Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas at the Henhouse

The hen house in our November snow storm.
 On this morning days before Thanksgiving I was up early watching the news to see if the kids would be going to school and sent this picture (or one similar) into KOMO news. Two minutes later it was on the TV! Probably because I was the only person up that early and sending in snow pictures. The ladies didn't like the snow much and wouldn't trek out even for the goodies. I spoiled them just a little by spreading alfalfa in the covered area and out some in their run. As long as they didn't have to walk in the white stuff they were happy to scratch in the hay and eat some of the dried leafy goodies. Lucy, our golden retriever,  loved the snow even more than I did. Now that's a happy dog.

Thanksgiving came and went without a hitch and everyone had fun. I think it was perhaps the best one I have ever hosted. It was touch and go there for a while because of the weather but the snow melted and everyone made it. The food was good, tables were pretty and everyone got along. A happy day.

Although it wasn't planned that way the young people (read kid table) gravitated together. I say kid table although the age range was from 14 to 22. Maybe I should just say the old people were at the old peoples tables.

The rest of the weekend was spent with the friends that stayed over. We went to some antique stores, made Christmas wreaths, and just hung out visiting. By Sunday the last of our guest left and we were ready to go find a Christmas tree.
My kids and I decided to go find one to chop down. We did this last year driving up almost to Oak Harbor to get it but this year we thought we would try to find one closer to home. After finding two "tree farms" on the south end and not finding a tree that met our standards we gave up and bought one at the locale nursery. It would be another week before we finally got it set up and decorated. I had to get ready to do a Christmas bazaar on Lummi the next week and two more after that at the Bayview market on Whidbey. I'm sure I must have mentioned at some point that I make goat milk soap. To see this and other related products just go to the web site

Back to the chickens. Did I mention that the ladies come looking for me every evening before going in. They spend the afternoon free ranging  around the property  but at about 4 to 4:15 pm they want their treats and to be put into the coup. Now, maybe they would go in by themselves when push comes to shove but when you have them staring at you through the kitchen window they are a little hard to ignore. So I trundle out and tuck them in to the coup doing a head count just to make sure they are all accounted for.

So for those who may be wondering what to do for the chickens in cold weather I have a few tips. Mostly gleaned from experience living up north on Lummi Island on a windy exposed property. We would get what Lummi Islanders (and Bellinghamer's) would call nor-Easters that would blow out of the Frasier River Vally bringing some stinging cold with it. For those who are interested read on.

1.Make your coup draft free. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to insulate it but if you do make sure the chickens can't get to the insulation. They will eat even fiberglass and love foam. Make sure there is still ventilation. An open window or vents higher up near the roof work well. A chicken coup needs ventilation to prevent the build up of ammonia fumes and dust that can cause respiratory disease. If you have a coup that is sort of tossed together (and so many are) stacking straw or hay bales around the outside will do wonders for the drafts.
2.Don't clean out the coup. Let the litter pile up adding more clean and dry wood chips when needed to keep the smell in check. The chips and manure underneath will compost down and add heat to your coup.
3.Make sure your flock starts out the winter healthy and hefty and with a balanced commercial feed. Table scrapes (not meat or potatoes) like vegetables and bread scrapes are always welcome and a handful of scratch helps them to keep up the body heat in the coldest weather.
4.WATER, WATER, WATER! Make sure they have it and don't let it freeze. If you have electricity in your coup invest in a heated waterer. That's the easiest. Otherwise you will need to change the water a couple times a day with lukewarm water to encourage them to drink. Sometimes a light in the coup will keep the water from freezing. The chickens appreciate it too.
5.Predator proof your coup and run. Raccoons and coyotes get hungrier as winter makes it harder for them to find food.
6. Protect combs and wattles.If you know it is going to be a particularly bitter day or night, rub petroleum jelly on exposed wattles and combs to prevent frostbite. Feathers do wonders to keep your birds warm and they will sit on their feet to keep those warm but big fleshy combs are vulnerable to freezing.

If we get any deep snow and you want to spoil them a little, shovel out a spot in the run and spread a little hay or straw. They will appreciate the chance to get a little exercise. Don't let them out in deep snow. They can get stuck in it and die of hypothermia. Although we live in a fairly temperate zone I suspect we may be in for a cold January. An ounce of prevention...... ya da ya da ya da.

So remember that happy dog you saw in the picture above. Here she is being bossed by the cat. Emma kitty says "Hold still. I'm cold and I want to borrow your tail. If you don't I will beat you up!" Lucy doesn't look as happy now.

