Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Muscovy Ducks

Only a face a mother could love right?  Well at first I thought they were really ugly, but they grow on you!  The white one in the background is "DUCK".    He is the main man in our muscovy flock.  There are several other teen boys, but they are headed for the freezer soon.  Muscovy ducks get very large and are mainly raised for meat birds.  The last one I butchered and boned out was 5 lbs of meat!  Duck sausage-YUM!

 Here is Duck.

 Here is Duck, showing off. =}

 Here is a blue hen. They lay huge eggs and are great mamas!

 Here is a brown and white hen.
Here is a really pretty black and white hen.
Here is a nest under my chicken coop that my scovies laid and a hen is setting on them.
Here is a mama that raised 27 ducklings last year!!

I often sell hatching egg and ducklings from this flock.  I have 20 muscovies and 2 drakes.

Crele Polish

This is my crele polish rooster.  He is gorgeous!
 There are 3 crele hens in with him and 2 EE hens just to keep the breeding pressure off of the polish hens.  I keep the EE eggs separate.

Here is what their babies look like.

Shipping Live Birds

Shipping Live Birds

  1. NEVER ship any bird(s) that show any signs of being sick
  2. Use the proper box for the bird(s) you are shipping. Bigger is not always better as they can be tossed about inside. The same goes for being aware of the boxes weight limit.
  3. NEVER ship late in the week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are the best days for shipping out live birds.
  4. Be aware the scans may not always be up to date and accurate. The online system updates when the scan guns are plugged back into their cradles at the post office/hub
  5. The USPS is only responsible for losses or damage to your bird(s) during shipping. They are not responsible for death(s) of your bird(s) if the shipping box was not damaged during transit.
  6. When you ship via Express mail the PO will give you a "guaranteed" arrive by date/time. This CAN change once the box is in route due to weather conditions, dry ice cargo (deadly to birds) or unpressurised cargo plane. All of these things can cause a delay in arrival and are NOT grounds for a refund of shipping fees.
  7. USPS has aps for smart phones. The one for iPhones allows you to scan the shipping bar code (or enter the DC/Tracking number) and track the box right from your phone.
  8. Using USPS CLICK & SHIP (online shipping payment and label printing from home) will save you roughly 15% per box you ship. Customers appreciate this savings.

Preparing the container:
Put your box together the night before you plan to ship so you aren't rushing to do so to make it to the PO before they close.
We recommend taping the ENTIRE underside of the box using clear packing tape. This creates a barrier so the cardboard isn't in direct contact with elements.
Pine shavings are the best choice for box bedding. It is absorbent, weighs less (than hay) and does not pose a risk of a bird being poked during transit causing an injury.
(stiff hay stalks can poke birds in the face/eyes and create issues for the new owner)
MORE is better when it comes to securing the box with zip ties. double up and make sure the box can not be "peeked" inside of along the way.
  • Feed and water the birds to be shipped PRIOR to boxing them up
  • Send a text/email/ect to buyer with expected delivery date
  • Check with YOUR local PO for the express mail schedule in your area. This keeps your birds from having to be in a box at 8:00 am when the express pick up isn't until 3:00 pm.
  • Write the ship to address ON the box using sharpie (or similar marker) incase the label comes off 
  • Be sure the buyers PHONE NUMBER is written clearly on the box, shipping label so they can be notified as soon as the birds arrive at the local PO.

Food & Water:
NO water in the boxes ever for any reason (cardboard + water = mess)
New hatchlings do best with GroGel mixed and placed in a container secured to the wall of the shipping box.
Juvenile and Adult birds honestly don't need anything in the box except bedding material.
If you do chose to include something avoid melons (again high moisture content with cardboard equals a mess)
apples, oranges, shredded carrots, even shredded lettuce are better choices.

