AboutI write and illustrate children's books, among other things.
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If you like reading about my chicken experience, but you think, “This would sound better in a ridiculous monotone,” you’re in luck! In January (and perhaps beyond), I’ll be a sort of chicken correspondent for the Garden Guys Green Revolution Talk Radio podcast. New episodes air live on the tubes on Fridays at 3, but you can also listen whenever, because, you know, the internet.
I’ll also pop up on the shows on December 21st and 28th to briefly talk about what the hell I think I’m doing with all this.
They have a million ways to listen to all this, so if it sounds good, check out the link above. If it doesn’t sound good, you must be new here.
I swear there will be eggs any day now, but so far, nothing. I suppose that’s just as well, because with six chickens, that’s going to be a lot of eggs once they start. At least in the darker months they won’t be quite as productive, but still. Everyone keeps asking, but no, there are no eggs yet.
I finally got around to fixing the door to the run. It was this tiny little thing, because I had a frame that was big enough to get through, and was in a rush to get the chickens moved out. With it getting colder and the threat of snow imminent, I decided I didn’t want to be squatting down to get in there anymore, and made a human-sized door.
And added a nice white wooden latch thingy.
I also got out the leaf blower and cleared the coop moat. I don’t care about the leaves on the lawn so much, but I will not tolerate a leafy moat.
The chickens are getting bolder, and headed out for the wilderness while I worked. I chased them back, since they were headed out of sight, and down what I suppose would be called a “holler” in some parts, and while I am much more relaxed about them running around, this seemed like trouble. Yesterday my mother in law went for a walk and saw a fox not too far from our house, so maybe I wasn’t being so paranoid.
The weird yellow blob is a chicken. Or perhaps Chickensquatch.
Well, we made it through the storm. We didn’t even lose power, though it looked like people on both sides of us did when I left this morning. One tree came down, but it was dead to begin with, and luckily has stayed in the neighbor’s yard, rather than falling over the stone wall and knocking it apart, like many other trees killed by bittersweet before it. Still nothing compared to a lot of places.
Saturday I reinforced the coop roof a little, knowing the storm was on its way. I added a better beam to hold the ends of the roof materials up.
Then I tacked the roof down to the beams, and everything seemed pretty solid.
Of course, as I was out checking on the chickens when the wind started picking up, I noticed that while the ends of the roof were good, the middle was a little flappy. I had no doubt that the wind could rip the side right off if it was anywhere near as rough as they were predicting. Since it was only a matter of time, I went into action.
Yes, that is a board with a brick on it. I kept an eye on it, and added a second brick not too long after. It was still a little wobbly, so I ended up adding a third brick. And it held! The roof survived, and now I can do something to support the middle a little better. I hadn’t really thought about hurricanes when I made the coop, I was more worried about snow.
I’m not sure why people think wet hens are so mad, because ours were pretty much out in the storm the whole time. Maybe they were waiting for a news crew to come by so they could act goofy on camera or something. But they were out more than they ever are during a regular rainstorm. No water got into the coop through the vents, but a lot did on the backs of chickens.
On my day off Monday I decided to finally set up the solar powered exhaust fan I’ve been meaning to set up for a while. I took an old PC fan and a big rechargeable battery, and a solar panel meant to power a “deer feeder” (which I guess is a hunting thing) and wired it all up.
The panel went out front.
I put the battery in an old food container in case it leaked. This way I’d notice it faster, and it would be an extra bit of waterproofing, even though I put it under the roof.
The fan itself went into one of the vents.
Boss Chicken took a great interest in my work.
Of course, then I looked this idea up on backyardchickens.com, and people who’ve done similar things report that it’s a bad idea because “chicken dust” will choke the fan and burn out the motor in no time. They are rather dusty. So anyway, it was fun, and now I’ll use this set up for a cat box exhaust fan I’ve been thinking about. I plan on blowing the poop smells directly into your home, gentle reader.
Fall in New England is a good time to be a chicken.
