Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sweaty Guerrilla

It is back to yuck again today! The monsoon is on its way, humidity over 30% and 116′ at 9:30 am. Yeah I know the weather channel says it’s only 90′ in Vegas, Hooey on that! That’s my shirt after half an hour and my shorts were soaked through (how’s that for a visual?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The girls are really diggin the fermented feed, especially on those days that I have cooked rice mixed into it. My basic mix is 50% high protein, no corn, whole grain pigeon feed and 50% scratch. When I have it I combine my basic mix 50/50 with cooked rice. After being allowed to ferment overnight the resulting “mash” is fluffed up and not quite as sour smelling as the basic mix is. The sour smell I am talking about is not a bad thing, more like a very strong sourdough starter. Which makes sense because that is basically the goal of fermenting livestock feed, a cooperative effort between yeast and bacteria to partially digest the raw feed and create compounds more digestible to the animals. With or without the rice my chickens absolutely love fermented feed though, as to the claims of firmer less smelly poo? I never really had a problem with that.

Look at all those purdy birds goin after my homemade slop! The one right in the middle along with the 2 on either side are 3 of my 5 Golden Cuckoo Marans, in fact the little white one in the center is a GCM also. Why is she white? I don’t have a clue, but when I get a chance I’m going to ask Heather over on her excellent blog Scratch Cradle. Heather’s series on Chicken Genetics has been not only highly informative but easy to understand and enjoyable to read. Her post on Fermented Feed helped me better understand what I was really doing in those smelly buckets. I don’t think she will be able to explain though why out of 10 Black Copper Marans I have successfully hatched out I only have 1 hen! Anybody around Vegas looking for a nice BCM roo? I can hook you up! Maybe I’ll get lucky and all 5 of my GCM’s will be pullets, yeah I know, wishful thinking.

About a month ago I took some culm cuttings from a clump of Oldham Bamboo and tried to propagate them. My goal is to get enough plants to create a screen for my chicken/orchard area that will not only block the view from the street but also provide afternoon shade. Of the dozen cuttings I potted up only 1 put out shoots ( those two teeny little green wisps coming out of the node) Today I prepared another dozen or so cuttings. After cutting them to the proper size, 2″-3″ above the node and 4″-5″ below the node, they were soaked for 15 minutes in a 5 gallon bucket full of water with B1 and rooting hormone mixed in. Finally they were put in pots with fresh potting soil buried to the point where the node was halfway covered. Hopefully I will get a few more viable plants from this batch.

That covers the Sweaty part of my morning now lets talk about Guerrillas! My greywater system has been working fairly well, though there have been a few problems. The main problem has been one of balance, while I don’t believe this would be an issue for established trees I do believe it cost me several newly planted trees do to saturated soil. My orchard plot has a slight fall from N-S consequently the southern end of the orchard stays wetter. Additionally I have a bit of a valley right down the middle, guess where I lost trees? Yup those in the valley and on the SW corner which is also a low spot. There are a combination of factors that caused this and I believe I have some solutions. But for today I wanted to show my short term fixes.

In the top of this picture is the main 3/4″ distribution pipe for my greywater system, you can just make out where I tapped into it with standard 5/8″ poly line.

This line travels down the center of my orchard and branches out into the sunken beds I have blogged about previously. Traditional flag drippers are used in these beds and now the greyawater is routed to here 5 days a week and only into the orchard mulch beds twice a week. The results have been dramatic.

The Squash, Comfrey, Melons, and Pumpkins in these beds have gone crazy, and the mulch beds in the Orchard have gone from soggy and a bit slimy underneath to pleasantly moist. The earthworms are still working their butts off and the remaining trees are looking very healthy. This revisiting and discussion of grey water was inspired by another Greywater Guerrilla over at Grasshopper Sense. Blog Posts tagged about greywater, grey water, or gray water are few and far between  and it’s encouraging to see someone else starting down the same path you find yourself on.

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Hot Enough to make your Butt Sweat

Yes it is hot enough here in Las Vegas to make your butt sweat, but thats an improvement. For the last month we have been having afternoon thunderstorms that didn’t do much other than make it muggy. A few clouds in the morning, intense sun at noon, with a nice afternoon thunderstorm makes for days that are hot enough to soak your shirt not just your butt.

