Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chickens on the Range

Once the Chicken tractor extension was built, I started letting the hens out in the evening. For some reason, being on the range has brought them around to me. After an hour of being out, they would come to me when I called them, and Friday night, one even let me pick her up. For some reason, instead of flinching away from me as they did in the pen, they now squat down when I approach and let me pet them. I've bought them some chicken treat and hope to start hand feeding them this week. They are laying three eggs almost daily now and they love strawberry tops. The pictures below are ones I took of them ranging around. They love rolling in the dirt around a particular tree in the orchard, and the one tree closest to where the chicken tractor is currently parked. They roll in the dirt and fluff their wings so the dust will clog parasites in their feathers and kill them.
The other night the hens wandered into the neighboring field where the llamas live and boy those llamas are really territorial. They started making that agitated whinny and chased the hens back into our yard.
I liked this picture. I was actually trying to clean out the dirty shaving of the coop when one of the hens decided to hop up in and through to the coop.

Chicken Tractor Awesomeness!!!

So last Sunday Dad and I spent most of the day building an extension to the chicken tractor. The following shots are what we got done that day. Dad had to finish it Monday and as you can see, there was still a lot to do.
And here it is. Note the tin roof, which includes a hook to hang a chained feeder on. I let the chickens out an hour before sunset or maybe two, to range while I am out and about. the rest of the time, they have a little bit more space without having to worry about foxes.

Robins Update

I went to check on the robins Wednesday night. They were a week old on the 18th. One robin though was looking pretty rough, He didn't have nearly the amount of feathers as his three nestmates and even though his eyes were open, them seemed to be opening and closing very slowly like he hardly had the energy to keep them open. I thought to myself. Uh-oh he's failing to thrive.Wouldn't you, I mean compare this little guy to his buddies.
I spent all day Thursday wondering if I would have to remove a dead chick from the nest, but coworkers reminded me they often get pushed out. Thursday evening, what did I see? But four little chicks perfectly healthy!
I dunno. Maybe he is a late feather-er. I felt a bit like a chump though. They should fledge out by Wednesday. I want to try to get some more pictures of them, but with it so cold, I don't know if they will stay in longer. I don't want to spook them off the nest like I did last year. So we will see. Notice in the pictures how you can still see the last of their dandelion fluff feathers on their heads.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Saturday Spa Night

Well Saturday was a bit of a bust. Andrew and Dad and I went out to breakfast and went down to the Lucasville Swap days in Scioto county. I was hoping to make contacts for heirloom breed chickens but I only saw the same 6 breeds over and over. It was crowded, cold, rainy, and not, I hate to say it, that interesting.

By the time we got home and settled and I took care of some things around the house it was 6 o clock. I almost started in on some baking, but realized I wanted to make some scrubs as gifts and have some of my favorite rosemary scrub on hand before the heavy duty gardening kicks in. So I grabbed some items from the herbal pantry (which is an absolute mess and I should have just spent the evening tidying it up.)

By the way, if some of the pictures ever seem out of order here, it's because I am hopeless at blogger...

Rosemary Spa Scrub

Here is rosemary from my own 2011 herb garden, some dead sea salt and sunflower oil make the rest. I add a little extra rosemary oil because I love it. This is a recipe adapted from an Herb Companion article.

This is what I use after a hard day of outdoor work. I'll be hitting this scrub, along with Rosemary Soap and Salve a LOT in may when I'm planting lavender. Check out the good folks at Elder Forrest, I highly recommend their soaps and salves. These are the folks I get the rosemary salve from, but I also like their lavender and we have several of their soaps on hand in our linen closet.

You should never use a scrub more than once a week. Rosemary is excellent for sore muscles and circulation. After a hot shower using my rosemary line up, I crawl into bed warm, relaxed and fall right to sleep. I notice I'm not as stiff in the morning either. In the winter, I use this after a new yoga routine that's um, really stretched me out.

Herbal Facial Powder

Mix with water, milk or honey. Chamomile, calendula, rosemary, oats, and comfrey.

From Left to Right

Baking Soda for the bath in old apothecary bottles, herbal facial powder, rosemary salt scrub, bee sweet honey almond sugar scrub for the face, and bubble bath (not handmade) in hand blown bottles.

Robins Five Days Old

Look at all the feathers in just five days. Mom is very skittish and won't come near them at all if I'm mooching around the herb garden.

Robins Three Days Old

Robins Two Days Old

First Oregano Cut of the Year

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Behold, the Chickens!

We got our four golden comets last Friday. We've had a few husbandry hiccups. We needed an extra food dish, and the self-filling water tray is a little less than stellar so we may have to upgrade it.

