Tag Archives: chickens

Moving Days

We have a streak of warm days and mild nights ahead and the chicklets have gotten way too big for the brooder. They are able to cope in the garage without a heat lamp now and get absolutely frisky if taken out in the sun or on a really warm day.  They clearly need more space before they start pecking each other.  I hung a “Baby Block” toy/feeder in their brooder to try to help and put two perches in there, but they need more room.


They can foul that cage is less than a day.  Preparations were made today to do some moving around.


The coop is 4 X 8 feet inside, discounting the 6 nesting boxes attached to the outside of one wall.  Since the plan is to leave only the 2 Buff Orpington hens and the 1 Americana hen and possibly Cogburn, but I am leaning toward removing him as well, I have created a divider that will give the 10 chicks 2/3 of the coop and the 3 hens will have 1/3 with 2 nesting boxes for nighttime and egg laying.  After they all go to bed tonight, Jim and I will remove the other 6 hens and Cogburn, maybe to the chicken tractor and temporary run.


This is going to stir things up in the pecking order.  I installed two nesting boxes in the chicken tractor today, but I anticipate the girls going on strike and either not laying for a while or laying their eggs on the ground.  After the coop is opened tomorrow and the remaining 3 hens go out to eat and drink, I will use the staple gun to erect plastic poultry fencing over the new framing and to close off the 4 remaining nesting boxes and the chicks will be moved into the coop.  They will be able to see the hens, but for now, they won’t be able to leave the coop.  After a few more weeks and some growth, I will make a passageway for them to leave the coop, but scoot back to safety if feeling threatened.  For a while, they will have food and water in the coop with them.  Once they are large enough to share the coop and run with the big girls, the netting and framing will be removed and they will share the coop.  My goal is for the hens to sit eggs for future chicks, but that will either mean keeping Cogburn or another rooster, or buying fertilized eggs and slipping them under a broody hen for hatching.  I’ll have to make that decision before eldest son comes in late summer to put the hens in freezer camp.


Sore Muscles, Stink buds, Silly puppies and Showers

Our beautiful 3 days are over and rain is expected for the next two days followed by cooler weather for a week, maybe winter cold weather.  It is probably good that it is too wet to work outdoors today, my sore achy muscles need a recovery period.  Though we have a treadmill and hand weights in the basement rec room, I am much too sedentary during the cold months, enjoying walks in the snow or on a crisp clear day, but certainly not getting the exercise that I get during the growing season.

We have had the chickens for just over a year now and it has been about a year since we put the coop in place, unleveled and poorly fenced.  Late last spring, eldest son came to do some work with us and he helped me level the coop the best we could using car jacks and a 6 foot pry bar to raise it up on blocks.  The fencing has evolved from a small square of poorly erected garden fence to the present design of a much larger rectangle with 4 foot wide runs that extend down two sides of the garden, forming a large L at the end of the rectangle, welded wire fence on heavy T posts.  After the coop was in place, I saw a design that ran a 3 foot wide run all the way around a garden with the coop and the compost bins at one edge.  Unfortunately, the coop couldn’t be placed where that would work at the time and now that the area is leveled near the bins, the coop can’t be moved, so it will have to be as it is, though that design also serves to keep deer out of the garden.


Every fall we are invaded by these nasty pests and a few wasps.  They manage to get inside in spite of the windows being shut and locked and all winter I capture and destroy them until I think that most are gone, then April arrives and they crawl out from under window sills, behind baseboards and who know where else and again we are over run.  They are a major pest in SW Virginia and seem to be getting worse.  You can’t squash them and vacuuming them can only be done with a vacuum with a disposable bag as they live up to their name, Stink bug.  Last night I must have captured at least 20 and several more this morning.  They don’t fare well in soapy water and can easily be knocked into a paper cup of it to be flushed away.  They are an invasive species and seem to have no natural predators here.


This is our 210 pound puppy’s favorite position.  His breeder says that his father does the same thing.  Such a silly dog.  Surprisingly, the German Shepherd in the background chose to gnaw on a bone instead of attacking him as she usually does when he rolls over like this and she can get the upper hand.

Today is going to be a quiet day of rest and recovery.  The dog hair needs to be vacuumed, but other than that I am going to read, go to my spinning group and fix dinner.  After 3 long days of hard labor, I think that is enough.

