Monday, February 25, 2013

Spring and Silkichins

Splash Silkichin at Firestone Creek Farm


So spring is almost here. It can't get here fast enough! Jose, Mikey, and I are tired of the cold weather, and so are my chickens and goats. The cold doesn't bother me as much as the mud; sometimes I think I need to invest in a pair of stilts to keep my shoes out of the muck and out of the house. I find myself sweeping and mopping several times a day!

We're awaiting the birth of goat kids. We got a late start this year, so we have kids due mid-spring, which is not the norm. We are watching all of the girls here at Firestone Creek Farm get chubbier every day, but we won't start seeing udders for a few more weeks, I guess. We do have a Nubian/Alpine/Boer cross that is expecting, but I have no clue when she will deliver; no one wrote down the date when she was bred! The lady I bought her from said sometime in October, she thought. Obviously she wasn't bred here, since I, like most other Nigerian breeders, obsess over due dates and write down everything. HAHA! So, I do know when everyone else is due, but for her, no clue! I guess you will see pics when she kids. She is developing a very nice udder though, so I am hoping for plenty of extra milk to get the season started. I am ready for some yogurt and paneer! I am very thankful that we decided to hang on to the goats and not sell everyone. :) I'm a happy girl!


The original blue Silkichin hens, Betty and Bessie
A lot of you know that I started developing my own breed of chicken several years ago. Lots of people have mixed breeds, but I specifically bred my show Giant Cochins to my show Silkies to come up with the Silkichin that I am breeding today, which is now in its 4th generation and onward. Yes, the first breeding was an accident. However, the birds I got out of that breeding were so beautiful that I had to keep breeding these, especially after I realized the benefits of the breed. 

Not only were these birds beautiful, but they were good layers and fantastic moms, in addition to the roos being quite docile. I had problems with my Cochins, who would only hatch two to three eggs and then hop off the nest and head for the hills. They were good moms, but only to the extent that if you had hatched, you lived. Anyone that hadn't hatched, was doomed. The Silkies on the other hand, would sit... and sit... and sit... and yes, sit some more, until the eggs all hatched. I thought, "Wow! What great moms they are!" But then, after everyone was hatched, the death count began. The mom would walk off, leaving these teeny tiny babies to chase after her through the grass, over fallen branches, through the barnyard mud, and everywhere else. I do free-range my birds because it is healthier for them--at least all of them except the Silkie babies, who would refuse to let me catch them, but would end up dead by goat hoof, mud puddle, or some other means in the weeks that followed. If it weren't for the Silkichins, I would have resigned to hatching everything myself, and since I don't always have a lot of time to do that (and flip eggs several times a day), I don't think I would have lasted long with raising chicks. The Silkichin stepped in and changed all of that. 

Silkichin caring for kittens while nesting
I can spend all day telling you how good a Silkichin is at mothering, or I can show you. Betty, above, laid a single egg in the barn, and one of the cats had kittens about three feet away from her around the same time. When the cat went out hunting, leaving the kittens behind, Betty decided the kittens were abandoned and hers. She pulled all of them to her nest and tucked them under her with her egg. My son was gathering eggs, and found the hen with one egg and four kittens. He said, "Mom! She already hatched four kittens, and there's still one egg left!" Well, Betty never discriminated. She kept caring for the kittens. In this photo, they are about a week old; she took care of them like this until they were crawling off on their own. The mama cat just nestled right in beside of her to feed them because Betty refused to give up part of the care! Silkichins are very serious about their job. They lay, sit until they hatch as many eggs as possible--usually all of them, and then fend for their babies, watching over them, taking excellent care of them! The only problems I've ever had is with them stealing each other's babies... haha! They will readily care for any orphan, and you don't need to sneak the chick under the hen at night either like most breeds. Just give it to her, and she will take it. They are the moms and foster parents of the chicken world.

In addition, the second most amazing thing to me is the docility of the rooster. We had Buff Orpingtons when my son was two, and one day as he was walking through the barnyard, one of the Orps jumped up into his face and flogged him. It scraped him along the side of his eye and around his nose. It left a scar; it is still noticeable today, and he is seven now. Of course, the roo met a quick demise and was digested over the next few days by all of us, including my son, in the form of my mom's wonderful chicken dumplings. However, it frightened my late husband and I enough that we sold all of the Orps. The Cochins, too, would occasionally get a 'wild feather' and decide to follow me or my son around, waiting for a chance to jump on us. I even had a little Silkie roo do it! Sure, he was small, but spurs HURT no matter what the size is. To the contrary of these other breeds, I swear I have never had a Silkichin roo try to follow me, my son, or any other person. They are completely docile with people, and never try to do this. They are very safe around children. I do have roos try to tango with each other on occasion, generally over hens, but at least they know to keep it to their own species! In fact, both the hens and roos are docile enough that they can be petted while feeding them. My son loves doing this.


I'll finish this post off by adding that I've added a few more recipes to my website. I'll probably blog them here, too. You can see them by visiting the recipes page.

Gotta run! Have a good day, and stay dry and warm!


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