I Think There is Something Going on with the Chickens

There are a number of things that can affect egg production in chickens; the weather, lack of water or feed, temperature changes and dogs just to name a few. The other evening I had just put the little boy to bed and sat down to give the little miss her bottle when my husband came in. “You should set her down and come out here. I think there is something going on with the chickens.” All I could envision was all the hens dead in the run. We had lost one earlier in the day. It looked like she got a little backed up in the egg laying department the day before and it didn’t end well unfortunately. So, I of course, leapt to the first illogical, but possible, scenario.

We made our way to the coop as he explained that the dog was chasing a chicken in the front yard, the gate to the chicken run was open and there were feathers every where.

Great! (not really)

There were a few girls outside the run that we shoed in and closed the gate. We did a head count. Everyone that made it to safety in the coop was perched on the roost. We were missing six (or so. I’m not sure we started with exactly thirty last fall.) The cows were bellaring in the barn. This was nothing to unusual, they see us outside and think they must have some corn or fresh hay to munch. This time they sounded a little different. Then the rooster crowed. He was in the barn with two more of the girls. Lucky for them the dog is scared of the fence and won’t follow them under. They were herded back with the others.

The search was on for the last three. Dead or live we needed to find them. I didn’t want them to be alive and stuck outside alone in the cold over the night. If they made it until morning there’s no guarantee they would survive much longer than that. I saw one across the yard in the raspberry patch. Then another perched in an evergreen close by. They were brought back to the coop.

Another walk about the yard and we found the last one. She didn’t make it.

Back in the coop we checked everyone over. A couple had a few minor scrapes that were given some blu-kote and one bird had a little more of an injury but she is doing well now too.

Needless to say the next day or so egg production was down by half. Can’t say that I blame them after that shake up.

Clean Eggs and Less Feed

 

There is less wasting of time, energy and other resources when you work efficiently. It is my preferred method; I can get more done in a day that way.

I give credit to my dad for this one. A while back he mentioned he wanted to find some of those mats that are sort of like fake grass. They used to sit by most front entry’s and were great for getting the bottoms of your boots semi-clean any ways. I happened upon them when my husband and I were out of town. I picked up a couple for dad (and later a few for us too). You see, these can be cut to fit in the nesting boxes for the chickens.

The mats I picked up were about $14 each. It took 2 of them to fill 6 nesting boxes. You can buy ones made specifically for this purpose but they tend cost more and are no guarantee to if a custom made box. I know, I’ve got straw bales and I’ve got hay bales, why would I want to spend money for fake grass rugs in the coop? For quite a number of reasons; all really worth-while ones too!

The hay/straw gets picked through, some munched on and all usually ends up on the floor. Then is the problem of poop in the boxes which sticks to the eggs and a few cracked shells from the eggs being laid on the plywood. By putting the mats in the boxes the eggs no longer crack when the hit the wood and if/when the birds poop in the box it goes into the “grass” and the eggs come to the house much cleaner. The eggs still need a rinsing but they look a heck-of-a-lot better than they did before.

Cleaning the boxes is a breeze. I just lift out the mats, spray them with the hose when needed and they are as good as new. There is no scraping scat out of the boxes trying to get the corners cleaned. There is no more trying to keep at least some of the straw in the boxes. It’s great!

The first couple days after putting the mats in the boxes I did put some straw in with them, mostly to give the chickens something to scratch at and get them used to the new texture. It only too a day or two and they didn’t seem bothered by the change.

IMG_2486

 

I can’t stand the wasting of anything, especially feed. All winter long I had been going nuts when we would clean the coop. There was always a wheel barrow load of feed that was scooped off the floor and wasted. I would have loved to put it back in the feeder but even I know it was not all feed and reusing it would not be wise.

We tried pellets, and tried having the feed ground smaller and then went back to the usual whole/cracked feed we started with. Nothing seemed to make a difference in their wasteful ways. Finally I have got it figured out. I put a tub just a little bigger than the bottom of the feed pan underneath. It catches the feed they dig out and rather than it being wasted on the floor it can be reused. The tub is tall enough that they don’t kick shavings into it and small enough they can’t sit on it and poop in it. Perfect!

chicken feeder

It’s the little victories that can make my day.

