Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Free Range Eggs and Chickens

True free-range eggs are those produced by hens raised outdoors or those with daily access to the outdoors. Few hens are actually raised outside due to seasonal conditions. Some egg farms are indoor floor operations and these are sometimes incorrectly called "free-range operations". They aren't!

Due to higher production costs and lower output per farm, free range eggs usually cost more money. But many of us agree that the taste is worth it. Health benefits are an additional plus for naturally produced free range eggs.

I used to sell eggs, but that was back when I had approximately 75 laying hens. I lost the flock to a mink, and now I only have 4 hens, just enough eggs for our own needs.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Chicken Tipping - Is that Cash or Visa?

No, it's not that kind of tipping. We were talking about cow tipping one day and Brian informed us that Chicken Tipping is possible. You have to do it at night when the birds are asleep. Then they're dozy and don't move.

Brian claims he's never participated in Chicken Tipping but he has caught birds at night because that's the only time they just sit on their roost and you can grab them easily. So this is one to file with "More than I ever wanted to know about chickens"

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hen House Mosquitoes

Well it is that time of year again. I went out at dusk last night to close up the coop for the night and just about got carried away by the mosquitoes.

There were literally thousands of them all over the outside of the coop. I had to run and hold my breath while trying to close the doors to avoid breathing in the nasty little things.

I do not know why but for some reason mosquitoes are very fond of chicken coops. It may be the gas given off by the droppings that attracts them. I say this because the coop seems to attract them even when the birds are outside.

Much of our acreage is an environmentally protected, ecologically important wetlands (which my wife says is a fancy word for swamp) so we probably have more mosquitoes than most folks.

All I know is it is a real pain in the neck (literally) trying to do my work.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Squawking Guinea, No Sleep For Us!

Well one of the Guineas spent the night out last night! It was a bright night as the moon was out so it kept up quite a racket squawking and carrying on. I am surprised one of the neighbours did not come down and shoot it. It is amazing just how much noise one very upset Guinea can make. What possessed it to stay out is beyond me as the rest of the flock went in just fine.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fat Chickens Don't Lay Eggs

The chickens are not laying too well the last few days. They may be dropping some of their eggs outside so I will have to have a hunt around the barnyard and see if they are. I cut off their corn ration as of today as too much corn can also put them off their lay. It is ok to give them a little corn in the winter as it helps them with the cold weather but now that it is fairly warm I do not figure they need it. Fat chickens do not lay well.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Guineas and Geese and Turkeys, oh my!

A short time ago Brian and I bought 2 guinea roosters and decided to keep them in the little shed near the house so I could help a bit with their care. Hubby built them a very nice caged home inside the shed, with a door to their outside run.
Since guineas have to be kept insided for 6 weeks to get used to their new home, hubby set the coop up so my part would be easy and would not involve an y touching of guinea parts. So far so good!

A week later my hubby ordered 10 baby turkeys and 10 baby chicks. Since he was going away for this entire weekend, he put them in two separate cages inside the little shed that houses the guinea roosters. He filled their water dishes and food dishes and set up separate tubs of food -- one forturkeys, one for guineas, and one for chickens. I was shown how to open all cages and re-sto ck the food supply,plus refill waterers.

I stocked the shed with a supply of long gloves. If you recall, I have a bird phobia and can't have them touch me. I was sure I was almost mentally and physically ready to tackle this. Then Brian came home with 3 baby geese (the night before he
left for his 4 days away). Their mother had died and he couldn't leave them to die so home they came. He partitioned the chicken cage so that the geese could be in one section. He set up their food and water dishes and reassured me that they would be NO trouble! All I needed to do was pick fresh greens for them (dandelions, grass, etc) a "few" times a day, and toss in some turkey pellets.

I don't like geese. These geese were cute to look at but destructive little buggers. They knocked over their food dish. They pulled at their sheet (all the babies have sheets on the floor of their cages) until a corner fell into their water dish. Did you know that a sheet acts like a wick? Within a few hours of his leaving, the geese were soaked,their water was gone and their food was knocked out the bottom of the cage.

The guineas shrieked almost constantly. They wouldn't eat the blades of grass I was bringing them several times daily. They kicked and threw their pellet food out of the cage.

The turkeys grew and as they grew, they began jumping and pushing against the lid of their cage. It had no lock, and no mechanism for keeping it shut. Men don't think
precautions are necessary I guess. I had to put a heavy brick on the top to stop them from getting out.

The geese continued to misbehave, and tried to jump over the partition separating them from the baby chicks.

....to be continued in Part 2

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Guineas and Geese and Turkeys oh my! (part 2)

The first time I tried to change the water for the chicks and geese I realized that hubby, in his wisdom, had not show me how to prop open the lid. Its a big cage, with a lid nearly 3 feet long and 2 feet deep. He can lift the lid with one hand, hold it up AND get the waterer out. I couldn't. The lid fell several times, each time nearly decapitating me.

I tried to change the turkey's water and carefully lifted the infra-red lamp to hang it by the nail on the guinea cage as shown by hubby before his departure. This nail also holds the key to the guinea cage, and without it, I cannot unlock their door to open it to give them fresh water. In true Murphy's Law spirit, as I tried to place the lamp cord on the nail, the key fell.

