Archive for the ‘chicken coop deville’ Category

The Chickens Move into the Addition – and Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

You remember I was supposed to get baby chicks this month right? Well….. that didn’t happen.

The chicks were due to arrive on April 4th. But they were shipped to Michigan.

Which would have been great! If I was in Michigan.

But I’m in Virginia.

So….. needless to say, I didn’t get those chicks. And it is a VERY long story, but after many hours on the phone I was promised chicks on April 11.

Only I got an email on April 10 telling me that 4 of the 5 breeds I had selected weren’t available. And the story is even longer, but suffice it to say, I’m not getting chicks.

I’m getting my money back.

And I learned a very important lesson.

DON’T DEAL WITH THE MIDDLE MAN.

Deal with the hatchery.

They may not get it right the first time, but I would have stood a better chance of them getting it right the second time.

Lesson learned.

Anywho…… since we had the new coop addition and there weren’t any baby chicks to raise in it before integration, we went ahead and rearranged the coop to make more room for the chickens, and to make it easier on me for collecting eggs and cleaning.

Before I continue and post pictures, I want to apologize for the crazy big white blobs in some of them. I was having problems with big black blobs showing up in pictures with my camera, so I got a new one. But…… I wanted to stick my camera in my back pocket so I would remember to get pictures today, and I decided to use that old one so I didn’t mess up the new one. And NOW the old camera not only has big black blobs in some pictures, it now has big white blobs in some pictures.

Sigh.

It really is time to retire that camera.

So…… this is how the coop looked before we added on and rearranged it:

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See the nest boxes on the left? Right. Now notice the long roost above and right in front of them.

Do I need to tell you what a pain it was to check eggs in those nest boxes? There was ALWAYS a fresh layer of poop in front of the nest boxes. And, even though that roost has been there for a few years, I bonked my head on that thing at least three times a week while checking eggs.

Before I show you how we rearranged things, let me show you this.

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That little thing is Bernie’s idea. We bought it for just over a dollar at Lowe’s. In fact, we bought eight of them.

And when we hung the roosts we just slid the 2 X 4’s right into those little things.

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We didn’t nail the roosts into them, we just slid them right in. They won’t move. AND when it’s time for me to clean that part of the coop, I can just lift the roosts out and then shovel out the litter.

Isn’t that great? I’m tickled pink.

Oh, and just a quick note, we sanded the 2 X 4s – if you’ve ever dealt with bumblefoot, you will understand. If you haven’t dealt with bumblefoot, please sand your chickens’ roosts.

So now, the original 8 X 8 coop that had the roosts and nest boxes just has roosts.

And the new 8 X 8 addition just has nest boxes.

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We raised the big nest box thingy five inches. So now the brooder box doors are up off the ground – and above the litter line – which makes my life a whole lot easier when I’m using the brooder boxes.

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Oh, and did you notice the girls got new curtains? They did – and they really seem to like them. I pleated them and everything.

Nothing is too good for my girls 🙂

So, there you have it. We don’t have new chicks (yet) but the chickens have officially moved into the new addition of their coop.

They seem to like it.

I know I do!

Oh, and if you don’t have chickens and are thinking of getting some, do yourself a BIG favor. Build your coop at least twice as big as you think you need.

Because you’re gonna need that space.

Seriously.

You are.

Trust me.

Chickens are a little addicting.

Or maybe even a lot addicting.

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya 🙂

Let’s Call it a Day…….

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Today we got the roof on the chicken coop addition. And not much else. Because about the time we finished that last nail in the roofing, it started looking like this……

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And Bobby Lee looked like this…..

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And Duke looked like this……

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And Dolly looked like this……

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And when Diesel looked like this……

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Well, we knew it was time to call it a day.

Diesel is pretty good at knowing when it’s time to call it a day.

Mud, Mud, Mud

Monday, January 18th, 2010

For the first time in a long time, our weather has been above freezing for a few days. As much as we’ve enjoyed the warm up, the melting snow and additional rain has left this entire area a huge mud bowl. Our yard is no different. In some ways, it may be worse. Certainly the chicken run is a completely muddy mess.