Blessings in the Barn

It’s a quiet Sunday morning on the farm. Everyone is still sleeping after a late night of baptism and family. The sun is up and skies are blue and there is a wood pecker filling the trees with holes. I had the gun half way out the door to return the “hole filling” favor until I remembered it’s Sunday and the shot would wake the house. Instead I grabbed the egg basket, slipped on my house shoes and took a walk to the coop.

The girls were out pecking the ground and the “fryin’ pan special” were happily enjoying the expansion of their pen. I collected the eggs that I was too tired to get the night before and got everyone fed for the morning. I could swear I heard church hymns faintly in the distance. The little country church down the road won’t begin service for a few hours and even with a good wind I doubt the voices would carry this far. I hummed along; the wild birds were singing their praises too. It was such a lovely morning to walk the fence lines and see the beginnings of spring.

When I made it into the barn I found out where the singing was coming from. My cousin shows cows and had said to leave a radio on, loud, in the barn. “This will get the cows used to noise and help them to not be so jumpy.” She said rock over country, but I stuck with country. I don’t plan to show them, I just want them to not startle as easy. I forgot I had turned it on for them to enjoy the old country twang.

As it turns out, they are getting a Sunday morning service right there in the barn, with gospel readings, a homily and the hymns to match. Quite honestly I can’t think of a better place to hold a service. Jesus was first born in a stable. There is a certain calm during the early morning hours in the barn that is not found anywhere else. (even with the sometimes spook-easy cows and crowing rooster) The best way to start the day, no matter what side of the bed you woke up on, is in the quiet of the barn. The added country hymns were a bonus this morning.

Our barn is a far cry from anything new or fancy; the boards are in desperate need of new paint and quite a few of replacing. It still stands tall and serves it’s purpose quite well. It does more than just keep the animals sheltered, the hay dry and out of the sun, as well as the firewood. It serves as a church of sorts, a quiet place to be with God. A place to be alone and thank God for all he has given, ask for our “daily bread” and guidance to make it through whatever is to come. It is a place to go a “recharge”.

“Then God said, “And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. They will have power of the fish, the birds and all animals, domestic and wild, large and small.” ” Genesis 1:26

Having power over all Gods creatures is not to rule over them but to serve them. There is no offering plate passed or communion served in the barn, instead there is a bale of hay, scoop of grain and a pitch fork. By serving God’s creatures we are serving Him, we are showing thanks by tending what has been given to us and remaining humble to our responsibilities of their care. It requires no fancy clothes (in fact it’s best not to wear your Sunday best out there). There is no judgment out there, it truly is come as you are and stay as long as you need. Some days a few minutes and others a lot longer. (there is always something to clean or organize out there.)

Pitch fork

My Two Cents

 

Babylittle boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are times after paying bills and getting the essentials it feels like all I have left are my two cents. A quick online search or any conversation with someone that has children will produce a long list of “must haves” and “must do’s” for a new baby. What you need in a hospital bag for mom and dad (glad I didn’t have to pack one of those), what you have to have on hand for baby, what you need for mom post delivery, what you need for dad and other children. It seems like everything on these lists need to be purchased, especially if this is baby 1. It’s never ending and even the short lists are anything but short. I don’t know if people get carried away because everything is so tiny  or they like to shop or just what it is. But when your pocket book only gives you two cents, you start to see what the essentials really are. Even if there is more than a few penny’s, it doesn’t mean you have to spend them all.

My best friend is due to have their first baby and she asked me what I thought the “must haves” are. I gave her a reply of “Hmm. Eh nothing much.” I know this can be a rather discouraging answer to a new mother, but really there is not much that one has to have for a baby. Mostly it’s attention, patience, time and work that is a must have; it’s not all sorts of gadgets, toys,  and so on.

My “Material Must Have” lists are pretty short. There is enough to do that I see no reason to make anything more complicated than necessary

For New Baby:
-Diapers
-Wipes
-Receiving Blankets ( a few, they get soiled quickly)
-Sleepers or Onsies ( a few, depending on the season, these also soil quickly)
-Baby Powder (cornstarch works just the same)
-Diaper Rash Ointment
-A place to sleep ( crib, cradle or pack-n-play, you only need one to get started)
-Car Seat
-Car Seat Cover/Snow Suit (depending on the season or where you are this may or may not be necessary)

Helpful but Optional Items:
-Monitor, if baby will be sleeping where you can not hear when they wake up
-Baby bath tub, they are nice but a towel in the kitchen sink works just as well
-Baby Swing or some sort of Baby Seat so baby isn’t laying on the floor when you can’t hold them. They can be laid in their “bed” in place of this too.

