Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Hazards of Backyard Hens -

I saw this and posted it to my FaceBook page earlier today, but it is still making me laugh so I wanted to share it here as well.

My New Evening Routine

My favorite part of the day is in the evening as I sit and watch the chickens until they go into the coop for the night.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Weekly Garden Musings: June 26, 2013

Hot and humid summer weather has hit us hard the past week. Temperatures have been in the high 80s low 90s combined with high humidity and dew point making it very difficult to even breathe.

Everything seems to take much more effort when it is hot and humid out. This type of weather tends to spur spotty thunderstorms, but none were producing enough rain to quench the dry soil in the garden. Last Sunday evening, I wrestled at least 30 minutes in the heat with two tangled hoses to water all the beds in the garden. When I finally finished, I was sweaty, dirty, wet, and had straw stuck in my sandals and legs. Exhausted, I went inside to take a shower. When I emerged, the sky was overcast as thundershowers rolled in. They dumped a good amount of rain overnight. Ah, if I had only known.

The soil darkened as the garden greedily drank up the moisture that fell. The plants responded by growing quickly in only a few days. We need to add trellis netting to the tomato beds soon to support their growth. Some are even flowering:

The First Tomato Blossoms

The First Pepper

Garlic Scapes Ready for Harvest

While I wasn't paying attention, the blueberry plants flowered and formed lots of berries. Looks like it will be a good harvest this year:


From Front to Back: Tomatoes and Peppers, Onions, Carrots, Onions, and Garlic

The chickens have adjusted very well to their new home. I really enjoy watching them graze around their pen. They are 5-weeks old this week and no longer need a heat lamp at night. Not that a heat lamp is necessary with the hot temperatures we have been experiencing. In fact, I am leaving the windows of their coop open to allow ventilation overnight.

They enjoy spending time under the coop in the shade. The soil is dry here and perfect for dust baths.

Chickens Dust Bathing

Pests: Slugs continue to assault the garden. A neighborhood cat dug in the Salsify bed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Harvest Monday: June 24, 2013

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is gathering from his or her gardens in different areas.

It is all about the greens again this week in the garden spot, but I am not complaining as I know that it will only be a matter of time before the rest of the spinach bolts, and the lettuce turns bitter as a result of hot temperatures.

Mixed Lettuce and Spinach


Mixed Lettuce

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Weekly Garden Musings: June 20, 2013

Last week we pushed to finish off the coop so the chicks could move in by the weekend. The garden was pretty much neglected aside from a few harvests.

Rainy weather kept the garden watered, but also allowed the weeds to grow. The first task this week was some much needed weeding.

Even though I wasn’t paying the garden much attention, it seems to be progressing really well. Some observations:

Bush Beans 

Pole Beans

First Pepper Blossom

Potatoes Ready to Bloom

Garlic Scapes beginning to form

Salsify and Shogun Turnip have sprouted. Both are new to the garden spot this year. I wanted to add more variety of root vegetables for roasting and stews. The Shogun Turnip will need to be thinned. I am looking forward to the greens.

Shogun Turnip

The tomatoes suffered a bit from the delay in transplanting to the garden. They seemed to have recovered as their new growth is much greener and healthier looking:

Tomato Showing nice, green new growth

I was disappointed to find that after weeding the carrot bed, I only have about 2-dozen carrots growing. A waste of growing space and effort. I scattered more carrot seeds, pressed them into the soil, watered, and hoped for the best.

Pests: Slugs and snails were found munching on the bolted pak choi. Stripped potato beetles were spotted on the potato plants although not at the numbers seen in the past. Flea beetles are lacing up the eggplant and some pepper foliage. No stripped cucumber beetles yet. Usually they strike when the plants are very young and vulnerable. Maybe a later planting actually encouraged them to go elsewhere?

This week: more weeding

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chicks Move to the Coop

The chicks enjoyed some sunny days in their new pen last week while we worked on the final details on their new home. The coop still needs roofing shingles (donated by my father ~ Thanks Dad!) and another coat of paint, but the rest was completed, secured, and and ready for the chicks to move in.

Sunday was move in day. It was so much fun to watch them explore their new area:

I left the pop door open to the pen, but the first day they seemed content to just explore their new home and stretch their wings.

They are only 3-4 weeks old and still need some heat overnight and on cooler days. The heat lamp is securely fastened to the wall at one end. Overnight temperatures outside were in the 50s but inside stayed in the 70s, which is good for their age until they completely feather out.

I will admit that I was a little nervous for the chicks’ first night out. I placed a thermometer in the window so I can monitor the inside temperature and I kept an eye on them by using a security camera:

On Monday, they ventured down the ramp and spent the day in the pen exploring. About an hour before sundown, I watched as they all marched themselves up the ramp into the coop for the night. I think they like their new home.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Harvest Monday: June 17, 2013

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is gathering from his or her gardens in different areas.

Spring greens rein in the garden spot again this week. We've been enjoying a lot of fresh salads and sautéed greens. It looks like this may be the last of the spinach as most are showing signs of bolting. We will enjoy it while we can.



Swiss Chard


Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Chick's First Day Out

The chicks are 3 weeks old and their first feathers have grown in on their wings and tail. Fuzz is now being replaced with feathers on their backs. They are looking less like chicks and more like mini-chickens now. Chicks usually feather out at 5-weeks depending on their breed and temperature. We completed the chicken run this week just as the sun emerged from the overcast skies. The air warmed and the grass dried out providing a perfect afternoon for the chick's first day outside:

Chicks First Day Out

I went in the pen with them and removed them from the brooder one by one and placed them on the grass. They stayed huddled close together near me for a while as I sat on a stool and took some photos. After a little while, I left the pen and allowed them to explore their new surroundings.

