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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cock-a-doodle-who??

Last weekend, just as I was waking up I heard a very strange sound coming from the backyard.  It sounded like a rooster crowing.  But wait - we don't have a rooster!  I thought, no - must be the ravens cawing and I'm just not awake yet.  But then there it was again - a sort of cackling, crowing, cockadoodling.  What the heck? 

Hal was up and clearly heard it as well.  "Who is that," is asked, already having my suspicions. "It's one of the barred rocks," he said.

Aha!  I knew it!  Henny has been a very bossy dominatrix lately and her antics have included mounting the other hens. I wasn't exactly certain of what was going on and just thought this was "pecking-order" behavior.  Well it is and it isn't. 

This very unusual behavior has now been confirmed by My Pet Chicken -- check out this link that describes this unusual, but not really uncommon behavior:  http://bit.ly/bfXZwF.

So, next time you hear a rooster crowing in your house of hens - you'll know what's going on.  We certainly know who wears the pants in our hen house! 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hatch Day Happenings

What a happy Hatch Day we celebrated last week!  As you can see in the photo - the girls really enjoyed their polenta cake with cottage cheese "frosting."   Like any group of two-year-olds, they were soon covered in it and standing in it to boot! 

And as any good mother hen would do, I made sure that they didn't eat it all at once -- good to save some for later.

Our guests had a equally good time, if 12 bottles of wine amongst 10 people is any indication. You'll notice I'm not posting any of those photos!  

I did receive a fabulous Hatch Day gift from my good friends Sandy and Jack - check out our newest addition to the flock.  She's a heavy metal chick and sure looks great in the garden!

Speaking of the garden, we had our first salad of the season this week - baby arugula, mesclun, radishes and chives.  I tossed a packet of arugula and mesclun in a raised bed just before we left for vacation in April -- I'm so glad I did!  The rest of the cool crops are coming along - the kale, beets, chard, spinach and pak choi are still tiny sprouts; and the potatoes in barrels are popping up too!  My tomato starts are so tiny that I am going to buy plants from the farmer's market.  I'll be starting those tomatoes in February next year!   

Here are a few photos of my raised beds and a couple of "before and after" images from the garage project last summer.  Let me know how your garden is doing!

The old shed and the new garage!  Hot tub gone - chicken coop in its place!
             
Former and current garden space.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hatch Day Cometh!

Preparations are well underway for the annual Hatch Day celebration at the Second Street Chicken Ranch! 

Tomorrow we're celebrating "Happy 2nd Hatch Day" for our girls - Henny, Penny, Harriett, Flame and Helen, who will officially turn two on Saturday. 

It's a garden party, so I've been on my knees all week weeding the perennial garden - or shall I say reclaiming the perennial garden. It's amazing how fast clover and grass can invade a garden; and the only (non-chemical) way to eliminate it is to dig, pull, dig, pull dig, pull. Ugh. I'm 3/4 through (and wishing I had a smaller flower garden!) but it's looking super with a fresh layer of bark mulch.  The cone flowers have been reseeding like weeds so the butterflies should have a delightful venue later this summer. 

The celebration highlight will be the gourmet polenta cake topped with an "icing" of cottage cheese and cracked corn sprinkles!  Yes, that is for the girls -- guest will be enjoying chicken wings and champagne! 

We will have a moment of silence for our dearly departed Buttercup - A #1 Top Producer - who keeled over just two weeks after her 1st hatchday.  I'm fairly certain our little Buttercup laid herself to death; but her memory lives on of the beautiful, huge brown eggs she produced for us everyday of her very good, but short life.  

No doubt we will have some fun and interesting photos to share.  If it is anything like last year, it will be a clucking good time!  Stay tuned...

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Season Begins...

Last Saturday was opening day for the Kootenai County Farmer's Market (http://www.kootenaicountyfarmersmarket.com/) - a day of much joy for me and many around the county.  The weather was fair; that is to say, we made it around and back to the truck before the rain started!  

