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

Winter Happened to Jade 

In all of my dumbassery I consciously thought that my lovely Jade would survive a 20 degree night. I didn’t forget her; I thought of her and then thought, “Eh, she’s under the carport near the wall. She’ll be alright.”

Yes, I was born and raised in Florida. But I’ve lived in lands with winter for the last thirteen years. Shit freezes. Plant cells are full of water – especially succulents – and what does water do in frigid temps?

Well, the next morning in the garden I tried to cut some greens for the girls. Couldn’t really cut them because it was like using dull scissors on an ice cube. Then it hit me: The Jade must be frozen solid too!

She was given to me as a cutting in a tiny pot from my husband’s friend’s wife as a housewarming gift when we moved into our last house over six years ago. She’s grown enormous and is the clone-mother of several other jades. I love her and yet I was careless with her.

They say to bring the poor plant inside, wait until everything droops, sogs, and/or turns black. Then cut back to what (if anything) seems firm.

This looks promising.

On a lighter note, I found this little guy I’ve been missing in that jungle:

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.

Fluffy Butts

The girls had a nice day out and about today, though the temperature stayed in the twenties. I had to break up the ice in their waterer a couple of times and it wasn’t very much fun being outside. Perhaps it was the cold that kept them moving, but for the first time ever they bravely ventured away from their coop. 

Gawking at my Mother-in-law in the Human Coop
I Showed Them Where to Find the Goods
Cozy in a Nesting Box

Also the Delawares’ combs and wattles are suddenly bright red and Clementine squatted today when I tried to pet her. I bet we’ll have more layers soon!!

Egg Taste Test

We broke down and bought eggs when Rosie quit laying.  But apparently she was just a bit traumatized by the change in her living situation because after she settled in, she began laying every day.  

After collecting a few days’ worth, I thought it would be good to compare Rosie’s eggs with the store bought eggs. 

Rosie’s eggs are smaller and lighter in color but the yolks are a much darker incredibly lovely shade of gold. 

However…..flavorwise. Not sure. Store eggs may actually have had a bit of a stronger flavor.  

Poor Rosie and the Real Life Farmer Lady

Rosie is our only layer out of three young hens. Clementine and Juniper are our Delawares who haven’t yet begun. Well over the last few days, there hasn’t been any egg at all and then this morning Rosie had some bloody mucus hanging out of her backside.

I had Gordon and the boys check on her a few times today while I was at work just to see if she was eating and getting around ok. She was. But obsessed hypochondriac that I can be on occasion, and because of my online research, I was concerned that we could be dealing with an egg-bound lady or a prolapsed vent.

Better safe than sorry, I clipped my nails, scrubbed my hands, grabbed a pair of latex gloves and a blob of coconut oil, and headed out to the coop in the rainy darkness. Flashlight in mouth, I opened the front of the coop and was greeted by sleepy clucks. Happily noting that Rosie had made friends enough to be snuggling with a Delaware, I snapped on the gloves. I went for the Red and failed. Tried again and failed. Wings flapped and squawks erupted. Rosie was determined to not let me touch her, even when ambushed at night. I was determined to not be bested by a damn chicken and grabbed her. She protested loudly but I was able to hold down her wings and grab her legs. I gently turned her upside down and magically she calmed. I supported her against my side and examined her vent. It looked fine! Nothing bulging or hanging out; nothing red or swollen. Then I bravely coated my gloved pinky in the oil and gently poked it in, feeling for a stuck egg. Again, nothing! I flipped Rosie back upwards and cradled her like I can sometimes do to the others. I petted her back, sang her a little song, and kissed her on the neck. She didn’t seem to hate it at all. In fact, when i put her back into the coop, she was in no hurry to get away from me. 

I closed up the coop and marched back across the rainy yard, very pleased with myself. I’m a real farmer now, I thought.  Rosie is ok and I can take care of my chickens. 

Maybe Rosie will take food out of my hand soon. 

Rosie

 

UPDATE (12/6/16):  She’s back!  

Her comb and wattles seemed really red on Saturday and then on Sunday she squatted when I was in the coop feeding/harassing them.

Tuesday morning I found an egg!  Way to go, Rosie!

 

 

We Got a  Chicken Coop! (& The Poopy Reality of a Used Coop)

So after a while of fall setting in, and not having much outside to do besides worry about the new grass seed and our poor well surviving a drought, my husband resigned himself to the undertaking of getting me a home for some chickens. He brought home a chicken coop book from the library, listened to me detailing the size and function I wanted, only groaned once when I told him of the insulation needed, and looked at my sketches and budget estimates with only a modicum of dread. He was on board. It was finally time to spend a season and a small fortune on creating the perfect habitat for a very respectable backyard flock to be raised from chicks in the spring.

Then last week happened. I had been popping prednisone to fight some mysterious bullshit that was plaguing my sanity. And of course that shocking thing occurred in the wee hours of 11/9 that left me feeling like a woman without a country. And finally, I had a sad little birthday party for my mother who passed away a year and a half ago. The week was pretty much crap and so this weekened I was going to just sit on the couch with a blanket and itch cream and read books. 

So yesterday as I began studying “Reinventing the Chicken Coop” with my coffee, my husband suddenly piped up, “Here’s one! It’s smaller than you want but it would fit in my trailer and it’s not too far away.” He sent me the craigslist link. It was pretty cute. 8×4 and totally contained. Looked sturdy. It could comfortably house three large girls, even if free-ranging doesn’t work out. So we took a drive, met a nice lady, pet a chicken, paid $130 and got coop! (…That was full of poop; lady seemed pretty proud that she only cleaned the coop once in a year.)

This cold and rainy morning was spent placing and cleaning the coop. After sweeping out piles of turd-filled shavings, I was greeted by an impossibly thick layer of caked-on ass mud. After a couple of hours of scraping and spraying and scrubbing, the place looked pretty clean. Not disgusting at all actually.  Afterwards I was sore and covered with infinity chicken poop germs, but I felt pretty good. Cold and wet, but good. It let me know that I need to be outside working, doing something I can understand and affect. Not sitting and fretting and coming up with no answer or relief anyway.

This afternoon we went to Tractor Supply and got some bedding and feed. Amazon is shipping me a waterer and a couple of feeders and some hardware cloth to protect the edges from predators who want to dig. We should be all ready for girls by next weekend. I’m happy. The boys are excited. This is a good birthday present. I’ll be 40 this month and I am glad to be seeing a dream come to fruition.  I know it’s just a small coop with a few birds, but it’s meaningful to me. It’s a huge piece of the picture I’ve been painting in my mind for a long time.