Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Chickens free-range around the deck.
This wet, wet week has given us a chance to catch up with a long overdue post!  We're enjoying peas and garlic (not together, necessarily), raspberries, cherries, ever-bearing strawberries and garden salads, while blueberries, green beans, and summer's first dill pickles not far away.  Chicken manure is composting with straw bedding to give a nitrogen bolt to future plantings, and it's not smelly at all - actually Confederate jasmine and the creamy fragrance of gardenia are perfuming the yard.  Hope you enjoy this photo tour!
Ozark Beauty strawberries continue producing all summer.

Sour cherry jam, care for a sample?  We made two batches
and canned enough fruit for several pies.

Weeding after 6.5 inches of rain in one week.

Sweet corn reaching sky-ward.

Blueberries hanging in clusters like grapes - ripening soon!

Garlic curing in the barn.
"Look out below!"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pullets, the Sixth Week

Golden Comet pullet at six weeks old.
Rhode Island Red pullets.
What a difference a week makes, especially with growing chickens.  I don't think we're imagining daily increases in size.  Our birds look nearly as they will look for the rest of their lives.  Just this week, their vocal calls are changing over from squeaks (I wouldn't call them "peeps" any longer) to more full-throaty clucks and squawks.  It brought a smile to our faces hearing the first contented "Gluck. Cluck-cluck-cluck."  They come to the gate to greet us every morning.  At six weeks old, there are still anywhere from eight to twelve weeks before they begin laying eggs, between July and September.

We harvested first spinach and are watching peas, carrots, and onions grow.  These cool mornings make us glad we waited to transplant out our warm-weather crops.  Strawberries are setting by the hundreds (and maybe thousands); all around, it looks like we will have an excellent fruit crop this year.
Our chickens enjoy free-ranging for bugs and small stones in the grassy lawn at Palmetto Acres Hobby Farm.

"All I want to be in life is a little red hen."

"I am most definitely a vegetarian."

Curious one poses again.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pullets, the Fifth Week

Five-week old Rhode Island Red pullet; it's easier now to see why they're called "red."
Golden Comet pullet.
Our five-week-old pullets moved to their outside coop and spent the first night roosting in the warmer upstairs.  Female chicks can be called pullets from hatching, but most people begin to call them pullets once they're feathered.

There's not many gardening experiences more disgusting than digging up a fat white grub, but watching chickens fight over and eat it is endlessly entertaining.  Gardening and chickens really go together.

Spring came all at once last week; we're finally seeing progress in our spinach crop, which was scheduled for harvest this week, but will probably need another week.  Stone fruit (nectarines, peaches, and cherries) have set an outstanding crop despite cold weather well into April.  We plowed under our green manure crop of red clover in preparation for corn planting next month.
Moving to to the coop; overall our birds are very friendly.

We're still very glad we went with these chicken nipple waterers, so easy to keep clean.

Welcome spring.

Looking much more chicken-like now, tail feathers in the air.

These girls love greeting us in the morning, quietly compared to a rooster.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chicks, the Fourth Week

Rhode Island Red and Golden Comet chicks at 4 weeks old.
This is our curious one.
The differences in these photos from week to week are fun to see, though now that the chicks are nearly feathered, the main difference will be weight gain.  They still look thin and scrawny, maybe that's why they're such good flyers.  Each Golden Comet chick is developing a honey-brown ring of feathers around its neck.  With temperatures in the 70's F over the weekend, we didn't feel badly about moving them to their outdoor coop, though we take them back to the brooder at night.

Fruit trees are looking great; we have a great cherry set and are still waiting to see about peaches.  Strawberries and blueberries are just beginning to bloom, while apples and raspberries are finally breaking dormancy.  The garden is in good shape, just a few weeks behind with this cool spring.

Enjoying a warm afternoon outdoors.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chicks, the Third Week

I should take bids on a good caption for this photo.  
Really getting into that dust bath.
Just shy of three weeks, we enjoyed some warmer weather and let the chicks outside in their coop and enclosed run for an entire afternoon.  The first item of business on their agenda was to take a whopping dust bath; once we saw what they were up to, we added some wood ash to the mix (a little bit more "dusty" than the mulch they were trying to use).  After they unearthed a worm, it was hilarious watching them play a game of keep away.  They are terrifyingly good at flying.  As you can see from the photos, they're looking more like chickens now, with only a little down left on their heads.
Exploring the run.
Dust bathing all those new feathers.
Rhode Island Red chick three weeks old.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chicks, the Second Week

Growing up fast:  Rhode Island Red chick at two weeks old.
Our chicks have lost their adorable fuzzy appearance and instead look more like buzzards.  We read about this stage, when their soft down gets shaggy and is pushed out by tiny pin feathers coming in.  Feathers have begun to grow on their backs, thighs, and neck.  They look like living pin cushions; they have begun to preen themselves as if feather growing feels uncomfortable.  Their legs and feet are no longer spindly and fragile; they are putting on weight, so they must be enjoying their food.  This week we added grit to their diet and have started feeding them greens (red clover from the garden!).  They are very good at flying, but cannot flutter out of their 3-ft. high stall.
Comb and wattle, though yellow, are looking more chicken-like.