Today I worked on pulling out that burned up corn you can see above.

Moving the shade cloth to protect my tomatoes and peppers

And trying to protect my newest half-assed hugelkulture bed from the miserable flock of pigeons that my obviously misguided neighbor gets such enjoyment from feeding. I have a very effective pigeon control system manufactured by AirForce Airguns that works very well. Until, that is, my dink of a neighbor comes out and blows his weeny little airhorn to scare the pigeons up to his roof so that they can add to the lovely white wash effect he must be trying to achieve.

In that bed I am trying to get a cover/forage crop going. For seed I put a big handful each of buckwheat, soybeans, and the pigeon feed I am currently fermenting for my hens. That pigeon feed contains several types of field peas, wheat, barley, milo, and millet. With all of that in that little 4’X4′ bed something ought to come up. Did you know that if you forget to pick up a dead pigeon from your chicken run it will magically vanish by the next day? leaving nothing behind but feathers and maybe a foot? Amazing! More evidence of those crafty space aliens visiting my coop.

These are my 3 mulberry trees, the top 1 is the survivor of the 2 originals I got from over the hump in Pahrump while the bottom 2 are the ones that my Sweety, Karen, got me during our trip to the birdmart in Pomona. They are doing a lot better than expected and I am looking forward to shade and fruit next year!

 

 

Those furry little caterpillar looking things are blooms that hopefully will mature into Mulberries in a month or two, meaning I might actually get to harvest fruit from my orchard this year!

My flock gets a rather varied diet, Why? mostly because buying pellets and pouring them in a feeder is kinda boring. It’s a lot more work to gather, grow, and ferment stuff for them but it makes me feel more involved in their welfare. Does it make them healthier? I honestly don’t know but it sure makes me healthier. If everyone had chickens and a garden maybe the pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t be making such a killing on antidepressants and other mental health medications. Chicken Therapy! Thats what America needs!

 

 

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Wormy Permie?

In my trade if someone just ain’t right they get labeled as wormy, having just wormed my flock I think I understand the term a little better now. Surfing the blogosphere via categories I think may interest me it hit me that the term permaculture is being rather rapidly possessed by people that could use a good healthy dose of Wazine, or maybe even Swine strength Ivermectin.

There are Blogs where outlines for designing a permaculture haven are being developed with military precision and a rigid adherence to a formal Dogma that I have yet to find. Then there are the “certificate” holders that wax poetic about the near mystical experience they had digging a hole for an outhouse at the direction of some self proclaimed Permaculture Guru, and they paid “tuition” just for the honor of creating a place for this person to take a shit!

Where is this seemingly unreasonable rant coming from on such a hot, muggy, miserable Sunday afternoon? I read a post where a common schmuck, like myself, was worried that what they were doing on their little piece of Heaven might not “really” be permaculture because they were thinking of using a tractor! First off I need to clarify that in my little world wormy is most definitely a negative and possibly slanderous term, schmuck most assuredly is not! I am proud to be just a common schmuck and use it as a term of respect. Again, in my world, a schmuck is someone who just tries to do the best they can with what they got. The key point being TRYING, if your not trying to do something you might as well just go check yourself into somewhere where you ain’t gotta do nothing. OK that last thought didn’t quite develop properly but I think you get the picture.

I absolutely love Paul Wheaton’s site: permits.com there is lots of interesting information and a whole lot of schmucks. Those schmucks take the form of greasy haired hippies, serious engineer types, housewives (or househusbands), wannabe farmers, and generally every other type of person you can imagine. They are all great people just trying to make things better one little bit at a time. If what their trying works out they go on their and share their success, if it doesn’t they share that to. Again the key point being is that it is just a bunch of people like you and I trying to do something, they aren’t worried about following some set of rules, their just doing. To wrap up this silly little rant please don’t let the thought of breaking some “rule” of permaculture, or anything else for that matter, stop you from doing what your instinct is telling you to do.

Now for something completely different:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK maybe not completely different. I decided to apply some of the principles I had learned long ago from the many National Safety Council conventions I attended. In the hierarchy of safety the most effective way to control a hazard is to remove it. Have you seen any of those Public Service Announcements about being sure to remove the door from your old refrigerator so a kid won’t suffocate in it lately? Didn’t think so, in fact if you ain’t over 30 you probably don’t have clue what I’m talking about, refrigerators used to have handles that latched them closed and kids would be playing hide and seek or some other game and get locked in them then suffocate. Just like in my war on the Space Alien Trained Evil Egg Eating Chickens, the refrigerator industry tried everything they could think of until they finally just eliminated the hazard. Since latches were removed from refrigerators the number of kids suffocating accidentally in them has plummeted, first results on my roll out nest box modification looks almost as promising. My sweety, Karen, showed me some fancy roll-out nest boxes in a chicken magazine, they wanted $50 a piece for them suckers! I Say No Way Jose! An old cage pan and a pair of tinsnips and I got roll-out 1.0. Hopefully this will fix the problem by eliminating temptation.

 

The nest box choices have been reduced from 6 to 4, with the 2 grey ones having been retrofitted with roll-out 1.0 devices. If this continues to work I plan on out fitting the to blue nest boxes with some sort of glued in shelf just inside the opening. The eggs laid in them currently naturally tool to the front. My little BCM dominant Barnyard Bastards have all escaped from the juvenile pen and are running with the big girls now so I expanded the roosting space by constructing the lovely ladder type monstrosity seen above. Wrestling that thing into place resulted in me being soaked completely through, did I mention that it is hot and muggy here today?

My mantra for the week is going to be “just keep trying” and I hope that all of you do to. If by chance your the one that was worried about using a tractor, try not to worry about the little things, I read your posts and your doing some amazing stuff, keep up the good work!

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Tri-Pod

My Sweety, Karen, is the go to gal for our beloved family Vet, Doc Henderson. Whenever they need a critter bottle-fed or socialized his office calls up. Her giant Heart just won’t let her say no. A while back I introduced you all to Tri-Pod, the poor fella that somebody trapped because he had an injured leg. Unfortunately they didn’t bring him to Doc until he had been in the trap for a week. Consequently he got a double whammy, freak out from being locked up in a tiny trap for way to long and then strangers amputating his front leg. He was one seriously anti-social cat when we got him, in fact Doc had him pegged for a feral cat he was so freaky.

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It has taken 2 months but Tri-Pod has finally started to come around. He is really very loving and craves attention but there is still a lot of freaky things going on in his head. Thats OK though if someone locked me up in a cage just barely big enough to turn around in then chopped my arm off I’d be purdy freaky too!

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Focus!

A little bit of self-examination tells me that I am focusing a bit to much on the “evil egg eaters” and have been letting them drive my agenda. This evil chicken cult is obviously a secret society with a much larger agenda than uninitiated neophytes like myself can truly comprehend. In fact I find myself obsessively watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel hoping that Giorgio Tsoukalos will just lay out the facts that prove once and for all that the only explanation for this phenomenon is “space aliens”.

Squirrel

Did I ever tell you about the awesome present my sister Lorri brings me every year at Christmas time? (insider tip: click on Lorri’s name to see a really awesome blog!) Here are some pictures, see if you can guess what it is.

If you guessed Prosciutto de Parma your some kind of italophilia foodie wannabe, Jamón ibérico? a clueless foodie snob of the worst kind! Wheres the black foot? Duhhhhhh. Maybe the delicately aged hind quarter from a road killed white tail? Go back to the bayou you poor uneducated excuse for a Redneck!!

 

This here is a fine aged Country Ham! A whole leg of salty goodness with just a touch of that lovely mold inspired FUNK! I skinned it saturday and gave my chooks the rind, wholly moly them girls appreciate a fine southern delicacy. They scarfed, running around for a couple hours stealin choice bits from each other.

