Coop Renovation

My body is broken and I’m ready for bed. But this weekend was wholly productive and I’m thrilled about it. Yesterday I got the cool season veg all planted and today we got the chicken coop addition installed.

It really sucked trying to do anything in the coop. I couldn’t stand up and had to work hunched over. I bumped my head frequently and had to crawl in shitty coop dirt to get at anything under the box part. I bitched quite a bit about it so Gordon decided to build something for the coop to sit on. I was skeptical that our starter coop that we bought used on craigslist could handle being lifted like that after rotting in our muddy soil for the last year and a half. But he planned and built it anyway.

The timely addition acted as a halfway house for Marigold after her injury and then a time-out pen for Rosie the bully.

It was quite a pain to dig out all of the chicken flooring in order to rip off the hardware cloth that was stapled to the inside of the bottom 2x4s. But now there’s a load of fantastic compost on a tarp in the garden.

With much effort we were able to put that big heavy decrepit thing on top of the new. Gordon ended up having to cover one board with a new one because it was split, but other than that it went OK. The chickens were annoyingly interested and Clementine kept flying up into the coop while we worked.

Ta-da! It’s pretty great.
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One Tough Chook

Marigold Lived to See Another Day

Her existence precarious and her condition a mystery, Marigold somehow made it to morning anyway. Warmth, love, a few droppersful of water, and her own strength saw her through. The morning found her a good bit better: able to stand and able to drink when her beak was dipped.

Gordon went to the feed store and picked up some antibacterial eye ointment for chickens per the suggestions (and consensus diagnosis of a pecking injury) of all my new best friends on the Backyard Chickens forums. As soon as I wiped an ointment covered cotton ball across her crusty sealed eye, it opened.

I took her to work with me, hiding her under my desk in a box and only revealing her presence to everybody. I made sure she got water (with electrolytes via gatorade) and eventually she ate scrambled eggs.

Team Marigold Socks

It’s now three days after I found her dying. Today she was well enough to be a chicken again and she spent the day in her own coop, mingled with the bitches a bit later in the evening, and is spending tonight in the regular coop.

Rosie tried to keep her out at bed time so I had to intervene with a few prison-like threats.

Tomorrow Rosie is going into solitary. Going to try and reorganize this pecking order.

Marigold Isn’t Well

She may not make it through the night.

Either Rosie severely pecked her in the eye, she contracted bird flu, a weasel got to her, or she has some other thing I haven’t read about yet.

The day before yesterday
Today

I don’t even know what say or think. I posted on the Backyard Chickens forum and googled probably too much and not enough. My head hurts. I think I’m going to search for something that validates me going down to the basement and wrapping that ouchie swollen face with a warm wet compress.

I have no idea what to do.

Us on the basement stairs. Banished in case it’s bird flu.

Looking at this makes me think I should just let the poor dear go. How can she come back from this?

——————

I was able to give her a few droppersful of water. She seemed a bit more alert. Her other eye was open and looking around when she wasn’t falling asleep. Both sides of her face are swollen but the closed eye side is worse. Also maybe bruised. Maybe my cleaning with a damp cloth bruised her. Either way, she looked less dead, not more. So I’m a bit hopeful.

I held her for a while. Someone posted to me that she may have some terrible respiratory illness and I need to contact the state vet if she dies.

My clothes are in the washer and I’ve thorougly washed my hands, face, arms, and neck. Yes a shower seems in order, but no I didn’t get into one. But I did bleach questionable surfaces.

I’m tired.

God bless you, Marigold. May we see each other in the morning.

Chickens a Year Later

I’ve learned that:

  • They really do stop laying in the winter
  • They really molt and look like they’re dying also in the winter (which is weird because you’d think they need their feathers to stay warm)
  • It all resolves itself and they become beautiful layers once again (Nutrena Feather Fixer is a nice help)
  • Laying hens squat and have red combs; this all stops when they stop
  • Hawks really kill and partially eat beautiful huge free ranging birds
  • Established flocks really are jerks to new additions, especially Rhode Island Reds….(Rosie I’m looking at you)
Rosie The Bitch

Juniper got taken out by a hawk one day in the early fall. Actually it’s only a best guess that it was Juniper because the molting that had begun was causing me to confuse my two Delawares. So my sweet remaining Clementine may not actually be Clementine, but she is now.