November 13th blog had a little story about my rescue Silkie, Baby,  and how well she was doing. Over Thanksgiving weekend Baby became sick with something and no matter what I did she didn't recover. I am convinced that for the few months she was with us here that she was happy. She was definitely well loved and spoiled and I will miss her.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ravings of a Mad Woman or (Thanksgiving. Is it becoming a lost art?)

Turkeys on Lopez Island
     I like Thanksgiving. My kids like Thanksgiving. It means many things to us. Its a time to share our home with friends and extended family. It's a time to have a lot of people that we care about all in the same place at the same time and to reconnect with old memories and traditions. A time for playing games, watching the Macy's parade in your PJ's and dressing up in something special but comfortable. It's a time to pig out on traditional dishes like cranberries, yams and pumpkin pie (and of course turkey) and the one time of the year where you can wear black olives on all your fingers at once eating them one at a time without anyone yelling at you and being thankful for the freedom to do so. And we all look forward to it.
     So I am getting ready to cook a feast for 14 (maybe more) people this Thanksgiving. It is the first time in 5 years that I have hosted a gathering and I am really looking forward to it. I use to host it every year when I lived closer to my sister and my parents were still alive. So I am cooking, cleaning, and just plain polishing up the house for the big event. I have some people that will be staying the whole weekend and some that have to go home that night. But I am going to have a house full. I just got home from shopping in town for the things I know I can't get here on the island. Most of them are things like new plates because I got rid of my old plates when I moved. They were old and marked up and I knew I would want something else. An area rug, new coffee pot, (mine was ancient and ugly), a new lamp shade, etc. Like I said. Stuff I knew I couldn't get on the island.
     The feast will be filled with the traditional dishes. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, two veggies, corn pudding, fresh baked rolls, fruit salad, cranberry relish and/or sauce, yams, and an assortment of appetizers, relishes, pies and desserts. All made from scratch and fresh. Oh ya, the Turkey too. All 22 pounds of him.
     I went to a grocery store the other day and walked by a display of seasonal fare. Standing there and looking at it I realized most everything that a lot of people buy for Thanksgiving is out of a box or can. Of all the meals you can cook in a year this one shouldn't come out of a can. Standing there and looking at it I realized that the whole meal could possibly be made in an hour or less depending on what you did for a bird. Where's the fun in that! There was stove top stuffing, Potato buds, gravy mix, yams in a can with the obligatory marshmallow cream to go on top. Canned cranberry sauce, brown and serve rolls. And don't forget that "traditional" dish that advertising has brain washed most everyone into believing is mandatory. GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE! Thanks so much Campbells! YUCK! This is my pet peeve of the season. Since when did the pilgrims even see a green bean let alone cream of mushroom soup and onion rings. At the risk of sounding like Charlie Brown I have to have a rant here.
     We the people of the United States already have very few food customs. Why do we let corporations take away what we do have? Throw away those cans of green beans. Grab a bag of real cranberries, throw some sugar and a little orange zest on them and cook them for a few minutes until they resemble the real thing. Do we still own a potato peeler? Toss the marshmallow cream and roast a few yams in the oven with a little olive oil and garlic. Guaranteed to taste better than anything out of a can. And a turkey? Someone told me the other day that they had a tofurkey for Thanksgiving one year. (Turkey shaped tofu) Apparently it was very disappointing.
 I  bought a Foster Farms fresh turkey at Costco. I really wanted a heritage bird this year but the man was afraid I would turn it into a pet before we had a chance to butcher it. (yes I was going to grow my own). I have wanted to raise my own turkey ever since I saw the wild turkeys on Lopez Island wandering through our field. I think they are magnificent. Anyway I wasn't going to get a turkey off island because I didn't want to haul it home but I have never seen a Foster Farms turkey before and I like to support companies that use more humane  ways to raise and slaughter animals. If you can't find or can't afford a heritage bird from a local farmer Foster Farms is the next best thing. They have local plants that an acquaintance of mine has actually toured and given her stamp of approval and that's saying something. So much for this commercial.
     Something else just recently was brought to my attention that threatens the very fabric of our life style. (OK so I am a drama queen.). A friend of mine has a child in basket ball this year and they have practice on Thanksgiving! Is nothing sacred? Are we teaching our kids that being thankful for all that we have is unimportant? That family time can take a back seat to sports? Good grief! And when I told one of my own kids about it she tried to explain to me that her school basketball team also has practice that day and it is because they have to have so many hours of practice in before they get to play a real game. (or something equally as stupid). Fortunately my friend shares my feelings about the sanctity of certain days and she is blowing off the practice but I really think we are losing something important in our culture.

