Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Coco knows her name

I apologize for not blogging for a bit.  I just got busy with other things.

But things are good here.  The girls are finally all beginning to get along.  Which is a very welcome change.  I feel like the past 5 months of my life has been consumed with raising chicks and flock integration.

Each of the babies now lays eggs.  Which means I need to stop calling them babies.  So we'll call them the Bunkies.

The Bunkies LOVE their new house.  Which we call the Bunk House.  I swear they know I bought that special for them.  They are just so cute when they go in there and all snuggle together.

The big girls spent some time investigating this new house, but they still go to sleep in their hen house, the Spice Cabinet.

What's weird, is they like to lay their eggs in each other's house.  Today, I came home to find one of the Bunkies egg's laid in Coco's nest.  Which is kind of scary.  Coco is VERY possessive of her nest.  Not to mention, Coco is a BIG chicken and there's really no way that two chickens can fit into one nest.

And the Bunkies are not small chickens either.  They each weigh about 5 1/2 lbs which is a whole pound more than Ginger.  Ginger still likes to peck at them but it's nowhere near as vicious as it was previously.  And I keep telling her to stop that.  Because one of these days, those BIG Bunkies are going to realize that they are much bigger than her and peck her back.  Oh my.

I did have a conversation with a co-worker who did not believe me that Coco knows her name and comes when I call her.  So I made a little video to show that Coco does INDEED know her name.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Do you hate peeling hard boiled eggs?

If you've ever hard boiled your fresh eggs, you know what I'm talking about.  The shell is practically glued to the whites of the eggs making it next to impossible to peel them.

The reason is, fresh eggs with their firm whites, fill up most of the inside of the shell with that tasty goodness.  Many people will tell you to simply let your eggs sit in the fridge for a week or two until the whites have had a chance to evaporate just a touch and pull away from the shell.  Then hard boil them.  But doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of having really fresh eggs?

When my husband and I watched the movie Bridget Jones Diary years ago and came up to the scene where Bridget's mom is selling those egg shell removing kitchen gadgets, my husband begged me to get one.  But we all know those don't exist.  So in protest, he's totally given up trying to peel our fresh eggs.  He simply cuts them in half with a sharp knife and scoops out the egg with a spoon.  That's fine for breakfast, but doesn't work when I want to make deviled eggs.

I've read about people steaming their eggs to hard boil them so I thought I'd give it a try and OMG, why did I not start doing this years ago.  The shell practically came off in one big piece from my fresh eggs.  I'll never go back to boiling them in water again.

I have an ancient Hamilton Beach rice steamer that has an egg basket.  Pop them in and set it at 19 minutes and voila.  If you don't have one of these, just do them on the stove.  I'd bring your water to a boil first and then set the steamer basket with eggs over the steam for 19 minutes.  Let them cool and you are good to go.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The babies have their own address

After trying everything I could think of to get the big girls to accept the babies into the hen house at night, I caved and ordered a second hen house.  I'm kind of embarrassed about that.  In hindsight, I should have ordered a bigger house way back when I started this adventure.  But oh well.

I ordered one of the new Snap Lock chicken coops that is made of plastic panels that you simply snap together.  It's made in America which I like.  And it does go together quite easily.  I had a hard time ordering it because it was the same price as my beautiful Amish made coop with the cute little red roof.  But there was a big price difference in the cost of shipping.  Not to mention, my Amish coop being made of solid wood, weighs about 300lbs.  The Snap Lock coop weighs just about 40lbs.

I'm not sure I'd trust it up against big critters.  It does come with some very nice D-rings to attach to each of the latches to make it more secure.  But it seems like something could chew its way through one of these panels.  Maybe not in one night.  But over time.  Fortunately, I have plenty of room in my run to just plunk it down on some cinder blocks (and one old flower pot flipped upside down) so I know it's secure.

Snap Lock Chicken Coop
Come with a roosting bar and there are slots inside the house where it fits.  They sent the roughest piece of wood I've ever seen.  Took me a while with sandpaper to get it safe for babies feet. 
And it has three separate nest boxes.  Difficult to see from this angle.  But I've got them all filled up with pine shavings and fake eggs.  Unfortunately, Ginger got in there and kicked out a bunch of shavings.  Naughty Ginger.
And a photo of my Amish built coop.  Made in America too.  Solid wood construction, this thing can endure the elements AND keep your chickens safe from things that want to eat them in the night.

