We’ve added five more members to the farm family. After the problems we have each year when we do this, I’m surprised we both said – Yes, let’s do this insanity again.
We added five chickens to our existing flock of nine. Right now things are peaceful. The new peeps are living in a big crate in the garage. They have their own space, a heat lamp for the cool evenings and they are happy as can be. That’s because they don’t know about the chicken drama that will happen when we introduce them to the older hens. It’s never a good thing.
We added a lot of outdoor chicken run space so there is plenty of room for the 14 of them to spread out. We give them plenty of kitchen scraps, fresh water, cracked corn every afternoon for a treat and a coop full of clean wood shavings every week. You’d think everyone would be happy. But no, hens are never happy when you introduce new peeps into their territory. Maybe there is safety in numbers and having a flock of five newbies might go better than last year when we introduced two new chicks. We’ll wait until these chicks are almost as large as the hens and devise a temporary fence with chicken wire to keep the new chicks separate (and safe) for a couple of weeks until everyone gets to know each other – and then one night after dark, we’ll slip the new chicks in with the old hens in the roost and hope for the best.
We’ve had mesh netting around the chicken coop for a year or so now. It gives “the girls” a safe place to roam during the day when they aren’t on their supervised excursions into the yard-at-large. We always have to be vigilant because the fox and hawks like our chickens as much as we do! Chris decided it is time to build something more substantial so that if we are away for part of the day, we don’t have to be concerned that something can get to them.
It’s been a big project – digging holes to sink the 4”x4” fence posts, building a supporting framework at the top, building a door – and last but not least – getting the fencing around the side and over the top.
But that wasn’t enough – we decided they need to have fresh grass. But anyone who has a pen full of chickens knows you can’t have fresh grass unless you move them every day before they peck, scratch and claw their way to the dirt. Not to be outsmarted by a bunch of chickens, Chris built a raised bed for grass, covered by hardware cloth that they can’t peck through. This way, the grass will grow up and out the top, the girls can keep their lawn “mowed” by chomping away each day, and the underlying grass plants are safe from their voracious appetites.
Now they have a nice, big, safe space – which should soon have green grass. They should be quite content in their new playpen.
Things are a little topsy-turvy on the farm lately. My zinnias are THIS BIG.
And my eggs are THIS SMALL.
We’ve had so much rain this year that my plants just won’t stop growing! It must be helping the granddaughters grow too – because they won’t stop growing either!
And the eggs? We have six peeps that we got in the spring. We’ve nurtured them through their teenage years and now — they are turning into real hens. Their first attempts at laying eggs have been a bit meager, but I guess they will improve with maturity. An egg that is only 1.5 inches doesn’t quite compare to what we are used to. I’m not even sure how to use that in baking. Do two baby eggs equal one normal egg? Hopefully they will get their act together soon and start laying real eggs.
Remember those cute little fluff balls — baby chicks that we brought home from Tractor Supply. They were so cute and cuddly, how could you not fall in love with them. And, they were no trouble at all living in a small box in our living room where we could keep a close eye on them.
But they are growing. I think they’ve hit the teenage stage. They’re big enough to be a pain, but not big enough to put them outside on their own yet. They stink, they make a mess and they’re noisy.
But, there is a chill to the air today, it’s threatening to rain — and it’s Mother’s Day. What kind of parents would we be to push our “teenagers” out of the house on Mother’s Day? so we’ll wait until tomorrow — and then it’s off to the coop.
We started out with five hens when we moved in to our farm. Our builder gave them to us as a house warming gift and we’ve been nurturing them — and enjoying the eggs — ever since. But apparently they are getting old. We’ve had two of the chickens die over the last several months, I think from old age. Apparently laying an egg a day can really wear you out.
After a trip to tractor supply, we ended up with six baby peeps — two Red Sex Links, two Barred Rocks and two Ameraucanas. Right now, they live in our living room — under a heat lamp and keep us entertained with their peeping.
Arianna came to visit them and couldn’t believe her eyes! Chickens in the living room! In a house where we have NO indoor pets. Even our cat is an outdoor barn cat — which is a good thing, because I don’t think an indoor cat and six peeps would get along well in the living room!
Once they grow a little bigger and get their feathers, we will introduce them to the “old” ladies in the chicken coop and they will all have to learn to get along together. Until then, we have peeps in the living room!
Isn’t it enough that we have a chicken coop? Now we need a chicken shed too?
We’ve been using a plastic storage bin that was intended for lawn furniture cushions. It has more than exceeded its life expectancy. The squirrels have taken a toll on it – nibbling to get inside to the chicken food. We knew we needed to replace it, we just hadn’t found the right thing – until the other day.
I was leaving the Amish farm market where I sometimes stop to indulge in their freshly baked sticky buns, and there it was with a “For Sale” sign. They called it a “trash condo” – intended for trash and recycle bins – but it was just the right size for the five gallon buckets of chicken feed, bird seed and chicken treats (yes, the chickens get treats). We went back out over the weekend (really an excuse for more sticky buns), so I could show it to Chris – and bought the thing.