Squirrel

The next bit of fodder to analyze is Comfrey. Every garden guru here in Vegas either looked at me like I was stupid or told me that it won’t grow here when asked about Comfrey. As I mentioned in a previous post my Sweety, Karen, got me 4 comfrey plants during our adventure to the Pomona Bird Mart back at the end of June. These plants survived (barely) a trip back to Vegas in the back of our pickup, then sweltered in record heat on our front porch for a week before being put in the ground July 1st. By that time they each had 3 or 4 inch long leaves left and those were wilted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above are those same plants 2 weeks later, why are they doing so well? I bet you that space aliens are peeing on them when they come down every night to plot nefarious deeds with the “evil egg eating” minions! I am pretty sure that I heard Giorgio mention that Space Alien urine is super high in nitrogen and phosphorus due to their exposure to cosmic radiation. And speaking of fodder my chickens love this stuff. I have been plucking 1 or 2 leaves a day from each plant and the girls gobble it down before the swiss chard.

Squirrel

Well I think I have worked myself out of my self induced anxiety attack and can now go back to chillin with my Sweety, Karen, and darling little light of my life Alexa.

Nitey Nite

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Remodel

In my ongoing battle against the evil egg-eaters infesting my flock I engaged in a remodeling project of the hen house today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the nest boxes have been relocated and raised, as shown above there are now boxes on both walls instead of just along the one. The two blue ones are new, I’m hoping that their deep dark interiors will be less inviting to Nosy Nora’s looking for a snack. One of my White Cochin’s were caught pecking at golf balls in one of the relocated nests, she is now in isolation over in the Juvenile Pen. Ironically “isolation” is filling up quickly, along with the three hens I have caught red-handed pecking eggs there are four hens that were hanging out in the hen-house looking just a little to guilty and three “hens” that are in fact roosters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This “fancy pullet” that Karen picked up from a feed store in Escondido was busy fighting with the criminals in lockup today, I’m not expecting “her” to start laying anytime soon. The pretty red hen on the right is very sweet but she ended up in lockup because she shows a bit to much interest in the nest boxes. For some reason my egg production in lockup has been very high, 5-6 a day, while in the hen-house I’m still lucky to get 1 and usually find 4-5 broken ones. That is what prompted me to change things around, I’m thinking that for some reason the new environment in lockup is breaking the egg breaking habit.

Karen has sucked Alexa into the baby nurturing obsession! Karen is already trying to subtly trying to inoculate me to the idea of her keeping that little baby African Grey, she thinks she’s being sly getting Lexi involved and oohing and awing over it’s white toes. Apparently that is some kind of significant genetic marker, it looks like alopecia to me. Her teeny tiny Quaker that she rescued is still hanging in there, it’s siblings are twice as large but Karen tells me that is due to the parents feeding them more frequently than she does.

Today was a good day, watching Karen share something she loves with our Granddaughter Alexa was a great start and even though it’s very muggy here a day working with my chooks is always a good day!

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Litl-Uns

Karen and I are semi empty nesters that are never happier than when we can bring some babies into our house, luckily we currently have quite a few in residence. The first ones are my two Barnies.

A lot went into these two cute little fluffy butts. My sweety,Karen, had got me 16 Barnevelder eggs from one of her customers in Utah. Once they were in my hands though things kinda went sideways. I’m still struggling with humidity control in my new Brinsea OCTAGON 20 advance incubator which I think is resulting in over or underdeveloped embryo’s that just don’t hatch. At 2 weeks half the eggs were clear, of the 8 left 6 hatched, 2 died within hours, 2 were fully formed but never hatched, and 2 had spraddle legs and lasted about a week leaving these two beautiful, healthy Barnies! Hopefully Karen will get me another batch of eggs next time she makes a delivery to Utah.

This is Tri-pod, he came to us from our awesome Vet, Doc Henderson. Doc is a true animal lover that shuts down his practice once a week to let the local Heaven can Wait group use his facility to do low-cost or no-cost spay and neutering. Tri-pod came to him after someone had trapped him to have his injured front leg treated, unfortunately by the time he got to into Doc’s care he had been left in the trap for over a week and there was no option but to amputate the limb. Tri-pod was very traumatized and in desperate need of some TLC and socialization. As happens quite often Doc’s daughter Katy called Karen and told her she had a project for her, usually this means they have a batch of feral kittens that are quite literally “scaredy cats” that after a couple of weeks around our menagerie calm right down and turn into the type of kittens that are easy to adopt out, not this time though. Tri-pod came home and spent the first couple weeks in the office just chillin out, we never saw him but the food bowl would be empty and fresh dubage in the litter box every morning.

