Okay, if you have been waiting on the edges of your seats with anticipation, I promise to take some pictures of my chicken coop soon and give you lots of ideas just in case you should ever want to build one of your own. That is, if you haven't already gotten yourself knee deep in chickens! Of course, after seeing this coop on thefancyfarmgirl.com's blog, I just want to tear mine down and start all over again. WOW! How cool would it be for not only your chickens, but yourself to have some smashing digs like this! This coop reminds me of a chicken castle from a fairytale dream, but it actually exists. Really, it does! And you can read all about it on fancyfarmgirl's very fun blog! After seeing more pictures of it you may just want to buy a house on more land and get some chickens! Or even if you didn't want to get chickens, you might still want one of these coops just to sit for a spell on a hot summer's day drinking a mint julep as you take in the view of your beautiful vast land. Of course, you wouldn't have to do much work, because you would have farm hands to do that. You could just sit and read and enjoy! Oh my gosh! To me this coop is just that awesome! I showed it to my husband and he just gave me a crazy laugh and I think I saw sweat starting to pop up on his brow and lines of worry form around his eyes. Poor guy. I'm sure he will be having nightmares tonight about me wanting him to actually build this! hee! hee! I do always have some kind of project for him lately. So, here it is - ta da! - the chicken coop of my dreams:
Happy New Year! I pray all of you have a Wonderful and Healthy 2012! And May All of Your Dreams Come True!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
(my chicks dreaming of digging in the pinestraw outside of their pen)
This week, my husband and I repainted our kitchen. When we were done, I told my husband that I wanted to get a chicken painting to go on one of the walls. He looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, "I will not allow you to become a crazy chicken lady!" I was thinking to myself that it was already too late. And as soon as Christmas is over, I plan on looking for that prefect chicken painting!
(Whitey - with a dirty beak and beard. The hazards of her new freedom adventure digging in the pine straw and the downside of being a white chicken.)
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Hello! to the readers of my poor little neglected chicken blog. I'm back! To fill you in, all is well with my chickens Blackie, Whitey, Meanie, and Baby! Blackie, and Whitey are still laying eggs almost everyday, so our fridge stays full of good fresh eggs! This is somewhat surprising considering that most chickens stop laying as the days get shorter signaling that the time of year is not really a good time to raise little chics.
Also, we considered changing Meanie's name to Sweetie. When we purchased her she was constantly attacking the other hens, especially Baby and we actually feared for Baby's life, but after a few weeks she finally calmed down and although she kind of remained a loaner (probably because the other hen's feared her), she seemed to be learning to get along with the others. I was feeling very sorry for her as the weather became colder, because she always roosted on her own roosting stick all alone while the other three always cuddled together on the other roosting stick. BUT the other night I noticed as I was securing them in their little house that she was with the other girls on the roosting stick and my heart was warmed UNTIL she started pecking the other chickens HARD until she chased them off of her stick! So, her name has remained Meanie and I don't feel so sorry for her anymore.
Another funny little thing I've recently discovered, Blackie and Whitey almost always lay their eggs in the nest box that I have one fake egg in. I wasn't sure if they had just gotten used to laying in that paticular nest box or if they laid their because of the fake egg, so I started moving the egg to different nest boxes everday and no matter where the egg is they always lay in that box. So funny!
So, the other day I tried a new recipe with eggs. My husband LOVED it and says he wants me to be sure to make it more often. I think you will find it very unique as well as super yummy and easy. It is also perfect for these cold winter days. Enjoy! :)
ITALIAN EGG DROP SOUP
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3 large eggs
1/2 cup pastina or other very small pasta (I used ditalini)
1/4 to 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese (depending on taste)
3/4 bag of baby spinach coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. pepper
pinch of nutmeg
Bring chicken broth and 1 cup water to a boil. Add pasta to mixture and cook until pasta is tender. Meanwhile whisk together remaining 1 cup of water, eggs, and cheese in a bowl. When the pasta is tender, whisk the mixture into the boiling water and reduce heat to low, keep whisking for 2 more minutes. Stir in spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook until spinach is tender. Top with shredded cheese if you like. YUM!