I was visiting Sparrow Haven Blog yesterday and reading her description of things she now wishes she had done differently when building her chicken coop. I’m sure anyone that has built a coop can look back and list things they wish they had done differently. If I knew then what I know now? Well, the Chicken Coop DeVille would barely resemble itself! But one of the things that Sparrow Haven mentioned that is near and dear to my heart as of late, is that she wishes she had built some sort of platform leading into the coop so that she wouldn’t get so muddy when it’s wet. Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. I can SO relate to THAT!

Even though my chickens free range, they have a fenced in and covered chicken run outside their coop. And they make certain not one single blade of grass grows in there. It is completely void of vegetation. And I quite frankly could not care less…… except when it rains or snows. I have to walk through the run to feed and water the chickens, and to get inside the coop. And when it’s wet outside, I sink to my ankles in mud and muck. And it makes me pretty unhappy.

So reading Sparrow Haven yesterday led me to really consider what I could do to avoid walking in mud and muck. After participating in Freezer Camp day, I do not dare ask Bernie to do one more thing concerning chickens for a while. So it had to be something I could do by myself. And it had to be fairly easy, because my construction skills are rather limited. And then it dawned on me!

Several years ago, we picked up a bunch of brick pavers from someone giving them away on Freecycle. We picked up hundreds of them and stacked them behind the sea container. Maybe I could make a sidewalk out of those pavers!

I mentioned my sidewalk idea to Bernie, and he thought it sounded like a good plan. So this morning, I laid the brick pavers, and now I have a sidewalk in the chicken run. YAY!

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I’d never done anything like this before, but I got the hang of it fairly quickly. Look at my fancy work of curving the sidewalk to the gate.

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I even put sand between the joints of the pavers, like I knew what I was doing.

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This was just for the chicken coop, so I didn’t frame it in and do it the absolutely proper way, but I am quite pleased with how it turned out. The chickens? Well, they still are not quite sure what to make of it. They stood around fussing about it for a while, and finally Bobby Lee took the plunge and walked on the sidewalk to get inside the run.

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The others eventually followed.

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I am just so tickled to have a sidewalk that will keep me out of the mud in the chicken run! And even though I shoveled, laid pavers, and swept in sand, Bernie was a big help to me. The pavers were all frozen together where we had stacked them! So he used a rubber mallet and broke them apart – and then he spent a lot of time helping me move what I needed up to the run, and then breaking off the ice that remained on them.

Thank you, sweet Bernie. I know you are totally chickened out right about now. I appreciate your help, and lack of complaining, more than you know 😉

And even though Duke was trying to act all cool and uninterested, you can tell he’s pretty impressed with the great job I did.

Silver Gray Dorking Rooster

Rooster Adolescence and Lucy-fer

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Yesterday our chicks turned exactly seven weeks old and it’s been exactly one week since Duke figured out how to crow. I let the chickens out of their coop about 6:30AM and went into the house to make them some yogurt. As I was standing at the kitchen sink, I heard the distinct sound of a crow – but it was not the shrieking three syllable crow we’ve grown accustomed to hearing from Duke. It almost sounded like the honk of a goose in comparison – and it seemed to have an extra syllable. We listened to it several times and became convinced it could not be Duke. It sounded nothing like him. Perhaps Bobby Lee had learned to crow – or maybe we were mistaken about one of the hens?

As it turns out, Duke is going through adolescence and, quite literally, his voice changed overnight. Friday, he sounded like this. Saturday, he suddenly began sounding like this:

Don’t you just love watching him gear up for his proud crow? And that crow now sounds a little more like “cock-a-doodle-do”. It is music to my ears.

You may also notice that he no longer scares the other chickens with his crow. The hens actually seem quite enamoured with him now, and when he lets out his new sounding crow, several typically crowd around him.

