Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Pierogie Peepers Vol. 2

Last year I wrote a little blog post chatting about the new chicks that had landed on our new homestead - Pierogie Peepers Vol. 1. I've been keeping chickens for about 3 years but Spring 2016 was my first batch of chicks. I went a little crazy (well, at the time I thought I was!) and got an assortment of 11 chicks and 3 broad breasted turkey poults.

Over the course of that summer, two of the chicks were lost to an overnight raccoon attack and I ended up with three roosters. Life and loss are something to be expected out in the country; it certainly wasn't easy dealing with their loss but you have to move on.

In November the turkeys were at their ideal butcher weight and we slaughtered them ourselves, along with one rooster that didn't end up getting rehomed. Some might ask if that was a hard thing to do, and initially I planned to not be a part of the slaughter process. At the last minute I decided that it was my responsibility to see it through; because it's not fair or responsible for me to continue to want to raise them for the future and not be fully aware of the entire process. You can read about our first year of raising turkeys (I did not include any graphic pictures, I promise), but I found that because of the equipment we had rented it made the process quiet, easy, not traumatic for anyone and the animals passed without incident.

That left me with a dozen hens for the winter and it took until past the Winter Solstice for most of those chicks that were hatched in May to begin to lay.

I am a part of several chicken keeping facebook groups and it was recommended to me to see about raising chicks in the winter. The idea is that those chicks are hatched from hens who have the hardy gene to continue laying through the winter and a big plus is that I'm done with the hard part of raising chicks before the summer! And for those of you following along... I am due with Baby #3 (a boy!) in June so that is really ideal for me this year.

So I set out with the idea that maybe I'd get 6-8 new chicks this winter. That doesn't really work out well when your good friend raises Black Copper Marans and hatches an incubator full of gorgeous dark chocolate colored eggs on New Years Day. So 6 peepers came from there. Naturally, one is always looking to add color to her egg basket so I also decided that this year would be my year to get some "olive egger" chicks, which are a mix of a blue laying hen and a dark brown gene rooster to create a stunning olive green colored egg. 6 Olive Egger babies came a couple weeks after my Marans.

A photo posted by Bianca @ The Pierogie Mama (@thepierogiemama) on

Then finally to round out this craziness, since I was already knee deep in it, I decided to order 6 Cinnamon Queens from Cackle Hatchery. I had added two Cinnamon Queens to my flock in 2015 who started laying at the tender age of 14 weeks, which is crazy in comparison to the Peepers from 2016, who started laying at around 28+ weeks! These girls were added as my power layers.

Those babies arrived after a perilous journey from Lebanon, MO all the way to Skagit Valley, WA on the one day that it has snowed in the past 5 weeks. Great! So we hurried those little peepers home, put them under the heat lamp with their first drink and meal since their birth. As it turned out, I got an additional production red baby to tag along too.

Silly me, I thought I was done. After all, I had made myself promise that I would only do 3 rounds of my favorite and "must have" breeds for 2017. But chicken math does not work that way!

Around 5 weeks of age I had each of the phases moved to outside in a segregated run underneath my chicken coop and main chicken run. This gives the 2017 chicks the opportunity to see and interact with my existing flock of 12 laying hens but protects them from being pecked on.

Sadly a couple weeks ago I lost two cinnamon queens who got smooshed at the bottom of a cuddle puddle overnight. I was so sad, because the cinnamon queens breed is "sex linked" which means boys and girls are different color right when they hatch so you know immediately if you have pullets or roos. I tried to stay strong; every year chicken farmers experience a little bit of loss and I knew something was probably going to happen that is outside of my control. Then I found a stellar deal on free shipping + $5 off for 10 chicks through Tractor Supply; so a friend and I split an order of 10 cinnamon queens. This time I PROMISE, I am done for the season!

More sadness.. the shipment of 10 cinnamon queens (plus an extra, just in case) suffered major losses. 10/11 of the chicks died in less than 24 hours. Thankfully Tractor Supply gave me a full refund immediately, but it is a bit traumatizing to see so many chicks die for apparently no reason so quickly. The remaining chick will be going home to my friend's farm.

Where does that put me? 12 original hens and 17 Vol. 2 Pierogie Peepers = 30 chickens. I have gone off the deep end, haven't I? I do have to keep in mind that my 6 Marans and 6 Olive Eggers each have a 50% chance of being roosters, because they were purchased "straight run", and as a certain troll on my instagram feed learned this past week - roosters don't live for very long at my house. My primary goal for raising chickens is for pleasure and the second is because my family loves eggs and we sell our excess. In a free range or breeding program setting roosters are valuable members of a flock, but in my case our chickens are always kept in a protected area as we have many predators and I'm not breeding chickens, so roosters are unnecessary. I do my due diligence to try to rehome them if someone else has a breeding program.

Are we all entitled to differing opinions on where food should come from? Yes. Is raising animals for meat for everyone? No. So to put to rest any questions on what happens to roosters at my property - they get humanely and efficiently slaughtered and my family eats their meat. I don't do it heartlessly, I look back at pictures of my rooster, Babcia, fondly and remember how cute HE was when he was little. But the truth was, he wasn't able to be rehomed and he kind of became a jerk when he was the only rooster in the pen. I couldn't risk having him attack me, or my kids, whenever we go into the run. Which is every day. I've been trolled by several people and baited into arguments - and the fact of the matter is that all of my animals are given a loving life and I make sure that their last moments are not filled with fear. That's saying so much more that what the meat that we buy at the grocery store can say.

...End rant.

Anyways, that's the start (and end) of this year's fuzzy butt journey!

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