Early one evening I went to close the coop and one of the three was missing. A small sense of dread came over me as I tried to rationalize that Juniper had gotten sleepy and roosted in some underbrush. The light was fading so I quickly roamed the edges of the yard singing out for her with the “chick chick chick” call. Then my gaze landed on a still mass of white. The dread grew into heavy truth and it became difficult to approach what I knew to be her. White feathers were everywhere and a large, beautiful bird lay destroyed from the shoulders up. How much suffering did she know? Did the hawk snap her spine before he plucked her and ripped her flesh away from her bones? Did shock slip in quickly with its mercy?

I went into the house and quietly delivered the sad news to my husband because I didn’t want Silas to follow us outside and see. We grabbed a light and buried her in the garden. We could hear the bells of the neighbor’s goats as they looked on at the ghouls weilding shovels in the dark.

———————

A couple of weeks later I contacted a local breeder on craigslist and brought home a three month old Welsummer. Her name is Marigold.

She came here very sweet and timid. Rosie established her dominance in the very real pecking order by being a big fat bully. I added a piece of hardware cloth in the run so Marigold could have a seperate space during the day. At night she snuggled up in the coop with Clementine who was missing her snuggle buddy sister (the one who slept on top of her and shit down her back all night). They’ve since settled in together as a flock of three.

The girls are getting an addition to give them a little more space to roam and their lady a little more head room to work.

A Better Day

The morning was cool, a welcome break from the usual stifling July days. So the family came outside to accompany me on my rounds.

I crushed my latest squash bug findings, but noticed that even under constant attack the plants looked healthy and pollination was in full force.

And I found some blossom end rot on a couple of small watermelons, but it allowed the girls a treat.

And of course we were entertained by a couple of wild dogs.

A bit later I fried up some okra (and snuck in a green tomato), getting people to happily eat their vegetables. After which Gordon said, “You grow us veggies and cook us veggies. Thanks for taking care of us!” Which made me feel less like the Little Red Hen and more like myself.

And finally (speaking of hens), the larva trap was full of fun chicken treats.

The chooks weren’t too keen on eating out of the pie pan, but happily gobbled up the squirmers once I dumped them out.

And here’s the larva trap. Its a plastic flower pot with some bait (rotten apple) wedged into the (vermi-) compost pile and covered with a pie pan to keep light out.

However, it gets raided at night by my compost thief. I was happy when I noticed that the soldier fly larva was back (discovered them last year) because these guys really make nice fast compost, plus now I have chickens to enjoy them.

And some other good news is that neem oil and diatomaceous earth should help with the squash bugs. So off to work I go! I really feel too lazy, but that’s ok. It’s nice out and sitting indoors on my arse isn’t really good for my body or brain.

Xoxo

The Garden!

As of two days ago, my early season babies are in the ground. Gordon and Eddie tore up a pretty big area of the back yard over the last month or so. Then for three evenings in a row, Silas and I shoveled and hacked and hoed until dark, to get a 13×15 area ready for the cool season transplants. We left the few kale and brussels sprouts that are still thriving from our fall planting. (Brussel sprouts are slow mofos! I seeded these in August and now finally have sprouts that are smaller than gumballs.)

88 new plants: Lettuce mix, mustard, baby bok choy, chard, curly kale, and black magic kale.

My first planting of baby bok choy and chinese cabbage bolted in their plug pots (live and learn, right?) So instead of composting them, I offered them up to the chicken garden for: Immediate Destruction.

The new, bigger area is for the summer stuff. It still needs a lot of love before it’s ready to host plants. The area beyond the planted section is our expansion. 

Mapping it out in my pajamas

It needs a fence to protect it from woodland creatures as well as my three dinosaurs and fast furry dragon. We started on it too.

It’s going to be awesome!

Better than last year’s:

Spring Planting February 2016

This weekend I also transplanted about 25 baby herbs and flowers. Some dill, peppermint, zinnias (that apparently don’t like to ne transplanted so we’ll see), forget-me-nots, mullein, and calendula. My whole body is sore. That’s OK, I’ll waste away at my desk all week, exhausting my mind and resting my body instead.

I also weeded around my little memorial tree in the herb garden area with the help of my girls.

When I was ready for them to leave me so I could plant, I used Eddie’s suggestion of how to deal with a T-Rex: hold still or move very slowly. It worked! If they noticed me enough to start moving toward me, I’d just become a statue and soon enough they’d get distracted by something better and would leave me alone. Pretty cool chicken skills!

