A Very Blustery Day

What strange weather we’ve had today.  I went over to visit my neighbor for a bit and we heard on the Weather Channel that nearly the entire East Coast was under severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches until 9pm tonight (it’s 7pm as I post this.)  It was a record-breaking day for low pressure systems since 1968 if I remember correctly what I heard on tv.

The wind was blowing so much I thought I’d better hurry outside and get some shots of our fall color before all the leaves were blown off the trees.  Between the wind and heavy rains, there won’t be much left by tomorrow.

This is the big dogwood tree in my backyard. 

And the view over to the ridge beyond ours.  The golden tops of the poplars are really pretty this year.

I spotted this big hornet’s nest over the fenceline on my neighbor’s property.  We were really plagued by large bald-faced hornets this year.  I couldn’t leave any apples or tomatoes sitting outside.

They say if the hornet’s nests are high up in the trees, we will have lots of snow this year.  Let’s hope not, because this one was way up there!

The wind was blowing so hard, Little Boy Blue’s wattles were blowing sideways!  He was a bit irritable today with all the wind blowing his tail feathers the wrong way everytime he turned around.  He was very nervous and paced a lot.

Down the fence line in the brushy corner of the yard, I found the chickens working on a new dusting hole.  I’m going to have to come back and fill this one with rocks so they do not create a back door for predators to come inside.

The neighbor’s horses came over to say hello.  I gave them a lot of apples last month, so they are usually happy to see me now.

This is the view back toward the main road.  The bees were very busy today with the temps hitting 83 degrees.  Once the rain came through it quickly dropped to 60 degrees.

You can see the storm clouds approaching from the Southwest.  It wasn’t long after we quit snapping pictures that the rain and gusty winds came through.  It is still raining pretty hard right now.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

I dreaded it for days–no weeks–prior.  Every time I’d look at them I felt guilty.  But it had to be done.  I had too many free-loading chickens eating me out of house and home and it was time to do some culling.

So Saturday I shipped my daughter off to Nana’s house and got down to business. 

We did seven stewing hens in about 2 hours.  A record time for us!  This is our 5th time butchering and you really do get faster as you get experience. 

I think the first 2 or 3 hens I apologized to and thanked them for their sacrifice, but it got easier.  My husband does the killing and plucking (or skinning) and I do the cutting up part.  It’s a good system for us.  Honestly, what relief I felt (as I do every time) to have less crazy chickens to worry about.  I had 39.  Now I have 32.  39 chickens are too many for me.  Too much drama!  And I was finding myself filling the feeder far too often. 

When we were done processing our stewing hens, my husband came over to me and said, “you know, when you get married you think you know what makes a woman happy…until you see how she looks at you after you kill a chicken.”  My Bright-and-Shining-Farmer.  He knows that getting projects done and worries off my mind is something worth more to me than diamonds.

Now if these new pullets (all 26 of them) will just start laying here soon…  I really hope I don’t have to feed them all winter without recouping any of my costs.  I usually get my chicks in March or April.  I was a little late this year.  Plus I haven’t had any eggs for sale in over a month since the older girls began moulting. 

I kept the five Easter Eggers to assure us of eggs over the winter.  They have been wonderful layers all along and I may keep them an extra year or two if they keep up the good work.  Two of them, Kitten and Sunbeam — they have become pets.  I think they will be with us for a long time.

                     

Once the last of the Black Australorps were gone, Little Boy Blue the cockerel (young rooster) realized his advantage and immediately seized upon it.  He jumped a couple of the EE’s just to show them who was boss.  I dislike him already even though he is good-looking.  Rooster attitude just rubs me the wrong way.  I told him he better watch his back or he’d be next in the pot.  Bad roosters make good dumplings!  As long as he doesn’t get smart with me I’ll allow him to hang around my coop and eat my feed for a while.  This may be the last time I let Murray McMurray Hatchery trick me into falling for their “free” rooster ploy…

Blue Splash Andalusian cockerel

Eat, drink and be merry.  That’s the life of a chicken.  They take no thought for tomorrow (Matt. 6:25-26).  They just enjoy today.  Eating, dust bathing, laying in the sun, chasing bugs, eat some more, go to bed early, get up early and do it all over again… Isn’t that how we all should be?  And not worrying about things we’ve put off until tomorrow.  I’m a little jealous of how easily it comes for them.  I’m going to have to start channelling my inner chicken.  Especially the early bird part, because I am so not.

