Posts tagged ‘chickens’

December 20, 2012

And Now for the Chickens!

On the third day of Christmas da, da, da, da, da, da… three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree…  Scratch that.  We have three hens, but our hens are not French.  We also don’t have two turtle doves, but we do have two dogs, oh, but no partridge, just a cat.  But we do have a pear tree!  Two actually. Oh, and did you know that Partridge is a type of chicken.  I don’t have one, but discovered it the other day.  I love tidbits of information like that.  But you’re not here for that…

Back to the chickens.  As I said, we have three hens, but they are not French.  One is English, one is American and the other is probably American, no definitely American.  Anyway, as you may recall, we adopted “the girls” from a friend-of-a-friend of my Dad’s about a month ago.  They are all about a year and a half old, born around Memorial Day of 2011.  The girls, having had previous owners, already had names.  Jolene, Billina and Zydeco.  Although we contemplated renaming them, we really couldn’t come up with any names that seemed to make them worth changing.  I mean Souffle, Omelet and Scramble just didn’t seem right and besides these are chickens, hens if you will, so giving them egg names didn’t seem appropriate.  We came up with some other names too, but nothing really stuck so we decided to keep them as is.  Plus, all of our other animals were named before we adopted them and we kept those names, to honor their history in a way, so we thought we should do the same for the chickens.  I should clarify, when I say “we”, it’s mostly me, having conversations with myself, running it past the rest of the family for their input to which I usually get head nods and “sure” as a response, hence “we”.

And Now for the Chickens!

Jolene

Jolene

 First up is Jolene, named after the Dolly Parton song.  Jolene is a Buff Orpington, a breed originating from England. Jolene is at the top of the pecking order in our coop (both literally and figuratively).  She also got a bit stressed when she first moved in (hence the feathers missing from her chest in the picture above).  Jolene makes me laugh.  She’s curious, and the most trusting of me so far.  We think she was the first to lay an egg for us too but we can’t be certain because two of them lay brown eggs, she’s one of them.  Jolene really likes treats.  She prefers apples and carrots and attempts to eat an occasional finger if you don’t bring her treats.

Billina

Billina

Next up is Billina, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, an American breed developed in New York State, in the early 1870s.  Billina is named after the chicken in the Wizard of Oz books, specifically Ozma of Oz.  (I’ve never read it, but now need to.)  Billina is a bit of a funny girl.  She’s the quietest of all of them thus far.  She’s observant, confident, yet not the first to check anything out.  She’s always the last to come out in the morning and last to go in at night.  Billina also lays brown eggs.

Zydeco

Zydeco

And last but not least, Zydeco.  Zydeco is an Ameraucana, also known as an Easter Egger, an American Breed known for laying light blue, green or pinkish-brown eggs.  Although the previous owner wasn’t positive of the reason for her name (she shared ownership of the chickens with two others), Zydeco is a mixed genre of music (which I happen to like) found in Louisiana combining Cajun, Blues and Rythym and Blues.   Zydeco has yet to lay any eggs since moving to our place, but we saw proof at her previous home that she lays green eggs.  Zydeco is pretty cool.  I love her tail!  She’s a curious, but cautious girl so far, she still scampers a little when I go near her too.  Oh, and I think she might be the smartest of the girls too.  I swear she knows her name, more than once she’s turned and looked at me when I’ve said it.

The girls arrived a little over four weeks ago and just started laying eggs on December 12th (easy to remember 12-12-12).  At first it was one egg per day, then there were two, then one, then two.  We are still anxiously awaiting a day where we get three and that one of them will be green (which would mean Zydeco is finally laying).

First eggs from the girls!

First eggs from the girls!

As of right now, we have 11 eggs from the girls. You’ll notice a “J” and a “B” on the eggs above, there was a lot of squawking in the coop the other day.  Jolene made a big stink every time someone laid an egg so I happened to know which chicken laid which egg.  Just to clarify any confusion, the eggs did not come out with their initials on them (as my son briefly thought) I marked them to see if we could determine who laid the others.

You might wonder why we haven’t eaten any eggs yet.  Well, I’ve been saving them up to make custard pie.  Now I have plenty for a pie or two and some other treats.  Seriously can’t wait!  Oh, and yes, now I will start eating them for breakfast too.

