Category Archives: chickens

Choosing Beautiful

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The weather report is showing an arctic storm headed our way with possible snow at sea level. Unheard of for these parts of California. I do like winter a great deal, but I have noticed through the photos I’ve been uploading that I must be searching for spring.
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We’ve been getting eggs again and blue & green ones at that! Our three new chicks have started laying. They started right before Christmas and have been blessing us with three eggs a day ever since. Our egg carton is so beautiful now. Our older three chickens haven’t laid since last spring. They started up after winter, but then molted and then we moved the new chicks in with them over summer which must have thrown them for a loop. I am hoping that they start laying again too.
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The blue and green one come from our two Americanas and the brown one from our Buff Cochin. I am so excited to have three different colored eggs now. As I wrote about a few years ago, being able to grow or raise your own food allows you to add beauty to your life. Why pick chickens that lay white eggs if you have the option for blue eggs? Why plain mustard greens when you can choose chinese mustard (love that picture!), why not add an orange watermelon into the mix. There is a lot of ugly in my day to day, runny baby noses to wipe, dirty diapers to wash, taxes to file, floors to clean, so when I go outside and get to bring these lovely things inside it really does turn my day around.
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Hope you are well and staying warm!

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Up a Tree with Cherries & Chicks

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Thanks to everyone for the well wishes! This pregnancy (I’m sure my last) has been so enjoyable. Yes, sure there was morning sickness in the beginning, but it wasn’t bad and I’ve been feeling really good ever since. My last pregnancy was much less enjoyable so I’m trying to ‘be-in-the-moment’ as much as I can with this one.
Today, those cedar waxwings camped out permanently in our oak tree waiting for us to go inside so they could strip the cherry tree, so we decided we had to pick as many as we could. They weren’t quite as ripe as we would have liked them, but better to have them slightly under ripe than not at all, I suppose! The cedar waxwings have this incredible song, it’s not a chirp, but rather kind of a ‘shirrrr’ kind of sound. Or maybe think of a flock of crickets high above your head, only more bird like in sound.
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I put the boys to the task of pitting most of them with the cherry pitter. Half of those went into a pot with sugar for jam and the other half went on a cookie sheet and into the freezer (later to be put in ziplocks). The rest will go in our mouths. Have you read Blueberries for Sal? I thought of that book as I was picking. Kaplink, kaplunk, kaplonk.

For fun I was checking out my past cherry posts, here’s when we had the same bird problem, when we harvested them in 2008 and what I did with the frozen ones a few months later.

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We also let the chicks outside for most of the day. We used the screen Scott built for sifting compost as a makeshift cage for them, put in their food and water and let them enjoy a little outdoor time. Having been kept in incubators and our guest bathroom for their entire short little lives, they were completely freaked out in the grass, but quickly adjusted. They are still too little to put with the big girls and probably will be for quite a few more weeks, but it’s great to see them outside getting in touch with their inner chicken-ness.

Have a great weekend blog friends!

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Filed under chickens, Fruit Trees

Three New Chicks & Sally the Miracle Chicken.

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Two weeks ago we tried out a family dog. Scott has always wanted a dog so when the local animal shelter called us and said they had a great family dog, we gave it a try. He was a great dog in every way, half golden retriever and half lab, already house trained, great on a leash, however he really wanted to eat our chickens and cats. No really, he really did want to eat them. We saved the cats from near misses twice, however we weren’t so lucky with the hens. One lovely Sunday morning we were all outside enjoying the fine weather when all of a sudden one of our chickens, Sally jumped over her highly fenced ‘free range’ area and into the backyard….right in front of the dog. He quickly grabbed her and ran, feathers flew everywhere. We were screaming, the chicken was screaming and the dog was running all over the yard with her. We finally got him away from her, but when we found her, we feared for the worst. All the feathers were pulled off her back and there were about five deep, two inch long gashes where his teeth had been.

I guess had we been real chicken farmers we would have put her down right then and there, but instead we thought we’d give her the night to see if Sally could make it. After our adrenaline had calmed down we picked her up and put Neosporin on her cuts, something a vet had advised us to do for another chicken cut a few years back. Then we put her in a small bathroom that rarely ever gets used, gave the poor girl some food and water and a box full of hay and let her have the night to heal. And she made it! We left her in there for about four nights and the sweet thing even laid a couple of eggs. Slowly we started bringing her outside, watching her carefully to keep the flies off of her (because if flies get wind of a fresh chicken cut they will lay there eggs there and the maggots will eat the flesh – super gross!). We eventually put her with the other chickens and made sure they didn’t peck at her and now she is fully back with her gals. We call her Sally the Miracle Chicken now. We did decide after some soul searching that right now our priority is with our first pets, the cats and hens, so the dog went back (and he’s already found a good new home!).

As consolation for our two young sons, we got some new baby chicks. Aren’t they cute? A buff cochin and two ameraucanas to add some blue into our brown egg mix.

