Category Archives: Chickens

A green egg!

Our first ever green egg!

It looks like someone is finally pulling their weight around here!

On another note – there’s a hole in the fireplace (we had it swept today), many black widows live in our basement, one of the rabbits escaped from his cage (but not the barn), and I am being sent to an IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) leadership conference in San Jose next weekend.

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Time goes on

Fresh eggs from the girl.

Wow, this month as really gotten away from me. I apologize, and I hope to avoid this in the future. 19 credits for this Fall semestre is a bit much, and I may be in over my head. I’m trudging on, though, so don’t worry about that. My classes are tough this semestre and I am in primarily intense electrical engineering classes. The only class I am worried about is my microelectronics class, but I seem to be catching on to what is being taught. NPN and PNP BJT transistors are rather fascinating, if a bit difficult to immediately wrap one’s mind around.

On the homestead, we’ve had a great many changes. Mum and dad built a new coop, one that is much more secure and sturdy with easy-access nest boxes. One of the free girls was producing amazingly, but was far too loud for this neighborhood, unfortunately, so we sold her to a very nice up-and-coming urbanite who lives in a part of town which won’t notice the extra noise. Then, a week after that we found out that Clever Girl was actually a clever boy, and he started crowing on a Sunday. At first, I thought that it was a neighbor’s dog. Then, after putting up the sides on a new cage for my rabbits, I realized that the crowing was coming from my yard. I ran over to the new coop and run and watched in stunned silence as Clever Girl stood perched on the dead tree branch crowing his little heart out. I caught him, and my brother helped me to put him down (a quick axe to the head ended that). I invited one of my EE friends over to learn how to butcher, as he had previously asked to be called over the next time we had a meat harvest. Well, that was unexpected.

The forth coop we built.

Three of the girls

Thus, we are down to four hens. They are fairly quiet, but we still have to run out and hush them sometimes in the morning as we truly do not want our neighbors to discover our secret. We are receiving about an egg a day, sometimes two (although it’s rare). Yesterday we finished filling a used Wholefoods egg carton. We’ve been baking cooking and pancakes from our eggs, and haven’t bought market eggs in over a month.

The rabbits have been growing up nicely. Last Saturday I put Josephina in with Godwyn to get her ready for December harvest. Apparently, my rabbits do not breed like rabbits – instead, they groomed one another for hours. I left them overnight, and will test Josephina for pregnancy in about eleven days since we put them together. Last Friday was a horrid day, as I awoke at 5:00 am to discover my rabbit cages strewn about the patio. Poor little Mina had scared herself and injured her back; I was afraid I would have to put her down. Fortunately, when I arrived home after school that day, I checked her one more time before making the final decision. I pinched between the rear toes, and she jerked her leg back to her body. That meant that she’s not paralyzed, just injured. So, I have been caring for a debilitated bunny in my living room and washing her daily due to the build up of urine and feces. She’s in a shoebox filled with hay and puppy training pads to prevent her from moving too much. In another week and a half, I will start on rabbit physical therapy and my littlest sister has claimed her as a pet if she recovers. If she does indeed recover, she will move in with our pet angora rabbit, Dimitri – that spoilt prince.

Mina, our partially paralyzed bunny.

Svetlana relaxing in the sun.

This past weekend my mum and I spent building an open air barn for the rabbits on the patio. We made it out of the same wood used for this old patio, and I don’t think it’s very noticeable. We used chicken wire as walls, which is not perfect, but it’s the best we can do. I think that my warren is much safer now. I even built the door!

Open air barn/rabbitry.

Two weekends ago I planted our Fall/Winter garden: oats, beets, radishes, turnips, carrots, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, kale, and garlic. The lettuce and spinach is coming up nicely. I have never grown oats, beets, radishes, turnips, carrots, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli from seed before, so this is a learning experience! The tomato plants are still producing tomatoes, so we have been having organic BLT’s regularly around here.