Temperatures need to be check on BOTH the sending and receiving locations for birds.
nothing UNDER 35*f
nothing OVER 85*f
*on a personal note I do not recommend shipping adult or juvenile waterfowl with temperatures over 75 because of their dense down coats
Be aware of ANY weather related delays that could effect your shipment. Always error on the side of caution and do not ship if there is a chance of weather related major delays.
  • Do not over crowd the box, this can make the internal temp of the box rise and be fatal to your birds.
  • Avoid weekends and holidays so birds are not stranded anywhere along the trip

Shipping options:
USPS Priority mail -- ONLY used for day old hatchlings
USPS Express mail -- Use for all other ages of birds (CAN take as long as 3 days to arrive)
Air Cargo - Delta Dash

State Regulations:
It is the shippers responsibility to know and follow all state regulations for shipping both LIVE birds and hatching eggs into each state.
Do NOT rely on your local USPS office to know anything concerning the laws for an individual state.
Many states require you as the sender to be:  A.) be NPIP certified yearly   or   B.) obtain Health certificates and blood testing for each bird being shipped
you can NOT ship to Hawaii via USPS ............ you must use Air Cargo services and you must complete permitting paperwork prior to ever shipping

Shipping Containers:
Horizon Shipping Boxes:

Please read everything available from the links below.
The USPS doesn't have to allow us to ship live birds, and it is up to us to understand the rules completely so we do not put our birds at risk.
DO NOT count on your local USPS office to know the rules for shipping, 9 times out of 10 they dont have a clue.

Shipping Fertile Hatching Eggs

Packing and Shipping Hatching Eggs
You may get to a point where you want to sell your fertile hatching eggs.  You can sell them on the same sites that I listed for you to buy hatching eggs from.  Here is a great article on how to pack them for shipping:

The easiest way to ship them is via USPS Priority mail with a confirmation #.  Paypal or USPS will actually make labels you can print.

Here are some labels that you can use to mark the box fragile etc:
If you would like copies of these files, contact me.  I could not figure out how to upload them.  I have a few more in Word too.

Breeds and Gender

Poultry Breeds
Here is a nice compilation of breeds, including color pictures and descriptions of feather, leg, and egg colors, temperament, hardiness, their purpose, production, comb type, etc.  It is great if you are trying to identify a breed as well.
This one is for chickens:
Here is a nice chicken characteristic comparison chart:
And this one is for other fowl.

Aracauna, Ameraucana or Easter Egger???  Here is an article that explains the difference of these breeds;

Here is another great chart with breed characteristics:
Gender Identification
Here is some info on telling the sex of your chicks:
Here is a blog that helps you tell:
Here is a site that claims you can feather sex 1-3 day old chicks.  I will have to try this myself!

I usually use the comb size and color, but that doesn't work on all breeds.  Behavior plays a role too.  

Note about Silkies:  Silkies are really hard to tell the sex on until they are about 4 months old!  Some of the indicators are; the males will stand very tall and erect, the girls will crouch down low; and the girls will hide under the males when scared, like sticking their necks under the males; I guess some say that if you pick up a silkies and set it down the girls will shake off, the boys will not.

If all else fails, there is a forum of experienced poultry people that you can ask:

Raising Chicks (Brooding)

Raising baby chicks is called brooding.  I have several good articles on the correct way to care for your little ones.  I will list many of them and you can read one or all.

Here is a nice article on an alternative to heat lamps;

Taking care of chicks is not hard, but a little time consuming.  They have to have adequate heat and fresh food and water every day.  They need to have a safe environment too.  Good luck!

A note about food: it is a personal preference, but I do not use the medicated food.  I use 18-20% protein grower/broiler crumbles.  I find the medicated food makes it harder to get rid of coxi, if they get it.

I have used probably everything out there for brooders.  I tried cardboard boxes, but they get yucky and can hold mold.  So I stick with Rubbermaid type bins,  dog x-pens, little fences, and then I made my stacking 3-tier brooder.  But the only thing I don't like about it, is that the wood is hard to sanitize.  But it is nice until they are about 3 weeks old.  Then they go on the floor of my garage.  Here are a few pics of set-ups I have used.  My brooder is at the bottom.  Here is a link to how we made it;

Hatcheries and Breeders


Here is an extensive list of hatcheries and their minimum orders:
Here is a page with commercial hatchery reviews:
The ones I have used are:

Farwest (in Or and sounds great, but I had a bad experience in Spring of 2011-over 100 chicks got lost at the airport-but this is their opening year-I would like to try them again-nice selection!)
Leon Valley Trading Co- was my all time favorite hatcherybreeder!!  I ordered hatching eggs and got beautiful birds!!  Unfortunately they are closed now.={
Metzer- my all time favorite for waterfowl!  They sex the ducklings!!  Wonderful birds and they sent extras too!
Murray McMurray- I wasn't impressed.  They mixed up my order and I cancelled it. A lot of people swear by them though.
Privett (ok service for the small order-when I ordered straight run in winter they were almost all boys!) (This is the hatchery that all of our local feed store use around here.)
Welp-I wasn't too impressed.  I got two of the wrong breeds and they would only refund my money, not the shipping costs.  Birds were of decent hatchery quality.