And I will say, it is easy to put together.  I did it almost all by myself.  A few of the tabs wouldn't pop into place and having a second person on the opposite side of the coop to hold it tight while you snap it together is helpful.

I tucked the babies in there after dark last night so they could get used to it and wake up in their new home.  Unfortunately, when I went out this morning, Ginger was inside terrorizing them and eating pine shavings from the nest boxes.  Ginger HATES water so I spritzed her with the water bottle a few times to get her out of there.  Thought I had that solved.  But when I went out this afternoon to check up on things, she's sitting in one of the nest boxes laying an egg.  Sigh.  YOU HAVE YOUR OWN HOUSE!!!

So I'm not quite sure what to do here.  I think I'll close the door on the house during the day and go out in the evening and open it up so the babies can go to bed.  This will keep Ginger out and hopefully, her curiosity with these new digs will pass.

But I can only do this for a few days as Sugar squatted for me yesterday.  For those non-chicken rearing folks, that means she's come of age and that we're probably just a week or so away from her laying her first egg.

And the three babies.  Two were dust bathing and the third just wanted to be close.
I have about 8 feet of really soft, loamy soil mixed with sand, peat and DE but no, they've got to dust bath right next to each other.  So sweet.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Treadle Feeder Update

Take a look at the photo from my last post.  See the little thin grey strip just above the feed?  It's a piece of weather stripping installed by the man who made the feeder so the lid doesn't slam down when it closes.

The hens ate it.  It's all gone.

Sigh.  Just when I think my girls are so sweet and smart, they go and do something so utterly stupid.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Treadle Feeder

First a quick update for those who have been following my flock integration.  It's been a nightmare.  I hit bottom last week and seriously toyed with giving everything away, chickens included.  But after lots of research and help from fellow chicken owners, have come to the conclusion that a separate hen house for the babies is in order.

So, until this coop arrives, I've been putting the babies into the dog crate at night to sleep.  And it's really rather amazing, but the whole flock dynamic has changed.  Everyone is much calmer.  There's significantly less pecking and feather pulling.  And while I have trouble believing that it was all because Ginger and Coco didn't want to share their house, it appears that was indeed the case.

I ordered a treadle feeder for my girls about a month ago and it finally arrived.  These are also known as rat proof feeders because they require the chicken to step on a platform to open the lid to get to the food. They are nice because you can really load them up with lots of feed and not worry about attracting critters into your run at night.

Unfortunately, it didn't come with directions.  I've emailed the man who made it and I'm sure those will come shortly.  But as I recall from my research back when I ordered it, you prop it open for about a week to get them used to the feeder.  Then you back it off half way and force them to step on the platform to get used to the movement of the treadle and the lid opening in front of them.  Once they all master the concept, again after about a week, you can back it all the way off and voila.

But you must watch your flock dynamic and make sure that EVERYONE mastered the skill or else you might end up with a hen or two who can't get to the food.  So we'll take it slow and see how it goes.

My girls are serious creatures of habit and did not like the feeder at first.  They walked around it, and there was much discussion about this new feeder in their run.  But slowly, each of them stepped up to it and realized it was full of food and here we are several hours later and I can see that they've been eating well out of it.

Coco isn't normally one to want her picture taken but was eager to pose with the new feeder.

And a profile shot that shows the brick on the treadle holding it open.  I selected this style because of it's wide, stable
base.  Some other models can tip over easily.  I also really liked the clear plastic cover over the food so they can see the food inside and hopefully, that will make training go easier.

And a shot of Sugar and Honey Bear.  All three babies now weigh just over 4lbs.  I think they are going to be bigger
than Ginger.  And they are really starting to mature.  Their faces and wattles are turning red.  Their combs are popping up with the 7 points which is how Orpington's combs should look.  They are much darker than Ginger.  Not sure if they'll lighten up eventually or if they are from a slightly different blood line than Ginger and that's how they'll look.