Kate

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November 13, 2012

Facing Our Fears Part II: Chickens

As you probably already know, I have been contemplating getting chickens for a while.  Then, when I decided that chickens might be a good idea I planted the seed with my son (easy target) and husband (surprisingly easy target).  I expected at least a little resistance, I got nothing.  Then came the chicken class… a success!  I wanted to get started right away.  Then reality set in and I realized that next spring would be better.  That would give us enough time to select a coop design, get the parts and pieces, build it, wire it, critter-proof it.  We could ask for chicken stuff (lights, waterers, heaters, etc.) as gifts for birthdays and Christmas and finally, next spring, we could bring in baby chicks.

Then a curve ball.  A friend-of-a-friend of my Dad’s has chickens needing a home.  He asked if we’d be interested.  Sure, why not?  (I’m a sucker for taking in animals that need a home.)  We went and met the chickens.  They were cool. We saw their current coop and knew that while the coop worked great in their current location, it wouldn’t work so well in our yard.  Backing up to the nature center means everything short of lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!).  So, after going on the Twin Cities Chicken Coop Tour and scouring the web for coop designs we decided on this one, except ours will be blue and a mirror image (so we can see the chickens from the house) and got to building.  That, was a month ago.  We’re still building.  Speaking of which, did you know that you can end a drought by simply building a chicken coop?  It’s true!  We literally were in a drought.  Hadn’t had a drop of rain for months… until the day we started building the coop.  Then the sky opened up and the rain started coming.  And, it hasn’t stopped since.  Okay, actually it has, on the days we are not building the coop.  That aside, we’re getting there.  And hopefully very soon (I don’t want to say when for fear of jinxing us again) we will actually have the chickens.

Back to my fears.   As you may or may not have read in the first installment, Facing Our Fears, my first fear to face was writing.  Now that I’ve worked through that, my fear is chickens.  I outlined a few of my chicken fears in U is for Urban Farm (a.k.a. Contemplating Chickens), but there’s more.  So why on earth would I want to build a chicken coop and get chickens?  Well, okay, it’s not the chickens I fear.  It’s the stuff that goes along with chickens.

I hate winter.  Period.  I love the snow.  I think it’s beautiful.  Beyond that, I avoid going outside on cold days.  I hate cold fingers, cold toes, cold ears, cold noses… Although it is kind of cool when it’s so cold out, that when you sniff, your nostrils stick together.  Oh, that and frosty eyelashes are kind of cool too… but other than that I hate cold bodies, cold cars and cold seats (car and toilet)!  So what better plan to get over hating winter than to get chickens, right?  Yea, I know.  I’m not sure about that either, but I’m hoping it will help.  If I have someone or in this case, chickens, to care for, I’m hoping I will come to ignore the rain, snow, sleet and cold and just enjoy the chickens.  At least I’ll get to hold a warm egg in my hands, right?

Bird poop.  I hate bird poop.  I fear bird poop.  As a kid, while in Seattle visiting my Aunts and Uncles, I was sitting with my feet up, stretched across to another chair and a flock of sea gulls, or was it pigeons, flew overhead and a moment later, I felt the warm splattering gush of goo in-between my toes.  Um, yea, I cried.  And then, one morning at the bus stop,  a couple of years ago, I was chatting with a couple of other Mom’s on the block.  It was a clear morning, not a cloud or a bird in the sky, we were busy chatting when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a huge blast of bird poop hit my arm.  It splattered not only all over my entire forearm, but my clothes and all over my friends too.  Talk about gross!  We all scrambled, checking our pockets for a napkin, Kleenex, anything, to wipe it up.  A friend of mine found a receipt in her pocket.  I’ve never been so grateful for a receipt, ever.  That, and my second shower of the morning.  Anyway, I’ve got this fear of bird poop.  So, you might ask, why would I even consider chickens? After all, they are poop factories, right?  Right!  But their poop is good stuff!  Their poop will be combined with my compost, making my compost cook faster and make my garden soil even richer!  So I’m hoping to get past my fear of bird poop for the good of the garden.

My other chicken fears?  Chicken death.  Chicken death-by-dog, death-by-fox, death-by-raccoon, death-by-hawk, death-by-eagle, death-by-owl and death-by-weasel.  Until recently I wasn’t afraid of death-by-weasel, but my nephew just told me of chickens getting killed by weasels.  I don’t even know if we have weasels here because I’ve never seen one, but I added death-by-weasel to the list because now it’s in the back of my mind.  Thanks, Jeff. 😉  Hopefully our coop design will fend off all of these death-by-critter fears, and I will no longer need to fear chicken death, but time will tell.

