Sunday, July 31, 2011

Egg Count

I thought I was doing a good job keeping up with my egg count on my blog.  But today, that all went out the window.

All my girls seem to be on a 26 hour schedule.  So their eggs come just a bit later each day.  I'll get an egg late from them, say around 6pm one day.  Then they typically will take the next day as a vacation day, and then the following day, they will lay early in the morning.  And the cycle repeats with the eggs coming later and later each day as the week progresses.

Pumpkin and Coco took yesterday off so I knew their eggs would come early today.  And sure enough, when I got home, there was a brown Coco egg and a green Pumpkin egg waiting for me.  And Ginger was sitting in a nest box.  So I let the other two out for some garden time.

I can tell Coco's eggs from Ginger's because Coco usually puts dark brown speckles all over her eggs.  But today, Ginger put dark brown speckles all over her egg.

So now I have no idea at all how accurate my egg count is for Coco and Ginger.  It really doesn't matter.  It's a journey.  Not a race.  But I do like to give proper credit where credit is due.  And as they approach the 100 egg mark, I guess we'll probably just roll their individual celebrations into one big cricket party for the girls.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pumpkin Lays her 100th Egg!

Now if that isn't cause for celebration, I don't know what is.

We have a nick name for Pumpkin, "The Producer."  Actually, we have a number of nicknames for her.  But The Producer fits her the best.  I probably get a green egg from her 13 days out of 14.  And she lays an egg the same size as Coco.  You are thinking, yea so, what's the big deal.  The deal is that Pumpkin probably weighs a little over two pounds and Coco tips the scales at over seven pounds.

But today's posting is all about Pumpkin.  I haven't bought them crickets in a while because they've been finding plenty of tasty treats in the big garden when I let them out.  And my meal worm farm is coming along.  But I have to admit, I'm surprised at how slowly these guys mature.  They are big enough today for the girls to spot and eat.  But they are not much of a treat.  So I'm holding out a few more weeks till I have big, fat meal worms to tempt them.

So I bought 100 crickets today and we had a big old party on the patio tonight.  Pumpkin is finally starting to mellow out and knows that my hands hold tasty treats.  She use to just run in fear if I held my hand out to her.  I'm still not sure if she sees or if she hears as well as her sisters do.  And she was always getting the short end at treat time.  But not tonight.  I made sure she got more than her fare share tonight.  And all three girls have gone off to bed with tummies so full, well, they simply look funny.

We love you Pumpkin and your pretty green eggs.  Happy 100 Pumpkin!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Toddy the Toad

Toddy the Toad is a Western Toad
I first discovered this little guy in my garden about 10 years ago.  I couldn't believe it.  We don't live ANYWHERE near a lake, stream or any kind of natural water.  And actually, we do everything we can to eliminate standing water so we don't allow mosquitos to breed.

So I thought it was a totally random thing and we just left him alone.  Well, obviously, they are thriving in my yard because I now find them quite often.  So I must have more than one and they must be breeding.  I can't imagine that I keep finding the same one year after year.

I wondered what would happen if the chickens scared him out of  his hiding place.  And tonight was the night.  I was helping the girls find slugs by picking up the edges of a large ground cover in the garden and out hops Toddy the Toad.  They took an immediate liking to him.  Showing off their dinosaur/hunting roots, they immediately started to follow him as he hopped and tried to get away.  But their curiosity just wouldn't quit.  An intervention was necessary.

So I scooped up Toddy to relocate him to the back part of the garden which is fenced off to keep the girls out.  I don't want them tearing up my veggie garden and that's where I put lots of the extra straw from their run when I removed all of it because Coco was eating it.  I don't want to go through that again.

And of course, to show his gratitude for being rescued, he peed all over my hand.  And as I stroked his head and told him I had his best interests in mind by moving him to the opposite end of the yard, he peed again.  And then he peed some more.  Seriously, this guy is not that big and he had like a 1/4 cup of pee in him.  But I'll try not to take it too personal.

I know he's safer back by the Hostas and Hydrangeas and judging from the looks of my Hosta leaves, there's plenty for him to eat back in that corner.  Live long and happy bugging Toddy!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Snails ARE Good Eats!

We had another milestone last night at Spice Girls headquarters.  They are FINALLY eating snails!

I'm not sure who's more excited about this fact.  Me, because I have a TON of snails and one of the main reasons I got chickens was to eat the snails.  Or the hens, because a big old snail is one big tasty treat for a hen.  Even if they have to share part of it with a sister.

I let them out of their run into the big garden last night.  Which I try to do every night to give them some diversity in their little world.  And just as I settled into my chair with a glass of vino, there was much squealing from the corner of the garden.  I looked up to see a chase ensue.

Ginger has something big in her beak, but I couldn't make out what it was because she was moving so fast.  Coco was ON her trying to get it out of her beak.  Pumpkin was putting up a good chase but never really had a chance.  None of the girls do with Coco out there.  She's bigger, taller, faster, bossier and more food obsessed than any other hen I've ever met.

Anyway, they finally came ripping across the patio and then I could make out that it was indeed a snail.  This was just before Coco snatched it from Ginger and chocked it down.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  So I went over to one of the known snail hot spots and pulled out a snail and handed it to Coco.  Whack, whack, whack on the ground to break up the shell and then gulp, and down it went like an oyster on the half shell.  I was so excited that I pulled out another snail, and watched that one disappear too.

