Category Archives: Chickens

Old Red

Red bought the farm yesterday. I didn’t think it was time for her to go yet, but she had her own thoughts, as she always did.

She’s on the left. It was when she was pretty new.

I wonder if it ever gets easy to say goodbye to your chickens. I was glad that this was quick, unlike when Henny P bit it, but it was still pretty hard for me. At least Henny had the decency to just die and freeze before I found her.

It was easier that way to give her to Roger so he could teach his kid how to trap a marten.

Red kicked the bucket too far ahead of the winter, so she didn’t get to enjoy the part of the circle of life where you become bait. She only gets to be the end and the beginning.

Well, I guess that’s not true. She’s probably baiting blowflies and a plethora of bacteria and other bugs that help with decomposition.

I tried to find a good infographic of the circle of life to support my claims, but all I got from Google images was this.

So, right from the death of Henny P, Red was my favourite chicken. She was the smallest, but she was also the lead chicken. If I would find a bunch of bugs somewhere, I would call the girls, but Red was always the first one there to get her fill. She had no fear of me, that’s for sure. She would peck and scratch my shoes if she thought I was hiding a worm under them.

I called her the ant sniper

The other chickens didn’t bother with ants very much, but Red would get in there and eat tons of them when I’d flip a rock over that was housing the little buggers. The others would stand around and try to eat some of the eggs, but Red would jump in and run them off. If she was going to do the work of getting all the ants, you can bet she’d be the one reaping the eggs. Even chickens know how delicious eggs are.

Another thing I loved about her was that she would jump up in my lap if I was sitting outside. She would get really close and stare at my face. I’m sure she was just hoping some mealworms would fall out of my nostrils or something but I like to think that she just liked the cut of my jib. It would explain why she liked to get all flirty when I would go to pet her.

She was always so envious of Henny’s bra.

In all seriousness though, when I went out to give them the melon guts last night, only three of the girls came running. I looked out to see where Red was but there was no sign of her. I peeked in the window to see if she was laying, but her head was hanging way out and bobbing up and down.

That got me worried

I went in and saw that she was having a hard time breathing and her eyes were closed. I put my hand under her and her crop was empty and her neck was really bony. She could barely open her eyes. I thought I took a bit of video and went in to show Gerri but I guess I didn’t hit the button.

We talked about how she was just out the day before running around the yard and eating lots of grass and bugs. It just seemed like there was no way she could have started failing so soon.

But she was.

By the time I got back out, she was looking even worse. I carried her outside and sat with her on the swing. It was taking all she had to breathe and I sat there crying and debating on the best way to ease her pain.

By this time our cat, Tubs had jumped up beside us and was smelling Red’s face. He started rubbing into my arm and being the sweetest cat you could ever imagine and then I noticed the old butcher knife on the chair. I thought that I would just go over to the fence and cut her head off in one quick motion. It seemed to be better than wheezing to death.

When I lay her head on the fencepost, I moved the knife over her neck and her blue eyelids opened to give me this horrified look and then she jerked her head back.

I, of course, took this as a sign that she wanted to live! Yes, that must be it. She’s letting me know that it’s just something stuck in her throat and if I could just get her to the vet, she would be back eating and drinking in no time.

I went back and sat with her again on the swing. Tubs gave her another sniff and she just laid her head down on my leg. I was back to crying again. She started to convulse like she was having the dry heaves and then she had a shit on my leg.

I had to act fast. I grabbed her neck and snapped it while getting up out of the swing and walking to the fencepost where I lopped her head off to be sure she was dead.

She was.

I put her in an old feed sack and wiped the last of my tears on my sleeve, which as it fell to my side, got smeared in the turd on my leg. Fitting.

I went into the house and solemnly thought about how there was no way I was taking a two and a half year old chicken that hadn’t laid more than two eggs a week for the last three months to the vet but I used that as an excuse to selfishly spend a few more minutes with my friend as she was going into the throes of death. I hope that she was comforted a little.

I’m going to miss my ant sniper and I’m happy the bylaw officer moved away two days earlier and gave her the chance to be a free-range girl again, at least for the last few days of her life.

Red knew that having her own dirt was better than sharing with two others. She would get all the worms.

Fort St. James – Home Of World Class Chicken Racing

Imagine you are going on your vacation and you drive by this. What do you do?

Photo credit – Linda Glover twitter @GloverLindaJ

You immediately get your copilot to Google what the hell that sign means.

Turns out that there is daily chicken racing in Fort St. James, BC. A place that I only knew of because my Mastercard got sent to their bank instead of the Fort St. John branch that I was supposed to pick it up at.

I totally see the mixup. Really.

