September 27, 2020

What Sam Was Guarding

If you missed my ?????????????? post the other day, then you missed the exciting build-up (and fun comments) for Dan's latest homestead project. 😉 Here it is!

Dan's chicken tractor.

Chicken entrance open.

Human access to run.

Side and back.

A peek inside the little side door.

Egg collecting hatch.

View from the egg collecting hatch.

Nest boxes

Dan's plan is to set up a small yard with portable fencing off the run's front chicken door.

Gateway to future chicken happiness.

Here are its future occupants.

Our new chicks.

They are Dominiques, also known as Dominikers. I bought them at Tractor Supply Co. This is the first year I recall TSC selling chicks in the fall, and the timing was perfect. I had already ruled out mail-order chicks from a hatchery, so we hoped to find something on Craigslist. This was even better. The chicks were selling fast, however, so it took a couple of weeks to get a breed that was suitable.

By suitable, I mean a breed that has a tendency to go broody and has good mothering instincts. While our Black Australorps have been excellent layers and have good personalities, they haven't been very good at perpetuating themselves. Our best brooders were Buff Orpingtons, so that's what we were looking for again. But the varieties at TSC vary week by week, and they don't know beforehand what they're getting. Often it's hybrids or the agricultural standards (White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Plymouth Rocks) but these aren't bred for broodiness, so self-sustaining chickens is iffy.

One day last week, I called TSC at lunchtime, just as they were unpacking a new delivery of chicks. I checked their four breeds on Henderson's Handy Dandy Chicken Chart and learned that of those four, Dominiques are considered good brooders and good mothers. This is just a breed tendency, of course, and there are individuals amongst every species that are uniquely themselves, but I have higher hopes we can raise our own chicks again with a breed that's inclined that way.

Our ideal number of chickens is six hens and one rooster. This batch is straight-run, which means they haven't been sexed so it's theoretically a 50/50 mix. Anyone who's purchased straight-run chicks, however, will likely agree that they often tend toward the cockerel side. We'll just have to wait and see.

It will be awhile before they're ready for the chicken tractor.

What Sam Was Guarding © September 2020


Annie in Ocala said...

We had dominiques when I was young an they laid well an many went broody. 12/17 the local rural king had dom chicks an I got 10 pullets... Lost a couple then a couple more as young layers... Dam coons. I have 5 left now an other than a couple trying to brood soon after they started laying... (7-8 months old) none have done it since. They are nice hens but only have accomplished a med- large egg an will quit for some time after any stressful event... Late night coon raids, (their in a secure pen now) adding new birds next door, new neighbor making way to much noise, etc... Hoping your stock has some lines of the old Dominique...

Leigh said...

Annie, thank you for sharing your experience with Dominiques. I honestly haven't found my experience with chicken breeds to match the descriptions, so all we can do is wait and see. I doubt these are old line because I assume most hatcheries tend to go with "improved" lines. Which begs the question, improved according to whom, lol.

Rosalea said...

A chicken tractor!! Of course. The portable run answers my question about the size of the yard. What a beauty. Dan's woodworking skills are so good. I see Meowy is checking it out, so it is 2 cat-approved! We made a decision about livestock when we moved here, that it would be too difficult to protect them from the wild critters we have in abundance, fox, fisher, coon, weasel, skunk, coyote, wolf, bears, as well as many aerial predators, but I've always loved the idea of a protected chicken tractor.

Leigh said...

Rosalea, you were definitely in the ballpark! Meowy will be pleased you noticed her. :)

I think folks go with chicken tractors for the reason you mention - a little more protection from predators. Sounds like you have an overabundance of predators, however. Protecting livestock can be a real challenge and the losses can be heartbreaking.

Mama Pea said...

Our experience has been like yours in that the descriptions given for modern day chickens don't always seem to match up with how the birds turn out. We firmly believe all the broodiness (or most of it) of chickens today has been bred out of them. But hope springs eternal and we continue to try to find hens that will hatch out their own replacements! So far, our best luck has been with bantam hens and Muscovy duck hens. Niiice chicken tractor! said...

