Category Archives: Chickens

Things Knead to get done

Last weekend I planned on continuing my more detailed exploration of small-scale fodder production, during the week leading into the weekend I collected stats and took pictures. On Friday something clicked in my head and I had an overwhelming urge to make bread from scratch, BOOM distraction #1.While searching for a recipe (Sponge method had stuck in my head as being the “better” way to make flavorful bread) I found this great Blog about food that appears to be very down to earth and real and not filled with foody propaganda. The phenomenon of “trendy” has always intrigued me. Last year Paul Wheaton’s highly practical permies.com got me thinking about the permaculture thang and inspired a post, now a well written blog on real food made my head leap to the religion of foody’s. SQUIRREL! Back to bread.

Sponge after an overnight ferment

Sponge after an overnight ferment

Post Kneading

Post Kneading

Ready for first rise

Ready for first rise

post second rise

post second rise

finished product

finished product

It can only be genetic, my Grandpa used to make bread every Christmas and Thanksgiving. I like to believe it was probably a connection back to his Momma or maybe even his Grandpa kinda like it is with me. My sister, Lorri, tells some great stories about our formative years and has done a great job of painting a very vivid picture of the Great man who was my Grandpa on her Blog “The King of Isabelle Avenue”. Lorri’s posts sometimes make me laugh but never fail to make me cry.

SQUIRREL

The second thing that hit me was the reality that while I had been fat, dumb, and happy believing that I had been living up to my responsibilities to my Sweety, Karen, by working on the house, the reality was that I had been rationalizing dumping the moving responsibilities on her. In acknowledgment of this fact I am diligently trying to direct my weekend project efforts towards rectifying this issue. First Step was setting a goal in my head of getting Karen’s birds moved up to Clayton.

First panel cut free

First panel cut free

The Aviary

The Aviary

Results of cutting a couple hundred hog rings

Results of cutting a couple hundred hog rings

We worked together and got her outdoor aviary disassembled, loaded, and moved up to Clayton on Saturday. While not a total resolution to the Bird’s it is a start. Now Karen needs to decide on the place so I can get a few more blisters hog ringing that sucker back together. That gets us to the first part of this week and Karen tackling one bedroom at a time at the old house when she gets approached by a neighbor who is going to have to move because their landlord is selling the house they rent. They are a really nice working class hispanic family with kids going to school in the neighborhood and are interested in renting our house……around the end of the month! So now the terrible process of emptying the Griffith house of 30 years worth of accumulated stuff is being accelerated. And I wonder about getting nostalgic and a bit depressed all at once?

SQUIRREL

What else could happen along with all of this? My sons Husky, Michone, broke into my coup for the second time in less than a month last Saturday night. Laura Rittenhouse wrote about her experience with this type of terrible event on her blog, in fact it rather knocked her for a loop. I work very hard to keep a more detached mindset towards my flock, constantly reminding myself that they are livestock and steadfastly refusing to name them. All of that sounds good but even with the plan developing for our “processing” this spring break when my nephew Grady was here it still gets to you. Approximately ⅓ of my chickens and all but 2 of my ducks were killed in the first attack, the second attack got another 5 chickens and both of the 2 remaining ducks (including the one exception to my naming rule, Ducken, the little drake who thought he was a chicken). Am I mad about this? Not really, more just sad. There are 2 fences between where Michone is supposed to be and the chickens and she was just following her instincts. If you read this Laura I hope you find your way back to the Blogosphere, I truly miss your wonderful writing style and so want to learn more about bee-keeping and everything going on at your new place.

SQUIRREL

This mornings attempt

This mornings attempt

Back to the present, the two loaves that I made this morning wouldn’t take near as much flour and seemed to be slow to rise. The finished product turned out good but different than last week, a little denser, a little less sweet, and slightly nutty. Trying to expand my bread making knowledge I reviewed everything I did and used , this led me to discover that not only do I have selective hearing (Karen tells me about this all the time) but apparently I have selective reading as well.

Fancy Flour

Fancy Flour

I picked this up at Trader Joe’s yesterday thinking that it was that new fangled faux wheat flour that is really just bread flour with a little bit of bran ground up real fine and used it 50/50 with my regular bread flour. Looking at the label now I can’t explain how I came to that conclusion. My wheat bread ain’t bad though.

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Look what I found!

Digging around in the barn for something I decided to see what was in the loft and lo & behold look what I found!

What is this thingy?

What is this thingy?

It's a brooder!

It’s a brooder!

And it works!!

And it works!!