Organic, mostly home-grown BLT.

Newly growing oats!

Fall garden greens - spinach, lettuce, kale, green onions, and broccoli.

Root vegetable garden.

Tomatoes!

Last Thursday my littlest sister and I traversed out behind our backyard to gather wild blackberries by the stream. We also happened to find some feral grape vines growing, so we picked them by the bunches. On Saturday I made blackberry pie, and this weekend I would like to make grape jam.

About 6-8 lbs of feral grapes.

3/4 of the wild blackberries we picked.

Wild blackberry pie.

This weekend we will be decorating for Samhain/Hallowe’en. It’s my favourite time of the year, and my husband and I will be celebrating our first anniversary in October. Happy Fall, everyone.

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This is how you transport chickens …

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Somehow we ended up with four instead of three. Our flock has just increased by a factor of three.

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Free laying hens!

Score! I just responded to an add on Craigslist about free laying hens. I’ll be picking up two “Easter Eggers” and a single Australorp on Wednesday. Beautiful. They’re even quiet! I’ll update you later this week.

Here’s the text of the add:

Free laying hens about a year old. I have 2 easter eggers (greenish blue eggs),2 rhode island reds,1 buff orfington,1 black astralop and 2 mixed breeds.
Please call 8##-6##0 or 7##-4##3.

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Preparations

Tomorrow is the first day of the Fall semestre, and I’m both excited and wary. It’s going to be different having to take care of my herd and flock before and after class and work. I’m taking nineteen credits this semestre, and the majority of them are upper level engineering courses. I finished building two more cages today, and put my princess, Svetlana, in her own cage, and moved the young bucks over near her and then put one of the large bucks, Rasputin, that bastard, in their old one. Phew. That leaves just three more cages to build, one more 30″x30″ and two 36″x30″.

We’re looking at buying two more hens for the flock, most probably Australorps. The other two breeds on our list are Americaunas and Orpingtons. We really need them to be quiet, though. We think that Clever Girl may be a silent rooster. She hasn’t laid an egg since we got her, but if she is a rooster, as long as she doesn’t crow we’ll keep her.  Also, we planted the fall garden yesterday. My lower back still is sore from all the hoeing we did. So far we have beets, turnips, radishes, carrots, onions, scallions, spinach, lettuce, kale, broccoli, and celery seeds planted. We still need to plant some more broccoli, the cauliflower, the cabbages, and when we obtain the seeds for oats and barley (and the starters for garlic) we’ll plant those.

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Team effort building the coop

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Building the frame

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My lovely husband showing off his work.

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General craziness, and exponential growth

I apologize for not updating sooner, since Monday we have had non-stop chaos. After finally getting all three girls in their roost for the night, the next day my husband came home and checked on them only to find that the Devil hen (also known as “Clever Girl” from Jurassic Park) had convinced the other two littler hens to peck out a hole in the plastic “chicken” fencing. Clearly, this fencing does not function as advertised. So, when Augustin went in to shoo them away from their newly created hole, the little grey hen jumped out through the barely opened door. Clever Girl watched the little grey hen leave through the front and initiate a chase of epic proportions by my Weimaraner, Finnegan. Clever Girl popped out the back hole with nary a “thank you for your sacrifice”, once again hiding in the thick brush behind our backyard. The poor little grey hen was not fast enough to outrun Finnegan, and was caught in his mouth. He didn’t crush her, but his bird-dog instincts had been triggered. Augustine had to break her neck to end her suffering. It was quick, and relatively painless.

