Sunday, December 30, 2012

Grun Lays 2nd Egg!

We've waited 2 days since Grun's first egg.  It was a little of a disappointment as we were expecting a real dark egg.  Although it is flecked with dark pigment, it wasn't what I was hoping for.  Today, however, you can see the egg is afew shades darker.  Today's egg is on the left in the pictures above.  I know the dark eggs do fluctuate in intenseness based on time of year, molting status, etc.  I also read that the dark pigment is almost sprayed on at the end of the egg laying process.  When the bird lays lots of eggs, there is a tendancy to 'run out' of dark pigment so that the eggs are lighter.  Then, during molt when they do not lay, it gives the pigment a change to build back up in the bird's system and when she starts laying again, the pigment will be dark again.  Told in it's very unscientific way, this seems ludicris, but that is what the chicken experts say.  I will continue to monitor Grun's eggs to see if the color continues to change.  She is not expected to lay as much as the Barred Rocks, so hoping she gets on a schedule just like the others seem to be.  Prissy's day off is today as she laid the last 2 days.  She really seems to be sticking to her 2 days on/1 day off.  Her egg tomorrow will be here really early....before I go to work!

Update on the water warmer.  It works AWESOME!  Kenny went out last night about midnight to check and there was no sign of ice where they drink from.  He still will probably make some changes to the prototype, but for now, it's doing it's job quite well!

Lila's frosty legs.  He showed up on the back deck looking for a fight, I'm sure.  Nothing like being stalked by your rooster!

Have an EGGsellent New Years!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Frozen Water Woes

As our temperatures hover around freezing these days, we are getting more and more concerned about the waterer feezing up.  This morning, there was a crust of ice which I easily broke with my fingers and the chickens could easily break with a good peck.  I found directions to make a homemade heater, which sounded good because the ones in the stores cost about $40.

Check out the link for complete instructions!

We went to Lowe's to get the supplies we needed.  The tin was a little trickier.  Considering we are so close to Christmas, they are still available, but you need to hunt.  We tried JoAnn Fabrics since we were shopping nearby, but they did not have a tin that would work.  I went to Dollar Tree, knowing they sell them for the holidays and was able to get a round one like I was looking for.  It's a smaller diameter than our waterer, but it should work fine. 

My husband is a whiz with electical stuff since he majored in electronics in school, so it went together in no time flat. 

The bulb gives off alot of heat and even after only a short time, the tin was warm.  Maybe this will even help give them a little heat in their coop.  I worry about them, but I know their feathers keep them warm!  And the fact that they sleep 3 to a roost....they huddle together. 
Water heater 1.0
The tin is smaller than the base and Kenny said it was tippy.  So the waterer is resting on the wood pieces and there is a gap between the top of the tin and the base of the waterer.  We'll see how and if this is effective.  Future alterations may be necessary!

Chickens all ready for bed on their roost bars.  You can see who is top hen....the important ones usually shack up with Lila on the front bar.  The lower end girls get stuck in the back.  Usually they are 3 to a bar, but tonight there were 4 on the front bar.  I noticed Grun up front and she's usually in the back.  I guess since she laid her first egg the other day she gets special treatment!  She hasn't laid another since so we'll see when #2 shows up!

Night Night from the flock!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays, Cluckers!

Sorry it's been a while since I've updated.  Not much going on with the flock.  Things have been chugging along.  My Barred Rocks are still laying most days, Prissy gives us green eggs in a pattern:  2 days on, 1 day off.  The excitement today was finding 3 brown eggs.  Rosa's solid tan, Weissy's white flecked tan and the third was about the same shade of tan with dark brown flecks.  GRUN!  Pretty sure it's our Welsummer, Grun!  Welsummer eggs appear to be all over the board from flecked like we got, to dark and chocolate looking.  I'm in the process of looking to see if her eggs will change color of if this is the final coloring she will lay.  It does appear that the dark egg layers fluctuate coloring through the seasons.  The egg was streaked with quite a bit of blood, which is normal for a new layer, but none of the other chickens had this problem.  I hope she is ok....I didn't get to look at her tonight as we all got home after dark.  The one egg also had a small crack in the shell and I suspect it's contents froze.  Not a problem as the membrane isn't broke.  It will just be one of the first eggs we should use.  We also have to be very diligent now about checking the water.  Frozen water doesn't do the birds any good and in fact is very bad.  There are elements you can buy to keep the water from freezing and depending on how bad the struggle is, we might have to concede to buying one.  Now I feel like i should go out and take their water dish out for the night.  Without Lila attacking me!!!  (and no, he hasn't gotten any better either!)

Speaking of Lila, I noticed the other week that his spurs are starting to poke out of his nubs.  Not great news for me since he is like Rooster ninja with those legs.  Winter isn't so bad since I have jeans on, but he has left quite afew bruises on my legs thus far without the claws.  I am no closer to making friends with him than I was afew months ago, sad to say. 

I must say, with 3 regular layers, and not being huge egg eaters (I use for baking and we eat eggs maybe once a week or so)....that is a good mix for our family.  We end up with a dozen to spare every 2 weeks or so and have been presenting them to our friends and family.  I'm sure once the last 2 start regularly laying, we may even have more to give away.  It's a nice little gift!  I think people appreciate it!

Top left egg is Rosa's (Barred Rock and is solid tan).  Top right and bottom left is Weiss' (also Barred Rock and her is lighter tan flecked with white), Bottom right is Grun's egg.  Flecked with dark brown.

Glad I went out.....water was freezing up.  Brought in the waterer and good excuse to bleach it.  I'll give it back to them in the morning. 

Happy New Year Peeps!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Food Glorious Food!

Get that?  From my thesbian days---Oliver! 

Panorama Natural Feeds
Vernon Burkholder
85 Mud Run Road
Oley, PA 19547

You won't find a web page nor much more information other than this on a Google search.  I found a review on this place on by another local woman, who, like me, was looking for an organic product using no soy and no GMO's.  Today I ventured over to check out the place.

