Category Archives: Chickens

Chickens are dumb

Perfectly good chicken coops and where do they roost?  On the roof.  Never mind the perfectly good and plentiful roosts.

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9 O’clock and alls well

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We manage to enclose the two coops today.  It took a while to get the chickens from the tree.  Head pounding apples and chickens who roost higher and higher are not a good combination.  I’m leaving the coops open so they can work out their new spots themselves.I’m particularly proud that we managed to catch “Satan” the rooster.

Now for a much deserved cider and then on to give the rabbits their treats.

Put the old hens in with this years batch.  That should be interesting in the morning.  Fat Mama is by herself with her eggs in the A-frame chicken tractor.  I put down 6-10 inches of straw in case the bumbles actually hatch and need to bounce.  Tomorrow might be day 20 on an egg or two.  One looked like it would be about day 12.  Don’t know if there will be any success with the hatching but it’s pretty riviting to watch.  I’ve already learned a lot even if no chicks come of it.

Heat wave and new layers

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Its too hot here.  Its also too dry.  My chicks started laying two weeks ago and I have stopped locking them up at night or taking them out of the tree.  Its just to darn hot.  That has led me to a weird sort of daily egg hunt.  My husband and I noticed a preference for laying in some of the cooler areas of the back yard like the back porch.  Instead of forcing them to stay in the coop, I’ve converted some boxes into temporary nesting boxes.  This is working out very well.  I’ve placed the boxes around the yard and the daily egg hunt is over.  Hope the heat doesn’t keep this intensity much longer.

Chickens in the Trees!

Oh, there are chickens in the trees!

What on earth is going on that the chickens have decided to sleep in the trees.  This is all because of the black minorcas I picked up.  Turkens don’t fly well enough for this to occur to them.  I wouldn’t be concerned, but my neighbors haven’t managed to solve the grey tabby cat problem.  They are trying really hard to solve it, but we still have that cat hunting our yards at night.  I’m not sure it is enough of an issue to clip their wings and it has been ridiculously hot here.  I wouldn’t want to sleep in the coop either.

There’s the silly rooster.  It’s utterly absurd.  At night the minorca has been sleeping up there, but she is a black chicken with black feet and I can never find her.  I went to Chism Heritage Farm for the weekend and my husband texted me with “the chickens are in the tree and not the coop, I hope that is ok”.    I was pulling them out of the tree last night and putting them back in the coop but gave up halfway through and went to bed.   It’s something I will have to ponder today.

Sustainable Backyard Tour 2012

While I checked out the yards for this years tour, I thought I would snap some pictures to give everyone a little preview.  I’m very excited about the Carondelet area offerings!  The area I’m coordinating is south St Louis near the river.  Take a look at some of the fantastic things you will see on the tour if you follow my node!  There are gardens, up-cycled elements,  unusual plantings, chickens,  rabbits, solar power, and composting just to name a few elements of our area.

Click on the link to register to go on the tour.  This signs you up to receive a map a few days ahead of time.  Its a lot if fun and free.  Meet some great people, get some great ideas and come out June 24

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These are pictures of right now.  Think how great these yards will look in five weeks!

Tedium and Chickens

One of the most tedious of garden jobs to me is pricking out seedlings into flats.  I have a ton of flats that are overdue for transplant.  The weather this spring has been so odd, I’m off my game.  Today, I was lucky that my dear friend who owns garden D came over to talk to me while I moved plants around.  That always helps me stay on task.  We had a nice (albeit muggy) afternoon talking and transplanting.

I’ve been out doing promotions for the backyard tour and one of the questions that comes up a lot is the noise of chickens.   Chickens talk a lot.  Roosters yell a lot.  Roosters don’t just crow at sunrise.  I find chicken noise to be incredibly peaceful for the most part.  They have very communicative little noises.  Play, food, surprise are all things they are able to communicate.  One thing that they do drives me bonkers, but they don’t do it much.  If the hawk flies over, one will run out and start and alarm cluck that is incredibly loud.  The others will then go hide.  The red hen sounds the alarm for hawks and the turken does it for cats.  Very weird little system they have.

Two of the chicks moved next door this week to their forever home.  They have lush new accommodations, but cannot figure out how to get to their nest boxes at night.  My neighbor goes out every night and picks them up and puts them up high.  While we were transplanting starts and tossing worms to the chicks, I noticed that one of the old hens was up in the kids fort.  I couldn’t believe it, I had no idea they went up there.  It provided our answer about the chicks, they should be capable of getting into their nest boxes on their own.

