Archive for May, 2011

Mutants, Beasts and the “Thing” in the Brooder

In the flurry of the spring egg setting season in preparation for Easter this year, some eggs went into the incubator that were unidentified. They came out of the Silkie pen, and were thought to be bantam eggs. The Silkie pen has a small flock of white Silkies, but also mixed in with the group are two white Frizzled Cochin bantam hens. The Silkie /Frizzle Cochin crosses are the only crossbreeds we produce on purpose here. The chicks come out with the soft feathers of the Silkies, but pointed in all directions like the Frizzles (like some one put them in the clothes dryer with a sneaker). We have coined the name “Sizzles” and they grow up to be very cute little chickens with good natures. The females make good little broody hens for people wanting to set eggs. They do not breed true, so you never know which traits you will get from crossing the two breeds. I have had some with the black skin or shanks of the Silkies, and I have had some hatch with 5 toes. Once I had one hatch with 5 toes on one foot and 4 on the other. They are all very cute in their own ways and it is always fun to see what the gene pool will come up with in each chick.
Other then the “Sizzles” I can tell right off the different breeds of chicks right when they hatch without a doubt-they all have a very distinct look that is breed specific.  Or I should say I could up until about two weeks ago.
Both the incubators were running at full capacity, and that translates into approximately 430 eggs. In the fall/winter months we only set eggs once a week, so we only have hatches once a week. In the spring however, we set eggs every day, and this makes for frantic mornings of tray-fulls of chicks being transferred into the brooders and a close watch that must be kept on setting dates to get the new eggs into the hatching trays so that the chicks do not hatch in the turners. Some mornings it becomes quite hectic if there are large hatches in both incubators at the same time. I like to check over each chick as it is transferred into the brooder for any malformations,  health issues or weakness. We have a separate ICU brooder for any small or struggling chicks to go into before they join the general population in the larger brooder.
On one of these frantic large hatch mornings, I pulled a large striped/speckled chick out of the hatching tray that had an unusually elongated head, and very strange speckled markings on its face. The only thing I could think of at the time, was that it must be a Speckled Sussex chick – they are the only chickens I have that are born with spots. It had come out of a medium-sized lightly tinted chicken egg, so I just left it at that.  I kept watching it in the brooder and every time I looked I would think to myself, “what IS that thing?”
When it came time to take the hatchlings to the feed stores, I left this one behind, as there just seemed to be something weird about the way it looked. A few days later when the brooder had just a few chicks left in it, I took a closer look to try to figure out just why it looked so strange and then it dawned on me – I have a trio of Ring Necked Pheasants in the same coop and this was an inter-species cross! A pheasant crossed with a chicken. I had been on a website years ago where they had some funny pictures of them. I remember there was the offspring of a male pheasant and a Barred Rock hen, and a Peacock crossed with a guinea hen as well. Rare and strange, but I guess it happens! I pulled it out this morning and sat down to get a really good look at it. I think my suspicions are right. It has no comb,  game bird markings on the feathers and is getting tall, but it also has the telltale dark shanks of the hybrids, and on one leg, just a faint bit of feathering!
There still seems to be little information on the web about these crosses, but from the bit I can find, only 6.5 of these eggs ever hatch, and the chicks are mostly weak and don’t tend to live very long, so this cross is more of an oddity, and does not really produce an offspring that has any real value to the poultry industry.
We will keep an eye on our little oddity for the next few months to see what he/she turns into, and try to figure out what to call it – a “Cheasant” or maybe a “Phicken”-?

Phicken? Cheasant?

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Yes, that old saying is so true, all the rain we experienced in April has done a world of good for the roses this May.
I had a 60 foot pine tree (that had a bad case of bark beetles) removed from my front yard last winter, opening up a huge area to full sun now. The “pink garden” (the rose garden with only pink shades of roses in it) that has always only had half a day of light, is now reveling in the sunshine and blooming like crazy. I have put a heavy layer of mulch  from the goat barn down around the roses’ feet to keep them cool and damp now that the days are long and warm. All of the heavy pruning I did back in February has paid off and the plants have good shape and nice air circulation all around them. A lot of the clones from last year are producing buds for the first time and it is rewarding to see these new varieties in the garden. Moonstone and Mint Julep are  newcomers welcomed in, as well as Secret and Topaz Jewel. I am still waiting for Butterscotch and Dream Yellow to put out buds. Here are some photos of some of my favorite ones so far…..


Butterscotch bud


Chris Evert

Mint Julep bud