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Welcome 2011!

Well folks according to my blog monitor, we received more than 1,200 visits to this blog in 2010! That’s pretty amazing, thanks for all the support! Now that winter has settled in, the chickens are in full production, we usually see about three eggs a day, one from each of them! Family and friends are enjoying the new presents we provide.
Saturday saw a large snowfall and the chickens have been hesistant to venture from from the pen since, they’ll be quite bored come March if they don’t overcome the fear of the white powder! I learned something interesting over the holidays, here I thought that my Barred Rock chicken, Mabel, was enjoying being petted because everytime I went near her she lowered her legs and spread her wings out a bit….turns out that’s a sign that she thinks I’m her rooster! Oh dear. It would explain why she doesn’t do it for anyone else! Now that the girls are laying, I’m keeping up with feeding them flax seeds on a regular basis, to ensure our farm fresh eggs are Omega 3!

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Houston, we have EGGS!

OK, so we may not be able to man a spaceship to the moon, but we have successfully raised chickens into egg-laying birds! At least one chicken anyway. This morning we went out to open up the coop and let the girls out for a run when much to our delight, little Elli, our newest addition, was hesitant to leave her nesting box. What’s this? I thought. And just when I was about to remove the feeder to refill, I looked at her and there was the most beautiful tiny little egg showing under her feathers! I immediately screamed with delight and then raced into the house screaming to the other “girls” upstairs that we had eggs! So we all went downstairs to inspect and discovered, to our delight, that there were TWO eggs under Elli. Two tiny perfect eggs. So we took them out, along with many many photos, and proceeded to boil them up for breakfast. They were the best eggs we’ve ever eaten and I can’t remember when I was so excited. It felt better than Christmas. It felt better than an A+. It felt better than running a 10K. It felt great! What a fun way to start our day! And the best thing is now we get to look forward to tomorrow morning! Thanks Elli for a great breakfast and here’s to many many more!

Welcome Elli!

OK, so it’s been an eventful month at Sunshine Farm (our backyard). After a few mornings of cockadoodle doo’s waking up the neighbourhood dogs, we finally packed up Paprika, our chick-turned-rooster, into a rubbermaid container and drove him back to the farm. Our friends at Blue Haven were welcoming him to the little guy, although the other roosters seemed to be less than enthusiastic to see him. Much had changed at Blue Haven since our last visit, the little piglets have grown, the peasants are looking healthy and there are a plethora of chickens laying very regularly. After picking up some fresh organic meat and of course, some farm fresh eggs (since our birds aren’t laying yet), it was time to pick out our new hen.  We had decided that it would be nice to have a Silkie chicken join our group, since they have such a unique head of feathers! Blue Haven had only three white hens and weren’t willing to part with them, but that was just fine, because as you can see from the photos, we choose a very good looking black silkie cross hen. We love her personality, she’s very friendly and after a few pecks from the two olders hen in our brood, she has settled in quite nicely.

It’s amazing how much the chickens have taken to our routine and boy oh boy do they get excited to see us as we usually come with fresh corn on the cob, eggs, or sunflower seeds to feed them. We can even get them to eat out of our hand! It all makes for much fun and frolic. Even the neighbourhood squirrels have a good time in our yard, running back and forth in front of the hens trying to pick up acorns. The hens are definitely growing and getting ready to lay (which we are expecting in December), every night they settle in and seem to sleep in the nesting boxes, which is a good sign! Soon it will be time to put some golf balls in there to “give them the hint” which is a tip we picked up from “Raising Chickens for Dummies.” Yes, that’s an actual book we read and it’s very helpful!

On a side note, a good writing friend of ours is launching a book of short stories on September 30th. She’s been getting a LOT of great press and we’re very excited to see and read the book. It’s been a long journey for her, but it shows that persistence, with a lot of talent, means success! Congratulations Darcie! Here’s a link to one of the gushing articles about Mennonites Don’t Dance, and be sure to keep an eye out for it at your bookstore in late September. http://thepeartree.ca/2010/09/stories-to-savour/ 

Well we’d better get going, I can hear the girls pecking at the patio door, they must be hungry!

Ain’t she a beauty

 

So we have the most well adapted, mentally and physically healthy chickens you could ask for, and why not, they have it pretty good. Left to run around the backyard practically every day, lots of food, fresh veggies, fruit, the occasional bug. They love to roam around and now have discovered my kale planter, where they feed their bellies full of good wholesome nutrients, and cancer fighting too! Those eggs will taste mighty good when we finally get them!

