Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finally a break in the weather!

We are happy to return from a cold weekend of cabin camping to find the weather had broke!  The sun was nice and warm today and the flock enjoyed the afternoon in the yard.  After being closed up in the coop for afew days, the girls enjoyed a dirt bath and most of the light snow around the coop area held already disappeared.  Kenny decided to turn the heat lamp on for the overnight, but I think the next few days will be even warmer, so hopefully it will not be needed for a while.  Kenny also made some canvas to hang around the bottom of the run under the coop for some wind protection.  I'm hoping he can find some time to stop for grommets so he can complete the project before the next cold bout.  If they are going to be in the run, they can at least find some shelter from the wind that way.  Always something to work on around here.  This time last year, I'm sure we had started researching coop designs and here we are reaping the rewards of chicken ownership!  

Reminder.  If you enjoy keeping up with our crazy life here in chickenland...there are a few things you can do to help out!  On the left side of the blog, you will find an email subscription area.  All you need to do is sign up with your email and you will get an email every time I post an update!  I go in spurts....but you will definitely not get an email every day!  Maybe once a week...sometimes afew days in a row and then nothing for afew weeks.  Regardless....you'll have all the dirt right in your inbox!  I've signed up myself and rest assured, it's the only mail I've gotten as I tried it out.  The email usually comes within 12 hours of me updating the blog.   I think this is the easiest way to subscribe.  There is also a way to 'follow' this blog via Google.  You will also see that info on the left side.  If you are not already a member of the Google system, it will make you create an account to follow.  There is none of that nonsense with the email subscription, so take your pick!  I appreciate your interest in our little blog!  COMMENTS WELCOME!  Feel free to leave a comment, question or encouragement after the blog entry!  That space is there for you!  It also helps me know people are actually interested in what I have to say!  Thank you in advance for you support!!!


COOL FACT!  I got an email today from  From Scratch Magazine.  I had entered some photos for their very first issue (online magazine).  The link above will take you to the page where you can submit your email to receive their free magazine via email.  The issue is due to come out by next month and they must be in the final phase of getting it ready.  Anyway, they chose one of my photos to be in the issue!!!  It is the picture of Genevieve with Flower.  It's not too late to get on the list, so if this magazine interests you, please sign up on their site!

This MotherClucker is being PUBLISHED!!!  :)  
Malissa

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Deep Freeze Continues.....


My greeting this morning from Flower (front) and Prissy (rear), fine purveyors of green eggs!  (Ok, well we are still waiting for Flower to start laying them!!!!)  These girls are lowest in the pecking order and they are the friendliest gals in the bunch.  I delivered an apple core with some warm oatmeal.  I'm an awesome mom like that!  ;)

Everyone weathered last night's cold well.....except Lila.  
Notice the black on the top of his comb and edge of his waddle?  This is frostbite!   (ok, I cannot tell a lie.....if I had walked out and he was frozen solid, I would not have shed a tear! hahaha)  Well, after showing up at work and talking to 2 guys who also keep chickens....they both told me they put their heat lamps on....I decided this might be the next step for us during this deep freeze.  Turns out, as I was on my way home and talking to my husband, he had already hooked up the heat lamp!  Wow, we were actually on the same page about something!  He did find 4 eggs today (as usual) and they were all frozen when  he collected them.  No cracked shells, so in the fridge they go.  

I left the gang closed up in the coop today.  I did prop one of the hatches open for some ventilation during the day.  Kenny closed it up again tonight and hoping that all will be well now that the heat lamp is on.  

I love how the party lights are lit up along with the heat lamp!  Makes me laugh.  I could feel the heat when I opened the hatch to take the picture, so I'm sure they will be toasty tonight.  

I read lots of info that says insulating your coop is overkill....we did insulate ours with foam in between 2 sheets of T-111.  I also read they don't need heat.  Well, I suspect they will not be complaining at all with the extra warmth these days!  I hope there is enough ventilation.  I did notice the breath coming out of their noses this morning.....and it really puts into perspective the moisture they give off.  (too much in the coop is bad....bad for their health and also can contribute to the frost bite)  

Here's to the chickens having a warmer night tonight!  Poor little cluckers, I bet they are dreaming of spring....just like I am!

Keepin' warm.....
Malissa

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

COLD!

We currently in a ridiculously cold bout of weather here in PA.  I watch the temp in my car drop from 19 deg to 14 deg in just an hour from 6-7pm.  When I got home from work tonight, we left the gang out to forrage a bit.  They were out in the run all day and feeling bad, I warmed them up some oatmeal for a snack.  Not knowing exactly what frost bite looks like, I decided we should coat their combs/waddles with some vaseline, just in case.  Genevieve helped me with the task and even handled Lila for me.  He took the opportunity to peck her in the hand as she tried to get his waddles.  Darn Lila!  The gang ended up on the deck looking in the back door, so I let one in.  Grun came in and I picked her up and checked her out and warmed her up.  Her waddles felt like ice!!!  After minutes later, I checked again and they were radiating heat!  Even their feet and legs were cold.  Poor girls!  I decided I would close off their door tonight so they can't get in the run in the morning.  If it's this cold tomorrow, we might try a day of leaving them in the coop.  I hate to do it, but it seems they aren't smart enough to stay out of the cold wind.  I just hope there is enough ventillation in the coop.  There is a vent hole in the roof and the thing isn't sealed up perfectly, but the birds give off alot of moisture and moisture in this cold will actually give them frostbite!  I will check them in the morning and hopefully greet them with a warm breakfast!  I did give them a scoop of scratch before they went in for the night....the meal will help boost their metabolisms and warm them up. 