Good place to escape my blood thirsty dog boy, but bad place for escaping the hawk.  The hawk swoops over the yard and over to the tree on the left beyond the fort.  I’ve seen it just that low about right there where she is standing.

Looks like I have two roosters.  One of the Lankenvelters turns out has decided to be a boy.  Isn’t he beautiful?  His name is now “soup”.  This issue is probably the biggest one I get questioned about when speaking to people about chickens.  Roosters are not allowed in many municipalities.  Sad, but it’s the way it is.  You can order chicks that are “female”, but there are mistakes in sexing.  Always expect that the supplier will get some wrong.  Hens get old.  If you want pets, that’s ok.  If you are producing eggs, it may not be.  Feed costs money.  It’s not too bad to feed a pet, but a non productive chicken is another thing.  I’m only allowed a certain number of chickens.  My chickens become soup when they stop laying.  I don’t have room for chickens as pets.  That’s my decision, but it is something to consider before you get backyard urban chickens.

My other roo is an unusual breed called Derbyshire Red Cap.  He isn’t technically mine.  He belongs to my friend Heather.  She has not named him soup.   She would like to find him a home and I’m good with that.  It will take quite a while to get him up to an edible size because of his breed.  The comb that is growing on his head is fascinating to me though and I find him quite beautiful as well.  Sadly, his comb is obscured in this picture.

So with good company and inquisitive chickens milling about we had a really nice afternoon transplanting.  I can’t imagine how people could focus on the noise when chickens can be such nice companions.  The white rock at the top has the worm game all figured out and won’t stray too far from me when I’m outside.  They are the breed that picked up the fastest on the human having good treats.

Escape of the Chicks

I have two kinds of chicken tractor.  One is set up like a wheelbarrow and the other is just a box.  My husband and I go out and lift the box just slightly and move it a few feet once in a while.  It’s needs a new top for easier cleaning and access and we don’t keep chickens in it year round.  Right now it has the group I am raising to replace my current layers and the chickens we are selling or belong already to neighbors.

This week when we went to move the coop, a couple of the smart ones (yes, I know chickens are incredibly dumb, but these are smart for even chickens) decided to squeeze out underneath while we were lifting it.  The rest saw them do it and all decided to try in all directions.  We couldn’t just drop the coop and risk killing the ones currently underneath, so they all got out.  Chickens were running in every direction!  Then they had no idea what to do.  It didn’t take long before they got their bearings and started foraging all over the yard.  They were ecstatic.

I was out working so I decided to just let them roam for a bit.  At supper time I filled up their feeder and thought this is when they will all go in and I can shut the door, but they outsmarted me.  They went in groups and never all went in at the same time.  I decided at dark they would probably return.  My older chickens do.  All I have to do at night is shut the door for them.  Alas, I went out and not a single chick was in the coop.

I retrieved a flashlight and put the dog in the house because the poor guy can’t resist the little ones.  He knows he will be in big trouble if he kills yet another big chicken, but you could see the slobber dripping out of his mouth while he pointed and barely resisted the urge to snatch one up.  Poor guy.  It was like taking a kid to a candy  store and making them eat broccoli.    I searched for the chickens and saw them under the quince and the kid’s slide.  I thought I could shoo them towards the coop but they weren’t budging.  I decided to just start grabbing them from under the slide since that was easier than thorny quince and it was going along pretty smoothly.  I took one at a time and counted them to make sure I had them all.  I kid you not, it was like a clown car under there.  I kept pulling and pulling and it was a never-ending supply of chickens.  At one point I was crouched down and placing one in the coop and looked up and one was standing and inch from my head.  I have no idea where she came from.  She was one of the black minorcas which are difficult if not impossible to find in the dark.  Black chickens with black legs.  I have to think she had roosted in the apple tree above the coop.

I got to the last chicken under the slide and thought I was one short.  I thought back to how many we ordered and tried to remember how many died because they mailed them on the weekend (which will prevent me from ordering from them again).  I have been telling people I have a certain amount, but that night I decided I had been telling people one more than I thought.  It was late and way past my bedtime so I went to bed after shutting them all in.  The next morning about 10 am another black minorca transported to in front of me wanting to go back into the coop.  She was completely upset at having spent the night outside and very hungry.  After some effort, I corralled her into the coop and fed them and shut the pop door.  I turned around to go into the house and heard the beautiful little makeshift crow of an adolescent rooster trying out his voice for the first time.  Sigh.  The funny little thing hasn’t gotten out a good crow yet, but he is really trying.  I’m pretty sure he’s one of the Derbyshire Red Caps.  He’s not anywhere big enough to eat yet and with such a scrappy little personality I’m not sure what to do with him.  I have to say he’s a beautiful little bird though.  What a shame.

