Friday, February 22, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/22/2013 Spring is Around the Corner

The weather is turning more spring-like instead of wintery.  The girls are able to spend all day free-ranging in the yard.

So, I put the food back into the enclosure instead of the coop.  The water will stay for a bit longer.  The days are still not that long.

Every morning I have to take Sassy out of the coop.  I think she has some arthritis that makes it difficult for her to go down the ramp.  She does fine with going up the ramp, however.

Each morning, I open the doors and Sassy waits for me to pick her up and gently put her on the ground.  Getting out of the coop is much healthier for her.  Out of the coop, she can take her dust baths!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/19/2013 Sassy Runs as Fast as She Can

Sassy is eight years old.  The other four hens in the flock will be one year old this spring.

Every day when I come home from work, I go out to visit the girls, do poo patrol, and give them an afternoon treat.

Since the flock knows that I come bearing treats, they all come running.  Even Sassy.  But Sassy doesn't run anymore -- she waddles along.  At her own speed.  And if there is snow in her way, she goes around it.

The other girls know that until Sassy gets there, they do not get their treats.  They have not learned patience, but they know that Sassy will get there eventually.

Look how nicely Sassy's feathers have grown back.  Such a pretty lady.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/13/2013 Dust Baths

Yesterday's post talked about my chickens scratching up my lawn and leaving more dirt than grass.  Of course, my lawn had been poorly maintained for some time.  I found out that the girls were able to create areas for their dust baths.

Chickens love to take dust baths! They dig a shallow hole, loosen up all the dirt, and proceed to get themselves as dirty and dusty as they possibly can.  They will often lay in the dirt on hot days to cool off.

Dust baths are a necessity for chickens.  They prevent parasites such as mites and lice from finding a home in your chickens' feathers and legs.

If your chickens aren't free-range or their run area doesn't have a dry patch of ground where they can dig a hole, you'll need to provide them with an artificial dust bath. Place a box on the floor of their coop and fill it with 6" of a dusting powder. A typical recipe for the dusting powder:  1 part fireplace ashes, 1 part road dust, 1 part sand and 1 part diatomaceous earth.

Diatomaceous earth is a chalky power derived from the fossilized remains of microscopic plankton. Although not dangerous to the touch, diatomaceous earth contains silica, which, if inhaled, can lead to respiratory illness. If you choose to use it, make sure you research the dangers for you and your chickens.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/12/2013 Garden for Chickens

Chickens produce fertilizer, cultivate, and manage pests.  As omnivores, they scratch the ground in search of worms, insects, and seeds.  They also do not distinguish between my good plants and weeds.  They will eat grass, weed, berries, fruits, vegetables, and tender new greens.  They will eat whatever looks good.  The only sure way to protect your garden is to limit their freedom. 

My backyard has some spots that were weeds, but are now dirt.  We found a moveable fence at a garage sale last year, so we are planning to reseed some areas.  I could plant lettuce, cabbage, alfalfa, mustard, or kale as nutrient-rich greens.  Seeds and grains like buckwheat, clover, cow peas, and annual rye would be good choices.  Then, once the chicken garden is mature, I can take down the fence and let the chickens feast.  An added bonus, the chickens will turn the garden spot into an enriched spot!

Some common plants can be toxic to chickens, too, including daffodils, tulips, bleeding heart, bracken ferns, delphinium, fireweed, foxglove, hyacinth, English ivy and nightshade. Lamb's quarter, milkweed and St. John's wort are also poisonous, along with shrubs from hydrangeas and Japanese yew to lantana and oleander. Inform yourself about other possible toxic plants in your area and prevent your chickens' exposure to these plants.

Be there to supervise if you want your chickens' help with pest control in the vegetable garden, because they won't distinguish between unwanted weeds and precious seedlings.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/11/2013 Two Eggs!

We have just passed the ten-hours-of-daylight mark.  We have been collecting one egg a day for a couple of weeks.

Today, however, we collected two eggs!  Woohoo!

We have four consistent egg-layers and one 8-year old that lays occasionally.  This summer should be a lot of eggs for our family.

Notice Patrick's ear.  He got his ear pierced last weekend.  He wanted to make sure his earring was in the picture.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/7/2013 Young and Old Hens

With the addition of an older hen into the flock, I have noticed that the year-old hens walk, run, jump, and shine like youth.  Our eight year old dodders along, getting where she wants when she wants.  During the last cold spell, she stayed in the coop most of the day, not even venturing into the enclosure.

It's common for a hen in a backyard setting to live 8-10 years, but there are reports of chickens living as many as 20 years! The older they get, of course, the fewer eggs they lay, but think of all their other valuable functions besides being a loved member of the family.  They still eat bugs and fertilize the earth.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/5/2013 Chickens in the City

About a year ago, our city was developing the chicken ordinance.  Of course, the chicken haters knew this would be the end of the world as we know it.  However, the ordinance passed and no problems have occurred.  The permit for chickens is $25 per year; permits for dogs are $6 per year.  Yes, this is not fair.  The coop has to be constructed 10 feet from all public right of ways – for who knows what reason!  But we complied with the rules.  We have learned a lot in the last year and we would do it all over again.

Mostly, I know that chickens belong in the city. 

First, they lower stress.  Have you hugged your chicken today?  Great therapy!

Second, the chickens recycle food and yard waste, keeping it out of the landfill.  Then the food comes out as nitrogen-rich fertilizer, which is then composted with other yard waste.  Win-win!

Third, the girls love to eat the bugs that I don’t like.  Box Elder bugs are no more.  Mosquitoes are no more.  They also eat weeds so I don’t need to use any chemicals.  Win-win! 

Yes, chickens belong in the city.  And I would do it all over again!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/4/2013 Flock of Five

We had a flock of four just ten days ago.  When we introduced Sassy to the flock, the sweet, gentle original four accepted her right away.

Sassy did not know how to behave around hens that would let her eat her share and not pick on her.  Sassy showed aggression a couple of times, but our original four allowed her to be in the flock. 

Now, the flock of five have gotten used to each other.  Sassy is not showing aggression towards the others; she found that it was not necessary.

What a great flock of five!

Notice how gray the day is.  The temperature is in the 40s, but the wind is howling.  Brrr...  The wind chill doesn't seem to bother the girls. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Picture of the Day 2/2/2013 Sassy's Egg

Right now we have only one of our five hens laying.  Crystal has been one of our most consistent layers.

However, I went out yesterday, and found an egg under Sassy.  Sassy is eight years old and just joined our flock, but she is still laying!  Which means, two of our hens are laying.  Woohoo!

We are soon approaching our ten-hour day, so we should see egg production up soon.