The chickens are facing their first winter

We had snow a few nights ago.

I went out at 7:00a.m. (I should also mention that I do this in my jammies with a coat over top). I opened the door of the coop and, as usual, all the girls ran right out to their outside food container. I opened the top of the coop to begin my morning cleaning. Within seconds Lupin and Nugget (both Mediterranean native Leghorn chickens ) were back inside bawking to me their gentle protests about that stuff outside.

Their coop is in a nicely protected part of the yard.

I was playing the role of Crazy Chicken lady and actually talking back to them and explaining that it had snowed and then I showed them both where to find the food inside the coop. I stuck my finger in the food and they both looked at my finger and quickly walked over and began eating. I am not lying! They were griping to me. I explained the situation. They understood and calmed down. They’re the smartest chickens EVER.

Annabell likes keeping her toes warm!

My friend Susan likes to call my chickens “The FunGirls” – but we can’t decide which chicken represents which of us…or if we even WANT them to. HA

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about caring for chickens, talking to people who have chickens, and just using common sense. I’m finally comfortable with our set-up now that it has been tested.

Our coop is insulated with Styrofoam between the plywood walls. We’ve equipped it with a thermometer and the coldest I’ve seen the temperature, inside the coop, in the mornings (after a cold night) is 40degrees. We’ve already had a few nights in the teens and the chickies stayed nice and cozy.

We’ve also set up a light on a timer inside the coop. The light helps warm the coop during the day and it also provides the few extra hours of daylight to keep the chickens laying. It must be working because we’re still getting an average of three eggs each day from our very contented, happy, smart chickens.

I saw a troubling video yesterday about the “chicken factories” that produce the eggs for one of the fast-food giants who have popular breakfast sandwiches. I’ve decided to link it here. (be warned – this video made me cry)

The chickens in the video are under incredible stress and are living horrific lives. I vowed that I will never support that system again. So, while having backyard chickens is kind of a pain, it’s absolutely worth it to know that I’m not contributing to the torturous life those other chickens are enduring.

While it feels incredibly wrong to talk about food after viewing that video I do want to offer an alternative to those fast food breakfast sandwiches. I believe a homemade version is not only more economical but it is also safer (because it is made in your own kitchen) and it doesn’t support that ridiculous industry. You can even raise your own chickens or buy farm fresh eggs from someone local to you.

Here’s my recipe for our homemade DizMuffins. (sorry, I can’t take a picture of this yet. I hope to add it later)

You’ll need:
1 egg
1 bagel or English Muffin, toasted.
1 slice of cheese of choice
Butter, salt, and pepper

1 average size ceramic cereal bowl, sprayed with cooking spray.
Beat the egg in the bowl and then microwave it for 75 seconds (or until it puffs up about 1/2″ above the rim of the bowl. Immediately place the cheese on the egg so it can begin melting.
Butter the toasted bagel or muffin then scoop the cooked egg out of the bowl onto the bagel/muffin. Place the other half on top and TA DA!

I’m not a fan of nuked food, but this is very tasty!

Chicken Lovers! Look what I found.

Free Teeny Tiny knitted chicken pattern

Photo from the Teeny Tiny website linked above.

I downloaded the pattern for the TeenyTiny knitted chickens. Haven’t taken (or HAD) the time to make any, yet.

Prosperity Hens

Image from Chinaberry website.

I bought the Prosperity Hens from Chinaberry a few weeks ago. I like them. I especially like knowing that my money is helping a small community in India to support themselves.

Speaking of chickens. I was talking to my good friend Marci recently and we were recalling a charming little article in one of those prissy “Life-is-some-kind-of-frilly-dream” magazines. The article was about keeping chickens IN (yeah – IN…as in…IN) the house. This dear woman was writing about how she re-purposed an old wrought iron baby crib and turned it into a pen for those times when one would need to keep the precious little birdies confined in French Country style. Then she went on to sweetly tell us that we could keep a nappy (translation = DIAPER) on the chickens to keep the house clean and poo-free. *cough*crazyperson*cough*

Now that I’ve had four chickens for six months (living happily outside) I can say, with near certainty, THAT LADY MUST BE NUTS!!!

I am certainly not a clean freak. I have dirty floors and dust bunnies galore. I’m just not interested in adding numerous piles of chicken droppings to it! Don’t even get me started about the smell.

Seriously?! A diaper on a chicken?! Does she have any idea how much an average adult chicken poops?!?! Seriously?!? And (this is the scariest part) Where does the egg go when the birdie is wearing a diaper?!?!?!

Answer: The trash! That’s where.

If anyone tries to tell you how charming it is to keep your chicken in your New York City apartment. Do yourself a favor. Laugh hysterically and RUN.

(for added entertainment you can do a search of youtube for indoor chickens. Hooo Boy. Get ready for the fun!)

We got our first egg last week!

