From everyone (including our three new peeps), at Farmhouse38!
Category Archives: Chickens
It’s super simple: just take a photo a day interpreting that day’s theme, and then post to your favorite social media using the hastag #clickadaychallenge. I’m going to post all my images for the month here in this blog post, so check back in to see my results! Join me!
The Day 1 challenge is RED, and here’s my photo:
Day 2: Gratitude
Day 3: Words
Day 4: Cold
Day 5: Comfort
Day 6: ‘Tis the Season
Day 7: Tradition
Day 8: Looking Up
Day 9: Light
Day 10: Black and White
Day 11: Below
Day 12: Wish
Day 13: Reflect
Day 15: Through the Window
Day 18: Close Up
Thanks for the fun, Our Little Coop!
I hate to make a Monday even more of a downer, but this is a sad post, folks. So if you can’t stomach it, I totally understand. Here’s your out.
It is with the heaviest of hearts that I must let you know that we’ve suffered two major losses recently.
First, and foremost, is my sweetest yellow dog, Chance. At the ripe old age of 13, he passed away from cancer. You would have hardly known he was sick right up until the very, very end. It has actually been a couple of months now that he’s been gone…I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. This dog…I have no words to express what this dog meant to me; long before the Texan entered our lives, it was just he and I. He was my constant companion through good times and bad, and I think my heart will never not be broken.
More recently, we also lost Millie-bird (a few days ago, in fact). She succumbed to an ailment that the vet could only describe as ‘reproductive issues’ (incidentally, this was not egg-binding, or any of the usual suspects; it was on-going and had the vet completely perplexed). I didn’t think I was going to be that person who rushed a sick chicken to the vet…but, as it turns out, I am. And apparently, I am also that person who
cries bawls over the loss of a chicken. Millie was my favorite: friendly, cuddly, funny, talkative–I could go on and on but I think I have aired out my crazy enough for one day.
And while I am doing a bit of tearful remembering, I want to give a spot to someone that you all don’t know. Hogan has been gone for almost three years now…long before I started this blog. But, he too, is an enormous hole in my heart. He was a hysterical, bouncy, slobbery ball of boxer-love; completely one of a kind.
I have long been a fan of Lisa Steele over at Fresh Eggs Daily; a fan of her fun and informative blog, as well as her entire approach to natural chicken keeping. So I am beyond excited to not only review her new book, but to be able to offer up a signed copy as a giveaway to one lucky winner!
Let me start by saying, I really wish this book had been available when I was first thinking about jumping into chicken-keeping (fortunately, I had Lisa’s blog to turn to!). Lisa lays out the basics in such a straightforward way; coop size, bedding options, nesting box instructions–the whole nine yards–and then she peppers that nine yards with helpful suggestions about how to integrate herbs into your chickens’ lives. For instance, I absolutely love and swear by her Lavender Mint Coop Refresh Spray (which can be made with either vinegar or vodka as the base…I’m sure you can guess which base I use). But beyond this awesome cleaning spray/cocktail, Lisa shares an incredible amount of knowledge on herbs, in general, and the benefits each kind might deliver to your flock. I am a big fan of using a blend of them not only in the nesting boxes, but all around the coop, and this book offered up an education on just what those herbs really do for my birds (and, frankly, me!).
I also love me a good chicken recipe (not the kind that uses the bird, people–the kind that involves cooking for your spoiled chickens), and Lisa’s got a bunch. My absolute favorite is her Molt Muffins, and I intend to make them ASAP. We are still molting. I’m not sure how there are still any feathers left to lose.
There is just a wealth of chicken information packed into this adorable book, and I am definitely putting it on my go-to read list for anyone thinking of starting a flock. And I must say, it looks darn cute tucked into my chicken book library.
NOW… for the giveaway! I am so honored to be part of Lisa’s virtual book tour–every day for the next two weeks, you can enter to win a signed copy at each of the participating blogs (and the giveaways already started yesterday!!).
Visit all the other stops along the Fresh Eggs Daily Blog Tour to read some more great reviews and to enter to win a copy!
Remember these talented knuckleheads and their impressionist chicken portraits? If not, check out the blog post here.
And remember how, after the new coop was unveiled, I was lamenting the bare wall over the roost bar?
Well, I am sure for those of you who know me, this comes as no surprise:
The chickens now have their very own schmancy gallery wall. The kids’ art prints are all in those fantastic light-weight plastic frames from Ikea (very poop-proof), and they are attached to the wall with heavy-duty velcro for easy removal.
This is complete insanity. I know. But it makes me laugh.
Thanks C1, C2, and C3! Your chicken artwork is perfection. :-)
In our on-going effort to streamline the functionality of, as well as beautify our coop, there was a really glaring problem. Well, two really glaring problems: the food and grit dispensers.