I had been using my Sweety, Karen’s, bird hospital cubicles as both hatcher and brooder. This practice had led me to rush my chicks into the juvenile pen after 2 or 3 weeks in order to avoid complaints about the odor. Now I can set up this brooder in the office of the new house for this season and then find it a permanent location when we move up the hill. I do need to figure out exactly how to set it up properly, temperature I get but this has a curtain that I ain’t quite sure what purpose it serves.

Two dozen eggs in the incubator.

Two dozen eggs in the incubator.

This find couldn’t have come at a better time. The half dozen eggs in the second row up from the bottom go into lockdown this friday, the next half dozen just above go into lockdown 3 days later, and finally the outer two rows go in a 4 days later. Hopefully within the next 2 weeks I’ll have a brooder full of fluffy butts and an empty incubator ready for the Cream Legbar’s and Basque hatching eggs Karen is teasing me with AGAIN.

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She thinks my Tractor’s Sexy

Well it’s not really my tractor but my sweety Karen is sure smitten with it, and Lil’ Cutie Alexa aint far behind! My buddy Paul “found” this tractor outside the auction and dropped it off at the Clayton Annex thinking we could use it to clean up a bit. We now have a banked oval track in the side yard from Karen & Lexi driving around and around and around! The youngest two of my three boys also seem to be irresistibly drawn to the musical sound of that Yanmar 2 cylinder diesel.

Brian forgot how to use a clutch

Brian forgot how to use a clutch

 

Tommy Boy had to get in on the fun.

Tommy Boy had to get in on the fun.

At least today Karen and Lexi tried to be productive. There was a big ole stump that needed to be put in the dumpster, so it was time to fire up the tractor again today.

 

Karen showing that she can do anything

Karen showing that she can do anything

 

Lexi wasn't gonna be left out

Lexi wasn’t gonna be left out

 

Tractor4

Karen & Lexi are on the loose

Tractor5

Karen said this is almost as much fun as goin to the dump

Tractor6

Lexi said “this is way more fun than goin to the dump and it don’t smell like poop”

 

Tractor8

Lexi offered to teach me to drive the tractor

Tractor9

She found a pile of dirt that needed moving

While all of the “work” with the tractor was continuing over at the Annex I did some chores over at the orchard. Three roosters went to the feed store in return for 50# of Lay Pellets. That leaves the flock with two full size roosters, one Black Copper Marans and one Golden Cuckoo Marans. All of the large fowl chickens are back in the common run with the 5 silkies in juvenile pen. The area that had been the bachelor pen got tilled and seeded with barley, buckwheat, and red wheat. I’m hoping that our moderate weather will allow this area to sprout and develop into a pasture area the flock can be turned into occasionally.

The first Peach tree to leaf out

The first Peach tree to leaf out

 

A Royal Rosa Apricot. The first tree in the Orchard to bloom!

A Royal Rosa Apricot. The first tree in the Orchard to bloom!

Things are poppin in the orchard, buds are swelling and I have my first blossoms ever opening on a Royal Rosa Apricot. Next week I plan on spraying the orchard with a pulsing agent mix of Liquid Fish and Neem oil. The idea is to feed the little critters in the soil so that a pulse of good bacteria and fungus can out compete any bad guys that may blow in. My sister Lorri has a knack for finding gifts that I would never get for myself but after I get wonder how I ever got along without it. The book The Holistic Orchard is just such a gift, I have read it several times and constantly refer back to it. The author, Michael Phillips, has some fantastic ideas and this latest book of his lays things out in a manner that isn’t overwhelming or judgmental.

 

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Ghost Goose

I was gone for the weekend and came home last night to find what appears to be a Black Copper Marans Goose egg in one of the boxes! The problem with that idea is two-fold; First, to my knowledge there is no such thing as a BCM Goose; Second, I don’t have ANY geese only chickens and ducks.

Part of this weekends haul of eggs.

Part of this weekends haul of eggs.

 

What the heck did this come outta?

What the heck did this come outta?

Is this an eXXXtra Large egg?

Is this an eXXXtra Large egg?

 

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Chicken Fodder

Yeah I know not to creative of a title, give me a break it’s been a long day. Fodder has been a topic of mine before, this morning on my feed run I took some pictures of my set-up and am going to share them with you all. Fodder

I tried the inexpensive black nursery trays you can buy at the hydroponics store but they kept cracking on me.

Fodder2

Now I am using restaurant prep trays, I got lucky and a friend was able to snag these from a local restaurant that was going to throw them away due to minor cracks in the rims. Apparently the health department feels they could harbor bacteria. I did check at a local restaurant supply store and these go for $10-$14 a piece which is a bit spendy but would probably be worth it if you were doing this for a lot of chickens and for a long duration.

