Happy Peeps

September 18, 2011

Fun in the Run

Welcome! It's good to see you!

Feel free to make yourself at home...

(I'm a bit embarassed! Forgot to sweep!)

Belly up, ladies!


Have you met Princess Catherine?
She's not as social as the others 
(you know how stuffy royals can be)

Beatrice! Slow down and give a proper hello!
(Sigh. You just can't stop her when she's got her eye 
on some juicy couture).

Ah, I see you've run into Oprah & Whoopie!

They are always collaborating 
on something.

Don't let the door hit you in the vent!

Black Walnuts

Black Walnut Leaves with Nuts
OK so this has nothing to do with the chickens, but some days I'm lacking material. Thought I'd tell you about my first time this year of harvesting black walnuts in our yard.  I started to gather up all the black walnuts that had fallen from the tree a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't seen one, black walnuts come in a protective, fibrous green casing, making them resemble green tennis balls; their shape causes our nuts to roll to the bottom of the hill they're growing on (making them easy to find and retrieve, I must say). The process of preparing the nut for its final cracking though is one that takes weeks, I am coming to learn. 
Black Walnut & Husk
I placed them one at a time on the sidewalk, and held a sledgehammer over them, lightly letting it fall onto the casings. The weight smashed the casing enough that I could tear it off, revealing the nut in its shell, which then has to be tossed into a bucket of water and washed. You can also do this by stomping with your boot, but they do splatter a bit, and I had read that the associated splatter would stain anything it came into contact with, so I opted for using my boyfriend's sledgehammer.  If the nuts are fresh like the one above, I found them to be light in color.  I picked up one of them with my bare hands and noticed it had left a light yellow stain on my fingers, so wear gloves! As they begin to deterioriate, the hulls become black, with an oily-like substance on the inside around the nut. The roots, nut hulls and leaves secrete a substance into the soil called juglone that can kill other plants. This black, oily substance will also stain anything it comes into contact with, so it was commonly used as a dye/stain for all kinds of things. I'm trying to think of something to dye, just to try it out!
Some resources informed me that the nuts, once hulled, have to be cured, by drying for six weeks. In a video I found on Youtube, I saw a man remove the hull, crack the nut open with a rock, and then proceed to eat the nut which he claimed to be delicious. I guess I'll go with the curing method only because it seemed to be well researched.

I have some old window screens that I'm going to spread them out on and try to keep them in the sun as much as possible while we still have some good weather. Then they'll be stored in the basement on newspaper (if you have a lot, don't leave them in a pile, they have to be spread out) where the squirrels can't get at them. I don't have that many.

Does anyone have any comments on black walnuts, or recipes they want to share?

September 17, 2011

Time for bed girls!

The girls are coming into the coop at 7:30 p.m., the light is on a timer and will go off at 8:30, so I think we need to move that up an hour now, since they're ready to settle down. It will come back on again at 5:30 a.m. to wake them up and make sure that they have enough hours of light in their day to continue laying. You can see the nest boxes below and behind the roost; an old tree branch leans up against the wall for them to climb up to the roost and nest boxes. Princess Catherine went to "bed" a lot earlier than the others today; we're hoping she isn't ill.

September 16, 2011

EGGcellent Chicken House Design! Can you do one any better??

Saw this on Urban Chicken Lady's website (in my links) -- check out their site:  http://nogg.co/

