the first batch of chicks we hatched the second batch is definitely the most varried!
I've got two chicks that look about 1/2 to a 3/4 easter egger, 

A little roo seems to taking after Alfredo with some soft tinges and spots of red on his wings, I named him Chili.

And then there's the beautiful, Hershey. I have no idea how I came to have a chocolate chicken but now I have one and she's BEAUTIFUL!! Soft chocolate colors fade into warm yellows with beautiful spotting. She's to die for!
The trend of interesting colors and patterns continues with Salsa, unlike the other barred rock mixes that have their usual bars with maybe some faint tinges of reds and yellows she is completely black except for some beautiful silver lacing on her chest! How this happened exactly I don't know but she's beautiful!
And last but not least we have Basil, words cannot describe how beautiful she is.
Its amazing that this much variety comes from only a handful of breeds, White Rock, RIR, NHR, EE, BO, and Barred Rock.
Whenever I tell people about my chickens and my breeding program, At some point in time I always say, "Genetics are amazing!" I'm positively fascinated by how the different colors, combs, temperaments mesh together and create some altogether new and extraordinary. I'm having trouble trying to narrow but colors and comb types, leg colors and body shapes I want in the final new Rufus Ruby chicken breed. I want to try them all! I will figure it out eventually though, and I will learn tons along the way!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Tale of Spot

This is Spot.

I don't know exactly how he came to be called Spot, we just kinda started calling him Spot.
Spot sure is a cute little barred rock mix, but his flock mates sure didn't think so.

Poor little Spot was on the low end of the flock totem pole and was being a bit bullied, but not severally. 
Things took a turn for the worse though on saturday afternoon. I theorized that someone just got a perfect peck in and pulled out a pin feather, everyone saw blood and went NUTS.
I rescued poor little persecuted Spot from his ravenous brothers and sisters, applied hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic cream, filled him up with electrolytes and let him be that first night. 
Thankfully the hole scabbed up really well and he was back to being the perky little chick he was.
Poor little Spot is lonely, however. If he had a friend they would probably peck his scab off. So alas, Spot has no feathered friends at the moment. 
However, he does have back up human friends who are willing to give their best impression of cheeping.

In abject loneliness he cheeps and cheeps and cheeps... and cheeps...... and cheeps...... over and over again until he is able to be held by me or sit by me.
Yes little Spot will recover but until he no longer imitates a Turkin I apparently have a little feathered friend.
Cheep, cheep little Spot.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Gobble Gobble Gobble: A Turkey Rant

Ah, turkeys.

They're a special type of fowl that's for sure.
But there are just some things about them that rub me the wrong way.
Don't get me wrong, I think turkey's are awesome.

The turkey hens I have are some of the friendliest birds I raise.
(Turkey hugs are the best by the way.)
 And I love seeing their wild counterparts.
Group of wild turkeys I found in Kentucky.
But you know, long ago when we decided to domesticate those beautiful bald birds, the poor turkeys lost something of great value to their wild cousins.
Oh yes, those wild ones may be smart, I've heard several of stories about hunters who were outwitted by wild turkeys.
But domestic ones? Not so much.
When we turned to making turkeys bigger and fatter, all the brains were tossed out the window.
You want to know why a typical turkey chicks averages at around 10$ at your average hatchery or breeders?
It's not because of their limited laying season. Although that's certainly a factor. Turkey hens will usually only lay from march until about July or August and they only lay normally about every other day.
You know why they're 10 bucks a pop?
Because they're stinking hard to hatch.
When I first started hatching turkeys I was really surprised how many needed my help. At first I thought it was me and my experience but after conferring with others who hatch turkeys, they have difficulties too. Some even straight up said they hated hatching turkeys because they often need a lot of help.

And it is also recommended if you have turkey chicks to also keep some chicken chicks with the turkeys because the chicks are smarter and figure out the whole eating food and water business faster than turkeys, they in turn help teach the turkeys how to eat and drink.
Another thing, when I watched the baby turkeys and chicks together I kept seeing the turkeys pecking at the beaks of the chickens and cheeping. I was puzzled by this behavior when it hit me.
You know what that behavior is called?
The turkeys were begging for food from chicks that were the same age as them! SERIOUSLY? The food is right there, just peck at it genius! Whats the chick going to do for you? he's still got a hatching hangover!
Turkeys are awesome.
They're cute.
They're sweet.
They make cute noises.
They taste good.
They can be friendly.
Turkeys are great, I'm not gonna lie.
But sometimes,
I really wish they were smarter.

Gobble gobble gobble.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Power Outage Survivors

It happened.

