Archive for the ‘Chickens & Geese’ Category

Frozen Grapes and Keeping Cool

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Seriously, they’re already calling this the Heat Wave of 2011. They’ll probably make a movie of the week out of it.  Ummm…. nah, I won’t say it.  Needless to say I’ve been through 100 degree weather before, and lived to tell the tale.

No recipe here…. just throw those puppies into the freezer for a couple of hours and you’re all set.  I like frozen grapes better than ice cream, and I really love ice cream. A lot.  Also, they’re a little more figure friendly, and you won’t feel guilty letting the kids gorge themselves. I’m working on a more complicated frozen treat, but I won’t know how it turns out until later this evening when I pull it out of the freezer.  If all goes well, I’ll have a frozen watermelon margarita for you by the weekend.

My family and I are managing to stay cool, but the animals are having to find their own ways to cope.  The family cat just plays dead all day.

And the chickens have been hanging out under the lilac bushes and playing in the sprinkler.


Monster Chickens!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

A couple of days ago we had some visitors show up on the property, and they’ve decided to stick around.  The first evening they roosted in the rafters of our barn.

Today after work I went out to check on the girls, and discovered my little  flock had expanded.

These guys are VERY skittish, and I’m not able to get very close to take pictures.  I had to crop the pictures very close to give you a good view. I’m not sure if this is aggression, or if this peacock thinks he’s courting.  We think these pretty birds have wandered from one of our neighboring Amish farms, and will probably start trying to find the owners this weekend.

Chickens & Coop Update

Friday, June 17th, 2011

A few weeks ago, I shared the beginning of construction on my new chicken coop.  As you can see, it’s done and we now have chickens in residence.  The gate of the pen opens along the edge of a small meadow behind our place. In the evenings and on the weekends I’ve been opening the gate and letting the chickens wander into the meadow for some prime bug hunting and foraging.

Here’s the inside of the coop. My oldest son finished putting up the hardware cloth after my husband had put up the frame.  There are my metal can for storing the chicken feed, grit, and such. My hubby still has a little work to do on the roof, and will be adding some insulation to the ceiling. We still haven’t hung the UV light fixture for this winter, but there’s still plenty of time.

And, there are eggs! Beautiful, fresh eggs! I’ve only got 4 birds of egg laying age, and laying is sporadic since they’re still settling into their new home.  The rest of the birds are 3 months old and won’t begin laying until around the beginning of September.  Call me silly, but you wouldn’t believe how satisfying it is to open the nest box lid and find eggs waiting for me.

An added bonus to keeping chickens is the entertainment factor. It’s been so many years since I had chickens that I had forgotten how fun they are to watch.  Here’s one gal who found a cool spot to give herself a dirt bath while keeping an eye out for any passing bugs. It’s also fun to watch the young birds run across the yard, wings flapping, while chasing flying insects.

Saturday Morning at the Giant Swap Meet

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

My husband, youngest son, and I got up at 5 am, before the sun was up, to make a trip to Northern Indiana’s Giant Swap Meet.  The swap meet is a summer time tradition for me and I’ve been visiting it off and on since I was 12 years old. I love that my dad took me as a kid, and now I have the opportunity to pass the tradition on to my own kids.  The purpose for my visit this year was to pick up a few odd laying hens to round out the six Delaware hens I’ll be getting in the next couple of weeks. The Delawares won’t start laying eggs until the end of summer. Being impatient for fresh eggs, I decided to pick up a few hens that were already laying.

Be forewarned, this post contains lots of pictures.  Also, I’m issuing a cute puppies and kids alert.  The swap meet takes place on the first Saturday of the month for 4 months during the summer, and always contains an eclectic array of birds, cats, dogs, exotic pets, and small livestock. One of our first cute puppy encounters resulted in Bart, my husband, longing to take this little guy home with us.

I’m surprised I didn’t have to pry the beagle out of Bart’s arms. Before we had our kids, Bart and I used to raise beagles, so we have a bit of a soft spot for them.

These folks had rabbits that are used in a petting farm, so the very tame bunnies were out in tubs for the kids to pet.