Local Chicken News....as Reported in the Suburban News of Spencerport

Photograph and text by Walter Horylev

Sophia (8) and Gia (5) Triassi feed their hens in their back yard on Dean Road in Parma. Hen's names: Snow White, Roxanne, Lucille, Tinkerbelle and Repunzel. What started out as a 4-H project got them into a zoning law violation.The Triassi family had a problem. It seems that Parma has a zoning law, Article 10, subsection 165-82.BB, which states in part, no animals, other than ordinary household pets, shall be kept on any residential lot of three acres or less in any zone district. The Triassi lot is 1.6 acres. A neighbor’s complaint forced them to apply for a variance in order to stay within the law.
About two-and one-half years ago, April 22, 2009 to be exact, the Triassi girls, Sophia and Gia, obtained six hen chicks as part of a 4-H project. One of the chicks died soon after coming to the Triassi household. The girls exhibited a lot of interest in the hens as they all grew up in that time, even naming each one: Snow White is all white, Lucille is Red, Repunzel is gold, Roxanne is black and white and Tinkerbelle is brown and white.
On Thursday night, August 18, the Parma Zoning Board of Appeals met, with about 25 people in attendance. Three cases were dealt with in about an hour and then it became time to try the last case, the application of Robert and Lauri Triassi, for an area variance. There was some confusion about what kind of variance was proper and after some discussion by the board, Chairperson Robbilard declared that an area variance was appropriate.
http://www.westsidenewsonline.com/cache/mId/236287/1314664182.jpgSophia and Gia holds eggs produced by their pet hens. Each hen produces an egg a day.In all, there were 13 individuals who spoke during the public forum, 11 in favor of the Traissi’s application and two, including the complaining neighbor, against. His main complaint was about noise in the early morning and the possibility that the chickens were bringing in some rodents and possibly coyotes. Proponents argued that the chickens weren’t’ capable of making much noise and that wildlife is not uncommon in the area.,
After closing the public hearing Chairperson Robbilard probed the fact that the previous owner of the Triassi’s residence had obtained an area variance to keep game birds on the back end of the premises. The variance was specific on the number and variety of birds to be accommodated and she looked at this requested variance as possibly an extension of the previous one. Owing to statements made by the complaining neighbor, there was an indication that having the chicken coop further back on the property, as was one with the previous owner’s animals, would make the situation palatable.
Board member Tim Thomas felt that the new variance could be extended over the old one. He exclaimed: “There’s an emotional issue here with the kids being involved,” a feeling shared by all the board members. Chairperson Robbilard asked whether an 18 month extension was feasible, worried about setting a precedent. Tim felt the previous variance was something to build on.
http://www.westsidenewsonline.com/cache/mId/236288/1314664232.jpgAs a compromise, Tim, who is adept at phrasing board responses to applicants, proposed a variance with conditions, namely it would be a transition variance, good for 18 months, and the chicken coop should be moved so that it is no closer than 170 feet from the back of the house; that should occur by November 1. He indicated that this was an extraordinarily unique situation. Chairperson Robbilard added that this should be considered a modified variance and that it would extend till March 1, 2013. The motion was approved 4-0. It all took about an hour and forty five minutes.
Leaving the meeting Lauri stated: “Any reprieve for my children’s chickens, I am pleased with that. I’m very proud of my children.” Sophia was finally able to respond: “I feel happy because I love my chickens!”

When Bambi Met the Hens

September 15, 2011

Link to Mad Chicken Lady!

Check out the link above, I just started following her yesterday and feel a bit of a kinship where the chickens are concerned at least.

September 13, 2011

Chef's Compliments!

My friend Jane's husband is a chef at the local yacht club; I sent a dozen eggs home with her a couple weekends ago, and happened to catch him on the phone the other night. "Hey, your eggs are fantastic!"  (oh really? tell me more) "Yeah, I mean it. They hold up well when I poach them, the whites don't get all stringy, (whatever that means), "they have color, they have taste, they're rich.....all the things you expect from an egg but don't get anymore." (Chest swells)   "So you must be doing something right!"  (Well, I don't mean to brag...)  "I'm sure it's a lot of work too!"  (Yeah, especially the part where I run outside and throw food scraps into my yard.)
Just thought I'd share that tidbit with you. If you think of having chickens for egg production, you too will be raking in the praises. Be sure to reward your hens with special treats for all their hard work!

September 10, 2011

Watermelon, Please

The girls love watermelon. I bought one just for them on Monday, and I dole it out a couple pieces at a time. They run to get it and eat the entire thing so that all that will be left is a very thin core.