Little by little they gained confidence and courage:

Running Around, Searching for Bugs, and Scratching at the Grass

Eating and Drinking

Enjoying the Grass and Warm Sun

The area under the coop is shaded and they hesitated to go under for a while. Once they did, they discovered that it was a very nice place to be.

There is some soil around the bricks and the chicks began rolling, scratching, and dust bathing. I think they will hang out here often.

They had a blast!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Switching to Sand in the Brooder

I began with pine shavings in the brooder. Once the chicks were a few weeks old, I found myself changing the water every few hours because it became clogged with kicked up shavings. Yesterday, I switched the bedding to sand.

There are many discussions on using sand in coops and brooders at Also, Gail Damerow suggests sand in her book, Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks:
Clean mortar sand or sandbox play sand makes excellent brooder bedding. It is not as absorbent as other types of bedding, but it absorbs heat more readily and evaporates moisture more rapidly and therefore stays drier. Perhaps for the same reason, sand is more resistant to microbes than other types of bedding, keeping baby birds healthier. Soiled sand doesn't stick to feet like other types of bedding can. When it is kicked into a drinker, sand doesn't float and discourage drinking but rather sinks to the bottom so the water remains clean. Provided it is sifted periodically to remove chick poops, sand lasts much longer than other types of bedding, making it extremely economical. [S]and is fireproof, but because it retains warmth better than any other bedding, you have to be more careful about heater placement to avoid overheated chicks.

At first the chicks ate a bit. This is ok because poultry need a hard substance in their crop to grind their food as they expand their diet. I bring them worms from the garden every now and then and hope to get the chicks outside later this week to explore their new pen. So the added grit is needed anyway.

It worked! The sand that did make its way to the waterer sank to the bottom and the waterer stayed clog free and clean overnight.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Weekly Garden Musings: June 7, 2013

The weather over the past week has been crazy. The weekend was hot, humid, and very uncomfortable to even walk outside. Our heat spell began on Thursday and lasted through the weekend. After our hot days, there was a shift in the atmosphere as the remnants of the storm that produced deadly tornadoes in the Midwest headed through New England. Some areas nearby experienced violent thundershowers, microbursts that shredded trees, and even a small tornado made impact. Luckily, we experienced only non-damaging heavy winds and rain.

Once the storm passed and temperatures returned to more normal levels, the garden was finally planted. My goal was to have the garden in by Thursday so the predicted rain will give everything a nice deep watering. One by one, each bed was layered with soaker hoses, planted, watered, and mulched:

Garden Overview From North Looking South

Potato Bed

Anaheim Peppers


Squash Bed Prepared for Planting

"The Chickies" are doing really well. We haven't named them yet as we are waiting to see more of their individual personalities. We are great friends now that I bring them worms and other treats from the garden:

The Chickies - Worm Hunters

They are looking less fuzzy right now as their feathers are growing in. They are beginning to stretch their newly feathered wings by flying on top of the feeder or to my hand when I lift off the cover of the brooder. It began when one of the Golden Laced Wyandottes flew up on the feeder. When I reached to remove her, she grasped onto my finger and calmly sat down and roosted on it. I lifted her up, talked and petted her a bit and she seemed completely happy with the attention and change of scenery. The others also wanted some attention so now when I visit, I handle a few of them at a time.

The Chickies - Two Weeks

A lot of progress was also made on the coop over the last week. During the hot spell, we worked in the mornings before the heat climbed to oppressive levels. We attached the egg door, chicken door, and trim around the windows. More trim was measured, cut, and painted. Boy, I am so happy the trim is finished. We are not carpenters and even after measuring several times before cutting, sometimes the piece doesn't end up quite the correct size. Crooked cuts also become more obvious when painted white and placed against the barn red building. We have wasted a lot of time, effort, and lumber re-cutting pieces. Even then, the results are not perfect. Also, oil based paint was a bargain, but it takes forever to dry especially when it is hot and humid outside. We are going to have to live with some flaws.

On Saturday, just before the heat chased us indoors to air-conditioned comfort for the day, I went inside the coop to measure the nesting box area. You would think that going into a small building while the temperatures are climbing into the 90s would be oppressively hot. In fact, it seemed to feel the same as being in the shade of the trees surrounding the yard. The windows on the east and west side of the coop provided a nice cross ventilation.

It is a huge relief to finally have the garden planted and the coop almost finished. We are hoping to get the chicken tractor finished this weekend so the chicks can begin enjoying some supervised time outside.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Harvest Monday: June 3, 2013

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is gathering from his or her gardens in different areas.

The garden was watered thoroughly by rain on Wednesday. Hot temperatures in the 80s and 90s were predicted beginning Thursday and into the weekend. I ventured out early Thursday morning to harvest all the spinach and kale I could before the hot temperatures turned them bitter or caused them to bolt.

The morning air was thick with moisture. A heavy layer of misty fog blanketed the ground and swirled around the woods trying to escape the rays of sunlight that were beginning to filter through. You could feel that the day was going to be hot and humid.

Siberian and Red Russian Kale

Mixed Spinach

This harvest resulted in one 1-gallon zipper bag of spinach and three 1-gallon bags of kale in the refrigerator.

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.