I picked up a few tomato plants - a Sungold Cherry, a Black Pearl Cherry and a Juliet - which have been great producers in years past; and a new variety (at least to me) an orange fruited Golden Jubilee.  As I was paying for my plants the vendor stated "ahh, someone else who is going to torture plants!"  I assured him they would be spending their evenings in the gararge for at least another week!  

Since I'm also starting tomatoes from seeds, I need to temper myself when it comes to purchasing plants this year.  But, as I look at my tiny little starts, I'm wondering if they will ever be ready to transplant!  This is the first year I've attempted to start tomatoes from seeds.  So far, so good, but I think next year I better start in early March!  

I did find a fabulous source of heirloom seeds this year -- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (http://www.rareseeds.com/).  They have a wonderful seed catalog with tons of non-GMO seed choices.  If you like looking at seed catalogs, this is one for you.  I ordered several types of seed and their shipping is just $3 - no matter how many seed packets you order!  That's the best deal I've found on shipping for seeds (unlike the nearly $10 Burpee wants to charge!). 

The tomato and peppers are looking good and I just put in spinach and lettuce.  I'll keep you posted on how grows! 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chicks of a Different Feather

Last month we spent two wonderfully warm and sunny weeks in Mexico along the Pacific coast about 60 miles north of Puerto Vallarta.  We love exploring Mexico off the beaten path - you really see and learn so much more.  One of the best places to experience "real" Mexico is at town market.  These are usually held once a week around the town square.  No matter how small the town, they ALL have town squares or zocolos!   We were delighted to learn that a small community nearby had a weekly market.  So off we went!  

Their markets are very much like our farmer's markets - a place to buy and sell produce, meats and livestock, eat yummy food and talk with neighbors.  The market at La Penita had a fair amount of crafts and "tourist" trinkets given it was in a beach town -- but there were still plenty of locals stocking up on everything from tube socks to tools.  

As we made our way down the long row of tarp covered stalls we came upon this sight -- something I haven't seen in probably 40 years!   Dyed Chicks!   



I was stunned!  Of course I wanted one - if for no other reason than to rescue the poor thing from the heat!  Some may remember that at one time, chicks of a different color were available in the US.  Woolworth's and Kresges Five and Dimes (okay, I've dated myself!), used to sell colored chicks around Easter. 

In addition to these, the vendor had crates of "natural chicks," bunnies, duckling and puppies! 
Later while walking back through the market I saw a woman holding a clear plastic bag with a blue chick in it - it's tiny head sticking out of the top.  I'm pretty sure that blue biddy didn't make it back to the casa!

Around the corner we found this restaurant - roughly translated to "Chicken Little's."  I wondered if the colored pollito's were on the menu!! 
  


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chix Tax in Vancouver?

The city of Vancouver has an interesting proposal for that city's urban chicken farmers as outlined in this article from the Vancouver Sun bit.ly/alyKEB.


Operation Chicken brings up some very valid points to consider when one is thinking of raising chickens (or currently has chickens).


Like any other living thing, they need daily attention and it is our responsibility to see that they are fed, kept clean and don't become a nuisance to the neighborhood. Our animal shelters are filled with best intentions. I'm certain chickens will start showing up at our local shelter as the "fun factor" wears off.


What do you think about Operation Chicken? Would you be willing to pay a tax to have chickens? Have you thought about what you will do with your hens when they stop laying? Are you committed for the length of their natural lives (8+ years)?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Story Behind the Story

Being in the communications field I know that what you say to a reporter and what comes out in print can very different. However, our recent front page article was a fine exception, due in part, to providing the reporter with more information than was asked AND sending it via email. Yes, I did some of the reporter's work here, but really who know my flock better?

Below are the two questions I was asked, followed by my own questions and answers. Not everything I sent went to print, so below you'll find a few chicken raising tips and a pretty good summary of our first two years of raising chickens.

Coming later this week -- a full garden report of spring crops, seed starts and potatoes; a fabulous source for heirloom seeds and updated "ranch" photos!

eMail Interview for the CdA Press/ Maureen Dolan:

MD: It seems like more and more people are raising their own chickens. Do you see that happening?