We found out that we had missed race day and would have to come back by 11:45 AM any other day. We decided that we would stop in on our way home and see what this was all about because we do love us some chickens.

So we passed the Shovel Lake fire after we left Burns Lake, but the highway was absolutely choked out with smoke. We were afraid that we would miss the races as the fires seemed to be in the direction we were going. We stopped in Endako and called the district office in Fort St. James. We were assured that the skies were blue there and we believed them. This is what it looked like over the lake as we pulled into town.

And this is what it looked like an hour later.

We camped at Paarens Beach Provincial Park and it was lovely, except for the wasps and the smoke. Had a chilly dip and a scrub up and then sat around the fire (camp, not forest) for a beer and to look at the stones we found in the opal beds that morning.

The campsites were spacious and the cost was much less than the cramped site we had a few nights earlier in Port Arthur. We highly recommend staying here when you inevitably come to see this really cool piece of Canadiana.

While out about town, we found out that the chicken races were held at the Fort St. James National Historic Site.

Did you know that they have the largest collection of restored wooden buildings in Canada? Did you also know that those buildings are in danger now from the wildfires?

Well, they weren’t when we were there so this post will be happy in nature because we only thought it was a bit of smoke at the time.

On to the tour!

So after paying and all that good stuff, we went into the museum part where we learned of the Carrier people and how they fit into the fort and the town.

The museum is full of interesting artifacts and stories but the coolest thing about it is how it sort of glosses over how they had to assimilate.

Sure, there was an infographic that told a bit about it…

… but they never delve into what the consequences of the white man’s actions were. It’s a good thing because nobody wants a depressed tourist walking around, bringing everybody down.

In case you couldn’t read that, here is a closer shot.

Well, that’s a bit of an understatement, but also a loaded compliment.

To take our minds off of the injustices, they let us play dress up with a bunch of old looking clothes.

I don’t think it worked, but we need to boost our spirits for the rest of the day. Maybe some deluxe hard candies will do the trick. Happy, happy, happy!

We leave the museum and go outdoors. We are then greeted by the red chairs of last year’s 150th birthday of our great nation. A nation that is founded on the freedom of its authoritarian, Christian people.

Wow, this post is getting too dark.

Okay, well, on with the fun times!

We walked around and took a bunch of photos. One of them was a 360° panorama, but I probably can’t put it in here. I’m going to try it though.

Wow, that worked great. Thanks, Google.

Here are some common people photos. I’m not even going to try anything fancy anymore.

Pretty sure that this is the dock. I’m not an expert or anything, just going on a hunch.

The building on the left is the warehouse, the tall one at the back is the food cache, the short one in the middle is the men’s cabin and the one in the foreground is the market. I guess we were mad at the girl in the warehouse for marking our quiz question wrong, so we didn’t take any photos inside. This was outside though.

Take that, stickler.

Next, we went to the food cache.

Mmmmmm, salmon and hams. Or, if we ship the names it’s halmon.

I just learned about shipping names like Brangelina and Bennifer. I’m a little bit slower on the trends.

 

This house behind the tree is the commander’s, or whatever you call him’s, house. We’ll get to that later.

In the men’s house, we got the question wrong, but the guy was cool so Gerri took a bunch of photos.

And where would we be if we didn’t have an old photo of native peoples dressed in white man’s clothes celebrating Dominion Day by performing an ancient Scottish game?

Sorry, it just spurts out of my brain sometimes.

This one below is the market and the scene for our first video.

I think that was the only one we got right, but to be fair, they used a lot of trick questions. They just didn’t want us to win.

We went to the tanning cabin and met Nicole, who was very engaging and educated on the subject. She was doing some very intricate beadwork when we got there and we were having such a good talk that we forgot to take any photos. Either way, it was one of the better and more informative stops on the tour, so we recommend you going in and talking with her.

After that, we went to the commander’s, or whatever he is, house. It’s the one behind the tree.

It was my favourite place of all because after the boring stuff inside, there were…

Goats and Chickens!

Yep, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

The world-famous, Fort St. James Chicken Races

First, we had to place our bets.

 

They forgot the -ed on the end. Just kidding. It’s just what all the kids say now. Incessantly.

Notice how confident I am? I’m using both of my hands to show you the winner and my favourite way to have chicken prepared.

We really enjoyed the level of interaction there was with the crowd.

And then there was the comedy routine that was probably just to keep us occupied while they fed cocaine to their favourites.

