Category Archives: Chickens

Christmas Tree Round 2 and Other Strange Happenings

Hello and Welcome.

On Saturday we discovered that our Christmas tree that had only been up for two weeks was dying. STRANGE. It was losing needles quickly and if we brushed or bumped a branch the needles rained down completely coving the tree skirt. At that rate it would soon be naked. I have never seen a Christmas tree die so quickly. In fact, the tree we had last year still had needles on it this spring, even though it was taken out of the house shortly after Christmas and left at the farm to die.

On Sunday we undecorated our Christmas tree and my husband went to the farm to cut a replacement tree. We brought the new tree in and set it in the stand but decided it was best to let the snow melt off the branches before we decorated it. On Monday afternoon I put the lights, ornaments and candy canes on the new tree.

My husband added the angel when he got home. This tree, that seems perfect in every other way, is missing a tall center branch on top that typically holds the angel, so our angel is in the center on top of the tree but nestled in amongst the outward reaching top branches. A unique Christmas tree indeed.

The dying Christmas tree is not the strangest thing that has happened though. That would have to be the forsythia bushes that blossomed at the farm about three weeks ago. There were two of them in full bloom. (I didn’t get a picture.) That is not supposed to happen this time of year. Our forsythias always blossom in May. STRANGE.

We also had bulbs, likely daffodils, sprouting in the prayer garden last week. That too should not happen until spring. STRANGE.

The other thing that is different this year than in past years is the chickens. Normally they stop laying when they molt in the fall or at least begin producing less eggs sometime in November. We get fewer and fewer eggs through December until we hit a low. After that it’s usually sometime in February, or around the time the sap begins flowing, that the hens begin laying more eggs again.

This year the flock began to molt in October and by November there were feathers everywhere and I was getting only one egg every other day. I expected this to last until February but about two weeks ago we began getting more eggs on some days and it has gradually increased until we were getting three eggs each day this week and then today, we got five eggs. STRANGE. (I wonder if the sap is flowing)

Even though I find this to be weird I’m not complaining – in fact I’m thrilled, especially since during our dearth my husband was buying eggs from a neighboring farm for $4.00 a dozen.

I don’t think it’s strange that I finished making Christmas gifts for my kids and grandkids last weekend though usually I’m not done quite so early. Since I had some time to spare, I decided to make myself a Christmas present. No, I didn’t wrap it and put it under the tree.

I put it on yesterday evening and my husband is now calling me Candy Cane. It’s made with flannel and I’m quite happy with the way it turned out and how it looks on me.

I finished up wrapping gifts today and tomorrow, Christmas Eve, I will spend cleaning and getting an early start on cooking for our family brunch on Christmas day. I am so looking forward to having the kids and grandkids here for the day.

Thank you for visiting and from our home to home and from our hearts to your heart we wish you a

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Teaching Old Chicks New Tricks

This spring we had planned on building our new chicken coop, but life often doesn’t go as planned. Lack of time and know-how led us to the decision to purchase a pre-made coop. It was advertised as being Amish built, though the person sold it to us and delivered it was not Amish.

It is made from rough cut pine with a metal roof.

We had an extra windows installed to provide more light inside and a cross breeze on those hot summer nights.

Before it could become a home for our flock it needed some finishing touches.

We started by priming and then painting the outside.

We would have liked to put a second coat of paint on it but the weather has been quite rainy so that will have to wait until next spring/summer.

Inside the coop we discovered that the untreated lumber was quite susceptible to mold growth. My husband did a little research and found that a product called concrobium is recommend for removing or arresting mold on porous surfaces such as wood. After treating the entire inside of the coop twice with this product he was satisfied that the mold was taken care of.

Then it was time to add more roosts to the coop. Chickens like to roost at night and since our chickens always spend the nights inside the coop we find it necessary to have enough roost space for all of them. The roosts (pictured above) that were installed by the builders were not adequate to meet the needs of our flock.

The roosts he added are pictured below.

It was then time to move the chickens to their new home. The biggest challenge in this was that the location of the new coop is not in the area where the old coop was. The chickens were in the habit of returning to their (old) coop each night so it was time to teach them “new tricks”.

While we didn’t think it would be quite so easy, we first attempted to just put the chickens in the new coop at night and let them out to free range as usual during the day. In order to get the chickens into the new coop at night we had to wait until they returned to the old coop, where they were corralled, then we could catch them and put them into a carrier (cage) and take them to the new coop. We have three carriers that will hold 3-4 chickens each so it took two trips to move the whole flock (24 chickens).

After repeating this process on two evenings, because the chickens naturally returned to the old coop, we decided that was enough of those shenanigans.

