Archive for the ‘Biddies’ Category

Snow Day


A Day of Poultry Firsts

Clockwise from the 12: Ruth, Helen, Honey, Evie, Netty, and Ilse eggs.

Today was a day of firsts in the chicken coop: Helen laid her first egg since she moved back in with our little flock, and all the other girls laid today as well!  That’s right, today was the first day that we collected a half-dozen eggs.  It’s a lovely sight!

Segregated Eggs, Playing in the Leaves, and Helen!

This afternoon after I got home from work I let the girls out of the run for a little while.  Here’s some of the fun that was had.

And the girls were having such a good time scratching around in the leaves, I had to take a video.


First Post of 2011!

After an entirely too-long hiatus, I figured now was as good a time as any to post a mostly useless blog entry.

5 hens all sitting next to the sliding glass door on the patio

Over the last few months we’ve acquired 3 “new” hens to include Netty and Honey, the formerly free range 18+ month old Delaware and Buff Orpington hens, and Helen, the Easter Egger hen who first arrived at our house as a day old chick with Evie and Lilly last February.  Joanna too has seen a flock increase: she went out and picked up 2 POL hens from a lady I made contact with concerning hens for my mom (who decided to hold off on getting any in the end) and returned Helen to us in the process.  Helen never fit in with Joanna’s flock and Evie has had some trouble with Ruth ever since Lilly died, so I suggested that maybe these probable sisters could be a friend for each other.  Of course, adding new chickens to a flock doesn’t result in harmony overnight (unless, of course, your name is Netty or Honey) so we expected a period of transition.  So far there isn’t any ganging up on Helen, but she’s definitely not an integrated part of the flock yet.  We’ve only had her since New Year’s Eve, however, so we’re not worried.

hens in snow

The coop itself has seen some changes too.  We added a 4′ long shop lamp to the inside of the coop with the lights on a timer from 7 am till 7 pm, and egg production is currently at 2-4 per day (with 4 hens actively laying and 2 molting or finishing up from a molt).  We also hung a heat lamp with a red bulb in the coop, and put a 1 gallon heated water bowl in the run.  Both of these are on 24/7 during bitter cold weather.  Finally, we cut a hole in one of the plastic coop doors and installed a small doggie door to help keep the heat from blowing out… however we had to remove the clear plastic flap for the time being, as the girls haven’t figured it out yet.  I have plans to create another run sometime in the spring or summer, once our 6′ privacy fencing project in the back yard is complete, utilizing 4′ wide x 6′ long chicken wire panels sandwiched between 2 frames of 1″ x 4″ boards.  These would be arranged to form a 4′ tall x however-big-we-have-room-for run attached to the current run with another doggie door for access, but with only the wire panels as a roof.  This would give the girls much more room to scratch around during the day (since our yard is not safe for free ranging without supervision) and the option to get out of the rain and into the covered, smaller run and coop at will.  In addition, the panel idea would make it easy to disassemble the planned run and easily move and reassemble it, should the need arise.  More on that as soon as we get around to it…

Evie and Netty

In the world of knitterings, I’ve been quite busy.  I knit both my mom and the older of my 2 younger sisters a sweater for Christmas, and my youngest sister got 2 hats, 2 cowls, and a plush purple penguin.  I’ve been knitting things for babies, as well as fingerless mitts for Alex, and sweaters for myself.  I ended up finishing out the year with 18 adult-sized sweaters completed, and only one of those was a project I started before 2010.  I have knit about 1/3 of my first sweater of 2011 already, as well as another pair of fingerless gloves, and have 7 or 8 other sweaters planned with yarn either in my stash on its way.  All I need now is a couple of massive blizzards to give me more time off work and more time for knitting.

Mary’s New York Christmas Cardigan

I guess the last mostly useless piece of information to note is that I have switched to a gluten-free diet due to the realization that gluten has been making me very itchy in the past 9 months.  I haven’t gone so far as to cut out food items labeled with “may contain [traces of] wheat ingredients” but I have gone so far as to order a 25 pound bag of gluten-free flour blend.  I’ll be ordering a 25 pound bag of gluten-free pancake mix as soon as it becomes available for a more reasonable price on Amazon again.  I mention this change in my diet to explain why future posts may contain such information as which recipes do / do not work well with gluten-free flour, and other similar topics.

