Homesteading: Chickens and Quail, Updates and Coop Life

Life is moving along with regards to both the chicken and the quail.  Most of this post is about cooping them, along with adorable poultry photos….

homesteading, chickens

coturnix, homesteading, housing, quail, juvenile

Chickens: 

The main (first) coop now has five hens and one rooster.  The rooster (“Roo”) and the hen “Chickpea” are a year younger than the balance of the hens. My friend, “Celeste”, is still very friendly and will still not end up in a freezer.

I gave away some of my juvenile hens and cockerels from this summer’s incubation.

chickens, homesteading, housing, chicken run

The run for this coop needed a floor, as the predation-proof (resistant) floor wire is set up high. I dumped in around 20 bags of sand, and even at 50 pounds per bag, I felt like I wasn’t making a dent. SO I ordered to size thick plywood sheets. I used exterior house preservative on the plywood – which is drying in the photo.

Early this summer (or late spring) I ordered and received a new coop, since I was planning on ordering a batch of day old Plymouth Barred Rock chicks, straight run.  They were to arrive the third week in June.  Since there was a run on a lot of breeds at McMurray’s, I ordered some buff Rocks to fill out the order.  Apparently (and wisely) there are a lot of people now suddenly wanting to delve into raising their own eggs and chickens.  At the same time, I decided to see if I could incubate my own eggs here – and would time them to hatch at the same time as the USPS chick arrival.

homesteading, chickens, housing, chicken run

Still in progress here – to the left is one of the boards. I’ve tacked down shelving sheets to improve cleanup, and help the boards last longer. (I already figure they’ll be replaced about yearly.) A second sheet needs to go down. The area to the right is filled in with that sand. Chickens will receive feed both in the coop and in the run.

This worked almost too well, as I ended up with more chicks than this new coop would be able to house.  I found homes with three different people for the extras, although I suspect the guy who just wanted cockerels plans to eat them.  That’s fine – I would do that myself.  I just wasn’t going to be able to house them until maturity.

The new coop needed flooring – it has a wire base to keep predators from digging in.  I was advised to get sand to fill the area in, to help chicken feet from getting sore.  I put in about 20 bags of 50 pound sand, and called that quits – there was a lot more to do!  So… I ordered 3/4 inch plywood from Home Depot, cut to size.

homesteading, chickens, housing, chicken run

The covered plywood is laid down (two sheets). Sand is in the back – and around the corner. This is the area where alas, it is too low for me to stand.

I have put exterior preservative on both sides of the pieces, and am nailing down Bed Bath & Beyond shelving material atop.  These will go into the end of that coop’s run, and pine chips are to be spread over.  The sand at the front – the wood flooring at the back. (I know well that this flooring will probably not last more than a year – that’s okay, I am planning for that.)

Now that these chickens are getting bigger, this will give them more opportunity to get away from each other.  While they run around while I am down with them, and while they are getting bigger, they still have more predation to worry about than do the adults – who get to run around most of the daylight hours.  Besides – space!  We all want more!

Plymouth barred rocks, chickens, homesteading, pullets, cockerels

The nine juvies will be glad to stretch their wings (literally) into that run.  I haven’t let them in there until now because doing the work in the back of it means I had to sit down back there – too low in the back to stand.  Poultry don’t understand litter pans… But now, it doesn’t matter…

homesteading, chickens, run, coop, housing

Just finished the run. They have yet to discover it… but after I fed them in the coop proper, I put more feed in the run. To which they NOW have access from the coop.  I’m sure they are there now!

And above – here’s their finished run!

I wish to set up a swing for them in the run, as well as a fun perch or two.  The other chickens do have a multi-layered perch, and a ladder, which they seem to enjoy.

chicken, cockerel, hybrid

(The above chickens: buff Plymouth rock, barred Plymouth rock, and a hybrid – [barred Plymouth rock x buff Orpington F1].  None are yet mature.  Or, named.)

Quail:  

At the moment, I have 15 quail:  6 adults (hatched back last April), and 9 that are approximately 4 weeks old.  All are currently living in the basement, although the adults are now mostly outdoors.  I want them out doors all the time, but this is a work in progress.

homesteading, coturnix, quail, housing

A front view of their future home. I have the green trays for all eight quail units, just haven’t put them all in, yet. The central area is for their water and feed – a feed bowl is up in the top, the others would be similar.  This will keep them from fouling their water or feed.  I will need two water dishes for each level – one thaws in sub-zero weather, while the other is available to them.   EDIT:  Turns out the water troughs in the feed area is not a good idea.  One or two of my quail are small enough to fit fully through the wires.  But this remains the best place for feed.