A Spring? Morning


The morning sight.  Yesterday we awoke to it snowing and quickly providing ground cover, but not so much on the roads.  The temperature hovering right around the freezing mark, thick gray clouds and we were driving an hour east to take my Dad who had been visiting for a few days, back to meet my step mom and her cousin who had been in a hotel there for a Garden Club conference.  By afternoon, the sun was breaking out, the snow melted, but we continued to have bands of heavier snow that really weren’t accumulating.  It was still near freezing at bed time and the mountain wind had picked up.  Apparently it decided winter wasn’t quite over yet in spite of the calendar, because this morning we awoke to the snow cover and this


It is supposed to be springlike again by week end with rain and thunderstorms, but today is a winter day.  Yesterday the chickens would not come out of their coop until they could see the ground and then they fled back in when it started snowing to come out back out with the sun.

This morning, they were confused and again did not want to leave the coop.  I kicked around the straw so they could see it and since their ramp was clear, most of them came out to get food and water.  When checking for eggs, I found this


The Delaware on the bottom, trying to lay her egg and a huge Buff Orpington trying to move her over so they could share the box.  Maybe she thought they would be warmer that way.  There are 5 other boxes, but interestingly, the 9 hens often all use the same box or the one at the opposite end of the row, rarely is there an egg in one of the middle 4.  Crazy chickens.

Life is always an adventure on our mountain farm.


The short spring of this weekend allowed Jim to take a 175 mile motorcycle ride.  While he was out enjoying the weather in a way he enjoys, I got to work outside, which I enjoy.  My chickens’ run expanded from 50 linear feet to 175 linear feet.  The main body of the run more than doubled and I created a 6 foot wide attached run that goes down one of the long sides of the garden.  My hope is that they will help keep the weeds and bugs down from that difficult to mow area.


The main body of the run now also provides a fence half way along one of the shorter sides of the garden and gives them access to a pile of old compost.  They spent a good portion of the afternoon dust bathing in that pile and digging for bugs.  I wonder how long it will take them to make this area barren of grass too.  Putting weeds from the garden will be a much shorter walk now.


After coming in totally worn out, I stopped and unpacked my new spinning wheel.  I was so glad to see that as a folding wheel, it came mostly assembled and already packed in its travel bag.  There was very little assembly to do and I was soon able to take it for a short spin with a bit of undyed Shetland wool.  There are 4 ounces of it to be spun, dyed and turned into something beautiful.


I love life on our mountain farm.

Spin cycle

The Vernal Equinox found us yesterday with clear sky, warmer temperatures and wind.  It was too windy for Jim to ride, too windy to want to tackle adding ventilation holes higher in my coop, too windy, but so welcome.  Today is warmer and calmer.  We have three beautiful days as the calm before the next predicted snow event.  I get anxious each year to start being outside more, to dig in warm soil, to plant, but truly, it isn’t safe to put much in the ground here other than cold weather crops until Mother’s Day, so I have to wait.  I did start my peppers and some of my tomatoes in flats yesterday.  I ran out of medium before I ran out of pots and seed.

My new spinning wheel arrived at the shop yesterday, but alas, it isn’t open on Wednesday, so I am meeting the owner in town today to pick it up.  I’m excited to put it together and give it a spin.

Today the chicklets are 2 weeks old.  I keep waiting to go into the basement and find them everywhere as they are developing feathers and starting to hop and flap higher up the sides of the brooder.


Socialization continues with them, with “The Hand” that appears over the side of the brooder and then teases with wiggling fingers, rings, or a small pile of their food to teach them not to fear me.  I don’t handle my birds except when necessary like Wednesday night when 3 got out of the pen while I was out and couldn’t get back in to coop up for the night.  When I arrived home around 9 pm and went over to close up the coop, I found Cogburn and two of the hens in a pile huddled together where the fence joins the coop nearest their ramp back inside.  Each was picked up, slightly ruffled and put inside on a perch none the worse for wear.



Because of the lack of a spinning wheel and to try to have my sweater finished before the storm next week, I have been knitting only on Estelle.  Last night I finished the second sleeve and picked up and knit the first 2 rows of the feather and fan band.