I also checked on their water...cleaned and bleached the waterer and filled up with fresh.  The homemade heater is working great and there was no ice in the waterer.  The container is nice and warm and hopefully some of that is warming the air in there just a bit.  I have good cold hearty breeds, so there shouldn't be any issues and I'm sure this cold spell won't go on much more than a week, but I still worry about them!  They were already on the roost bars when I went to close off the door.  The girls had their little heads tucked under feathers, so they definitely will keep themselves warm.  Lila will not tuck his head as he is always on alert.  He's the one I worry about the most with the frostbite.  I do worry about his mean butt!  hahaha 

Here's hoping the gang makes it through the cold ok!  I did get 4 eggs today, although I really think they may have been frozen!  None of the shells cracked, so they are still usable. 

I'll leave you with lyrics from a song I used to sing in Camp Fire Girls.

It's gonna be a long winter
and what will the birdies do then?
the poor things.

They'll fly to the trees
just to keep themselves warm

and tuck their heads under their wings.
the poor things.
and tuck their heads under their wings.

Going to tuck my head under my covers! 
Malissa

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rooster 101.  

video

My little henchman, Lila, is still terrorizing me.  I'm beyond hope that he will ever mellow out.  For as much as I want to try to pick him up to show my dominance, he has shown me many times that he will fight back.  When he strikes, he comes at me so fast that I have taken to moving very slow and cautious when around him.  His legs move at a high rate of speed scissoring back and forth so fast they look like a blur.  His biggest weapon is his spurs.  Now that he has developed claws, he's even more dangerous.  I'm always afraid he will cut whatever pants I am wearing or get mud or poop on me.  I am not looking forward to warm, bare leg weather, which will mean lots of cuts in addition to the bruising that comes with an attack.  He does not back off when I approach him, unlike when Kenny or the kids come close to him.  In fact, he stalks me.  As you can see in the video, as I start to walk, he will circle around and try to block me like he did when I walked towards the deck stairs.  It's quite frustrating.  At this point, I cannot safely enter the coop when the birds are in there as I would get pummeled just trying to change their food/water.  I have been sending Genny in to check because he will not attack his human girlfriend.  Sometimes I will wait until after I have let them out in the evening, but I do need to wait until Lila takes the girls further from the coop.  Unfortunately, the girls like to follow me knowing I am a purveyor of treats.  This infuriates him and he is very threatened by me.  Nothing worse than a jealous boyfriend!  

The Benefits Outweigh the Cons.

At least I keep telling myself this!  Having a rooster in your flocks help deter predators.  At this point, we have had no evidence of any predators trying to mess with the birds.  Even our cat is not perceived as a thread (see video).  Lila was more concerned about my presence than that of Thunder, our house cat who prefers time to explore outside.  Thunder approaches the chickens with caution, and I believe that is only because they are about the same size he is!  He never tries to attack them and he usually just slinks on by hoping to go unnoticed.  One time he was on the deck ready to head down for a jaunt and the birds were on the stairs.  He stayed up top until he found a safe time to pass through.  

Our eggs are fertile!  A common sight in our yard is Lila mounting his girls.  My kids know he is important in the life cycle of chickens.  It's a pretty easy process.  Lila walks up to his desired mate, he'll approach her from the side and quickly walk to her front.  He'll stop in front of her and stomp his little feet afew times.  Maybe give her a single peck.  When he's ready, he'll approach her from behind and she will 'squat' for him.  Pushing her belling to the ground.  This is his invitation to hop on.  He'll stand on her, using his beak to hold her down.  He'll deposit the sperm sack from his vent to hers and that's it.  No penetration!  I do not feel like I am corrupting my kids by telling them how nature works and what better way to explain than with chickens!  Maybe this spring, if one of the girls goes broody, we will let them hatch some eggs.  It will be fun to watch the mama raise her chicks.  With a rooster present, we have that option.  He only has one mama that is his same breed, so all the others would be mutts.  The girls seem very happy to have him around.  Prissy is the only one he seems to pick on and she is missing a patch of feathers on her back most likely from him mounting her.  Her skin looks healthy and not bloody, so I have not worried at this point, but I do keep an eye on her and the other girls.  If he gets too rough with them, out he goes!  Contrary to popular myth....you can tell a fertile egg from a small white circular bullseye spot on the outside of the yolk.  I've heard many people think it was the small spots of blood they might find in the egg, however, that came from the hen...most likely a broken blood vessel when the egg was forming.  If you buy your eggs from the supermarket, you will not ever see the bullseye!  There are no males in commercial chicken farms. 