After all the trouble we went to in building this new coop, the food and grit dishes were just not cutting it:
You may also remember that in the old coop, I used a frying pan to feed the girls:
I started daydreaming about bending the handle of the fry pan 90 degrees (so that I could hang it on the wall for them to eat out of), but my cast-iron bending super-hero powers are just not what they used to be. It was about then that I happened to see a display in a kitchen-supply store where several ladles were hanging all in a nice, tidy row and I thought, “YUP. There it is.”
I began with a craft store-bought wooden plaque (of which I seem to always have a few laying around in order to paint up a sign whenever I feel like it…I’m so normal), which I painted, distressed, and then stained to get a nice dirty-aged vibe. Then, using my sign-painting technique, I labeled it clearly so that the chickens wouldn’t be confused. I bought some inexpensive ladles from Ikea, taped off the stainless areas and spray-painted the wooden handles red, just for fun. I attached them to the plaque with tiny cup hooks, and then finished the whole look with a couple of spray-painted cast iron star washers (of which I also have far too many laying around). I have four hens, but it looked better to have just the three ladles. As long as there is more than one ‘dish’ the girls make it work. I should also note that this feeder works only because I have so few birds…obviously this is not practical (is it ever?) if you have a lot of mouths to feed.
The grit dispenser is a direct knock-off of Fresh Eggs Daily’s cute DIY Wine Bottle Chicken Grit & Oyster Shell Dispenser. Head on over and check out their DIY (which is so adorable and extra awesome because it uses all re-purposed materials—love that!).
I went and used another of my go-to pre-made craft store plaques (I’m hard up for scrap wood pieces these days!!!), painted to match the ‘Grub’ sign. I have a handful of these vintagey-looking, adorable Mountain Valley Spring Water bottles sitting around, and because the colors go so well with the coop, I knew I had to use one. Finally, I attached the bottle and the tuna can catch-basin with a couple of ducting clamps that I had laying around (these things come in handy for a multitude of projects), which work so great for this because they are easy to loosen and tighten just by turning the little screw-doohickie-thinger. Using a self-tapping metal screw, the clamps are just attached directly onto the wood plaque.
Does anyone else think that wall above the roost bar is looking rather bare…? Yep. Time for another completely impractical chicken craft project. Good times!!!
The original coop design was….okay. It just wasn’t great (even after we gave it several cute cosmetic overhauls).
It really was more of a run than it was a coop, and a rather useless run, at that. Inside, there was a tiny curtain-enclosed roost box that also doubled as a nesting box. It was always a mess, and also, I fear, not really protective enough in the winter. In fact, last winter, we actually moved the coop and temporarily enclosed the whole thing with insulation and tarps to keep everyone warm and dry, which worked great, but gave the yard a rather shanty-like vibe. Which made me nuts.
We finally decided that tweaking it one more time was just adding insult to injury. With a year and a half of chicken-keeping under our belts, we went back to the proverbial drawing board. I knew we could do better.
Additionally, my once gorgeous ‘secret garden’ that originally looked like this:
Was now looking more like this:
So, I knew that it was time to make this garden a ‘chicken garden’. Which meant planting only chicken-friendly and chicken-proof plants. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
The driving force behind the design of the new henhouse was insulation, insulation, insulation. And a legit peaked, shingled roof (as opposed to the old slanted corrugated plastic one) so that this adorable weathervane had somewhere to sit.
This summer, with temperatures hovering up over 100 degrees, the inside of the henhouse stays pretty darned nice. Fingers crossed, the same will hold true this winter.
I wanted every single element of the coop interior to be removable so that I could easily clean things–because cleaning was a real bear in the last set-up. The roost bar, shelves, perch, and nesting boxes all come out easily. Additionally, the shelves, nesting boxes, and floors are all lined with sections of vinyl flooring and oil cloth so that they slip easily out for quick cleaning.
I must sing the praises of this set-up. With the shelf under the roost bar to catch all their nighttime droppings, this house stays SO CLEAN. I simply take out the removable oil-cloth lining and hose it off every morning.
The chicken garden surrounding the coop has been a bit of give and take. It is a finely-tuned balance; equal parts protective plants and shrubs, pest-deterring herbs and flowers, edibles for the chickens, and a few little bits of annual color (which are hard to have because the chickens usually qualify these as ‘edibles for the chickens’).
I make a point to plant lavender, rosemary, mint, and basil wherever I can possibly find room for them in this garden. The chickens are not interested in eating any of these plants, so they remain lovely, and they really help to deodorize the area and ward off flies and other creepy-crawlies. Basil, especially, seems to send the flies packing.
