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....