Chickeny Chick Chick

I haven’t posted lately but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing stuff. I just haven’t had anything to really show for it yet.  We’re working on expanding the garden and my baby plants are growing (yes, even the ones I’ve disturbed by replanting…which is most of them by now). But one area of my farmy endeavors that has some sort of conclusion is the Chickens and their MITES! Yes, mites or lice or something.
For several weeks I’d had nagging guilt about not having a dust bath area for the girls. They don’t get outside of their coop enough and chickens need to dust themselves to control the buggies that like to chew on them. (Writing this post is making me itch…which is another story, but let’s continue.) Last Saturday I was outside working in the muddy saturated earth a bit with the biddies. Rosie looked a little disheveled, a couple of feathers poking out here and there and then I saw her shoot out a nice stream of diarrhea. Great. I thought I’d been seeing too much gooey shit in the coop. So I flipped her over and looked at her vent area and between the feathers on her hind quarters. Critters. Flesh colored and fast moving. Lots of them. Now mind you, mites can actually kill chickens if they get bad enough. So action was needed.
I built a dusting area that very day with bricks and old sand from our dead hermit crab’s tank and ordered a big bag of food grade diatomaceous earth online. I realize that this may not work, but I still think it’s worth a shot before succumbing to poison.
Rain poured all the next day, soaking my dusting area and rendering it temporarily useless. The diatomaceous earth came on Tuesday and Gordon went outside with me when I got home from work to hold a light while I dusted them in the dark. That was an experience.
So anyway, today’s project was to clean out the infested coop, dust the place, put in new bedding, and dust the girls again.

So I did that, after much struggle.  They weren’t really fans, but I think I got them pretty good.

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Dusty Rosie

And happily, they are now using the dusting area!

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But the BEST NEWS of the day is that my disney fantasy is coming to fruition.  Soon enough, the chickens will be riding around on Wendell while they all sing animal songs together and help me with my chores!

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And I almost forgot:  Juniper is now laying as of yesterday!  So we have three healthy laying hens….hopefully the mites won’t take that away.  (They won’t.  I’ll win against those little bastards one way or another.)

Egg Size Progression

Clementine’s eggs have increased in size by nearly 20% since she began laying just over two weeks ago.

Rosie’s eggs are now much darker than they were when we first met her and also they are huge!  I didn’t have a food scale (or even think to weigh them) back then, but just a month ago, there is no way her eggs were like this:

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According to U.S. egg sizing standards, Rosie started out as a Pee-wee producer (HOW CUTE IS THAT?!) and is now nearly a Medium.  Rosie, the old pro, is giving us solid Extra-Large eggs 6 days a week.

This is so fun.  I should go let them out of the coop and give them kisses!

Chicken Garden and the Almost Over Christmas Staycation

I honestly planned on spending most of the day on the couch today. It’s staycation day 4 of 4 and I wasn’t going to cook or anything – maybe just play with some seeds along with cuddling with kiddos. But my brave little chickens have been leaving the yard and when I went to hunt them down, I couldn’t in good conscience waste the beautiful warm weather. So with Silas’ help, I built the chicken garden. 

The chicken garden’s purpose is to beautify the chicken coop / herb garden area while providing a place to grow things the chickens may like to eat. It surrounds the coop on three sides. I used about 120 reclaimed bricks that we are fortunate enough to have lying around, and soil from last summer’s potted vegetable garden. 

I placed the large-holed bricks near the coop, in hopes that I can grow a single climbing edible in each (like a snow pea or nasturtium), to nourish and entertain the girls while they are confined. 

Then, because I’m all into fermenting these days and because apparently fermented chicken feed has magical properties, I mixed up a batch to “cook”.

This concoction is their normal feed crumbles, black oil sunflower seeds, and some flax seeds. I covered it with water and I’m going to wait for it to start bubbling, adding water when it expands. 

And now I’m going to play with seeds. My new journal for 2017 came today, so let the planning begin!

xoxoxo

Clementine Has PMS

I know she’s about to start laying. Maybe even today. She’s been very vocal, bitching quite a bit. She’s not usually noisy at all. She squatted for me a couple of times again today. She’s been aggressive about her food. Poor baby. I know how she feels. Only this is brand new for her and she’s about to poop out a large surprise. 

Clementine and Rosie Taking a Dust Bath

UPDATE  12/28/16:

She did it! Clementine laid her first egg.