Thursday, January 31, 2008


We now have proof that we FOR SURE have a rooster!!! The last two days the girls have come in and said that they heard the rooster crow. Pathetically try to crow but crow nontheless.
To be certain though I wanted to hear it for myself and I got that wish this morning!
As I went out to do my chores I heard the rooster crowing MANY TIMES!!! He sounded funny(he's just warming up his pipes yet) but he was cockadoodle-dooing!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Snow

Yesterday, Tuesday, we woke to more snow, about 1"-2". It was beautiful! The kids ran out to play and I went to do barn chores. For some reason the chickens do not like the snow, they just don't want to come out of their coop when it's white outside. But on this day, we had one brave little bird that ventured out to see what was going on.

Mina goes out to the goat yard more and more now so that she can get used to being out there with them, learning to be their friend. She wasn't too happy in the cold snow but sat at the gate whining at me to let her out.

And Killick, the ever-present chicken defender, sat guard at the gate watching, obsessively, the one lone chicken.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An Article

Sugar Creek Farm lists "Ag Links" each day and today she put a link to an article in the New York Times titled "On Martha's Vineyard, Using Scallops as Currency". This is a very good article and a beautiful example of small farms working together as a community who cares for and supports one another. I LOVE IT!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow and Egg Count

Woke this morning to a beautiful layer of snow, maybe 1 inch or so. All of Western Washington is under a "rare Winter Storm Watch" for Monday night. We'll see what happens, but in the meantime we will enjoy the beautiful cover of snow. The barnyard covered in snow is so pretty, a much more beautiful sight than all the mud we usually see.

I just wanted to point out that Sundays I rarely get the egg count and milk count updated for the previous day. But today I need to at least tell you that Saturday I got 15 eggs!!! That's a record count for my flock this time of year.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rough Chicken Morning

Last night when I went to lock the chickens up for the night I noticed one of them was not walking well. She is one I've been watching for awhile but it appears as if she took a turn for the worse. She wouldn't come into the coop so I picked her up and set her in the door, she just sat there. She was light as a feather. I had to go into the coop and get her out of the doorway so I could lock it and she fell over. So this morning after finding her hiding behind the feed can, still alive but not better at all, we decided to cull her. (That's the nice term for putting her out of her misery.) I felt bad. It's the first time we've had to do this.

In the other coop we had a "near" tragedy. I went in to feed them (the new flock) and found one chicken wedged in the wall of the coop, which is made out of pallets. She got wedged in between two closely placed 1x3's in the wall. (picture below of the wall) Stupid bird could have walked just 3 inches to the other side of the 1x3 to easily escape but decided she needed to get through a 2inch space. Probably scrambled hard all night long to get through there. She was so worn out she couldn't even hold her head up any longer. Her head was through and one a 2 inch space!! I didn't think logically and tried to stuff her back through, it felt horrible. But then that didn't work so I ran to get James. He walks out and simply says, "Pry the board off. " DUH! So 2 minutes later I had the board free and she flopped out. In shock and exhausted beyond belief she looked nearly dead. But last I was out there she was perked up and eating. I'm headed out to check on her again.
Phew!! What a morning.

This is the wall that has the close together boards. She was wedged between the last 2 on the left. I pried the middle board out. Maybe I should go pry off a couple more close together ones.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The girls above surrounding the rooster who is right in the front center. The one with the large red comb and black mixed with brown colors.

Earlier this week Dawn commented on my "Rooster" post. She said, "how does that work with the eggs for eating, vs eggs for hatching?" This makes a nice blog post so here's the answer.

Until they begin an incubation process all eggs are for eating, even fertilized eggs are eaten. There are some who say fertilized eggs are more nutritious than non-fertilized but I have not found any research that says this for certain. Chickens who feel "broody" and want to incubate actually spend a week or more collecting a clutch of eggs. The eggs are kept dormant until she feels she has enough. She'll then sit on them nonstop for 21 days. Once she begins sitting on them you no longer want to eat them of course. If you collect eggs everyday you have no worries about grabbing an egg that has begun incubating.