Tiny pin feathers are growing out of this chick's neck.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chicks, the First Week

Rhode Island Red chick at one week old.  A miniature comb and wattle are growing on its forehead.
Wing and tail feathers.
The chicks are a week old now and are growing fast.  They have doubled in size since we brought them home, and they are showing loads of personality.  We have our eager ones, reluctant ones, curious ones, and shy ones.  Some are assertive, first to do everything; and others prefer to follow.  Feathers are starting to grow out from the shoulder, wings, and tail.  Thanks to those wing feathers, they are getting rather adept at cruising around in their 8 ft. x 4 ft. brooder pen.  It looks like a couple of the chicks are playing at pecking order, and not necessarily the largest ones either.  Maintenance is very low - we refill the feed tray every other day, and we haven't yet had to refill the gallon waterer.

3rd-year semi-dwarf nectarine tree.
We have an excellent stand of spinach this spring; lettuce, carrots, and onions are just sprouting.  Peas just went in the ground over the weekend after being pre-sprouted in wet paper towels.  Indoors our peppers, dill, and bedding flowers are growing under lights, and we will add to them tomato and other warm-weather crops this week.  We're still enjoying peach and cherry blossoms.  Happy first day of Spring!
Bush cherries in bloom.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Baby chicks are here!

A golden comet chick explores its new home.
Outside, the air is warm, hyacinths, cherry trees, and peach trees are in bloom, and cool weather crops are sprouting out of bare ground.  These events lead to one undeniable conclusion:  Spring has arrived!  After months of waiting, we are the proud parents of a dozen healthy chicks.  Rhode Island Red and Golden Comet chicks are happily peeping in our brooder; they have taken their first drinks and meal well.  I'll spare you all the details and get on with the show.
Baby chicks in their box.
Rhode Island Red chick.
Getting their first meal.
Taking their first drink (electrolytes have been added to
the water).
Happy in their new brooder.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ready for Peeps!

Movable chicken coop with run is ready for our Spring flock.  Baby chicks arrive March 12!
Our kids are in love with the fluffy marshmallow treats that hatch on seasonal shelves in Spring, but this year they get to experience baby chicks for real, a whole dozen of the chaotic, peeping, melt-your-heart balls of fluff with two eyes and two legs.  They are being shipped on March 10 and will arrive to us two days old on March 12.
Chick feed, electrolytes, and other essential chick supplies.

Since January, when the chicken coop was finished, we have added an enclosed run on wheels and a brooder (a brooder is a safe place to raise baby chicks where they can be kept warm until they adjust to normal outdoor temperatures).  Our brooder is a stall, appropriately housed in the barn, with plenty of space for our growing flock.

Homemade, 1-gallon chicken waterer
with chicken nipple.
Clean water is vital to success, and we decided to use chicken nipple dispensers rather than the traditional inverted poultry waterer.  Baby chicks love to scratch up bedding into and even poop in traditional poultry waterers, which need to be cleaned frequently and can tip over.  Chicken nipples keep the water supply clean and bedding dry, saving us a lot of work.

Can't quite say all that's left for us is to harvest organic free-range eggs in six months, but we've done nearly everything possible to make for a successful and enjoyable first season with our backyard flock!

The brooder is set up in our barn, with heat lamp.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chicken Coop Is Finished

This movable chicken coop is designed for 4-6 laying hens, functional  in a small footprint.
Raising your own backyard chickens for fresh eggs is one of the hottest trends around.  Bryan worked an hour or two at a time through the winter building this chicken coop to house 4-6 laying hens.  Shed lot prices for a coop like this start at $1,000; we saved $800 building it ourselves and used recycled materials where possible.  

It's portable using 9-inch lawnmower wheels and can be wheeled around the yard almost as easily as pushing a wheel barrow; we will move the "chicken tractor" every couple of days to protect the lawn.  It's compact, but not too confining, as the bottomless downstairs allows chickens to scratch the ground and forage for food.  It's a snap to maintain with access panels on three sides for gathering eggs and cleaning, and the multilevel design allows for flow-through ventilation keeping chickens healthy.  

When planned well, chickens can fertilize the vegetable garden, providing nutrients and organic matter that are used up by the cultivation process.  As we have time, future blog posts this year will feature the raising of our first flock of Rhode Island Reds; day-old chicks are expected in March!

The frame takes shape inside the barn.

Side walls with access panels and a clestory window.

Ramp on floor to the left, roost (in back), and nesting boxes are installed.
Main coop is nearly finished with a metal roof
to keep chickens snug and dry.
The coop will sit on this "tractor" with wheels. 

Finally finished and waiting for our chickens.

About Me

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (