Chicken TV – has become a spring/summer past time for us. That’s what we call the time we spend sitting in our camp chairs near the chicken coop watching the chickens as they peck and scratch and do what chickens do. It’s usually the last half hour or so before the chickens go in for the night. It really can be quite entertaining especially when they are young.
Our Buff Orpingtons are the friendliest of the four breeds that we have and Honey one of our oldest hens will usually sit on my husbands lap. Last year some of buffs that we raised as chicks would also sit on our laps or climb on our shoulders while we sat and watched the group.
This year we have decided not to get attached to the buffs that we are raising since we intend to butcher them before long. We didn’t hold or pet them even when they were adorable little balls of fluff.
Saturday evening my husband got out my chair and put it near the chicken coop. He then asked for my camera and told me to sit down. I sat in my chair and before long I had chickens on my lap.
“Close your eyes,” my husband warned me, “they will peck your eyes.”
So while I sat there with my eyes closed, my husband snapped pictures and counted as each of the young buffs landed on me.
Within about two minutes I played roost to all 10 young buffs and had become the star of Chicken TV.
My husband knew this was going to happen because he had the same experience the night before when I was not with him.
I don’t mind one or two chickens sitting on me but this was way too much, so he helped me clear them off and the he went about teaching them to use the ramp to get into the coop. They were just about there but one just couldn’t resist saying a special good night to him.
We often find our chickens providing us with great entertainment. Sometimes in the evening, before they are all inside, we will even sit down near the coop and watch, what we call, chicken TV.
This is Honey. She is one of our oldest hens and has always loved my husband. This particular evening she was curious about what he had in his hand.
She then decided she wanted to sit on his lap. When she pays attention to me she is usually pecking at my ring, my buttons, or my jeans. Honey has and will always have a special place in our hearts.
This young buff decided my lap was a good place to sit. The Buff Orpingtons are definitely the most friendly breed we have.
We have a group of Silver Wyandotte’s that like to visit the campsite around dinner time. They like to check out what is on the grill, and despite my warnings that someday that could be them, they keep showing up and begging for food.
They are also interested in what the dogs are eating. If they get too close Trooper will pounce at them to scare them away. He doesn’t hurt them though and they just keep coming back. They have learned that they will often end up with some kind of “treats”.
Anytime we do landscaping the chickens are sure to show up especially if it involves fresh topsoil. They love to peck and scratch and most of all dust themselves in the newly placed dirt.
Yesterday evening as my husband and I were filling in this trench at least a dozen hens showed up to add the finishing touches. My husband would shovel the soil into the trench, pack it down, put another layer on top and rake it so it was even with the ground on either side. The chickens would then peck, scratch, and then nestle their little bodies down into the loose soil leaving nest shapes holes in the soil.
While we may not have the prettiest landscaping we do have happy chickens 🙂
I thought I would do a quick chicken update since when I talk to family or friends I often get asked how the chickens are doing.
The Barred Rock chicks, otherwise known as “The Six Pack”, made the move to the farm last week.
They started off in a small penned in area. They loved being on the ground where they could scratch and peck. Some of the older chicks were curious.
Scout loved being able to watch them. They were only in the penned in area for the first two days. On day three they ran out of the coop in the morning before we could round them up and get them in the pen. They are now free to forage the farm as they please, but they do stick pretty close to the coop.
Meanwhile the young Buff Orpingtons, A.K.A. “The Gang of Eight”, are doing well. They tend to stick together.
They are getting bigger.
And they are very friendly. While sitting in a lawn chair near the coop we often end up with one or two or three of them sitting on our lap or perched on our shoulder. They are a lot of fun.
Sadly we lost one of our old Buffs to a hawk a couple weeks ago. She was from the first batch of chicks we bought. We had her since 2013. Her name was Super Chick. She got her name when she was young because she would stand in front of the gate when it was closed and fly up to the top. The way she flew up reminded me of Superman. She continued to live up to her name as she got older. When we would leave the gate closed to keep the chickens penned in we would always arrive back at the farm to find Super Chick out of the pen. She usually didn’t stick with the flock, but wandered on her own a lot. When our younger rooster, Autumn, grew up he took a liking to her and he seemed to follow her everywhere. Autumn seems lost without her.