Clone of a cinnabon, unbaked 
     Some one always ask me for a recipe and here is one of my recent favorites. I made these cinnamon rolls and put them in the freezer to take out for breakfast during Thanksgiving weekend. (I also made a few for a test run this morning) You can find this recipe at

Ready for freezing
It is a bread machine recipe however I did it in my mix master instead because my bread machine couldn't handle the stiffer dough. Then I let it rise in a greased bowl just like bread. After rising I followed the directions for rolling it out, rising, and baking adding raisins and pecans. For make
ahead Thanksgiving fare I placed the sliced raw rolls on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and froze them. Then I placed them in zip lock bags and put them back in the freezer for later use. To use them take out the night before the morning you want to bake them. Place them in a greased baking pan loosely covered with plastic wrap.Let them rise in a warm spot overnight and bake in the morning. Adding frosting should be optional since they are just as good without it. Yum!

So Thanksgiving also kicks off the Christmas season. My next blog will have pictures of the coup and more recipes and maybe pictures of the silkies wearing little coats.(This weather does not agree with them.) If anyone has a question about this recipe or any other just drop me a line. I will try to answer your question. Have a fun filled Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Pie To Remember

Alas! The apple pie recipe. Read through the recipe and assemble all your ingredients before starting. This sounds harder than it is and it is real easy if you do it over two days. Try before doing this for Thanksgiving. Eating it will convince you it is worth the effort. I am afraid I can't take credit for this recipe. I found it in one of my favorite magazines that I get from Canada. However I have tweaked it to make it a little easier to read and added my own tips to make it easier to make. Especially for the novice pie maker. Hope you try this. It gets easier each time you do it and it is well worth it.  

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup very cold water

Filling (a two step process)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup real maple syrup
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water

3 lbs. apples peeled cored and sliced.  (recommended apples: Braeburn)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I use a little more spice)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

Pastry wash
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp milk, cream, or half & half

Chill your shortening the night before or just leave it in the frig all the time to be ready at the drop of a hat. 
You can make the pastry a day ahead and keep in the fridge. (Tip: Keeping your shortening refrigerated keeps it from going rancid and it is ready for making any pie crust at any time.)

Make the pastry
Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large two quart bowl. Stir until combined. Using a pastry blender blend the shortening and butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Do not over blend. 

Mix the lemon juice and egg yolk in a measuring cup. Add the cold water and mix well. Pour over the flour mixture and blend with a fork until the dough holds together well. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. (Tip: Over night is better.)

Make the filling
Place the butter and maple syrup together in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add the water stirring to make a paste. Add it to the maple syrup mixture. Stirring constantly slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Stirring occasionally, reduce heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Cool to lukewarm. (Tip:You can do the pastry and this part of the filling a day ahead but if you put the syrup in the frig over night set it out in the morning to bring to room temp).

While mixture is cooling (or next day) peel core and slice the apples and place in a large bowl with the lemon juice and toss to coat. Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the apples and toss until the apples are coated with the mixture. Pour the cooled syrup mixture over the apples and toss well to coat.

Take out your pastry and place on a well floured counter top. Dust the pastry with flour and roll out into approximately a 20 inch disk using more flour as needed to keep from sticking. Transfer to a waiting 9 or 10 inch deep dish pie pan allowing the pastry to hang over the edges. (I use a heavy pottery type but glass works too). Don't worry too much if the pastry comes apart a little when moving it. Just get it into the pan and stick it back together again. Don't be too fussy. It's a rustic apple pie.  (Another tip: Roll the pastry up onto the rolling pin like a roller shade to move it.)

Spoon the apple mixture into the dough and fold the overhanging pastry up and over the apples (kind of like a diaper). Mix egg yolk and milk/cream/half&half in a small bowl and brush the pastry all over. Sprinkle with a course sugar. (One packet of raw sugar from your favorite restaurant is perfect) Place in an unheated oven and turn oven on to 375 degrees.(Tip: Putting the pie on a metal pizza pan or cookie sheet keeps it from dripping into your oven) Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set. Approximately 75 minutes. If the crust browns too fast place a little tin foil loosely over the pie. Cool before serving.