Then another trip out on Monday to pick it up (really an excuse for MORE sticky buns). Chris was quick to point out just how useful his truck and trailer are. For a little shed – it’s heavy. It’s not like we could just lift it up and put it down. After a lot of maneuvering, we finally got it loaded, home, unloaded, settled in place, and all set up with the chicken food and paraphernalia stored inside. Now the chickens can have their treats. I went inside and ate a sticky bun – because I think I earned it.
I confess, I’m a fair weather friend. When it’s cold outside, I’m not usually the one schlepping to the chicken coop or feeding the horses. Last week we had an unusually warm day; I bundled up and ventured to the coop to collect the eggs and say hello to the girls.
They looked horrible! Their feathers were half falling out, they looked like they have the mange AND they haven’t been laying as many eggs. I was convinced they were about to die. I asked Chris how long they’ve looked like that. He said, “Like what?”
So, I Googled half-dead chickens and found that they are molting. Apparently it happens every winter, but not until they are about 15 months old, so I guess they missed the molt last year. They need a special diet high in protein to help them develop healthy, pretty feathers.
We made an emergency run to Tractor Supply, and guess what – they sell food called Feather Fixer, especially for chickens while they are molting. That’s easy enough. Feather Fixer, combined with some lovely blocks of mealy worms for extra protein and our little ladies should be sprouting feathers all over the place in a couple of weeks.
It would be an understatement to say that the “Three Musketeers” – Disa (the Norwegian Fjord Horse), Pono (a miniature horse) and Fiona (our goat) – REALLY enjoy their pasture. In fact, they’ve chomped it down to the roots.
We realized that we probably needed to divide the pasture in half, so they can graze on one side, and let the other side recuperate!
Being novices at all of this, we made a trip to Tractor Supply to look into electric fence tape. In this modern digital age, the aisle of electric fence supplies also offered a free “Instructional DVD” on installing electric fences. We figured it would be really complicated if you had to take home a DVD to figure out how to do this.
As it turns out, it wasn’t that hard (well, it wasn’t hard for me, because Chris did the work). He put in the plastic fence posts, a couple of ground posts, strung the electrified tape, flipped on the power – and voila – we had a divided pasture.
That was the easy part.
The hard part has been keeping (mis)chievious – “Miss” Fiona (the “Miss” is for Mischievous) from jumping through the fence. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. At first Chris would corral her back to the permitted side of the pasture. Eventually we gave up. After all, one little goat can’t eat all that much newly growing grass – can she?
If you’ve been following the blog, you know we have five girls – hens, that is. They are coddled and taken care of like they are part of the family. In return, they give us five eggs a day.
They have a beautiful coop, fresh water and plenty of chicken food. We visit them at least twice a day and give them a BOUNTY of chicken scratch and kitchen scraps (like strawberry tops, lettuce leaves, asparagus stalks, etc.). In the winter they get a night light and a heat lamp when it’s cold.
It was with a lot of anxiety the first time we let them out of the coop to “free range” for an hour or so. They strut and scratch at the dirt, gobble up bugs and peck at the leaves. They enjoy their time out of the coop, and Chris had pretty much trained them to a yellow, children’s size hoe. I read that in a blog somewhere. They used a yellow child’s hoe to gently corral the hens back into their coop, and over time, all they had to do was lift the yellow hoe and the hens would run back to the coop.
Our hens aren’t quite that cooperative. One scout hen usually returns to the coop, checks to see if their “treat” is there yet (a can of cracked corn), and then alerts the rest of the girls that it is time to come back in. Those other hens usually needed a little nudging with the yellow hoe to get them back in the coop, but we had a good routine going.
Until last Sunday.
We worked hard all day clearing brush on the hillside, took a shower and decided to settle in with a cold drink down by the chicken coop and let the girls have a run. And run they did. For the first time ever they headed for the hills into the thick, impenetrable (for humans) brush — overgrown bushes full of thorns, poison ivy and ticks. Off they went for an adventure.
No amount of calling, shaking the can of corn, begging or pleading would bring them back. Chris and I both made attempts to climb through the brush, got cut by thorns, whacked in the face with branches, and probably brushed up against poison ivy. Finally we called the search and rescue off and decided they would either come home, or they wouldn’t.
It was a quiet dinner that night while we mourned the loss of our chickens. Chris felt guilty for turning his back on them for a few seconds. I was busy trying to rethink what’s for dinner this week since we probably wouldn’t be having quiche on Tuesday night. And we kept taking turns getting up to check and see if they were back in the coop yet.
Finally, about 7:30, they came marching back, on their own, and went right into the coop. I figured they would, even though I worried that they wouldn’t. I mean where else would they get such tender loving care. There’s no place like home.
We’ve grounded them, at least for a while, or until Chris recovers from almost losing his girls.