Duke is such a handsome boy. I’m also very pleased to report that even though he is growing up and becoming quite the ladies man, he still remains a mama’s boy and will sit on my lap and allow me to love on him for hours.

The chicks seem to change daily. They are feathering out and acting so grown up. Duke and the White Faced Black Spanish chicks have always been the tamest and most comfortable with me, but in the past week or so it seems that all the chicks have gotten a lot less skittish when I enter the coop or the chicken run.

Lucy is….. well, still Lucy. I now call her “Lucy-fer”. She continues to challenge all the other chickens and bully them when they come to me for treats or to play. She has gotten very aggressive with her pecking and has managed to remove a mole from my leg and she attempts to remove my fingernails when I’m hand feeding the others. I lift her face up by putting a finger underneath her beak and make her look at me while I scold her, but as soon as I finish, she goes back to what she was originally doing that got her into trouble. I gently thump her chest with my hand when she gets aggressive towards me, but she seems to think that is a game. *sigh* Even though she can truly act like Lucy-fer, she can also be sweet and will always have a special place in my heart. My little runt is growing up – and she’s doing it with a vengeance.

We’ve been busy, busy, busy on the homestead and I’ll write more later in the week on that subject. I’ll also get some new pictures of the chickens up on the Back to Basic Living website.

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July weekend!

Bee Free,

Penny

Someone is Asking for a Good Old Fashioned Tail Whooping

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Lucy, my little White Faced Black Spanish, is really turning into a bit of a bully. She is constantly pecking the snot out of me, dive bombing the other chickens, and lately she’s been challenging Duke – a rooster who is easily twice her size. Duke stands up to her, but he doesn’t seem to take her too seriously. I’ve told Lucy that Duke is going to kick her scrawny tail feathers across the chicken yard, but she pays no attention to me whatsoever.

Since Duke found his voice and started crowing, he has really been acting like the alpha rooster. It is really fascinating watching the pecking order take shape in our chicken yard. Interestingly enough, not only do the roosters have a pecking order, but there is a pecking order among the hens as well. As the chickens attempt to work out these social structures, you can imagine the chest bumping, puffing, and challenges that are now routinely occurring.

Bobby Lee is not quite developed enough to make much of an impression as a rooster so, at least for now, the title of alpha rooster belongs to Duke. Lucy is trying her hardest to make a bid for the alpha hen, and by the looks of it, she has a good chance. I haven’t really seen any other hen challenge Duke. I suspect if Lucy weren’t so darn cute, Duke would have already had her for breakfast.

Here’s a short video of Lucy challenging Duke. It’s interesting to me that Bobby Lee runs up to watch the whole thing from the side lines. Duke is the big one that takes off after a Silver Leghorn – and then gets challenged by Lucy, the mostly black one. Duke almost trips over those huge feet of his, but recovers in time to stare Lucy down:

I’ve been following Duke around with a video since Saturday morning when he first crowed. He is camera shy and will not make a peep when I have the camcorder rolling. He crowed this morning as I opened up the coop, but when I grabbed the camcorder he got completely silent. I’m determined to capture it, but it looks like it may take a little bit. While I still believe his first few crows were beautiful Saturday morning, I have to tell you that he seems to have forgotten what he did. He now sounds like he is getting over a bad case of laryngitis. His beautiful “cock-a-doodle” now sounds like “erk-er-ererererk”. In his defense, it is still quite loud.

MissPrissy, from Backyard Chickens, posted a recipe for making home made yogurt. I made some yesterday, and I have to tell you this is the BEST yogurt I have ever eaten. I mixed in some of my Raspberry Jam Syrup, and it was wonderful. The recipe is simple and the ingredients are easy to find. If you’re interested, check it out. This recipe makes plain, non-flavored yogurt. If you like flavored yogurt, just add a little jam, granola, honey, or whatever you desire.

Bernie is finished with all the fence posts for the front and back yard. Tomorrow he will start stringing the fencing wire. Those rolls of wire are really heavy and difficult to manage. He and Tex made a really cool “spool” for the wire today that should help Bernie a good bit. I’ll take pictures of it and post them later this week.

