Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hide and Seek

"Who Me?"

Oro (Ameraucana hen, lays green eggs)

"What are you talking about?" "I was just walking in the woods."

Two weeks ago, I found several hens walking around in the other part of the barn. This was unusual in that there isn't any easy way to get over there. Well, that is what I thought. As I watched the hens, they both walked behind a barrel and disappeared. I walked around to where they went, and there they both were, sitting on a perfect little nest, which contained seven eggs! I carefully picked the eggs up and discovered that two of the eggs were still warm, so I knew those two were just laid. I kept those, the rest went into the compost pile. I went through the entire barn and found about ten places where a hen could easily get in and sealed them up.

The eggs stopped appearing in that secret nest.

This morning, I let the chickens out into their enclosure and they were happily sifting through the scratch I had tossed out. Oro, one of the Ameraucanas, (who was also one of the culprits in the case of the secret nest), walked up to the fence, looked around and flew off into the yard. I just stood there watching her as she looked like she was on a mission. She walked into the woods, and went behind a tree, and sat down. I gave her a minute and then walked over and as I crouched down next to her she just sat there looking at me. I think her little cheeks were getting red with embarrassment. I picked her up and there was a pile of fourteen eggs! Mostly green ones! (Oro is an Easter Egger). One of them was nice and clean and very warm, so I knew that one was good. The other ones, well, they could be two weeks old, so I decided to dispose of them into the compost.

I have read that if hens start laying outside, or in secret places that they need to be "cooped up" for at least a week. Since it looks messy and rainy for the next few days, I think I will put the chickens on coop duty for three days. I may kick the two roosters out during the day and allow the hens some freedom.

I'll let you know how that goes and how egg production is affected.

Natural Setting

Stinkers! They are just protecting their babies

Monday, October 20, 2008


I have wanted a flock of hens here at the farm since we arrived in 2003. I had raised a flock of Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks back in the 90's and had such a great experience with them that I knew I would like to do that again.This year, I finally got busy and made preparations and did some research and ordered the Ornamental Layer Collection from McMurray Hatchery. The biggest reason I wanted this group was for the unique specimens I would have running around for me and my family to enjoy. I also wanted my own eggs.

Roosters are not exactly what I had in mind when I ordered chicks. In fact, I did not intentionally order a single rooster. McMurray sent a free "Rare" chick which I believe was either the Crèvecœur rooster or an Ameracauna rooster. They also sent me 9 white leghorn roosters to "keep the other chicks warm." Before the shipping date, I called and asked for some Cuckoo Maran hens, but was told that I could only order a straight run of them. So, I asked for five Marans. Hmmm, three of those were roosters! Let me see, that makes a total of fourteen roosters. That's not all! I was at the feed store and saw that they had Ameracauna chicks for sale, ("all pullets" the sign read). So I bought the Three Amigas. One of the amigas turned out to be Stiggy, an AmigO. That brings my rooster total to fifteen.

Now for someone who didn't want any roosters to have fifteen seems a little ridiculous. I was not a happy chicken farmer. That was not the end of it! My friends at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, MI knew I was into chickens and offered me some of their chicks. I received two White Japanese Bantams and three Buff Orpingtons. Both Bantams are crowing, but I understand that a Japanese Bantam hen may crow. One of them definitely has smaller features than the other. Two of the three Buff Orps are probably roos. So, my total for roosters stands at eighteen (or nineteen, bantam).

I managed to give the nine leghorns, two cuckoo marans and an ameracauna away on Freecycle. The other roosters are occupying a great deal of my coop strateegerizing. Right now, I don't really want ANY roosters. I think they are disruptive to the hens, and Bob started to have a go at Ruth on Sunday. She gave him a swift kick, missed, and her clog went flying and scared everybody.

I don't think I have it in me to butcher any of them for the soup pot. This leaves me in a quandary. If someone on Freecycle will take them, I think I am ready to part ways with them. I have a warm place in my heart for Khan, Stiggy and Bob, but I think their actions are getting to be too detrimental for the flock as a whole, (including the number one hen, Ruth).

I am planning on adding perhaps a dozen more good layers next spring, but I think I am finished with roosters.

If you have any ideas, I am sure open to suggestions.

Does anyone want some beautiful roosters?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dabbling in the Arts

Bob and Cronies

I nabbed Ruth's camera and snapped this photo of Bob with the "Little Dudes." Bob is a Crèvecœur Rooster. He reminds me of a shiny, black "Beep-Beep the Roadrunner" as he makes mad dashes around the farm with Khan and Stiggy making sure he remains a subordinate. Bob does manage to get his share of the hen action.

Whenever I go into the coop during the day, I find Bob perched on a roost with the two Japanese Bantams, just hanging out. I discovered last Saturday evening that both of the Japanese Bantams are roosters, complete with the cutest little crows. Rats! I wanted a hen to raise little bantams. Oh well! They are so cute!

I startled the Minorca hen in her favorite nesting box and couldn't resist trying to capture the colors around her face. Her comb is so large compared to the other hens in the flock. She lays nice white eggs and follows me around. I haven't named her yet and welcome any suggestions!

Grapevine Wreath

We have a lot of wild grapes growing around the farm and I usually just clip them off and let them die. This year, I decided to try my hand at making a wreath. Ruth took these pictures of the finished product. I think it would be difficult to earn a living making these. I spent an hour weaving this around 8 screws I put into one of the barn doors. It is about 24" in diameter. I like doing things that can be messy.

The little tendrils are not as delicate as they look!


I am thinking about following Kim's lead over at the Achorn Farm and raise some pigs in the near future. I like the idea of having some free-range pigs roaming and rooting through my little patches of woods. I understand that they can get up to 200+ pounds in a reasonable amount of time and can forage for a lot of their food. I have an acre of woods with tall, lush grass growing in it that would be a perfect spot. The idea of producing meat that is healthy and drug-free is very appealing. I think I just talked myself into doing this...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

First Frost and Chickens Run Free


We had some beautiful Zinnias this year. I planted seeds in a metal tub and also out in the field behind the barn. They really came into their own in August and September and were a colorful addition to our life. The next few photos show the beauty of their demise. Mr. J. Frost came calling last night and Ruth snapped these photos.

Chickens Run

My blogger friend Amy, over at Twelve acres suggested that I let my chickens out of their 60' x 60' run occasionally. So, I have been letting them run free when I get home from work and also all day on Saturdays and Sundays. They seem to be in chicken heaven as they work through the underbrush and all around the buildings and garden. They love to go through the grape arbor where I'm sure they are finding lots of grapes. I have seen several red tailed hawks floating around and taking a look, but no attacks (yet).

Here they are on a chicken parade. I am going to put barn siding over the new door area so it will match the rest of the barn. I did it this way because I was in a hurry and this was cheap.

Bearded Hen

A Face a Papa can love

Bob trying to impress the girls

This is my Crevecoeur rooster named Bob. He was named by my niece Mackenzie as she thought it was funny to name such an unusual chicken "Bob." The black hen Bob is flirting with is a Black Minorca. Apparently, the Minorcas are descended from Castillian chickens, which are the breed that Columbus had on his ships. Also, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) kept hens and guess what! He kept Black Minorcas.

Stiggy Update

This is my Ameraucana rooster named after my blogger friend Stiggy from the UK. He is really maturing into a beauty! (Stiggy the Blogger is also a Beaut) Don't you just love his comb-over?

My niece Kaeley gathering eggs