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.

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!

 

 

The Truck Cap Chicken Tractor (Reblog)

Saving this idea. See, I inherited my own truck topper….

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The Quaint Homesteader

Saturday we started to work on our Truck Cap Chicken Tractor, which is a portable chicken coop with a Truck Cap as the roof. We are building it in two separate parts, the Cap and the Run.  We  don’t have a whole lot of carpentry experience, and don’t have the best tools, but we are doing the best we can.  Here are some pictures:

We plan to put four wheels on the base so we can move it, because the cap is kinda heavy. For nest boxes, I thought some milk crates that we picked up on freecycle would work, mounted under that rear window.  Does anyone have any objections to that idea?  Also we aren’t sure how we want to build the chicken door in the front panel.  I would like to have a horizontal door that folds down to make a little exit ramp, but I’d also like…

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