The Secret Chicken

stories of a secret chicken

Accessorize!

April30

I know you’re all thinking that I decided to keep chickens because of the eggs, or because I love animals, or maybe just to drive my roommate nuts, but you are incorrect if you do.

The real reason I wanted chickens?  The fabulous accessories.

First, of course, is the coop.  If I’d had my way, I would have spent close to $2000 on this baby:

After shipping, it’s a spendy little guy.  But so damned cute.  And, it comes in fashion colors!

There are two other models as well, for those with fewer chickens, and the company also makes rabbit hutches, guinea pig hutches, and bee hives (“Beehaus”).  The simplicity of the designs makes me happy, the clean lines and the lack of wood to get soggy and splinter.  The wheels make it even better – you can just tote your chicken house around the yard.    The run also has a specially designed bottom edge, to keep out predators.

The Omlet website is also a great place to find other accessories…and lead me to hunting down more.

Spiral Egg Holder

Like this.  I love it – it’s space saving, and would make it much easier for egg-access.  Unfortunately, America has yet to realize that refrigerating eggs isn’t really necessary, so a lot of this type of item can only be found in the UK or other more civilized countries.

From what I’ve read, as long as the egg is unwashed, they can be left at room temperature for a couple of weeks.  Sounds good to me – I can keep the “give-away” eggs in the fridge, and the “keep” eggs on the counter.

For the record, Eggsafety.org says this:

The general rule is that if food items are at room temperature for more than 2 hours, the safest thing to do is to discard the product. If you leave eggs anywhere that is not refrigerated, the best thing to do is throw those eggs away and buy a new carton.

Wow.  2 hours.

I’ve never been a freak about refrigeration though.  I’ll keep pizza in the oven overnight and eat it the next day, and I haven’t died yet.  I regularly keep my eggs in the collecting basket until I have to take them out to refill it.

Moving on.

This is great:

I don’t like the “got chickens” part so much, it’s one of those things that’s been way over used, but I do appreciate the “my pet made me breakfast” concept.

Even over the winter, I got at least an egg a day.  I take it as a sign that my ladies love me, that they lay in the off-season even.

Now, something for the meter reader:

Chicken Attitude SignIt’s only fair that he get a warning when he enters the back yard, right?

My girls are generally shy of strangers, but they don’t always realize at first that it’s not me and come running willy-nilly from all parts of the yard. I imagine that this could be disconcerting for some people.

Although…it could save us some money on the gas bill…

Ok, one final thought.  As Seen On TV:

Egg Genie
WARNING: Clicking image takes you to site with video!

I really like this idea.  Perfect eggs…every time.  Seems like I get them perfectly soft boiled when I need them hard, and vicey-versy.

Besides…it comes with a free Bacon Wave!  I may need to start raising pigs!

Farm Labor

April18

I got some help in the yard today, in the form of 6 happy hens.  There were other animals in the vicinity, but considering them “help” would have been a gross misconception.

I was trying to find the edges of the small round “clearing” in the back yard, which is really just a maybe 6ft across circle of not-as-much-grass.  There is a stump in the middle, where the apple tree was before we moved in.  Like, it was there until days before we moved in.  It apparently fell over.

It’s also where we buried the kittens, when Twink’s first litter got mauled by Lola-dog (not out of viciousness, but out of some strange mothering instinct).  They are buried between the catnip and catmint plants, so they get lots of visitors throughout the day.

Last year, before I lost my job, I had planted all sorts of ground-cover as well, hoping it would grow over the low stump and make sort of a fairy-circle there.  They did really well, until the weather changed and they stopped growing.  The grass and weeds did not stop growing, so it got messy.

So today, I started pulling up handfuls of weeds, throwing them into the chicken enclosure.  Eventually the chickens got brave enough to come help, scratching and tossing, eating bugs and slugs.  Oscar-pug didn’t care for it, tried to charge them a few times, but eventually decided to pee on the last patch of weeds instead, which effectively stopped my weeding project for the day.