I am pleased that it will probably be finished tonight.  Then I have to figure out where the marker goes in my honey cowl and how much of a row I have to tink to get it back on track.  My sock needles that I ordered are in route, so I can finish the never ending pair of socks.  My yarn came from Quince and Co. to make the Lola Shawl in the issue 9 of taproot magazine and I still have the Unplanned Peacock Botanical dk skein to make into something beautiful that will show off it’s wonderful colors.

We are off to enjoy the spring day, Jim on his motorcycle, me to pick up my wheel then work on the coop and run, maybe get a real gate in so that they can’t escape again unless I let them out.  I also need to relocate some of the extra hay that seems to have all worked its way downhill to the end of their run, putting too much mulch around the peach tree and shrub in the run and none up where I enter their pen.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

Stay Indoors weather

Our winter storm didn’t fizzle as we hoped, nor did it give us pretty snow.  Instead we are encrusted in ice.  The cars look like someone poured water over them in a deep freeze.  The yard is white and slick.  The chicken coop run has hay on the ground that has 1/2″ of ice on top.  The chooks aren’t happy.  I finally went out with a pitchfork and turned as much of it over as I could so that they had a place to stand and eat as they came out of the coop and practically knocked each other over trying to get back inside.

The weather prognosticators have extended the weather warnings “until further notice” with more ice, possibly freezing drizzle, maybe snow for the next 36 hours or so.  But they are predicting 61ºf by Friday, it is 27ºf now and has been since I got up this morning.

This is a day to stay indoors and read, just finished Jefferson Bass’ latest novel Cut to the Bone.  I am a fan of forensic science novels and found this to be a good read.  It is the prequel to the Body Farm series.  And to knit, still working on the sleeve.  I hate knitting sleeves, they are so boring.  Once I finish this sleeve, there is a feather and fan band to pick up and knit and I will have another sweater to add to my wardrobe.

This is Virginia, it is time for the winter to go away and bring us some springtime, though last year, we had light snow for 5 Fridays straight right up to mid April.  This winter is wearing on us.

“Uncle” already

Will it never end?  Winter that is.  The predicted winter storm has already started, several hours before anticipated and it did not start as rain as predicted, but rather a slushy mix of precipitation.


When I went over to check egg production progess for the day, I don’t want them to freeze as the temperature falls, this is where I found all of the hens.  Huddled under the coop wondering when this cold white stuff is ever going to end.  At least with the lengthening days, their production is up a bit, getting an average of 6 per day instead of the 4 from mid winter.



The newbies are now a week and a day old and are starting to show signs of tail and wing feathers.  The more feathers they grow, the less I worry about the loss of power killing their heat lamp.



I didn’t get around to my laundry and dishwasher detergent making session a couple of weeks ago, just made my lotion bars, but this morning, I realized that I was seriously low on laundry soap and out of dishwasher detergent, so I pulled out the recipes and went to work.  I was surprised and pleased after finishing it and calculating the cost, to find that it will cost me less than $.06 per load for laundry and about $.07 per load for the dishwasher.  Since I make my own soap, I know what goes into it and added to it only washing soda, baking soda, and borax for the laundry powder, I have an economical product that lacks any of the sketchy ingredients and it is safe for the front loading HE washer.  The dishwashing powder costs slightly more per load as the citric acid is a tad pricey, but that mix is only borax, washing soda, citric acid and salt, again an economical product without the sketchy ingredients and safe for the dishwasher and the septic tank.  Yes, the process takes about 10 minutes because I have to hand grate the bar soap, but I have a huge jar stored on the mudroom shelf, plus a small container on the washer and one to take to my son next month and I only made half of the recipe.

As the temperature is falling, the stew is simmering, I’m going to light the woodstove and fireplace and sit back and see if I can finish the second sleeve of my Estelle sweater that I am knitting of Quince and Co. Lark yarn.

I can’t spin as I packed up my wheel and shipped her off to her new home in Michigan and my new one won’t be in until late in the week.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.



Yoyo Weather

We have two days of spring followed by two days of winter followed by two more days of spring.  And a winter storm is on the radar for Sunday night into Tuesday morning. I’m ready for spring to come and stay. After moving the now week old chicks to the basement, I left them there until they are another week or so older or until the weather reaches more moderate temperatures and looks like it may hold.

Each warm day, Jim goes for a ride on his motorcycle. Today while he was gone and the big chickens were free ranging, I tackled fruit tree pruning and remulching. Over the past couple of years, we have planted 5 apple trees, 3 peach trees, and 2 Asian pears. The oldest two peaches were pruned for the first time last year and responded with lots of new growth. Most of the apples planted last year needed very little work. The peach in the chicken pen is getting too much nitrogen from the chickens, it is growing like wild but probably won’t produce fruit.

