New Hens Arrive at Sleepy Cat Farm
While January can be one of the least exciting months of the gardening year, there are a few highlights that those of us who don’t get away look forward to.
One of these Winter highlights took place recently at an event called The Northeastern Poultry Congress. My co -worker, Felipe Aparicio, mentioned that we should visit a farm which raises unusual hens. Our normal production cycle is to hold onto the birds for 3-4 years, and as laying decreases with age, we replace the hens with younger birds.
Felipe and I discovered this wonderful exhibit of birds at the Poultry Congress in Long Meadow, Massachusetts which occurs in mid January every year. Exhibitors bring birds of all kinds and exhibit them for prestigious ribbons. Thousands of birds of all breeds. Guinea fowl, Chickens, Pheasants, Turkeys, Ducks, Quail, Pigeons and Geese. Miniature and/ or exotic breeds of all types and of both sexes are exhibited as well as being for sale at reasonable prices — if you act quickly.
The show took place in a large, well ventilated exhibition hall featuring vendors, breeders and food booths for both people and birds. The show goes on for 2-2.5 days and is an excellent place to establish contacts with breeders and to purchase new birds for your flock.
Felipe selected some wonderful new hens for our flock: a Swedish Flower, 2 Black Sumatra, A Blue Andalusian and a Silver Spangled Hamburg.
Our main criteria are colorful birds, good layers, cold hardy, with docile personalities. We also prefer they lay colorful eggs in good quantity.
For more information visit the northeasternpoultrycongress.com and follow the links to find out all about these wonderful creatures.
There are many people raising birds on their own; Craigslist is a place where one can look for birds, coops, fencing, etc. We have found that home raised birds by amateurs often tend to be unhealthy (it is often difficult to tell) and require close scrutiny. Look for clear eyes, youthful vigor and hearty appetites. We also suggest visiting the site where they are being raised to see if it is sanitary.
An acquaintance of the owner of Sleepy Cat Farm had previously gifted us two beautiful Buff Orpington Hens. Christopher Spitzmiller, of Clove Brook Farm in NY state, is a frequent exhibitor at the Congress and his Orpingtons are just a few of the birds he raises at Clove Brook. If you follow his Instagram page, you will be able to see his ducks, geese and hens — most or all of which he raises from birds bred and hatched on his farm. We are hoping to add two more Orpingtons this coming Spring from his flock. They are a hardy, large, beautiful breed which also make wonderful pets due to their friendly disposition.
One gentleman whom we had previously procured birds from in the past came recommended to us by a local farm. When he offered to provide us with antibiotics along with his birds, it raised a red flag for us. We try to raise our hens organically, and one sick hen in an enclosed environment, sharing water can quickly infect an entire flock.
Antibiotics administered to birds will not only enter the eggs, but may cause the birds to develop resistance to the issue and should only be prescribed by licensed Veterinarians specializing in fowl. We happen to have an excellent avian Vet locally in South Wilton, CT; remember though, that the cost of care can often be prohibitive.
At Sleepy Cat Farm, I use a poultry probiotic in the food daily, as well as respiratory herb supplements in the water, such as oregano oil and Eyebright herb at the first sign of respiratory infections.
We visually monitor their manure for discoloration and texture daily. Maintaining a consistent diet is important. People love to give chickens all kinds of treats and excess left over produce, but it is important to not deviate from the consistency of their normal diet, just as it would be best to refrain from giving your cat or dog foods they normally do not eat. Because our flock can not forage freely due to possible predators, their diet is without access to green leafy material and insects. We find that supplementing with dried grubs and fresh grown forage mixes containing alfalfa and grasses can be beneficial.
Fresh clean water should be available at all times, all year around.
A good source of healthy young birds is available from internet mail order aviaries. Birds as young as one day old, sexed (verified females) are available in groups of usually 12 or more (for shipping protocols). While we have accomplished this with success in the past, be aware that it can be a commitment as well as a messy operation. Birds should not really be released with other adults in the flock until they have been acclimated to get along. It can be a rough process. We do not raise roosters because of the noise ordinance in our town. Always check with your town before setting up and keeping a flock of birds. Even a simple coop may require a permit.
Hens need about 22 weeks before they lay eggs, so be prepared to spend money on food with little return on eggs for a few months. Your patience will pay off many times over.