It’s been a couple of days now and my daughter has not noticed that there are any chickens missing at all.  She has plenty left to entertain her.

One evening not long ago when we were having barbecue chicken for dinner, my little girl got out of her chair, drumstick in hand and looked out the window and declared, “thank you chickens for my chicken!”  She really likes her chickens, but her statement rings truer than she at this age can quite know.

Always got a chicken in her arms! 

Not So Creepy

…when they’re little!

He’s actually kinda cute.  I guess all baby animals are, in their own way!

I went down right at dusk to put the chickens to bed and found this little guy crawling around on a shelf in my chicken barn.  Looking to get into my feed, no doubt. 

I scooped him easily into a bucket and took him up to the garage where my husband was busy sharpening his chainsaw blades.  He looked into the bucket and jumped back a bit, surprised.

This baby opossum is only about 8 inches long, nose to rump.  I didn’t have the heart to kill it, so I had hubby haul it off a few miles and turn it loose out in the woods.  He hasn’t tried to kill any chickens yet, so I’ll let him off this time!  I’m sure there are probably more of his kin out there to keep an eye out for…

We shot a big one a couple of months back that was trying to get the chickens.  And we also found the head–just the head–of a smaller one lying in the yard a few weeks ago.  I’m not sure what would eat a whole opossum and leave only the head… We have a lot of barn cats up here.  Must have been very hungry, whatever it was!

Satisfaction

I LOVE the feeling of marking another project off the list!

And this one had been nagging at me for a long time.  Well, let’s see…we got the fence up in April, bought the lumber in July and just stared at it for a few weeks.  It took us three separate sessions and working past dark tonight, but we got ‘er done!

My husband and I are really getting good at working on these projects together.  He’s the muscle and I’m the “measure twice, cut once” kind of gal.  We balance each other well!

Now to install a couple of strands of electric along the fence line, cage off the bees their own sector and build a small run-in and we’ll be ready for goats.  You didn’t think we were going to all this trouble just for a couple dozen chickens, did ya?  😉  Although it does rest my mind to know the dogs can’t pick them off so easily now.

I am also getting a new horse.  Hopefully we can go pick him up tomorrow.  I was looking for a new pasture mate for my gaited paint gelding, Journey.  This new horse, Rocky, is a 12-year-old Tennessee Walker gelding.  He’s on rehab from an injury, but is cleared for light work and to build up from there.  He was free to a good home because his current owners needed to downsize.  I will definitely post lots of pictures of him when we get him home.  Here’s a picture that was forwarded to me. 

Isn’t he a looker!  I’m debating whether or not to change his name.  If you’ve got any ideas for a good name for this handsome boy, feel free to leave them in the comments section!

Now this is Journey (the Paint) and Lily, his old pasture mate (also a Tennessee Walker).  This picture was taken in October of last year.  I’ve had Journey since he was a colt.  I won him at the County Fair on a one dollar raffle ticket in 2002.  He’s a good boy and I love him.  I hope that Ava can ride him in the Fair here in a few years.

 

Now the horses don’t live here on the One Sunny Acre.  They live on my Dad’s 44-acre farm 10 minutes down the road.

 

 

Chicken Wrangler

Persistence pays and my child is learning that at a very young age.

Barefoot, in the rain, chasing chickens…

Pampers for Poultry

Chickens don’t come potty-trained.

Somehow “Renna” keeps ending up inside my house.

Here’s Renna sporting a chicken diaper prototype…

 

Nope.  She doesn’t like it, in case you’re wondering.

I’ve seen chicken diapers on BackYardChickens.com before.  This was my quick attempt to make one out of a piece of old bedsheet.  I might have to break out the sewing machine and make a nicer one.

The things I do to keep my sanity and the peace around here!

Popcorn Chickens

That’s how baby chicks grow…like popcorn.

Round ’em up and move ’em on out!  I moved my latest batch of chicks down to the chicken barn, still in a brooding pen, but a bit roomier.  I promised my husband I would get them out of his garage before they started to stink or fly out and poo on everything, whichever came first, and I kept my promise!  I’ve got a top on the brooding pen this year so they can’t get out.  I don’t want them pooing on everything down there either.  Because that’s what chickens do best, even the little ones.