One of our goals is to fence this area this spring and then the chickens will free range within the orchard and in non growing seasons, also the vegetable garden. They have effectively cleared all of the weeds from one compost bin and started on another.

This storm will come without the return of our generator from the shop. Most of the pre storm prep is in place from the wind storm two days ago. A few supplies will be added tomorrow and again we will hunker down and hope the storm prediction fizzles. If it doesn’t, we may be facing another ice and snow storm.

Come on spring, we are ready.
Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

Here we go again!

Yesterday was in the low 70’s and sunny, today in the mid 60’s, but a front is roaring through, house shaking wind, torrential rain this afternoon, and plunging temperatures.  We took a day trip today to two Harley Davidson shops, each more than an hour from here for Jim to check out new and used motorcycles with a bit of size to replace his Honda Rebel starter bike.  We got back just in time to pick up our generator and take it to the repair shop and drive home in the worst of the rain.  The generator that we bought 7 years ago was used during construction of the house prior to the electric service being brought down to the house site.  Since that time, it has sat unused in the barn.  It is a sizeable unit and was unfortunately stored with some fuel in it.  We have had several times when having it functional would have at least provided us with some light and ability to keep the freezer working.  It seemed like we should deal with it, so it has gone to the shop to be cleaned and tuned and hopefully made fully functional again.  We would like to have it tonight.  The thermometer plunged 20º in the hour after we got home.  It is falling into the teens tonight and staying near freezing tomorrow daytime and back into the 20’s tomorrow night.

With the strong wind, we again face the threat of loss of power.  Though we and the dogs would be uncomfortable, we would survive it well, the 5 day old chicks would not.  I moved their set up into the basement as the basement having 3 walls underground hold its temperature better than the rest of the house.  I also turned the thermostat up to warm the space more and have brought in wood, paper and kindling to start a fire in the wood stove if the power fails.  The chicks will be placed as close as safe to that stove in hopes that they make it.  At less than a week old, they need 90+ºf temperature and that will not be able to happen for the next 36 hours if the power fails.


The other preparations for storms have also been handled.  The guest bath tub has been filled.  Extra straw placed in the chicken coop.  Wood brought into the garage, fires laid in the fireplace and the wood stove, just awaiting a match.  Oil lamps filled, batteries in flashlights and lanterns checked.  I keep hoping that the prep will ensure that the power stays on.  I would rather be ready and not need it.  

Next time we are threatened, hopefully we will have our generator back and will fret a bit less, but we still will have no heat and no water if the power fails.  And tonight I will not sleep well, I never do when the wind howls even though there are no trees near the house.  There is a shed roof over the heat pump to protect it from snow slide off the roof, but I always fret about it’s stability in high wind.

As the temperatures were falling and the winds rising, the dogs again decided it was time to wade in the muddy creeks in the sinkhole.  I am not amused with this behavior.

Winter will end, I have confidence, but as it darkens, it has dropped 30º already and it is sleeting.  After much coaxing, the chickens have been closed up for the night.

The Return of Winter

Spring is coming, we know it is by the flocks of robins, the few springlike days we have had in the past couple of weeks.  The past two days have exceeded 60ºf ), absolutely delightful weather.  The weather encouraged outdoor time, to clean the chicken coop, to give them free range time, and to allow Jim to take a jaunt on his motorcycle.


Yesterday afternoon it clouded up and by evening, it was a steady cold rain with the temperatures beginning to drop to the current 28º (-2º) and headed for tonight’s 8º (-13.33º).

By the time I awoke this morning, the rain had turned to sleet, then snow.  The snow is falling steadily and accumulating.


The weather prognosticators are warning us of 6 to 12″ of snow, depending on which source you choose to believe.  I’m hoping for a much lower amount and a return to the weather of the weekend, but it looks like winter is back and here to stay for at least another week.  I’m ready to do more than think about the spring garden.  Instead, I will knit and spin, make a warm comforting stew for supper and sit tight.


What I’m knitting, Beaucoup in Happy Feet, a light baby sweater for a spring baby, and Honey Cowl of Green Dragon Terminator color is Heat Wave.