Serves 10
Prep time 45 minutes (once you have it down)
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eggs Eggs Every Where

My girls have been laying eggs like crazy. I was getting 14 to 20 eggs a day. I now have about 20 dozen in the frig and because I don't have established customers for them I am trying to use them as fast as I can. So to slow down the production line I have had to shut off the light that usually comes on for 2 hours in the morning in the coop. Production is now down to 5 to 9 per day. So if any of you live on South Whidbey and would like to buy some eggs, I will give you a dollar off per dozen your first order. (Regularly $4) or I can fashion a Thanksgiving turkey out of them!

This is why I have poo on the back porch
I have a new addition to the flock. Another black Silkie that I named Baby after the character in Dirty Dancing because as we all know "no one puts Baby in a corner". Although I was told she is a hen I am not completely convinced. She doesn't crow though so that is a good sign. I found baby on craigs list and sucker that I am I made the call. A nice lady rescued baby from a flock of bigger birds when she was at deaths door. Feeding and housing her separately from her own chickens became a problem when the husband became a little irritated at all the chicken poo in his work shop. Imagine that. I thought poo was a way of life.

Baby was pretty ugly when I first met her. She was lacking several patches of feathers including all the feathers on her head and she was really dirty and kind of sticky from having "no pick" on her wounds. Baby quickly won my heart but every lady (and the rooster) that approached her was met with flying talons. Self defense learned from necessity I suspect but I don't give up easy. I noticed that she was very interested in watching the other chickens so during the day I would take the ducks out of the adjoining pen and put Baby in there. She was able to see the others through the wire and feel secure enough to do chicken like things like take a dust bath or peck for bugs. I noticed that she wanted to be near the others. Just not with them. Being in the same run with the other girls caused her to fly into a panic. Even landing in the ducks wading pool once. At night I put her in a large dog crate on the table in the coop where she could watch the other chickens through the wire of the door. She was very happy with this arrangement. She had her own private condo.
I started adding chickens to her pen during the day starting with the other silkies. Every day I would add one more until there were about 10 chickens in with her. I can now let her out in the yard with the other hens and she is holding her own when it comes to competing for the treats I toss out for them. But still not in the run. Too confining I guess. In the yard there is room to get away from any of the bitchy ladies and I have one or two of those. In the evening I toss organic scratch in the pen and when the chickens run in to get it I close their gate. Baby waits outside the gate for her share and if she doesn't get it she stands in front of me looking imploringly up into my face as if to say "where's mine?" Cute. Kind of dog like too. When she is finished with her treat she hops up the two steps into my gardening half of the coop and waits for me to pick her up and put her in her condo.

Since this is getting rather lengthy I will sign off with some photos of Baby and of a friend of the big girls that
decided to visit us while we were picking apples in the yard. Speaking of apples I promised a recipe for an apple pie this time. However this post is getting too long so I will make the next post recipes and pictures and I will do it in the next day or two. Here is a picture of the featured recipe just to give you a hint.

Rustic Apple Pie

So tune in before Monday. This pie is the best apple pie I have ever tasted and it is made with (real) maple syrup instead of sugar. Should be called maple caramel apple pie. YUM!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sorry! Where does the time go?

It is the first week of November already and I haven't posted since August. YIKES! I got a couple nudges from people that I think I don't know or at least didn't recognize on comments. I didn't think anyone was actually reading this (except my brother whom I force to read my blog) and as a result it is really really easy to find an excuse to forget about updating. But alas I guess I have a fan or two so let me see if I can come up with something somewhat entertaining.

Our walker on the left.
 Our walker stalker is on the right. 
My oldest teen did the Susan G. Komen 3day walk for the cure in September. 60 miles and a terrific experience for her and the rest of the family. We managed to pull together the required $2300 dollars thanks to donations and a rummage sale that helped to empty out our garage. Funny thing about that garage. It seems to have filled up again. Hmmmm......

The clean up crew
The garden surprised me. Just when I thought it was finished it started producing. I got ripe tomatoes, a few acorn squash, about 30lbs. of potatoes, eggplant, corn, string beans, lettuce, and a few other odds and ends. Seems like summer decided to wait until fall to do something. I planted some autumn broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts and then let the ducks come in for a while to help with clean up of the summer stuff. They weren't much help though. I really need to teach them how to pull weeds.

Some one requested a recipe so here is a quickie that most gardener's probably already know for acorn squash. My kids love this one.

You will need a half acorn squash per person.
Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place in a baking dish.
In each half place a pat of butter and some brown sugar in the cavity. Lay a half piece of bacon across the cavity and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. You can test by poking with a fork to see if the squash is done but don't poke through the skin or all that yummy, sweet, fattening goodness leaks out onto the pan.
This is really good with a meat loaf and a salad on a cool fall day because you can cook the squash and meat loaf at the same time and it warms up the house while you are making a salad! Dinner with benefits!