I pulled up to a typical Old Order Mennonite farm (Wenger's, as my newer order Mennonite neighbor's call them).  Equipment everywhere, but no rubber tires.  At first, I wasn't sure where I needed to go.  There was a sign on the same side of the road as the house and barn.  It said Panorama Natural Feeds and had a logo on it from a popular Natural/Organic company that now for the life of me I cannot remember!  I saw a large population of hogs in the barn.  Across the road from the house was a steel building with an open door and truck and trailer pulled up to it.  I figured I'd try there first.  Sure enough, I was at the right place.  The gentleman in the truck was helping to load huge plastic tubs, each filled with a different ingredient.  Cracked corn, grains, etc.  They had a huge mixing bag and were dumping things in and filling up other tubs.  I finally got to meet Vernon.  Now I am not sure what all Old Order men are like, but having dealings with the family down our road, I can say that the man is definitely the quietest.  His wife is very chatty and outgoing, the kids are sweet and always talk to me when I pass them by.  But I don't think the man of the house has said boo to me!  ((Ok, maybe because I when I see them I'm usually wearing shorts/tank tops and work out clothes!))  But anyway, Vernon was a lovely man.  Very sweet and smiling.  He took afew minutes to answer my questions and then got back to work. 

I figured out by talking to him that I will need the Organic Soy Free Layer feed.  It comes in an 80lb bag and costs $31.99.  The Purina Layena I currently buy is $17.99 for 50lbs (and all protein is soy (non-animal) and all corn is GMO, of course.  The Organic is no GMO's and no soy.  Protein is all animal based.  Chickens really are omnivores, they eat bugs and worms, their own eggs and feathers.  They are pretty much their own compost bins.  So the fact that Purina is saying they don't need meat based protein sounds pretty crazy to me.  Anyway, divide it out and here's what it costs:  $2.77/lb for the Purina Layena and DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!  $2.50/lb for the ORGANIC, GMO FREE locally grown and milled feed.  Hmmmmm....yeah, I know we are making the right decision.  Funny how when I asked at the feed store about their organic feeds (months ago) I was told their organic feed is about 2 times the price of the Purina.  Little did I know similar quality can be had sourcing out your own, locally mixed feed!  So exciting.  I combined the bags of Layena we had and we have almost a full bag at this point, so I would think I am looking to start the organic product in a month or 2.  I figure I have bought 1 bag medicated chick starter, 2 bags unmedicated chick starter, and 2 bags of Layena since May.  That's about $100 worth of feed (not including a bag of Scratch Grains and small bags of gravel and oystershells).  We may have gotten about 4 dozen eggs so far, 5 tops.  That's some expensive eggs!! 

I'm just glad that I know my chickens are spoiled and happy and are having a great life with us.  Everytime I drive past a commercial chicken operation (or Turkey farms that are off the turnpike in the Lehigh Valley), I think of all those poor creatures that live in tight and horrible conditions.  They never will know what it's like to be danced to by their protecting rooster, stretch their wings and legs and run/fly up the sand mound in search of bugs/greens and the neighbor's slop pile in the back of their yard.  Our birds are so sweet and each has their own personality.  Everytime little Rosa defends me to that mean ol' Lila, I just melt.  I think hanging with the flock definitely lowers your blood pressure and relaxes you.  Even when you have to block the evil one from vicious attacks!  ;)

Lovin' life on our mini-farm. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Multi-colored Basket

We are enjoying finding eggs everyday!  We think we have our 'blue egg layer' pegged as Prissy.  We have seen no signs of Grun and Flower laying at this point.  Hopefully soon!  Prissy lays an egg a day for afew days, then skips a day or two before starting up again.  Weiss is pretty steady for an egg a day, and Rosa will occasionally skip a day.  At this point, we can pretty much expect 2-3 eggs per day.  We will never tire from finding our blue eggs.
2 Breeds of chickens lay blue eggs:  Araucana and Ameraucana.  Araucana are 'rumpless' chickens:  do not have tail feathers.  Ameraucana's are known for their muffs or beards.  Our Ameraucana's came from a hatchery and according to breeders of these birds, hatchery stock are most likely mutts.  That means the Ameraucana was bred with any old chicken resulting in 'non breed standard' colorings etc.  As long as a bird has the 'blue egg gene', it will produce colored eggs.  These mutts are referred to by Chicken People as Easter Eggers.  One other interesting thing I have found out is that pure breed Ameraucanas or Araucana's will produce a light blue egg.  If the chicken is mixed with a brown egg laying breed, the brown is actually over the blue which makes the egg 'green'.  Upon inspection of a cracked egg, I can confirm that the inside of our green eggs really are blue.  You can really see the brown in the egg that makes it appear green when you compare the inside of the egg to the outside of the egg.  In order to get pure blue eggs, you most likely will have to seek out a breeder.  
"The Ameraucana Breeders Club defines an Easter Egg chicken or Easter Egger as any chicken that possesses the blue egg gene, but doesn’t fully meet any breed descriptions as defined in the APA and/or ABA standards. Further, even if a bird meets an Ameraucana standard breed description, but doesn’t meet a variety description or breed true at least 50% of the time it is considered an Easter Egg chicken."  Ameraucana Breeders Club website

Another thing to note for those who have never seen a blue or green egg.  Egg shell color does not mean anything in regards to nutritional value.  Brown vs White vs Blue.  You pay more for brown eggs only because brown egg laying breeds don't produce as many eggs as frequently as a white laying egg breed (that would be used in commercial operations).  Many of these breeds are hybrid chickens bio-engineered to produce a high number of eggs.  The thing about raising your own birds is that you can select a lovely mixed flock of heirloom breeds that will compliment your yard and your egg carton.  Plus we won't have to color eggs at easter!  Au Natural!

Our 2 Easter Eggers are also the lowest girls in the social ladder.  They get picked on by the Barred Rocks and the Rooster.  Everyone seems to get along, but if you really watch them interact and see who sleeps where, you can figure out who's who in popularity.  It's quite facinating!

2 more girls to go!  Can't wait!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Observations from a Beautiful Day!