Congratulations! Dan did an excellent job on the chicken tractor as usual. I think every homesteader needs a "Dan"! :) YOu guys think of everything. It looks very nice. Those little chicks are so cute. I've never deen dark ones like that just yellow ones. Good luck with them!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Dan has some seriously impressive skills.

Curiosity question: How heavy/mobile is is it?

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, in the end, you never know. My very first broody hen was a Welsummer; a breed that is supposed to only go broody rarely. But she was a great mother and raised our grafted on Buff Orpingtons. If these aren't so inclined, I may have to get a bantam or silkie to do the hatching.

Sam, thanks! It's interesting how the different breeds have different color chicks, isn't it? These will be barred (black and white striped) when they grow up.

TB, it's heavy, but not impossibly so. Dan already doesn't like those particular wheels and plans to replace them. They were just what we had lying around. The real answer to those questions will come after we've got the operation up and running!

Renee Nefe said...

Very nice looking tractor there. I'm sure the chicks will love it.

wyomingheart said...

What a clever, clever project! Those new chicks will have a terrific home for sure! Dan is so talented with wood, and that is a wonderful addition to the homestead!

Florida Farm Girl said...

I love Domineckers! My mother preferred Rhode Island Reds but sometimes she had to settle for the white leghorns. Are those wheels gonna be big enough to move that tractor around?

Leigh said...

Renee, I hope so. Right now their little world is all in a box. :P

Wyomingheart, we talked about a chicken tractor off and on over the years, and finally the plan, time, and materials fell into place. Getting chickens out onto the pasture but with some control should hopefully be a good thing. We'll see!

Sue, Dan's been able to move it but has decided he wants to change the wheels anyway. He used some he had lying around in the workshop but in this case, bigger is better. :)

Cockeyed Jo said...

Figured it was a chicken coop, but the tractor was different. My blog in a couple of weeks will feature mine for our fairly newly hatched chicks. Of the five, 4 are hens I think. Since they are mutt chickens I'll use them for homestead use eggs and keep them separate from the rest.

daisy g said...

Nicely done! Looks like they will have plenty of room inside there.

Ed said...

We always bought straight run chickens which meant that we had plenty of young cockerels to eat after the first culling. Back then we shot for about 5 roosters for 100 hens. These days, everyone and their brother has chickens and selling eggs so it is hard to give away the eggs. Just enough for personal consumption would be more practical.

Leigh said...

Jo, I'll look forward to seeing yours. It's always fun to see what other people do. Nice ratio for your chicks! I hope mine is as good, but I'm not counting on it.

Daisy, thanks! It will be enough room for mornign,evening, and to move the tractor around. This is our first chicken tractor, so I'm anticipating learning as we go!

Ed, that's a lot of chickens! Just enough for personal consumption works well for us. I did try selling eggs a number of years back. I made enough to pay for feed, but it was more work and more wear-and-tear on the land. My next door neighbor has a nice little egg business with regular customers and it seems to work well for her.

Goatldi said...

Very impressive. Dan is a very handy guy to have around I must say! It certainly is worthy of a two cat approval. I missed Meowy first go round. Perhaps because the cape is missing lol.

What you say about breeds is spot on. The standard tells us what to expect not what is guaranteed to be actual outcome. I have 3 Buff Orpingtons only one has ever shown any interest in being a Mama and none of them are very inclined to cozy up to you. However I got them at two years of age from a friend of a friend. So if as chicks they were handled more they may have been.

The Black Australorps I have are crossed with Rhode Island Red. They are very inquisitive and got broody this year they were a winter hatch . Next time I hope to have a additional space for brooding hens.

Anything hatched will be a mixed bag as Mr. Newman is a Wheaton x White Longhorn. And possibly factor in they may sit on an “any egg will do” theory.

Nancy In Boise said...

I've never heard of that breed before interesting! Interesting lie enough some of the other breeds you mentioned the ones we have but since we don't have roosters it's kind of irrelevant. Being on an urban lot we basically just want hens for laying it eggs eating weeds and bugs. What is it mild enough to use the tractor in the winter or will this be more for the spring and summer next year? I wasn't sure how cold your Winters are there or if you get to know where you where You Are?

Leigh said...

Goatldi, lol, Meowy needs to start wearing her SuperMeowy cape again.