I have a list a mile long of things I need to do this week. I might actually accomplish some of them if I weren’t busy following Duke around with a camcorder. I sat with him for over an hour this afternoon before supper, and all he did was sleep on my lap. He is such a little sweetheart – I just wish he’s crow for my camcorder dad gummit! I’m sure he sits up all night crowing. And laughing at me.

Bee Free,

Penny

Cock-a-Doodle – huh??????

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Between four and five weeks old, Duke starting doing this weird thing where he would raise his head high and move his beak in a distinctively cock-a-doodle-do sort of way – but nothing would come out. He would move his beak, but not a sound would escape. Bernie swore he was practicing crowing. At that early age, I had my doubts.

This morning I went and picked some raspberries while Bernie finished putting in his last corner posts for the fence. We finished about the same time, and decided to sit on the front steps and cool off with some ice water. We were watching the chickens peck around, and Bernie said “Did you see that? Duke just tried to crow again.” I rolled my eyes, and at exactly that moment, Duke stuck his head high in the air and let out a loud, distinct, and crystal clear “COCK-A-DOODLE….” – and scared the bird poop out of all the hens and himself. They all took off screaming, flying, and running to the other end of the coop. I’m not sure who looked more terrified – the hens or Duke.

I couldn’t believe it. His crow was beautiful! It wasn’t at all the scratchy, crackling, strangling noise I expected. It wasn’t quite a full crow, but he sure nailed the first part of it. Within a just a few moments, he let out another. And then another. COCK-A-DOODLE……

I ran in to get the small camcorder I ordered and received this week. I followed Duke for at least 20 minutes, determined to capture the next crow for you. But he strutted around and pecked around and was as quiet as a church mouse the entire time.

We haven’t heard him crow again today. But I have to tell you, those three little crows changed his life. He’s been strutting around all day long. And he’s been challenging the hens and Bobby Lee more than ever. He is really quite proud of himself. It seems to me the girls are paying a lot more attention to him as well.

As silly as it sounds, Bernie and I are really proud of Duke. The boy is crowing at six weeks old! And he’s so dad gum handsome and sweet. He is honestly everything I could have hoped for in a rooster – at least at this young age.

I’ll get some pictures of all the chicks posted in the next couple of days. I was going to wait to write about this until I had the pictures ready, but I am so excited, I just had to let y’all know.

By the way, I’m working on adding some canning information and pictures on the Back to Basic Living Website. I hope to have the pages up within the next week. I’ve water bath canned several jars of Raspberry Jam and Raspberry Syrup – and I took some pictures of the process to share on the website.

I’ll write more in the next day or so. I hope to capture Duke crowing on the camcorder so I can share it with you. I’m just certain you’ll be as impressed with the boy as I am.

Bee Free,
Penny

Jammin’ – and Running Free

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Our wild raspberries are really starting to come in. They’ve got a few more days before the majority ripen up, but seeing a handful of ripe raspberries was enough to make us risk the brambles we had to wade through to pick them. We only ended up with about 1/2 a pound, and I decided to make a jar of Raspberry Jam out of them. Bernie doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but he can’t resist many things made of fruit. He likes to put his jam over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but honestly, you should try it. It’s wonderful!

So for those of you with berries that always wanted to know how to make jam, I’m going to share the recipe for the most simple jar of jam you will ever make.

Ingredients:
1/2 pound Berries
1 cup of Sugar

Pour the sugar over the berries and gently stir the mixture. Let it sit for about 15 minutes or so. Then heat the whole thing on low heat until the sugar melts, stirring the entire time. Once it gets soupy, turn your heat up to high and stir as it boils for about 5 minutes – or until it gets thick. Turn the heat off and pour your jam into a clean, sterile jar.