Here they are enjoying their new digs…

This has made room in the garage for my yard sale.  Yes, it’s finally going to happen!  I’ve been talking about having a yard sale for like 3 years now.  It’s officially in the works.  But I digress…

This year’s batch of chicks are 26 Black Star pullets.  They are supposed to be phenomenal layers.  I’m going to cull hard for quality this time.  It’s been my experience that if they don’t get the kinks worked out after their first couple weeks of laying, they’ll lay weird eggs all along.  I wanted to try Buckeyes this year, but you have to order very, very early to get them.  They are critically endangered.  I am also interested in Black Copper Marans.  I want a dual purpose bird, but I still put a high priority on egg laying.

I didn’t start them out down there in the chicken barn because sometimes I see evidence of a black snake in residence under the building.  Brand new baby chicks are small enough to be eaten by one.  I leave him alone and he does his thing–and keeps the mice out of my chicken feed.  It’s a good arrangement.

I’ve learned my lesson the past couple years and we’re trying to socialize this new baby cockerel early.  I think he’s going to be a Blue Andalusian.  They offer you a “free mystery chick” with your order and you can pretty well count on it being a rooster.  I’ve been letting Ava play with him and carry him around the yard with her. 

Ava calls him the “little lellow (yellow) chick”, but his official name is Little Boy Blue, for now anyways.

She’s been “babysitting” the chicks, but really they are babysitting her.  I’ve been getting so much done here lately while she keeps herself occupied with a chick.  Every so often I make her go down to the chicken barn and switch out for a new “fresh” one. 

She has called the black ones (whichever one she happens to be holding at the time) “Renna”, which was the name of her imaginary friend, who is not so imaginary anymore now that Renna has morphed into being a “chicken friend”.  These girls should turn out to be very tame. 

Ava is gentle with them and they go on all sorts of adventures together, hanging out in the sandbox or strolling around the yard.  They’ve made their way into the house a time or two as well…

Here they are venturing together into the Tomato Jungle…

She didn’t share with Renna, who would have really enjoyed a tomato by the way…

And they helped me pick sweet banana peppers…

 

More fun than a barrel of chickens! 

Please pardon my sweaty, dirty little farm girl.  She does clean up well though.  Ha.

I’m still debating how to do this all-in/all-out thing with my layers.  You can’t help but get attached to them when they’re around for so long.  Most certainly you should not name them.  Mark that one down in the lesson book–don’t name anything that you plan to eat.  I’m thinking maybe as fall comes on, I will go ahead and cull the worst layers.  Most of the girls will be going into molt anyway.  I will maybe keep the best five throughout the winter to keep us in eggs.  I can’t see any point in feeding the ones that don’t pull their weight, but it will still be hard to do.  From here on out, I’m going to get all chickens that look the same, that way I won’t favor any.

Speaking of butchering, it’s time to put in my order for fall broilers.  I will be going with the Cornish X again.  I have no complaints with them and those I’ve gotten from Murray McMurray Hatchery have always been strong and healthy.  I had to buy a package of store-bought chicken breast the other day and it was seriously lacking compared to the quality of those we raised ourselves.  I have just about used up all that I have in the freezer.  I’m glad I made it as far as I did because we decided this year that fall broilers would be easier for us to manage and we’ll have more time to process them in the fall.  I’m going to go ahead and order 35 again.

Horsey Neighbors

It’s always been high on my wish list to be able to look out of my kitchen window and see horses grazing in the field beyond.  Originally this dream came with the desire to have enough acreage to pasture my own horse.  With only one acre to our property, my gaited paint gelding, Journey, is kept on my Dad’s farm 10 minutes down the road.

We got some new neighbors last April and recently they brought in their four horses, which I will enjoy watching in the 13 acre field below our house almost as much as if they were my own.  I get to enjoy them without having to pay for their feed and care, which sounds like a good deal to me!

This is their little herd of four mares.  It’s been raining a lot lately, but I ran out the door with my camera when I saw they were close enough to the fence line to get some good shots.

Horsey Neighbors

I haven’t asked their names yet, but will when I get a chance.  I have a hard time remembering the kids’ names anyway, so I don’t want to seem overly interested in the horses.  Ha.

This dappled gray mare is my favorite.  Aside from being very pretty, she is also the most friendly (and dominant) of the four.

Dapple Gray Mare

This mare could be the twin sister of my own horse, Journey, except that she is probably 2 hands taller than him.  Her markings are brown and his are black, but the placement is very similar.

Journey's Twin Sister

They also have four cattle as well.  Here are the two steers.  (Don’t get attached to them.  They won’t be around long.  I will call them Cheeseburger and Steak’um.)

Steers

Here is a cow with her calf.

Cow and Calf

My chickens came running up to the juncture of the two fence lines as if to say, “hey, we’re cute too! ”  (Or quite possibly, “hey, where’s our treat?”)