September 5, 2011

Scaredy Chicks

Spent the day with my mom today, and cooked up half a dozen of our eggs for her and my sister, which they raved over (you can call my family the Polite Ones, because no one ever says a bad word about anyone, but I could tell they liked their scrambled eggs, nonetheless).  The color of the yolks is so bright, almost an orange tint as opposed to the usual weak, butter yellow color of commercially raised eggs. And a very rich taste. (According to my nephew, this is because the fat content in the yolks of brown eggs is higher; he especially likes them for making ice cream and for baking.)
When I got home, I had purchased some farm-fresh veggies at a local stand, including a dozen ears of corn, so I took a couple of ears we had been saving for a week out to the girls. They were enjoying them and I was cleaning out one of the waterers, when all of a sudden there was a huge rucous behind me, with about half of the hens seeming to rush forward, (Foul, fowl! Off sides!) half running, half jumping/flying in the way that only rock-heavy birds with weak wings have. They were all making a racket; some had run under nearby bushes, one went underneath the side porch, and yet another hid underneath a third bush to my left. Cackling was going on all around me, yet I couldn’t pick out yet where all of them were located. I had a sense that some terrorizing hawk could have swept down behind me and taken off with one of them, and I didn’t feel comfortable until all were accounted for. Except they weren’t coming out of hiding. I called my usual call (Chickeeeees! Here chick-chick!) More cackling in hiding. I started roaming the yard to look for them and try to get a count. I found the Silkies Eugenie & Beatrice, thanks to their stark white feathers which stand out in the shadows, and the youngest chicks Princess Catherine, Oprah, and Whoopie, all under one bush near the old fire pit. I found Pansy & Violet under the magnolia tree.  Rose was under the porch and would not come out, no matter how much I sweet-talked her. Where was Grace? Where were all the black hens? Slowly a couple of the black hens peeked heads out from under bushes. One was hiding in the herb garden. Still, I didn’t feel comfortable. Even came out with some cucumber skins I had peeled a little earlier, no budge. Joe came out and joined the search. We were getting concerned; this wasn’t like them at all. “Why don’t you try the corn scratch?”  (This never fails to get them to RUN across the yard).  I handed the bucket to Joe and he began the customary Shaking of the Corn Bucket. They didn’t budge. They cackled on and on for a good 10 minutes before they would venture out to get the corn.  A chicken that won’t come for corn has been severely traumatized. By what, I’m still not sure. It could have been a large bird I guess, swooping into the yard. Luckily, all the girls were eventually accounted for, and my “short-attention span theatre” hens have forgotten all about it. Tomorrow they will wake up and think it was all a bad dream. 

Two-Day Take

I'm told we can expect our hens to lay an egg a day (or every other day); so far we're getting anywhere from 4-7  from our 13 hens, so they're not all laying yet. This is our "two-day take" -- as you can see, my standard size chickens are laying more eggs than my two banties, as we have retrieved only one banty egg (the light colored one above). I've read that this is typical of banties, they tend to go "broody" which means they only want to sit and lay on an egg once they have one, and are not as productive. So if egg production is your "thing," you don't want to go with banty hens. But I wanted to keep the white silkies just because they were fun to look at and hold, and don't really care that they aren't the best layers. They're like the "high maintenance" girls in the chicken world -- fancy feathers, bling, turning the heads of every cock around, and not really into work. That's my Eugenie & Beatrice.

September 4, 2011

Top Ten “Treats” for my Girls – because yes, 
even free range chickens deserve a little sumpin’ special every now and then!
The girls race to get the leftover artichoke from last night's supper.