Despite this lovely little chicken-oriented garden, I still let my girls free range in the rest of our small yard for the majority of the time. I like to allow them a ‘soft-supervised’ free range, which is where I am home and keeping a fairly close eye on them, but not stalking them throughout the yard. When I have to leave for short periods (ie, running errands or something of the sort) I lock them in the chicken garden, which keeps them contained and fairly reliably safe from aerial predators. There are times when we leave and know we won’t be coming back until after chicken-curfew, and these are the moments when they must be on lockdown in the coop and run. It all seems to be working pretty well for us, so (knock on wood), I don’t see a Coop 4.0 happening anytime in the near future.
Do you hear that?? Somewhere a displaced Texan is sighing in sweet, sweet relief.
As seen in the June/July issue of From Scratch magazine:
Ah, chickens….so much joy in such small, fluffy, feathered packages. So many eggs, so many antics, so many….flies. I am well aware that our tiny suburban homestead fly population pales in comparison to that of a real farm, but our tight proximity to our non-chicken-keeping neighbors makes it hugely important to keep them under reasonable control. And my general, insatiable (possibly pathological) quest for tidiness also dictates that I wage a merciless war on these buzzing, winged, soulless demons. With one caveat: I want to wage a merciless responsible war….no chemicals, please.
There is a reason that the over-the-counter tacky (in more ways than one) fly strips are the most commonly used method of fly control; they are totally effective. They also aren’t completely awful with their ingredients. But, after watching in horror as one of my chickens fluttered too close to a fly strip and then proceeded to wrap herself, mummy-style, in it….I am not a fan. Besides, they look so terrible hanging around the garden and house. I don’t care how efficient they are; they ugly.
So it was with embarrassing enthusiasm that I decided to do some good old-fashioned internet research on what sorts of homemade fly strip recipes people were tossing around out there. I figured there just had to be a way to build a better mousetrap–er, flytrap….you get what I mean.
The DIY fly paper recipes I came across all called for pretty basic ingredients: strips of paper dipped in a sticky mixture of water and either honey, sugar, corn syrup, molasses or any combination of the four. I tested and re-tested infinite versions of these things, and you know what? Disappointingly, I just did not come out with any decent results. These strips were brilliant at attracting flies, but let me tell you how frustrating it is to watch a big fat bug land on your painstakingly-made sugar-paper, have it leisurely mosey around for a lovely snack, and then fly happily off into the sunset. It is way beyond frustrating.
I knew there simply had to be a better way, and after going back to the drawing board, I stumbled across an organic over-the-counter product called Tanglefoot.
Bingo. Listed by the OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute) for use in organic gardening, it is an all-natural super-sticky paste made of gum resins, vegetable oil, and wax. Can I make it at home? No. But I can buy it on Amazon, so that’s close enough, right? Used on homemade fly strips, it works like a darned charm.
Aesthetically, I decided to get a little more creative with this new flypaper attempt. Instead of paper, I used two pieces of yellow duct tape (sticky sides pressed together) to form strips. There are three reasons for this choice: the first is that Tanglefoot requires application to a non-porous surface for best results, the second is that I have read several accounts that flying insects are attracted to the color yellow—I’m not sure if this is a scientific fact, but I happen to like the color yellow, so I am willing to take that chance. (See my notes on other colors below) Secondly, duct tape is inherently durable and weatherproof, and therefore, reusable.
Once I had assembled several strips of double duct-tape, I punched holes in either end of the strips in order to attach both a wire hanger to the top, and a weight to the bottom.
For the weights, I decided to use some re-purposed chandelier crystals, because I’m fancy like that.
If you don’t have any chandelier crystals (or don’t want to be so fancy) just a simple bit of wire works as a hanger, and something slightly heavy to attach to the bottom will help to keep it from fluttering too much in the breeze (try a small ‘chip clip’ or alligator clip).
At this point, I went ahead and hung them, put on a pair of gloves (this stuff is sticky), and painted the Tanglefoot liberally to each side of the duct tape.
Because honey had proven to be such good bait, I also went and dabbed some small spots of it along each side to lure those buggers in. The proof was in the pudding—within one day, those things were ripe with victims.
After this article went to print in From Scratch, I got some feedback about my fly strip color choice. There are lots of conflicting opinions out there about what color attracts flies best; red, blue, and yellow seem to be the most common color choices (although the latest OTC strips from Rescue are a graphic pattern of white, bright green, yellow, and turquoise). I decided that I wanted to put this concept to a little bit of a test, so I went ahead and made three versions of my fly strips–one in each color. I hung them relatively close together under the grapefruit tree as I did my original yellow ones, and I also hung up one of the graphic Rescue brand ones, slightly further away (so that the honey attractant on mine wouldn’t skew the results of the Rescue one), just for comparison.
The results were….interesting. First of all, we seem to have a lot fewer flies, currently. I think this is largely due to it being a couple of months further into the season, as well as possibly a result of some of the fly deterring methods we’ve implemented throughout this seek and destroy mission. So, after one day, the results are as follows:
Obviously, the best way to thoroughly test these involves a lot more time and several varied testing scenarios–so I will continue to investigate and post my findings later. For now, it kind of seems like a close call between yellow and blue (at least as far as the flies in my yard go). I’d be curious to hear what has worked for others.
