Archive for the ‘Chickens & Geese’ Category

A Cautionary Tale

Sunday, June 19th, 2016



It’s been a while since I’ve felt like writing. Life is messy, and sometimes blogging falls by the wayside.  This morning I feel like writing, because the house is quite, I have no one to talk to, and I just scared the crap out of myself.

My husband, Bart, was out till the wee hours of the morning bowfishing with our son, Kuyler, who came home to spend some time with his dad on Father’s Day.  They will be sleeping in quite late today.

I was up bright and early with the sun, and went out to do my morning chores in the barn. While I was feeding chicks and changing water in the brooder, I pulled the door closed behind me, so no chicks would get out. I stood there looking at the door feeling stunned.

I never pull the brooder door completely shut, because there’s a latch on the outside. It’s a very sturdily built cage about 4’x10′, about 6′ tall, enclosed with 1/2″ hardware cloth.  I was locked inside with 25 baby chickens!

I had no idea when the guys would be waking up. And even when they did wake up, they weren’t going to be looking for me, because I’m always off doing my own thing.  I don’t carry my cell phone around the farm with me, so it was in its usual place on my desk in my office.

I stood there in my cage, contemplating several hours keeping company with the chickens. I’m not sure I can describe those first few minutes while I was still absorbing my situation, before my head started working out possible solutions.




I wasn’t too keen on the idea of trying to kick out the hardware cloth. When Bart builds something, it doesn’t come apart easily, and the hardware cloth wasn’t simply stapled in place, but fastened with heavy-duty U nails.  Then I noticed the piece of wire I use to hold a gate shut (pictured on the right hand side of the cage).  The wire is threaded through the hardware cloth, and then wrapped around the wire of the gate. I have the gate in place to prevent the hens from trying to nest in that corner.

It took me about 10 minutes, but I was able to pull the wire through, and then use it to jimmy the outside latch.  For a while, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull it off.

The moral of this story?  I’m still thinking about it.  I have looped a piece of wire through the latch, and run it inside the cage for now.



First Lessons In The Pasture

Monday, May 19th, 2014

watchful eye


The goslings are three weeks old, and today was their first full day in the pasture under the watchful eye of mom and dad. Of course there were bound to be a few firsts.  Mom schooled them in the art mud bathing.


mud lesson


Complete with mud facials.


face deep


Afterwards there were side by side bathtubs.  Somehow this makes more sense in my pasture than in Cialis commercials.


side by side


And, of course, there was nap time.



Pitter Patter of Little Feet

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014



The Jersey Giant chicks are growing, and my very first goslings hatched out this past weekend! Pictured above is a chick at 1 day, 2 weeks, and 3 weeks.  Currently, at 3 weeks of age, the chicks have started to perch, and this time I didn’t get my hand pooped on when I took the picture.


JG 3 weeks

JG at 3 weeks


The goslings are turning out to be an unexpected experience.  I assumed that raising goslings was going to be similar to raising chicks.  Boy was I wrong!  Chicks are instinctively skittish, and afraid of anything that moves.  Although I change their water and refresh their feed a couple of times a day, the chicks freak when I get into the brooder.

The goslings, on the other hand, are extremely social and run towards anything that moves.  I decided to set their brooder box in my living room for the first few days, because they seem much more content when they can interact with me. Boy, do they talk!  Of the 6 eggs my goose sat on, only two hatched.  I let her continue to sit on them for a few more days, just to be sure, and finally called it done this morning. I candled the remaining 4, and from what I can tell, it looks like one was infertile, and never developed an embryo, and the other 3  look like they stopped developing part way through incubation and died.

This was the first gosling at about an hour or so after hatching.


first gosling


The pair hatched within 2 hours of each other, and were up walking, eating and drinking within 24 hours.


gosling feet


I took them outdoors for a quick bit of exploration in the yard this morning, and they loved it!  They are much hardier than chicks, and don’t require quite as much heat.  I’ll be moving them to a brooder out in the barn in a couple of days, and by about 6 weeks they will no longer need supplemental heat. Their markings indicate I most likely have a male and female.


goslings exploring


This little one was checking out the garlic chives that have volunteered along my sidewalk.  Very appropriate considering I name my birds after herbs.  I’m thinking of naming these two Arnica and Aralia.


gosling chives

Another Goose Post

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

autumn pens

The farmer decided to harvest the corn field next to my pasture today, and the geese were curious, but a little freaked by the big green, roaring monster.  Additionally, I’m sitting on 90% chance of rain by tomorrow, and the trees in my yard decided to dump almost all of their leaves in the last few days.  All of this was a recipe for me needing to be outside raking leaves, all the while reassuring the geese that it was OK to come out of the goose house to watch the combine, and that it wouldn’t eat them.