Not really, but the chickens split into two camps the last time we let them out. It’s like a reality show, so this is probably all the doings of the producers. Like Paradise Hotel, but for chickens. Remember Paradise Hotel?
Initially, they clumped as usual. They’re really looking like grown-ass chickens these days. One of the Mandrell Sisters has her comb getting really developed. Not that you can see it here.
Then one group headed into the front yard, while the other stayed in the “bushes” as Graham calls it, which is anything that is not yard, mainly the overgrowth of pricker bushes and bittersweet.
We didn’t have to do much wrangling this time to get them back in, so my arms continue to heal from last time. A guy I work with was freaked out by my arm and asked if it was o.k. “Yeah, it’s fine, it was just a chicken,” I said, and that was totally not the response he was expecting.
Boss chicken imitates his reaction here:
What’s almost as hilarious as the chickens is Batman here trying to pet them.
I said “chimp,” not “chump,” so knock it off. Anyway, chimps are exciting because they use tools. They also wear diapers and sometime co-star in TV shows, but that’s a different post. I, like a chimp, have devised a tool to make my chickening easier.
At first glance, this is merely a piece of wood with a hook on the end. But what it really is is a marvelous device that lets me reach under the coop and get the chicken feeder (which hangs on a hook in the middle of the under coop area) without having to either lay on the ground or mash my head against the chicken stairs. Remember how I said chickens crap all over everything? Those things are both everything, ergo, they have chicken crap on them. Now I can reach under with the stick and give them more food with ease. I will be pitching these on the Home Shopping network later this month.
DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM REACHING YOUR CHICKEN FEEDER? etc.
We let the chickens out of the run for the first time Saturday. Boy did they like it. It turns out that all the invasive plants taking over the area are delicious.
They went right for the little pricker bush growing back next to the moat. Then they went after the big one that the bunnies live in.
Boss Chicken is not interested in bunnies.
I sure hope there were ticks in there. Just kidding, there were probably millions of ticks in there.
Graham was very into this, and even agreed to let us use his butterfly net to catch errant chickens, if necessary.
We were standing around wondering how long we should let them stay out, since it’s not a good idea to leave them unattended due to neighborhood dogs and hawks, when Boss Chicken foolishly walked back into the run. We closed the door and I set about grabbing the rest. You have to sit very still and let the chickens come to you. Or I did anyway. Even then, they may freak once you grab them.
I didn’t have enough of a grip on Henny Penny’s wings, and she tried to fly away, while clawing like a flailing thing that is not good at flying. Next time I wear long sleeves. The rest went in ok, and now they look at you longingly to be let out any time you come near the gate.
I came across A Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship, and Seed Sovereignty though the Winnipeg Community Garden Network’s page. This is something I need to look into.
This is a pretty handy little guide if you want to save seeds (which I do!)
I tried to get a picture of the chickens tripping over each other to get into the run this morning. They were actually more civilized than usual today.
Still, I think Suzy Creamcheese got checked off the steps in the process. I had the idea to somehow get one of those iron spiral staircases and put a chicken coop at the top of it. Then they could make a totally glamorous debut each morning. Because they are so graceful and elegant.
This weekend I also took a step towards explaining what the nesting buckets are for. You’re supposed to put something in there that looks like an egg, so when the time comes they know where to go. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot.
I took some plastic Easter eggs and filled them with dirt.
Then I glued them shut (and as is the way to do it, the use of superglue meant I glued my fingers together) and put them in the buckets.
I also raised the nests up a little more, using these plastic soda racks. Apparently when the soda guy comes and refills the vending machine, he just dumps the racks right into the recycling bin, rather than reusing them. They’re really sturdy, and I can think of lots of uses, so I guess it’s good that I have a seemingly endless supply of them. For one thing, I’m thinking of putting a lot of flower pots in them, then putting them out in the sun during the day, and bringing them in at night. But as risers they work great too.
Also, I found this the other day. It’s my notes from talking with the town about chicken rules, embellished by my son. I think it’s much more exciting now, and less ruley.