I spent most of this beautiful day in my kitchen doing what I like open, incense burning creating some wonderful things to eat.  I made and iced cupcakes, made a huge batch of meat spaghetti sauce..(I'd share that recipe, but I'd have to kill you!  Acutally, I was given a guideline to follow when I first started making it and now I pretty much do my own thing.), then I made kale and beans (another new favorite...first time trying it with kale...I used broccoli rabe the first time).  As you can expect......I spent my day throwing all the scraps to the birds!  Everytime I went outside, I had a little something to share with them!  Kenny spent his day shooting his new BB Gun and later, cleaning the entire coop out.  He even scrubbed the walls inside.  Those birds are messy and we figure this could be the last warm spell we get for a long time.  The birds were out all day and we noticed that it delayed their laying.  Our first egg today was from the Easter Egger....I'm pretty sure it's Prissy who's laying it.  Later, Rosa did her thing....and much later we found Weissy in the box.  3 eggs today!  Prissy skipped yesterday.  Hope she keeps an every other day schedule.  I do not expect her to lay as often as the Barred Rocks. 

The girls were fun to watch today.  They were all bathing in the dirt.  At one point, 3 of them were all crowded around Prissy's spot together (from pic the other day).  Needless to say, all of this bathing and scratching is starting to wear the yard.  It's going to be a long winter!  We have had no chicken destruction thus far, but all the books warn you.  I think this time of the year is just bad as grass and things are pretty much done for the season.  I took the opportunity to sprinkle some Diatomacious Earth in the spot so they would cover themselves with it and help if they have any lice or mites.  I haven't noticed anything with them, but I figure it would be a good preventative.   

We watched the girls scratching up their garden and watched closely as Rosa uncovered a worm and quickly slurped it up....just like a spaghetti noodle!  Genny and I were impressed with her hunting ability and Genny said, "She's so smart!".  Indeed she is!  I remember when they were chicks in the brooder.  The kids and I would scour for worms after the rain and bring them for the birds.  They would go nuts fighting over them.  Glad to see they are now finding their own worms.  :) 

Lila was also his pain in the butt self today.  He came after me afew times and also bit Genny.....most likely because I was nearby.  He cannot be trusted.  Kenny was tempted to put a BB to his head!  hahaha  He was put in the pen early (due to his misbehaved self) and when it was getting dusk, I heard him making his alert call.  He was calling the girls to bed, but they couldn't get in the coop because the door was closed!  I opened the door and they all rushed in to scramble for their spot on the roost bars.  Just as I said goodnight, the party lights came on!  Party in the in the coop!  I just can't help getting exciting when the solar rope lights kick on!  hahaha

Productive day in Chickenville!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

And then there were 3!!!

I love surprises...but I hate waiting!

Once you get over the fact that the girls are all subject to their own biological clocks and their own genetics, it's a little easier to check the nest boxes every day without going crazy for the next girl to start laying.  It is disappointing enough to go from 2 eggs a day back to 1 for a few days.  It seems like Weiss is the most reliable layer.  Rosa does ok for afew days, then misses a day or 2.  We've also had afew shell-less eggs here and there.  Yesterday when I least suspected anything different, I checked the box to find 3 eggs!!!!  Rosa and Weissy's light brown eggs PLUS A GREEN EGG!  Not sure if it came from Prissy or Flower at this point, but so excited to see it and boy is it beautiful!  No one has laid yet today, so not sure if it will continue.  The Barred Rocks are a heavier layer than the Ameraucana's, so I'm not expecting an egg a day from them.  We'll see how it goes! 

Rooster woes.

Lila has become a monster.  He is down right evil.  I'm trying to give him a chance, but he is just aggresive and constantly attacking me.  The other day, Kenny got home from work just as I was in the shed getting some scratch.  All the girls followed me and were waiting just outside the door for their treat.  Lila was pacing behind them giving me the evil eye.  I was scared to leave because I knew he'd come at me.  When Kenny got there, he chased him away and the 2 of them were over at the entrance to the coop.  I thought I was safe and started walking to the side of the coop so I could throw the scratch in the run for them to pick at in there.  That quick, Lila came flying from the backside of the coop and attacked me.  It caught me so off guard that scratch went flying everywhere as I tried to fend him off.  It was my wake up call.  I did nothing to provoke him and in fact was no where near him when he started his attack.  It makes me sad that he cannot be nice.  Today, I barely cracked open the door to slide in a bowl of treats and he came at my hand and left a mark with his claw.  I've been watching alot of youtube videos on culling chickens these days.  I think I could do it.  Butchering Lila would open a whole opportunity.  I can envision buying some broiler chicks next year, raising them for 10 weeks and butchering them all for the freezer....hmmmm.  Well, I keep wanting to give Lila a chance, but he is just a mean and nasty bird.  The girls really seem to like him, but the other day, as punishment, I let all the girls out of the coop and made him stay in.  I didn't want to fend off more attacks.  He was pissed and paced back and forth like a raging bull making his little pissed off noises.  The girls didn't wander at all and stayed near the coop foraging (made easy by the scratch I spilled during the attack the day before).  They are so sweet and come to me when I call them.  I think he is just one jealous creature. 


I love giving the chickens kitchen scraps depending on what I am cooking for us.  I will not give them moldy or spoiled things, but I waited too long to use my asparagus last week and I gave them all the soft stalks and end trimmings.  Things like that.  I also refrain from giving them breads and other 'processed' food items.  I finally made a trip to my favorite discount grocery place.  It's called Amelia's Grocery Outlet.  It's a small regional chain that buys closeouts, expired or expiring items from other stores, overruns, seconds and more.  It's one of those slightly sketchy places where you need to be diligent about checking dates on things.  I don't mind things that only recently expired....but if it expired a year ago, forget it.  Also, most of their dairy items are really sketchy and I usually don't buy much because of it.  BUT....I do know that expiration dates on dairy...more specifically yogurt are really conservative.  So I do not throw away my recently expired yogurt, I eat them.  But I don't buy it already expired.  I went today with a mission of restocking my pantry with cereal (excellent deals on cereal which is just way over priced in regular grocery stores!), canned tomatoes and things I use to make pasta sauce, plus other odds and ends.  I also had a bag to donate to a canned food drive for the boyscouts, so I picked up some pasta, jarred sauce and some cans of veggies to donate.  I was hoping to score some chicken when I got to a rack of marked down items and found 2 cauliflower heads marked to 99 cents because they were slightely browning, I picked them up.  Never gave the girls cauliflower so was hoping it would be a hit.  Then, as I continued into the dairy section, I kept my fingers crossed for some cheap expired yogurt.  It's good for their guts, just like ours and I gave them some Chobani I found in the back of my fridge that had expired a month before I found it.  They loved it.  Imagine how giddy I was to find the large containers of PLAIN for 50 cents each!!!  I bought 7 of them!  I really wanted plain to avoid all the excess sugar in the heavily processed glad I found some!!!  Here are some pics for the feedy frenzy.