It's probably one of the top three fears of incubation addicts.
Temperature fluctuations,
Improper humidity,
and a power outage.
Last Tuesday night everything was going to plan, the last couple chicks were in the process of zipping and would probably pop out sometime during the night. We had tons of babies bouncing around in the brooder learning how to be a chicken, I was relaxed finishing up an episode of my favorite TV show when it happened.
Everything went dark.
After the initial surprise wore off and the outage had lasted longer than a little hiccup in the power would be it dawned on me how much relied on the power.
Our babies in the brooder certainly needed a light.
The teenagers in the outdoor pen had a light on as it was windy and chilly that night.
And the poor chicks still making their way out into the big wide world REALLY needed the incubator to stay running.
A power outage is something I hadn't really thought about before this happened. I have certainly heard and read about it happening to other people but not much thought had been put into a action plan if something like that were to happen to me.

Please, if you incubate eggs on any sort of a regular basis, please make a plan. You may not think it will happen to you but no one is immune, it's better to be safe than sorry, have a friend you can go to that's willing to let your incubator camp out at their place, have a generator or some sort of back up electricity. The welfare of your chicks could depend upon it.

That being said, despite the unexpected hiccup, everything turned out okay. We moved the babies in the brooder inside the house and the outdoor babies huddled up and were fine. Our wonderful friends were willing to let me tromp through their house and hijack their counter space and some electricity at 11 at night. The babies that had yet to hatch wound up being okay, I had give them some major help in the morning though, the humidity had fallen way below needed in the whole frantic process of keeping them warm and they were incredibly shrink wrapped and sticky. They're doing okay though. They have been deemed The Power Outage Survivors and they have their own little brooder box right now as there are still some crusty spots that I just can seem to clean and the other babies were picky on them. In a couple of weeks they can probably hang out together. 
This experience was a great reminder to be prepared and to have a plan, thankfully no one was worse for ware by the morning, except for me. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night worrying about all the little fluff balls!
Hopefully the next batch will be much less eventful. On Sunday tons of mallard eggs and turkey eggs were set in the bator, 26 days to go!

Friday, March 4, 2016

An Update: Spring Building

Things have been pretty busy here at the Kauffman Homestead!
In preparation for the adding of new livestock to our homestead and with a ton of additions to our flock my amazing and very tolerant dad has been working tirelessly on two new livestock pens at moms and my insistence. (Well mostly mine.)
The outer shell of the new duck/chicken pen is mostly complete! Now it just needs a roof an some basic escape proofing in the goat barn/coop.

And he's also been working on our goat pen!!! Hopefully we'll be getting two doelings, a buckling and baby ram once this is all finished. I can't wait! 

And I've been helping too, the chicks were ready to graduate from their brooder box to an outdoor pen, except the one we put together hastily for last springs chicks had kind of fallen in shambles a bit. Zipties just do not last in the Arizona sun.
So I gladly took over, anything to get the pens up quicker! So after three days of frustrations, caught hair, smashed fingers, and tons of baling twine this was the result:

Beautiful isn't it?
What it lacks in finesse I think it makes up for in practicality, I think it will discourage the up and coming flyers from escaping!

It's kind of nice taking a break from the every three day cleaning of their brooder, and plus they love being outside now, dust bathes galore!

The freedom from not having to clean brooder boxes won't last long though, new babies are due on Tuesday! I think I'll try and sell some of this next batch though, we're getting tons of chickens from Cackle Hatchery come April and we'll need to have room for the our next batch which will be turkey and duck eggs.
Yes indeed, God willing I will be hatching my own DUCKS!!!
We'll be setting a bunch of mallard eggs from a friend along with a bunch of turkey eggs sometime next week. YIPPEEE!!!
So once I hopefully have a bunch of ducks, will I be a crazy chicken lady AND duck lady? And once I get goats and sheep, will I be a crazy goat lady?
Only time will tell, but this sure is shaping up to be one heck of a spring!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Chicken Math

I am horrible at math.
To give you an example of just how bad I am at math, let me tell you two quick stories:
once upon a time I was doing math and getting quite frustrated. I'm the kind of hard headed person that when frustrated or met with an incredible road block will keep trying and trying to do something over and over again until I get so frustrated and worked up I break down into a frustrated, crying mess.
And sometimes I'll STILL try to do that impossible thing. Even when it's to the point where I need to STOP and try again tomorrow. You'd think I'd learn to stop and reevaluate when I meet a road block but nooo.
Long story short I got so frustrated I slammed my text book down on my desk and broke the edge off.
Fast forward a year later and again I got so frustrated I hit the table I was working on with my book so hard the vibrations broke the hard drive in my computer.
Yup I have a hard time understanding this thing called "algebra."
But you know what kind of math I am good at?
Chicken math.