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The Hens are a Layin’

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I’m happy to report all three ladies are finally laying! I was starting to have my doubts about if they ever were going to get started again. One thing about relying on your own chicken’s eggs for all your eggy needs is that they tend to stop laying during the winter. They stopped in November and the last of the girls, Bea (the cuckoo in the back), just laid her first spring egg yesterday. It seems like December is when I use the most eggs for baking Christmas cookies and of course that is the only time of year that I need to buy them. Come summertime when the kitchen is much to hot to bake, we have three eggs per day coming from our ladies.

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Our three year old loves the chickens. He helps out in any way he can, feeding them, collecting eggs, corraling them in at the end of the day…(ahem) chasing them with a lightsaber. Boys will be boys. Here he is holding one of Mabel’s eggs (the buff) with a filaree leaf – his favorite weed to munch on.

While three hens is a perfect amount to keep us in eggs, we miss having extra eggs to give away to friend and family so we hope to add a few chicks to our coop this spring. Do you have chickens? What breeds are your favorite?

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Our Hen Crows

She is Woman, hear her Cock-a-Doodle-Do.
Chickens out after a rainy week

Her name is Mabel (the buff on the right) and lately she’s been quite the little diva. Last week when we were going though that crazy heat spell, we opened our bedroom windows at the crack of dawn to feel the cool morning air. We laid in bed listening to the surrounding roosters and our happy clucking hens. All of a sudden we heard this ‘bawk-bawk-bawk-a-doodle-do’ coming from one of our girls. Just the most dreadful, meager little crow sounding much like when our late rooster Lincoln was learning how to crow. It seems that Mabel has decided to become the resident rooster. We had read about this when we were learning about chickens, that if left to rule the roost for too long that a hen could start to act like a rooster and begin to crow. It’s a soft crow, no need to go rushing around apologizing to the neighbors like before.

Mabel, luckily acts just as much of a lady as she did before. We think actually that she might have a crush on the wild rooster down the street. Last summer a rooster got loose and made it’s home in the new subdivision a few blocks away. We had three knocks on our door of neighbors and police officers asking if it was ours. They’ve done all they can to catch it, but with no luck. It’s the closest rooster around, so maybe Mabel is ‘flirting’. Who knows.

Have you ever heard your hens ever started crowing?

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Our Speciality Chard

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Oh, I suppose you grow swiss chard for the leaves, don’t you? Maybe you roast them, maybe you braise them, maybe you even saute them. But not us, oh no. We grow them exclusively for the stalks, that’s where the good stuff is. So while you enjoy your dinner of supple chard leaves, we’ll be chewing and chewing and chewing on our nice fiberous chard stems…because we like it that way.

Gosh darn chickens!

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Keeping Chickens from Seedlings

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Last year we learned our lesson early, the chickens ate all of our spinach starts. All of them. In a matter of moments. It was a complete masacre. So the poor chickens were relegated to this smaller picket fenced yard within our yard. However they can easily jump over that, so we built up this really attractive layer of wire fencing over the pickets to make the fence higher. But still they were able to get through the fence somehow. Which means that while already watching a three year old and a one year old, I often had to go flying outside to shoo chickens out of the garden. A lot of days I’d just give up an leave them in their coop, and while that it’s a very nice coop, it just felt like animal abuse that they could run around like ‘spring chickens’.
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This year, I got creative. Over our new pea, spinach, lettuce, and daikon radish seedlings I put mounds of wire. First a layer of old flat wire fencing, then on top of that our big round metal tomato cages. It looks like these poor seedlings are doing time behind a prision fence, but at least it keep them safe. And the chickens can roam free and we can keep their egg yolks that insane orange color with all the bug and weed eating. We need their bug eating ability now to get the first harmful bugs out of yard too.

I don’t know if we are going to have enough intimidating wire to cover our entire backyard this growing season, but at least during this early spring start, I can rest a little easier.

Have you found any tricks to keep your chickens away from your seedlings?

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We Lost a Chicken

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Last Monday we lost Pearl. We noticed Sunday afternoon that there was a bunch of mud on her backside and by Monday morning when we went to go clean her off, she was walking slow and obviously bothered by something. When we inspected closer what we found was so horrific in our non-farmer eyes that we knew we would have to put her down. We think what happened is that she wasn’t somehow able to form a full egg (we had found a very gelatinous shelled egg in the coop the previous week) and that she wasn’t able to lay it, so it collapsed inside of her and well….. are you ready for this? Click away if you are eating or plan to eat anytime in the future. Anyway, her vent was teaming with maggots. It was disgusting. We did our best to clean her off without vomiting, but we realized that her problem was beyond our help.

Luckily the vet right down the road treats chickens so we took her to him and he told us what we had suspected, that we would have to put her down. Now a real farmer wouldn’t have been nearly as grossed out as we were and would have taken care of business right then and there, but we aren’t true farmers. Pearl had become a pet to us, so we took her to the vet and had him put her down. We were both sad. Sadder than we thought we would be about a silly old chicken dying.

That’s the thing about chickens, they are pea brained, they might be loud, they might bring unwanted flies into our house, they might eat all of our seedlings, but they are darling little pets and they grow on you. We’ve never laughed so much over any pet. So thanks Pearl for all of your eggs and for your antics!

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