Rosa with yogurt beak.
Mean old Lila.

Prissy takes the opportunity to take a dirt bath.  She's very cute to watch as she clears the hole she makes and settles in.  Fluffs her feathers in the dirt, then tidys up the area around her.  Chickens are adorable! 

Closing note on behavior....

I bought a new chicken book, which is by far the most candid and comprehensive book I have found to date.  Everythiing is covered even a full pictoral of the killing and butchering process.  The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers.  This book is totally worth a read and has tons of info from preparing for your chicks to how to butcher and dress to instructions for a dust box.  I recommend it to anyone interested in venturing into their own chicken rearing. 

Anyway, according to the author, alot of modern Roosters have lost the instinctual moves they should have in ways of mating.  He actually will not let any rooster who doesn't 'dance' for his mates reproduce and most likely, they will end up in his stock pot.  Years of breeding to make chickens meatier and 'better' for people have put a damper on their natural instincts.  I'm happy to say our rooster (jerk that he is) is a wonderful dancer and courts all his girls just like he should.  It's very cute to watch him do is thing.  His little stomps just make me smile.  Even more funny is when he does it to Genny!  Now....if only I could convince him I'm not the enemy here.  I have my work cut out for me.

Failing Rooster Tamer

Saturday, November 3, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Well, I promised some recipes and I'm finally doing something worthy of sharing!  I'm stepping out of my comfort box today and trying some new things.  We got up early today and hit afew farmers markets/flea markets.  In our travels, we passed the orchard down the street from my office.  So we stopped in and picked up about 12 lbs of 'seconds' for $4.  The woman actually mixed varieties specifically for my applesauce idea!  I decided to try 2 different recipes.  The first one is Cranberry Applesauce.  Lucky for me, I found cranberries at the market!  The benefit for the chickens?  CHICKEN TREATS!  They get the cores and scraps.  GET THE RECIPE HERE!

Straining the cooked sauce. 
I will also be making regular sauce for the kiddos.  Trent liked the slightly tart cranberry apple, but Genny said she did not.  The recipe called for 2 cups cranberries, and the bag held about 3.  I didn't beef up the sugar because I don't like lots of sugar in my apple sauce.  Here is the recipe I am going to make with the remainder of the apples:
This time I will peel the skins so I can just mash.  I prefer a chunky style sauce.  The strainer did work great and I'm glad I tried it! 
The other project I did today was make some pickles!  Here is the recipe I used:
I made two 1/2 gallon jars of it (2 recipes).  I added more vinegar to the jars to completely cover the cucumbers/onions just to be safe.  The only thing it didn't specify is how long to let them cure before eating!  I guess I'll keep having taste tests!  I'm the only one who eats pickles in my house....lucky me!
Yes, I did hand slice them and all my fingers are still intact!  BONUS!
Finished product.  Got 2 jars and still have 2 cukes left.  They are think there is no way you will have enough but as you start cutting it's as if the whole thing starts expanding!
My final word for today is this.  My husband is going through some kind of crisis.  Today he spent $22 on a bb gun (for himself) at the flea market.  Then he bought Trent a $2 toy air rifle.  Trent hasn't put it down all day.  I'm not so into the guns thing.  Wasn't raised with them and think they are dangerous and not for kids.  BUT....if that stinkin Lila comes at me one more time.....he's gonna take a bb to his arse!!!  Genny was holding him today and I was checking him out.  He took the opportunity to peck me on the forehead and of course, it is a minor flesh wound.  This means war.

Going to disinfect...I don't know where that cock has been.....  ;)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thar She Blows!

Hope everyone is doing well and not hit too hard from the hurricane!  I was very worried for our feathered friends.  Monday, when the storm was scheduled to hit, I went to work to get some time in.  I left the birds in their run and figured I'd close them up in the henhouse when I got back.  By the time I got home from work, the rain had already started and I spent alot of time rounding them up.  As I'd get them into the henhouse, another would try to jump out.  It was a vicious cycle and the last to go was Lila.  I was trying to coax him up with the girls and he kept coming at me.  (It's getting old)  I think I spent 1/2 hour out there trying to get they all shut in.  At least, it felt like a long time!  Meanwhile, their feathers were all wet from being out in the blowing rain.  I guess they aren't too smart.  I figured they'd put themselves away when the weather got bad.  Now I know!  Anyway, worried about them all night in the high winds.  Not only did the coop not falter, they seemed all too excited to come out when I left them out later the next day when the wind died down to a dull roar. 

Production Update

We are still averaging 2 brown eggs per day.  Every now and then we skip a day or 2 of the second egg.  I have gotten one more soft egg and another that was softer than normal, but you could actually pick it up and the shell was calcified.  Wishing the other girls would start laying, but we'll take what we get.  I haven't had to buy eggs since they started laying and we've even taken some to share with our camping friends the other week.  I've still been using the same carton as I've been using as they've been laying.  So much for the huge pile of cartons I've been saving since the chick days!  Hoping at some point we will have more eggs to spare.  Would like to be generous with our gifts! 

The party lights have been turned off.  We noticed that they actually stay lit all night.  I'm doubting that it affects their sleep, but Kenny turned the switch off.  Once the clocks change this weekend I will think about turning them on again.  We'll see how it goes. 