Now you have berry jam. There are several ways to make jam, but this is probably the easiest. If you have a lot of berries, you may want to use a recipe that adds pectin to reduce the amount of time you spend over the stove. But for a small amount, it will only take you 5 minutes or so. 1/2 pound of berries makes less than 1 pint of jam, so I didn’t mess around with canning it since that small amount won’t last long around here. Several of you wrote that you would like to see a webpage on the Back to Basic Living website on the basics of canning, and I will start working on that in the next week or two, as more berries come in. I typically water bath can all of my fruit and sometimes tomatoes, and pressure can anything else.

Here’s a picture of the jam over a bowl of ice cream:

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I have to tell you, I almost didn’t post that picture. It reminds me of bird poop over ice cream. I think it’s all the seeds. If you are really turned off by seeds in your jam, you can smoosh the berries through a sieve first. But I’m going to warn you – it’s going to take a lot more berries that way. There is very little fruit around each of those little seeds. But it’s your choice. Personally, I can get past the bird poop looking jam…..

The chicks are doing great. They were five weeks old yesterday. Friday afternoon Bernie and I let them out in the chicken yard for the evening. They loved it. They ran around eating everything they could get their little beaks on. They flew and ran and played and challenged each other. It was really a hoot watching them. It took me a while to get them all inside as darkness was settling, but it was worth it.

This weekend I let them out in the chicken yard at 6:30 each morning. They are really loving being outside. We check on them every few minutes, and they are doing fine. They pretty much ignore me when I go into the chicken yard to sit with them, but I just chalk it up to the excitement of being outside. To compensate, I don’t let them out in the mornings until they eat out of my hands, jump on me, and act like they still love me. Then I open their little chicken door and they go outside and act like I have cooties.

They are really getting big and starting to look like miniature chickens. Bernie says my chickens are way prettier than any five week old chickens he’s ever seen. I absolutely agree with him. Duke is starting to cluck already. I love the little peep-peep noises they make, but the clucking is pretty exciting. Here’s a picture of Duke – not a great one because I chopped off his beak in the picture, but it really shows off his comb and his developing waddles, and his size compared to the Silver Leghorn he’s standing next to:

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Dad gum, that’s a good looking boy! Here’s a picture of the only other rooster I think (*hope*) we have. His name is Bobby Lee. He’s a Phoenix and, although not as developed as Duke, quite handsome in his own right:

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Look at that boy strutting around. I sure am proud to have such good looking boys. I really hope they get along and stay sweet. I just can’t bare to think of one of them ending up on the table. I’ve tried to be delicate and casually mention that to both of them on a couple of occasions. Let’s hope they are listening.

Not only are the boys good looking, but the girls are so pretty now. They’ve filled out and feathered out and just fill me with pride. I put several new pictures of the chicks up on the Back to Basic Living website.

Oh – and I finally learned to tell the Phoenix’s from the Silver Leghorn’s! The Phoenix’s have slate colored legs, and the Silver Leghorn’s have yellow legs. It took an awful lot of googling to figure that out! I sure am relieved though. I don’t know why, but it is, for some reason, important to me.

The chicks are great. Bernie and I are great. Elvis and Priscilla are tolerating all the greatness. Life is good on the homestead.

Bee Free,
Penny

Those Steaks Would Tempt a Bear

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

We’ve been busy on the homestead since I last wrote, and I honestly can’t tell you what we’ve been doing. The past week has been a blur of activity. We spent the weekend moving stuff into and organizing our sheds. My garden shed now contains everything pertaining to gardening and caring for chickens, and Bernie’s workshop barn shed now contains everything pertaining to… well…. workshop stuff. So now, when I need a hammer, rather than searching under the kitchen sink, the garage, the sea container, or any number of other places, I can go right into Bernie’s barn shed and know I’ll find a hammer. The truth is, when I need a hammer I typically grab a shoe. But it brings Bernie joy to envision me needing a hammer and going to his barn shed and finding it there – and then actually using the hammer instead of a shoe. So let’s just pretend that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Yesterday was Bernie’s birthday. Yay! Happy Birthday, Bernie! We decided to grill a couple of nice steaks to celebrate, and afterwards, being the wonderful wife that I am, I did the dishes all by myself while he relaxed and informed me how I wasn’t doing them right.