As a tiny preface, let me explain that the shed is full of junk (Correction: I mean full of "things that might just come in handy one day!" according to Brian....one day being that day far in the future when dinosaurs once more roam the earth or a nuclear holocaust begins) The shed is tiny and there is very little room to move between the cages and the junk (oops -- "things that might come in handy one day"). It's a dark and scary
place! But I digress.

I could not see the key on the floor. Now, I'm not a very scientific person, but I seem to recall that the law of gravity does not allow objects to fall in curves or angles - only straight down. So why wasn't the key on the floor directly under the nail?? It's dark, it's cramped, I don't have a right knee so I am unable to bend, kneel or crouch to try to spot the key. I doubt there's enough room for me to bend or crouch anyway!

I scan the floor surface visually. Lots of guinea doo-doo. Lots of dried up grass that they've tossed out of their cage. Lots of feathers. Lots of guinea doo-doo (Yes I realize I am repeating myself but there was LOTS of guinea doo-doo!!) Lots of food pellets. No key. In despair I turn back to the turkey problem, wondering how long guineas can last without water. As I turn, I spot a tiny glitter amidst the doo-doo. The key! It has fallen, hit the edge of the cardboard under the guinea cage and bounced on the floor about two feet under the cage.

But how to retrieve it? I can't kneel, and my arms aren't long enough to reach it. I finally hit on the idea of using the pond net to scoop it out. After several sweating and cursing tries, I end up with the key, pieces of dead flies, bees and wasps, lots of mouse dirt (Hanta Virus springs to my mind!), and enough guinea doo-doo to fertilize a garden 10 acres in size!

Sweating, I find a new home for the key and turn back to the turkey cage to open their lid to refill their waterer. That's when I discovered I couldn't reach it. Their cage is set so that I can only get to the narrow end, and hubby, who is 6'4" tall with correspondingly long arms,had put the waterer W A Y at the back. I couldn't reach it. There was no way to get to any other place of entry other than where I was. The turkeys kept nudging at my hand and arm as I tried to stretch to my limit and beyond. Gotta wash another pair of gloves!

Finally I hit on the idea of getting a tiny stool so I could stand up and reach further back! Eureka! Another few lives saved.

...continued in Part 3

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Guineas and Geese and Turkeys Oh my (part 3)

By the end of the second day I had the situation well in hand. All babies were being fed and watered, and my morning mantra chanted over and over in the style of a skewed Om Mani Padre Hum became:

"Turkey food in the green tub, chicken food in the plastic garbage can, guinea food in the clear plastic container, give the geese some turkey food."

"Get the gloves, get the pail, grass clippings for the chicks, the geese like strawberry leaves and dandelions, the guineas only like the tall grass, don't pick poison ivy"

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Birds of a feather....

I have a bird phobia. Some have suggested it's a feather phobia but I don't tremble in fear when I lie down on my pillow.

Others have suggested it's a winged creature phobia and I confess to not being fond of bats. All right, I'm damned terrified of them! I have been known to dive under the
nearest table if a bat appears.

But I digress.

My husband loves birds. His motto appears to be "You can never have too many fowl". We have almost 100 feathered creatures on our 'farm'. They all free range which is a
laughable euphemism for "They run and crap wherever they want"

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Hitchcock's "The Birds" Freaks Me Out Too

Part of my bird phobia involves having them touch me, or vice versa. I can't bear the thought of a feather or beak or bird claw ON me. Part of my phobia involves their flying anywhere near me, and possibly landing on my head. I once had a seagull land on my head in a park and I was rather hysterical -- but that's another story.

When we started with birds, it was with a small flock of 30 day old chicks. The deal was that I was never to have anything to do with them. That wasn't quite how things
worked out, so out of necessity I discovered that if I wear gloves and have every inch of skin covered, I can handle them until they're fairly big.

I can be outside when they're outside as long as they don't gang up on me. If any more than 6 come around, I'm freaked. I've been known to make a stumbling dash to the house that if seen by the public would make the Government revoke my Handicapped Sticker for those good parking spaces!

About Brian & Lorine

When I was a child my grandparents had a small old-fashioned farm with an odd assortment of animals. A few horses some mink, chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigeons, a ferret and of course a dog. It was here ware I spent my summers as a child that I was bitten by the bird bug. I would spend hours in the hen house trying to get the birds to take food from my hand. It was then during those summers on the farm that I
resolved to someday have a farm of my own.

Years later when I was finally able to get a place of my own in the country it did not take long before it began to take the shape of the farm my grandparents had lived on so many years before. It started small at first, just a few pigeons that I got from my uncle. Then a couple of chickens from the Co-Op. First thing I knew it was like my own privet zoo with chickens, ducks, turkeys, guinea hens, donkeys, sheep,rabbits, pigeons and of course a dog.

The farm that I have created is a source of great enjoyment for me and as well for the folks at the local Co-Op as I empty my wallet to pay for it all. A psychiatrist might say I am living in the past or trying to replicate my youth. All I know is when I am tired or the pressures of day to day life are stressing me out there is nothing I find more relaxing than sitting in the hen house feeding the chickens
from my hand.

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