Monday, October 31, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
I want to share with you the email from my wonderful Austrian friend, Hildegard. We were so blessed to have booked a vacation on her family farm several years ago and have remained close friends ever since. Hildegard and her brother, Bascht, have taken on the family farm after the death of their parents. Not only are they hard workers, but some of the nicest people you will ever meet and they have been so good to us! We have made several trips to their farm and I can tell you that I think that their place is about as close to heaven on earth as you can get! They raise beef cattle, pigs, chickens, and beautiful Haflinger horses that that run free in the green valley surrounding their farmhouse. Bascht trains and shows the horses in dressage competitions and also uses them to take people for sleigh and carriage rides in their community. Bascht and the horses are amazing to watch in action as he whispers commands to them and they respond and do exactly what he says. Bascht and Hildegard also rent out two apartments that include a wonderful Bavarian breakfast. Their farm, Baerhof, is about one hour South of Salzburg and lies just outside of a small town named, Annaberg, and is situated in a beautiful green valley in the Bavarian Alps. Pictures cannot even begin to show how beautiful this place is. You just have to experience it yourself.
Now to get to the email from my friend, Hildegard. She and I often exchange emails and she has given me some tips and stories regarding her experiences with raising chickens and here is a recent story about her chickens. I found it quite interesting:
"If American chickens are anything like Austrian chickens, I have been amazed how sensitive they are. For example if it is very hot they lay fewer eggs. Also during marked weather changes they lay fewer eggs. During the winter when it is very cold, they don't lay eggs at all. When we moved one horse next to the chickens during the winter, though, to our surprise, they still laid eggs! When we had 2 horses next to them, they laid the same amount of eggs during winter as they lay during summer! This has been very interesting for me to observe."
While I know it would not be feasible for me to get one, much less two horses to live in my small chicken coop during the winter because I live on only a one acre lot in suburbia, not to mention that horses cost lots of money and eat a lot, too, but maybe some of you who do live on farms and have chickens and horses, can give this a try! Also, when I read my friend's email, I can picture her farm in "fairytale like" Bavaria full of dragons, unicorns, and fairies and start to imagine her two beautiful horses with glowing golden manes and tails walking into the cold dark barn from the snow covered valley in the alps. As they walk into the barn they begin to light it up with a warm glow like a candle and then they lay next to the chickens causing them to be very happy and content and after not laying eggs for many days due to the freezing temperatures, the hens start to lay lots and lots of eggs and are able to feed the hungry people in the village during the long cold winter. I guess my imagination has gotten away from me, but that is what Bavaria makes me think of and I loved my friend sharing this experience with me. I hope you have enjoyed it, too. The pictures above and below are some photos from her farm.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Not much time to blog, lately, but wanted to post an update. Just incase you haven't been keeping up with my blog, on July 1st my husband and I purchased 4 young hens and are raising them in a suburban neighborhood. All were coming of age and were supposed to be laying any day, but as the days went by still no eggs. I grew impatient until our Black Maran hen, named Blackie, was the first to lay an egg on Sept. 10th! So the most recent and new news, is that a few weeks ago, on Oct. 10th, (exactly one month later!!!) our White Americauna hen, Betty White, started laying. Whoo hoo! So exciting for us! It's the little things. :) So now, knock on wood, we get two eggs almost everyday. We look forward to checking the nest boxes for eggs. Betty W. lays a beautiful bluish/green egg and it looks so beautiful next to Blackie's dark brown egg. Betty's first egg was very small, but now they are a normal size egg. It is a fun to think that maybe our other two will start laying any day now. Although, they show no signs or interest in laying right now. The funny thing is, even when you have little experience with chickens, you kind of know when one might start laying. They start to get more vocal and will go in and check out the nest boxes often. When this happens, then you know an egg is probably coming soon. We have a big grey Cochin hen, named Baby, and she has to be everywhere that Betty White is. I think this relationship started when we first got our hens, Blackie and especially, Meany (where the name comes from) always pecked and clawed at poor baby. She was the smallest and youngest hen at the time. We really worried for her survival, but Betty White always came to her rescue and got attacked many times for the sake of poor Baby. It was really sweet. Thankfully, all of our hens are BFF's now, but Betty W. and Baby remain inseparable. Whatever one does, the other does, too. I thought Baby might start laying soon, because she follows Betty to the nest box and sits in the nest box beside her when she lays an egg. But Baby has not become vocal and she only goes to the nest box when Betty does, so I guess she is only there for moral support right now. I'm afraid that if Baby and Meanie don't start laying very soon then it will be Spring before all four are laying, as I hear that egg laying becomes sparse in the wintertime. So, this is the latest and greatest regarding my suburban chickens! So many more things to write. One being an email to share that I recently received from my friend who runs a farm in Austria. A very interesting one regarding her chickens laying in the winter. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Just to update you on recent happenings, I've gotten three eggs in four days from my Black Copper Maran hen, Blackie, who has been laying! I'm so excited to FINALLY be getting eggs! My other hens are still enjoying being lazy! Blackie needs to crack the whip and teach the other hens a thing or two! Meanwhile, I will share this easy recipe that you can make with, you guessed it, EGGS! This is a fried egg sandwich with a kick and it is what we had for lunch today! ENJOY!