Death-by-weather.  Living in Minnesota you can’t help but worry about how the chickens are going to hold up in the cold.  We are going to be getting cold-hardy chickens (I know, I didn’t know there was such a thing as cold hardy chickens either) so hopefully any mistakes we make will be offset by their hardy genes.  Cold weather means making sure their drinking water doesn’t freeze, making sure they don’t freeze and did you know if they roost on too narrow of a board they can get frost bite on their feet!?  I think I’ll make them recycled sweater mittens for their feet.  Recycled sweater chicken booties. 🙂 Oh, and then there’s the heat.  When it’s not too cold, it’s too hot and chickens don’t sweat.  Like dogs, if they get too hot, they pant.  Panting = chicken death.  Not good.  If anyone has a Barbie window a/c unit about 4 inches by 4 inches, let me know.  We’re getting a Thermo Cube too, which is a temperature controlled outlet, so hopefully that will take some of the thinking and worry out of the of the death-by-weather scenarios.

Okay, all my fears aside, I’m hoping for a bond.  The chickens we’ll be getting are over a year old, already producing eggs (bonus!).  They haven’t been handled a lot, so I’m hoping my wanting to hold them won’t be offensive.  I’ve heard that chickens LOVE kids.  I’ve heard that they will follow them around and treat them like their own (which should be humorous).  I’ve heard of them snuggling and watching TV, although we WON’T be having chickens inside the house.  At least not yet. 😉  I’ve heard chickens are guaranteed entertainment.  I’ve heard that you can train them to do tricks and that they like to be petted.  I’ve heard that even on our worst days just watching them can make us laugh and smile.

Long term, I’m hoping to love the chickens.  I love that they’ll be eating our kitchen scraps and converting it to good stuff for the garden.  I’m looking forward to having fresh eggs and making custard pies.  I’m looking forward to the challenges and fun the chickens will bring.

I’m also looking for a pair of rubber boots to wear in the coop.

Kate

July 11, 2012

And… we’re back!

Wow!  It’s been a long time since I’ve written.  Ages!

How have you been?  This summer sure has been busy, hasn’t it?  But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you.  In fact, I’ve thought about you a lot.  I have lots of pictures to show you as to what I’ve been up to when I haven’t been working, but just haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write.  Hopefully your summer is equally busy, so you totally understand. 😉

 

Chickens at Linden Hills Farmers Market

 

So where did I leave off?  Ah, yes.  Chickens!  The chicken class was awesome.  Loved it!  If you live in the Twin Cities and are thinking about getting chickens, I definitely recommend taking the Backyard Chicken Basics class at EGG|PLANT Urban Farm Supply before you jump in and get those cute and cuddly chicks.  The class is filled with good information to prepare you for raising chickens.  I thought I’d take the class, order my chicks while I was there and be raising them this week.  I still want to get chickens but, thanks to the class, realized that I have a little more preparation to do before bringing these feathered friends into our backyard.

And speaking of the backyard, this spring was so busy that I didn’t get my garden planted until just a couple of weeks ago.  Holy lateness!  Thankfully, most of it is coming along nicely so far, although something or someone did manage to sneak in and dine on my sunflower and pea shoots, but it could be worse!  Now that things are growing its obvious that my garden could definitely use a little more sun.  I finally contacted an arborist to “take care of” my overgrown volunteer trees so my plants can grow a little stronger.  He’s scheduled to be out in the next couple of days to check everything out so hopefully the balance of the summer my garden will have full sun exposure instead of just part sun!

Peas to please

Greens in the garden

Radish ready for picking

As some of you may know, I spend a good deal of time volunteering at my son’s school.  I help some of the teachers with the Botany unit and coordinate the school garden with a couple of friends.  Even though my home garden got a late start, the garden at school is doing great!  Last year about this time we were just getting the raised beds built and the arbor/pergola constructed.  This year the kids were able to plant before school was out and the children taking summer school classes are now reaping the benefits in their school lunches!  It’s truly awesome to see how much the kids enjoy the garden and trying the food that comes out of it.

 

And since we’re on the subject of food, I’ve also visited a few more Farmers Markets.  Some small, some simple, some large, some with excellent presentation and even visited some in the rain.  I’ll do write-ups on those in the very near future so you can get a taste and see if you want to check them out.