He's beautiful!  I don't care what breed(s) you look at, the males are showy pieces of animal art!  The feathers are usually brighter colored, longer and grander than the females.  His comb (at least in our rooster) is very large and showy.  I love looking at him...it's just a shame he's such a meanie!

I do keep saying he'll be in the pot soon, but really, I guess keeping him around benefits us more.  Since he isn't aggressive with the kids, I don't mind putting up with him for a little longer.  I guess we'll see how long I can take it!  It is tempting to get rid of him.....we could replace him with 3 more chicks!  Kenny thinks our coop can safely hold 8 full grown chickens!  

UPDATE ON FEED SWITCH:

The chickens have had no problem transitioning to the organic mash.  I mixed the little bit of the Purina pellets in the first few fills and then dumped the little that was in the bag into the new bag of feed.  We still have a bit of the Purina scratch, but that is merely a treat for them and they do not get an overabundance of it at any one time.  So it will be a little while until I can say they are fully organic, but it has been an easy switch and it's nice to know that we are getting superior quality eggs and our chickens are thriving!

The chickens are out enjoying the warm sun (and wind) today.  Heard more snow is expected later this week.  They do not like snow too much and tend to stick to areas that are not covered until it all melts.  We still have a bit to go to get through winter, but they've been doing great and at no point have we contained them to the coop.  They have availability to the run whenever they want.  They do not tend to stay inside during the day, regardless of the conditions.  

Thanks for checking in!
Friend to the chickens.
Malissa

Friday, January 4, 2013

Organically Speaking: Adventures in Feed Shopping

I made the trip to pick up the organic, soy free layer mash that I will be switching the birds over to.  I have enough Purina left to fill the feeder probably one more time, so I will use that to mix in with the first fill so they can get used to their new feed.  It was a real cold day and I ended up waiting a bit while another customer finished his order.  I did not see the owner today, Vernon Burkholder, however, I believe it was probably his wife who was helping the other customer and myself.  She is but a small thing, but she had no problems lifting the 80lb bag of feed I purchased followed by the 50lb bag of scratch!

The farm sits on both sides of Mud Run Road, outside of Oley.  The house and main barn is on one side of the street and the newer building where they mix and bag the feed is just across from the house.  Although I saw no horse or buggy evidence, it is my observation based on attire that they are what my neighbor's refer to as 'WENGER" Mennonites.  This sect is the old order Mennonites common in our area.  They are friendly yet private folk, but many operate businesses out of their homes.  The woman answered her barn phone while I was there and started talking in PA Dutch (German dialect common in our area, not just with the plain folk....most old timers around here speak it.  Both my grandparents on my dad's side were fluent.  Neither he nor none of his brothers and sisters seemed to want to learn and as most native languages, was used to talk behind kid's backs by their parents!  I know some swear words and afew greetings/sayings...).
 Approaching the farm from Jefferson Street (coming from Oley)

Coming down Mud Run Road

 The sign is at their main barn on the left side of the street, the main warehouse is just across the street.


 Panorama Organics


I secured the bag of Organic, Soy Free Layer Mash that I went for.  $31 for 80 lbs ($2.58/lb).  Pricing had gone up from $29 recently as the price of peas went up.  Apparently, feed pricing will fluctuate much like most of the farm crops.  I never noticed that with Purina.  I paid about $17 for 50lbs ($2.94) for conventional layer feed.  So off the bat, I am saving money and going organic!  They will also reuse the feed bags as long as they are in good condition with no holes, etc.  They will clean them and repackage them.  50 lbs of organic scratch grains was $21.  I do not remember how much the Purina cost.  This might be a little higher than the conventional. 
This is where you pick up feeds and where they do the mixing.


The main difference in the feed is the use of animal (mainly fish and crab) proteins.  Purina boasts no animal proteins.  A) that means it's coming from soy...which, although I enjoy soy based foods, it's not a natural food for humans or animals.  It can only be digested when roasted.  Not only does soy boost female hormones, it also is almost always genetically modified these days.  No thanks.  B) Corn is almost always genetically modified as well.  Certified Organic means that no GMO's are allowed into the product.  From what I understand, these feeds have not been subject to the certification process, and knowing what I know about certifications....it's extremely expensive to acquire that status.  As a consumer, we trust that he is providing his ingredients as advertised.  He has a very good reputation in the area, so that is good enough for me.  **You can find a phone number to call them, however, they do not have a web presence.  If you search them, you will most likely stumble upon threads from chicken sites with happy customer's reviewing their experiences and products.**

If I hear a sitar and smell some incense coming from the coop....I'll know the organic vibe has set in.  Namaste, little chickens!

5 days of Welsummer eggs!

As of yesterday, Grun has laid 5 eggs.  She took the day off today.  the top pic is all of her eggs to date.  The light one on the top right being her first egg.  They really have darkened nicely!  The bottom pic shows the same 5 eggs along side the Barred Rock's.  Now I really appreciate having a Welsummer in our flock!  Shame that their would have been 2 had we not accidentally gotten my arch enemy, Lila!  Well, if Grun ever goes broody on us, at least we know her offspring will be pure breds!  Or we could pick up an incubator and try a whole new experiment!!!!  :)

Peace out chicken lovers...
Malissa