*Note: There are often people that only want a few birds and don't meet the minimum orders. If you are one of them, let me know and I will try to get an order together with some friends.  We bird hoarders are always willing to order more. =}

 Breeders Lists

Here is a complete breeders list (by breed): is a breeders list (by state):
Here is a BYC sellers review page:

*Note: It is always nice to support local breeders too. (like me!)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Frizzled Polish Flock

Here is my frizzle rooster.  He is half frizzle blue polish and his dad is my crele polish roo.  His crest is cut right now from fall.
Here are the 10 hens with him.  There are 5 splash, 2 white crested blue, 1 blue, 1 lav and 1 buff barred.

This buff girl has her crest cut too.

Here are some pics of chicks from this flock.

Th one in the middle back and right back are from other polish flocks.


Here are my new Buckeyes.  They are known for killing mice and rats!  Isn't that cool?  I have noticed they are pretty forward for chickens!  I have seen them challenge both of my dogs!  And the roo even tries to dance around me when I am not looking.  I will have to keep an eye on him! 
They are funny birds with lots of personality.  I have 6 hens, one roo and there is also a miscellaneous black copper marans hen that turned out blonde!  She grew up with them and seemed as good a place as any for her. One of the red hens comes to my back deck and jumps up on a stool by the window and looks in at my while I am on the computer!  It is hilarious!
Come Spring 2012 I will be selling hatching eggs and chicks. Contact me for availability.

David's Buff Brahma Flock

 Here are David's (my son) Buff Brahmas.  They are hatchery birds, from Privett, but they are gorgeous!  This breed is known for it's large size, laid back disposition and reportedly huge eggs!  I bought 33 of these chick in spring with the plan of keeping a small flock for myself and selling the rest.  Well David had allowance money when we bought them and he decided that he wanted his own flock of chickens.  So here they are!  They are grown up, laying now and very nice birds!  I love this breed.  They are my replacements for Giant Cochins.  Even though all of them are not laying yet, they are still outlaying the Cochins.

Here are a couple of the hens.  He has 6 hens and the roo.  Come Spring 2012 David will be selling hatching eggs and chicks. Contact me for availability.

Hatch day!

Hatch Day!
It is very important to keep your humidity high on hatch day, otherwise they can get stuck in their shell.  On day 20, 21 or 22 your eggs will get small holes in them. (21 days is the norm)  This is called pipping.  They have used up the air in the air cell and broke a hole in the shell to breathe.  They will sit like this for 12-30 hours.  Then they will start to chip away at the shell in a circle.  They actually rotate around in a circle (like a sit and spin) until the cap comes off and they fall out of the shell.  They will be tired after this hard work and will collapse for a few minutes.  After 5 minutes or so they will start to wobble around and try to learn to walk.  They will look very funny at first, but they learn quickly.  They will knock other eggs around and sometimes peck at other pip holes.  Many times they will peep very loudly for the first couple of hours.  This is all normal chick behavior. They will stumble around.  Don't worry about food or water, they have just ingested the yolk sac and will not need to eat for 24-48 hours.  Just keep the incubator warm and if not all the eggs hatch (they hatch at different rates depending on your temps)  keep the humidity up too.  Once they all hatch, you can stop with the humidity. Leave the chicks in the bator until at least 24 hours after hatching to completely dry.
Dud eggs-If you have an egg or two with no holes, you can take them out and float them.  I fill a medium bowl with warm water and gently put the egg in the water.  MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO HOLES OR YOU WILL DROWN IT!  If it wobbles around like a weeble wobble, then you have a live chick in there.  If after the water settles down, it just floats still, it is most likely dead.  I just toss these in the garbage.

Now you can move your completely dry chicks to their brooder set-up.  If some are still wet, leave them in the bator longer.

Congratulations!  You are a chick mama!

What in the World is a Hatcher?

What in the World is a hatcher?