Red Cap Chickens and the Whole New Lot of Them

I am raising chickens for a few people and was surprised one day while counting each breed to make sure they were all there that one of the combs was looking incredibly funny.  We have Lakenvelters, Turkens, White  Cochins, Black Minorcas, White Rocks, and Red Caps.  So, the white cochins belong to my next door neighbor and will move as soon as their coop is up.  The Red Caps belong to my dear friend Heather and will move as soon as THEIR coop is up.  We are selling some of the rest.  I had a hard time last spring getting them raised so I thought there would be attrition, but so far we have had none other than the hatchery we used mailing them on the weekend.  Not cool.  Not cool at all.

The first thing I noticed while they were still in the house was that the Red Caps are really loud as baby chicks.  REALLY LOUD.  Fortunately, baby chicks are too cute to be annoying and Red Cap chicks have a pattern on them that is even cuter than most to me.   They are also more wild than the rest.  Turkens are the hippy chicks of the bunch.  Very laid back.  While I’m transplanting, any worms I find in the soil mix I take over and give to the chicks.  The Turkens know what I’m doing, but they won’t fight for it.  The White Rocks see me coming and are the first to the drop zone.  They seem to be the most clever of the bunch.  The Cochins are in as soon as they can but the Rocks are twice their size.  They are a little more cautious so they don’t get trampled.

Every time I feed them I try to check the ones that already belong to other people for health issues and general appearance.  I don’t want to hand off any pecked chickens or deformed chickens either.   I live in fear of egg binding, but they are a little young yet to worry about that.  One of the Red Caps had a wider comb than the rest and I started to get worried.  I was thinking to myself, I have no idea what these chickens are supposed to look like, is that CANCER?????  The things I think of crack me up, so I came inside and actually looked them up for the first time and lo, and behold, they are a rose comb breed!  They are apparently wonderful foragers, but not great for confinement.  Hopefully, no one reading this is keeping chickens in a little two foot square cage anyway.  I read somewhere that their meat stays more tender than other breeds as they age so they make a better table bird than most after retired from laying.  They certainly are spirited.

When Heather first ordered them, I thought, “Why would you want a chicken named after a murderous sprite?”  I didn’t tell her, because my nerd knowledge of such things sometimes embarrasses me.  Seeing the rose comb and it’s similarity to a gnome hat though makes it make more sense in my brain.  Probably just a visual thing and not really because they are murderous chickens.  Also, I have no idea why those chickens were named that, may have nothing to do with fairies what so ever.

Here she is with her beautifully forming comb.  Right behind her is one of my new turkens and behind them are the lankenvelters.   Sorry about the focus, I’m using my cell this week to take pictures.

My brother has converted me to nipple watering the chickens.  That is what you see with the PVC pipe in the picture.  On top of the chicken tractor, there is a five gallon bucket that feeds into the pipes.  Very easy to maintain and there is always clean water for the chickens.  The chickens like to sit on them and swing.  We have them wired up and raise them higher as the chickens grow.  We did not get the nipples from the link above.  My brother bought them in bulk and handed me two tubes with the nipples in them.  He’s an awfully awesome sibling to have.  He also writes a very interesting blog on sustainable farming, check it out.  He comes up with different solutions and different ideas for making the most of his 20 acres.  He also works full time and manages to keep it all going.

The red one is another of my turkens.  I worked an information booth yesterday at an Earth Day event in Kirkwood, MO for the Sustainable Backyard Tour I help organize.  We shared a booth with Living Green and a chicken keeper from Kirkwood who unfortunately I don’t have contact information for.  I will correct that.  He had his chicken “Mizzou” on the table.  She is an Easter Egger chicken and had a green egg there in the cage for people to see.  What a hit with the kids!  Back behind us he had a collection of other breeds for people to see.  One Buff Orpington named “Buffy” figured out early in the day how to escape the enclosure and spent the day being held by either Bill, her owner, or myself.  I should have brought some of my hideous little guys for people to see.   Really, I think Turkens are the best for city living.  But I’m not one to judge a chicken on looks I guess.  It was a fantastic day.  I’m so grateful to have been a part of that and meet such wonderful people.  It’s a really nice little Farmer’s Market out there and next to the train station so it’s a great place to go if you have kids.