The second race had a bit of a troubled start and we found out who got the cocaine. Luckily for them, they were disqualified and didn’t have to get tested. The third race was my favourite. I just love the hesitation at the end.
Here’s another reason it was my favourite race.
I might have lied when I said I wasn’t spending them. Too bad my phone was getting buggy and needed a restart.
So in the end, we got to look at a lot of history, good and bad, talk to some interesting folks and watch some world-class chicken racing. We won some, we lost some, but we went home with big smiles and a button…

Oh, and a few bucks as a souvenir.

We also did some quests and I almost forgot to tell you that we got to shoot slingshots.

So, in conclusion, go to Fort St. James. We’ll be going back and hopefully for a bit longer and to possibly do a bit of rockhounding. Rumour has it that there is jade around there. Well, not so much rumour as a geological survey.

We Were Going to Rent a Chipper

Something like this one, but probably not from Amazon.

Between pruning and heavy snow damage, we lost a pile of our fruit, spruce, and lilac branches. Over the winter we tried to burn some of them in the fire pit, but that was  futile as it took more good wood to keep the fire going just to burn up a bit of lilac.

Sadly, this photo was taken today, April 20th.
This was April 19th. Way better.

We lamented about how nice it would be to have a chipper so we could mulch all of the piles up and at least get some benefit from the destruction.

 

We tried advertising locally to see if someone had one that they would like to rent out, but nobody responded, so we started looking at nearby rental businesses.

The problem is that the closest rental place to carry wood chippers is two hours away in Dawson Creek. There’s four hours of driving and at least $50 in gas on top of the $150 a day rental fee.

That’s for a chipper that will handle up to 3″ limbs or trees.

We couldn’t justify spending $1000+ on a new machine to mulch up a few piles of branches each year, so we started to look at local classified ads to see if there were any used ones for sale.

There wasn’t, but I did notice that there were electric chippers for as little as $200 when I Googled it, so I started to look into that option.

We really liked the design of the Earthwise GS70015, but it was more than double the price of similar units without the catch bin.

Then we found the same one with a different paint job at Canadian Tire for $199 and started to do a little research and comparisons. Overall, it seemed like a much better option, because we could easily trim our branches small enough to fit through the 1 1/4″ opening with the Cyndi Loppersand we loved the no cleanup aspect with the built in bin.

I had read a bunch of complaints about the product and the screws rusting into the blades and making it nearly impossible to get them out without stripping them, so I took the advice of one reviewer and put anti-seize on all of the screws before use.

Then we went out and fired that sucker up. It made great sized chips for mulch, and once the branches were cut down to size, it gobbled them up quite fast. It didn’t take too many crabapple branches to make this little box of gold.

I kind of want to roll around in them.

I’m going to do up enough to get 8″ of this stuff in the chicken’s run and let them work it around and build up some good compost. I wanted to try it in the coop for bedding, but I’m told that it isn’t a good idea for a few different reasons. All of the reasons include the girls’ health, so I don’t want to chance it. I was just hoping to save a bit of dough, because the bales of shavings are $10 a piece at the local feed store (which doesn’t seem bad after looking at Amazon), and that all adds up.

We also plan on making some good mulch for around the trees and in the gardens, so I will play around with the green/carbon ratios when I’m doing the chipping. I’m sure that I can find the right amount somewhere on YouTube.

Another thing we want to try is hugelkultur, so this is another way we will be able to use the chips and the bigger wood together.  I am going to  look further into it, but I do want to get at least one bed going this year.

I also got thinking that we might get a smoker and see if we can dry the fruit wood chips enough to use them for that. We have a bunch of crabapple, plum and apricot branches to do, so it would be free fuel. I mean why bury them when you can smoke meat to go along with your fresh veggies? 😉

Anyhow, if you are in the market for a little chipper, and you don’t mind a little extra work, you can save yourself quite a bit of money and hassle by shopping around for a small electric one. I can’t vouch for any of them right now, but this one seems like a good deal, and works really good so far. I will definitely update this if things go awry though.

Chris

P.S. If you get the Canadian Tire one, look at my review there. It will tell you about getting new blades from the company. What it won’t tell you is that they will send you free ones if you call before you have had it for two years and they wear out. That is all done over the phone, so you don’t have to take them into CT.

That’s if they weren’t lying to me, and if things don’t change in the next two years.

My First Foray Into Veterinary Medicine

***First off, I wouldn’t have done much at all had I not joined the BYC community. Almost everything I have learned about chickens, so far, has been from reading articles and interacting on their forums.***

A few months ago I saw Henny P doing a weird dry heave thing, but not opening her mouth. I followed her around and watched her, but other than that, she was acting completely normal.

This is what it looked like.

Not knowing much about chickens, I just figured it was because they were all different and had their own little quirks. Then, a week or so after I noticed her odd neck movements, she quit laying and her chest was all puffed out like there was an orange stuffed in there. You can see it in the above video, as I took the video after a few weeks of this behaviour.

