Friday, February 25, 2011


I must say, I'm looking forward to Spring.  It's been a long, dreary winter around here (nothing new there).  Our girls are starting to look a bit haggard, and, frankly, so am I!  The warmth of the spring/summer sun will be a welcome change. 

This was our first winter with the girls and aside from some missing feathers and boredom in the coop, it's gone pretty well.  I'm very grateful we put a heated waterer in the coop along with a nice heat lamp.  It kept our Happy Hens relatively happy and warm during some of those bone-chilling Wisconsin nights.  I know all of our hens will be very happy when they don't have to fret about the cold snow between their toes and they can scratch around the yard for grass and bugs n' such.

We do plan to add about 10 spring chicks to our big hen house.  I'd like to get a few more Easter Eggers, Welsummers, Australorps, and maybe a Barred Plymouth or Speckled Sussex or two.  While I'm excited about the arrival of the new girls, I'm a bit apprehensive due to some of the integration issues we've had in the past.  I've researched some ideas for a smoother transition from the brooder to the chicken condo that I think will be helpful.  I'll let y'all know how that goes later...

For now, think Spring and pray that our little groundhog friend, Punxsutawney Phil, knew what he was doing when he predicted an early Spring this year! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Farmer & The Deer...

I received the following story via email from one of Travis' friends and had to share it with y'all.  It's anonymously written and I'm not sure that it's even a true event, but it's funny as all get out! 

The beautiful thing about this story is that, if you live in the country, you surely know at least one person you can imagine attempting this very same thing.

I know several...Including, but not limited to, my husband, his best friend, Luke, who sent the email, and his other best friend, Chris.  These are the same country boys who found fun in pushing a Port-O-John around with their pick-up.
Why we shoot deer in the wild (A letter from someone who wants to remain anonymous, who farms, writes well and actually tried this).

I had this idea that I could rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up-- 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me. I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold..

The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it, it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope .., and then received an education. The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.

That deer EXPLODED. The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer-- no Chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined.. The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.

A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope.

I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual. Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer's momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in. I didn't want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder - a little trap I had set before hand....kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite?

They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when ..... I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist. Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and slide off to then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head--almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts. The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective.

It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.

That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.

Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp... I learned a long time ago that, when an animal -like a horse --strikes at you with their hooves and you can't get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.

This was not a horse.. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run. The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.

Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head. I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away. So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a sort of even the odds!!

All these events are true so help me God... An Educated Farmer 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day from Our Coop to Yours!

*No Ameracauna bums were harmed during the creation of this card. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Red: The H.C.I.C.

Meet Red, she's our H.C.I.C. (Head Chicken In Charge).  Red is a Barred Plymouth Rock; she got her name from the large red comb that rests atop her black and white striped head.  She has the largest comb in the coop. 

In every chicken coop there exists a pecking order and this big girl is sitting right at the top of ours.  She lets the girls know who's boss by always being the first at the door, handing out a quick peck or two, and pulling a feather here and there.  She's one of the first down to scratch around for the treats we leave and I'm quite sure that she eats when she wants to eat, roosts where she wants to roost, and nests in the box she wants to nest in. 

Someday, if we ever get the wireless video camera we'd like to get, we may have the opportunity to see what she does when we're not around.

She has always been very nosey, when she was a little chick, we called her Nosey Posey.  Red is pictured below with one of our Easter Eggers (I call our Easter Eggers Meat Head because they have the fluffy cheeks)!

Notice how Red isn't missing a single feather?!?!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Backyard Tip #1: Flip Flops

This may seem like a no-brainer, but to a girl who practically LIVES in my Reef flip flops as long as the weather allows, I tried pushing my luck.  Chickens are curious by nature and they peck at anything they are interested in, including your toes. 

If your tootsies are polished, they are even more interested.   

So, to avoid having toes that look like this...

Wear something like my Ariat FatBaby Brown Bomber Western Boots to protect your pretties when visiting with your chickens!

Friday, February 4, 2011

News From the Silkie Shack

This morning as we were boarding the mini-van to drop the kids off and head to work, Travis was over by the Silkie pen and I could tell by the way he was reaching in and by the look on his face that we finally had our first Silkie egg!  Honestly, I was beginning to think this day would never come considering we started our flock with our Silkies back in June.  We're not sure if this first egg came from Peanut or Marilyn, but one is sure to follow the other since they are about the same age. 

Meet Peanut...

And, Marilyn...

Here's a couple photos comparing the Silkie egg (smallest) to a regular egg and a double-yolker (largest).  Since Silkie eggs are fun-sized, I think we'll sell those for $1.50/dozen once the rest of the girls start laying in April.

I thought I'd introduce you to Brooke (Bert) since he's the man of the shack.

Here's Brooke as a little chick... he's standing so proudly, maybe we should have known he was the main man the whole time!

Here's Brooke now...

And, last but not least, the majority of this spoiled crew cuddled up under their heat lamp for the night...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Will Hens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster?

I was asked this question the other night by our waitress while out for dinner.  Although it may seem obvious, I must admit that I wondered the same thing before I researched the ins and outs of raising chickens.  I'm not quite sure how the subject of chickens came up, but it seems to be a common conversation I'm having lately.  Not only did our waitress give me the idea for this blog post, but she bought a dozen eggs which we dropped off at the restaurant the next morning for her...double bonus!  Thanks, Darla. 

The answer, you ask?  No, you do not need a roo to have eggs.  Just like human women, hens don't need a roo to ovulate.  However, if you want to hatch baby chicks, you will need a roo to fertilize the eggs you plan to incubate.  This fact is particularly eggceptional for those living in cities and towns where they are allowed to have a few backyard hens to supply their family with eggs.  They get the all the benefits of the fresh eggs without all the noise.  I'm quite certain the neighbors will be grateful there isn't a roo around too! 

We don't have a roo in our big hen house since we don't plan to hatch our own chicks.  We decided it was best to avoid having a roo since they can be a bit temperamental (and loud).  I didn't want to have to worry about the kids getting chased or bitten by a territorial roo! 

We do have one Silkie roo.  We thought he was a she and by the time we figured out she was actually a he, we were attached and decided he could stay.  Brooke, who Travis now calls Bert, is a bit bossy and dominating.  He keeps the Silkie hens in check and stomps around & crows often to let everyone know he rules the roost.  I must say that I am looking forward to spring so our Silkies can be moved from the garage to the backyard.  Brooke even crows in response to the boys' whines and cries.  The garage is a bit too close for comfort!  I may even let some of our Silkie hens sit on their eggs if they seem interested.  It might be fun to see how they do managing their brood.