For those of you not quite so engrossed with chickens as I am let me explain this term that actually has grown quite popular on chicken forums.

Basically, chicken math refers to the way you count your chickens and is usually broken down into a couple of rules . The rules vary depending on the individual situation but the outcome always equals room for more chickens!
My Rules for Counting Chickens:
1. Eggs you are planning to hatch don't count because you can't count your chicks before they hatch.
2. Hen's don't count because they're laying eggs which we sell.
3. Chicks don't count because they aren't fully grown yet.
4. Roosters don't count because eventually you're going to eat them.
5. Roosters kept for breeding purposes don't count because they don't lay eggs.

I'm a total pro when it comes to chicken math so let me show you baby chicks that I don't have! 
Last week 25 babies popped out of 31 eggs that made it into lock down. 25 babies out of 31 eggs left us with an 80% hatch rate, our highest yet!
They're about 2 weeks old now and are shaping up to be BEAUTIFUL birds, I can't believe how beautiful they are turning out to be and I hope they'll keep this sort of color into adulthood.

This pretty boy/girl is Chipmunk! We diviated from food names to name some of the cute chipmunk striped ones after Alvin and the Chipmunks. But check out those FEATHERS!!!! I love it!! That kind of mottled barring is the sort of thing I'm looking for, I really hope they keep it into adulthood!

This one is Alvin, he/she is not as rufous as Chipmunk but he/she is definitely the next one up when it comes to color!

Close up of Alvin's mottled wing.

Another interesting cross we got out of this hatch was two buff crossed chicks. This picture is from last week but you can see this little chick is going to have some interesting spins on the buff coloring, she's started to grow feathers that have brown speckles and her neck is getting buff feathers but they seem darker, perhaps a Rhode Island Red has snuck in there made the buff coloring darker? We'll just have to wait and see!!

No way were we just going to do one batch of chicks this year so 6 days after everyone had finished hatching we set more, tomorrow will be day 7 and they should hatch on the 8th of march. Chick season is only just beginning!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chickens, Chickens and MORE Chickens!

Okay, I have a lot of chickens.
This is barely a fraction of them
And now I'm getting MORE chickens.
I never imagined when I set that first batch of eggs in the incubator last spring that it would lead to this. I have 40 birds as of now, we still have one extra rooster and lots of old hens to dispatch but right now it's 40.
With as many chickens as I already have, I've been busy acquiring more, I set 37 eggs for incubationl last week and today I ordered 10 Appenzeller Spitzhaubens,(yes that is a breed of chicken)15 Cuckoo Marans,(five of those are for a friend)10 Easter Eggers and 6 Bourbon Red Turkeys.
Okay, yeah, that's a lot of birds.
And heaven forbid I forget the newest addition to my flock, my pride and joy:

Meet Hans, Hans is an Icelandic rooster(Icelandics are also called Viking Hens)and in my opinion, he's the prettiest thing with two wings! Shhh, don't tell Alfredo I said that!
My friend, a fellow chicken fanatic and enabler, gifted him to me yesterday. She imported Hans as an egg from Iceland and hatched him here. Icelandics are really rare, my friend is in fact the only breeder of them in Arizona! If Hans was sold to me he'd go for 50 to 60 dollars, which makes him a really incredible gift. I hope to buy a hen or two off of her in the fall, I would love to breed Icelandics! 
Until I get Hans some pretty Icelandic ladies, he'll have to settle for my girls.I hope to get some good colors from him, and also that AMAZING tail, it's beautiful and extravagant but not so much that it is impractical, which is perfect for my end goal of a beautiful, practical, dual purpose chicken.
Making friends over meal worms!
So right now Hans is in his own little love shack with two Buff Orpingtons, two Easter Egger/Plymouth Rock mixes,  one Rhode Island Red/PR mix, and one Barred Rock. And while he socializes with the ladies, the rest of the flock can get used to him and the other roosters will learn to tolerate his presence!
Stand off with my big White Plymouth Rock rooster, Kentucky.
I can't wait to see what his babies look like!

This spring is shaping up to be awesome and full of baby chicks, I can't wait!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Value of Life

I felt a bit under the weather last weekend and on Sunday I woke up with a sore throat, so while I sipped my elderberry tea and tried to forget I had a throat I decided to re-watch Food Inc.

