It has been quite awhile since I have posted and I seem to have sort of run out of things to say. Isn’t that odd? I mean, I talk every day with people but things just seem to be less interesting to me lately. I don’t mean that in an “I have the blues” kind of way, but I just don’t know what to write about…
So when all else fails, drop back and write about bees or chickens!
Chickens it is! The chickens are great. They appear to be dumber than the last flock I had but they take great pictures. We are getting a good number of eggs and I think I handled our raccoon problem. I think this summer, we will need to do a little work on the coop. I suspect we will need to do even more work on the yard. Chickens scratch and dig to find bugs and worms and stuff. When Fall takes its hold, grass growth slows, but the chickens continue to dig. Translate: mud pit for a back yard!
Well, that’s all I have for the chickens. Everything else is fine. I have a new job which requires a lot more of my time so my home time is very valuable to me. The kids are growing up fast and we will be doing college tours this spring. I guess the chickens have the right idea…just keep digging!
We seem to be running around a lot lately but I can’t tell you much of anything that we have done that was either interesting or productive. I guess that’s just how things are nowadays. As a reprieve from the apparent chaos in our lives, I thought I would take a few pics of the critters around our place…some of which I care for, some of which I do not.
Of course, the chickens are as crazy as always. They are laying eggs but it is pretty haphazard. I get at least one egg per day and sometimes 4. I never get 2 green eggs a day as I should be though so either one of my Easter-eggers is not laying at all or they alternate pretty wildly. I figure I’ll let Spring kick in a little farther before I worry too much about it. Neither Easter-egger seems to be having any problems so I don’t think they are egg-bound or anything like that. I figure it might be light or cold related.
My favorite bird is Fezzik. She’s a nut but super loyal to me. She runs to me every day and demands to be petted, even if for half a minute. The other birds, except Houdini, will tolerate petting, but Fezzik demands it. The kids feel trepidation as they get cornered by her looking for a quick pet. Maybe it’s good to keep them on their toes!
I looked in on the bees a few weeks ago when we had a really nice day. Everyone had come out for a quick poop and stretch of the wings. I’ll look in again in the next week or so and get a better sense of how this Spring and Summer will progress. It was a super cold and slightly longer than usual Winter this year so this might be interesting. I suppose the bears are out of hibernation now and still no evidence of one coming by to look at the hives makes me happy. I know there are bears near my ridge so let’s hope they don’t like the electric fence!
I didn’t order any bees this year. I had to many last year and it was more work than I wanted. I plan to just focus on keeping these colonies healthy and hopefully productive. I will definitely re-queen in the early Fall to ensure healthy stock going into next Fall.
We have a new guest around the house too. We used to have a neighbor who collected cats. By “collected” I mean bring home and turn loose in the neighborhood. She didn’t care for them and get them fixed. She has since moved away and the population thinned significantly. Only two of the original 20 or so remain. With only 2 outside cats wandering around, our squirrel and bird populations have finally started to recover. I guess I like most creatures and have a live-and-let-live attitude about even the ones I don’t like. But especially, I like to watch squirrels wander around doing squirrelly things. I caught this guy munching a hickory nut watching me get ready to take a drive. Two separate times he watched me. The second time I got within 3 feet of him. Maybe the nuts he was chewing was especially tasty. For his sake, I hope he recognizes that although I am friendly, the remaining two cats might not be as pleasant!
We have had our chickens now for half a year or so. They are a lot of fun and offer a great source of stress relief. Abigail in particular has found that sitting in the yard reading a book while they hens roam about is a great bit of fun. Aside from the fun part, of course, they give us eggs.
I never realized all of the oddities of fresh, home-grown chicken eggs. Many of you chicken experts probably know these things, but we have found interesting tidbits from having the birds. For instance, did you know that hard-boiled fresh eggs are dang-near impossible to peel? The protective coating on the eggs keep carbon dioxide inside. As eggs age, the coating wears off (or, with store bought eggs, is washed off) which makes the shells more porous. Carbon dioxide leaves the eggs, the pH increases quite a bit and the inner membrane separates from the shell making older eggs easier to peel. There are all sorts of alleged magical ways to make fresh eggs peelable but I haven’t seen them work yet…so we let eggs age some if we want to hard boil them.
Did you know that eggs vary A LOT in size and shape? We have seen monster eggs, nearly spherical eggs, double yolks, tiny eggs, elongated eggs. It’s always a lot of fun to see what the hens lay day-to-day. We average 4-5 eggs per day from our 5 hens…one Easter egger (or maybe both) are not 100% layers but the brown egg layers are super reliable.
The color of the yolks in fresh eggs (at least in our coop)are deeper yellow, larger and firmer than in store bought eggs. Their shells are harder to crack and feel heavier in general. There may be breed differences and there are certainly dietary differences between my birds and factory birds so who knows what really is the cause, but it is a striking difference. Some people say the fresh eggs taste a lot better. I know mine are better because my chickens are never given shots of medicated food or anything that a big chicken farm might give their birds to eat.
Mine get to stretch their wings and run around and act like chickens act…which is crazy…I never really understood the phrase, “You’re a chicken” until I watched the hens jump at a gust of wind or run from a falling leaf. So maybe it is the surges of adrenaline they get running from their shadows or maybe it’s the diet or maybe just the breed that makes their eggs different, but different they are.
I dig my chickens and am delighted to learn new stuff about both the chickens and their eggs!