Then I decided to go ahead and rearrange the chicken run, since a couple of the girls have decided to continue to lay eggs in the bottom of the coop.  Stoopid chikins.

Not that chickens are stupid…

April11

but they sure can fool me into thinking they are sometimes.

A week or so ago, I noticed that the glass egg I’d put in one of the nesting boxes had disapeared. My roommate laughed and told me to check the egg cartons…but I was more concerned that the chickens had knocked it into the coop, where I couldn’t really see it. But I thought, “They’ve been laying eggs in those nesting boxes since last summer – they’ll be fine.”

And they were, for a few days. Then I started getting fewer eggs – I thought, “It’s just because it’s early in the season yet. I’m sure it’s fine.”

And then yesterday I only got 3 eggs. Today, there were none.

So fine. I moved the run and grabbed a long-handled cultivator. and a flashlight.

Yes indeed, in a nice tidy little depression in the corner, there was a pile of white and brown eggs. At least my Araucana’s had sense to keep laying in the boxes.

I was going to leave it at that, it’s been on the edge of rain all day and I didn’t like the idea of messing with it all right then. I pulled out the eggs, grabbed the glass egg that had, indeed, fallen in to the coop. I cleaned out the nesting boxes, put in the glass egg plus a couple light colored plastic eggs from Easter. But then my chickens all looked at me, sort of accusingly. So I ended up mucking out the whole coop.

I’ve been using a form of Deep Litter Method in my coop, mostly because of the ease-of-use, with the homemade coop only having two openings – one up high for nesting box access, and one chicken-sized one at the base.  Using DLM, I can eliminate cleanings for most of the year.

It does mean that when I do a cleaning, it’s heavy duty.  It was about a foot deep when I did it today, but as advertised, no odor.  Pleasant surprise!  I used the cultivator and a hoe to pull all the litter out, which the chickens thought was awesome.  They immediately started digging through it, looking for treats.  After it was 90% cleaned out, I dumped in a bag of ABM and a crate of very dry straw.  Now it’s good for another 6 months, or more, depending on how much they use it in between.  They aren’t in the coop a lot, they have a large yard to roam over, so I may be able to wait until this time next year to clean it out again.  Not bad at all.

The litter that was removed is in a pile right now, since the part of the yard it will go to is just next to the coop, I’m counting on the chickens to do most of the spreading.  Whatever they don’t get by the end of day tomorrow, I’ll grab the cultivator and spread it around some.

I did find myself wishing that I could put them in the front yard, just for a few days.  They’ve completely torn up the moss in the back yard, which is something our landlord has been trying to do in the front.  He’s used moss-out kind of products up there, but I don’t see much of a change.  It’s just too shady.

Anyway, wish me luck on the ladies using their proper nesting boxes.  If they don’t, I’m gonna end up with back problems from pulling eggs out of the bottom of the coop.

Chickens and Chiz Curls

April3

A few months ago, we went to Uwajimaya, an Asian market, and got a sampling of odd (to us) treats.  One of them was a small bag of Chiz Curls.  How can you go wrong with corn puffs and cheese powder?

Well, they weren’t really good enough to eat the whole bag.  There were six of us all together who tried, and no one ate more than 2-3 curls.  So they’ve sat in their bag, waiting for their moment.

That moment was today.

My roommate came inside from the back yard, and says, “Have you spent any time with your chickens today?”  Well, yeah, I’d gone out and gathered eggs and gave them a handful of 5-grain.  Apparently that wasn’t enough, because he had been beset by chickens when he went out.

So I looked around to see what I could take them, and my eyes settled on the lonely bag of Chiz Curls.  I took them out, handed one to Turken, and she pecked at it pensively.  The others soon came running to see what I had, so I dropped a few on the ground.

They liked them.  Now, I’m not saying that they got the same response as say, a corn dog, but they did like them.  And lucky for them, no fingers to turn bright orange!

Of course, this is newsworthy so I had to record it for posterity.

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