Fodder3

 

To convert these to sprouting trays I drilled a BUTT-LOAD of holes in the bottom. Probably somewhere between 50 and 75-3/32″ and 1/8″ holes in each one. I also broke half a dozen bits from trying to hurry. The trays get wet down and allowed to drain once a day and are producing a good tray on an 8 day cycle. Over at BYC they have an enormous thread about fodder . After reading the 113 some-odd pages and over 1100 posts you will basically find out that the whole purpose is to stretch your feed by making the nutrients more bio-available which is basically the same thing fermenting feed accomplishes. If your interested in fermenting feed check out this post  over at Scratchcradle Heather really knows her stuff! As for supplies I bought a 50# bag each of Red Wheat and Barley back in November and have just about finally used it all up. Until the last 2 weeks I had only been producing a tray every other day but am now up to a tray a day. I soak 3 cups of seed for 24 hours or so before dumping into a drilled tray, usually I see roots by the end of day 2 and by day 4 there is teeny tiny greenery popping up. After that the growth rate takes off, on BYC they claim a 7 day grow out but for me 8 days gives a nice tight mat that the chickens have to work at a bit to tear apart. The final day of growth I actually pull the mat out of the bin and let it sit out on an open tray without being watered, why? because I only have 7 bins and it works.

 

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Rooster Reduction

My whining about lack of egg-production and repeated Ah Hah posts about finally figuring out the root cause of the issue has been a recurrent theme for about the last 6 months on my blog. This month I am blaming it on to damn many Roosters! ImageA large group of my hens had been hiding in the Hen House and looking pretty sad. So I decided they needed some fresh air and tossed em out into the run, boy oh boy did I find out quick why they were hiding! Chicken Orgy, them damn Roosters chased the poor girls down and lined up taking turns going for “piggy back rides” as my granddaughter Alexa called it.ImageIt was past time to cull some Roos, and no I still ain’t worked myself up to “completing the circle” and putting meat on the table. The intention was to pull out all of the Barnyard Mutts and take em to the feed store. ImageAs you can see there were a couple BCM x Production Red crosses and then BCM x Easter Eggers. I thought I had gotten down to 2 BCM, 1 White Cochin, and 1 GCM for a total of 4 roosters, the other 5 went to the feed store where I got a bag of lay pellets and a crisp $5 bill. A couple days later I realize there was some crowing goin on in the Hen House and discovered that the White Sport GCM wasn’t a hen after all.Image

Three days later and I’ve gotten 6 eggs a day 2 days in a row! Image

I’m not crowing yet though, we have been hit with a hard freeze that is supposed to continue for the next 3 days which will probably knock down my egg production again.Image

My two favorite hens, my sweety Karen and my cutie pie Alexa.Image

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Egg Sucking Bastard

All summer long I was on the hunt for which of my chickens was eatin eggs. In fact I got just a tad obsessive about it here on my blog, first in July with my pie in the sky hopes of “Caught the Bastard” continued with “Update Schmupdate” culminating in a little self examination in “Focus” . Well I’m off my meds and back on the trail of them damn Alien Inspired Evil Egg Eatin Bastards! This time I decided to go high tech and called up my BFF Hoss for advice.

Top of the line Game Cam

Top of the line Game Cam

Isn't Hoss one hell of a handsome fella? That's his Daughter Sidney with her Awesome Buck

Isn’t Hoss one hell of a handsome fella? That’s his Daughter Sidney with her Awesome Buck

Good ole Hoss knew just what was needed, a Moutrie MFH-DGS-D55IRxt is just the ticket he says. For a small consideration he hooked me up and man-o-man what a story that sweet little machine painted! It was a snap to set up and was I ever amazed when I uploaded those pictures.

 

 

 

 

Coop in the Daytime

Coop in the Daytime

P232-318-256-294-03ah-0467-c1-l055-02-0360-1080-0359-1079-000-LB00-1

Coming up empty again!

P135-256-256-256-030h-0312-c1-l063-02-0360-1080-0359-1079-000-LB00-1

Dusk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Golden Cuckoo Marans rooster Checkin things out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far everything is normal, no eggs, but normal…..Then:

I think I may have found the problem

I think I may have found the problem

Is there anything in there?

Is there anything in there?

 

Could be

Could be

 

Chomp Chomp

Chomp Chomp

 

Oh the Arrogance!

Oh the Arrogance!

So I think maybe technology may have won out again, I had been fooled for months by this evil critter blaming everyone and everything that came to mind. Is this the end of my quest in pursuit of those Damn Alien Inspired Evil Egg Eatin Bastards? Probably not, I’ve thought I had them whupped before but they just came back at me from another direction.