I went online and started Googling everything I could about what I had noticed. I narrowed it down to sour crop and possibly egg bound.

From what I read, the egg bound thing was most urgent, so I brought her into the grow/soap/worm room and drew her a warm epsom salt bath.

Sorry, but this room is not equipped with a bidet

She spent a day and night in the house, while I massaged her crop, gave her mineral oil, and kept her from eating grass and other unknown substances. She was very calm, and after her bath, I inspected for a bound up egg, but there was none. I then went to the pharmacy and picked up a 150 mg capsule of Fluconazole (Canesten) and opened it up to divide the powder into three portions.

The Pharmasave store brand capsule was $3.90, but they only had one, so I got Gerri to pick some up while she was in town. She went to Walmart, and they charged more than $13 for a generic capsule there. That seems like a lot, when you can get the same thing from Canesten for $19 and it comes with other things as well.

Luckily, our pharmacy was able to get some more in within a couple of days, so we were alright.

I then mixed up the powder with probiotic yogourt and some powdered calcium, and gave it to Henny P under the tongue with a medicine syringe. She was not very fond of that, but in two days she was better, so I was okay with her discomfort.

After her water balloon crop had gone back to normal, I noticed that she had a ball of impacted hay, grass, or twine in her crop. It was also pendulous, which means it had stretched out and was hanging down too far for her food to get into her gizzard.

There is such a thing as a crop bra, that would have been easier to use, but It seemed like a long time to wait, so I went to the thrift store and bought a few old pairs of hockey socks and some compression socks to try a few ideas of my own.

The hockey socks turned out to be a bit big, but I think a kids pair would have been snug enough. The compression sock was perfect, but it only took her a week to pretty well shred it. It also took her a few days to get used to it, but she was okay after she did.

I would get the frayed edges sewn up, if I had to do it again.

I spent a lot of time each day carrying her around and massaging her crop ball, which paid off when I went out one morning about a month ago and the impaction was gone! I made her a new bra, to keep her crop up above her gizzard, and everything was going great.

Until last week.

I went out in the morning to turn their light on and gather the eggs, and I noticed Henny’s chest was puffing up again. I came home from work and gave her another dose of the Fluconazole/yogourt mix, and started back with the massaging. After a few days, it wasn’t getting better, and she was back doing the crazy neck movements again. I thought that I was going to have to put her down, but she seemed to be enjoying her life still, so I didn’t have the heart to do it.

She was always the first one to the cup when I brought the mealworms and other treats out, but she was spending more and more time with the two new hens in the coop. She slept in the nest boxes, or under them, and was eating and drinking as she normally would, so I figured I would let her keep going.

And going, and going.

Probably two months ago I told Gerri that I didn’t think Henny was going to make it through the night. I had resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t smart to take her to the vet(if one would even see her) and spend $150+ to get crop surgery for a hatchery chick that might have a chronic condition. She had been like this for all of her adult life, as we only got a week or two worth of eggs from her before this all started.

This is her fancy hockey sock turtleneck for autumn walks and cool nights in the run.

Well, I’m happy to say that she made it about two months after my initial diagnosis, and sad to say that I found her dead on the coop floor this afternoon. I had been preparing myself for the day I would find her there, but I didn’t think it would affect me like this.

I guess it was because I had spent so much time with her while she was ill, that she seemed more like a pet than livestock, but in the end she was a sick chicken that didn’t lay eggs, and I guess that’s why I’m not really broken up over it. She was my favourite, and I hope that eventually I get another girl that loves to get picked up and carried around like she did, but hopefully it’s under healthier circumstances.

Anyhow, sorry for the long post, but it’s been a while. I guess I just needed to get some motivation to write.

Chris

Getting Ready For Winter

Well, I know it’s only the first part of October, but we have already had a couple of good snowfalls so far and it’s getting pretty frosty overnight, so I figured I had better get moving on this.

The Chickens

I have decided, after extensive reading and chatting with other hen fanciers, not to heat the coop for the winter. I will instead, winterize the waterer with a handy little water heater that I built from a design on The Chicken Chick’s website and throw an electric heater in for when it gets below -20C.

I bought a lamp kit from Amazonand a cookie tin from the thrift store, but then I found a working lamp with no switch for $1, so I grabbed it. I grabbed a second tin and might build another one for our friend Carol.

You just need to drill a hole in the side and insert the lamp cord through to the inside. Don’t forget to keep one of the screw on washers on the outside though. It is a pain to have to undo everything and fix it after.

Probably.

Not that I did that or anything.

heater2
I’m sure that somebody’s nana thoroughly enjoyed these imported cookies.