Suffice it to say, I’ve had pretty decent success with these fly strips. I like them better than the store bought, not only for the aesthetics, but for the fact that I can make them a bit shorter in length (or longer, if I really wanted to), which means I can keep them out of the reach of fluttering chickens (and if a bird does happen to get too close, there isn’t so much sticky surface area for her to get completely wrapped up in).
In addition to the fly strips, I also believe in tucking a lot of insect-repelling plants into my garden. Lavender, mint, basil, marigolds, amongst others, really seem to do the trick. I may have gone overboard with the basil and marigolds….I like them a little bit more than is necessary.
To be totally honest, the moment when I realized there was a noticeable decrease in flies was when the bulk of these plants went in.
Finally, we have come to the poop portion of the proceedings. It’s pretty logical that poop=flies. The more you can keep up with cleaning the poop, the fewer flies you’re gonna have. I pick up both dog poop and chicken poop daily, and put them in designated poop bins (some of the chicken poop goes into compost bins, some goes in its own container to give away to composting neighbors and friends).
In addition to keeping things clean, I do dust occasionally with diatomaceous earth, especially in and around the coop. Another thing I like to do (it’s a bit gross, sorry–at least I didn’t insert a photo), is to leave a bit of dog poop in the pooper-scooper (in an out-of-the-way place), and sprinkle it liberally with DE as a little fly lure. They won’t die immediately, but they certainly will get the DE on them when they land there, and it will eventually do its glorious dirty work.
All in all, we seem to be managing just fine, but then again, we’ve only got just the four hens, and we’ve got some pretty un-impressively-sized flies in our little suburban backyard. I’m sure I have no clue what a real fly problem is….I have heard some horror stories, and while I find ours annoying, at least they don’t bite and don’t carry off small children. Gotta count my blessings.
I am so, so thrilled about this giveaway, people! I just get really excited when I stumble across a truly talented artist, and Katja over at Shift Ctrl Art is that in spades. And it isn’t just art over there, either; she is an incredible designer, a crafty crafter, and an impressively all-around creative soul. On top of being a completely entertaining blogger. I just fell in love with her gorgeous pastel animal portraits, and decided to see if she might be interested in doing one (of course!) of a chicken. I may or may not know the model.
So here is the incredible result:
We are giving away an 8×10 framed, matted, and signed fine-art print of this adorable creation to one very lucky winner. The contest begins today, June 13th, and ends Monday, June 17th, at midnight, and you can enter through the following link: a Rafflecopter giveaway
I don’t do a lot of kid stuff on this blog, because, well, we don’t have any of the two-legged, non-feathered variety. But from time to time, my ‘loaner kids’ come over for a visit (good friends of the family–the two girls were our wedding flower girls!) The chickens were thrilled to have three of their favorite kids (we refer to them as C2, C3, and C1, respectively) over the other day for an ‘art lesson’ on Impressionism. (There are only a handful of subjects that I possibly know enough about to try to ‘teach’ anyone: decorative wreathes, cocktails, and Impressionist painters….for this ‘lesson’ it was a close call between subjects 2 and 3. No one wants to learn about wreathes.)
We began with some print-outs of a few well-known Vincents and Claudes, so the kids could get a feeling for how these painters concentrated less on specific form, and more on color and light. I also wanted them to notice the deliberate brushstrokes, and the layering of color upon color. We were going to paint the chickens in this manner, but we weren’t going to paint what our brains told us a chicken looked like; we were going to paint based on the colors we were seeing. To help with this a bit, I selected photos of each of our birds and applied a painting filter effect to them in Photoshop, then printed them out…they looked something like this:
So each kid picked a chicken, and we began. Because the focus of this project was the bird, I had them ignore the backgrounds in the photos and simply fill their entire canvas with simple, bold color.
Next, the kids drew the outline of the chicken in white, and filled it in so that we could layer other colors nicely over the top. (This is mostly due to the type of paint we were working with; non-toxic kid paints tend to be very transparent and don’t work as well for layering as the oil paints of the Impressionists.)
We then let that layer dry thoroughly (yay for the quick-drying powers of acrylic paint!).
Next, it was time to start layering on some color, Impressionist-style:
I urged the kids to paint the colors that they were seeing. For instance, instead of falling into the trap of thinking a chicken’s comb is red, look closer: it’s actually rather pink.
We layered and layered the different colors until we got some pretty good results!
I somehow didn’t get a close-up of C2′s finished Clementine portrait (she was still working till the bitter end!)….but please enjoy the final group shots:
Not sure who wins best face….but we got some pretty awesome paintings here, if I do say so myself!!!