For Baby 2 +
-Diapers
-Wipes
Go through what you used from the previous baby, assuming care was taken with what you already have there shouldn’t be much that is needed right away.  Baby 1 was born mid-summer and Baby 2 was due mid-winter so we needed a few long sleeved pieces and pants.
That’s about it.

This time around because we didn’t have to get much for new stuff we were able to purchase a few “optional items”.
-A second (cheep) Monitor, as baby 2 will be sleeping in our room, we need to know who is awake at nap time.
Cradle– Baby 1 slept in a Pack-n-Play in our room at the old house, our room isn’t big enough to set that up in the new house and we don’t want to disrupt Baby 1 during the night so a cradle was picked up.

I am all about second-hand and hand-me-downs, especially when it comes to children’s stuff. They grow out of everything so fast, I see no reason to spend so much extra for a new tag. I tried to get things that could be for either sex the first time around so when the second came we were ready no matter which they were.

As with everything there are a few acceptations. We picked out a brand new sleeper set for Baby 1, it was my favorite and when he out grew it, I put it in a keepsake box that I started for him. Baby 2 also got their brand new outfit too. Little things like that I find important. It doesn’t amount to much but it is something that years down the road, hopefully, they will find special.

For Mom:
Bra Pads, these are a number one on my “need” list. I never knew they existed before Baby 1 and wish I would have known before baby came. I learned very quickly, but it would have been nice to have them on hand.
Super Absorbent Pads, something that is not talked about at our house, it’s personal. They are necessary though.
-A Set (or a few sets) of Extra Comfortable Clothes, for the first few days (or week) after delivery it’s really nice to be able to wear something a little too big and extra comfy and not leave the house. You’re going to be tired adjusting to the “new baby” schedule, you might as well be comfortable. (this also something you already have on hand, just set them out of “lazy” access)

Helpful but Optional Items:
By now I am going to assume that most of the male readers have left the page, Ladies these are something to print and give to your husband as an obvious hint.
Epsom Salt, this does wonders in a hot bath. I splurged this time and bought a few extra’s for a bath tea that I will swear by. Recipe found here. I use Epsom salt in place of sea salt if that’s what is on hand.
A “Granny” Style Night Gown, honestly that’s about all I have anymore, Grandma got that right too. It may not be sexy but it will be so comfortable it won’t matter. (There are some pretty cute ones out there too)
-Fluffy Bathrobe, if mom doesn’t have a cozy, fluffy bathrobe, think about getting one. This is most certainly an unnecessary extra, but I can tell you, in the middle of the night it is really nice to put that on for rocking/feeding baby. Our Little Boy now tries to wrap himself in mine when he wakes in the night. It’s almost like a security blanket of sorts it seems.
*Husbands* -If mom already has one have it washed and ready for her right after baby arrives. Little things make a big difference.

That’s all. The simpler things are kept the easier it is as far as I’m concerned.

Rest in Peace Wilma

It was with a heavy heart we said goodbye to our dear Wilma on Sunday. She had been through a lot in her short little life. It made her a strong (scared and mean) little bird. She was an okay layer and an egg eater, but a part of the family.

We are not sure what happened to her. For a couple days she was very docile and let us pet her, which was very unusual. Then on Sunday she fell of the roost (I don’t know that this is literal).

She taught us a lot about chicken first aid, maggots and friends. She will be missed. (Even if she did try to peck your hands til they bled)

Chicken http://wildflowerfarm.org

The Fry Pan Special

 

chickThey have arrived! Last week actually, (sleepless nights with the little Miss has done a number on my early morning writing time) 100 little chicks came chirping in the mail. The special listed in the catalogue gave the option of 3 free ducks or 5 free exotic chicks. Of course, I picked the ducks, what I didn’t do was specify to send the order when the ducks were available. Instead I just said “Please ship when available.” We ended up with the chicks rather than duck. I must say I am rather disappointed. I refuse to call and complain or even mention to the hatchery that I wanted the ducks. You don’t complain about something that is a free bonus. That’s just stupid (and greedy). We will see how spring plays out, maybe we will pick up a few ducks any way. (Not that we need them.)