Unlike Dad's chickens, these have no problem perching inside the coop part. And in the morning, when I go to let them out, one is always peeking at me through the perch behind the little window.

Also unlike Dad's chickens, these girls are indifferent to scared of me. I've tried petting them, and the walk away. I've tried hand feeding them leftover dinner rolls and pancakes and the just look at me. I haven't had a whole lot of time to work with them, but can't help feeling that they're kinda jerks as Dad's chickens follow him around and come to him when he calls.

So far we've feed them potato peels, rolls, pancakes, and cauliflower and broccoli stems. As the season goes on they will get more plant based scrapes. We've also feed them lay mash, to help them lay. We should be getting four eggs a day shortly. Lately it's been more like two or three.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blackbird Balancing Act

It's a little hard to see cause it was dark out and I was in the dining room, but the red wing has one foot wrapped around the pole and the other on the lip of the feeder. It was quite fun to watch him eat. I have some fun ideas for the bird bath so we'll be seeing this as the season gets warm and more birds stop by for a spa.

Male Robin, Mooching Around the Red Winged Blackbird's Willow Tree (much to the red-winged's annoyance)

Robin on Her Nest, Hatching Probably Friday

Tree Swallows

Nestbox Neighborhood (or, Avian Warfare for Resources)

So for the past couple years we had two bluebird boxes hanging from posts in Andrew's grapes. But last year, for some reason, Andrew grew less than fascinated by the constant dive bombing from bluebirds and tree swallows. I mean, they never even grazed him, but still.

So this year, I bought two new bluebird boxes, and we took the other two down and on Easter Sunday Dad and Andrew hung all four at intervals along our neighbors wooden fence. So far it's hard to tell which birds are in which boxes, I think they are still muscling each other. The other day there was a dazzling array of five swallows whizzing around like fighter jets, and two bluebirds, passively aggressively sitting on the fence by a nest box.

As the season wears on I'll talk more about tree swallows, which I like more than bluebirds. But for now, here are some pictures of nesting season in the early swing.

Cilantro and Dill

One of the goals for me this season, is to cut the herbs off before the seed, or flower or whatever and they become unmanageable. If I have to food process them into a pesto in freeze, dry them or compost them or feed them to the chickens, I will. It will keep them growing back with a vengeance and hopefully yield more in the long run.

With this plan, I cut off the cilantro and the dill. The dill was already starting to seed good grief! But the dill had no fragrance or taste being so early so I composted it. The Cilantro however, dries beautifully. I'll be cutting off the oregano probably this weekend as soon as the robins hatch as I don't want to spook the Mom in this cool weather.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Door Pull

When I unwrap the cord each morning, it will lower the red door/ramp and in the evening provide further protection.

Back door with the Egg/Nest box

Note the chicken wire underneath the mini coop, to provide shade, and the side window shutter that can be lifted and hung on a chain, these side windows have stiff wire in the frame to protect the hens.

In the Orchard, with our newest apple tree to the right.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Behold...the chicken tractor!

On St. Patrick’s Day, Andrew and I went up North of Bellefontaine with Mom and Dad to look at chicken tractors. If you google chicken tractors, you will find plans, kits, and ready to purchase units ranging from completely junkie to Martha Stewart-better-than-what-many-people-live-in luxury.

We bowled down the middle and got a serviceable, cute tractor that can hold six chickens. Mom and Dad got the same one so we got a deal on buying two. Dad dropped ours off Thursday and here it sits, waiting for chickens, and the actual chickens will be another post.

A chicken tractor is, as you can see, a mobile unit combo of coop and run. Every two days or so, we have to move the chicken tractor around so they can have fresh range. At dusk, they all trot into their coop and you can shut the door in on them to keep them safe from predators. Even though the run chicken wire top to bottom, a raccoon could easily tear through it, maybe even an enterprising mink, but with the door shut and the pull to open it from the outside, the chickens will be safe.

I’m excited at the prospect of taking care of animals again, I mean, yeah I take care of the cats, but you know, farm animals. Dad has raised chickens before, and I’m reading up on it, and my pal Jay is helping me too.

We’ll be keeping the chicken tractor in the orchard area, pointed towards Stowe’s field. On evenings when we’re home, I’ll let them out an hour or two before sunset so they can really free range. They will love Stowe’s field, getting clover, choice grasses and of course, lots and lots of bugs.

On Friday night, Andrew and I did see a fox run down our yard along the board fence. But unless the fox can snatch a hen during those dusky free ranges...they’ll be safe. Look for a post soon about the forthcoming chickens.