Loosing an occasional chicken to a predator is one of the risks involved in allowing chickens to free range. However, the rewards of having happy, healthy chickens, reduced feed costs and fabulous eggs, have far outweighed the occasional loss of a hen.
The rest of the flock are enjoying spring time. The photo above is Autumn with a group of our Silver Laced Wyandotte’s.
There is lots of scratching and pecking to do this time of year.
This is Honey. She too is from our first batch of chicks. Honey won a special place in our hearts early on, as she would jump up on my husbands lap, peck at us if she wanted our attention, or squat down in front of us if she wanted to be picked up. Honey is also one of our two hens that have brooded chicks.
Our chickens are allowed to free range during the daylight hours and spend their nights roosting in the coop. As the daylight hours increase so does the amount of time the chickens spend outside. In the dead of winter the coop is opened up around 8 A.M. and closed around 5 P.M., but today they were ready to exit the coop by 7 A.M. and we probably won’t be able to close up the coop until 8:30 P.M. or so. The chickens naturally return to the coop at night, but some of the young ones are still requiring a little coaching.
This time of year we too are ready to retire to our “coop” when darkness falls, but as the weather warms I am certain we will spend many evening sitting around a campfire long after the chickens have gone to bed.
Last year we were curious about coloring brown eggs, so we decided to try it. This year, since I decided to make deviled eggs for today, I thought I would color them first and share my results, in case anyone else is curious.
I used regular food coloring, something I vaguely remember doing as a child, before Paas came out with the egg coloring kits.
The eggs I colored were varying degrees of brown. I follow the directions on the food coloring package – 1 tps. of white vinegar, 20 drops of food coloring and 1/2 cup of boiling water. Since I didn’t have 20 drops of red food coloring I mixed 15 drops of red and 5 drops of blue, which gave me the maroon color. The two on the top left are blue, the two on the top right are green, the two on the bottom left are maroon and the two on the bottom right are yellow. The eggs that were darker brown going into the dye came out in darker shades than the ones that were lighter going in. The answer is: while brown eggs don’t make pretty, pastel Easter eggs, they indeed can be dyed.
I’ll also add a quick chicken update.
This past Monday as our Buff Orpington chicks turned 4 weeks old, and are now feathered out, we moved them to the farm. They seemed to be getting bored in the hutch on the deck and needed room to roam.
They rode in this crate to the farm.
The Chicken yard was busy when we got there, but when the big birds realized that we did not bring them treats, most of them went off to find their own goodies.
My husband had added new roost space inside the coop, enough to accommodate 30 chickens. Before bringing out the young ones today he also penned in an area around the small chicken door to keep the young ones close to the coop.
The big birds will use the big (people) door for now.
Some of the big birds were curious.
Some even came and visited. The big hens gave the little ones an occasional, intimidating, peck, but it was mostly if they got too close to the food (treats). We had to move the big hens out of the penned area because they could not find the way out on their own. At night my husband put “the group of 8”, as he is fondly calling the young buffs, into the coop where they huddled together in one of the nest boxes. “The Group of 8” spent their fist couple of days mostly inside the coop, and my husband found it necessary to open up the penned in area because the big birds would get in and be trapped there.
Yesterday “The Group of 8” spent the day out on their own. They mostly stayed together and sometimes with the rest of the flock. There has been no signs of aggression from the big birds, but I wouldn’t think there would be from a group who will share their living quarters (food and all) with 20 or more starlings during the winter. “The Group of 8” is now in training for their nighttime routine which includes returning to the coop at night and using the ramp to get inside. I’m sure they will catch on quickly.
After Monday’s move, we decided to make it a full house (coop). Since we only had 24 birds we went to the farm store for 6 more. Again they did not have the breed we were looking for (Buff Orpington) so we decided this time on Barred Rocks.
Upon adding this “six pack” we comment that our flock is becoming very diverse.
And with that I wish you all a Beautiful and Blessed Easter. Until next time 🙂
I’m still excited about my spearmint soap, but after taking it out of the molds I realized that maybe I should have done a little research before making this recipe. I’m beginning to think that my middle name should have been “Experiment”, because I seem to do a lot of that. Although the soap is not fatally flawed, and only the appearance of the soap will suffer, I did make one mistake that can and will be corrected in future batches.