The lamp came with a 100W bulb in it,but after a couple of minutes of being plugged in, the paint started to smell a bit burny. I switched to a 60W and might even go to the 40W that she recommended. I just figured that being thousands of kilometres north of where she lives, we might need to ampwatt things up a bit. I guess that isn’t the case.

With the reflective inside, it also makes a powerful spotlight with the 100W bulb in it.
With the reflective inside, it also makes a powerful spotlight with the 100W bulb in it.

I also ordered the TC-3 Thermocube to help out with the system, because it will come on at 1.7C(35F) and shut off at 7.2C(45F). This will prevent overheating the plastic waterer, save on bulb life, and save on hydro by not running the light when it isn’t necessary.

I will probably get one of the TC-1 Thermocubes for the block heaters on the vehicles as well, because they probably suck back a lot of power running twelve hours or so every day. I guess the heat tracing on the pipes could use it as well.

So many handy things nowadays for making our lives easier.

The Worms/Plants

Because I decided against heating the coop, the worms had to be brought back into the house and put into what is now our soap/grow room.

I set up the Plant Tower and went to buy a 24″ sunblaster, but realised that I would need one for every shelf, so I bought the 48″ Sunblaster and put it on the ceiling to give the whole room some really nice, white light. What’s cool is that I can link up to eight of these on the one power source.

I bought these and the setup for sprouting grain from Dunvegan Gardens in Fort St. John, but if you aren’t near there, the prices are the same on amazon.ca.

Oh yeah, the grain sprouting is for the chickens to have lots of fresh grass to eat all winter. I bought an Aquascape 91026 320 GPHpump and a bunch of 1/2″ line to run up the Plant Tower with some 1/4″ line feeding down to the trays. It was probably overkill for the amount we will need, but we plan on doing more in the future, so we got all of the connectors and tools now, so we could learn more as we go.

For connecting the 1/4″ into the 1/2″ I had to buy a punch and some connectors

I have a bin of water on the bottom shelf  and I pump the water up every four hours into the top tray and it filters down through holes I drilled into the tray into the bottom tray and then through it back into the bin.

I am trying half a tray of oats followed a day later by half a tray of wheat.
I am trying half a tray of oats followed a day later by half a tray of wheat.

Well, it used to go every four hours, when I had the awesome timer hooked up, but I stole it for the lights and have to get a new one now. I just plug it in when I am thinking of it a few times a day, and it seems okay for now.

This video by The Straw Hat Farmer is what got me interested in this in the first place, and then got me interested in aquaponics. Check out his YouTube channel for lots of informative videos.

We also have a mango tree growing in the grow room, with garlic planted there as well. The mango was growing in the worm bin, so I transplanted it and it seems to be doing well.

I don't know what causes the crook in the bottom, but we'll see how it turns out.
I don’t know what causes the crook in the bottom, but we’ll see how it turns out.

It started sprouting new growth since we moved it into fifteen hours of light.

Hopefully in eight years we will be munching on our own mangoes.

Chris

A Little Autumn Update

The Soap

We got a big box of fragrance oils in, and amongst them were some holiday scents that we hope to get out before next spring. There’s some pretty nice ones, so we have been smelling bottle caps for a week or so. Nobody has passed out from the fumes yet, so that’s good.

We also had the fall fair last weekend, where we entered Wildfire, the shampoo bar, and Gerri put in some red pepper jelly.

The soap and shampoo got first place and the jelly got third, so we were pretty proud and happy while we manned the Dirty Bird booth there.

Next year we hope that someone else will put in some soap and shampoo to go up against us.

Oh yeah, our friend Sarah made us a shelf and a bunch of soap holders. These are them.

The holders are teak and the shelf is reclaimed pallet wood.
The holders are teak and the shelf is reclaimed pallet wood.

The Chickens

So the last update told you that Red was laying, but now Henny P is laying too!

She also uses the nesting box, which pleases me to no end, but the really cool news is that I noticed a trend that I hope keeps happening.

Red started eating earthworms and ants, and a few days later she was pumping out eggs. Same thing for Henny P, so when I was digging out the slabs of stone in the walkway, I was pleased as punch to see one of the Barred Rocks steal a worm from Red’s beak and gobble it down. Then she started actually standing her ground with the Rhode Islands and digging up her own worms. Yahoooo!

I am guessing that it has to do with them knowing that their bodies need protein to keep up with the egg laying, just like the oyster shell that I see them peck at now and then. I will probably look that up, but not right now, as I want to see if I’m right about the trend on my own.

This is either Oreo or Pepper. They're identical twins to me.
This is either Oreo or Pepper. They’re identical twins to me.