The next step was to (temporarily) fence them in so they were not able to get to the old coop. It’s a little difficult to see in the above photo but my husband put up plastic fencing around a large area which included the chicken door. There are lots of leaves on the ground in the area so the chickens had lots to scratch through and he left the trailer inside the fenced area so the chickens could use it for shelter from the rain. They also had access to the coop through the chicken door.

After being fenced in all day, all of the chickens returned to the new coop two evenings in a row. On the third day my husband decided to let the chickens out of the fence, hoping they would return to the new coop that evening. 21 out o 24 chickens independently returned to the new coop. The other 3 returned to the old coop where my husband caught them and took them back to their new home. The following night only two hens returned to the old coop and needed assistance to find their new home. These two are apparently set in their ways. Again the next night these two hens showed up at the old coop in the evening. In anticipation of this my husband had staged a carrier there. He put the two hens in the carrier and transported them back to their new home. Keeping the flock fenced in for another day or two would probably have been enough to break their habit but he didn’t want to punish the whole flock for the actions of just these two.

I’m glad I didn’t publish this post yesterday when two of the hens had still not accepted their new home because last night when my husband closed up the coop all 24 chickens had independently found their way to the new coop. Woo Hoo! Cue Happy dance!

The other thing the hens need to learn about their new accommodations is where to lay their eggs. My husband has put some of the hens in the nest boxes so they know where they should lay. It seems to have worked but is to early to say fore sure. Right now most of the chickens are going though a molt and have stopped laying. We are getting just one egg per day which likely means that two or three hens are laying on alternating days. Each day, however, he has found one egg in a nest box so at least those hens that are currently laying have caught on. Based on our past experience it will be some time in February before most of the hens begin laying again, so we will have to wait to see if the other hens have become familiar with their new nest boxes. At least we know that it is possible to teach an old hen new tricks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Flowers, Pollinators, Fungus and Breakfast With the Chickens

Flowers and Pollinators

The hibiscus bushes are blossoming.

There are three bushes in a row. The two on the ends have the deep red blossoms. The one is the middle has light pink/white blossoms.

This year we have an interesting phenomenon. One of the end bushes has both the red blossoms and the pink blossoms. This has never happened before.

The only explanation I can come up with is that these bushes drop seeds every year and small plants sprout each summer. I end up pulling them so I don’t know how long it would take for one to mature. Perhaps a seed from the pink bush grew up amongst the red bush and has become mature enough to produce flowers. So this is actually two bushes that have commingled.

Many of the plants are suffering from too much rain. The oregano leaves are turning yellow and orange. I have been tempted to cut them way down.

But the bees are enjoying the flowers

as are the butterflies, so I will leave them until they are done blossoming.

Dragonflies are not really pollinators but I do love having them around, especially since they eat things like gnats and MOSQUITOS. (Bring on the dragonflies!!!) This one was resting on an Agastache Kudos Mandarin plant, AKA Hummingbird Mint, that we planted this year.

The honey bees were foraging in the anise hyssop.

This patch of wild flowers attracts a lot of pollinators.

Look closely – how many bees do you see on the Mountain Mint in this photo? I see at least 3.

How about this one? (two?)

Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators enjoying these plants. The blue mud dauber wasps like them as well. This is the first year I have seen this type of wasp.

Honey bees like the cone flowers,

and I even spotted some foraging the purple loosestrife. That is something that we haven’t seen in the past.

It took a while but this beauty finally posed for a picture on a marshmallow plant.

Telling it to “hold still” did absolutely no good so I just had to be patient. I think this butterfly is called a Red Spotted Purple.

Fungus

When I did my mushroom post I had forgot about these puff ball mushrooms that grow every year on the hill where we someday hope to build a root cellar. They are well hidden beneath other weeds that grow up around them so we usually don’t even know they are there until late fall or winter when all the foliage dies. By that time they are just large dust balls.

When I first noticed these, a week or so ago, they were bright white. I didn’t have my camera with me at that time and as you can see they have since turned various shades of brown.

Each of these fungi is between 12 and 20 inches across.

Breakfast With the Chickens

Sunday morning I went to open up the chicken coop. When I do this my routine is to first fill their water dish. I then spread some chicken scratch on the ground in piles around the chicken yard, then I fill their feed dish before I open the coop to let them out. I do this because I know that the first thing they want to do when they come out is eat (except the rooster but we won’t talk about what he wants). If I were to let them out first I would likely have the whole flock following me to the feed can, then I would be tripping over them as I tried to the scatter scratch.

As I was filling their feed dish I noticed a deer approaching the chicken yard. She noticed me as well and we stopped for a minute and stared at each other. I then finished what I was doing while she moseyed over to the pile of chicken scratch that was about twenty feet from the coop and began eating. I opened up the coop and the chickens scattered around the area some of them joining her.