I did manage to get most of the leaves picked up and moved into the chicken and goose pens. The leaves provide mud control during the winter, as well as entertainment for the chickens.  By spring they’ve picked, scratched and turned the leaves so much that there’s nothing left but a little compost.  I forgot to wear gloves while raking, and now I’ve got a blister on my thumb.  After I was done raking, I just hung out in the pasture with the geese and we watched the combine together. The chickens lived up to their name, and hid inside the coop the whole time.

autumn geese

I’ve been really surprised at the amount of time I’ve been spending hanging out in the pasture with the geese.  I guess it’s my version of taking the dogs out for a walk. It will be interesting to see what I do once the snow starts to fly. Tulsi the goose says, “Hi”.

looking at me

Not So Lazy Sunday

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

I was a little negligent during my work week, so I’m behind on paperwork.  I went to a beer festival yesterday, so I promised myself I would put in a full day of work on Sunday.  Of course, I woke up to the most perfect weather I’ve seen in weeks, so I’ve decided to see how much I can cram into one Sunday. I probably don’t have time for a blog post, but I actually felt like writing today, so hey, why not?  I’ve been breaking up the work-work stuff with fun-work stuff.  After round one of the not so fun work, I grabbed my camera and went out to the pasture to play with the geese and scrub down the wading pond, water buckets, and feeders.

On the way out I got sidetracked by the passionflower vine I planted along side the chicken coop this spring.


I’m a little fastidious about keeping my birds clean, so every week to 10 days I usually scrub down the water buckets and feeders, as well as the goose pool.  The goose pool gets a little “interesting” if I don’t clean it up periodically.  I found a leopard frog in it the other morning. A good stiff scrub brush and some elbow grease were called for today.


Of course, I had some help from Teasel, the gander. He’s very nosy, and insists on inspecting everything.


Tulsi, the female was content to armchair supervise, and even treated Teasel and I to some dancing.


Did I mention it’s an absolutely gorgeous day?

blue eyes

While I was scrubbing the pool, I let the hose run into a muddy spot where Tulsi and Teasel love to root around in the mud. They were so busy with the mud, I was able to sneak up from behind and get this shot.  Usually, they are so busy being armchair supervisors, that I’m rarely able to get a shot from behind.


Did I mention that it’s an amazing day? The bees were busy on the fall asters blooming in the pasture.

bee on aster

By the way, the chickens I raised from chicks this spring just started laying eggs two or three weeks ago.

welsummer eggs 2

When I was done in the pasture, I made a simple lunch of three perfectly poached eggs, and a piece of toast made from stale leftover bread (seriously, stale homemade bread makes the BEST toast in the world).  Then I wrote this blog post, and now I have to go back to the not-so-fun work.

poached eggs



Teenaged Chickens & Pickled Radishes

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013


chicken butts 2

The chicks aren’t chicks anymore.  They’re teenagers now. This morning when I let them out of the coop into the pasture, I noticed their chirpy little voices were interspersed with awkward, croaking clucks. Also, a few of the roosters have been attempting to crow, which is hilarious. I’m reminded of  the catching and cracking of the voice of a teenaged boy, as it transitions to a deeper, more manly sounding thing.

As you can see in the shot above, feeding time is very serious business. Whenever I make a trip out to the pasture, I’m practically mobbed, as they all come running up to see if I’m bringing more food.

chickens grazing

The roosters have begun to develop their tail feathers, and combs and wattles are coming along nicely. I ended up with 12 hens and 13 roosters.  When butchering time comes around, the largest guy with the most spectacular plumage, comb, and wattle (aka superior genetics) will get to stay on as the patriarch of my little flock.


On to the subject of radishes.  This past weekend I brought in my first major haul of the gardening season, and spent time in the kitchen putting some of it away for winter use.

strawberry rhubarb

I made 3 small batches of strawberry vanilla jam, a batch of my Gingered Rhubarb Conserve, an arugula feta quiche for lunch, a pan of strawberry rhubarb crisp (my youngest son’s special request), and a big jar of pickled radishes.

jar of radishes

These are quick and easy refrigerator pickles, and my solution to a bunch of radishes that need to be pulled all at the same time.  I just can’t eat them all at once, and they don’t hold all that long.  I go with the more French garlic and tarragon flavor, but you could go with dill instead, or any other favorite herb for that matter.

Pickled Radishes
Tarragon Sprigs

Stuff a jar with cleaned and trimmed radishes, several whole garlic cloves, sprigs of tarragon, and a teaspoon or so of peppercorns.  I like my radishes whole, but they can be sliced.  Fill the jar to cover all of the radishes with a solution of half vinegar, half water, and salt.  I use about 1 tablespoon of salt per 2 cups of solution, but it’s a good idea to adjust to your personal taste.  Let the jar sit in the refrigerator for a few days before eating.  The pickling solution will pull all of the red out of the radishes.  This is what mine looked like in less than an hour.

pickled radishes

Chick Update

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

As promised, I’ve got a 2 week progress report on the chicks.  Around half of them are developing little, teeny, tiny combs, while the other half are not.  I do believe this little guy is a rooster … which means he’ll probably be on my dinner table some day.  Never, ever forget these guys are livestock, destined for the dinner table.  I’m getting ready to double their space, and I’ve also begun to lower the temperature in the brooder box.  By the time they’ve become acclimated to cooler temperatures, and night-time temperatures become a little more reasonable, I’ll be moving them to larger digs out in the chicken barn.