Sadie on my lap
So I bet you are wondering how the girls (chickens) are doing. Well they are in full production. I am getting somewhere between 15 and 19 eggs a day. I have to get busy and make a sign to sell some eggs cuz with all that production it is costing me a fortune to feed them. Even though they free range all over the yard. Free range comes with a cost. Such as having demanding chickens looking through the glass door on the porch

demanding their kitchen scraps and bread. (their favorite) It also means that sitting on the porch having a nice quiet moment is a thing of the past. Sadie thinks she is a lap dog and hops up every chance she gets. You might remember Sadie (originally named Squeaky) as the chicken that got an injured toe just before we were to leave on spring break. She got use to watching TV with the man very quickly and now has no fear.

The snake eater
Speaking of no fear. I noticed one of the Black chickens out in the yard with a rather large piece of trash in her mouth so because I am a mom and don't want my children or my chickens eating things they aren't suppose to I went to investigate. She had a garden snake in her mouth and was shaking it to death trying to break it into edible pieces. Yuk! I watched in awe for a couple of minutes before snagging the camera. By that time some of the other chickens saw what was going on and came over to see what tasty thing this lady had. The snake was still in one piece and to keep the other ladies from taking it from her this girl ate the whole thing from tail to head gulping an inch at a time until it was gone. I couldn't believe it! She had a very full crop when she was done but she kept her prize. I think she was full for at least two days.

My crowning achievement this summer and something I didn't think I would get done was painting the coop. (with the help of the man) I like it so much I think I am going to decorate it for Christmas. I like to decorate something out in the yard where I can see it as opposed to putting lights on my own house (that no one can see anyway because we are off the main road). Stay tuned for pictures of that. Also coming up in the next blog will be a recipe for a rustic apple pie. Just in time for Thanksgiving! I love this pie. Takes time  to make but oh so yummy.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blessed Rain?

Winter Garden with corn
Oregon Spring tomatoes

Not everyone would think that of the rain and yesterday I would have agreed. I too was complaining that this was summer and my tomatoes are not getting ripe. Where is the heat? I was in the garden until about noon planting a new set of peas (fall peas) and weeding. Peas because I still have spring peas that are finally giving up and spring lettuce that hasn't bolted due to the cool weather this summer. Just minutes after coming into the house it started raining and hasn't stopped since. Suddenly I felt my whole body relax. I took a shower and planned dinner (with my peas) and for the first time in weeks my thoughts went to ordering garlic, reading, and yes blogging. I had been working so hard in the garden this year (the first year for this garden) that I didn't realize how  much work I was doing. I get up in the morning, make coffee, and still in my P.J's coffee in hand I wander out to let the chickens and ducks out to free range. Then I wander down to the garden just to have a peek at yesterdays work and that is my undoing. Hours later and still in my PJ's dirty and exhausted I walk back up to the house for a shower. Sometimes as late as 3:00pm. Today I get to stay in the house and read or something else that I haven't done all summer. Feels like fall and I will order my garlic today because I know by the middle of the week the sun will be back.

The chickens have been laying eggs for a few weeks now and they are almost in full production. I spent a portion of my time yesterday playing referee in the coup. Molly (my bantam hen) may be small but she is not going to take the bigger girls pushing her around. She thinks the lower middle nest box is exclusively hers and the bigger girls like to climb in with her. This results in a lot of squawking and screeching and even a few pecks while I am trying to remove the offending squatter. It is everyones favorite nest box.  I spent some time sorting hens into other boxes in the hopes that they would figure out there are other places to deposit their booty.

Molly and one of the bigger girls
Enough of this. I have bread to bake and books to read before the weather changes again.(And it always does here in the N.W.) I am also going to teach my youngest teen how to make minestrone soup to go with the bread. And just because I have nothing better to do I am publishing another blog so friends and relatives can follow the progress of our oldest teen through her final year of high school and her simultaneous freshman year of college.  Take a look. Leave a comment. I love comments and follow both blogs.Breanne's Senior Year

Thanks for looking.

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Man on Campus

Charlotte aka Charlie
The little Prince
This will be short on words and longer on pictures. We discovered that Charlotte our white Silkie is actually a Charlie. So because he was all boy and a real Casanova we decided to find him a new home. I also took on a new rooster. He is a Japanese Bantam and really small. I won't have to worry about him pestering the girls because he is so small but he is still a good look out and protector for the girls. We still have the blue (gray) Silkie rooster but I think that will work out OK. Our new boy and "Big Man on Campus" name is Prince so of course we call him the little Prince. He is very sweet and seems to like to be held and fed.

