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.
or maybe I should say “The Meat Chicks”. The plan for these chicks is to raise them only until they are large enough to butcher. Regardless of the title we have begun introducing the chicks to the farm and the rest of the flock.
We set up a 12′ x 3′ run, made out of 2 foot chicken wire, near the chicken coop. We left the dog crate inside the run so the chicks could get out of the sun or wind if they need to. We covered the run with netting so the chicks can’t fly out and the other chickens or overhead predators can’t get in. We thought the chicks would go into the crate as darkness comes, this would make it easy to bring them back to the brooder for the overnight hours. We quickly learned there is a flaw in this plan. Even though the chicks spent time in and out of the crate during the day, as darkness approached all of the chicks were outside of the crate. The first night I chuckled as my husband told me that he had to crawl around the pen to catch them all and put them back in the crate. The second night I actually lost our bet when we arrived at their pen to find them all huddled next to the crate. My creative husband, who was willing to try anything so he would not have to crawl around on his hands and knees again chasing chicks, took out his flashlight, turned it on, and put it in the crate. Immediately all 10 chicks went into the crate on their own. That’s when we realized that unlike our older chickens that always return to their coop when darkness comes, these chicks have never know darkness. The warmth that they require at their young age has always been provided by a heat lamp during the overnight hours. They were seeking light or maybe afraid of the dark.
“I didn’t know if that would work,” 🙂 my husband said as he carried the crate to the van, but we are thankful that it did as we plan to continue this for a week or so until we feel they are ready to move to the farm permanently.
A few days ago, as we prepared to get chicks, my husband brought in the stock tank that we use as a brooder. When Scout saw this he began looking around for the chicks. We had to tell him “not yet, Scout”. We weren’t planning on getting the chicks until the following day. Scout has been down this road before, in fact 4 out of the past five years we have brought home baby chicks and raised them.
The first year I had great concerns about Scout being around the chicks. When we adopted him from the shelter in 2011 we were told he was about 3 years old and part terrier. Nobody knows what kind of terrier but that was not important to us. Over the next several years we found that he definitely had the terrier instinct to hunt and kill small animals and he was quite proficient at it. He could quickly and cleanly dispatch a raccoon, possum, ground hog, cat or baby turkey by just snapping it’s neck. He was about eight years old when we first started raising chickens.
I pretty much left it to my husband to train Scout with the chicks. Dom would hold a chick and let Scout sniff it and nudge it with his nose and he would tell Scout that those were his (Scout’s) babies. “You have to be nice to your babies,” we would say. Scout would become very excited, and want to look into the brooder, whenever he would hear the chicks make a noise, and anytime my husband or I were doing anything with the chicks (feeding, watering, holding or cleaning the brooder) Scout wanted to be involved.
That spring Scout learned that he was not allowed to chase and kill the chickens, unfortunately it was at the expense of one of our hens, but for a dog of his age and breed to learn not to chase chickens, or any other small critter, is a huge success.
Nowadays I have no concerns about Scout chasing the chickens. Our free range chickens wander, peck and scratch throughout the farm and we have total confidence that neither Scout nor our other dog, Trooper, will cause them any harm.
One of Scout’s nicknames is “Chicken Daddy”, and he loves it when we tell him he is a good Chicken Daddy. At age 13 (in people years) Scout has slowed down a lot. He does not pay as much attention to the chicks, but he was still very eager to see/sniff them when we brought them home.
The other thing he really enjoys is helping close up the chicken coop at night. When we go into the coop to count chickens and make sure everyone made it back home, Scout will step inside and sniff a couple of chickens to say “good night to his babies”.
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.