One of my high school friends graciously gave me an open bag of Purina Layena she had purchased to feed a white turkey who was living in her neighborhood.  The turkey met an untimely death as dinner to a fox.  Since she knew about our chickens, she asked if I wanted it.  Being the same feed they are currently on, we accepted.  That will delay me starting them on their organic diet.  When I am ready for more feed, I will definitely be hitting up the Amish man down in Oley.  I'll definitely try to document that expedition.  :)

Thanks for checking in! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Patience and Preparation


We are still waiting for the remainder of the girls to start laying.  The Barred Rocks have been providing us with 1-2 eggs per day.  We did have 2 days with only 1 egg last week and one of those days also left us with 2 soft shell eggs under the roost bars.  The shell looked the same color as the good eggs, but I didn't think it was possible for a chicken to lay more than one egg a day.  Not sure what was going on with that.  So far, we've gotten 2 double yolkers!  They are much bigger than the medium size of the regular eggs.  It's neat to crack them open to reveal the 2 yolks!  From what I've read, it's pretty common with Barred Rocks. 
One of our 'soft shelled' eggs.  The weight of the liquid just crushed the shell as I tried to pick them up.  This one was broken....not sure if it was stepped on or dropped from the roost bar.  The other one was intact abut close to this in the poop box under the roost area.  Both of these shells seemed to be the same shade as the light brown eggs we've been getting from the Barred Rocks, however, chickens really can only lay one egg per day 24-36 hours what gives?  Not sure if they came from one or 2 of the other girls...but I would think they'd be tinted green/blue if they came from the Easter Eggers.  We'll just have to keep waiting!

The Winter Winds Will Soon Be Blowing.....

Starting to get ready for winter.  We have a few projects we'd like to work on.  I got a bail of straw today and lined the bottom of the run with it.  Hoping this gives the birds some insulation and protection from the muddy and at some point snowy ground.  Those bails are deceptive!  I came home with one and thought I would probably have to get another.  When I cut the twine, it seemed to double in size!  I saved some in the shed to add as this stuff gets compacted. 

Kenny secured the party lights up around the top of the coop.  It looks nice.  He ran the rope out the ventillation hole and mounted the solar piece up top.  It seems to keep the coop lit pretty late.  Hope it's bright enough to make a difference for the layers! 

One other thing we will soon be doing is cutting up a tarp/cloth to cover some of the exposed parts of the run for a wind blocker.  I'd feel bad keeping the birds locked up in the coop all winter, so if it gives them a place to be outside for a bit, it will be good.  I'm trying to think ahead of the blowing snow.  I have a feeling cleaning the coop might be difficult once the freezing sets we will probably just add more wood chips as the winter goes on and then do a good cleaning come spring. 

One other thing we need to figure out is how to keep their water from freezing.  We still have a little time....

Preparing for a blustery day....


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Party Lights Update!

The party lights are charging!  I don't even have the charger in direct's on the top of the coop but under the translucent roof.  Not sure how long they stay lit, and they aren't super bright, but it works for now! 

After skipping one day, we are back up to 2 eggs per day.  :)  Still waiting for the other girls to start cranking them out!

Night Night!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Get This Party Started!

Winter is getting here fast and we need to come up with a plan to add artificial lighting to the coop to ensure the girls produce consistantly over the winter.  We have an extension cord run out to the coop and used it early in the season with the red heat light when the chicks first moved outside.  They won't need additional heat these days since they are fully feathered and hopefully they will transition well to the cooler temps.  We have already closed up their 'windows' to prevent drafts as they sit on the roost bars.  We have a hole in the top of the coop for ventillation and their door is open to the coop, so I figure that should be adequate.  Experiment #1.  (maybe we won't need a #2, but we shall see!)  We found a cheap rope light that is solar.  We use solar lights when we camp, so we know you can't expect them to stay lit all night and they aren't super bright.  But it will add some light for afew hours after dark which is really all we need.  So is it going to be bright enough?  Not sure.  Supposedly, they don't need bright and a 40 watt bulb will suffice.  I hung the rope through a loop in their feed dish that hangs from the ceiling and put it out the door with the solar charger on the roof.  Will check it tomorrow to see if it's getting sun to charge.  There is a soft glow coming out of the door which I can see in my bedroom.  Now if I sneak out to check on them and they are passing around jello shots, I would not be suprised!  ;)  My kids were singing "WHO LET THE CHICKENS OUT...WHO WHO WHO WHO" as I 'installed' the lights! 

We did not get a 2nd egg today.  :(  I'm sure it will continue to be inconsistant as the girls get used to their schedules. 

Doing the Funky Chicken

Sunday, October 7, 2012

GMO's, Soy, and Organic...OH MY!

Our chicks have been on Purina Mills feeds since their arrival as wee chicks.  Although I feel Purina has great products....I am very skeptical on 'big business' products.  We took in a cat early last year.  He was about 2 years old and was found pan handling at my co-worker's house, not far from us as the crow flies.  We agreed to take him in.  He was an ear-tipped kitty so was probably an inside/outside cat or a totally outside cat.  He's super sweet and friendly but he had horrible gas.  Like clear the room 3-4 times a day gas.  I gave him afew weeks to get used to his new diet of Iams, which is what I had my other cat eating.  It did not seem to make a difference.  Out of desperation and after some research, I learned many kitties have allergies to grains.  Well, if you pull out any brand of cat food....they are all loaded with grains!  When is the last time you saw a kitty hanging out in a wheat field?  Oh, they were probably just looking for a mouse!  Cats eat meat.  So I ended up finding a brand that makes totally grain free cat food.  There are potatoes and other nutritious vegetables and meat protein, but no grains.  Guess what?  I rarely smell him these days.  I always thought of Iams as a high quality food.  But after paying attention to the actual ingredients, I have to agree that the pet food industry doesn't always seem to be acting in the best interest for the pets. 