On one of Lexi’s visits the office door got left open and Tri-pod promptly took up residency under our bed. He started venturing out in the evenings to let us know he was hungry and slowly gained enough confidence to venture out in the middle of the night to say hi. Now he comes out any time Karen has something to eat and joins right in the beggin que with the rest of the critters! Tri-pod has really grown on me and I sincerely doubt that he will be going anywhere.

Karen’s all time favorite exotic birds are African Grey‘s, she currently has 3, Magoo & Molly that are supposed to be breeding, and Sheila who is her absolute favorite. This evil looking creature is a baby that Karen is currently hand-feeding, she jokes that the babies she raises are priceless which most of her customers tend to agree with. Whenever we run into people who have purchased Grey’s from her they all rave about what wonderful birds they have. Karens secret is the attention and love she gives them, some people believe that squirting hand feeding formula out of a syringe into the birds crop through the bars of a cage makes the babies pattern on humans and therefore good pets. That may be true but Karens goal is to create companions not pets, so her babies are always fed while she holds and talks to them. They also get a lot of attention outside of feeding time so that they don’t just tolerate people that actively seek interaction.

Because of Magoo’s apparent incompetence Karen had to purchase the one baby African Grey she is currently feeding, the Quakers shown above though were hatched right here in our bird room. The first 2 hatched out just fine in the nest box and the parents are doing a good job feeding and caring for them. When they get bigger Karen will pull them to hand feed and socialize them. The little tyke in the second picture came from an egg that the parents had buried in a corner of the nest box but luckily Karen found. The egg was cracked and almost got tossed but Karen decided to do an eggtopsy and discovered that the baby was still alive! After carefully removing the shell with tweezers she tried putting the baby into the brooder with the baby Grey but raising the temperature to what the Quaker needed overheated the Grey. Luckily she thought of my incubator and it has worked perfect as a brooder, the fancy digital temperature controls came in handy. I, and I believe Karen to, did not expect this tiny little Quaker to make it but it’s 4 days later and the little sucker is still doing well. I am so lucky to have a friend, lover, and wife like Karen to share these things with. While I may not quite understand her fascination with parrots and cats, its for damn sure that she’s confused by my wanna be chicken rancher/farmer obsession but we both enjoy each others passion in our separate interests. And after all isn’t that what a relationship is supposed to be about?

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Update! Schmupdate:(

A week of plusses and minuses. On the plus side my two new Mulberry Trees are doing great! They have already started putting out new growth, they do appear droopy at mid-day but by morning they are perky as can be. Currently I am watering them daily and probably will for the next couple of weeks, by the end of July I hope to have them down to an every other day watering cycle. All four of the comfrey plants are sending up new leaves and seem to be doing well on the greywater irrigation system. I did hit all of them with a shot of miracle grow solution with a bit of Sprint 138 Iron Chelate thrown in  for good measure.

I have mentioned Sprint 138 on this blog before but it bears repeating, this stuff is great! Expensive yes, but it works to correct chlorosis caused by Iron deficiency extremely fast and effectively. Our soil here is heavy clay and very alkaline, two things that hinder plants access to iron. I have used Ironite and Sulfur but neither one work very well in our soils and what little gain you get is gone by the next year. As of now I can’t talk about the longevity of Sprint 138’s effects but I can say that a week after applying a half a shot glass of the stuff around the base of a bunch of anemic looking yellow leafed fruit trees they were a healthy dark green.

On the Minus side I may have caught one of my egg eatin bastards but I ain’t caught em all yet! I still got eggs disappearing even with a couple that I caught red-handed, so I’m moving on to phase II.

Over on the TBN Ranch Blog I read some good information about controlling this nasty habit. My Granddaughter, Alexa, is going to help by collecting eggs more often, My sweety, Karen, is going to make a couple of mustard filled eggs, and I installed privacy screens over all of the nest boxes today. I am leaning toward the outta sight outta mind theory, in the juvenile pen where all of the suspects, and convicted felons are hanging out I have been getting 4-5 eggs a day out of 6 hens and no evidence of pecked eggs. I believe that even though there are proven egg eaters in there they aren’t breaking them because they can’t walk by and see the eggs in the back of the pet carrier they are laying in.