I reckon mixed breed chickens are less predictable than full breed. Although maybe there's something to be said for that hybrid vigor. We've always wanted to help protect and perpetuate the heritage breeds so that's why we keep one breed at a time.

Nancy, our winters can go either way. They can either be mild and pleasant, or they can be bitterly cold. There's no way to tell. Yes, we usually get snow. The plan, though, is to retire all of our Australorps once cold weather sets in. We plan to get the Doms used to the tractor but if it's too cold, we'll put them in the coop. Not exactly sure how it will all work out, but that's the initial plan, anyway.

Debby Riddle said...

I love the idea of a chicken tractor. I am thinking of short-term use for meat birds. We have so many grasshoppers in the late summer, I'm pretty sure they would thrive! For resident laying hens, I will need something bear-proof, the Fort Knox version, made from poured concrete with a steel door. Some years we've been fine with just the dogs on duty, but my mind won't be at ease with less because we've lost whole lots of chicks in one fell swoop from a visiting bear.

Ann said...

I didn't know Welsummers were not supposed to be broody. A new employee at Murdoch's apparently mixed up some chicks and we ended up with 4 Welsummers by accident. I have to say they have been good layers and very easy going, no fuss if I need to pick one up for something. And the only chicken we've had so far to go broody was a Welsummer! No roosters here though so no chance of chicks.

Ann said...

Oh, and I love the tractor. If we ever make one it will be to let the girls clear some new beds for us.

Leigh said...

Debby, it would be great for meat birds and nothing like grasshoppers to fatten them up!

I think bears would be extremely difficult to deal with. Bigger and stronger than any chicken predator. I'd feel the same way as you.

Ann, apparently, nobody told that to the Welsummers! LOL I really liked that breed, but Dan wanted to try something else, so we moved on. I've not seen them for sale anywhere except the hatcheries.

I actually never thought we'd have a chicken tractor. But Dan's in charge of the chickens so here we are. :)

M.K. said...

I've known people who bought straight run chicks and ended up with all cockerels, perhaps because the females had already been picked out when they batch was sexed? I don't know. I hope you get some pullets from that bunch :) The new portable chicken house is darling and perfect!
I'm lucky to have a local friend who had dozens of chickens, and she has an incubator and produces chicks that way. I have gotten many chickens from her. I got 2 half-silkies that were 2 days old. From them (with a varied progression of roos) I've got a small flock that all have some silkie genes. They are small birds that lay smallish eggs, but seem to keep laying longer each day than larger breeds. And silkies go broody often (like 2 or 3 times each year) and are often excellent mothers. I have 2 chicks now that were hatched out by one of my part-silkie hens, and she is still mothering them well at 6 weeks old. And my current rooster is a pure white silkie. He is sweeter, less aggressive than others I've had, and also helps her protect and mother those babies still. If you can find anybody with some silkies, it might be worth your while.

Leigh said...

M.K., we suspect they pick out some of the pullets even though straight run are supposed to be unsexed chicks. Not very ethical in my way of thinking, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I've not looked around for silkies, but you've got me interested. They sure are pretty chickens!

Chris said...

This post brings back so many memories for me. The challenge of building the perfect chicken tractor, and looking for the perfect chicken breed. A breed I've kept that were reliably broody, was an American breed. The Gold Laced Wyandotte. They have what's called a rose comb, rather than the single, flat combs. As for Australorps, the bantam variety is more likely to go broody than the standard size. In fact, you can keep any kind of bantam, and they'll most likely go broody. They'll brood your Australorp eggs for you. But there's only so many chickens you can keep, lol. Or so they tell me. 😉

My chicken coop renovations are in limbo for a bit, while building supply prices are so high. I have most of what I need, but I've had other construction projects to attend first. Paying as we can afford to. You know the story well. I'm looking forward to keeping chickens again, in the future though. Happy to see you exploring a heritage breed that fits with your property. Ditto on the roosters. The one that gives you space, is the one to keep. Because he'll also give his ladies space, and be less aggressive in breeding. Which in my experience, leads to happier, healthier hens. 🙂

Leigh said...

Chris, I've heard that about Bantams. Our best broodies were Buff Orpingtons, if the new chickens don't cooperate, I may have to get a Bamtam.