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! 

Advertisements

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.

Winning the War

Last night I enjoyed a significant victory in the battle over picky toddler eating habits.  11 o’clock at night, my darling three-year-old finally ate her chicken leg.  The whole thing.  And she even found out that she likes chicken.

Yes, I take it a little bit personal.  Not only for having slaved over a hot stove, but because I personally raised, butchered and processed that little chicken leg.

There’s no tossing it in the trash.  Even the dog is not worthy to eat it.  Prior to developing my winning strategy, the best I could do was eat it myself or pack it in daddy’s lunch for tomorrow.  It places a whole other aspect of value on your food when you raise it yourself.  I know how many hours it took, the sweat, the effort.  I knew that chicken personally.  Sure…I could buy it cheaper in the store, but it wouldn’t taste as good or be as clean and healthy.

Nope, picky eaters will not be tolerated in this house.  I am laying down the law.  If you don’t eat your dinner, then there will be no snacks!  I will wrap your plate and put it in the fridge.  Just let me know when you want me to heat that up for you!

In the Swing of Things

After a nice round of thunderstorms last night, we are having an unusually cold and blustery day today.  Looking out through the sliding glass doors to the backyard beyond, I am content to see fresh mown grass and tidy rows of new seedlings transplanted to the garden yesterday evening.  Yes, there’s a million things I could be doing today, but I feel like I just need a day to rest and ponder what I just might get into next.

There is so much to do this time of year.  I still have more plantings to do in the garden, hopefully Monday if things dry out enough.  With this wind, I’m sure they will.

I woke up around, oh, I don’t know–I think it was 3:00am last night–in a dead panic.  A second round of storms and high winds came through and I worried that the flat of pepper and eggplant seedlings I had set out just before bed were being pummelled by the high winds and heavy rain.  I put all my seedlings on my front door steps on the north-eastern facing side of the house to harden off. 

This is usually a pretty good spot to do this, but I made the same mistake a couple weeks ago when I set out two flats of tomato seedlings and they were blown over by the wind.  They did recover, but then a few days later I forgot to water them and they all dried out and fell over again.  I watered them and they perked back up.  Then my husband blew grass clippings all over them with the mower.  I found them in time and shook the grass off and they revived once more.  Tomato plants are tougher than you’d think, appearantly!  I decided it was too late to run out there in my nightgown in the storm, so I laid back on my pillow and hoped for the best.  Checking on them first thing this morning, I found them no worse for it and they handled the stress much better than the tomatoes did.

Yesterday evening Brandon and Ava helped me plant corn and squash (several varieties and also watermelon, pumpkins and canteloupe).  This year I am trying the Three Sisters method of companion planting.  We really love fresh corn, but I have been afraid that I cannot get away with growing it up here on this windy ridgeline.  One of my neighbors grew corn last year and this encouraged me to at least give it a try.  He has a line of trees west of his garden, which gives him a good windbreak.  I have one big tree and a chicken coop, which is probably not enough.  I think that using the Three Sisters planting will stand up better to wind and I am hoping that the beans will help anchor the cornstalks in place.  That, or they will all blow over… We’ll see.

I ordered some Appalachian heirloom pole beans this year from a website my grandpa suggested to me.  This is a preservation society and the whole point in using their seeds is that you should save seed from your crop for yourself and to pass on to others.  These are “real” green beans.  The likes of which most people have never tasted (or if they have, it has been many, many years ago from their grandma’s garden).  They are more tender and flavorful and are not suited to commercial plantings.  I know I have never tasted a real green bean.  I am eager to try them and hope to can many this summer.  I chose 3 different varieties.  I will only plant one this year (to keep the seed pure) and the other two I will freeze and try in the future.  I also have scarlet runner beans that I acquired in a trade online and I am excited about them too.  I plan to plant them around front which should give them enough isolation from the others.  They are ornamental as well as edible.  The bean seeds are very pretty, black and purple.

I am finding that my 2,500 sq. ft. garden is not quite large enough for my ambitions.  I can’t expand it any further out in that location because I have a hillside on one end, an underground electrical wire on the other, the back of the garage on another side and a peach tree at the far end.  I have to leave a path for the truck to come through with firewood too.  The other side of my yard is taken up by the septic system.  Can’t mess with that.  So that leaves me a small section of side yard and the chainlink fence enclosed front yard.  My plan now is to install 5 or 6 raised beds in a portion of the front yard.  We put one in already for an everbearing strawberry bed.  This could have been a post entirely of itself, but I never got around to it!

I have yet to order any chicks this year and I feel like I am really missing out on something.  I thought it might be better to wait a couple months so that butchering time would not coincide with garden planting and so many other things.  I will probably go ahead and get maybe 20 straight-run Cornish-X.  You can’t beat them for meat production.  I have also done a little researching and have decided on Buckeyes for a dual-purpose flock.  I have not been happy with my current layers and will keep trying new breeds until I am.  The Easter Eggers are pretty and lay a nice blue egg, but it is not a jumbo egg like most people want when they buy fresh farm-raised eggs.  I think I will always keep a few of them around because they are pretty.  My hatchery Australorps are only suitable for chicken and dumplings, which is what I have planned for them as soon as I get some new layers in to replace them.  If I like the Buckeyes, I would like to work with them as a breeder flock.  If they don’t work out, I am going to try Delawares next.  My goal is to never have to buy hatchery chicks again.

I was hoping to check in on the bees this week, but never got a good day to do it.  I need to see how my queen is laying and add on another honey super.  I am wary that they will swarm here soon and I want to see what they are thinking along those lines.  That’s just what they do and I don’t have the brain-power or determination to try to prevent it.  It will be nice to have a second hive started too.  I thought about requeening, but they are such hardy and gentle bees as they are, I do not want to mess with their genetics.  I can only hope that they will land in my apple trees or my curly willow where I can easily reach them.  I’ve not pushed them for honey production this year.  I am just glad to have them for pollination right now.  Keeping them alive and thriving is my only objective. 

Sometimes with these bees, I wonder if I have bit off more than I can chew.  I have so many projects going right now.  We are also hoping to add to our clan this year.  I am pretty sure they don’t make maternity beekeeper suits.  (Now we will see how many of my family members actually read my blog…haha.)  I know that there are many beekeepers who don’t wear anything other than a hat and veil.  I hope to be that confident someday!

Well, I better run out and get the eggs and the mail.  My husband and my toddler are up from their Saturday afternoon nap which puts an end to my blogging.

Here is a quick slideshow of everything growing in my garden right now.  It has been a heavily overcast day so I am surprised these pics came out so well.  I did have to do a little Photoshopping to bring up the contrast though.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

%d bloggers like this: