Infrastructure

Icelandic landrace chickens

salmon

I am feeling very happy about my flock of Icelandic chickens. They are a landrace chicken. I’ve been raising them, solely, since the end of 2015. Today, I have 5 roosters and 30 hens. I used hatching eggs from three different verified breeders of pure Icelandic chickens.  I’m pleased with the genetic diversity, beauty, health and; even, personality of this flock. I, initially, started breeding Icelandics to have a healthy sustainable flock for the farm. I feel that I’ve accomplished this. While helping to preserve a rare breed wasn’t my initial goal; I am proud that I have been able to, successfully, participate in this effort. Now, I look forward to selling purebred Icelandic chicken hatching eggs next breeding season (around April, 2019).

Why would anyone choose to have Icelandic chickens?

  1. They are like having wildflowers running around the yard! Each one is different than the other in color, pattern, crest and comb, and character. So beautiful!
  2. They are curious and adventurous and fun to watch.
  3. They make great mamas!
  4. They are good foragers and work all day long to find food in their world (even when that food is the gooseberries you were planning to put into a pie!)
  5. They are adaptable and hardy and healthy provided their basic requirements of good food and appropriate shelter.
  6. They lay well. It is said they lay about 180 eggs per year. I haven’t counted.
  7. They are quite savvy when it comes to avoiding predators but there are no guarantees! At the least, they need the basic protection of a secure coop at night.
  8. The roosters are attentive to the hens: calling to them when treats are available, performing mating dances, and protecting them from predators. They are, generally, non-aggressive. I do cull aggressive roosters from my flock. Fortunately, I haven’t had any since my first year of raising Icelandics.
  9. They make for great “T.V.”!

When might you decide not to raise Icelandic chickens?

  1. When you want to raise chickens for meat. These are medium size chickens. Roosters dress out to 2-2.5 pounds, hens are less.
  2. When you are looking to sell extra large eggs. Icelandics lay medium to large eggs.
  3. When you are limited to keeping your chickens in a very contained area. These are free spirited creatures and sure do like their space. They are perfect for free range situations. They like to fly. On rainy days, I see them fly up to perch on top of their coop…to keep their feet dry?

coopposter

We built this coop so that we can separate the mating groups in spring. All other times, we let all the groups mix together. We have one bay that has three broody boxes for mamas to hatch out our chicks. I use a three family system to prevent problems that may occur with inbreeding. These problems show themselves less readily in a landrace chicken, however, I seek to optimize the health and genetics of these chickens.  From time to time, I will bring in new genetics of pure Icelandic chickens to add from other reputable breeders.

Have a look at some of our flock on a rainy September morning:

flock1flock2Spikeflock3withSargeflock4blacktopflock5groterooflock6goldhenflock7whitehenflock8whitentanflock9thorflock10youngrooandhenflock11whitegroteroo

Other references:

Harvey Ussery: The Small Scale Poultry Flock

Icelandic Chickens of Whippoorwill Farm

Hawk’s View Farm

Facebook Icelandic Chicken Group (closed)

Past related posts:

Chickens in the house, literally

Advertisements
Categories: Infrastructure, Poultry | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Coop de Snow

The thing I like best about weather events such as Saturday’s snowstorm is that neighbors tend to come out to the street to share a little of the experience. I find it very energizing!

We received round-a-bout 18-24″ of snow on Saturday. We had just finished (mostly) the chicken coop and put it in place behind the house as the first snowflakes began to fall Friday evening. We decided that the chickens could have one more day in the house but, after the blizzard, they were out!  Since our last update, they took to roosting on the side wall of their bedroom brooder. All 17 of them settled on it to sleep at night…and set their alarm!

On a very snowy Saturday morning, Ginkgo could still bound, pretty easily, down towards the pond.

I moved a bit more slowly. I made a few trips around the orchard during snowfall to free up the fence lines but, eventually, gave up. The snow was beyond my boots and up to my knees. This is the orchard mid-day Saturday.

orchard

On Sunday, we woke and took a walk to the road but found none. This morning, it looks much the same with a few snowmobile tracks. There is a road under there somewhere….

sunrise

Ginkgo started choosing her paths with a little more discrimination…such as behind the tractor.

snowplow

We carted the chickens to the mobile coop by 4’s and 5’s in a cardboard box to their new home.

newcoop

 

coopview1

 