Also just for  grins I am posting some pictures of the garden, always a work in progress. The cedar box in the middle was built by the man (of course) so my youngest girl could have a rose garden. We will be filling that with soil and shopping for roses this next week. Hope we can still find some.

The Man true to his nature has installed a watering system of soaker hoses that meander through out the vegi beds. Note in the potato picture the timer in the back. This comes on every morning and waters the garden for an hour before I get out of bed and before the chicken door automatically opens for the day. Go figure.
A volunteer in the compost 
Ducks on a slug hunt
I will leave you with pictures of the garden and the ducks that are working tirelessly on eradicating all the slugs from the garden. Check out my other blog. It stars our oldest girl and follows her through her Senior year of high school and her freshman year of college. She is doing them simultaneously through Running Start and includes several exciting projects that she is taking on this year. You can find this at and it follows her through scuba lessons, her quest to do the 3 day walk for cancer, and her first year at Orca at Everett Community College to name a few.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Egg and I

It has been a busy summer so far but it's always busy around here. Our youngest has flown off to Boise for a visit and to have a little summer fun. Our oldest just got her first car. We have only been looking since January. The man is still working on his ever growing list. (Finish one, add two) I have been trying to establish the garden and play with the chickens and ducks. We have managed to grow lettuce and peas. The pumpkins came up on their own out of the (apparently) not cooked enough compost that I used in the garden. The zucchini and squash have blossoms and the hope of producing fruit sticking out all over and tomatoes! I went over board on the tomatoes. Apparently some women buy shoes and I buy tomato plants. I have about 17, two of each variety that I was interested in. Hope the family is ready for a lot of cheese and leaves. (basil and tomato, and mozzarella cheese).

The chickens and ducks have grown up. Yesterday we got our first egg, small and light brown and without a clue as to who laid it. Today I suspect it was the light Brahma bantam whom I have named Miss Daisy. I heard a huge commotion in the coop and went running out there only to find her standing in the middle squawking like she had just laid the biggest egg ever. No eggs today however.

The ducks have grown up and to my surprise both are female so I found them a boyfriend and a handsome guy he is too. The girls boss him around though but I guess that is better than the alternative.

I will be busy with my (human) girls this summer. The oldest is taking scuba lessons and doing the Susan Koman 3 day walk. I and my youngest will be helping with fund raising and we have been doing some brainstorming ideas for raising funds. Everything from a dog wash to advertising on our training tee shirts for businesses. My youngest got a nice camera for her birthday and is experimenting with photography. She is also a pretty good writer so I am hoping to surprise her with an activity that has to do with writing. Any way my chicken blog could become a photo gallery for the summer but keep checking back for updates. I am also going to do a blog for the oldest since this is her last year of high school and there is so much going on. Look for a link to her blog. It should be exciting!
A weeks worth of pullet
eggs. They're beautiful!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chickens and ducks and turkeys. Oh my!

Time has just slipped away from me and now 4 weeks later I will try to bring everyone up to speed on the happenings around here. The farmers market has started up and I have been participating in that until I wrenched my back in the garden. Those veggies better be worth it but I am feeling better now.

My daughter who lives in Boise finished her chicken coup and tractor and sent pictures. Here are the pictures. She has twinkle lights on it at night so she can look out and see if raccoons are lurking about. These are her first chickens and she is even more anal than I am about keeping them safe. She even gets up in the middle of the night to check on them. Oh well they are her first and she only gets to have three since she lives in town. In case you can't see the sign on the coup it says "Eggs, It's what's for dinner".
I also had The Man build a chicken tractor for my girls. Although I have two runs on the coup my girls have eaten and stomped down most of the grass in both of them. So what I do is graze them in the chicken tractor. This gives them access to fresh pasture and keeps them safe from predators. For those who don't know what a chicken tractor is I will explain. Like my daughters my tractor is a rectangular box that is covered with chicken wire on all sides except the bottom. Mine has wheels on both ends so I can wheel it from either end without turning it around. It is also larger 4ft wide by 12 ft long. Thats because I am putting 27 chickens in it. It has a small corner shelf on one end so I can put a water font on it and not have to pick it up each time I move the tractor. It has a door in each end so I don't have to struggle to turn it around every time I need to park it in front of the gate for the purpose of loading the chickens in and out. All I have to do is park it in front of the open gate of the coup open the door and the chickens walk right in. I usually cover one end with an old blanket to provide shade for them while they are 
out in the yard and they are happy. Because I have so many chickens I have to move it about once an hour to keep them supplied with new forage.  