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Expansion or just more work?

A year and a half ago we found out that our neighbor at the Fruity Chicken was putting his house up for short sale, and for various reasons my sweety Karen and I decided to try and purchase it. For anyone who has never experienced a “short sale” the term does NOT refer to time frame! After a long, arduous, and highly frustrating process we finally took possession of the Clayton Annex to the Fruity Chicken 3 weeks ago.

The Fruity Chicken is a 1/2 acre corner lot with a 1200 sqft. house and a barn on it, the Clayton Annex is the 1/2 acre corner lot with a 1600 sqft. house and a pool directly behind The Fruity Chicken and sharing a common back fence. So effectively we now have a full acre peninsula with 2 houses, a pool, and a barn on it.

Kitchen Remodel

Karen has been watching to much HGTV

Kitchen Remodeling

When all else fails apply brute force.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Remodel

Brawn wins out over Brains!

 

 

 

A/C Installation

Karen making sure the guys get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Destruction

Karen makes the mess and Alexa cleans it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destruction

Sensible shoes? Alexa says “what can’t I do in heels?

 

 

 

 

 

Pool Replaster

Pool replastering 101

 

Pool Plaster

All I need is a hammer and a little time after school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the midst of all of this destruction I remembered that I had duck eggs in the incubator. When I checked on them I realized that my auto-turner had broke sometime, I started turning by hand but didn’t really hold out much hope for my chances of hatching out any ducklings. A month before 6 eggs had been put in my incubator, 4 green and 2 white ones. What breed are they? I have no clue, one of the females looks kinda like a mallard and the other is black with a white belly and a funky little poof ball on her head. After the first day of Kitchen destruction we came home to find 2 of the green eggs had hatched out.

Baby Ducks

The first 2 both outta green eggs

Baby Ducks

4 ducklings 2 outta green eggs 2 outta white, can you tell the difference?

Due to all of the work going on at the Annex I haven’t had a lot of time to get things straightened up and ready for the 10 new bareroot fruit trees coming this winter. The plan is to create some mini raised beds to mitigate the wet-feet issue that plagued the orchard last year. Things at The Fruity Chicken haven’t been totally on hold though, the fodder plan is progressing, fermented feed is still a hit, and the damn evil egg eating aliens are still plaguing me! But I got a plan……my next blog post should contain pictures of the perpetrator in the act, I borrowed my buddy Hoss’ trail cam last night and set it up in the coop today.

While feeding Friday one of Alexa’s Silkie Roosters snuck out and the next thing I know we had a battle royal join on.

Chickens

Squaring Off

Roosters

Spurs Flyin

Roosters

Back to your corners

Our winter catch up season just keeps getting fuller and fuller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creative ways to make simple tasks more complicated

I find that the cooler temps and shorter days bring out a desire to do things. In the summer there is so much to do but it is a miserable time to do it (at least here), conversely come fall things start tapering off just when it feels good to get out there and do things. Feeding chickens is one of those things that should be simple…right? Last winter and spring I decided that I wanted my chickens to forage for at least part of their diet. This article over at Paul Wheatons site was my inspiration and the foundation for my long term goals in regards to my chickens.

Propagation Tray

Preparing the propagation trays by drilling drainage holes

Red Wheat

5 cups of Red Wheat Prior to soaking

Red Wheat

Red Wheat 24 hours after soaking

Fodder

Red Wheat after 2 days

Red Wheat after 5 days

Red Wheat after 5 days

Chickens eating fodder

The Chickens enjoying the Red Wheat Fodder on Day 6

Mixed Fodder

Round 2 is a mix of Soy Beans, Parrot Sprout Mix, and Red Wheat

My flock took to the Fodder right away and currently I am producing a 10″x20″ tray every other day. I have discovered that Red Wheat is a much more vigorous sprouter than Barley. My process has evolved in the week and a half I’ve been doing this to where now I am soaking 2 cups of parrot sprout mix along with 1 cup of soybeans overnight, then putting a cup of Red Wheat and a cup of Barley on to soak the following night and finally layering them in a propagation tray on the second morning with the Barley/Wheat mixture on top. The parrot sprout mix I am using contains several different types of field peas, safflower, sunflower and vetch. Those grains along with the soy beans provide a very hardy larger sprout while the barley is supposed to be high in protein and the red wheats vigorous roots tie everything together into a tight puck that is easy to handle.