I decided to get my camera to see if I could get a picture of this breakfast club. It was still pretty dark in the chicken yard as it is in a grove of large hickory trees so i wasn’t sure how the picture would turn out.

It wasn’t until I got home and viewed the photo on my computer that I realized

that I had experienced an alien encounter. (Where’s Will Smith when you need him???)

Even when she got out in the light her eyes glowed.

Meanwhile the chickens went on their way,

cluelessly searching for worms or grasshoppers and enjoying their worry-free life.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a great week!

It’s Still Winter but…

We have had very spring-like weather this week – so much so that I did some work in the garden. As far a I can remember this is the earliest in the year that I have worked in the garden.

Thyme

After pruning last year’s dead foliage off some of the plants and raking dead leaves from their winter resting place I discover that the thyme is growing green leaves

Oregano

as is the oregano

Sage

and the sage.

It’s not only the herbs that are coming back to life. I also spotted dandelions, winter cress and some other UIP’s (unidentified invasive plants) which means that before long the weeding will commence.

In addition to my work in the prayer garden my husband fluffed up the straw mulch in the garlic bed in order to assist the shoots that are beginning to emerge from the ground. We also raked out the straw that was blanketing the strawberry bed and discovered bright green leaves forming on the strawberry plants.

The chickens have been loving this weather. They spend most of their days out scratching and pecking finding bugs and grubs and bits of green vegetation. They did however think that seeing me or walking towards their coop was their cue to fall in line.

Others came running to greet me.

I didn’t have any treats or table scraps for them but they were satisfied when I scattered some scratch on the ground for them.

I then went on to gather eggs – a full dozen that day. ๐Ÿ™‚

We have come a long way since December when we were getting one egg every three or four days. In November our flock went through a late season molt. I didn’t take any pictures of the molting hens because they looked so pitiful with their half naked bodies and new feathers poking though their skin that I felt sorry for them. Molting takes so much energy from the hens that they stop laying during that time. It was some time in early January when egg production gradually began to pick up again.

In December, for first time in 5 or 6 years, I ran out of eggs. Thankfully in the spring of 2020 my sister and her husband started their own flock and by fall their hens were laying well. Chickens don’t molt their first year so they did not experience the egg drought like we did.

It was strange a strange feeling, and we had a good laugh, the day I called my sister and asked “do you have eggs?” The tables had turned. For many years she had been calling me every couple weeks and asking “do you have eggs?” I couldn’t have been happier when she replied “how many do you want.” ๐Ÿ™‚

It is time to consider adding to our flock so that our egg supply will continue through this upcoming winter. Perhaps rather than buy chicks we will allow a hen or two to brood some chicks. I’ll let you know what we decide.

Have you been experiencing spring weather?

A Winter Walk At The Farm

Sunday, February 14th, was the perfect winter day for getting out for a walk. The sun was shining, the wind was light, and the temperature was around 30 F (-1 c). It was also before Old Man Winter dumped 13 inches (with drifts as high as 5 feet) of winter wonderland on us. It’s funny how a snowfall that can be welcomed and appreciated for it’s beauty in December loses it’s appeal by February. This particular “winter wonderland” that came on Monday and Tuesday only has us wondering how soon spring will get here.

As we all wait for spring to arrive I invite you to join me for a walk at the farm.

There were a only few inches of snow on the ground when my husband, who was preparing for the big storm that was in the forecast, put the back blade on the tractor then decided to test it out by making a path around the back field. (The snow that came with the storm was not so easily moved.)

Can you spot Trooper in the above photo (that’s him about dead center)? Ranger is out there too but we can’t see him in the photo.

We discovered several area’s when the deer had been digging to find food (grass) under the snow.

There were more of these areas behind the barn. (I wonder how the deer are faring post snow storm.)

The windmill was mostly still that day.

All of the plant life is dormant this time of year,

but I find the buds on the maple tree encouraging, even if they are long way from opening.

We have two squirrel nests on the farm but I didn’t see any signs that the squirrels had been out lately. No squirrels, no tracks, and Ranger did not pick up their scent.

The chickens were out enjoying the sunshine while trying to keep their feet out of the snow.

My husband had given them some hay to scratch and peck through.

Although the temperature was still below freezing, snow was melting on the top of the barn and flowing from the down spout. Sunshine on black shingles will do that.

My husband took some time to hang out with the boys (dogs) in the van, but when Ranger spotted me he made a quick exit.

He greeted me as I walked up the driveway.

In recent days my husband had repaired the lawnmower that he got from his dad. He couldn’t wait to show me how well it was working. You may remember this post from last year where we determined that my husband might be a little crazy. Yep, he is still at it. LOL!

So I thought we could have a little fun with this photo by offering you a chance to caption it. Please leave your caption in the comments section below.

P.S. We are not easily offended so go ahead and have some fun with it.

Thanks for visiting.