The birds get along just great, but alas, we’re going to have to take Paprika back. It’s very obvious now that SHE is definitely a HE, and the coloured pointed features, large red cap and the more aggressive behaviour are all signs that are pointing to “yes”. So we’ll be taking a day trip out to Blue Haven Farm soon to do a trade, a boy for another girl. I didn’t think this was going to pose too much of a problem until I read tonight about the “pecking order” and that chickens don’t particularly like having new chickens introduced as they can mix things up a bit too much…sigh. Our plan is to get one slightly younger than Pippi and Mabel and hope she adapts. I should ask Angelina and Brad how they introduce new offspring to the group. Or maybe just read Andrew Morton’s new book, although I doubt he’ll have chicken raising tips in there…but I digress.

Still loving the girls though, this chicken farming is totally fun as a bun. Wish I had a bigger backyard and could do more with it! Next year I’ll be looking into ways to have a full vegetable garden, one that will be protected by the squirrels and raccoons. Speaking of which, both have started sniffing around. The chickens aren’t scared of the squirrels at all and chase them back up the tree. Way to go girls!

The raccoons so far have come out when the girls are safely back in the pen in the evening. But they’ve been digging around. We had the coop made by a smart person who wisely put a layer of wire on the bottom under the dirt so it’s unlikely the pests will get in, yet it’s still a worry.

Anyhoo, haven’t posted the most recent pictures of the coop, with the run at the back. So here you go. Enjoy and feel free to comment!

HI fans! Well we’re back from a week’s vacation down at the Jersey Shore, the chicks were well taken care of by a friend. Spent my first day back home giving the coop a good cleaning and feeding the girls some yummy egg and red pepper. Also let them out in the backyard for a solid five hours to roam around, helped with the clover and weeds on the lawn too! Thanks for much for all the interest and comments. We promise to post more pics and a fuller update as soon as our bags are unpacked!

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OK, so the coop, including the “run” was completed last week. Whoo hoo! We were too busy camping and buying more chicken feed to post about it. We’ll try to get new pictures up soon. In the meantime, Paprika is really starting to look good, too good, rooster good if you get our drift. Thing is, Paprika and Pippi, well they are inseparable…..if we take the rooster back to the farm, we fear grief counselling will be needed for both of them. How long does a chickens memory last?

In any event, the chickens LOVE the run and flutter about in the dirt all day long. Whenever we’re home for any length of time, we just open the run door and let the girls roam around the backyard to nibble on bugs and weeds and the occasional flower….their favourite food from the garden seems to be clover, which there is tons of, so that’s good.

So I’m riding my bike to work this morning and my head is turning this way and that. All the sounds of the morning, dogs barking from yards, people laughing in cars…they are all starting to sound…well, a bit clucky to me. That’s right, I’m starting to hear chickens wherever I go! Is this normal? I did spend a bit of time with the ‘girls’ yesterday, listening to them chirp happily away while pooing all over my patio. This free range is getting out of control, it’s starting to look like the Toronto islands with bird poo all over the grass.

Yes, the birds are in my head. Everyday sounds, that I used to completely ignore, all sound like our chickens to me.

Anyhoo, I’ve taken a recent picture of Paprika, snapped while she/he was munching away on some clover in the yard. Thing is, Paprika, who was the smallest and in many ways, the cutest of our little chicks, well, she’s starting to look a little “manly”. I’ve added a poll and here is his/her picture. Vote and let me know what you think.  If she ends up being a he, well it will be back to the farm for Paprika and we’ll do a trade-in. You know much like taking in the old Honda for a jazzy red convertible, one that lays eggs…It will likely be a few more weeks until we know for sure, and really, even then I’m not going to be convinced….

Movin’ Day!

So the chicks have moved into their new digs….with a moveable nesting box, perch and poop trays! Ventilation is key in this heat, so we’ve made sure to have lots of “windows”. So far so good, they are happy but do keep looking out the windows of their door! Hope the first night goes smoothly. Now we just have to finish off building the surrounding pen so they can come and go as they please! Here are some photos:

Coop

The Chicken Coop

         So having the chickens in our house while they were young was working out fine, but like everything, they grew up and have now learned how to jump out of their cage and POOP EVERYWHERE! We have put a cover over their cage but it won’t last, so we’ve started building the coop. Its being built in our backyard in a space with a good amount of light (otherwise they might not lay eggs) and a patch of dirt with lots of bugs for them to peck at. We’ve almost finished building the frame, and are excited to finish and paint it. Since we have 3 chickens their pirch should be 3 feet, each chicken should have at least a foot of the pirch for itself. So we have made the coop 3 feet wide and long, a pretty big square for them to lay their eggs in. We live in Canada and our winters can get REALLY cold, so we’ve made sure to insulate the inside of the coop extra well, with a pretty strong heat lamp in the coop for the winter, we’re sure it’ll be just fine. The coop is going to have a door with a ramp on the side leading to their enclosed, raccoon-proof, outdoor area where they can roam and peck at bugs and weeds. We will try to get some photos of the progress up soon. Feel free to comment!
Chicksters