This picture shows some brown spots that developed on the soap. While I was certain the spots were caused by the spearmint, I was a bit perplexed about why the brown spots only occurred in some areas and why some of the spearmint retained its green color. I decided to do a google search to find out what others have experienced when adding spearmint to handcrafted soap. The first site I found, described this effect as bleeding. I found out that bleeding is when the color from an embedded object leaches of into the surrounding area. I found out that many herbs can have this effect, and to varying degrees, but spearmint is one of the worst.
The next website that I came across actually told me how to prevent this from happening. It said that the cause is the actual color coming out of the leaves when it is submerged in the wetness of the soap, and if you make a tea with the herbs first, the color will leach out into the water (tea). Then the leaves can be added to the soap. That answered my question. When I made my soap I added the spearmint leaves that I had used to make the tea with, but since I wasn’t sure I had enough, I decided to add some dry leaves as well. I have concluded that the dry leaves that I added are the ones that bled into the soap, while the leaves from the tea remained green. Since this is simply an aesthetic problem, Dom and I are looking forward to using these bars of soap.
The good news is I can detect a slight minty smell to this soap.
The chicks seemed to be getting quite curious about the world outside of their brooder. Every time we would walk up to the brooder they would crane their necks looking up at us. Since the weather has warmed significantly for the near term forecast, we decided Tuesday was moving day.
My husband brought the hutch out of the back shed and assembled it while I was busy in the kitchen. “Movin’ On Up” the theme song from the Jefferson’s kept running through my head. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHDwRECFL8M I would change the words to “Movin’ on out, to the deck” but the tune repeated itself over and over in my mind. I probably could have stopped this by turning on the radio, but it was a nice day, I was in a good mood, and it really wasn’t bothering me, in fact I thought it was kind of funny. It turned really funny when I was helping my husband carry the brooder out the deck, and he started singing “Movin’ on up…” Like minds.
The heat lamp was moved into their new home. As were their food and water dishes.
They seemed very curious about everything, but settled in nicely.
Their play house was also moved with them.
My camera battery died before I got to take a picture of the roost my husband installed for them. (Roosters aren’t the only ones who like to roost) I also did not get a picture of the canvass that drapes the hutch to protect them from the elements. It is just a large piece of canvass that we lay over the top of the hutch, it drapes down the sides and front. When the chicks need the warmth we wrap the hutch with the canvass just like wrapping a Christmas present, and we secure the canvass with clips.
The “Babies” seem very content in their new (but temporary) home, Scout can now see them at eye level, and don’t be surprised if, on the evenings when the weather is nice, I tell you that we sat on the deck and watched “Chicken TV”.
Sunday and Monday were our last day for collecting sap. Since the sap was still running clear we may have pulled the spiles a little early, it may have been only a few hours or maybe a few days prior to the time the sap would become cloudy. The nighttime temperatures will not be below freezing at least for the next week and the buds on the Silver Maple trees are getting ready to pop open.
Our big consideration was the extreme amounts of time and energy that were needed to turn the sap into syrup, and decided that we had done enough. Since February 20th, when we first tapped the trees, until now, my husband spent 5 full days (9-12 hours each) out at the farm cooking sap, getting the fire going then continually adding wood to the fire to keep the sap boiling, stirring and watching the steam roll off, as the water boiled out, then adding more sap to the pot. At the end of the day he would bring the sap home and we would spend another 1 1/2 to 2 hours cooking the sap into syrup.
I don’t have exact numbers on our total yield for the season. My best guess is between 5 and 6 quarts of syrup.
My husband and I agree that it was a great experience and having homemade, self-harvested maple syrup is greatly rewarding. Some of our thoughts about this experience are that it was not a steady year for maple syrup, in our area, since the extreme weather changes over the last couple of weeks prompted the sap to stop and start flowing several times. We found out that our Silver Maple trees at the farm had greater sap flow than the Sugar Maples that we tapped. In fact, last week when the silver maples were flowing well and the sugar maples were not flowing, my husband moved all of the taps to the Silver Maples. We found out that The Silver Maples make a wonderful syrup. We observed that the color of the syrup seemed to get lighter over the course of the season, with our first batch being the darkest and each batch slightly lighter in color. Thankfully it is a short season for making maple syrup and not a year round job.
A Bonus Picture
This squirrel enjoyed the day in the tree. Apparently too nervous about our (and the boys) presence to venture down.