Now on to the newest addition to our barnyard family. The other day I went to get supplies at the co-op and they had ducklings. Now I had not any intention to get ducks. But...... there were two Khaki Campbells left in the group of ducks. I didn't think. I just got them and brought them home. I have been having tons of fun with these little guys. They imprint very quickly and will follow you around especially if you happen to know how to make mother quacking sounds at them. They follow me from the coup to the garden and they love frozen thawed peas. The Man calls it duck candy. Our oldest girl takes them up to her room and after properly covering her bed they make themselves at home on it and keep her company while she does her homework at her desk. The only problem I really see with all this cozy duck stuff is that they get lonely and stand out in the coup yelling their heads off. I have finally convinced them to spend the night in a large dog carrier out in the run by putting them to bed with a bowl of water with peas in the bottom and a dish of chicken food. Buy morning they are ready to be let out to go for a swim in their wading pool. Sometimes that has lettuce leaves floating in it. Yum! They are bug eyed monsters for peas though and here is the proof. Yesterday The Man and I stopped by the farmers co-op to pick up the bentonite that he had ordered. This is to seal the pond that he thinks the ducks need. It's probably a good thing he was with me because they had baby turkeys. I didn't get any. So with that I will sign off.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Squeaky Chick Gets the Treat

I've been gone for a week for spring break leaving my chickens in the care of The Mans 20 year old son. Not that I didn't have confidence in his ability to make sure each and every chick would be cared for as thoroughly as I would myself. After all, he was told by a few people that he better not screw this up or he would never live long enough to regret it. I must have quite the reputation.

Two days before we were to leave one of the light Brahmas (Squeaky) did something to her toenail breaking off the tip and leaving the quick exposed and very bloody. If you know anything about chickens you know that the rest of the flock will not leave this alone and will peck at a wound on another bird until....well the unthinkable could happen. So I brought her up to the house and soaked her toe in an Epsom salt bath. Chickens love a warm foot soak. They protest when you first put their feet in it. Then they fall asleep so you have to hold them up so they don't sit down in the water. Having dressed her toe with a little antibiotic salve  I  handed her to my youngest daughter to baby sit until I could return her to the hen house. This meant Squeaky spent the afternoon wrapped in a towel, sitting on my daughter's bed looking at Facebook. Just before I had to start dinner Squeaky was brought downstairs and placed in a cat carrier with a wire front to watch tv with The Man. She really seemed to be enjoying the attention. She was hand fed, warm, entertained, and didn't have to deal with the nasty bitches in the coup that were trying to kill her. Guess I would feel the same. Daughter #2 and the oldest came home just in time to gleefully sweep Squeaky up to her room for the night.(in the cat carrier) By the next day Squeaky's toe was better and after enjoying a quick breakfast on the kitchen island (also in the cat carrier) she was carefully taken out to the palace and reintroduced to her flock. The quick had shrunk into what was left of the toenail and there was no sign of blood. Just in the nick of time since we were leaving that morning on our vacation. Squeaky returned to her friends in the palace and we along with the family dog squeezed into the family station wagon for our trip.

Twice a day I called the son to check up on the chicks. No I wasn't worried he wouldn't do the job. I just wanted to make sure I was available to answer any questions about any possible problems that might pop up while I was gone. Uh huh. OK so maybe it was more to make sure he hadn't forgotten to do something he was supposed to do. At any rate after outrunning near blizzard conditions with out the required traction tires and making it through the mountain pass just ahead of it being closed we made it home. I headed down to the palace to see how they had all fared in my absence and guess who was waiting at the gate. You guessed it. Squeaky. I took some treats into the chicken run and sat down to get reacquainted with the ladies mostly because I want them to be friendly and tame when they grow up. Squeaky had no problem with this and promptly hopped up on my knee to see if she could hoard all the treats. She's no dummy.

However we do have one chick that I am sure was born without a brain. This little girl (or boy) just has nothing going on upstairs and to make things worse she looks like a clown. She is a blue silky technically but her color is more of a dark grey. I have a feeling she is going to be the subject of future blogs. So on that note I am going to sign off on this post and leave you with a picture of our little clown.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Case of the Curious chicken

The door motor arrived and The Man decided to install it while I was in town shopping for major groceries. He thought it would be a good idea to do it today since it was raining because he could work inside. Being the mother hen that I am I warned  him the chicks were still too young to go outside in the rain. They don't have all their feathers yet and they will catch a chill unless of course he wants to dry each one with my hair dryer when he gets finished. I also warned him that they would be gathering around his feet while he worked and I didn't want to come home to any crunched chicks. So his solution was to shoo them all over to the other side of the coup and temporarily tack up a piece of plywood to keep them there while he worked. Ya right.