We are starting to get the amount of eggs that we use, so it shouldn’t be long before we are getting abundant in them. I hope that leads to more cakes and other treats being baked, but I would settle for just knowing we have enough food for us and maybe a friend.

It’s a pretty good feeling when things work out.

The Harvest

I told you about the apricot and plum trees, but I had no idea at the time about how amazing the plums were going to be. We didn’t think they would amount to much at all.

This is what we shook off today.

The egg was harvested at the same time. Good old Henny P.
The egg was harvested at the same time. Good old Henny P.

Altogether we have taken about three gallons of plums from what we thought was a waste of a tree. I don’t know what kind of plum they are, but they are very sweet and juicy. I am going to try rooting a few cuttings from it, and planting a few seeds, because if it is hardy for this area, then I want to keep it going.

It is also pretty diseased now, so in case this is a last hurrah, I want to have some sort of stock for the future. I would hate to think that it will last for years, only to lose it in the winter.

The Boy

Since Blue got away in the spring, and decided to run rampant through the mountains, he has slowed down considerably. He did go for a little toot through the neighbourhood last weekend, but other than that he sticks pretty close to his folks.

Sometimes he gets tired after a few chases of a toy.
Sometimes he gets tired after a few chases of a toy.

We aren’t quite sure what he tangled with, but his slight limp hasn’t gone away, and he doesn’t like running for much more than a kilometre or two any more. We are okay with that.

One thing that I was worried about when we got the chickens, is that he would always try to chase them, but after a bit of gentle correcting, he is actually more timid with them than they are with him. Unless he’s running towards them, then they get out of the way.

I actually think that he would make a pretty good farm dog, and we hope that he makes it long enough to see that. He’s slowing down a lot, but I like to think that he’s just pacing himself for when he has acres to roam leisurely about.

Here’s hoping, Boy.

Chris

A Whole New Life

This was the living quarters for four hens, two days ago.
This was the living quarters for four hens, two days ago.

First off, let me say that I fried my PC laptop with a glass of mead about a week ago, so I am now using Gerri’s iMac to write posts.

It’s definitely a learning curve, but I will persevere. I’m just warning you because I can’t figure out how to resize photos, so things might get a little wonky.

So this is a photo of one shed with a lean-to built onto it from last year, before we moved in.

coop5

We scoop a lot of free wood from the dump, so when we decided to use the shed as a chicken coop, there was some cleaning to do. After pulling all of the stuff out of there, this is what we were left with. The only money we had to spend was on the wire, and it came to less than $25, so we were pretty happy about that.

That trailer is a whole other project that is finally happening.
That trailer is a whole other project that is finally happening.

I bought a couple of 8′ lengths of hardware cloth and cut them to size. There wasn’t many squareangles in this project when I started, and the hardware cloth is more square than Erkel, so I used a bunch of the dunnage wood that I collected last summer for the worm boxes, to make things look straight.

It also really helped to strengthen and stabilize the wall and wire.
It also really helped to strengthen and stabilize the wall and wire.

The ceiling was already there, because there was a lot of stuff already being stored up there on some sheets of plywood that had already been pulled out of that camper trailer.

I might try a small rainwater containment with those eavestrough ends and downspout. I assume chickens will drink rainwater.
I might try a small rainwater containment with those eavestrough ends and downspout. I assume chickens will drink rainwater.

After all was said and done, it looked like this.

That hole was already in the wall, so I decided to leave it alone and build a ramp up to it. They seem okay with that.
That hole was already in the wall, so I decided to leave it alone and build a ramp up to it. They seem okay with that.

I plan on doing more perches out here, because they seem to like them a lot. It seems that the higher, the better. I guess that it has to do with predators. For some reason, I think I have heard that somewhere.

From there I went inside the shed and did this.

Because it will be heated all winter, We will be keeping the worms out here under the bench.
Because it will be heated all winter, We will be keeping the worms out here under the bench.

The bench was initially built out of the worm box wood, to set the worm boxes on, but I think that holding the nesting boxes is a better alternative. I am going to have to move the feed sacks and put their water, oyster shell, and food under the top shelf, because they seem to congregate up top and that makes for a messy dining room.

This can be observed in the photo of their dust bath.

I thought it would be nice to give them a dusty bit of dirt and shale to enjoy throughout the winter months.
I thought it would be nice to give them a dusty bit of dirt and shale to enjoy throughout the winter months.

My friend is going to give me a bale of hay to use instead of shavings, because she tells me that they love to peck at the seeds and bugs that get into it. I’m sure it is also better nest building material for them, but don’t quote me on that.

Speaking of nests, we have started getting some of these.