Laying Flock, Summer '10

The grass is always greener on the other side!  I don’t know how long this fence will hold up to four horses stretching over and frequently scratching their rumps on it.  I think they’re going to want to run a strand of electrobraid.  It was originally fenced for a couple of dairy goats and for use as a rabbit pen for training the beagles the original owner raised.  The field is very overgrown and brushy and it will work great for the goats my neighbors are planning to get to help clear it.  I think they are getting “fainting goats”.  I’ll get pictures of those too when they arrive.

Grass is Greener...

Fencing the Back 40

We finally got my woven wire fence up last Saturday (just now finding time to post about it).  My neighbor let us borrow his fence puller which really made a big difference, although we realized too late on one section of fence that we should have started at the opposite post to get a better pull.  I told my dad that I am a pro now, if he needs any help fixing/replacing the woven wire horse fencing at the farm.  LOL

I still need to fabricate a double gate for the entrance, but as far as the chickens are concerned, they are well contained.  I have a section of my PVC range pen blocking their exit for now, until I can get to it.  I also need to brace the posts connecting to the gate.

Here’s the chickens enjoying their dog-resistant free-range area. 

Good fences make good neighbors and now I don’t have to clobber any of mine (or their dogs)!  The peace of mind was well worth what I paid for it.  I got a very good deal on this 2″x4″ knotted woven wire horse fencing at Tractor Supply.  I got 200 feet of it for $10 less than what I would have paid for 150 feet (3 fifty foot rolls) of inferior quality regular woven wire.  The knotted fencing will last forever and not rust.  This area will also double as a small paddock for a couple goats in the future.

Homemade Deer Repellant

I had to deworm my chickens this week, so following the recommended 14 day withdrawal period for the Ivermectin Pour-on, I have to toss 2 weeks worth of eggs (about 112 eggs).  What to do with all these eggs?  I hate to just waste them.  I can’t feed them to the chickens because it would put the medicine back into their systems.  I can’t feed them to the dogs, because the dogs are already on heartworm preventative medication and they probably shouldn’t have the extra (or it may lead to the development of parasitic resistance).  They do give Ivermectin to children in third world countries, but I really don’t think I want to try it.  I am pretty sure I don’t have worms anyway!

Well, my Mom told me about this recipe from WSAZ’s John Marra (WV ag extension agent who answers calls for gardening questions on air).  I was able to find the video clip online.  He goes a little more in depth than I will here.

http://www.wsaz.com/video/?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=4632658&flvUri=&partnerclipid

The recipe is as follows:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp liquid dish soap

Combine all and mix well.  Pour into a one gallon container and dilute with water to equal one gallon.  Let this nasty mix sit outside for at least 3 days and get even nastier.  Shake well and use a pump sprayer or watering can to apply it to the plants you want to protect.  The dish soap helps to break the surface tension of the water so the concoction will cling to your plants better.  It won’t hurt your plants and won’t need to be reapplied until you’ve had some significant rain.  MUCH cheaper than Liquid Fence and every bit as repugnant!

It is the egg that is so effective in Liquid Fence, the main active ingredient.  Well, I can either make 112 gallons, which actually might come in handy now that the deer have discovered my strawberry patch last fall.  Or maybe I’ll try to double/triple up on the egg in a few batches and see if I can bear to stroll through my backyard following its application.  HA!

Oh, if you are interested, here is the off-label use of cattle pour-on Ivermectin for deworming chickens, as per advice I have gotten from the chicken experts on BYC.  It is preferrably done in late fall after they’ve taken a break from laying, but a few of mine were showing a little droopiness and I figured I’d better just do it.  I have previously only dewormed/medicated my chickens on a case by case, as needed basis, but maybe now that my flock is bigger I should be taking a more prophylactic approach.

Pour-on “Ivermec” is readily attainable from your feed dealer or farm store and comes in liquid form.  Using a 10 mL syringe (no needle, of course), apply about 5 good drops to the skin on the back of each bird’s neck.  Be sure to lift the feathers and get it right down on the skin.  This dosage is for standard breed chickens.  Use a little more or less depending on the size of your bird.  Banty’s will need less.  I must admit though, I probably applied more like 1/2 mL to each bird once all was said and done, they squirmed so much.  That’s pretty close.  Ivermectin is a very common and safe dewormer as long as you don’t totally overdo it.  It will not only control internal parasites, but mites, fleas and ticks too.

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