They're gluten-free!

I hope the end of 2010 was relaxing and enjoyable for you, and that 2011 has many wonderful things in store for all of us.

Winter foliage

…and we’re back!

Yes, I know it’s been ages since I’ve updated my blog.  After school started back up I found myself with far less time to do all the fun things I’d been doing over the summer, like knitting, blogging, and gardening.  Things are settling into place now that I’ve been back to work for 8 weeks, so I thought I’d welcome the weekend with an end to the hiatus on the blogging.

A few weeks ago, we had a tragedy with the chickens.  Alex went out to open up the coop (which is new- made with a 3′ deep x 8′ wide x 8′ tall plastic shed and panels from a previous finch aviary) one morning to let the girls into the run, and Lilly just sat on the perch instead of hopping down right away like usual.  Alex picked her up and put her down on the coop floor, and she just kind of flopped over.  He said she appeared weak for some reason, so he came in and told me that she was sick.  In the time it took me to get shoes and a coat on, we lost her.  From our research since her death we have determined that sometimes animals who have traditionally been used for livestock are genetically programmed to just kind of shut down prematurely.  Lilly had been completely fine the night before she died when we closed the girls up for the night, and the only sign of any issue was that she had not laid any eggs for 5 days prior.  However, since she always took several days between eggs, this did not send up any red flags for us.  It is incredible how upset I got over the loss of a chicken, but she was my favorite and is definitely missed.

After losing Lilly, we knew we needed to bring in another hen to help Evie cope with the loss of her “sister.”  Ruth and Ilse  are tightly bonded to each other, which left Evie on her own.  We took a drive out to Culpepper to Buc-a-Buc Farm and decided we needed to get 2 hens, since everything we’ve read (and heard about Joanna’s experience with Helen) has said that adding a single hen to a flock can be extremely challenging.  We chose a Delaware hen and a Buff Orpington hen, both of whom were said to be about 18 months old.  We wanted fully grown hens so that there would be less of an opportunity for Ruth to bully them.  We named the Delaware hen Netty and the Orpington Honey.  As it turned out, adding them to our flock was easy as pie.  We brought them home late one afternoon, put Ruth in the Eglu by herself, and left the new girls in their travel puppy carrier within the run where Evie and Ilse were kept for the rest of the evening.  By nightfall our eggers went into the coop and the newbies were frantically pacing to go in as well, so we let them out of the carrier and they went inside the coop with the others right away.  There were no problems at all, and they ingratiated themselves immediately.  The following morning, we let Ruth out into the yard and left the other 4 in the run.  She met the new girls through the wire of the run, and showed no aggression at all.  After a few minutes of this, we decided to put her in the run to see how it would go, and we were amazed to watch Netty assert herself quickly and mildly over Ruth.  Netty usurped Ruth as head hen, and is a much more benevolent matriarch.  Ruth liked to chase the younger girls around needlessly, while Netty gives a quick peck on the head of whomever is out of line and leaves it at that.  Apart from the loss of Lilly, the situation couldn’t be better.

Except that Ruth is the only one laying.  Evie was so out of sorts with the changes in her life that she stopped laying, Ilse has been molting so she hasn’t laid in over a month, and the new girls have not yet started laying since they’re still adjusting.  Our egg cartons are pathetically empty.  We have constructed a new “nest bucket” stand for when they are all laying, so no one has to squabble over who gets to lay first.  I designed it from things we had lying around, and I think it turned out pretty well!  No eggs laid in it yet, though.

Ridiculous Eggs and a Freakflower

We came home from a short beach vacation to find that Ilse has started laying again, 25 days after taking a break for her molt.  Now all 4 chickens are laying!  Below are pics of eggies, as well as a bizarre sunflower that “planted itself” in my vegetable garden practically right against the house.  The blossom faced the house, presumably to get the reflected rays off the white siding, since my garden doesn’t get as much sun as I wish it did.

Fashionably Late Lilly

Lilly showed up fashionably late to the birthday party, and laid her first egg bright and early this morning!  Hers is even more wee and round than Evie’s, and compared to Ruth’s it’s absolutely tiny.

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