These are the ones that seemed good. There were a few more that had either very weak shells, or no shells at all.
These are the ones that seemed good. There were a few more that had either very weak shells, or no shells at all.

They are small, but I’m told they will get bigger, and stronger. I hope so, because Red had a broken one with just a membrane under her this morning. She was acting pretty weird last night, and I was a little worried about her, but after giving her a few hugs this morning, she got right back into her routine.

I’ve been letting them run loose when I’m home, which is all the time while I’m laid off, and we really enjoying having them trotting around the yard, posturing for bossiest hen position. The dogs don’t even bother them anymore, and seem to really enjoy following the girls around.

It could be because of all the nutrient rich poop that seems to appear out of nowhere. For some reason, they will not stop eating it. Not only does it bother me because of the whole poopy breath factor, but we got the chickens to fertilize the lawn.

Ah well, one thing at a time.

Chris

P.S. We’re always open to new ideas in our endeavour for a simpler life. If you have anything you’d like to share, please feel free to comment on here, or in our Backyard Homesteading community on G+.

What A Year

Yeah, it’s been a year since we packed up the Cool Bus and moved to Hudson’s Hope, BC.

A year ago, our yard looked like this.

Minus the swing set
Minus the swing set

Note the lack of garden, chickens, and big composter. We were really starting off our homestead with bare bones. There were two black compost units there when we bought the place, but one was missing a lid and both were dried out ant condos. We started composting everything, and with some heat, weeds, and a garden hose, we got them to producing some nice, dark compost by the fall.

This is what the backyard looks like today.

yard2016

Yeah, there’s some brown patches from where I left the trailer for too long, but I’m hoping that the chickens will help to  get things green again.

Speaking of the chickens, here they are.

Upgrades for the tractor are coming.
Yeah, I ended up getting two more. They seemed lonely as a pair.

I’m going to add a couple of nesting boxes on one side and keep the main box as a roosting/dining area. I added wheels from an old lawn mower at The Share Shed and a handle, because I think dragging it was going to start wrecking things.

We also built some raised bed garden boxes, and there’s stuff in them now.

It's not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.
It’s not well planned, but we threw in whatever was free or cheap that we came across.

We have been hitting Walker Greenhouses for their half price vegetables, and we also got some plants from The Rustic and the Social Responsibility club at the school. Everything is growing well, except for the jalapenos, but I think I planted them in too much shade.

This is part of the front garden. We dug up and sifted out a whole bunch of lilies from it, and next year the rest are going.

Most of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.
A lot of these were free from Jane, our egg lady.

We moved one of the composters from the back to the front, because it’s nice and sunny in the afternoons there. In the spot we moved it from, we put in our soap drying rack that we don’t need anymore and wrapped some chicken wire around the open spots.

Waste not, want not.
Waste not, want not.

I was getting tired of throwing the spruce needles and dog poop over the fence, and saw that the David Suzuki Foundation says we should compost it, so this will be used for yard rakings; dog, chicken, and hamster poop; and any dead animals or birds that we come across. We just can’t use the compost for any edibles, but that’s okay, we can spread it around the yard to replenish the soil and work it’s way back into nature.

We have also started a soap making company; started breeding Red Wigglers, European Night Crawlers, and mealworms; and adopted a second dog named Dover.

Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds.
Before and after losing a much needed twenty pounds. A lot of that was grey matter.

When we got Dover, we knew he was a sweet dog, but we didn’t know that it was his only redeeming quality. He is quite possibly the least intelligent dog that I have ever met, and we have to rub antiseptic on his gums once a week to prevent his teeth from falling out. I think he was pretty badly neglected, health-wise, and I’d say from his head shyness, he’s been booted around a bit.

I mean, when it takes a month to learn how to sit, there may have been a few hits to the brain. Nevertheless, we still love the poor wretch, and we will keep putting up with his incontinence until it ruins the floors.

Also, we both found gainful employment and there have been some academic accolades for the kids, so all in all, I think we have had a pretty productive year of semi granola-ism.

Next year we will maybe start scoping out some property.

Chris

Cute Chicks And Dumb Boys

Well, I brought our new girls home todayyesterdayrecently.

I think the one on the left is a Barred Rock and the other is a Rhode Island Red, but could use some verification.
I think the one on the left is a Barred Rock and the other is a Rhode Island Red, but could use some verification.

I guess they aren’t chicks still, but I already had the title in my head, so I misled you. Sue me.

I have to tell you that I am in love with the Barred Rock. She absolutely melted my heart when I closed them up for the night.

I didn’t realise that they roosted when they are this young, or at all when they are laying hens. I just assumed that they nested, so I put a bunch of shavings in the box and left them to their own devices. When I went out at dusk to lift the ramp and close them in, they were sitting on the edge of the water dish and teetering.