EGG AND OLIVE SANDWICH
-BREAD OF YOUR CHOICE
-MAYO (we prefer the kind made with olive oil)
-KALAMATA OLIVES SLICED
-BABY SPINACH LEAVES
-FRESH BASIL LEAVES
-TOMATO SLICES (optional - still great with or without!)
-FRIED EGGS (we like 2 eggs per sandwich and yolks done)
-SALT AND PEPPER
There is really no measuring. The amount of ingredients depends on how many sandwiches you are making and taste preference. Spread bread with mayo and then top with sliced olives - use as many or as little as you like. Top with spinach and fresh basil leaves, tomato slices, and 1 to 2 fried eggs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve. YUMMY!!!
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Well, yesterday it FINALLY HAPPENED!!! One of my chickens LAID AN EGG!!!! The bad news is that it happened when I was out of town - OF COURSE! :( You would know, that it would be our neighbor, who takes care of our pets when we are gone, that got to enjoy the excitement of finding the first egg. I don't think it was NEARLY as exciting for her as it would have been for me. Oh well! At least one of them laid! And my neighbor does take great care of our pets and home when we are out of town, so if anybody had to find the first egg, then I'm glad it was her. My friend, Kenneth, recently commented and said to stop worrying, because it has been a hot summer and my chickens would soon relax in their new environment and start laying once it cooled down and I guess he must have been right as we have started having cooler days. I also noticed that my Black Copper Maran, "Blackie", was spending a lot of time in the nest boxes before we left out of town and I wondered if she might be thinking about laying an egg and she did! So she gets the prize as the first of my chickens to lay! I praised her and told her what a good chicken she was as soon as I got home! ha! ha! Of course, I'm sure she only heard, "Blah, Blah, Blah", but I did give her some nice grass to eat, so I think that she was happy for that! She actually laid a regular size egg, too, and I was surprised since it was her first and I think chickens normally lay smaller eggs when they first start to lay. So, she did a great job and I am so proud of her! Perhaps she will convince my other chickens to lay. Just to let you know, a Black Copper Maran chicken is originally from France and lays a dark brown egg and I think they will get darker (almost a chocolate color) the more they lay and then get lighter as the chicken gets older and is about to stop laying. That is what I've read anyway. I also think these chickens are not so common in the U.S. and their eggs are normally prized by French chefs in France. Below is a photo of a regular brown egg next to my Maran's egg. you can see a difference in color. I was most anxious for her to lay, because I don't think I've ever seen a Maran egg before and I was very curious to see how dark it might be. Now, tomorrow I think we will have to test the inside for breakfast! :)
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
You know how the old saying goes, "A watched pot never boils"? Well, now I am starting to wonder if the same holds true for watched chickens when it comes to laying eggs. Every morning I check the nest boxes around 10 a.m. because one of my chicken books says that most chickens lay before 10 a.m., but when I see no eggs I don't lose hope and check again around 4 p.m. because another chicken book I've read says that they can lay anytime between daylight and 4 p.m.. I got my chickens a little over two months ago. I researched breeds. I wanted breeds that not only looked unique, but laid different colored eggs so I would know who was laying. I chose an Ameraucana that lays blue, or blue/green eggs, or even a pinkish brown egg (so I've been told), a Black Copper Maran that will lay a dark brown egg, a Blue Cochin that will lay a light brown egg, and I also got a mixed breed chicken that supposedly lays white eggs. Of course, I would not know for sure because my chickens have not laid a single egg! Just to give you a small amount of history on my chickens, two of them, the Ameraucana and the Black Copper Maran were bought at 5 months old, the mixed breed chicken was 6 to 7 months old and was supposedly laying a white egg almost daily, and the Blue Cochin was 3 months old. The 3 month old I knew would not be laying eggs for quite some time as chickens normally start laying between 5 and 6 months old. The 5 month olds should have been laying any day, and the one that was already laying, well that was a given. The first morning I had my chickens I was hoping all day for the mixed breed chicken to lay. She never did, nor did she the next day after that or the next. Then I noticed that she had started molting! So, I "read up" on molting and found that a chicken who goes into a full molt will not lay an egg for 7 to 12 weeks! UGH! She must have started molting due to the stress of the move. So now that it has been over two months since I bought them both of my other chickens and even my cochin should already be laying or starting to lay. Also, the molting chicken has fully molted and sports a set of beautiful new feathers! I don't know what the problem is. I have tried different things. For one, I started getting up really early to let them out so that they would get plenty of daylight. Daylight is very essential to egg laying. 