Here’s a side by side comparison to the picture I took two weeks ago.  They’ve easily doubled in size, and I’m also having to feed them twice as much.  They’re getting a 20% protein organic chick starter, and will eventually be switched over to 18% organic grower feed.


As you can see, chick fuzz is giving way to feathers, and they like to run through the brooder box trying to test out their new wing feathers.  They’re also starting to act as if they would like to perch, so when I get their space doubled I’m also going to give them a rod for roosting.



Box O’ Chicken

Friday, March 22nd, 2013


This morning I got an early morning call from my local post mistress.   She had some chicken I had ordered , and was letting me know it was ready to pick up.  This was not your typical bucket of takeout chicken, but a box of live Welsummer chicks sent from Cackle Hatchery.   I’ve been dying to own some of the birds, since I first saw their terra-cotta red eggs when visiting a local beekeeper last year.

My current laying hens are about 2 years old, so this spring it’s time to refresh my “flock”. I don’t think an half-dozen chickens qualifies as a flock.  Also, this year I decided that I was going to raise and process my own chicken for the freezer.  I normally buy from a local organic farmer, but thanks to last summer’s drought sending feed costs through the roof, I decided it was time to do it myself.  I was a teenager the last time I was involved in chicken butchering, so I’m going to visit my Amish neighbor for a refresher course when she does hers this summer.

So, back to my box o’ chicken.  Last week I made sure I had my brooder all set with a heat lamp for the chicks to arrive.  As soon as I got the chicks home from the post office, I opened them up and snapped a quick picture for you.


I removed each chick from the box and gave its beak a quick dip in the waterer (filled with warm water) before setting it down in the brooder.   Since the whole point of raising my own organic chicken is to keep my costs down, I put the brooder together using things I already had out in the barn. An old livestock watering trough, and a heat lamp which I’ve used for everything from chickens to baby goats over the years. I also already had a couple of mason jar waterers and a small feeder floating around in the barn.  The only thing I bought were the chicks and  a small bale of pine shaving bedding.


I’ll post an update in a couple of weeks, when the chicks will be a bit less cute, and quite a bit larger.


Winter Blues

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I thought I had better put in a quick appearance.  Thanks to a mild case of the winter blues, my motivation level has been almost non-existent.  It’s been a few years since I’ve had a legitimate case of the blues, and I hope it’s the last for long time to come.  I’m dreaming of sunshine, warmer temperatures, green things, and dirt under my fingernails.

I’ve been getting organized, and all of my seed starting paraphernalia is ready to go.  Egg production in the chicken coop is on the rise…. a sign of days lengthening into spring.  Speaking of chickens, I was cheered a little by a sight outside my window.  Not exactly the kind of bird I was hoping to attract to the feeder, but a bathing beauty all the same!

The girls enjoy grazing on the dormant rye/vetch cover crop I planted in the fall.

Winterizing the Chicken Coop

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

It’s been a great weekend for getting some things done around our place.  I finally got caught up on my canning, and have been able to attend to some other projects.  I’ve been meaning to get the chicken coop cleaned out, and this morning was perfect for the job.

Once I got the old straw and chicken poop shoveled out, I sprinkled a layer of diatomaceous earth on the floor before putting down a new layer of straw.  Diatomaceous earth is a natural method of controlling fleas, mites, ticks, digestive parasites, and any other insect pests.  Diatomaceaous earth is the fossilized remains of Diatoms, microscopic one celled algae, which acts like little razors on the exoskeleton of insects, slicing and drying them out. A perfect, natural means of keeping your flock healthy.

My husband completed some finishing touches to the coop to get it ready for winter.  The electrical wiring in the coop was pretty old, so he rewired it to be sure it would be safe to run the heated base for the chicken waterer. With the wiring completed, he was able to finish insulating the walls and ceiling.  He also hung a light fixture.  I put full spectrum bulbs in the fixture, and it’s on a timer set to turn on early in the morning and then turn off a few hours later when the sun is finally up.  Giving the girls 14-16 hours of light a day will ensure regular egg production during the winter months.   It’s important to have the timer set to be on in the morning hours, rather than evening, so the chickens won’t find themselves stranded on the ground at night when the lights go off.  As the light fades in the evening, it’s a chicken’s natural instinct to find a roost up off the ground, safe from predators, before it gets dark.

The girls seem content with their digs.