On November 5th, I was delivered a unit for housing quail outdoors – holds eight units of quail.   Right now I have 15 of the little feathered beings, and 6 are old enough to be housed outdoors.  I have to make some adaptations before I can do so – they do thrive fine outdoors from what I have read, even here in my higher elevation area of Massachusetts.  But they shouldn’t get wet and chilled, and I also need to block wind, of which I get a fair amount.  And I have to make their quarters more comfy.

homesteading, quail, coturnix, housing.

The quail would be right outside the back door here. This is the backside of the unit. I have to do some major weatherproofing, plus confirm unit stability.

So, I will need to cover the top of this unit – I have some extra plywood – I will decide how best to attach over this weekend, although it may not be built until later this week.  Having side walls is also a necessity.  Tarp is a potential but I’d rather not – perhaps something i can roll down the front during times of absolute need, ie blustery or wet winter weather.  I also need more feed and watering containers.  I like how this has been set up to prevent the quail from fowling, (er, fouling) their nutritional sources.  Adding in nesting boxes is also something I need to do.  I can start small.  I don’t know that I will ever fill all 8 housing units in their “condo” – but I would like to go for six.  I figure each can house five or six quail.

Depending on the gender breakout of the juveniles, I may use one or two more units.  I am aiming right now for one unit – because I would rather like some quail for dinner in the near future.  We will raise up more next spring.   (Brooding would of course only take place indoors.)

homesteading, housing, quail, coturnix

A peak within: I will build some sort of cozy nesting space inside, keeping in mind the dimensions of the doorway. Potentially assembled from within, but only if it is easy to take apart from within…

I could potentially run lighting from the house their way.  Like chickens, quail lay eggs with regard to how much light they receive in a day.  The distance from the outdoor outlet to the unit is minimal.

homesteading, coturnix, quail, housing

And this is the entry to the feed door. A pan of water, followed by a pan of food. The quail on the left and the quail on the right can both reach in to drink and eat.

Note: Quail don’t free-range well. They tend not to come back home, both because they pretty much lack that instinct, and because so many more things out there in the back yard can and will eat them, than can or will easily eat chicken. Being small certainly doesn’t pay off if you are a bird.

It was 61 degrees F (16 C) out, so I decided to take quail photos with some of them in their future home.  The housing needs that aforementioned remodeling before the adults go in for real, and the juvies need more growth – and nights here are too cold for the young ones, yet.  This is all done for photo-op material!

Adult Coturnix photos: 

Juvenile Coturnix photos:  

quail, blond, juvenile,

The juveniles were hatched as eggs from an order from Strommeyer’s Hatchery.  They are the Coturnix variety known as “blond”.  This is why they look different than the adults, which came as day old chicks hatched by a woman two towns over.

I decided Sunday afternoon a week past to put all six adults out to the new housing, incomplete as it is.  The rationale was to observe their behavior from then through Tuesday, when I’d return them to their box in the basement (weather would be dry and not windy until the early hours of Wednesday, when it was to rain).  Temps would vary a bit – it dropped to 41 F Monday morning.  A bit colder than predicted – but then, here, it usually is.  I also wanted to “harden them off”, sort of like what one does with plants.

The six adults are now in a unit not at the bottom, but one level up, which means I have enough temporary protection that can for now protect them from the elements.  They came in this last Sunday night because of a predicted storm front that would bring in heavy rains AND wind at the same time.  I am pleased to note their domicile did stay dry, but it had been a good idea to play it safe.

Observations:  