I tried a fourth but obviously she's got a three snail limit at this point cuz she looked up at me with those big black eyes that say, "Oh, I just couldn't!"

Monday, July 18, 2011

See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil

My working girls hard at work.

I was concerned when I went out yesterday to say hello to my girls and there was no one at the gate to greet me.  I called to them, and no one answered.  Hmmm, not like them not to come say hello.  So I quietly opened the gate and then the big side door to their house and here is where I found them.

I know I've never had each of the three nest boxes being used at the same time.  I know this because I typically find all three eggs in one nest box when I come out to collect eggs.  I just thought they looked so cute all quiet and focused.  Not pecking at my fingers to see if they are edible.  Such good girls.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mealworm farm FINALLY producing

Way back in February, I set up a mealworm farm.  I bought a big plastic container with a lid that has ventilation holes and filled it with wheat bran and about 500 mealworms.  Toss in a piece of potato or apple for moisture and voila, you've got a mealworm farm.

I had it on the kitchen counter for a few days before my DH said it had to go into the garage.  And I knew that mealworms wanted to live in darkness so it seemed fine.  But it was a painfully slow process waiting for them to pupate, turn into beetles, lay eggs and for baby mealworms to grow.

Turns out, while they do want to be in the dark, they want to be warm too.  Keeping in our garage was simply too cool this winter and spring.  Now that it's finally warm out, they are reproducing and growing up quite rapidly.  I've pulled out a few full sized worms over the past few weeks for the girls.  But today was the first day that I gave them a scoop of worms.

They are still on the small side.  And I need to be sure to sift out the worms so that I'm not loosing any eggs when I scoop them out for the girls.  Now the challenge is figuring out how to set aside a ration of worms that will grow up into beetles so the cycle continues.

I also have to figure out a way to smuggle the tub back into the house come fall when the weather turns cold again.  I was pondering this when someone suggested storing it along side the vacuum cleaner.  Which is brilliant.  It's a dark closet.  It's in the middle of the house where it's warmest.  And my DH will NEVER find it there.

Unless he reads my blog.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Girls on TV

I blogged about this last week.  That my girls were on the local news.

Vector Control decided to fog our neighborhood for mosquitos because they had found a few with West Nile Virus.  I wasn't very happy about the fogging.  I think the girls could have cared less.  But it's my job as their Flock Mistress to look out for their health and safety.

Here's a link video clip:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Power of Chicken Poop Coming to Sonoma

In case you are looking for another reason to get chickens.  You can use their waste to generate electricity to power your house.  Probably doesn't scale down to the individual house but I still think it's cool.

By Chris Roberts
|  Tuesday, Jun 21, 2011  |  Updated 1:51 PM PDT
Power of Chicken Poop Coming to Sonoma
Chicken poop is the new green energy.
Ah, the power of feces.

Electricity produced from chicken waste is likely coming to Sonoma County, with supervisors set to sign off on a proposal to build a power plant that runs on chicken poop near the county airport, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

The $48 million power plant would be built by a private company called OHR BioStar and the Sonoma County Water Agency. The plant would generate methane gas, power a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell, and supply a quarter of the water agency's power needs. The rest of the methane will be sold to PG&E, according to the newspaper. The gas would be produced in three 65-foot tall "methane digester towers" that would be built next to an existing wastewater treatment plant. The towers are where the chicken waste and eggshells would decompose and release the gas which will power the electricity-producing turbine.

Thus far, the project has no organized opposition, according to the newspaper. A previous proposal would have built the chicken waste power plant in a different location in southern Sonoma County, but the new location near the county airport satisfies residents and business leaders, the newspaper reported.

What's more is that the waste-power plant will save the county money while moving it towards a goal of producing carbon-free energy.  The county's water agency must be carbon-free by 2015, and the chicken project means it'll be three-quarters there, the newspaper reported.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pumpkin is getting a Blinder

I am at my wits end with Pumpkin pecking at Ginger.  And I'm only out there for a few minutes in the morning and again in the evening.  Heavens knows what goes on all day when I'm NOT there watching.

I've toyed with selling her or giving her away but I'm not quite there.  And I really want 4 hens so to drop down to 2 is going the wrong direction.  Besides, she's my most productive layer.  I probably get a green egg from her 13 out of 14 days.

I bought a spray bottle and was hitting her with a spritz when I caught this behavior.  The problem is, it freaks all three of them out because Pumpkin goes CRAZY.  I picked up Ginger this morning to isolate her from Pumpkin and spray her but it upset Ginger so much that she scratched me as she clawed her way out of my arms.

I'm hoping that Ginger goes broody in the near term and I can give her a chick or two to raise.  I've read that this will really turn on the mothering instinct in a hen and that she'll peck back to defend herself, her territory and especially, her young.  But I don't anticipate her going broody for at least 4 more months and probably not until next year.

So I ordered a pack of Pinless Peppers.  A pack of what you say?  Well, here, a picture is worth a thousand words.

It's a small plastic device that snaps onto their beaks and prevents them from seeing what's directly in front of them.  Only what is down in front, such as food or water.  People swear by these things.  They even go so far as to decorate them and paint or glue eyes onto them.  Which is HILLARIOUS looking.

These should arrive in a few days and then there's the fun of catching her, holding her still while trying to get this thing on her.  That will be an adventure in and of itself.  But worth it if it works.