The night they arrived Mike had a space in the coop all ready for them and made sure I counted the birds as they went in. 111 little chicks were sent (another reason I won’t call to complain). Since their arrival we have lost 9 so far. A few were brought in to the house in an attempt to save them. It didn’t help this time. I am running out of little chick burial grounds though. We might have to do a shoe box mass grave here pretty soon. They are about a week old now, so hopefully we are almost in the clear for losing them. I’m not going to get my hopes up just yet.

The birds we received in the this order are all cockerels (males) of heavy heritage breeds. This means they will take twice as long to reach their full size butcher size. We won’t be butchering until late fall again this year. Just fine by me! I like to watch the chickens run around and the commercial meat birds (although tasty) just aren’t capable of such entertainment.

The second bird order will arrive at the end of April. This will contain a variety of laying hens that I am particularly excited about, a straight run of Cochins that will be for butcher and laying as well as a couple different breeds of turkeys. As long as we can keep the turkeys alive for the first little while they should make it this year beings the coop is done and we shouldn’t have to worry about the fox (dogs and raccoons too). I sure hope they make it anyways; not only are they expensive chicks but they are really fun to watch too!

We have yet to get guineas ordered for the year. I know we had planned to try again with those too this year but they might be another year off yet. I want to be able to let those “free range” all the time and unless they are full grown I know they don’t stand a chance. If Lucifer couldn’t make it last year no one will until they are adults. I will nurse along the turkeys this year and next year might  be the guineas and peacocks.

A Farm Year

Spring! It's so close!

For me, a year on the farm begins in the spring, not with the calendar year. The spring is a fresh start outside, seedlings in the ground,  there are new babies in all the barns and new lessons to be learned. Looking back over the last “farm year” a lot has happened and a lot was learned.

The key to a perfectly straight fence line is a particular father and brother helping… A LOT! – Pounding Posts

Plans will change more times than I’d like to count before a project will begin and then a few more times before it is complete.- Fencing, Chicken Coop

Rocks look nice in flower beds but are not too fun to move from the pile to the garden. – Of Rocks and Friends

Gutters matter! Without them you will spend day and night sopping water out of the basement and running the sump pump. – How High’s The Water Mama?

Baby chicks die without reason. If caught in time they can be saved with some extra care…sometimes. – Saving Penny

If you bottle your wine too soon it will pop the corks and shoot across the dining room. – Dandelion Wine

Too much excitement the first time in the yard can give a guinea hen a heart attack. – More Than the Heart Could Handle

Screw worm spray kills maggots in open wounds and helps the healing process along. – Wilma Update

Always be sure you know what breed you are buying and it’s one you want on the farm. – The Fatties

Know how kill traps work and don’t test the sensitivity with your hand. –Moving Back to the City

If you want to train a cow, you have to be more stubborn than the cow. Hang on to the rope and watch for the horns.- Lucy

When butchering chickens it is very helpful to have lots of good help and a chicken plucker; even if they are too small. – Butchering Day

We have a the first calf born on the WildFlower Farm. – Elvis is in the Barn

How I put a stop to the chickens eating the eggs with mustard and a chicken brick.

Being a pregnant farmer is an adventure all it’s own. – Tales of the Pregnant Farmer

Having a baby on the farm is quite an adventure too. – All in a Day’s Work

Now it’s spring, once again, bringing the fresh start to a new year. We have 150 chickens, 16 turkeys and 3 ducks on their way! Maybe another calf too. As well as a few surprises to be shared later (very exciting!).

 

 

Elvis Escapes… Again

Oh for heavens sake! One more time and I am going to put a bale of hay in front of the kitchen window and call it good.

Elvis is out again. I don’t even get the post done about him getting out a few times over the past couple days and here he is again!

Elvis

The little boy was covered in his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and now in need of a clean diaper as well. The little miss was upset she had to be on the floor for some stretching time, company was on their way and there’s Elvis just out the kitchen window. As every good mother would do (sarcastic), I dropped everything,  tucked my pants into my barn boots, threw on my oversized flannel and ran out the door.

I grabbed a bucket of grain from the barn and a rope halter and headed towards Elvis. Trying to get a cow back into the corral when he is enjoying the front yard can be a task in itself; trying to do it with two dogs who are less than helpful (to put it very graciously) when it comes to any animal, will make you crazy! But I managed, without too much trouble.

The little guy found a few loose wires in the fence and has very little trouble wiggling through.

Later in the evening, our friends were over and there was Elvis, again.

“Elvis is out.” I said with a sigh. Mike and Josh, went out to put him back with the “herd”.