I do have a desire to eventually have enough roosters (they recommend 1 for every 20 chickens) so that I can incubate them myself instead of purchasing chicks each year. My aunt does this. She collects eggs every spring. She'll do just as the chickens do, collect eggs for 7-10 days and then incubate. In 2006 she collected 300 eggs (she got some from neighbors as well) and usually hopes for about 50% hatch rate. This time she had over 200 eggs hatch!!! She does this for meat supply more than anything. She only keeps about 30 laying hens. She had lots of meat to share that year! I really want to do this eventually so I may need to purchase just some roosters because I don't think one rooster can keep up with 42 laying hens. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moving Day

We accomplished much of what we wanted to accomplish yesterday. We didn't do anything on the list after the "if there is time" because by the time we go to that part it was time to make dinner. But we got done enough to call it "Moving Day" for our 43 chicks (that no longer look like chicks).
The coop is complete!

Kelsey moving the first chick.

We began moving the chicks one at a time from the barn to the new coop. After a bit we decided this would take too long so James got creative.
He used a big bucket and hauled 3 at a time. They were terrified and would hunker down in the bucket. They looked dead.
Charissa moving by one.

Here they are settling into their new home.
I hope to get their outdoor fencing started today. Although it is so cold I'm not sure they'll venture out.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Today's To-Do List

Today is a holiday and so James is home. The clouds are gone for now, the sky is blue and it is COLD--26 degrees. But the main ingredient is the rain! So today here is what we have planned!
Typical morning barn chores:
-open up coop for chickens throwing them several cups of corn scratch
-check their food and water and fill as needed (Charissa is to help with chickens and chick feeding)
-refill nests with cedar shavings and spread thin layer of shavings on ground in coop
-throw chickens a small square of hay for green munching(in the summer we throw them grass clippings)
-feed chicks (in the barn)
-feed goats new hay and get their grain ready for milking
-milk Firefly while Butter eats her grain
At this point Kelsey comes out to:
-muck out goat stall and check their water
-I take milk in to strain and cool
We'll take a brief break before heading back out to:
-finish putting poultry netting on new coop where needed
-James will construct the coop door and put it up
-construct roosts inside new coop
-spread shavings in new coop
-transfer food and water to new coop
-transfer 43 chicks from the barn stall to their new coop!!!!

If there is time after all that we will:
-set up a temporary fence around the new coop so chicks can begin to go outside right away
-start setting posts for garden (which the chickens will also roam)

The list looks long but the first part of typical chores usually only takes about 30-45 minutes if you include Kelsey's part only takes about 20 minutes. We'll be in the house by 8:30-9:00. And the coop set up shouldn't take more than a 2-3 hours (I am very much an optimist when it comes to guessing time like that though--I tend to underestimate thinking we are super heroes).

The weather should be dry, sunny and cold all week! We hope to accomplish a lot outside this week. Namely fencing the garden! I also want to completely muck out the old coop and put fresh shavings down.

Have a great day!

Friday, January 18, 2008


We've not had a rooster up until now. The last flock (our first) was rooster-less. Here is our big guy. We are 99.9% sure he is a rooster because he is much bigger than the rest of them. He has amazing color and his tail feathers are long and puffy. We'll see if he starts crowing soon.

Now, I need to explain that in this picture he is surrounded by Rhode Island Reds. He is not a Rhode Island Red, he is a Black Austrolorp...the other Black Austroplorps are ALL black with not a speck of red anywhere.

The kids are excited because they think then we'll hatch chicks but I'm not sure we will keep him. We'll see. I do not think he can keep up with 42 hens, there really should be at least 2 of them. I might order 2 roosters on purpose next time because it would be fun to do all our own hatching from now on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Here in Western Washington we boast that we can work year through. We aren't stopped by mounds of snow or freezing temperatures. We just get the rain and who can't work in rain? Well, I tell you, rain produces mud! Mounds and mounds of mud! I'm really quite sick of the mud! The path up to the chicken coop is getting worse by the day, thick, sinking mud! Well, we can't let it stop us especially when you have antsy children and ever-growing chicks needing a new home. The last 2 days have been very lovely! Sunny skies and mild temps, well somewhat mild anyway. We've spent a great deal of time outside. The kids can ride their bikes here year round. Here is what happens when one rides bike in the winter in Western Washington!

