Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chicken Girl Problem # 6: Keeping a Garden

Spring is in the air!

Ruined Front Garden
 Spring has become a bit more known in these parts within the last few weeks. But with spring brings lovely spring flowers like daffodils and tulips, however, when you have chickens you are lucky to keep them to stick out as much as they are now!

My sisters let the chickens out while I was at work and were kinda sorta keeping an eye on them but obviously not well enough since they managed to get into the garden in front of the house and kick all of the bark mulch out onto the front pathway. Needless to say I was not a happy camper and it took me an 1hr and 30 mins to shovel all of the bark mulch back into the garden and rake everything back into a nicely even blanket across the plants. (The pathway is very long and there is two long gardens in the front of the house) So this got me thinking, how can I have a nice garden while also having chickens. I've been trying to "train" them to not go into the pool area by only opening the run door which leads to the back yard and that has been working. They don't fly over the fence or anything into the pool which really is great! I'm trying to prevent the accumulation of chicken poop in the pool area its not fun in the summer to step in chicken poop while barefoot.

Chickens in back of the shed hanging in the throne bushes
Chicken digging behind their run
For the most part the chickens literally have a routine depending on what time I let them out at. For example: if I let them out at 5:00 PM or earlier they will always be in the woods in front of the house until 6:00 PM hits then they will move to the back of the yard behind their coop/pool and hang out in the woods over here. (That would be the pictures posted above.) Then they will hang out for another 1hr and 20-30 mins in the woods or digging through the compost pile then they will go inside their coop for bedtime!

Behind their coop digging for worms!
Turkean digging for worms!

It amuses me how they can be creatures of habit and for the most part will stick to their routine! With this in mind I figured if I made the chicken areas more "appealing" maybe they would like it more and stay away from the front garden! So when anyone, me or my family wants to give them treats like berries, rice, bread, lettuce etc I've been having the treats be put into the woods or the grass in front of the woods. So this way rather then putting stuff in front of the house where they are being teased to go into the garden they will be kept away from it all. The only thing that really is an issue is that we have a bird feeder in the garden in front of our window because we like to 1) see the birds but 2) also tease the cats and it helps stimulate them and keeps them entertained. The chickens love going heading to the bird feeder cause they know there will be sunflowers seeds that may have fallen for them to eat. So I try to give them sunflower seeds in the woods or by their coop to keep them out of the garden!

Chicken scratch by the coop AWAY from the front yard

3 out of the 5 original birds! Almost 1 year old!

Chickens in the woods in FRONT of the house
Me & Mantequilla. This rich dirt is from a compost pile that used to be there!
I ALWAYS have water available for the chickens while they are outside. I put it right where they are so they are always encouraged to drink drink drink!

 So in order to make my woods/backyard area more appealing I decided that I was going to get some more fresh dirt/sand which basically is loom and I am going to make a chicken "bathing" area because they are digging holes in places that holes should not be dug! I basically don't want to DISCOURAGE my chickens from their natural ways but I want to encourage them in ways that won't kill my fathers yard.

Chickens in the front yard woods
 I also have been searching forums that talk about chicken friendly plants! I learned about


Portulaca oleracea

Common name(s):
Purslane, Summer 

 From the National Gardening Association and it is actually a weed but can be used for cooking and has some really great health benefits. My mother and I actually used to pull this weed out of the flower beds and throw it away into the woods but not I am going to transplant them so the chickens can enjoy them! You can read more about it here

I also found this forum on backyard chickens that mentions some other plants that are friendly to chickens as well its called Planting a Chicken Garden   It is a very fitting name!

I would encourage everyone to look for other forums on BackYardChickens and to post some interesting ones that you find in the comment section! I would love to see what you found!

Enjoying the woods in FRONT of the house
Mantequilla enjoying some fresh water splashed with some apple cider vinegar
My ugly chickens with their BLU-KOTE butts!

P.S. While the chickens were moving to their usual spot around 6PM in the backyard they stopped dead in their tracks and starting making their warning call. I was right behind them and I started looking in the sky thinking they saw a hawk and were alerting the others to hide but I COULD NOT see one so I started to get really worried. Then I looked right in front of me and there is was a BEAUTIFUL white tail deer just looking at me dead in the eyes. I could not believe how close it was. I immdeiatly took a picture and then called my dad so that he could come down and see the deer. It was an amazing site and it always reminds me of how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful location!