In addition to Fodder I am still actively foraging by proxy for my flock, at least twice a week they get left over cooked rice from a chinese restaurant and I still occasionally get vegetable prep from that same place. My sweety Karen has exotic birds, LOTS of exotic birds, and they are very wasteful of their feed. Rather than sweeping it up or dumping their cups in the trash she now keeps a 5 gallon bucket near which she fills with all of the chaff/seed/pellets they leave in their bowls or toss on the ground. This bucket gets topped off with leftovers and goes out to the chooks about twice a week. On top of this I keep a bucket of high protien pigeon feed fermenting in the coop for those slack days in my foraging efforts. To round out my Flocks nutrition needs I have an auto-feeder setup that is always full of a mix of Lay-pellets and Flock Raiser pellets.

Chicken Feeder

My custom built “Foraging” Table

Chicken Feeder

The water proof feed hopper portion of my Automatic Feeder

Chicken Feeder

The “Magic Trigger” for my Automatic Chicken Feeder

When I moved this setup out of the area that I am trying to grow a chicken pasture in I lost the fancy trigger I ordered off of ebay for $4.99 and then had to pay $10 shipping to get it here from the UK. I had read somewhere that a teaspoon would work just as well and figured what the heck? Low and behold it worked just fine! The chickens go under the foraging table, peck at the “trigger” and out pops a few pellets. It did take a couple of tries to get the hole sized properly so that the feed didn’t just run out but would dump a reasonable amount when pecked.

Yeah I know my Chickens are spoiled……aren’t yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Progress, Obsession, or Therapy?

Thanks in large part to the moderation of the weather I have been getting more hours in at The Fruity Chicken on the weekends. I like to think I am making steady progress on my goal of making my 1/4th of 1/2 of an acre as productive and interconnected a Chicken Ranch/Orchard/Garden as possible. To that end I have been making major changes to my Chicken Run.

Chicken Yard

A panoramic view of the Chicken Yard at The Fruity Chicken

Their are no big changes in philosophy in the management of the chicken run this year, just minor refinements.

Chicken Yard

The Juvenile Pen

Brian and I moved the Juvenile Pen from it’s former place against the block wall out to the wire fence that separates the Orchard Area from the Chicken Run. This change moves what had become a bit of a stinky area further away from the neighbors and also gives access to the pen without opening the gate to the Chicken Run.

Forage Area

The Forage Area

On the opposite (West) end from the Juvenile Pen a third of the Chicken Run has been fenced off to create a forage/pasture area. This area has been tilled and seeded with Scratch, Pigeon Feed, Buckwheat, and Dry-land Pasture mix. The Scratch has milo. sorghum, and corn seed; the Pigeon Feed has various field peas, oats, wheat, millet, and safflower; the buckwheat is pretty much buckwheat; and I have no idea what is in the Dry-land pasture mix but it sounded good.

Run

The open area where the Juvenile Pen used to be

Originally I had planned on running a wire fence from the corner of the Juvenile Pen to the block wall separating the run into 3 roughly equal sections. The central area, containing the coop, would be occupied all of the time while the flock would have access to one of the side areas at a time on a rotational basis. That plan is still under review. Currently I am leaning towards leaving the infrastructure as is and only giving the chickens access to the pasture area for short (1 or 2 hours) a couple times a week while leaving the West end behind the Juvenile Pen open. In that area I would like build and place some breeding pens like Barbara’s over at The Crowing Hen. For some reason certain members of my family, co-workers, and friends think that this is turning into a bit of an obsession.

 

 

Over in the Orchard Area things are focused on cleaning up so that I can rework the planting sites for the trees I lost this year.

Clean Up

Pumpkins left over after removing the vines

The Comfrey  I planted this year are doing well.

Bocking 14

One of my Bocking #4 Comfrey Plants

Comfrey

Comfrey Plant I got from the Korean Nursery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plant above on the left is one of the one year old plants I got from Coe’s Comfrey which is a Bocking #4 variety while he one on the right was purchased at a Korean Nursery in Pomona CA. It is pretty obvious they are different varieties, the Bocking #4 grows much faster and has larger leaves.

The Mulberry trees are doing great as well.

Mulberry

Mulberry Tree just outside of the Chicken Run

Mulberry

The Mulberry to the West of the Orchard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of these trees came from the same Korean Nursery as the unknown variety of Comfrey shown above. They are growing fantastically, there are two others Mulberry Trees from another source in the Chicken Run that are growing well but don’t quite compare to these two. It is great getting back into full swing working on this project and as I’ll post about soon all of this is about to get both easier and harder at the same time.

While some may see my focus on progressing this project as an obsession I like to think of it as my Sweety does, Karen says that “Chicken Therapy” is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.

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