Another minus was the loss of the two spraddle legged Barnevelders I mentioned last week. Realistically their loss at this stage is more of a -/+ in that their passing now saves them a lot of suffering for little gain.

On the plus side is the 2 healthy Barnies I still have!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also started a new fermented feed batch, I dumped out and thoroughly cleaned my buckets, enlarged the drain holes a bit then put fresh scratch in the inner bucket. This time I am starting the fermentation culture with both Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and Yeast. The yeast was just plain old bread yeast that I proofed in some warm water with a bit of sugar, when it was good and frothy I dumped it on the scratch and filled the buckets with just enough water to cover. After working in the orchard for a half hour or so the mix was bubbling slowly and smelling yeasty so in went about a cup of ACV and a 1/4 cup of brown sugar for good measure. This batch is gonna set till at least Monday and maybe longer so it gets a good start. Additionally I found a bag of raw soybeans in the barn, so I boiled 2 cups of those to toss in the batch to boost the protein.

It’s been hot as hell here lately and fixin to get humid due to the monsoons sweeping up outta Arizona, but I gotta say that even a smoking hot, muggy, sweaty day spent working in the Orchard/Chicken is hard to beat!

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Caught the Bastard……I think

My egg production had dropped precipitously, 3 weeks ago I was collecting a dozen a day then it dropped to only 1 or 2 eggs a day seemingly overnight. For a while I just ignored it thinking that it was the heat. Last weekend it penetrated my thick skull that there were eggshell pieces in the litter inside the coop, I got an Egg Eater!! What to do? 

I rounded up the usual suspects, these three are always malingering in the hen house just looking guilty so Wham! They went into the juvenile pen. What happened? Three eggs in the little pet carrier the quail hide in inside the juvenile pen but only 1 egg in the henhouse and no telltale shells in the litter.

So I targeted the shifty looking ones next. Brian, one of my trusted minions, was sent on a midnight raid to round them up. This group consisted of the remaining three easter eggers. Did this rectify the problem? NO!! All it did was add some green eggs to the daily hoard in the quail box! What to do? Run a sting operation, Thats What!

Yesterday while planting my new fruiting Mulberry Trees, I note “fruiting” here because fruitless Mulberry Trees have been outlawed in Las Vegas, I placed 2 chicken eggs from the quail box into one of the nest boxes in the henhouse. There was also one egg in a nest in the corner of the henhouse that I left alone due to the fact that there was one very angry duck sitting on it. I kept my eye on the bait box, kinda like a bait car for chickens, while doing my chores in the orchard but other than a couple of nosy Nora’s nothing happened. I collected the eggs from the nest box and left the angry duck to her sitting.

This morning I went back up to water my Mulberry Tree’s and Comfrey plants that I set out yesterday. Additionally I had potted up a couple of trimmings from the Mulberry’s and some Oldham Bamboo culms that I am hoping will root that need a drink. When I checked the henhouse the angry duck was gone as was her egg! I looked but couldn’t find any shells around nor did any of the nest boxes contain any eggs. In the juvenile pen were three eggs in the quail box, so i reset the trap just like yesterday. I had a big black sex-link hen that was hovering around watching me, so I made an unsuccessful attempt to catch her but then promptly forgot her. After starting the hose I went up to the house to fill the surge tank and got sucked into fixing the dryer for my sons fiancé.

That took about a half hour and when I got back down to the orchard what do I see? A big black feathered butt stickin out of the baited nest box! Hurrying into the henhouse I grabbed the hen and sure enough it was the same black sex-link, and in the nest box was a freshly pecked open egg.

Now I have a confirmed egg-eater on lockdown in the juvenile pen. Only time will tell if this problem has spread to the other girls in my flock but for now I’m hopeful that the main culprit has been uncovered. If my egg production in the henhouse goes back up this week I plan on releasing the earlier suspects one at a time back into the general population. Those girls ain’t off the hook yet though, they’re gonna have to prove their innocence before a full reprieve from the Santa Ria priest is given! As to the fate of the one I caught red-handed, or should I say yellow-beaked, maybe my minion and I will try our hand at butchering our first chicken. One things for sure she is not going back into my chicken yard!

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