The coop window faces east and is covered with thick plastic for the winter as is the door which is facing south. There is a pop-out door to the left of the people door. I didn’t expect to need so much bracing but the trailer is hinged in the center and we needed to make it strong for when we tow it down to the orchard and over the terrain. I like that the chickens will be able to go under the trailer for shelter when they are outside. We allowed for plenty of ventilation. They are hardy (Icelandic!) chickens so I’m not too worried about the cold. However, for now, we can warm these young birds, as needed, with the heat lamp. Soon, they will become adjusted to the cold and we can stop using the lamp.  The house, also, protects them from the cold north winds. We’ve built community nesting boxes. We’re not allowing them to go in there yet. They are only 6 weeks now and I don’t want them to start hanging out or sleeping in there. There are some finishing touches needed. I’d like to make a clean-out hatch under the roosts and to give it a paint job. I’m, also, wanting to make feeding/drinking stations that can be filled from the outside of the coop.  Most importantly, the chickens are out of the bedroom! We can transform the bedroom space into the plant nursery for the spring garden. And, THEN, maybe we’ll get to renovating the bedroom!

I checked in on those winged characters this morning. They seem to be in good health and spirits…eating lots of food and calling in the morning sun. I’ll give them a day to bond with their coop and let them out tomorrow. We’ll see what happens from there.  Looking forward to bringing them to the orchard in the springtime!

morningcoop

Categories: Animals, Climate, Infrastructure, Poultry | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Chickens in the house (literally)!

 

chick2

NICE START TO A BLOG POST, HUH?

I think it began with beetles in the orchard. This past summer, the new trees and shrubs that I planted were getting trashed by a heavy onslaught of japanese beetles. They seemed, especially, to enjoy my plum trees. I tried to gather the beetles from the leaves in a bucket every morning. It was a frustrating task. I had little hope of helping my trees as most of the bugs dropped to the ground and not in my bucket or flew away. However, I sure did enjoy dumping the gathered beetles into the chicken run to see the chickens eating them with great, GREAT enthusiasm. I needed chickens in the orchard!

chickstretch

STILL FULL OF FUZZ BUT SHOWING OFF WITH A GRAND WING STRETCH

That meant making a mobile coop and getting a new flock of chickens. The four hens that I had weren’t going to do it.

happychicks

SEVERAL HAPPY CHICKS!

Well, what kind of birds would I want in the orchard? I wanted good foragers. I loved the idea of having chickens raise their own young. I needed good mothers. I wanted them to be hardy and very healthy. I checked in with Harvey Ussery, who wrote The Small Scale Poultry Flock. He gave me some information on Icelandic chickens. They seemed like they would be a good fit. They were beautiful to boot! I joined a Facebook page, found a breeder, and bought some eggs and an incubator.

 

There was a question looming. Do I vaccinate or not? I did some research. There were groups of people saying “Absolutely!” and others that said “Never!” There were, thankfully, many people sharing some very useful information. Yes, I was concerned about disease and, particularly, Mareks. We have poultry farms nearby and I suspect that I have had Mareks disease rear its ugly deadly head in my own flock. I’ve decided to follow a plan for breeding resistance against disease. This plan, also, provides a strategy for maintaining the genetic diversity needed for keeping a healthy flock.

 

 

chickhello

HELLO, THERE!

I used a Hova-Bator Incubator and an egg turner. They worked beautifully to provide the right amount of heat, movement, ventilation, and humidity. I did add a piece of aquarium tubing to inject water for humidity without opening the lid. That worked well. I rigged up a candler with a bright LED reading lamp. I was amazed at how clearly I was able to see the viability of the egg, or lack thereof, with candling. At 9 days, we found 2 non-fertile eggs that did not develop at all and 3 that stopped developing and died. We ended up with 18 hatched chicks, one failed after hatch; so, 17.

 

question

GETTING FEATHERS

Since, it is winter and we do not have electric to the barn yet; I made a brooder in a spare bedroom with old screen windows and doors, heat lamps, a tarp, and bedding. We made waterers with PVC pipe and watering nipples. The chickens went right to these waterers. I like them because they are easy to fill and stay clean.

waterers

CHICKEN WATERING STATION

They are growing very fast. We have about a week or so and, then, we will be looking to get them in their coop. We’ll put it behind the house with access to electricity for the rest of the winter as they may still need heat lamps when the temperature gets too cold. I’m wishing for good health but am prepared for challenges. I’m envisioning putting these ladies and gentlemen to work in the orchard come spring!

chickencoop

COOP-TO-BE WITH A HURRY-UP DEADLINE

 

rooster2

HEARD THIS FELLA PRACTICING HIS CROW AT 4 WEEKS OLD

 

roosterblue

WOW! LOOKIN’ SO FLY! (he-he-he)

Categories: Infrastructure, Orchard, Poultry, Strategies | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.