Monday, August 29, 2011

A tale of six roosters . . .

My initial plan was to keep only one breed of white egg layers - Campines, an endangered species - and only have Campine roosters.  The plan was that if I had a broody hen, whatever breed, I would slip white eggs under her, and they would all have Campine fathers and Campine mothers - couldn't be any other combination.  Any chicks that hatched would be full blooded Campines.

A woman had to get rid of some chickens in town due to complaining neighbors.  She told me they were all pullets.  However, three of the six Buff Orpingtons began crowing and breeding my hens - definitely not pullets.  I sold one, found one dead in the Moop one morning, and still have a third.  He is so beautiful!  His name is Stewart, Stew for short because my plan was to put him in the stew pot.  He has messed up my breeding plans!  If he breeds a Campine, then a white egg could have a Campine mother and Stewart, a Buff Orpington, as the father.  I would have no way of knowing what breed the chicks were until they hatched.

Stewart with a few of the girls
Buster front left, Stewart in center
Stewart is still in the chicken yard.  I cannot bear to butcher him.  My vet told me that I might consider taking him to the local auction, that he got rid of a rooster for $2.00 to someone who wanted to use him for breeding.  I might do that.  Stewart is a fine bird!  He is just the wrong bloodline for my breeding plan.  He is also way too big for my tiny Campines, and his spurs have left many of their backs nude of feathers.

Buster is a fine bird!
My only picture of Roscoe
Chicks are sexed the day they are born, so when you order pullets, you are supposed to get pullets, and not random pullets and roosters.  You only need one rooster for every 15 hens, but odds say you will get 50:50 if you leave things to chance.  If you buy them unsexed, it is called a "straight run," and the cost per chick is pretty cheap.  If they are sexed, you pay more to get all pullets - the ones that lay the eggs and provide some income.  However, Campines are rather hard to sex.  The first year, I got two roosters by mistake, but the hawks got one.  Only Buster was left.  Last year I got one rooster by mistake, and I named him Roscoe.  Sometimes roosters fight, but Buster and Roscoe got along just fine and spent most of their time within a few feet of each other.  Sadly Rosco has disappeared, gone about a week now, so I'm pretty sure he became fodder for some wild animal.  Kayla said she heard wolves near the house yesterday morning.  And I have plenty of hawks -- Campines are rather small birds, and a hawk could carry an adult rooster off quite easily.  Sigh . . .

I bought two Campine roosters this year, and they survived babyhood, are crowing lustily and even thinking about getting into the breeding game.  So there are three Campine roosters now, with Roscoe gone.  And of course there is Stewart.  And Tiny.  One of the four accidental chicks that hatched out last spring appears to be full-blooded Campine.  I was hoping it was a pullet, but he is crowing.  So that makes four Campine roosters.  And Stewart.  And Pretty Boy, another of the accidental chicks.  Unfortunately, he is most definitely a rooster, and a huge one at that!  He has just started to crow.  It's funny, the Campine roosters crow at a lot earlier age.  But I had Pretty Boy figured for a boy long before he crowed.  He is huge, and he is the most aloof of the four chicks.  He won't let me pet him when he is running around the yard, only sits on my lap when the mood strikes him.  Last night he spent about two minutes there, then he was off.  He is a beautiful bird, definitely part Buckeye based on how his tale feathers are colored, and most certainly Buff Orpington (Stewart) from his dad.

Here are the four "accidental" chickens.  Tiny is to the right.
I am going to keep Tiny - after all, we have bonded and he looks like a full-blooded Campine.  Pretty Boy and Stewart have to go, and I think I will take them to the sale barn.  Then my only conundrum will be Goldie.  I may have to isolate her to see what color eggs she lays.  If she lays brown or tan eggs, I can keep her.  If she lays white eggs, I will offer her a home with a good friend who has a flock of chickens.  I know she will be taken care of and will be allowed to live several years on that farm.  If I knew her exact parentage, I would try breeding to get more like her.  Maybe I could develop a new breed.  She is certainly beautiful!

Goldie - she is a beauty!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


After all of the frustration and HARD WORK of getting the garden in, finally we are harvesting a lot of food!  Our CSA members are very happy.  They get at least $12 worth of fresh organic produce each week for $10 (they sign up for 13 weeks of deliveries), and lately they have been getting closer to $15 worth!  We have so much, and I would rather give them all a bit more than take it in to the market and take my chances on it selling.

The potatoes, oh the potatoes.  How I wish I could eat them, but they are so high in carbs that I treat myself to a small potato maybe once or twice a week.  Someone told me that blue potatoes have fewer carbs and more nutrition.  I guess that is why I am just about out of them already.  Everything Kayla and I dig is gone by the end of the week - if it is a blue potato, that is.  Next year, there will be two full rows of blue potatoes.

My beans didn't do at all well.  We are expanding the garden, and they are in the new area.  The poor production there certainly shows how much we have improved the old garden area.  Things do not grow very well in the new parts.  We didn't plant much of the new area this year because we knew it wouldn't be that good, but we really needed the room.  In an effort to get the new area up to speed, we are doing some special prep work.  Most of it is still grass, with just a few areas planted - beans, squash and melons being about all that went in there.  We just mowed the grass low, and I am going to sprinkle it with SeaAgra sea salt, then sprinkle the area with about 50% of our composted manure, then cover the whole area with tarps.  Hopefully, when we pull up those tarps next spring, the grass will be composted and the salt will have worked its way down into the soil, along with that biodynamic compost.  Next year, I have high hopes for the new part of the garden.

We can no longer use anything for mulch that is not certified organic.  That is a new rule as of April 1, 2011.  I think it is a good rule.  However, my garden is getting so big that I will not be able to mulch using the leftover hay from the hay mow and grass clippings from lawn mowing.  Buying organic straw is cost prohibitive.  So we are going to have to do a "normal" garden next year, tilling between the rows where we used to mulch.  We will use our precious organic grass clippings to mulch around the potatoes and tomatoes.  The rest of it, get out the hoes.  Sigh . . .

Well, I'm just finishing up a new batch of Cheddar cheese, and it's time to wander out to the garden to see what looks good for supper.  Now that is what I call a SUPER market!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Where is Roscoe?

I have (had?) two full grown Campine roosters.  They were usually together, never got into fights.  I realized yesterday that I haven't seen Roscoe around.  He looks very much like Buster, but he didn't go through the cold winter that Buster did.  Buster's comb got frostbite, and instead of spikes, the comb is rounded on the ends.  Roscoe's is crisp, with sharp points, and more of them.  So I could always tell them apart.

I couldn't find Roscoe in the Moop last night, but it was pretty dark in there and I didn't have my flashlight.  When I open the door, they all come rushing out so it is hard to find an individual chicken.  But I didn't see him this morning.

I haven't seen any remains.  If someone had hit him with their car, I would have seen the body on the drive.  But it is not looking good for Roscoe.  Two days outside the Moop means that he has become fodder for some wild animal.

It turns out that Tiny, one of the four little ones that bonded with me, is a rooster.  I was hoping Tiny was a hen, but now, with Roscoe gone, I guess it is a good thing.  That will make four Campine roosters for breeding.

I thought I had lost Tiny, too.  I didn't see him for several days.  Then one night, when I was sitting on the back step of the Moop, this little Campine hopped on my head and began crowing!  Tiny!!!  I didn't recognize him because he had finally developed some tail feathers - and quite a singing voice!

I am hoping against hope that Roscoe will miraculously show up, that I just missed seeing him for a couple of days but he was there all along.  I will keep you posted.