Chicken Cam

This year I am working in cooperation with a dear friend to raise a new batch of layers.  We both live in the city and have kids so I thought it would be a great idea to broadcast the chicks so her kids can watch them at home.

Today started early with a panicked call from Heather saying the Post Office had called at 6 am saying the  chicks were in and they didn’t think they were in good shape.  Fortunately, I was still up having a manic knittingpalooza trying to meet a mailing deadline this morning.  By 6:20 AM she was here with a box of chicks in hand from McMurray Hatchery.   When she called I had dropped the knitting and frantically scampered all over the back yard collecting what I would need to get them hydrated and warm.  We opened up the box and carefully took out all the tiny little things and dipped their beaks in the water and got them under the heat lamp.  Usually I don’t raise chicks in a rubbermaid, but I had a huge one in the living room and it seemed like it would work for keeping them warm.  We sat vigil over them for the next hour and any that were unsteady or puny we kept taking to the water and making sure they were warm.  Only one feather foot past away in shipping, the rest are going strong!  Click on the pic to watch them by our ustream chicken cam!

Turkens are only cute when they are babies, keep an eye out for their little naked necks holding up a cotton ball with a beak.  (Looks like they will be black and red! Last year I had one white one we will see.) Enjoy!

Chickens Won’t Walk in the Snow

We’ve had our first real snow of the season here in south St. Louis.  The chickens are not pleased.

The backyard covered in snow.One of the big problems for them is that it never really gets dark here when there is snow on the ground.  Three of my chickens are retired layers from a farm.  The first two nights they were here they totally freaked out about going to bed.  It’s not quiet here, it’s not dark.

It’s really a beautiful snow, I have no idea why the chickens won’t walk out in it.  This is a problem.  The other thing about cities is they are stocked with predators.  Dr. Trivia’s 500 cats are not going to let a night go without checking to see if I put the chickens away.  Normally in the evening I just have a seat and wait until they all decide to mill about and into bed.  Generally by 8 o’clock they have all headed into the coop and I can close the pop hole and get back inside.  I can’t even sit them out, my chair is covered in snow.

This seemed like an ideal time to use the evil dog for good.  He loves to chase the chickens so I went to send him under the porch where I can hear them (not the wisest of all plans) fortunately I forgot that I moved the rain barrel closer to the back stairs so no dogs can get under there.  It would have been a bad plan.

I can’t find a flashlight so I grab the camera and head out to see if I can find them.  Today was pork liver keep away sporting day for the chickens, so they’ve had a great day trying to tackle each other in their little selfish ways.  They were still tackling each other when the snow started up so they rushed under the porch on the way back to the coop and apparently sat down.

I found “little red hen” first.  She want’s to go to the coop and just can’t quite summon up the courage to go.  I have left these unpatched holes under the porch this spring because I thought it might provide some cover when the chickens need to escape.  I had a raptor get one about a month or two ago.  I thought there were enough shrubs in the yard, but no.  So we have this weirdly patchy double thing going on and a water barrel so I am not at all ever going to get under this porch tonight.  To the left the grates are covered in grape and kiwi vines as well.  Sigh.

So where are the rest of the girls?  Perching on metal pipes under the porch.  Jeez.  Metal?  Really ladies?  You won’t walk 10 feet in the snow, but standing on metal seems fun?  I can’t get them out.  Gigantor the Possom that lives in the abandonded building across the street, or the 500 cats, or the raptor that hunts at dawn are going to swoop them up in the morning because they are not smart little creatures.

Look at this warm and inviting coop!  It’s got a tarp, a heat lamp, plenty of wind blocks.  It’s nestled all nicely on the north side of my neighbors house.  You would think one of them would be brave and go.

Sigh.

So, there is some good that comes from the snow.  I can see how effectively my compost pile it working.  The answer is, it’s just not.  I will need to give it some attention in the next couple of days in an effort to get it doing what it needs to do again.  Do you know how I can tell?  There is snow on it.  It’s not warm at all.  Thinner snow than the rest of the yard, but not by much.  This is my cheater pile of last year’s debris waiting to be spread out in spring hopefully after it has broken down.  Hauling it to continue breaking down does not seem optimal.

This picture shows pretty accurately how bright it is out there.  Will I have any chickens tomorrow?  I go to bed with a queasy stomach thinking about it.