It's a great documentary and I would highly encourage you watch it. (It's on Netflix instant play.) Although I would recommend doing so on an empty stomach. If you must eat, I would do so with food that you know exactly where it came from! :)
Honestly I don't know what I was thinking, because if you weren't sick before you watched it, you're sick after! Pretty much everything about the food system today and the journey your food takes from "farm" to store is absolutely horrific. 

This documentary is incredibly eye opening and makes me extremely grateful that slowly my family is becoming more and more self sufficient.
Afterwards, I was looking for more things written by Joel Salatin, who was interviewed in the film. I came across an article that he wrote that again made me grateful. It's a really good read I would give it a look-see:

The article basically talks about the ethical slaughter of animals and how important it is that we teach our children this. It's incredibly vital that we give our children the opportunity to participate in the raising and yes, slaughtering, of their food. The caring for any animal is amazing for developing responsibility and character but slaughtering teaches us the value of life, and the preciousness and how easily it can be taken away. And I'm so grateful my parents gave me the responsibility of caring for my chickens and let me watch them slaughter them.
 I'm grateful for the fact that my chickens and turkeys get all the sunlight, good food and love they need, I'm happy that I can raise them and when the time comes for them to fulfill their purpose in this world,  I'm glad I can pick them up without a fuss and that I can take their life in the kindest way possible. 
It may seem horrible to have a child of 6, 7 or 8 watch or participate in the slaughtering of an animal but I honestly think it is an important part of education. They need to be taught the circle of life and how important it is that we do it RIGHT, by giving these animals the care and respect they deserve. I wish there were more people like Joel Salatin teaching kids about where their food comes from and the value of life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Crazy Chicken Lady: an introduction

Hello! I'm The Chicken Lady.
Or as I'm more commonly called, The Crazy Chicken Lady.
Actually it's more like "obsessed, crazy, chicken lady."
To cut to the chase, I am crazy about chickens. (But you've probably already guessed that.)
But how did I become so obsessed with chickens? I might as well give the back story since you'll be joining me on my chicken endeavors from here on out!
Several years ago, my mom decided to get chickens, I wasn't as crazy about as I am now but I was on board, who wants to eat disgusting store bought eggs anyway? Dad built a run for them and soon 12 Rhode Island Reds and Easter Eggers made it their home.
It didn't quite escalate that much from there as you might immediately think, I liked the cute baby chicks but that was about that. I fed them in the morning and evening and that was about it.
No, the moment the obsession started was when we decided to get a rooster.
Mom decided it would be awesome to hatch and raise our eggs, forget getting everything from an hatchery we were going to be completely chicken and turkey independent!
Now this was something I could get into.
I started doing A LOT of research, as one should do before going forth on something that was going to bring new life to (hopefully) fruition. 
Suddenly a whole community was opened up to me. The wonderful forum that is was a huge help in learning the ropes of incubation. However, I wasn't quite ready to partake in the community yet, I still wasn't to the point of complete and utter love for these birds quite yet.
No, that point would come almost exactly 21 days later. Suddenly I saw the work of my labor, I had been the keeper of the holy grail of temperature and humidity for these budding life forms for 21 days, more work had been put into their parents, feeding, tending to them. Hour's of my life had been eaten away by research and here they were, slowly chiseling their way out of the eggs that had once protected and sheltered them, the thin shell was no longer needed in their eyes,they were ready for the real world.
It enchanted me.
It captivated me.
I was enraptured.
And since that moment I've wanted nothing more than to hear the soft sound of cheeping as a little ball of wet fluff tastes the air for the first time. 

As the babies grew, I suddenly became aware of this thing called genetics and how interesting and fun it can be!! All the babies we hatched were interesting crosses of a White Plymouth Rock  and either a Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red, or Easter Egger. They were such cool little chickens! And very popular with some of the people we gave them to I mean look at these guys!
Parmesan, easily the most extravagant of the roosters we hatched!
Oregano, a beautiful little EExWPR cross.
Young rooster.
Kind of a bad picture but this is Cardamon, in my opinion she's the most beautiful bird I have hatched so far!  
They were beautiful, grew incredibly fast and were BIG! What wasn't to love?

Immediately the possibilities were present, could I make more unique and beautiful birds? How could I improve upon these birds? I was hooked and I wanted more. MORE birds! MORE breeds!! Breeding pens, punnett squares! It's amazing what hatching eggs can do to you.
I'm still just experimenting a little bit, I'm still not set in stone the kind of chicken I will be creating and where this breeding adventure will take me but I've decided to bring others in along for the ride. 

I don't know what crazy chickens I will create but I can't wait to get started! And I can't wait to share my journey with others! :)