I looked to my mother in askance, what should we do? After a moments deliberation the mutual decision to honor her death with a meal was agreed upon. Augustin went out to catch Clever Girl, and I started the butchering process. (Warning – from here on to the end of the paragraph is rather graphic.) I chopped off her head and hung her in a tree to bleed. It only takes about fifteen minutes to fully bleed a chicken for meat. Whilst she was being bled, my littlest sister, Laura, and I plucked her clean. She then helped me scald her to get the wing feathers out, and aided me in the entire butchering process. I followed this blog to go through the steps slowly, and I didn’t even break the intestines, cloaca, or the gall bladder. She was small, and dense compared to what we normally get from the store. After the butchering, my mum seasoned her and set her in the oven with some store-bought legs. Apparently, you are supposed to cook a fresh chicken much shorter than normal to prevent drying the meat out. We like to learn as we go. This little grey hen was delicious, but the slate grey skin colour bothered both my husband and my mother. I thought she was beautiful. Thank you, little grey hen, for your contribution to the family. I’m sorry that my dog got you so quickly.

My mother patched the hole and I caught the last hen, our golden girl, and placed her in the metal dog crate for the time being. We worked on cleaning the butchering area thoroughly, and then we heard a very laud “CAW!”. My eyes whipped up just in time to see C lever Girl half fly, half glide into the pool with my husband hot on her heels. She let out pitiful mewling clucks and bobbed up and down on the stairs. She couldn’t get out. Augustin pulled her soaking body out and held her close to his chest. He brought her up and placed her in with the golden girl. Then, we immediately looked up what to do if a hen falls in the pool. At least it’s happened to other people. Fortunately, the girls took it into their own hands and hid in a cardboard box we had put in with them and the golden girl had placed herself in the front to block out the air and warm Clever Girl up. What a day.

Tuesday was a day of much stress and frustration. We kept the girls in their crate whilst we built them a new, better run and a coop. I was called into work for a meeting with my boss, but that didn’t take too long. I ended up having to run a few calculations and then set up an Excel spreadsheet for comparisons. I arrived home around one, and found that not much had been set in regard to the run and coop. I grabbed Laura and put on my work outfit (a ratty pair of jean shorts and an old bikini top) to get started. My husband and his good friend Warren, came out to help us and did many manly things. After many hours of work, we still weren’t finished, but we had the run pretty much set and the coop had two walls, a frame, and a floor. We stopped once it started to really get dark out. The chickens were schedule to spend another night and day in the dog crate.

Today, Wednesday, I had made plans to pick up my breeding trio of American Chinchilla rabbits. My husband had work, so we arranged for Warren to come over again in the morning. My mother and I got started around eight-thirty, and used the jigsaw to cut out the nest box. My brother, Mark, was not pleased by the sound. He yelled and moaned and ordered us to move away from his window, or, barring that, stop making that racket. We, of course, ignored him and continued on our work until my mum reached a point of frustration and told him to quiet down or come out and help us. He quieted. Warren arrived around ten at which point we had some issues with our next box building. Laura and I had to head out, so we put together our things and grabbed three moving boxes and some towels and drove off to California. It was a very long drive, but we arrived in one piece. A new friend of mine via a Yahoo rabbit list has a farm out in California, and we were there to pick up our Chins. Her farm was amazing. She had a gorgeous slate blue tom with two young turkey-lings following him around. He was a very good mother. His last hen was eaten by something  and left him with the babes, the one before that ran off for those manly wild turkeys. She had all sorts of chickens free ranging around her house, and three dairy goats, a barn full of many breeds of rabbits, and some sheep up the hill. It was splendid.

I ended up taking home a total of eight rabbits. Two were almost of breeding age female black New Zealand crosses, as the sex change fairy had visited and she only had a single young American Chinchilla doe. Three were almost of breeding age American Chinchilla bucks, and the last two were young Chin bucks, needing time to grow out. Wow. I thanked her profusely and we set out on our way home. A few hours later we introduced them to their new home, set them up in their cages (I need to build more), and feed, watered and let them relax. Finnegan was ecstatic. He loves rabbits. Mammals are his babies, birds his nemesis. This even we all relaxed, ate, and conversed for hours. Our work was done. Finnegan’s had just begun. He still is sitting guard out back watching over his new charges.

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