Due to all sorts of complications I haven’t been able to post about this momentous occasion until today.

It was pretty funny how Nugget reacted to laying an egg. She did a sort of chicken-moan for the entire rest of the day. I mean HOURS of chicken-toned droning. I had read many stories of hens acting rather pleased with themselves after laying an egg. Nugget could only be described as offended and slightly traumatized. Who can blame her? I’ve behaved worse over far less. (may actions yesterday come to mind)

Speaking of yesterday. Batman came home and I laid out my histrionic tale of woe. He calmly told me, “I promise. They’re there. I’ll take care of it. Trust me.” And, of course Batman found my pictures!! He also fixed whatever it was that was keeping me from uploading photos from my camera.
And (most importantly) he found all 4000 iTunes items and put them back where they belong. *whew* I was seriously contemplating burrowing under my down comforter and never coming out if my iTunes were gone. Seriously.

All is right in my world again.

Now I can show you this:

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Probably to tear up the yard on the other side.

The arrows show where lovely billows of Sweet Woodruff once flourished.

Here’s a nice before/after of my once-beautiful white Bleeding Heart:

Now you see it!

Now you don't.

Regardless of the destruction, I still like my chickens. We’ve settled into a routine that we can all live with.

I wake up about a half hour after sunrise and open the coop(click to see photos of the coop and run) and I also water and feed them. They stay confined to the coop/run until about 2 hours before sunset when I let them have free run in the yard. This gives them some time to stretch out and flap about and gives them LESS time to tear up things any further.

Another part of their charm is that they’ll follow me until they realize that I don’t have a treat for them. Their current favorite is anything with yogurt or cottage cheese.

Two tablespoons of cottage cheese are gone in less than a minute.

The sweetest thing is that they put themselves back in the coop when the sun goes down. Though, a couple of nights now, they’ve decided to bed down on the back deck railing.

But...we like it here.

Sleepy chickens are my favorite!

I love how they stick together.

They’re calm during this time and will even let themselves be petted. It was tempting to let them stay there. However, reality (the possibility of their being snacks for owls, skunks and raccoons OR toys for neighborhood thug-cats) goaded us into picking up one of them and taking her to the coop. Within thirty seconds the others had flown over and were scuttling into the coop willingly. I love they way they stick together.

Batman and I still chuckle over thoughts of those days when we’d decided to give them some free time in the morning and then we’d herd them back into the run in the afternoon…back when we were noobs! It’s just so much nicer when they go in when they’re ready.

I’ve since learned that 2-4 hours of freedom is plenty. The good folks at Backyard Chickens have been a valuable resource as well as Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.

My little ladies are 19 weeks old and we’ve expected to start getting eggs any day now. Yesterday I wandered the yard checking for any egg that may have been laid on the sly and got very excited to discover one. Turned out it was a nearly perfectly egg-shaped rock.

The wait continues.

Raising Chickens in my suburban-sized backyard…

It has been four months since I took leave of my senses and impulsively bought three chicks at the feed store and decided to raise my own chickens for eggs. We later added a fourth chick.

On a scale of 1-10 I’d say I rank at about an 8 in terms of happiness with this endeavor.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

-Chickens are smarter than you think but they’re still pretty silly.
-They poop a LOT but if you have a dog that problem is solved conveniently yet disturbingly.
-Flies like chicken poo.
-Fly-trap bottles hung from a tree seem to attract more flies than they kill – the bottle also smells of reeking death! (We got rid of ours after about 2 weeks)
-Natural fly predators eventually take over and the fly problem becomes minimal at worst.
-In a hot climate (which ours is NOT) the smell from the poo would probably become bothersome in a small suburban yard.
-Four chickens is too many for our yard. I should have stuck with three. But I love them all now – so we must wait for nature to take it course.
-They have no manners when it comes to tromping around in the pretty planters and pots of flowers on the deck. NO MANNERS AT ALL.

Fleeing the scene of the crime!

-Given too much time on their own, outside the run, they will dig incredibly large holes in shockingly short periods of time. Most of our holes are at the base of large roses or the seven year old clematis. *sigh*
-They will not hesitate to walk around on the outdoor furniture and poop on it while they’re there.
-Sleeping in is no longer possible. The chickens must be let out of their coop and given fresh food and water every morning. (This has been good for me)

I’m not telling you these things to discourage you. I think it’s wise to know what you’re getting into.
How about some more photos?

Our kitty is strictly indoor but likes to wander into the yard occasionally. This was his first trip out there since the chickens joined us.

Anabelle was always keeping and eye on him. They've spent most of their eye-to-eye time with a screen door between them.

He strolled through checking out the place. The girls were extremely curious.

The hens never let him out of their sight. Whenever he glanced their way they'd 'act casual'. Funny stuff!

Anabelle says, "I'm watchin you!"

Overall – having chickens is quite enjoyable.