What else?  Insects and diseases.  You can’t have plants without running across those.  Let’s start with Dutch Elm Disease.  While Emerald Ash Borer is getting lots of press these days (as well it should) Dutch Elm disease is still going strong and continuing to make its way around the Twin Cities (along with the rest of the country).  A couple of years ago we lost two large Elm trees in the front yard.  They were big old Elms, they had survived the initial wave of Dutch Elm Disease back in the 70s so I figured they would be okay.  I was wrong.  They left a huge hole in the yard and burnt out lawn, not to mention the habitat that disappeared for the birds and critters.  Well, not wanting to lose the last large Elm in our yard, I decided it’s time to bite the bullet and spend the money to protect it.  Treatment for this tree isn’t cheap, but it is guaranteed for three years and is still cheaper than the cost to remove the tree if it died.  So in addition to protecting a tree that would take 70 years to replace, it was kind of like getting a three-year insurance policy on the tree.  It’s worth it to me.

Japanese Beetles

And while we’re talking insects, guess who’s back?!  The Japanese Beetles.  They have been rearing their iridescent heads again.  While the population hasn’t been anywhere near what it was last year (at least not yet), it seems to be growing by the day.  At first I saw one, then a couple more, and so on.  Many mornings and evenings you’ll find me in the garden with my peanut butter jar of warm soapy water trying to flick off as many as I can find and leave them to, well, drown.

Red-femured Milkweed Borer

Ooo… and speaking of insects, I had a new (to me) insect sighting this year too.  The Red-femured Milkweed Borer.  Have you seen them?  Their coloring is quite stunning.  I found them, ironically enough, on my milkweed. 🙂  Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about these guys.  They seem to be migrating our way due to the climate change and warmer temperatures.  The closest information I could find on them came out of Missouri and as far as I can tell they are neither a “good bug” or a “bad bug”.  They are just there.  If you know anything different, please share!

Snapping Turtle

There have been a couple of other neat non-insect related sightings in our yard this year too.  The first one took place on Memorial weekend.  The dogs were barking out the front door and when I went to see what they were barking at I saw a fairly decent sized snapping turtle on the front sidewalk.  “OH!” I thought to myself, “That’s what you’re barking at.”  After a couple of days of hanging out around the house she burrowed into one of my flower beds and then after a day or two, she disappeared.  Neighbors are pretty certain she probably laid eggs but we won’t know for sure for a few more weeks.  I’ll let you know if there are suddenly little snapper babies everywhere.

Robin

We also had a pair of robins nest under the grape vines on the pergola in the back yard and give birth to three babies.  It was fun watching the nest, waiting for them to hatch and watching the parents feed them.  I was even lucky enough to witness the first attempted flight of one of the babies!  So amazing and so funny!

Garter Snake #2

What else?  Snakes.  Have we had snakes! One of our dogs is very good at catching snakes. (I really wish this wasn’t one of her talents!)  Thankfully we only have garter snakes, so she’s not chasing anything really nasty, but man, these are some of the longest and fattest garter snakes I’ve seen in a long time!  Got a snake problem?  Call me.  I’ll send her over.

I’ve picked up some cool new books too.  A chicken book, gardening book, sustainable living book and of course some cook books.  I tried out a number of new recipes out of the cook books and from a couple of blogs too.  I’ll share some of them later this week.

 

Loaded Raspberry Canes

Oh my, I nearly forgot!  Even though my veggie garden got a slow start there has been no shortage of stuff to eat.  As my Mom would say, we’ve had “a bumper crop” of raspberries this year.  Each year I think I’ll “make stuff” with them, but this year, like most other years, I find myself eating them before I can really make anything.  (Unless you consider a yogurt parfait “making something”.)

Beginning of the blueberries

I’ve also gotten a handful of blueberries, quite a few golden raspberries and the grape vines are loaded, although not ready to eat yet.

The pear trees have a handful of pears on them again too so hopefully I’ll be able to snag one before the squirrels get to them!  Sadly, no fruit on the apple trees again this year.  It appeared as though they were invaded by leaf rollers.  Once things slow down a little I plan on planting a few companion plants in the vicinity of the apple trees to see if I can improve things for them.

The Yurt

Oh, and one more thing to share with you.  I helped build a Yurt!  If you already know what a Yurt is, excellent!  If you’re like me, you’d say, “A what?”  A Yurt.  Basically, it’s like a semi-permanent, round tent.  I’ll go into more detail on that later.

So there’s a glimpse as to what I’ve been up to.  I’m planning on writing more and filling in the gaps as the week progresses.