A side note to the wives out there – Ladies, never relinquish your kitchen to your husband under the delusion that life will be grand with him cooking and doing dishes for you. Not if you ever plan to step foot into your kitchen again. He will take over and you will never be able to live up to his expectations in the kitchen again.

After we ate and relaxed a bit, I went in to brush my teeth around 8PM. In the middle of it, Bernie walked into the bathroom and said “There’s a bear at the compost pile.” I quickly wiped my face and ran into the living room to look out the window. Sure enough, there was a bear at the compost pile. He was sitting on his rear with his legs in front of him, just staring at the compost. I ran in to get my camera, and when I got back he was standing up sniffing at the compost:

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He only stayed there a few seconds, and then started to walk off. Then he stopped and stared at us in the window:

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And then he made a beeline for the grill we had left outside to cool off:

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We’ve only left the grill outside overnight one time – and we awoke to the sound of bears knocking it over and getting into it in the middle of the night. We don’t leave it outside overnight any more. So when we saw the bear heading towards the grill last night, Bernie decided enough was enough. He walked outside and clapped his hands and yelled something like “Hey Bear! Hey Bear!” and the bear quickly high tailed it right on out of the yard:

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Bernie decided the grill was cool enough and promptly locked it inside the shed.

The chicks turned four weeks old last Saturday. I took pictures this afternoon so I can show you how big they are getting. Their feathers are coming in beautifully. Between four and six weeks, I understand that I should be able to identify the roosters. Their combs should be larger and pinker than the hens, among several other things. I put several pictures up on the Back to Basic Living website, and a few of them show the differences between hens and what I believe are my roosters. Even if I’m wrong, the pictures are darn cute, so check them out anyway.

Here’s a picture of either a Phoenix or a Silver Leghorn. Although I can see difference in the two now, I still can not tell which is which. They are both good looking birds though!

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This here is a picture of a Phoenix/Leghorn on the left, and a Penciled Hamburg on the right:

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The Hamburgs are beautiful chicks and the picture does not do their feather colors any justice. While they remain the most skittish, they really are pretty and friendly, if I don’t make any sudden movements.

And here’s Duke the Big Roo:

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That boy is huge. Just get a load of the size of those feet! He’s the only one that I make certain I pick up each time I enter the coop. He is obviously a very large rooster and I am determined to establish that I have the upper hand with him. He protested a bit at first, but he’s coming around and actually comes running to me when I sit down, even knowing that he will get picked up. You may also notice that his comb is quite large and quite pink. I’m sure I don’t have to mention how incredibly good looking that boy is.

Lucy, Amelia, Echo, and the other Black Spanish are doing just fine. I tried to get pictures of them, but they spend most of their time on my shoulders or head, so that complicated matters a bit. I think I did manage to get one or two pictures of them and put them up on the website. I don’t want to bog your computer down with many more pictures on this blog entry. Lucy is no longer the runt. She has really grown and is feathering out very nicely. She’s still full of spunk and doesn’t take anything off anyone. She’s always been one tough little bird. I’m sure that’s exactly what helped her survive. I often question how many of the other chicks will survive if they tick her off and face her wrath. She has quite a little temper.

We have lots of activity here on the homestead. Vegetables are coming in, chickens are growing, bears are visiting, and stuff is getting accomplished. There’s never a dull moment around here. I kind of like it that way.