A hatcher is just an incubator that is specifically for hatching (the last 3 days).  If you have a large incubator you might be temped to put a dozen eggs one week, then another dozen the next week and another the next week.  (This is what I do in peak hatching season.)  Well, if you have staggered hatches like this it is very difficult to raise the humidity for the eggs due to hatch that week and not have it too high for the eggs that are still on days 1-18.  So the solution is to have a smaller incubator that is used only for hatching only and that is what a hatcher is!  Only crazy chicken people like me are going to need two incubators to hatch chicken eggs!  te he  Only die-hards or professionals have both.  My hatcher is my very first incubator. (below)
This is an incubator plan out of a chicken book.  It was given to me, I kept adding to it to improve it's performance, then finally made a larger one and demoted this to my hatcher.  (I have a sweatshirt on top to insulate it until I got a piece of pink board cut out.  The top is plexi-glass and lets a lot of heat escape.)

Days 19-21 of Incubation

Days 19-21 of Incubation

On day 19 you do two very important things to your eggs.  
  1. Stop turning the eggs.  The eggs need to sit still so the babies can position themselves to hatch. IF you have automatic turners you will need to take them out of the turner and lay them on the floor on the bator to hatch.  If you have a hatcher, you can move them to the warmed up hatcher.
  2. You up the humidity to 70-80%.  Sometimes this is hard depending on the humidity in your house.  I add wet sponges and rags until either I run out of room or hit the target humidity.  When my window fogs all up, then I know I have hit it.  I re-wet the sponges and rags in morning and night.

Days 2-18

Days 2-18 of Incubation

They say that you want to bother your eggs the least amount during the first 10 days.  This means only open the incubator if absolutely necessary.  Only if your water is running low, if you turn by hand, or some other problem. Some people even make vinyl tubes through a drilled hole to pour water into their bowl, so you don't have to open the bator.  But I have not found it to be that big of a deal if you are quick and try not to let all the heat out. 

Turning by hand- If you turn the eggs by hand, then you need to take a pencil and mark an O on one side and an X on the other.  (Hopefully you did this before putting the eggs into the bator.)  You need to turn them 3 times a day (during daylight hours).  I tried to turn when I got up , around lunch time and again before bed.  You turn it from the O to the X.  So that way you can remember which ones you have turned and make sure you have turned it a half of a revolution.
Candling-Then on day 10 (and day 15 as well) you can carefully candle your eggs if you like.  This means you hold it up to a bright light to see through the shell and see if your embryos are growing.  Here is a good example of how to make a home made candler and what you are looking for when candling;
and another;'s amazing, isn't it??!!  Just don't candle them every day or the cooling temps and over handling can cause low hatch rates.

Temp and humidity-keep your temp at 99.5 and humidity at 30-50% during days 2-18. Make sure to check your temps and humidity each day to make sure they are staying in the correct range.  Make adjustments as necessary.

Adding Eggs to your Incubator (day1)

Day 1 of Incubating

If you have had your eggs shipped, you want to let them set at room temp, with small end down for at least 8 hours before putting them in the bator.  

Temperature-remember your temps should be as close as 99.5 as you can get.  Generally keeping it between 99-101 is good.
Humidity-I have always read that they humidity on chicken eggs for the first 18 days is supposed to be 40%-50%.   I have had many sticky chicks that I have to help out of the shell and found that the humidity was too high during the first 18 days.  So I use the "dry incubation" method.  Technically it is not all the way dry, because I still have a bowl of water, but I keep my humidity down at 30%.  Here is an article on the method;
Marking your eggs for turning- If you are going to be turning the eggs by hand, then you need to take a pencil and mark an O on one side and an X on the other.  (the horizontal sides)

When you have your incubator set up and it will run at a consistent temp and humidity then turn it on and get it up to temp and humidity, then add your eggs.  If you do not have automatic turners, then you will just set the eggs horizontally on the floor of your bator.  Make sure they are not sitting in water or touching your light bulbs.  Believe it or not, the embryos breathe through the shell.  If you get it wet, soiled, oiled, or boiled, they will not live.  When you first put the eggs in, your temp will drop, this is normal.  Do not adjust your t-stat!!!  It just has to warm all those eggs up to temp.  It should be up to temp in 3-6 hours or so. I mark the date on the eggs so I know when they are expected to hatch.  I use a sharpe and haven't ever had trouble because of it. It should look something like this.