In the meantime I hope you’re able to get outside and enjoy the summer weather even if temps have been in the 90s and 100s like it has been here.

Until next time…. happy summer and happy gardening!

Kate

June 17, 2012

U is for Urban Farm (a.k.a. Contemplating Chickens)

Remember back in April when I was doing the A to Z blogging challenge and I stopped at T?  That’s because I got a block.  A mental block.  A bad one.  I went two months trying to figure out what the heck U could stand for.  Well guess what?  I’ve now made it to U and U is for Urban Farm.

When we originally bought our house seven years ago, in addition to falling in love with the house, I fell in love with the yard.  Actually, I fell in love with what the yard could become because at the time it was just a “big yard”.  In other words, a lot of grass.  I know it’s not for everyone, but to me, plain old grass is a waste when I could be growing something.  But at the time we bought the house I never envisioned that the “big yard” would transform into the garden it is today.  They say gardening is a process and that couldn’t be more true.  I’ve found that there may be a beginning, a place in time where our interest is sparked, but if you enjoy gardening, it will never be complete in the same way a painting or a meal or a song may be.  Gardening is a never-ending journey, so if you don’t enjoy the experience you’d better get off the ride!

It’s probably an understatement that I love gardening.  And while the term “gardening” used to cover pretty much everything: fruits, vegetables, flowers, annuals, perennials we now have separate terms for each type.

Until recently, “Urban Farm” was a gardening term I kind of scoffed at.  I envisioned an Urban Farm being a small house in the city with a tiny lot.  And on this farm they had a small barn, a dwarf cow, a dwarf horse, a miniature dog and a few stalks of corn in a miniature field.  Since then my concept of an Urban Farm has changed, as have my own gardens.  The small veggie garden changed into two raised beds and the fruits and veggies have expanded into the landscape.  There has been the addition of three grape vines, hardy kiwi, and in addition to the original red raspberries that came with the house, there are now golden raspberries and blackberries as well.  And then there’s the blueberry bush (bought a pair, lost one, still need to add another).  Oh, and there are pairs of both pear trees and apple trees.

You’d think that would be enough, but since I love to experiment with plants, it’s not.  Last Thursday my son’s baseball game got cancelled due to rain and thunderstorms.  I found this the perfect excuse to head to one of my favorite garden stores: Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply in St Paul.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I absolutely love this place.  Anyway, the little trip on Thursday evening to see what’s new expanded into going back this weekend with the truck to pick-up a peach tree, cherry tree and plum tree (not to mention a few other plants for the veggie garden).  And as if that’s not enough, I also signed-up for the Backyard Chicken class next weekend.

I know, I know, I might be crazy, but I’ve been contemplating chickens for quite a while now.  Add that to the fact that they had day-old chicks in the store (which were so darned cute) and it brings me closer to getting some.  (Yes, I realize they don’t stay chicks.)  So if I’m drawn to chickens, why haven’t I gotten them yet?  Well, I have been fearing a few things:

  1. I don’t like to get pecked.
  2. I was told chickens are messy.
  3. I was told chickens stink.
  4. I’m afraid Jake, my rescue dog from the Leech Lake Reservation who has BBs in his hindquarters (most likely from chasing chickens) might kill them.
  5. I live behind a nature center, so I’m afraid the raccoons, wood chucks (are they carnivores?), fox or coyotes might get ’em.
  6. I’m afraid I’ll be a bad chicken mom.

Well, while visiting Egg|Plant I talked to Bob, one of the owners, about my fears.  And he asked me one question.  “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”  I said, “Either my dog or the other critters would kill the chickens.”  His response was, “Okay, now you know the worst thing that could happen.”  It took me a minute to process it, but he was right. I’ve worked myself up so badly about chickens dying that I haven’t been able to think past that point.  Thanks to Bob, I’ve now realized that the worst that could happen is that the chickens will die.  And if they do, and eventually, even if I care for them really well, they will, I can deal with it.   So now that I know that, I can quit focusing on it.  I can redirect my energy and focus on the chickens and the experience of having them.

So this morning, as I continued contemplating chickens, I looked out the window on my backyard.  That’s when it dawned on me that if I do this, if I get chickens, I’ll be crossing that line from an Urban Garden to an Urban Farm.  I don’t have a barn.  I don’t have miniature dogs or mini-fields, but I do have fruits and veggies and two full-sized dogs and a dwarf cat and after the chicken class next weekend, I might even have chickens.  I might become an Urban Farmer.  I just might.

Kate