Anyone who breeds or hatches chickens I'm sure has sold them locally. Craigslist can be a headache enough with getting emails, replying, and then never hearing back, getting people who back out at the last second, getting people who say they're going to pick up birds and then never showing up, etc. All of that is bad etiquette, but sometimes they're great over email and the phone, and do show up to get the birds, but they cause other problems. This is one of those stories.
I had been trying to rehome a very nice, pretty, olive egger cockerel who wasn't aggressive and was fine with hens and I thought deserved a chance at his own flock before he went to freezer camp. So I put an ad on Craigslist. I got a reply in the first few days, but it was actually from a nice man who had seen pictures of my Roman Tufted geese in the background and wanted some of those. We made plans for goslings and I waited to hear from someone who wanted the cockerel.
A couple weeks passed and I got no responses, so I decided to post him also to another craigslist location (I'm right near two different locations so I often post in both) and nearly immediatedly I heard back from a woman wanting him. Right off the bat she wanted my phone number, something that usually I don't like to give out until we are about to meet because people seem unable to respect the fact that I work a night shift and will call me early in the morning when I have just gone to bed. But this time I did, with instructions to please only text me. The woman followed those instructions, so at least that was good, and we made a plan to meet up the next day.
The next day rolls around and I head out and do some errands, and then get back home 15 minutes before we are due to meet up. I don't usually meet people at my house, but I was cleaning chicken coops that day and didn't want to head out again and lose more daylight.
I come back to find a strange car in my driveway. It was empty. I then see in the distance two figures wandering around my backyard, looking at my chickens. I immediately head out there and begin by asking if they were the people coming for the rooster, since at this point all I know is that two strange people are wandering around my property. The woman affirms that yes, she and her daughter came for the rooster. I then told her I wasn't there when she arrived because I didn't expect her until 15 minutes from now. Her response was that "things had changed" and they got there early. How early and how long they had been wandering around my property was a mystery.
There are so many problems with this. For one, she never told me. She had my cell number, we had texted before, and she didn't even bother to send a text to say she was going to be early. For two, she got there, saw that no one was home, and her response wasn't at that point to send me a text to ask what was up or even to just wait in the car. No, it was to get out and wander around my property ogling my birds and potentially messing up my biosecurity. If her chickens had a disease she could have been tracking it all over my property. This is a big reason why I almost never do home meetings but I had planned that I would just hand her over a rooster in the driveway and she would never be down by the chickens.
I'm glad the rooster got a good home - she told me she had fourteen hens waiting for him - but it was not worth all that. And she opted to make her daughter hold him the whole way back to their home in a towel and wouldn't take the box I had him in. I guess maybe they thought that would be better for him but the box would have been much less stressful.
So what should you do when picking up chickens from another person? None of the above, obviously. What you should do is answer emails when they are sent to you, even if it's to say that you're no longer interested so that the seller isn't left hanging. You should agree on a time and show up at that time. If something comes up or you are running late (or early) you should give the other party a heads up. When you get there you should take the bird and pay what you've agreed upon (do not show up and try to haggle lower, I cannot tell you how mad that makes me when I've just driven out 40 minutes to meet someone and now they're not willing to pay what they said they would; you do that and I'm taking my bird back home with me, it's the principle of the thing), and then take your bird and go. If you do meet up at the seller's house or farm do not get out and start wandering around their property without permission.
I know this all seems basic and like it doesn't need to be said, but apparently it does.
Everyone who incubates knows how nice it is to have an autoturner. If you're at work and can't turn the eggs, no worries, the turner's doing it. It can also turn the eggs more often than most people would ever be able to. And turning eggs is important - studies show that a broody hen turns her eggs upwards of 50 times a day!
Both of my Brinseas have autoturners that I purchased for them and they are great to have. However, about three weeks ago, just after I had ordered some eggs, disaster struck. My big incubator, which was thankfully empty at the time save for my cat's fluids, had its autoturner break. The small plastic arm that holds the turning mechanism to the turner motor broke right into two, and the incubator lurched forward and pitched itself onto the table it sits on, turning almost completely upside down. If there had been eggs in it, they all likely would have broken. Needless to say, the turner was no longer working.
Since I had eggs on the way, I tried to do a quick fix with some plastic glue, but it did not take. Defeated, I decided to contact Brinsea and hopefully get a new turner before my eggs came in, since it is still under its three year warranty. This is where things got frustrating.
I started by sending them an email on a Thursday night. By the following Tuesday, I still hadn't heard back. My eggs had come in and gone into the incubator at this point. I had put them in my smaller one that I use as a hatcher because it still had a working autoturner - except now it didn't, because that one picked this time to fail too. That one is out of warranty and I was out of luck on with it, but since I use that incubator usually only as a hatcher, it wasn't a big deal except now I had to hand turn until my new turner from Brinsea came in.
