Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken Day

We brought home 45 new chickens today.  That was the easy part. 
First we had to get rid of the old chickens.  Since we have two chicken coops, we only replace one coop at a time.  That way we always have some eggs, and are able to keep some if not all of our egg customers happy. We always get new hens before the farmers markets start.  The aim is to have the hens in full lay during market season, as that is when we have no trouble selling all the eggs we have.  We are only allowed to get 99 pullets (young, ready to lay, hens) each year from the hatchery.  Theoretically if you have more than 99 laying hens, you need to have an egg quota from the government.
Usually we only keep the hens for one year, as that is when they lay the best, as these are commercial brown egg layers, that are bred to produce.  After the first year, on average the egg quality will decline a little bit.  We end up with more soft and thin shelled eggs, and the hens don't lay as many eggs. 
Last year we replaced the hens in one coop, and kept the other hens on for an extra year.  We were a bit low on eggs during the summer, but then once the farmers markets were mostly over, we didn't have such a surplus of eggs.
We had forty hens left in that coop of older ones.  There were originally quite a few more.  Some were lost to predators and some just up and died.  There was also a rooster and the hen that hatched the two chicks last summer, and the hen chick.  We were keeping those three. The  young rooster was sold in January.
I asked one of my friends who has chickens like us, if she wanted to buy (cheap) some of the old hens.  I told her we were getting 20-24 eggs a day from those 40 hens.  She said sure, as long as she could pick and chose, which was fine with me.  So she came out and picked out 20 hens that she thought were laying, and that she liked the look of.  
A test for determining if a hen is laying is to measure the distance between the points of her pelvic bones.  My friend said a space of two finger widths was the right amount.  
The next day we got 16 eggs out of the 20 hens left.  Oops.
I won't let my friend live that one down for a bit:)
(I googled it, and three finger widths was the right distance)
I haven't heard yet how many eggs her hens laid this week.  I'm guessing not too many.
Next I contacted the person that had bought the young rooster, as she had indicated she would take the old hens when I was ready.  She said yes, and we arranged for her to come that evening.
They didn't show up, and they didn't call.
Some people are just so inconsiderate.
I put an ad on Craigslist.
A family came last night, when they said they would, and took the last 20.
Thankfully some people do what they say they are going to do.

Now it was really down to the wire. 
We had to pick up the new hens this afternoon.  This morning the chicken coop had to be cleaned out.  We change the bedding fairly regularly, but when new hens are coming, I like to give it a really good clean.  That means the pressure washer.
So this morning, which was a beautiful spring morning, we were out there pulling out all the nest boxes and the roosts and everything else that was removable.
The pressure washer started on the second pull!  Yay for equipment that starts!
Here's a tip.  A friend who has an small engine repair business says to always put fresh gas in after a long time without use.  Gas goes 'stale'.
Trying to pressure wash inside the small coop wasn't completely successful.  I would get the wall clean and then when I tried to do the floor, everything was splattered all over the wall again.  There was no where to drain the water out, as there were sills at the doorways, so I had to shovel and squeegee it out.  
An hour and a half later it was done, as well as everything that we had taken out.
Now to get it dried.
The wind had really picked up, so the doors and windows were left wide open and a heavy duty fan was blasting inside.  The fan we had picked up when someone dumped stuff from a marijuana grow-up in a ravine just up the road. Some people are disgusting. 

Just after lunch we put everything back in the coop, spread new hay over the floor and in the nest boxes, and put food and water in.
The truck was loaded with dog crates and cages and off we went.
The guys at the hatchery come out of the barn carrying 5 chickens by the legs in each hand, and stuff them into our cages.

When we got back home, Luna was beside herself with excitement over the truck full of chickens.  We had to physically remove all the new hens from the cages and crates.  Even if you open the door and try to tip them out, they flap their wings to keep themselves in the cage.  They looked a little shell shocked in the coop, but they'll settle down pretty quickly.  By the looks of them we will have to wait a few weeks before they lay any eggs.

Oh yeah, Luna got another 'bath' this morning.  She was hanging around while I was pressure washing and was getting the overspray full of chicken coop debris blasted all over her.  
This time I just turned the hose on and she tried to attack the water and I was able to give her a good spray down. 
After she shakes she's good as new.

Join in Farm Friend Friday over at Verde Farm.


  1. It looks like jail overcrowding
    Benny & Lily

  2. Wow you are very busy. Good luck with the new ones. B

  3. I always thought I would like some chickens but they are a lot of work!
    That is another thing I love about BC's and Aussies, their coat sheds dirt so well. Ryker can be a muddy mess but once he dries it all falls right off.

  4. Hope your new girls settle in a stupid question?? Does someone actually come out and count to make sure you don't have over 99..seems like a stupid rule to me..but what do I know:(

  5. Wow, I had no idea that one should change out their chickens every year. It must be nice to have steady customers. Luna sounds like she is the life of every party she attends.

  6. Ryker - I find that Jake, who has much softer fur, sheds the dirt much better than Luna's coarser hair.
    Also, Luna just gets so much dirtier than Jake. She is constantly on the go when we are outside, and her underbelly and butt feathers and tail just get filthy. Easier to wash off what we can than wait for her to dry and the dirt fall out. Also, she HATES her tail and back end being brushed, so that is a bit of a struggle.

    Far Side - I've never heard of anyone coming to count the hens. I'm thinking that like a lot of things, it is complaint driven. If we happened to show up at the farmers market every week with 100 dozen eggs, and the right person (aka a commercial chicken farmer who has paid big bucks for his quota) got wind of it, he might file a complaint. We aren't allowed to purchase more than 99 birds at a time from the hatchery though.

    Chai Chai - We used to keep our hens until they dropped dead, but right now they are a good part of our income, so it's in our best interest to have ones that lay well. I've found with these commercial layers that they are at their best for the first year, and we can usually sell them for 65-75
    % of what we paid for them after we've had them a year.
    Oh yes, Luna is the life of the party, and then some:)

  7. I'll be getting some of those older but still laying hens from a guy I work with. Since I just need enough for my own use, it's okay if they have slowed down production for me. They will still be lovely ladies. Glad you got everything taken care of just in time.

  8. What a great post! Buy time of year huh? I love your chickens. I just put 25 on Craig’s list today and I’ve already have 4 e-mails for them. I hadn’t tried it before but I am thrilled. Thank you so much for sharing with Farm Friend Friday!

  9. Love it when I can help someone out!
    Funny, when I was picking up the hens, another women there for the same reason overheard my conversation with the receptionist, and she also asked how I 'got rid' of my old hens. I told her that I put them on Craigslist, so she was going to do that too:)

  10. I think there may be a glut of chickens on Craigslist soon. Lol.
    One of my sons and his friend hired on to catch chickens on a chicken farm way out in the boonies somewhere. They were bussed out there at night and dropped off. They were to grab 5 at a time in each hand. They lasted about half an hour in the smell and the mess and the freaked out chickens and they left. They had no idea where they were but just started walking and finally hitch hiking (gasp. young men do stupid things)and got a ride back to a more populated area.
    I wish I lived on your side of the bridge because I would love to buy your eggs.
    BTW every time I come to your blog I get a big smile on my face from the picture on your header. Thanks.

  11. Thanks Lori, I love that picture too:)
    My son who is looking for some part time work to while at university, thought about that chicken catching job for about 10 seconds, and said no:)


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