I'm thinking the same thing is true in the farm animal industry as well.  If I am going to the trouble of raising my own chickens, I want to get eggs that are far superior to what I can buy in the supermarket.  SO far, I have discovered that organic feed quite possibly will be a better solution than big commerical feeds.  Most organic feed producers are smaller operations.  Also, it seems to me, that the Organic certification system works very much like the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) system which I am very involved with at my job.  Every piece of FSC wood can be traced back to the forest it came from via the 'Chain of Custody'.  The forest in turn follows a strict list of practices to ensure sustainability and well managed forestry.  I also can tell you that our certification cost our company $15,000 over 3 years and includes annual inspections.  That's alot of money for a small company.  So it doesn't surprise me that when I caught wind of a local Amish farmer mixing his own 'organic' feed and it is not a 'certified' organic product.  I intend to visit his farm in the future to find out about his feed and I am gathering info right now so I know what I want in the feed and I plan on interviewing him about his product.  Besides soy free (which i heard his feed is) and non-GMO, I also am interested in having Diatomaceous Earth as an ingredient.  Diatomaceous Earth is a wonderful thing.  It is used to help prevent caking in feed, but it is also a natural pesticide and also treats/prevents internal parasites.  Look it up on's amazing and used for so many things.  I can offer food grade diatomaceous earth to my chickens for their dirt bath and it will help with mites and lice prevention.  If ingested, will help keep them free for internal parasites and is a natural wormer.  I plan on stopping by to visit him in the near future and will report back on what I find.  The organic feed I can buy at the feed mill will probably be suitable, but it will cost 2 times as much as the Purina I have them on now.  The price from the Amish farmer will end up being the same....but for 30 lbs more of feed, so that is a significant savings. 

One other thing to mention on Certified Organic.  They get a little squirrelly when committing to the GMO issue.  Certified Organic does not allow the use of GMO/Bioengineered plants.....but they cannot say that 100% that there is no GMO in their products because of the fact of CROSS POLLINATION.  Scarry.  Hope that some day soon we follow Europe and ban the GMO's.  Agriculture is BIG BIG business.  Do you know what your food is made of??


Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Quiche Police

Lila is really trying my patience.  He is constantly ready to sneak attack and not a day goes by that I don't have to shove my foot in his chest.  It seems abusive, but the little guy is fierocious!  He doesn't attack the kids, so that is his only saving grace.  I've seen him on the Barred Rocks alot this week, so he is having a good time mating.  Hope he calms down soon!  I did notice Big Weissy has a bloody peck mark in her comb so I hope he isn't too rough.  Poor girls.  He's a good protector but such a bully.  It's sad because he was our favorite chick.  I feel like he's turned on us!  hahaha

Today is exactly 2 weeks since Weissy started laying.  She's been consistantly laying 1 egg per day.  This morning, after hearing some ruckous in the hen house, I went out to see them.  All but one were in the run.  Rosa was in the coop.  I could hear her making some soft quiet clucks.  She was definitely in the nest box.  I opened the coop door and they all ran out....Rosa quickly came down the ramp and exited.  I went right to the nest box and low and behold...A WARM EGG!  So Rosa laid!  So now I'm confused as I figured Weissy was our steady layer.  An hour or so later, I told Genevieve to check the nests again.  There is was!  Egg #2.  So after 2 weeks of a single hen (Weissy) laying daily....Rosa has laid her first egg!  I would assume we will be getting 2 daily now.  At some point, they will slow up as I believe their breed gives about 250 a year.  So exciting!  Now 3 more hens to go and it will only get more exciting as Prissy and Flower could lay green, blue or pink eggs and Grun is supposed to lay a spectacular terracotta/chocolate egg.  Lots of fun stuff going on in our little flock.  We really have to get on the extended day lighting at this point.....

Quiche baker and chicken enthusiast

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Poop On The Coop

Coop Building 101

Here is the link to info on the book where we found our coop design:

There were many coop designs in this book.  We also kept in mind the climate these coops were made for as the coop owners were from all over the country.  What works in Florida, will not work in Pennsylvania, obviously.  Other sources for coop designs are online and looks like many plans are available for sale.  Look at LOTS of coop designs and see what you like and don't like about them and start narrowing down from there.  Some people turn old sheds or dog houses into coops and other people erect a brand new structure like we did. 

After much consideration, we decided we liked the covered run idea of this coop and Kenny started to roll with it.  He enjoys building things and is very mechanical.  I do not recommend this project to anyone who doesn't have patiences for long hours of manual labor!!!  You can buy very nice pre- made coops, if you are willing to spend a little more than we did.  Look at the Amish stores that sell sheds, Tractor Supply Co., local farm and feed stores, etc. 

The Cut List

This book appeared that it had it all together.  Upon closer inspection, Kenny quickly realized that it had failed miserably in the Cut List department.  Sure it listed materials.  There was no handy list telling you exactly what you need at Lowe's and he soon found that some of the measurements listed couldn't be trusted.  When you are buying supplies on your Lowe's card and hoped to purchase all at once to qualify for the 12 months no interest, it was a fail because we had to make multiple trips after the first trip.  All in all, we figure the complete cost of our project was about $1000 and I can't even estimate the man hours involved.  It was very labor intensive!


The coop design we chose did not have a built out nest box.  That was one thing we both decided was handy.  So Kenny altered the design to incorporate the bumped out nest box with access lid.  He also made some minor changes to the 2 roost bars from the original design.  Another major thing....knowing our winters get cold, he decided to insulate our coop.  Each wall is lined with foam insulation and sandwiched between sheets of T-111, which is weather resistant.  Hoping this helps the birds stay warmer in the winter.  All the breeds we selected are hardy cold weather varieties and suitable to our climate. 

How Many Birds?

The most important issue with figuring out what coop you want is to decide how many birds you want to house.  You need afew s.f. per bird and I don't remember off hand the specific number....but it can easily be found on the internet.  You also need 1 nest box per so many birds.  We have 2 nest boxes which will easily accomodate our 5 hens (we planned on 6 hens, but Lila snuck in there!).  We figure we could house 8 birds comfortably so if we want to add to the flock, we have room for 2 more.


Please feel free to leave a question or comment below!  It will A)  let me know someone is actually reading this and B) this was a very quick summary.  Kenny handled the dirty work, so if there is something technical about the project you'd like to know, I will find out the answers from him for you!


Enough with the talk....let's see some pictures!

Hope you enjoyed our 'Tour de Coop'! 
We are still only getting 1 egg a day, consistantly.  11 days in a row.  Hope the rest of the girls start laying soon!
Patiently waiting....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Chicken Whisperer.

