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More Nuggets

July 2nd, 2014

Exactly eight weeks to the day, broody hen hatched out another batch of nuggets.  This time there were four that she hatched and two pipped eggs remained in the nest.  I put them under a damp towel and a heat lamp inside and one little one hatched out.  I snuck it under broody hen that night and the next morning it was running around with the rest of them.
nuggets 2
If we’re lucky she’ll hatch out one more batch before the cold weather starts to hit. We’ll keep the hens for our laying flock and one rooster, the remaining roosters will become meat birds. This is a good reason to have dual purpose breeds, then the extra roosters make find roasting birds.  At the moment we’re thinking in her previous brood there are three roosters and two hens and they’re Wyandottes so they should make a meaty roasting bird.
nuggets 1
There’s also another broody hen sitting on a nest of eggs we got from a friend. We’re hoping she hatches out a good number to add some new varieties of chickens and fresh genes to our flock. I checked yesterday and she had three pipped eggs. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’s as good a mama as the original broody hen is.

Any new life in your garden?

Nuggets

May 5th, 2014

It’s been a week now since the nuggets appeared in the coop. For the first day or two I kept them in a brooder in the coop to make sure Broody Hen was going to stick with them. Since she did a fine job, I put them outside in a small enclosure for a day.
nuggets 1
After that I set them free, no fences or anything to keep them safe. Broody hen is doing a fantastic job of keeping them all in line and safe from predators and the guineas, other chickens and she even fought off a wild turkey hen that was trying to sneak into the coop for a free meal. She’s a champ.
nuggets 2
There is a greater risk of something happening to one of the chicks if I let them run freely, but I’m OK with that. They will be healthier and better chickens if I let their mom show them what it means to be a chicken.  They will also be much happier for it!
nuggets 3
I love that she’s doing such a great job, brooding little birds is one of my least favorite things to do. Since I like to have them outside on grass as soon as possible, it gets tedious carrying them out and bringing them in again in the evenings. I’m happy knowing there’s a great hen doing what she was born to do!

Have you spotted any babies in your garden yet?

Broody Hen

April 3rd, 2014

I finally have a broody hen, which is funny. Most people try to figure out ways to break their hens of their broodiness, I’ve been wanting one of mine to go broody. This little lady started to feel broody a week or so ago, she spends more and more time in the nesting box each day.
broody hen
Now that she’s sitting all day I’m going to move her to a small dog kennel with a nest and a few eggs I’ve been saving from my Wayndotte hens. Hopefully she’ll hatch out a few chicks. ‘Tis the season, it seems all the wildlife around here is started to get ready for the upcoming warm weather. I’ve seen lots of activity with the local ravens and hawks, they seem to be getting ready to make nests and raise new clutches of little ones.

Have you noticed any animals starting to get ready for the season of babies?

Crazy Chicken

March 11th, 2014

Two nights ago when I went out the chicken coop to count the birds, our Buff Orpington chicken (aka Big Ginger) was nowhere to be found. It’s really strange for Big Ginger not to be in the coop, she’s always the first one to roost up in the evening, sometimes she’s in the coop roosting at three in the afternoon. We looked and looked everywhere and she couldn’t be found. There was no evidence of foul play and I had spent most of the day outside so I would have heard any commotion from a predator attack. Plus Tara would have barked or alerted.
big ginger chicken 1
The next morning, she was standing out in a wooded area behind the house. Then I came up with a theory about what had happened. She ventured over the hard snow in the morning but then didn’t want to walk on the soft snow in the afternoon. So she roosted in a pine tree on her little island of earth surrounded by snow. The following night she was in the coop at three.
big ginger chicken 2
It was just a theory until yesterday when the same thing happened again. She got stuck on the little island once again. I had to go out and chase her over the snow so she could head back to the coop for the night. I’m glad she wasn’t nabbed by a predator, but it would be nice if she was a little smarter!

Anything funny happening in your garden this week?

Cultivate Simple 66: Here Chook, Chook, Chook

February 24th, 2014

This week on the podcast we talk about chickens, how to care for them and why you should have them.

I’ve had lots of requests to talk about keeping a small flock of chickens. Before we moved to Maine I’d been longing to have a flock of my own chickens. I love having animals around, and chickens seemed like a valuable addition to our life. Not only do you get eggs, but you also get manure, insect control and scratching.
Chickens 1
I think everyone should have chickens or rabbits, they are a great way to increase your food independence and produce some of your own protein as well as valuable fertilizer for your garden. Whenever you can close the loop you’re better off and you’ll have great, healthy food for your table.
chickens in apple tree 3
Considerations:
How much time to they take? Chickens really don’t take that much time each day, especially if you’re feeding chicken feed. I mix and ferment my own chicken feed and it takes me about 10 min per day preparing their feed and gathering eggs. Since I practice the deep litter method I only clean the coop once or twice a year, usually in spring and sometimes in the fall if I need fertilizer.
New Chickens 9
How much do they cost? That depends entirely on what kind of chickens you get and what you decide to feed them. Mine are very inexpensive to keep around because I buy grain from local farms and mix my own feed. Even if you’re buying organic feed you will still come out ahead if you’re buying organic, free range eggs. Keep in mind that you’re also getting fertilizer and insect control from your chickens.
New Chickens 2 (1)
What are their requirements? Chickens really need very little. A place out of the elements, with shade from the sun, protection from the wind and rain. They will also need protected from predation.

Most important thing is protection from predators. These depend on where you live. This also depends on your flock, how you want to manage them. Do you want to risk losses for free ranging?
chickens and clarington forge
Where do I start? Look for a spot in your yard where they can reside. Somewhere convenient to your house is best since you’ll be heading out every day. Decide if you want them to free range around your yard or be contained to a specific area. They will scratch in your flowerbeds and eat your plant, especially your garden plants.
chicken coop 1
Do they smell? No – a properly managed chicken yard doesn’t smell – I recommend the deep litter method. So far there have been no smells in my chicken coop. Just keep adding litter. The same thing can be done in their run.

What kind of coop do I need? It depends on how many chickens you’re going to have and how much time they will spend in their coop. Also consider the size of the run if you have it. Consider building the coop above with a run area below. This will keep it dry and give them an area to get out of the rain/weather. Chickens don’t care what their coop looks like, they’re happy as long as it’s dry and draft free. Biggest consideration is ventilation to keep the humidity down. I have a board on Pinterest full of coop ideas and other chicken information.
chicken coop 3
What breed of chicken do I get? Find a local breeder or find someone who has barnyard mix – the “mutt” of the chicken world. If you live in the South you want a heat tolerant breed and if you live in the North a cold tolerant breed is best. This is why it’s a good idea to get them from a local breeder/farmer. You know their chickens will do well in your area. Don’t trust chickens from Craigslist, most of the time they’re not the greatest and can be diseased. You want chickens from a reputable place.
What about diseases? A well managed flock won’t really have issues with diseases. The deep litter method also helps with this. As with anything, making sure you’re feeding them well so they’re healthy is your best way of controlling diseases.
chicken love 1
What else should I consider? How you will manage your flock. Willl you make them your pets or are you going to take a hands off approach. Consider that you will have to deal with death and possible have to put down a chicken in case of injury or illness.

What do I feed them? you can go with chicken feed, but you’re probably better off mixing your own feed.
fermented chicken feed
If you’re on the fence, do it. I really don’t think you’ll regret it, you’re more likely going to wish you had done it sooner.

Think about maybe sharing a flock with a friend or neighbor, split costs and work. Then you have someone to watch them while you’re gone. Though many people are more than happy to check in on your chickens in exchange for free eggs.

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About

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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