Tuesday before I headed out to work in the afternoon, I gave Brinsea a call since they still hadn't gotten back to me. I was informed that they would not send me a new turner right away even though I needed it, but that I had to send mine back first. This annoyed me because that is not at all what good customer service is or what we do where I work. If a customer receives a product that breaks, they get their replacement item sent right away, especially if they need it immediately.
But I didn't have a choice. I needed the turner and the only way I was going to get it was to send mine back. So I headed off to work with plans to send it out the next day.
The very next morning, I finally got a reply to my email. It was not a good one. In the email I had explained the situation and asked what I needed to do. The only response I received was "Did you send it back yet?" No acknowledgement of any of my questions and just the assumption that I knew what to do even though in my email I made it clear I didn't. I thought perhaps the person I spoke to on the phone had made a note in my account but why then send an email the very next morning demanding to know if I had sent it back? The email I sent in reply may have been a little terse.
I sent the turner out via priority mail the next day and it arrived by Saturday. After they had had it about four days, I decided to call to check on the status. I was told it was "getting ready for testing so that they can find the problem and make repairs". Four days there and it hadn't even started to be repaired. Plus, you didn't need to test it, the problem was a very obvious broken part. I reiterated that I needed it ASAP because I had eggs incubating and was told they "didn't expect to keep it very long".
The next week I called again to check on it on Thursday. I was told it was finally repaired and was "sitting on the go back shelf" ready to be shipped out. I was told that "it may ship out tomorrow". After all this and they couldn't even promise that they would ship out my fixed turner the next day even though it was ready to go!
That was last Thursday. As of today, a week later, I still have heard nothing from them and I still don't have my turner back. The eggs that I ordered right when the turner broke are now in lockdown and I had to do the whole incubation hand turning. It has been over three weeks since this all began.
In summary, I love my Brinsea incubators, but their customer service sucks.
There are some terrible people in the world; it's a fact that everyone knows. Chicken owners are not exempt from falling into this group. Last Tuesday I had an encounter with just such an individual. Not with the person themselves but with their chickens, whom they threw away like trash when they were no longer useful.
A coworker told me about a group of tiny chickens that had suddenly shown up on the property across from her house. They were left with no food, water, or protection from the cold, wind, snow and predators. In short, they were left to starve to death, die from exposure, or be eaten by predators by an owner who no longer had use for them.
When she asked me if I would take them, I said yes. I gave her some chicken feed and they were so hungry they were easy to lure into a crate. From there, she passed them off to me.
There are seven in all, and they are all OEGBs - Old English Game Bantams. There were two roosters and five hens. Upon examination their toenails were twisted and overgrown, as if they were never allowed on the ground to scratch and wear them down. One rooster had spurs that were about to grow back into his legs. They all had leg bands, as if they were a breeding group. And they all have a bad to severe case of scaly leg mites.
The bands prove that these birds at one time served a purpose for someone, and now that whatever that purpose was had come to an end, the owner opted not to try to give them away or even to cull them, but to dump them and let them die a horrible death.
I wasn't about to let that happen. I moved my old rabbit hutch out of storage and set it up for them. It's a little cramped, but it will have to do until spring as they need to be quarantined away from my flock until then in case they are harboring something more sinister than leg mites. I set them up a little roost and got them set with food and water.
Then I tackled the other problems. To treat the leg mites and any other parasites they may have I dosed them with Ivermectin. Then I set about taking care of their nails and the rooster's spurs. Here is a before shot of the rooster with the severely overgrown spurs:
As you can see his spurs and nails were very overgrown. The hens' nails were no better. You can also see the damage done by the scaly leg mites. Sadly, this case was not even the most severe out of all of them. After some quick work with pet nail trimmers this was the result:
After all my work with them I left them alone to settle in and enjoy their nails being trimmed and the wormer doing its work. It will take quite a while for their feet to return to normal, even after the mites die off. I will probably end up coating their feet and legs in Vaseline to help speed the healing process by softening things up and allowing the damaged scales to fall off. It seems my help has been appreciated, because two days ago I found this in the hutch:
They still have a long way to go, but this is a sure sign of recovery. If all goes well they will get their own coop in the spring and will be able to live out their lives in comfort and protection, a far cry from the death their former owner intended them.
We've now come full swing into the holiday season. Thanksgiving was last Thursday and Christmas is fast approaching. The temperature is dropping, snow is threatening to fall, and a mad dash to buy everyone gifts has begun. What better than to hatch chicks at this time of year?