First off they have discovered the out of doors and every time one of us walks into the coup they all run to the door wanting to go outside.They are very insistent about this especially the one I call Rose. Rose is a New Hampshire Red named after another chicken I had years ago. The original Rose was my gardening buddy. Always ready to help me in the garden she would scratch and dig right where I was digging or weeding and I would have to be careful not to cut off her feet with my shovel or step on her.

The new Rose is the one that was the first out the door when I opened it to let the chicks out for the first time. She is also the first one that wants to know what you are doing when you come within view. Apparently she has imprinted on humans because now she is a little pest. (See last post) Pictured at right.
So getting back to The Man and the door opener, he shooed the chicks over and put up the plywood and turned to start working on the door. When he turned back around there were 4 or 5 chicks sitting on the edge of the plywood "wall" watching him and Rose was standing next to his feet. This was great entertainment for house bound chickens on a rainy day. Having no other option he went ahead and finished the job of putting in the timer and automatic door opener being careful not to step on anyone. As usual the door required a test run when he was done. As soon as the door opened out went Rose. I believed he used the words greased lightening. The rest weren't as fast and he was able to shut the door before they escaped. Rose is just an opportunist. I wish I could have seen him trying to catch her when he was finished with the job.

For those who are interested I just discovered that Whidbey has a 4-H club that is sponsoring the first annual chicken coop tour. I am probably too late to enter the Palace in the tour but it has potential for a fun thing to do on a weekend and you get to support 4-H in the process. If you want to check it out here is the link.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chopping Block in the Hen House

You may remember a reference in an earlier blog about The Man installing an automatic chicken door in the Palace.  He loves gadgets and is always trying to "build a better mouse trap". He has never built a chicken coup before so asked me questions like "How big does this door need to be?". I have explained how it needs to open and how the chickens will need a ramp to walk down etc. Usually you would make a simple door that consist of a rectangle of wood that slides up and down in two tracks and has a rope that you pull to raise and lower the door. Simple, right? Not for him.
Sitting in my kitchen watching me make dinner one night he spied my plastic cutting board. You know the kind. White plastic about 12"x 18" with a handle on one end.  "That would make a perfect chicken door" he said. I thought he was kidding or nuts. I should have known better. He bought a new one and next day this is what I had in the side of the coup. He has ordered an electric motor to arrive here sometime next week. It is actually a motor that is used to raise and lower blinds on a window and has a timer so you can set the door to open at the crack of dawn and close after dark when the little darlings are roosting for the night. You can find the whole design and article at 

The other thing that he decided the ladies were going to need was a covered run. We wouldn't want our chickens to be house bound in the rain or snow now would we? Heaven forbid they should get wet while digging for bugs and worms out in the yard. Over the back area of the coup and above the automatic chicken door and porch we now have a 12 ft. x 6ft clear rigid plastic roof with a 2 ft. overhang to make sure rain doesn't blow in. (Also he just didn't want to cut the plastic roofing).  Clear because everybody knows chickens need all the light they can get in order to keep up the egg production. Sort of a chicken greenhouse. So does this mean eggs are going the way of hot house tomatoes?
The porch, located out side the chicken door, has a small swinging gate that allows me to direct the chickens to one side or the other of the two runs so I can rotate them on and off pasture and give the grass a chance to grow. Are they spoiled or what?

We let the wee ones outside for the first time the other day. At first they all acted as if something was going to eat them. The "outside" was so huge! But after about 5 minutes some of the bigger chicks started pecking and scratching while the smaller bantams just kept looking out the door and refusing to come out. Some walked down the gang plank and others just did a quick dismount hoping to get a 10 from the judges.(See pix on left)
 I finally had to go in and physically shove them out the door and into the world. For those of you familiar with boomerang kids or just adult children that wont leave home this should sound familiar. It is still a little chilly and the chicks don't have mothers' wing to dart under to warm up so they didn't stay out long. I have one New Hampshire Red that wandered around peeping until it saw me sitting on the ground. She decided I looked motherly enough so jumped up on my knee and slid under my arm to get warm. Hopefully the weather warms up more and I will be able to leave them out on their own without worrying about them getting chilled. In the mean time there is tons of stuff to do around here and I better get to it.