Storage of Hatching Eggs

Storing Hatching Eggs Correctly

Temperature-hatching eggs should be stored between 50-75 degrees.  The optimal temp is around 60, they say, but I have always stored them in our house and I have great hatch rates.  Remember not to let them get too cold or hot when out in the coop.
Small end down-you always want to store hatching eggs vertically with their small end down and larger end up.  This keeps the air sac up and situates the yolk optimally.  I just store mine in an egg carton.
Turning-everywhere I have read that you are supposed to turn the eggs at least twice a day like when they are incubating, but I don't do it and mine hatch just fine.
Length to store- I have found that after 10 days the eggs start to loose their fertility.  I don't use eggs that are older than 10 days.

How do I buy or make an incubator?

 How do I Buy or to Make an Incubator?
You can buy cheap incubators at feed stores or used on craigslist like the hovabator, (the white styrofoam ones) but I don't recommend it.  You get what you pay for and they do not have a very good hatch rate.  There are many things required in incubating like consistent humidity and temperature. Personally I think making a home made one (even with no experience) is the best bet.  Here are some different resources on building incubators.

  1.  BYC (of course)-they have plans for anything from cooler bators to full size refrigerator bators--
  2. Here is a Youtube video to make a simple one form a syrofoam cooler. 
  3. Here is a do-it-yourself article form Mother Earth News-

After looking at several of these ideas/sites you will start to understand the main components of an incubator.  They are a Your box/shell, heat sources, humidity source, possibly a fan, possibly a thermostat, thermometer/hygrometer (measures humidity) and in fancy models, egg turners.

Putting Together a Homemade Incubator
The shell-of course the better if your shell it is insulated, the better it will hold a consistent temp and humidity, which is important for a good hatch rate. You can use old coolers, small fridges, I have even seen it work in a cardboard box!  Many people like to build in windows so you can see the chicks hatch.  An easy way to do this is to cut a hole in your shell, then take the glass from a 8x10 picture frame (or plexiglass) and silicone it to your shell.  At the bottom of this post are several pictures of home made incubator shells.
Heat source-the simplest answer is incandescent light bulbs.  The picture above is my home made incubator.  I use two 60 watt light bulbs in mine.  They are ran by ceramic lamps that you can buy at the hardware store.  My hubby mounted cords on them for me and installed them in the bator.   Heat rises, so it makes sense to install them low in your shell.
Fan-If you want a bator that will keep more consistent heat throughout, then you can easily add a small fan to circulate the air.  A computer fan works well.  You just have to splice a 12v adapter cord to the fan and mount the fan inside the shell.
Thermostat or no??- you can make do with just light bulbs and try different watt bulbs to try to keep the temp consistent all the time.  I prefer to use a thermostat.  The easiest and most reliable t-stat is the wafer.  You can buy them for about $20 at livestock supply stores.  I think I bought mine at Jeffers.  You just wire it inline to your heat source. Then to set your t-stat, you install your thermometer inside and plug in the lights.  You want your temps as close as 99.5 you can get.  Usually around 100 is good.  102 is too hot and 98 is getting cool.  So you adjust the knob on the t-stat until it stays at the temps you want.  You may have to readjust this periodically.  It is not justified if you are going to just hatch once or twice.
Humidity Source-this is a no brainer!  You just have to put a bowl or jar of water and maybe some sponges until the humidity is at 30-50%.  You will have to refill the water.  I check it every day.  IMPORTANT: when it is close to hatching day (day 21), please make sure the chicks cannot get into the water and drown.
Thermometer and Hygrometer-I bought mine at Walmart for $12. Here is a link to what it looks like;
It has a probe on a wire that I put inside the incubator so that it can tell the temp and humidity while the unit is on the outside of the bator.  They work great!
Egg Turners- these are cool little things that will tilt your eggs for you so that you don't have to turn them 3 times a day.  (I swear by them!!!)  This really helps when you have hundreds of eggs!  I bought my turners from Jeffers.   If you are planning on having automatic turners, then make sure to accommodate for their size in your shell.  They plug in and slowly turn your eggs 40 degrees, 3 times in 24 hours. Make sure to turn the turners off for the last 3 days.