Someday, that one person comes along that you thought you could never live without.
Lila thought so too!
Our little chicken keeper is doing a great job.  Genevieve has really gone above and beyond to help out with the flock.  She'll change their water, give them treats and fill their food.  She has such a beautiful, gentle way about her.  It's fun to watch her interact with the flock.  This morning, it dawned on me that something was very different in the way Lila treated her vs me or any other human.  While most of us are ready for the sneak attack, Genevieve was able to slowly and gently slink into the flock and stood right by Lila.  Instead of his usual puff out his neck feathers, give the hairy eyeball and start flapping and attacking.....I watched him circle around holding his wings up and one dragging towards the ground.  Then he took his legs and did a little stomp right at Genny's feet, continued with one single peck of the beak at her leg and then he backed off only to come back and do it all over again.  It was very sweet and not malicious, like it appears when he's in all out attack mode.  Genny stood still and spoke softly to him as he went through his dance. 
The key word here is DANCE.  He WAS dancing!  He was courting my 8 year old!!!  Facinating as it was, I have to admit it was a bit creepy.  I am very relieved that he wasn't being aggressive towards her, but WOW!!!  When I told her what I thought was happening, she smiled a big ol' jack o lantern smile.  She loves that she is adored by her rooster. 
I was able to confirm my suspicions by posting a thread on my favorite chicken board.  Yep, he indeed was courting Genevieve.  We witnessed him doing the same thing with the hens later. 
You never know where you will find always seems to sneak up on you!

Another tidbit about the bird's names.  Our kids had been taking an after school German Enrichment Class put on by their school district's high school German teacher.  They decided to name the chicks German colors.    Lila (LEE la) is purple, Grun (GROON) is green, Weiss (Veiss) is white, Rosa is pink,  I insisted one be named Prissy thanks to Foghorn Leghorn and Flower came from a wild turkey we found hanging in our yard afew years ago.  The kids called it Flower and they decided to reuse the name.  :)


Last night, I forgot to lock the coop door, so by the time I went down to lock them up for the night it was well past dark.  Our neighbors have gotten a new kitten and he lives outside.  He was out on the steps earlier and I assumed he went home since I didn't hear him crying anymore.  This morning, the girls were being pretty squawky and I'm not usually home at 10am, so I thought there might be an egg in the box and what I was hearing was happy mommy noises.  I check the box...nothing.  As I turn the corner I see what all the squawking was about.....

Pumpkin Pie as he is called quickly ran out the door and under our shed.  It appears that the chickens knew he didn't belong there, but they didn't give him a hard time about being there.  Hope he wasn't too traumatized!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Egg Report

We are officially at the one week mark of laying.  For the last 7 days, we have gotten 1 egg per day, light brown (from one of the Barred Plymouth Rocks).  I suspect it is from Weiss, as she is slightly larger and seemed to be growing faster than Rosa.  I can not be 100% sure as I have not caught the layer in the act.  The first 6 eggs were probably 'medium' in size.  I tend to buy large eggs and they were definitely smaller than that.  Today (day 7), the egg I found was significantly larger in my hand.  When I put it in the carton with the other few from the last couple of days it was indeed larger.  I did have chicken rearing friends tell me that it is not uncommon for new layers to lay an egg a day to start.  Also read that eggs could be smaller, deformed, missing the shell, etc.  All 7 eggs have been perfect.  The 3 I cracked were nice and strong and insides looked great.  Hoping at least one more starts laying in the next week!  Everyday is an adventure and we have so much excitement for our little hens. 

A few websites I like for your perusal.  Loads of info and forums to discuss all things poultry. Check out the FarmRaised channel on You Tube starring P. Allen Smith!  Not just chickens and lots of good info. Another good website.  I think you can order chicks from them as well.

If you are a researcher like will want to check out these books.  A lovely book with nice photos documenting one woman's 3 chicks from hatching to laying.  I am still referencing it!  Great book with detailed info on what chickens can and can't eat and what plants have medicinal properties and can help out your flock.  I didn't buy this book, but found it in the library.  Good info and authors are from the most chicken friendly city in the country (and my favorite place ever), Portland OR.  Lots of chicken coop designs and plans.  Our coop came from this book with some modifications.  I will try to document more on that later.

It's 11:15 pm, pitch black outside and nothing but crickets chirping.....and Lila just crowed. What the heck!  The chicken adventure never ends!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dieting is for the birds...

Dieting is for the birds.....

Every mother-to-be wants the best for their babies.  You start off with all the best intentions.  Breast pumps, cloth diapers, making your own baby food.  Yeah, it sounds good in theory!  I didn't have luck in the lactation department (or maybe I am too high strung to relax enough for nature to work on it's own?) and I certainly didn't have time for cloth diapers or making my own baby food thanks to a full time job.  BUT, I understand that feeling of wanting to do all the right things.  I felt the same way with our baby chicks!  We did much research on how to make a suitable brooder and how to make a sturdy nice coop that would keep our babies safe. (more on that in a future discussion)  Now we are faced with what to feed and nourish our girls and boy with.  There is so much out there it can make your head swoon.  I think I've been swooning over the feed issue since May.  We started the chicks on the medicated chick starter from Purina (red bag).  Medicated does NOT mean antibiotics.  The medicine actually helps give the chicks a good start and helps prevent a nasty disease that will kill them called Coccidiosis.  I didn't want to mess with mother nature, so decided this was the best option to guarantee healthy chicks.  When you only start with 6, there is no room to lose 1 or 2.  They stayed on this feed until about 8 weeks.  Then they continued on with the unmedicated chick starter feed in the yellow bag. 