  • Even when the temperature was in the high 50s, they wanted to be out of the direct sun, and in shade.  I made temporary accommodations with the cleanout sheets from the other units – these would however blow away with the angles I’d laid them at, in any good wind.  Shade is easy enough to arrange, however.
  • Two or three seem skittish upon my approaching of the unit.  I figure they are not used to seeing me come towards them from a side view, only from overhead.  They should adapt to this.  (Note, by November 12 – they have.)
  • One of the smaller quail managed to cross into the feed zone, and get “stuck” there.  He couldn’t figure out how to get back.  And he managed to dunk himself in the water trough.  I’m scratching my noodle on this one, as he’s not going to get any bigger.  Getting wet and cold is a definite no-no.  I removed the water trough and brought out their regular waterer from the basement.  Fortunately the temperature was by then was in the low 60’s.  None of them has since done this, but I have to keep alert about it.  (Note November 12, one, the same one, crossed the barrier again.  Keep alert, and return any errant ones to the main housing area for water access.  PS, He gets across to the food constantly.  I’m hoping he grows enough of a spare tire that he can’t fit through the wires any more!)  I have placed a second feed trough in there, which means four or five can feed at a time – I will add a third.
  • I placed a board against one wall – should provide a bit more  shade for now, and perhaps a bit of warmth for the overnights while I rig up something more permanent.
  • The doors to each unit are self closing, but they don’t all latch well.  They don’t have enough strength to open them, but I do want to keep enterprising raccoons out.  Right now I am using those trash can ties, but will replace with a better substitute Tuesday.  (I did – latching hook is now in place.)
  • I have some trays that I plan to fill with sand so they can sand-bathe.  Unfortunately I can’t recall where I put them.  I am making a trip into the near city on Tuesday; I’ll be sure to pick up something if I can’t find mine by then.  Their unit only needs one, and I should recall where I put the others by the time the juveniles are big enough to go outside.  (Need to remedy the fact they knock their sandbox over.  I have ideas either to weigh down those pans (plastic), find heavier material, or attach them to the cage bottom wiring – and simply need to implement.)
  • They all seem perfectly fine at 41 degrees F, Monday.  The sun isn’t above the trees yet, They are staring out towards the south – their best vista for viewing their new world.
  • I found an egg when I went to say goodnight to them Sunday.  (And several eggs each day – about 2-3 per day.)
  • I have been able to protect the quail from rain.  Working on making their home better resistant to chilling winds, and of course to winds that come accompanied by rain.  Until this is resolved to my (and their) satisfaction, they will return indoors as indicated.
  • There are MICE.  I’ve set a trap but I can only catch one at a time.  I set it up in the condo layer below my quail – I don’t want a quail to experience this.  (This is Seriously the Year of the Mouse.)  I am sorry, not, but these aren’t “Hav-a-Heart” traps.  They do provide immediate rather than prolonged demise.  The same little guys have invaded my pantry starting late summer, and got the same treatment – I leave the remains outside for scavengers and that cycle of life.  The indoor (as inside my house) population is under control/gone at least for now.
  • Quail really do poop a LOT.
homesteading, quail, coturnix, housing

“Yes, we survived our first night outdoors! Stop that helicoptering, already!!”  Oh, yes, that water source was re-filled immediately after this photo op.

homesteading, coturnix, quail, housing, coop

This setup, with a “roof” and outer side walls (you will see the outer ones in the next photo) did keep this quail “condo unit” dry in a storm over the weekend. (Since I wasn’t going to be sure, they overnighted back indoors.)  They will be getting taller inner side walls once I have the lumber.

homesteading, quail, coturnix, housing, coop

These two boards are severely temporary, but they do block water and rain. I move that front board to cover the front when appropriate.. In the bottom left unit – the mouse zapper trap, which went out last night – and got a mouse. I can’t put it with the quail as I don’t want THEM zapped.

Other Poultry News:  

The man who sold me the coop is going to sell me a small heirloom turkey hen for Thanksgiving dinner.  She seriously injured her foot or leg, and he has to put her down.  I’ve only had a heirloom turkey once, and I made the terrible mistake of brining it.  Yes, I followed instructions.  Yes, it was tender, but the side effect was NOT WORTH IT.  The thing was far too salty to finish, and with that concentration of salt, I couldn’t feed it to the cats, either. So, I am looking forward to this one!

I also have an option on nine stewing hens – I will probably take three (I have to slaughter and process these myself to get the good price I’ll get.  I also won’t have a lot of spare freezer space.  No way for 9!  I can process three chickens in a morning by myself without having to take a break – I could see a fourth if I saved that one for the afternoon.  Actually judging by the last ones, I am probably faster now and might do four in a morning.  What I’d want to do is collect these hens in the morning, and process two or three in the afternoon.  And the other one or two the next morning.

homesteading, chicken, housing, signs

The BEWARE sign is up, the other two signs are waiting for the proper nails.

homesteading, chickens

Chickens from the first coop: Yin (black Australorpe), Chickpea (Silver laced Wyandotte x ?Buff Orpington), and Roo (Plymouth barred rock).  Yes, they dug that hole!

Got my first “fairy egg” from the chickens.  I had it fried for breakfast along with a few fried quail eggs.  This one had a small dollop of yolk, as the photo shows.

Above: Size comparison – chicken fairy egg, quail egg, and regular chicken egg.  Then, the fairy egg fried between 3 quail eggs.  Note the dot of a yolk.  The white spilled out to the left from this egg’s decantation into the skillet.  So far the only fairy egg I’ve encountered.   Yes, they are edible.  I understand they often have no yolk at all.  Sometimes they indicate dietary deficiencies or they may just one day — happen.  Not to worry if this remains a rare occurrence.


homesteading, quail, chicken, coop, housing, run

Shared here with:  Farm Fresh Tuesdays,  Fiesta Friday (co-host Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook)., Homestead Blog Hop.

Farm Fresh Tuesdays Blog Hop #79

About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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