Well, really, so far it is just egg!!! On Sunday, I went outside to feed the chickens and let them roam around a bit in the yard. We don’t exactly allow the chickens to be fully free-range as there are too many predators around and we cannot provide a truly safe habitat for them. Still, we give them a lot of yard time and they have a fair space that is safe when they are not in the yard.
One of the birds spent a good bit of time investigating one area in the yard that was secluded and confined. It was apparent that she was looking for a place to lay an egg. “Hodor” (she was big and not very bright when we got her) is a brown egg layer and one of the two that is a week older than the other birds so it made sense to me that she would lay earlier than the others.
Anyhow, I watched Hodor and she never did lay an egg. I urged the chickens back into the coop area and went out for a bit. When I returned, I opened the pen again and, by dumb luck, looked into the nesting boxes. I thought I might see a brown egg from Hodor, but didn’t really expect anything.
To my surprise, there was a nice but small blue egg! We have two birds which I think are Ameraucanas (or more likely Easter eggers), one of which must be the source of the first egg! My Easter eggers, Sue Sylvester and Houdini, are skittish crazy birds so I figured they would either stay so “cinched up” that they would never lay or be dropping eggs every time the wind blew. Maybe Sue and Houdini will settle in and be pretty cool…or maybe the wind blew. Who knows? I am not sure I care though…after all, one of them gave me my first egg!
So I mentioned the other day, that I have a bunch of chickens, one of which I thought might be a rooster. He runs the hens around and very clearly is the boss of the coop. He has pointy saddle feathers and he’s huge compared to the other birds. Still, I was sold hens so I held out hope that “Licorice” was just a bossy hen. I mean, each bird has her (or his) own personality so I thought I might still be ok.
Of course, the kids are out of town with my folks, so Emily and I have enjoyed quiet sleep. On Monday morning, however, at almost exactly 6 am, we heard a sort of ill-formed warble that turned into a rooster-like sound. He practiced a few more times and finally let out a few real rooster crows. By 6:15, he was done. I was able to visibly catch him in the act at one point because I didn’t want to mistakenly pin maleness on Licorice if it were really Beatrice doing the crowing.
Emily didn’t hear him crow another single time the rest of the day or evening. Tuesday morning, he was at it again from 6 until 6:15 am and then he was quiet. That wouldn’t really bother me, but we do live in the city and have neighbors fairly close-by. I will definitely talk to them and make sure they aren’t terribly inconvenienced, but city ordinances do stipulate that while hens are legit in the city, roosters are definitely not.
I talked to a few friends who could have roosters but neither needed him so unless someone else turns up who needs a rooster, Licorice will make us a fine dinner this weekend. I hate to see him go as he is a pretty bird and really pretty gentle with humans, but I do not want trouble from the city or my neighbors. Ultimately, all of the chickens will be eaten as well so this is not a huge deal…just a little sooner than I had planned.
Ah well, I guess this is the life of an urban chicken farmer. I guess you can never truly know whether you have males or females until you get proof…noisy proof…
We have had chickens for a little while now. They aren’t quite old enough to lay eggs so really they are free-loaders at this point, but they are some of the most hilarious freeloaders I have ever seen. If you have never seen chickens behave, you are missing a true treat!
We have a coop that is apparently adequately sized for holding the number of birds we have. They do seem quite happy inside and are safe and healthy. Still, we especially like to let them roam about our fenced yard. I cannot leave them there all the time as the neighborhood cats are ferocious hunters…they leave dead stuff on our doorstep all the time. So we let them out often to roam about but we sit with them all the time. Abigail and I dragged a couple of lounge chairs over by their coop so we can watch their antics a few weeks ago. We go and sit with the birds pretty much daily. At least one of us gets their daily, but it is so much fun that we usually hang out together.
We were talking the other day as they birds pecked and scratched about…Abigail declared that watching the birds was relaxing and, “Almost as good as a day at the beach.” Indeed, sitting on a lounge chair in the back yard with one’s daughter watching chickens is a great day!
One day in the somewhat near future, I expect that we will get eggs so the chickens will get out of freeloader status. Until then, they get marked in the budget solidly as entertainment and team building expenses!
It occurred to me that I haven’t mentioned a thing about our chickens since we first got them. I have been amazed at how fast they have grown up…they look like real chickens now! When we started, of course, we kept the chicks inside under a heat lamp. The brooder was just a washtub with a piece of fence I wrapped around the sides to make a wall. At first, the setup worked well and the chickens grew very well.
I really needed to get a coop built so we could transition them outside, but we have been super busy lately. The chickens were fine in the brooder after all…so what’s the hurry? I mean, the brooder was in our office at the house which has it’s own heat source and I can keep the cats out very well. Heck, the chickens might even enjoy looking out and seeing the beautiful cork floor, right?
They did indeed like the look of the cork floor. Apparently, one day, the decided to mount an attack on my fenced in brooder wall…they somehow knocked the wall over and escaped into my office. Now, if you have never been around chickens, I need to tell you…chickens can poop a lot. I mean a lot! And they are generally pretty messy. Imagine, if you will, 7 chickens free to roam about my office. They didn’t exactly admire my cork floor in the traditional sense, but they did apparently walk about every square inch of it, dropping blobs of chicken poop wherever the wanted.
Of course, that was it…I could not wait to build my coop any longer. I ended up buying a coop which was not quite what I had originally planned but it looks nice and works pretty well so far. I still need to build either a chicken tractor or an extended run to give the chickens more space but this has alleviated my original problem…and now, let’s hope cork flooring comes clean without too much work…