The next day was the same thing; Elvis is in the front yard, send him back inside the fence and out he comes a little while later.

This morning, there I am making breakfast and here comes Elvis to check things over. Until I can fix the fence this weekend, he has permission to be in the front yard and by the barn. He knows where he is supposed to be and how to get there. When he looks like he might start wandering east he needs to be sent back the other direction. I don’t want him at the neighbors or worse, on the road.

Of course this is the time he takes a second look down the driveway. Out I go, rope in hand, pink bathrobe, and shoes that resemble a ballet slipper rather than a barn boot. He knows the drill by now, but he also likes to keep a little distance between us in hopes for a treat to coax him back. Today I grabbed a fresh bale of hay and tossed it over the fence by where he has been escaping. (If the neighbors could see the things that go on over here, they’d think I was nuts!) Lucy and Wheezy came running; it’s always a fight for the freshest hay. It wasn’t too much later and Elvis wanders over for a quick scratching and through the fence he went to get his share.

I just washed my robe. (sigh) I think it will just stay the way it is with a few stray pieces of hay stuck to it for now, as I’m sure I will be making the trip out again.

I’m just going to put these sign on my amazon wish list. I’m sure it wont be the last time someone gets out and I’d rather they not get run over in the yard. A “watch for cows” sign might be a good warning.

He's friendly but it will get people watching for him anyway

He’s friendly but it will get people watching for him anyway

Or maybe this one.

cow sign 2

 

Spring, Bare Feet, and Farming

Spring! It's so close!

Spring! It’s so close!

Here is it, we made it through winter, spring is here (hopefully) and I am dreaming about this summers work. We made our “Big Project To Do List” for the next few seasons; put together an estimated cost for each project and figured out how much we needed to try and “squirrel away” each month. Let’s just say the lists are long and the budget will be extra tight, but doable.

We have our pasture plans set. We drew up dividing fence lines for inside the main line. The cows will be able to rotate grazing between 4 different pieces daily, to every other day, depending on how things look. This will keep them in nice green grazing all season.

The pile of “barn cleanings” will be moved out to the vegetable garden and orchard plot. Those plots will just be worked this year as soil prep. Turned over every so often and allowed to lie empty and soak in the compost. The vegetables for the season will be grown in the small berry garden for this year; an “eat fresh” garden. It will be much smaller of a garden than I like but it will be something to get my toes in the dirt.

This winter I read “Fields of Plenty” by Michael Ableman. It was not what I was expecting but a very enjoyable read. I was glad to read this:

“”I don’t understand how any farmer can feel the land with shoes on,” he says.”

It just proves I’m not the only one who likes to do my work barefoot. Socks are only worn with boots around here. When my boots come off at the door the socks do too. As soon as most of the snow is gone and it is time to get things going in the garden and yard the boots are usually left at the door. I prefer to feel the ground beneath my feet. Unless I’m in the coop or barn, then I like my polka dot mud boots. Chickens peck the  skin on my feet and as warm as a fresh cow pie is, I’d rather not have it between my toes if I can help it.

I have started to do chores again, not all the time, Mike and I share those for now. I am once again starting over with Lucy. I haven’t been able to work with her for a few months and haven’ been out to visit her much since I handed off the chores. She was doing so well too. I hate starting over, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. This time around it shouldn’t take nearly as long to get her back to “milking calm”… I hope.

Wheezy, may or may not be pregnant. I haven’t been able to pin her down to check. We are going to keep a close eye on her just in case.

Elvis is very friendly, Mike has been working with him when he does chores. Hopefully I can get him halter broke this spring as well.

The new chickens and turkeys are on order, some more layers and a bunch to butcher. The coop is all ready for the new bunch. I am too. We picked out a few different breeds. It will be nice to have some variety out there. The “old” chickens are still laying daily and most will make it through this years butcher, some will be stew birds or canned. Their rowdy behavior is not something I desire around here.

A few more days and the snow will be gone and spring work will be here. I can’t wait!

Somebody “Half-Egged” It Today

I don’t like it when a job is left half done or not done at all. It just seems lazy to me. Do it right and complete the first time, this way time won’t be wasted doing the job over. Unfortunately for a chicken even a job done perfect will need to be repeated. I guess one lovely lady decided to only give half the effort for this days egg laying; she will have to do it again tomorrow no matter the egg she laid today.

IMG_2372

A tiny little quarter sized egg.