I was given permission to snap a couple of shots of this little Mennonite girl who was petting the rabbits.

The next few shots are of some of the more exotic offerings we saw. This is an Egyptian Goose.

Deer fawns.


This fox was not for sale, but was a pet along for the ride. His owners showed us pictures of one of their pet fox that was featured in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine as part of an article titled , Designing the Perfect Pet.

One of the fox’s owners. He was a really likable, fun guy!


More kids with rabbits. Somehow I couldn’t resist taking these pictures.

This tiny pup was hitching a ride with his Amish owner. The “awww! factor” here is completely off the charts.

Miniature donkeys.

Pink piggie!

I used to raise a few Toggenburg dairy goats, and just had to stop to have a conversation with this girl and give her a good scratching between the eyes.  I asked her if she would be willing to give me a little extra attitude for the camera, but she told me “nah”.

More obscene cuteness.


I’m not sure why, but I connected with this dog.  If he had been for sale I’m pretty sure he would have come home with me.

This was my favorite kid for the day.  She didn’t realize I was going to take her picture until the moment right before the shutter clicked.

Chicken Coop Construction

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

This winter my husband I decided to start keeping a few laying hens again.  My parents had chickens when I was a kid, and I’ve kept them off and on over the years. I think it’s been about 8 years since I’ve kept chickens.  It was one of the many things I let go while I was establishing my business.  On the list of things I chose to give up for a while were: My dairy goats, chickens, beekeeping, my small greenhouse, the HUGE vegetable garden which easily rivaled my Amish neighbors’, and my papermaking hobby. Now that the business is 9 years old and well established, I have begun to reclaim some of my old interests. About 3 years ago I began gardening again, but on a much smaller (and smarter) scale than before. Now I’m ready for chickens!

When Bart and I moved into this old farmhouse 20 years ago, there were a few outbuildings on the property.  One of the buildings was a long, low barn which had been used for small-scale chicken farming.  It hadn’t been used in decades and was full of trash and varmints.  It took us several years to get it cleaned out, and eventually I converted it to keep my small dairy goat herd.This is a view from the side where there is going to be a large fenced area for the chickens to roam. In years past, I allowed the chickens to roam the property, but they could be a bit destructive in the herb and vegetable garden, so I’m confining them this time.

Around the corner to the right is this door going into the area of the goat barn where our chicken coop is under construction.  Because the building is so old, Bart is having to replace some boards and fix a leaky roof.  We also decided that, for less than a dozen chickens, we wanted to use a more confined space and make sure that it would be tight against predators.  As you can see, I will have a small utility area outside of the coop where I can keep a couple of metal cans for storing feed and a few bales of straw and grass.

Because the coop is exposed to the northeast prevailing winds and weather, we have chosen to add some insulation to the walls. We also decided to create a raised floor with some old pallets, as this end of the barn can become quite wet during the spring and fall rainy seasons.  We put down a remnant piece of linoleum to protect the wood floor from decomposition, and to make cleaning a little easier (I found this idea while looking at coop designs at  Bart had an old screen door lying around, which he cut down to fit the space.  For the sake of summer time ventilation we have decided to enclose the coop with 1/2″ mesh hardware cloth. A determined raccoon can make a mess of chicken wire, so it’s not an option.

I also have plans to hang a shop light fixture with UV bulbs.  During the winter months when daylight hours are fewer, the light will be on a timer to provide a few extra hours of light for more consistent egg production.  Bart built the nest boxes with a hinged lid for easy access.

He built the door to the pasture so that it can be closed at night against predators, and also during inclement weather. When this room was last used for chickens, the door to the outside was hinged in such a way that high winds would cause it to flap, and snow would drift into the coop.

I’ve chosen to keep Delaware chickens, a heritage breed on the critical endangered list. I found a local breeder who will have some young chickens ready for me within the next couple of weeks.  I’ve also located a local source for organic, non-GMO chicken feed, and will supplement the birds’ winter diet with vegetable scraps from my kitchen, whey from cheesemaking, and some sprouted grains.  Once the coop is finished and the birds are settled into their new home, I’ll be sure to post an update.