Bee Free,
Penny

Hot Time in Chicken Town

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

With the record breaking temperatures we’ve had around here lately, I’ve really been worried about the chicks getting hot in the coop. I tried putting a fan in one of the windows, but all that seemed to do was pull in piping hot air from outside and swirl it around a little. The coop temperature stayed near 100 degrees during the day. I finally decided to take a clean kitty litter box, fill it with pine chips, and pour cold water over it to moisten the chips and stick the whole thing on the floor of the coop to see if the chicks showed any interest. They loved it! They would wiggle their bodies into the chips and lay there with little smiles on their faces. Here’s a picture of Lucy after her Wet Chip Spa treatment:

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She was so pleased with herself that I didn’t have the heart to tell her she looked like Phylis Diller. Look at Amelia checking out Lucy’s wet and funky tail feathers. I’m pretty sure I heard her laughing. If you decide to try the wet chip box for your chickens, be sure to change it out every day. You don’t even want to know what water, chips, and chicken poo smells like after about 24 hours……

We finally got the chicken yard completely finished. It now has a fence around it and a shrimp net over top of it. We also added chicken wire to the bottom of the coop so that they can’t get under there and I don’t have to spend countless hours retrieving ornery chickens from underneath of it.

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Sunday afternoon we decided to open the chicken door and see if anyone wanted to come out into the new chicken yard. Several were intrigued with the idea, but for a good long while, we had no takers. This was about the extent of their curiosity:

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After about an hour, we were just getting ready to close up and call it quits, when Big Roo Duke jumped down into the yard and starting eating ants like there was no tomorrow:

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Encouraged that Duke was feeling adventurous, I was certain the others would soon be joining him and we’d have 23 chicks happily pecking and strutting about the chicken yard. I was certain, being flock animals, they would all stay together and not attempt to escape through the fence wire. At least this is what I had hoped and what I wanted the chickens to do. But chickens don’t do what I want them to do. They have their own agenda, and it has precious little to do with mine. I live with cats, so you would think I’d be used to having my wishes ignored and expect it. But I didn’t. And this is the part where everything went wrong.

In my excitement of seeing Duke happily eating ants in the yard, I decided to go inside and get a couple of adult beverages for Bernie and me to enjoy while watching our little balls of fluff. But when I left the chicken yard, Duke completely freaked out. He began running around emitting a high volume distress call. I didn’t know this until Bernie told me upon my return – and I could hear Duke’s screams and see him hiding underneath the steps. I squatted down to talk to Duke in a soothing voice and he bolted toward the fence and began throwing his body at the two inch spaces between the wires on the fence. Honestly, Duke is huge and there was no way I would have ever imagined he could possibly squish his fat body between those wires. But just as I reached for him, he sucked in his gut and jammed himself through the wires and popped out on the other side and headed for the woods. Just that fast.

Lordy. I don’t think you need all the details to imagine how panicked I was – or how panicked Duke was. Bernie remained calm through the entire ordeal. He closed up the coop to keep the others inside as I tore around the woods trying to catch Duke. Duke may be fat, but he’s short, and that worked in his favor while maneuvering through brambles and fallen trees and limbs. While I am short, it did not have the same effect for me. By the time I caught Duke my arms and legs were scratched and bleeding and I had as much of the Phylis Diller hair thing going on as little Lucy did, due to the branches that grabbed it as I plowed through the woods.

We returned Duke to the coop and I promptly informed everyone that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch and there would be no more outings for quite some time. As I left the coop, I saw several of the girls give Duke the High Five.

I ended up putting chicken wire over the coop door opening so I can open the door during the day to allow more air in the coop without allowing any chicks to go out in the yard. They are only three weeks old, so going outside unsupervised is not going to happen. Actually, thanks to Duke’s shenanigans, going outside at all is not going to happen for a little while longer.

By the way, I put up several pictures on the Back to Basic Living website. At three weeks old, the chicks have entered their “teenage” years and, although still adorable, they are looking quite gangly. They are flying around the coop with great confidence, and can get up to roosts and windows with ease. They seem to enjoy using me as a launch pad and make quite a game of flying up to my shoulders or head and then dive bombing unsuspecting chicks on the ground.

We’ve been busy with other things on the homestead as well. The tomatoes are starting to form and other vegetable plants are blooming. Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are in here in abundance this year. Even Peachy is loaded down with a fair amount of fruit. Hopefully Mother Nature won’t have any surprises for us and we’ll be canning a lot in a few months. If you would be interested in learning about canning, drop me a note. If there is enough interest, I will put a page on the Back to Basic Living website dedicated to the basics of canning.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking chickens with you for the past few weeks. The addition of the chickens, along with the vegetable gardens and other activities, brings us closer to our homesteading goals of achieving more self reliance. Although it is still a few months away, we will soon be eating fresh eggs and the chickens will be free-ranging for a large portion of their meals.