14 hours of daylight is recommended. I think my chickens only get 12 to 13 hours of light right now, though, because they start roosting in their chicken house around 7:30 p.m. and I let them out between 6:30 and 7 a.m.. It only starts to get light at my house around 6:30 a.m.. They are in a wooded area, so maybe the shade could be the problem. I'm not sure. Also, I bumped their layer feed from 16% protein to 22% protein because I was told that maybe their protein levels were too low. I've also solved the mite issue that could have slowed egg production. They get plenty of fresh water and I only feed them a small amount of treats. They do have some grass to graze on, I feed them layer feed, and I see them eating plenty of bugs. I've also put golf balls in their nest boxes and move them in different arrangments from box to box to keep it interesting. Yes, I've lost my mind!!! Maybe I should start crowing in the morning! If it would help, I probably would! Aaaarrrgh!!!! I keep hearing from other chicken owners, "Well, my chickens started laying at 4 months," or, "My chickens started laying at 5 months," or, "I get tons of eggs, because ours are laying everyday right now", or "My chickens even lay in the winter during the short daylight hours." So, I constantly wonder, "What am I doing wrong???". This egg thing can definitely drive a new chicken owner mad! I keep telling myself that maybe I just need to stop obsessing and worrying and just let nature take its course. But I can't help it, I even have dreams about them laying eggs. As for the "golden egg", the ones that my chickens lay will be, because my husband and I have spent quite a lot of money on their house, feed, and chicken gadgets, not to mention my time spent in attempting to keep them happy and in tip top shape! I'm open to any advice! Just incase, you happen to hear someone yelling with joy at the top of her lungs and wonder where the sound is coming from, it is probably me when one of my chickens finally lays her first egg!!! Also, note that the photo of eggs above are not from my chickens, but from my inlaw's chickens who are obviously laying!
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
A few days ago one of my chickens was acting a little sickly. In fact one day she was so sick, I was afraid she wouldn't make it at all. I was at a loss on what to do! The next day, I was cleaning out their coop and suddenly felt like something was crawling all over my arms! I didn't see anything, brushed my arms off and finished the clean up job, then suddenly I felt it again and took a closer look and there were tiny, tiny bugs that looked a little like a seed tick crawling all over my arms!!! I quickly ran inside, stripped off all my clothes, threw them in the laundry, ran for the shower, and scrubbed for a long time!!! (Just thinking about those mites as I type this makes me start to itch!) Afterwards, I called the president of our local chicken association to ask what this could possibly be. By the way, if you are a totally clueless chicken owner, as I am, then having the number to your local chicken association or club is a really good thing to have on hand. Most of these people are chicken gurus full of a plethera of information when it comes to chickens. The nice guy who answered the phone and was probably wondering as I told him my story why on earth someone as clueless about chickens as me would own any, asked me several questions about the bugs, what size were they, what color they were, and then came THE BIG QUESTION, "What was I using in the nest boxes?"
"Pine straw," I said. There was a long pause and so I immediately threw in that the chicken farmer I bought my chickens from recommended pine straw. Another long pause. Oh no! I knew this wasn't good!
"You have mites," he said sounding a little perturbed. Then he went on to tell me that they are notorious for living in pine straw and to NEVER, EVER use it in my chicken house, again!
Mites?!? Pass me the whiskey bottle, because I need a drink! This was not part of my chicken dream, at all! And, on top of that, I've only been a chicken owner for barely 2 months!
So, if your poor chickens are putting up with someone as clueless as me and to also get to my point, now that my chickens have lived through and seem much better after the eradication process that our local chicken association president recommended, I will share his tips with you. Mind you, that I am no expert and I am only sharing with you what I was told, so none of this is guaranteed in the safety of your chickens or the true riddance of their mites, but it really has seemed to work well with my chickens and I have not seen anymore mites. So here it goes:
1. No matter how many chickens a farmer has or how knowledgeable he may seem, NEVER, EVER put pine straw in your nest boxes even if he recommends it! Pine straw breeds mites.
2. Start your eradication in the morning, so that your chicken house will have plenty of time to air out from the products you are going to use to kill the mites. Open as many doors, windows, and vents as you can to let it air out throughout the day. Also, if you have some vents or windows you can open up when they roost at night, then that will be good, too.