10.   Bread slicesthis one is not a frequent treat, because we don’t tend to eat much bread ourselves.
 9.   Squashthis year I planted summer squash just for them. It’s a fast and easy treat, just pick the squash, cut it in half, and let them go at it!
  8.  ApplesI share mine after I’ve eaten half; too hard to resist letting them in on it.
  7.  Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal (those bits at the bottom of the bag that won’t hold up to milk would go to waste otherwise)
  6.  Peaches – I sliced some overripe peaches in half and removed the pit, then threw the halves out in the yard where they promptly rolled down the hill (we have no level ground) with the chickens chasing them all the way. 
  5. Corn scratchthey love this stuff. We keep it in a red bucket and all we have to do is go outside and shake the bucket and they come running at the sound.
  4. Corn on the cobDoesn’t even have to be cooked. They will eat every kernel, they don’t waste a bit!             
  3. Watermelon– I admit sharing my watermelon doesn’t come easily to me, but once I saw how much they liked it, I couldn’t justify eating it all myself!         
  2.  Pasta – I wish I had videotaped them eating my leftover linguine. They went wild over it.

And the number 1 treat:  Toasted Eggo waffles (whole grain, of course!)  I toast a couple and then tear them into pieces – they barely hit the ground when I toss them to the girls. In fact, while I was tearing one up, Pansy jumped up and grabbed a bite out of my hand. (So of course I then had to get them all to jump for their Eggo, which they do!)

September 3, 2011

An Egg in the Hand

Collected these two eggs this morning.  The top egg is a bantam chicken's egg, while the bottom is from a full-size chicken.  Bantam's are half-size chickens, so their eggs are much smaller. Our bantys are white silkies, so their egg is a very light color. We now have one full dozen banty eggs, and 3 dozen medium to large.
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September 1, 2011

What's in a Name?

One of the first things I wanted to do when our pullets were just little chickies, was to name them; yet months later, I still struggle with whether or not we have chosen the perfect ‘handles’ for our feathery bundles of joy.  For most of them, we had to wait weeks until they were grown to their full size before we could see their true colors. Only one was named early on by personality alone, and that was Napoleon -  our short , tough, in-charge banty rooster. Unfortunately, we had to give Napoleon to a woman who has more property (read: no neighbors), as his tireless crowing became well, tiring and we had promised our neighbors we wouldn’t subject them to that noise. (Napoleon, if you’re reading this, we still miss your tyranny!)

The Silkies were the next easiest to name. The world had just witnessed The. Royal. Wedding.  I couldn’t help but see a connection between our silkies and a couple famous wedding guests.  Our funky, silky white banties with poofs on their heads that stick up at awkward angles as well as hang over their eyes, and feathers on their toes and shanks, became Beatrice & Eugenie.  They totter around the yard like two chubby little girls wearing heels for the first time, but apparently their wild head accoutrements turned them into the chicken yard bitches (proven by Napoleon’s possessive and slightly rough treatment of them).

This left me with 5 “blacks” (4 hens and a non-crowing rooster), 4 “reds” (really the color of muddy clay, but in the hen world, that equals red), and later, the acquisition of one Buff (i.e., blonde) Chantecler and two Silver Laced Wyandottes.

The 5 black chickens became the Jackson Five (except the rooster ended up going to the same farm as Napoleon, so that broke up the group, and we decided the rooster must have been Michael).  I guess I could call one of them Janet, but they're all female, so I need to get off the Jackson Five thing and find some decent names for them.

The reds seemed even harder, until I thought of my grandma.  Because Grandma had red hair when she was a girl, I had the idea to name the reds after her and her sisters:  Grayce,  Pansy, Violet, and Rose. They are our best layers!

Our three youngest are the ones I chose specifically for their heritage breeds, good nature, and cold-hardiness. The Buff Chantecler (blonde) is named after my friend Cathy, who chick-sat for them the day they arrived at the post office (and who is a natural blonde herself). The two Silver-Laced Wyandottes became Oprah & Whoopie. They're girls with a lotta bling.

So that’s our clan of 13 hens – a baker’s dozen as they say. If you have any good ideas for naming the black hens, leave me note.