And one more muddy moment story. Mina is nearly 6 months old now and is quite clumsy sometimes. She is our livestock guardian dog, if you weren't sure. She is being trained to be around the livestock and she is strictly an outdoor dog. We put her in with the goats several times a day and they are getting used to her as well. Well, the other day we were out with her in the goat yard and she was running around like lightening. It is quite muddy in some areas. She tripped over her own feet and dove head first into the mud! It was hilarious!!! Here is "Muddy Mina". It was really hard to get a picture of her!

The next 5 days look clear and sunny. Keep a watch for a finished coop and a chick move!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Coop Extension

I've not been doing very good blogging everday and taking pictures. Kelli at Sugar Creek Farm is really quite an inspiration where this is concerned. She takes a lunch break walk everyday on her farm and carries her camera with her. I love to take pictures but have not gotten into this habit.
I've been working on extending our chicken coop to hold a larger number of chickens. We currently have 22 layers but 43 chicks in a barn stall waiting for a home. These chicks have grown unbelievably (pictures to come) and are really needing their new home. This is where I am on it so far!
I'm quite pleased with my pallet coop. I've purchased only the roofing materials so far which is the corrugated sheets and 2x4's. Oh, yes, I forgot that I bought the cement blocks for the posts. But the rest has all been pallets and scrap wood laying around the farm. The roof is done and now I'm staring to put up the boards to cover the sides.

The front has a large opening (where Joseph is posing at) that I am just going to screen over for good ventilation. The newer coop is attached to the main coop. Once the old flock is butchered a door between the two sections will open up so that the bigger flock will have room to roam the whole thing.

Just a fun picture of Kelsey, Joseph and Charissa peeking through the pallets.

The chickens have a fenced run and a good part of the year they'll have access to the large fenced garden. I really do wish that I could let them truly range everywhere but being that we only have 2.5 acres and near enough neighbors with roaming dogs I just cannot trust that they'll be safe to range. We have neighbors dogs in our yard daily!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sites and blogs worth mentioning and updates

I just found a really neat website I thought I'd share. I also added it to the "Inspirational and Helpful" links on the side. It's the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website. Check it out! They just received federal funding to continue this great resource of information.

Another blog I read regularly that has truly been an inspiration is Sugar Creek Farm blog. They really are doing pretty much what I want to be doing. They started out in 2001 and he works full-time off the farm, but hopes to retire to the farm early. They started out just wanting to raise food for themselves and have really grown. They are being interview this week, a couple of questions a day, at The Beginning Farmer. I'm really enjoying the interview.
I just need to figure out how I can do what they are doing (beef, pigs, chickens) on my little 2.5 acres (they have 12).

On our farm, the news is that Butter (the overweight, 8 month old goat) was bred on Sunday, January 6th. At least it appears as if she was. We won't know for positive for awhile. This puts her kidding date at approximately June 4th. Firefly appears to have "settled", the term used in the goat world for a successful breeding or being pregnant. She did not come back into heat which is the first sign of settling. I'm not sure if Butter will come back into heat even if she didn't have a successful breeding, so it will be harder to tell with her. But I will watch. The reason for that is because goats are seasonal breeders. They only come into heat between August and January. So we are at the end of that cycle. It is possible she'd come into heat again one or even 2 more times, but who knows.

My list of egg buyers (waitlist) seems to be growing continually. I've had neighbors now ask for eggs. I can't wait for the new flock to start laying. I'll really be able to sell eggs then. I'll probably be getting a minimum of 3 dozen a day for awhile and if I don't butcher the others right away it will be up to 4 dozen a day for awhile. I just might wait until late summer to butcher. We'll see. Speaking of the new flock. Their new coop walls are up. I will be going to purchase the roof materials today and hopefully that will be on by the weekend. It really depends on the weather, which hasn't COOPerated much.

We woke to an inch or 2 of very wet snow this morning. It is really beautiful....I really wish it could stay, but it will probably be gone by lunch.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Egg Count

Well, I have been having trouble keeping up with the egg count on a daily basis. Hopefully I will get better at it as we move through this busy time of year and it becomes habit. I forgot to post yesterday's count (1/4) which was quite impressive so I needed to make note of it. I went ahead and put up the stats for today (1/5) but need to say yesterday was a whoppin' 14 eggs!!!! Yeah!

I hope to get into the habit of posting each night before bed. It might take awhile for the habit to form but that is my goal.