Knowing they were getting ready to lay at about 18 weeks.  I went to the feed store to purchase their 'adult' rations.  Chick feed has higher protein for growth and the layer feed has higher calcium needed to make eggs.  After talking with the clerk (the employees are all college graduates educated in animal management), she convinced me that I should stick with the standard Purina Layena.  The Layena is about $17/ 50 lb bag.  Going with an organic feed would cost twice as much and didn't seem worth the added expense.  So I left with the Layena.  I am currently mixing what is left of the chick crumbles with the adult pellets until the chick feed is all used up.  Also, only 1 chick is laying so far, so this way the others are still getting some extra protein.  I still can't rest over this decision to use commercially made food.  I mean, if you are going to the hassle to 'grow your own', you should know what is going into your animals and in turn, into you.  But I couldn't see spending double on feed for 'organic'.  After hanging out on some boards, I have found a local amish farm that mixes their own feed.  They make organic feed (but it isn't certified) and also use NO SOY.  They use fish meals which is good since chickens are omnivores.  The Purina feeds boast that there is no animal proteins in them, which means it's all soy based proteins.  Soy has been on the chopping blocks lately and I tend to agree that it is just not the best way to go.  Also, GMO's are most definitely used in commercially mixed feeds.  I talked to a rep from a local feed mill and he confirmed that GMO's are in everything.  The amish man sells an 80 lb bag of his special organic, soy free feed for about $30.  So it's not that much more.  I'm going to seek him out when I am ready for the next bag. 

Polly want a cracker?  Snacks and Treats.

Other things to think about regarding the birds diets.  The birds are living compost bins!  I love (and they in turn love me!) giving them treats from my kitchen.  Any organic scrap....strawberry tops, celery trimmings.  Anything you can think of minus afew toxic items (like my avocado skins).  It certainly is making me choose healthier foods for us with the benefit of surprising our feathered friends with some yummy treats!  When I clean their litter, I dump it all in our compost bin.  Hoping that in a year we will be ready to start a small garden and will have some nice compost to get started.  You cannot use chicken poop for about a year because of the ammonia will burn your plants.  But once it composts for about a year, you are good to go.  The other snack the birds love is 'Scratch'.  It's a great treat to lure them and now they know where I keep it and they follow me to the shed.  I also coax them down to their coop and throw a handful in and they run right in.  Much better than chasing them around to catch them!  They are quite squirrely now that they are full grown!  Scratch is kind of like crack for them and there isn't much nutrients in it, so I use it sparingly.  Don't want them to fill up on the scratch! 

The other important item in the bird's diet....GRIT.  If you've ever had a pet bird, you will understand.  Birds have gizzards and they need literally stones in their gizzards to grind up their food.  Birds that free range all the time should have ample opportunity to find stones to fill their gizzards up, but supplementing with grit is the best way.  I usually throw some in the pen so they can pick it free choice.  It literally is ground up granite!  Crazy! 

Thanks for stopping by and hope you learned something!  I definitely have learned to really look into what is in your food and what is in the food your food is eating!  YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT...AND WHAT THEY EAT!

Cockadoodle doo!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What the Cluck? 

                                                           Chicks a day or 2 old when we picked them up.  They don't stay little long!

Greetings and thanks for stopping by!  I want to start by saying that after afew years of begging and pleading to get chickens, I finally swayed my other half on the project.  We are now 5 months into this and enjoying every minute of it.  I will try to reflect on how we got to where we are and current progress in the flock.  I wish I would have started this months ago, but here we are now!

Our milestone for the this week was major.  After 5 months of nuturing our 6 chicks, we have finally seen the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!  We returned from a weekend away camping in our VW Van (probably our biggest thrill in life!) to find 2 light brown eggs in our nest boxes!  Since we did not bear witness to this epic event, we can only assume what is going on.  The egg came from 1 of our 2 Barred Plymouth Rocks.  I am convinced that only one of them is laying at this point as we've been getting 1 egg a day since.  They are a medium size and I do expect them to end up at a large size as the hen matures.  They are perfect inside and out!  I fried 3 up for breakfast yesterday and everyone enjoyed them. 

The flock:  Barred Plymouth Rocks:  Rosa and Weiss
                  Ameraucanas aka Easter Eggers:  Prissy and Flower
                  Welsummers:  Grun and the WHOOPS rooster, Lila

The black and white chickens are our Barred Plymouth Rocks, Rosa and Weiss.
The lay light brown eggs and should be our most frequent producers.

                                                                 Here is Prissy, one of the Easter Eggers...fine purveyors of green, blue or pink eggs!
                                                                    Notice her 'beard'.

Grun, our only female Welsummer who will lay lovely terra cotta/chocolate eggs.

                                                                   Flower, the other Easter Egger.

                                                              Lila, the lucky boy who gets his own harem.

Don't Get Cocky!

Our chicks arrived the first week of May.  I ordered all pullets, but alas, afew weeks later and some internet research revealed our little Lila was going to end up a Roo.  The kids adored Lila, so I had to make some promises since we are doing this under the radar.  Nothing like a freakin' Rooster to blow your cover!  About 10 weeks old, the little bugger started crowing.  At first, he was almost quiet and squawking (think teenage boy voice here) but now he's developed a bright and loud chant.  The coop is right outside my bedroom window and when my alarm goes off about 5:30 does Lila.  Needless to say, I don't keep my window open much, but he is nice to hear....just makes you feel like you are on the farm.  He actually reacts to noise similarly to my pet of 19 years, Picasso.  Picasso, my cockatiel RIP always used to go through his whole repertoire in the morning and also would perform when there was lots of noise in the house.  The chickens have rekindled my love of birds...they are just alot larger than my little buddy who sat on my shoulder and picked food from my mouth.  Lila reminds me of him.  Along with a 'teenage' rooster comes a mess of activity.  My 6 and 8 year olds adore the chickens.  Lila has gotten to the point where he is becomming aggressive.  He hasn't hurt anyone, but he is definitely a larger bird than the hens.  He has broad shoulders.  He'll stare at you and then his long neck feathers start to stick out....then he'll assume a position and whammo....he's coming at your legs many times in a row!  He's quite intimidating and so far, I haven't been able to really stand up to him.  I pretty much knock him out of my way by pushing him with my foot.  You can't trust him.  He even will get you from behind when you aren't even looking.  He has gone after me, Kenny and the kids at different times.  I keep telling him not to push me....or I WILL eat him!  I don't think he really cares.  I'm hoping he calms down once he starts mating.  I have not seen him at this point on any of the girls.  Life is sure interesting these days and it is relaxing to sit with the birds and call them back when they roam into the neighbor's yard when they are out free ranging.  I will attempt to recreate the last 5 months of life with the chicks little by little.  Hope you enjoy our story!

Clucks and Crows