3. Scrub out your chicken house with soap and hot water, or vacuum it thoroughly with your shop vac.
4. Take Seven Dust (I know all you organics out there are cringing!!! So, was I!!!) and put it in a sock and thoroughly dust your chicken house paying special attention to the floors.
5. Cover your floor with a thin layer of cedar shavings approved for pet beds. I always put news paper down on my chicken house floors to keep it clean and change them out 2 or 3 times a week. So, I put the newspaper over the shavings thinking this might help with the strong odor that the cedar produces. According to the chicken expert, you should not use the cedar shavings if you lock your chickens up at night and don't have a window or some vents you can open to let fresh air in while they are sleeping.
6. Put a few cedar shavings in the bottom of their nest boxes and then cover with pine shavings for pet beds or you can use wheat straw. Pine shavings or wheat straw are excellent for nest boxes!
7. Catch your chickens and spray them with Adams Flea and Tick spray for dogs and cats that comes in a blue spray bottle. It is a natural plant based spray. Spray one spray on top of their feathers in each of these areas: neck, back, top of wings, under wings, under body, and pay special attention to their vent (rear end). Also, spray their legs and feet if they grow feathers on them.
8. I also sprinkled Diatomaceous earth in their yard. BE SURE you use the edible chemical food type. I'm doing more research on this and finding it to be very organic and can be used on your pets to control fleas, mites, and ticks. It can also be fed to them to get rid of worms and parasites. AND it can be used on your garden plants to get rid of unwanted bugs looking for a snack! Who knew??? I will cover this and other organic methods I have found in another post.
*NOTE: If you are hatching chicks, have chicks, or chickens under 5 or 6 months then be sure to not use the cedar chips in your chicken house OR the Adams spray on your young chicks!!! VERY IMPORTANT!!!
So, now my chickens seem happy and healthy, again! YAY!!! I may dust them down with diatomaceous earth in a few days as an extra precaution and I plan on dusting the diatomaceous earth in their house every time I clean it out for the next few weeks. I want to to be sure to get rid of all of those mites!!! So, now I am wondering if the mites might be the reason why my chickens have not laid the first egg since I've gotten them??? We will see and that is another story...
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
When I was a little girl our family raised chickens mainly for eggs and fun. We did butcher a few, but found the chicken was tough, because our birds had room to roam and had plenty of muscle from exercise. After that gruesome experience, we quickly realized that collecting eggs and having them for breakfast was much more pleasant and tasty than eating tough chicken meat! When I became an adult, got married and moved to a suburban neighborhood, I always longed for fresh eggs that I could get right out of my own backyard. So, after my husband rebuilt our deck this summer and had a pile of old wood that was in fairly good condition, he suggested building a chicken coop and getting a few chickens. How excited I was to hear these words coming from my husband's mouth! So, after many restless nights full of anticipation and dreaming of my new chickens, my husband got the coop built and we painted it really cute and built a nice little yard for them and then on July 1, 2011, off to a chicken farmer we went to get our prize chickens! We got four: A three month old Blue Cochen, a 5 month old white Americana, a 5 month old Black Copper Maran, and a silly looking mixed breed chicken that was about 6 months old. I did a lot of research on chickens beforehand and one of my main goals was to find 4 chickens that laid 4 different color eggs so that I would know who was laying, who was not, AND BEST OF ALL have a nice array of colored eggs to put in my fridge and share with my neighbors. How exciting and fun this was going to be! As a child I only remember having to let the chickens out in the morning, and lock them up at night, keep their feeder full of food, occasionally throwing out table scraps into their yard to supplement their feed, and sharing fresh eggs with people in our community. So in my mind this chicken business was going to be easy! Well, now I have had my chickens almost two months and am beginning to realize that I have no idea what I am doing. I'm also wondering quite often what I have done! Maybe some of you out there living in a nice little neighborhood are also dreaming of getting chickens like I was or maybe you are like me now and have dove right in, bought your chickens, thinking that this would be easy and are now wondering if you temporarily lost your mind sometime before you got the chickens. So, I am writing this blog to help the new suburban chicken farmer with ideas from learned experiences and to get ideas from you. Also, I want to let the people who are dreaming about suburban chicken farming know the reality of it. While it is fun, I will admit it is a lot more work than I bargained for and I will get into this more as I add to this blog. I am excited about our future of sharing and laughing about our chicken stories!
By the way, did I mention that I found mites on my chickens yesterday? Yes, mites!!! Today I worked most of the morning in hopes of eradicating these tiny, microscopic, heeby jeeby creatures. If my chickens live through the night after using some things I'd have rather not have used on my semi-organic chickens, recommended by a local chicken expert, I will share them with you in my next blog.