So, here we are – homesteading with our chickens. And I’m sure you could homestead without chickens. I’m just not sure why you would want to.

Bee Free,
Penny

Cooped Up

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

The chicks have been in their coop for 5 full days, and they seem to have handled it quite well – in spite of the many thunderstorms and power outages we’ve had. I, on the other hand, have been a nervous wreck. I suppose I’ve gotten so used to waking up and checking on them through the night that I am now having difficulty sleeping without waking up and worrying about them. I went out at all hours of the night to check on them the first 4 nights, only to find them perfectly safe and sound – and maybe even a little annoyed that I awoke them. Last night I was determined to sleep through the night and NOT check on them – only to wake at 2AM and toss and turn for over an hour. *sigh* I am certain this should be harder on them than it is on me….

Honestly, I can see those chicks grow every day. They are getting so big. They are now entering their “teens” and looking a little gangly. Down is being replaced by feathers – and it’s happening quite sporadically on their bodies. But they are still just as cute as little buttons, and I still love them to pieces.

The White Faced Black Spanish chicks remain the most friendly, in spite of everything I’ve read about them. They routinely meet me at the coop door and are always the first to eat out my hand when I sit down with them. Lucy was busy staring at herself in the mirror for this picture, but here are the other three:

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Amelia figured out how to get to the roosts within a few hours of being in the coop. There are three tiers to the roosts, and I’ve seen her on the second tier several times already:

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Several others have finally figured out the roosts, too – but they can only sit on it as long as Amelia allows. Once she figures out they are up there, she flies up and chases everyone else off. These two snuck up when she wasn’t looking:

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This is the one confirmed rooster so far. I’ve named him Duke. He’s probably twice the size of all the others and incredibly calm and very friendly – and all the girls seem to like him. He’s hot in this picture and spreading out his wings to cool a little:

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That’s a good lookin’ boy right there!

I put a mirror in the brooder with them when I first got them, and they really seemed to like it, so I moved it out to coop for them to play with. I’ve got to be honest – I think Lucy has a problem. She is completely obsessed with her reflection in the mirror. It’s down right embarrassing! I find her sleeping with her little face pressed against her reflection. I am not kidding. In this picture she is plum wore out from pecking at her reflection and fighting off the other chicks that tried to get to the mirror. She’s the one in the front:

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I should also mention that Lucy is developing quite nicely and has really grown a great deal. She’s still very tiny, but she doesn’t take any crap off anyone. The chicks are busy establishing dominance amongst themselves, and chest bumping is becoming quite frequent. Usually when chicks bump chests, they make eye contact until one of them backs down and walks away. Unless the whole chest bumping thing involves Lucy. When chicks bump Lucy’s chest, she pecks the crap out of them and they take off running. She may be tiny, but she will jack them up in two seconds flat.

I’m including this last picture for those of you that have never had chicks and may plan to get them. When chicks get sleepy, they go to sleep. Not after they find a comfortable place to crash, and not when they curl up and settle down – I mean they go to sleep RIGHT NOW. I am used to it now, but when they were just a day or two old it would absolutely panic me. I was convinced they were dying and rush them to the CICU. I’m pretty sure every chick I have ended up in CICU at one time or another for looking sleepy. If you look at this picture I took this afternoon, you may understand why:

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Notice how they sprawl out and lay all….well….dead looking?? That’s how baby chicks sleep when they are plum tuckered. I wish someone had warned me about that. So do my chicks.

As you can see, the chicks are doing just fine. They are growing and changing and getting more sweet and tame each day. They are almost three weeks old, and I really can not imagine my life without them. Although a good night’s sleep is something I dream about.

Bee Free,
Penny