Tag Archives: chickens

I’ve got a headache

Headaches, do they really need to rule your day? or are they more just a symptom of apathy or depression? Today mine is all about the weather drying out and my sinuses protesting the change. Looking back though I realize that just maybe “i’ve got a headache” has been my internal excuse for just veging out rather than getting to those projects that need to get done.

Just about my biggest “headache this past year has been attacks on my flock. If my recollection is correct my flock has been hit by no less than 3 dog attacks, 1 coyote attack, and one disease infection. This repeated building up and then having my flock decimated has taken it’s toll, while still maintaining that my chickens and ducks are livestock it is very disheartening to see their lives wasted.

To that end I have been working to build housing that is more secure for them at night and also more aesthetically pleasing (gotta keep Tuey happy now that we’re up on the hill).

coop

Sample Design

Tuey saw this coop in Fernley last year when picking up some Crested Cream Legbars and liked it so much she took a picture and sent it to me. Since last summer I haver been supposed to build a prototype, but that damn headache kept interfering.

Escape Hatch?

Escape Hatch? 

Last weekend I finally got started by building the floor and run.

The Floor

The Floor

Overgrown Nails?

Overgrown Nails?

The above pic shows what happens when you forget to flip off the repeater switch on your nail gun after sheathing your shed roof.

Today I started on the framing for the hen house.coop8 coop9 coop

Tomorrow I hope to get the sheathing on (I am not gonna turn that damn double tap back on!!) Then my Sweety, Karen, can start painting. Having a project going sure does push those pesky headaches into the background.

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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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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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Work

All week I have been thinking about work. Currently I am sitting in a Hotel room in Reno looking forward to seeing my Daughter in law get her Masters Degree from UNR. Erin is a great example of someone with a strong work ethic, she works full time, goes to school, writes a blog, and does a great job of keeping my knuckle headed son Michael pointed in the right direction. In my work I am surrounded by a lot of people like this but unfortunately have to deal with the other end of the spectrum also. Every time I got fired or caught up in a one man layoff I knew exactly what I did to create the situation I found myself in, likewise when my three sons got into trouble my first question was what did you do? In our house you were guilty until proven innocent. Apparently not everyone thinks that way.

Where I am going with this, besides bragging about my daughter in law Erin, is that my Orchard/Chicken project is about work. None of this stuff is set it and forget it, in fact if it was I would probably figure out a way to put some effort into it. A good example is feeding my Chickens, feed isn’t that expensive and I could afford to purchase top quality food for my girls. It is just more stimulating figuring out how to “beat the system” and find free or nearly free ways to feed them well without going to the feed store. This really sunk in when I was rinsing the seeds I was sprouting

20120517-161934.jpg Why was I doing all of this stuff just to feed my chickens? And why have I been working every weekend setting up and tweaking a greywater irrigation system for my Orchard? Because I, and I believe most urban farmers, are really looking for a challenge. And that challenge comes from using your wit and your back to overcome obstacles that may well be easier overcome with money.

It’s very hard to explain to the uninitiated the sense of satisfaction that comes from collecting your own eggs, or picking your own fruits and vegetables. I have had people try to quantify things from a business perspective explaining that my eggs are really costing me 4 or 5 times more than I could purchase them for, and that doesn’t count my labor. The old saying about the fruIts of your labor is probably an abstract concept to these people, but in my case it’s a literal concept and one I think more and more people are striving towards. In this modern world where so little is within an individuals control it is comforting to know that I had at least a little bit of control over the quality of the eggs I eat.

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Chicken Forage part 2

This morning I set up a dinner table for my chickens next to their coop. The idea came from this article I read over backyard chickens.

Some stuff in that article seem a bit off to me, like worrying about your chickens eating where they shit. Come on! it’s the other way around, they shit everywhere! when one dumps a really good one the others come running over to see if there might be something good in it. In my opinion to many people try to apply human sensibilities to animals and trying to keep your chickens eating in a clean sterile environment is just nuts. But the idea of putting something in my run to get the girls to jump around and put a little effort into getting their food seemed to mesh well with other stuff I had read regarding foraging and paddock systems.

I got lucky in finding a local restaurant that the chef was willing to give me scraps from the kitchen as long as I provided a couple of clean buckets. This morning the girls first take out order came in, I wasn’t sure what to expect but if todays haul is typical we hit pay dirt! The buckets had melon halves that still had plenty of flesh, carrot peelings, bell pepper cores and tops, scallion roots, and all of the seeds out of the melons. As you can see the girls went nuts.

With these great vegetables and the cooked rice I have been getting my feed bill should stay under control. Currently I have been going through about 1/2 a bag of all-purpose pellets a week for my 25 chickens, 5 ducks, and 1 ducken.

The pellets are provided all the time in my treadle feeder which really helps keep down the amount the pigeons eat. When I first got this feeder last year it took my chickens about a week to figure it out but now when they hear the door go CLACK they come a running!

Overall I’m finding that while my situation may not be perfect for a by the book paddock/forage feeding plan as Paul Wheaton out lines in his article, Raising Chickens 2.0, with a little creativity I can create a hybrid system that should make for happier healthier chickens and lower feed bills.

As I was going back through this Blog post it dawned on me that the key to making foraging work for a suburban flock is for the flock tender to do the foraging. Most of us don’t have the resources to produce our flocks entire feed needs. Either we are short on space, the climate is a bit challenging, or any other number of things such as regulations restrict our plans. Instead of throwing in the towel and relying on commercially produced feeds I am discovering that you need to think outside of the box and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.

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April’s Fluffy Butts

Karen bought me a Brinsea Octagon 20 advance incubator a couple of months ago and I have been trying to figure it out. I had a Little Giant Styro that I was getting 80% hatch rates. This is my second hatch with the Brinsea and I am just under 50%, 7 hatched out of 15 set. My first hatch was even worse! somewhere around 30%. I was getting a bit bummed and frustrated till it dawned on me this past weekend that last year I was hatching mostly Barnyard Bastards from my own flock and this year it had been all shipped eggs. The few that I had set from my own flock in R-Com mini 3 egg incubator had been batting 1000! I had been comparing apples to oranges.

These babies hatched out April 18th & 19th from Hatching Eggs I ordered from The Fancy Chick

Orphingtons: Lavender, BBS, and Lavender

At one week

At two and a half weeks

Three Cuckoo Marans

At one week

At two and a half weeks

This final one is also a Golden Cuckoo Marans

1 week…………….two and a half weeks

Unfortunately I had sold all my roos to the local Santa Ria priest so I don’t currently have any fertile eggs. My Black Copper Marans Rooster started crowing last week though so maybe I’ll get some soon! Then I can test my new bator with fresh non-shipped eggs.

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