They looked so disoriented that I felt sad for them. I started stroking them and then the Barred Rock climbed onto my hand and up my wrist. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, so I just let her go. She then nuzzled her head into my armpit and seemingly fell asleep.

I felt so happy that I was contemplating taking her in and letting her sleep in the bed with me, but then I remembered my mom telling me about this. (It’s only thirty seconds long. Go ahead.)

Remember The Waltons? I wish they made shows like that still.

She remembered it as Jim Bob, and she used to laugh so hard about how gross it would be to have a chicken pooping in your bed all night. (It’s fine when she does it, but when it’s a chicken, that’s gross.) 😉

Anyhow, I didn’t take her to bed, but I did make them a roost the next morning.

We're still working on names. I picked Mary Ann and Ginger, but we have to have a proper vote.
We’re still working on names. I picked Mary Ann and Ginger, but we have to have a proper vote.

You know, when I was a kid, I hated our chickens. I only remember the dirty, overweight, white meat birds, but I know we had Banties, pheasants, and quail for sure. I don’t remember any of them being as friendly as these two, but that could have been that they sensed my surliness at having to clean out the coop.

I don’t know why I hated doing it so much, but I know I did. It was probably an hour job, but I think I dragged it out over a few days. I guess it was because I was a spoiled rotten a–hole back then. I must have thought I was too good for that job, but I know now that I wasn’t. It’s funny how the realities of life and time change a person’s attitude.

Well, I know it’s very late, but I’m sorry Mom and Paul. I promise I will care for these better than I did for yours.

I’m also sorry that I didn’t see your vision in raising our own food. It was hard to see that growing things for ourselves and caring about what we nourished our family with didn’t mean that we were poor.

It meant that we were smart.

Now that I’m trying to eat as healthy as I cana bit healthier than I was, I see these things a lot clearer, especially when we’re trying so hard to make ends meet. I’ve really come to appreciate the lessons you guys taught me, so long ago.

I also wish that I had realised the happiness you could get from chickens, and the different personalities that they have. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to mind looking after these girls at all.

The little salt and pepper lady is very loving and sweet. She seems to step aside and let others go first, and I’ve really taken a shine to her. I can feel her nervous tension release a bit when I hold her tight, and it makes me feel like I can make her life easier than it could have been. I think that she will be the broody one, if there is one, and I predict that should a rooster sneak in there some day, she will make a great mama hen.

I'm the king of the castle...
I’m the kingqueen of the castle…

The redhead has a really spicy flare to her. She is adventurous and tries to get her head out every time I open the door. I see her eyeing up the great big world and wanting to be out in it. Also, she has so far lightly pecked my partially blackened fingernail, my nose and my arm when I was petting her sister. It wasn’t hard, like say a glass Coke bottle, but I noticed her doing it and wondered if it wasn’t a warning. She doesn’t do it when I pet her, so I don’t think it’s from fear.

Do you remember earlier, when I said that I wanted to name them Mary Ann and Ginger? I’ve changed my mind. I think I want to name them Pat and Brenda. It’s just as fitting, and it will mean a lot more to me.

Now if I could just find a golden feathered cockerel. 😉

Chris

P.S. I originally named this post, because of the way the dogs were acting since I brought the birds home, but it turned into me being the dumb boy.

They were definitely curious, but mostly they seemed insecure. I figured I was imagining things, but I woke up like this in the morning, and I knew that something was up.

Dover is well camouflaged in the duvet. Blue wants to stand out everywhere.
Dover is well camouflaged in the duvet. Blue wants to stand out everywhere.

I guess there’s only so much “How are my pretty girls?” that a dog can take.

P.S.S. Sorry for the vague, personal jokes, but Pat is my mom, Brenda is my aunt, and the cockerel is my uncle Keith.

The Chicken Tractor

I’m not sure why they call them that. Maybe I should figure out a wheel system for it.

So, I bought a roll of chicken wire and four hinges at the hardware store, but everything else in this contraption was free from either scrap piles in the bush or the Share Shed.

20160605_180238

All together it cost about $35 with taxes and everything, so that’s definitely affordable enough. I just designed it in my head, thinking of what I had on hand.

I just realized that I forgot to put a door on the outside to change food and water.

Doh!

20160608_193620

Look at my fancy walkway opening system. I hope it works alright when chickens are in there. For all I know, they love to peck string.

20160605_180430

These are where they will eventually lay eggs this fall. I hope. I have to figure out how to arrange nesting. Do they need their own boxes, or will they just kind of build a cluster of nest and share it.

I don’t know how they act in the wild, so these are things I need to Google.

Chris