Can you see the deer!? They blend in sooo well!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chicken Girl Problem #5: Winter


My drive way. December 2012
I live in Massachusetts (not sure if I have mentioned that before) and we had such a bad winter! Of course it also happened to be my first winter EVER having chickens and so it was a new experience for me and my family. Needless to say I was very nervous about how the chickens would handle the cold winter months. However, they did a good job and we actually only lost one chicken (which I think was due to an egg being impacted in her). 

 I have two chicken coops at my house one of them my father and I built together for our first batch of chickens and the other one is just our pool shed that we transformed into a chicken coop for our second batch! For the winter I stuck both groups of chickens together in the shed and I did this because I figured it would be easier to keep the shed warm with 29 chicken bodies rather then having them split. It actually worked out well but towards the end of the winter months they started pecking the feathers off one another. It was pretty tragic!

The shed that all of the chickens are kept in.
 In order to help the chickens from completely making each other 100% naked I tried to give them some more treats to keep them entertained throughout the day.
For example: I would buy a couple heads of cabbage, drill a hole through them and then tie them up in the run. This way the chickens would have something to peck at during the day.
I also got them a "flock block" which allowed them to have something else to peck at.
I know I have talked about treats before and I just wanna say they were very helpful during the winter months.

I also used Blue-Kote wound spray to help keep the girls from pecking at one another and it did help quite a bit. My main issue though is that I have a couple aggresive breeds for chickens and they are just mean to the more docile, gentle birds. However, once the weather warms up more I intend to separate the gentle ones from the mean ones so that the gentle birds will be able to have a more easy time growing their butt feathers back.

I would like to add though that in most cases when chickens start eating feathers it is because they are low in protein and you can help give them more protein by adding some game bird food to their daily food since it has more protein in it.

February 2013
 Let's just say that I am finally glad that the winter is ending because I am:
1) tired of shoveling a path to and from the coop
2) actually just shoveling in general
3) babysitting them in the freezing cold
4) being worried all day thinking that they were all gonna freeze to death (which was just me being irrational)

On an ending note I would like to include that I have had two seriously close calls with the hawk these past few months. My first close call goes as follows:

It was late in the afternoon maybe around 4pm and the sun was setting around 6pm this time of the year and my boyfriend let the chickens out before coming inside to get some fresh water. As I am standing by the door talking to him I hear this really weird sound coming from outside. I listen closer and it is one of my chickens making this very unfamiliar clucking sound so I got super worried and told my boyfriend I needed to run outside and check. So I threw shoes on and ran so fast to the sound of the crying and sure enough there was the hawk on top of the my chicken. It had flew into a thorn bush that my chicken had been hiding under and he had her pinned. I threw a 5 gallon bucket at it and started screaming and yelling at it. It released my bird and flew up 5 feet above me and just sat there. I grabbed my chicken looked around to make sure my others were hidden well and ran up to the house. I flew my front door opened and yelled to whomever was in ear shot to get outside and to get rid of that damn hawk. My boyfriend ran outside and so did my little sister to handle the hawk. I brought my chicken to the sink and thoroughly inspected her. Thankfully I had gotten their in time and he had only manged to make a 1 inch slice underneath her wing. I put some neosproin on the cut and fed her some blueberries. I then left the chicken with my other sister and ran outside to help the others with the hawk.

It took 45 minutes for us to scare the hawk out of the yard. My little sister found all of the chickens deep in the woods under a very thick brush and stayed with them while me and my boyfriend threw rocks at the hawk. I have never seen such a stubborn hawk not give a damn about two humans throwing rocks at it. It literally just flew into different trees around the yard for 45 mins while we threw rocks at it. 

My second encounter was this past Friday! My sister and I were on the front steps reading a book while we had the chickens out. It all of a sudden got really quiet and I felt really uneasy so I picked up my book and told my sister I thought something was wrong. I started to walk towards the chickens which were a few yards away when all of a sudden BAM! The damn hawk flew down at like a 90 degree angle from some random tree and started attacking one of my chickens! I yelled for my sister and I started running full speed at the hawk, yelling and waving my hands like a mad women. Thankfully the hawk let go and flew up into the trees. My chickens wouldn't come out of hiding for an hour but the hawk had flown into some open areas in the woods were the crows then spotted him and chased him out of the yard.

The crows have literally become my heros. Usually the hawk isn't even able to get into my yard when the crows are outside in the area. I think they have a nest in one of the trees by my house because they are very protective of the area which I do not mind at all because they keep my chickens safe!

Has anyone else come in contact with a predator? Share your story! I am glad that no one was injured during these attacks since I've already lost one chicken to the hawk I really do not plan on giving him another!