I said I was done hatching for the year and I really thought I was. But then I picked up a gorgeous new Ayam Cemani cockerel.
I promptly put him over my hens and let him go to work. Even then, I wasn't planning on hatching. I already have some juvenile ACs in my workshop along with a batch of brown split to Isabelle leghorn chicks and I really don't need more young birds.
But then the girls started laying. I checked eggs for fertility and started selling them as possibly pure mixed eggs since they had been out free ranging with the rest of the birds at a low price. But they slowed down and laid six eggs, not enough to fill an order, and then stopped again. They sat languishing in an egg carton for nearly two weeks before I just couldn't bear it any longer. They went into the incubator Thanksgiving night. So if all goes well I will have some chicks hatching a week before Christmas. Just what I need to complicate the holidays!
This year I added more Roman Tufted geese to my flock. I started with three cute little goslings, only a few days old. Already they were friendly and sweet despite having little contact with humans.
Anyone who has raised goslings can attest to how sweet they are. They come right over to you and extend their little necks in a sign of friendliness. When you talk to them, they talk right back. They imprint easily and will happily follow you around if you allow them to.
These three were no different. They grew well and grew quickly (as all goslings do) and soon they were old enough for forays into the yard to eat grass, which greatly benefits them.
They moved into their outdoor pen and lived there for a month and a half, getting used to all the chickens and of course the other geese. Unfortunately one night they somehow broke out and one of the females was taken by an owl. Despite this setback, the other two continued to flourish. A few days ago I released them into the run so they could start mingling and start really joining the flock. They enjoyed the space and had a good time.
That night they put themselves to bed with the big birds in their coop, and they've been in there ever since. So far Jasmine and Finn are integrating well. Willow, my Canada goose hybrid, has taken well to them and grazes with them in the yard. Lacie is taking a little longer to warm up but by next spring hopefully she will have accepted them and will take Finn as a mate so she can hatch some eggs.
Summer is the perfect time for hens to hatch their own chicks, and if you have a broody breed you are very familiar with broodies - the broody stare, the fluffed up feathers, the bald chest and stomach, and the growling and maybe even pecking and biting if you get too close. I have orpingtons, brahmas, cochins, and silkies, to name a few, so broodies are not a rarity here.
Currently, I have a broody orpington, a broody orp/brahma cross, a broody ayam cemani, a pair of ayam cemanis raising a chick together, and another orp/brahma cross who is raising a chick too. This is all very usual - all these breeds are known to be broody.
There is, however, one broody that is surprising.
Sugar, the pekin duck, is currently doing her best to hatch some eggs. Pekin ducks are known for their size and their egg laying abilities - and it is widely known that they do not go broody. And yet Sugar is all settled in on her nest and her eggs are developing. Last year, she tried to hatch three times but each time her nest was destroyed, either by other poultry or by ravens. This year, both she and I are hoping that she will succeed her first time out.
I am no stranger to hatching (those of you who know me from BYC will know my User Title reads 'hatchaholic') and we are now right in the middle of hatching season here on the farm. Each year I hatch out chicks, ducklings, goslings, keets, etc to add to my flocks and work on improving the breeds I keep and this year is no different. However, this year I did step it up a notch.
I used to own three incubators. Two were LGs, and I did not like them and used them only when I had to. One was dubbed "The Murder Box" because it seemingly killed anything you put in it. Still, it made a serviceable hatcher, and it was sentenced to that use for the rest of its life. My third incubator was a Brinsea 20 Eco, which I love. The only problem was its small (for me, at least) capacity. Without the rails in I could manage to stuff it full of 25-30 eggs at a time, but I needed room for more. So with this year's tax return, I got myself a present.
A Brinsea 40 Eco, the bigger version of my little Brinsea 20 Eco. I got it up and running, made sure the temperature was good, and waited for everything to stabilize. And then I promptly filled it.
To my delight even with some of the eggs being large welsh harlequins eggs without the rails I was able to fit in 54 eggs. And so the hatching was on. In due time I had a flood of chicks, keets, and ducklings. And ever since filling it up the first time, I haven't been able to unfill it. Eggs just keep going in. Some of my own and some from other breeders. I keep thinking I'm done but then I run across a good deal, or go to a Chickenstock and win eggs, or win eggs for a low price in an auction, and before I know it, the incubator is full again.
This weekend I should be expecting some chicks, poults, and ducklings. And wouldn't you know but as soon as I locked down that batch of eggs tonight another was waiting in the wings to take their place.
What can I say? My user title isn't 'Hatchoholic' for nothing!