CG: Yes, I think it’s all part of the sustainable living movement. For some this is a trend and for others it is a way of life. We’re somewhere in the middle I guess! I love to garden and have had a veggie garden in place since we moved here in 2003. I loved the idea of fresh eggs and having chickens in yard so in 2008 we decided to start a small backyard flock. I can’t claim any real “savings” on eggs, but there really is nothing like fresh eggs! Here’s my take on the chicken popularity: I recall going to the Kootenai Co. Fair the year we started our flock and noticing there were not many egg entries – like 5 or 6. Last year the entries easily doubled from the previous year, and I suspect this year you will see even more egg entries. By the way our girls won a blue ribbon in the Large category and a red ribbon in the extra-large class last year! More and more people are eating local; look at the popularity of our Farmer’s Market, and want to know what goes in to their food and where it comes from.

MD: Can you tell me a little bit about when you started, why and how it's been?

CG: After doing a bit of research on breeds, winter hardiness and egg production (all easily found on the web); we purchased six one-day old chicks from D & B Farm Store. We kept them in a plastic tub with a heat lamp in the family room for about 3 weeks and then moved them into the coop. They grow fast – really fast – but they don’t start laying eggs until they are about 20 weeks old. Our first eggs came in early October and they laid consistently through the winter. That was the first of our two back-to-back killer winters, but our hens did great. With a heat lamp and their custom made down jackets (feathers) keeping them warm, they came through both winters with no problems. Our hens will be two in May and they are still strong layers. We saw a little tapering off this winter (they need 16 hours of daylight to lay, which we supplement with disco lights), but now that we are seeing more daylight hours, the production is back up. We now have 5 hens and get anywhere from 2 to 3 eggs per day. It takes about 24 hours for an egg to form.

These were my questions (and answers) to help round out the story:


Are they pets? Yeah, they are – they are the only pet that can make you breakfast! They have names, Helen is the Rhode Island Red; Henrietta (Henny)and Penelope (Penny) are Barred Rocks; Flame is the Black Sex-Link and Harriett is an Australorpe (Australian breed). They will keep laying into old age, but the number of eggs produced will drop. And, they can live for 8 – 9 years. Usually by age 3 it is costing you more in feed then you are getting in eggs; so many are, well, sent to the farm…if you know what I mean. It is part of the life cycle and they are chickens after all.

Do I feel bad eating chicken? Not at all. I have a BS in Agriculture from the University of Idaho – urban farm-girl. Would I eat my chickens? No, they would be very tough and scrawny; they are bred for egg production, not meat.

What are they like? A joy. They are clowns. Really. I’ve handled them since chicks so they come running when I come out, all eager to see what goodies I might have for them. They were raised on polenta and still love it, that, and cottage cheese. They do have individual personalities. Helen is the “mother hen” – she keeps a watch on the coop and “supervises” when someone else is laying. Poor Penny is at the bottom of the “pecking order” and has a few bare spots on her rump to prove it. All the clich├ęs you hear are true – “madder than a wet hen” – they hate water; dumb cluck and bird brain, yeah, they’re not too smart; and my favorite “like a bunch of old biddies” referring to a gathering of women who are talking non-stop. I let them out to graze in the yard only in the fall and early spring – when the garden is dormant. They can clear a patch of lettuce in no time flat – I learned this the hard way. They are easy keepers – fresh water, feed and a secure coop is all they really need.

What question do you get asked a lot? People always seem to ask me if we have to have a rooster to get eggs. No, you don’t need a rooster to get eggs, but you do need a rooster to get chicks! By the way, roosters are not allowed in city limits.

Do my neighbors care? No, it hasn’t been a problem at all. They are quiet; I keep them clean and share eggs. I am planning to add a few more chicks to keep the egg production going and I’d love to get a goat for milk…but I think the city of CdA would have other thoughts about that – not to mention my husband.
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