The Story of Sweet Little Snowball Laying Again at Last

Snowball puzzled look

Snowball the white Cochin Bantam today.

Snowball the snow-white Cochin Bantam came to us in the fall of 2014 as a two- week-old rescued chick. She came from a farm where she and her fours siblings and their mother were only being fed cracked corn.

Clover and Snowball

Snowball flying out of the coop, not able to navigate the chicken ladder.

As a result Snowball had some obvious neurological problems. Snowball had a wry neck and when under stress or upset she turned in circles around and around. All of her toes were crooked so she waddles as she walks. I was pretty sure she was suffering from nutritional deficiencies, poor thing.

Clover and four babies

Snowball first fall out in the chicken run. Clover stands close by guarding.

I immediately put the flock on a high quality growers feed and supplemented that with herbs, greens and chicken vitamin drops to try to improve upon their obvious nutritional deficiency. Snowballs body grew but she was never all ‘quite there.’ In fact, I thought she was bit handicapped.

Three on stump heads up jpeg

Snowball and two of her Cochin/Phoenix mix sisters posing on a stump.

Snowball was extremely connected to her mother, Clover, often removing specks of dirt from her Clover’s feathers, grooming her and even when she was almost full sized she wanted to sleep under her Clover’s wings at night. She was very reluctant to grow up.

Snowball looking u coop door Good

Growing, growing, growing….

In fact, Snowball was the last chicken to leave her mother’s side and only because after 5 ½ month her mother turned on her and pecked her in the neck (until blood appeared) to say, “I’m done raising babies and I really mean it this time!”

Funny snowball on stump USE  Quirky Snowball on the stump. The mealworms are how I got her up there!

Snowball has continuously been a quirky little thing, a bit odd and unusually funny. But above all those character traits she has always been sweet like most Cochin Bantams are. It took several months but she began to circle less and less and her wry neck eventually went away. She developed her own personality which is a bit “top chicken” where she pecks away the much larger Rhodies from the food and perches even though she is the lowest chicken in the Cochin flock, she just doesn’t know it! She alerts everyone when crows come around and is kind of the block queen. All the other chickens just kind of melt away and let her have her way. It’s almost like they know she is not all there and have compassion for her and do not raise a fuss. She began to lay, a bit later than her sisters and never laid every day. When she did lay her egg she laid the most petite, creamy white eggEating and posing USETHIS ONE                                                       Not quite full grown.

Last fall when the Cochin’s went through their molt it was almost winter time. Snowball molted with the others but never came back in quite the same way. It took her longer to grow her feathers and she never started laying eggs again. I soon accepted that she was going to be a free loader instead of a layer and because she is such a sweetheart, I never really minded.

Snowball cute on stump USE

Playtime on the stump in the chicken run.

Unlike her serial brooding sisters, Snowball has never gone broody either.

2016bfbcalendarad biosecurity calendar 2015 USDA

Snowball is the bird who photograph was chosen for the USDA 2016 Biosecurity Calendar.

One day out of the blue we found a fairy egg. I was pretty sure this meant that someone was beginning to lay again after a long absence, but who could it be? I was puzzled.

Snowball stretchingneck

That funny girl at play..Look at that neck in proportion to her body!

Last week we began to see a new and slightly different egg in the nest box. With two Cochin broodies we couldn’t figure out who was laying this new oblong egg. It was definitely a Cochin egg but whose could it be? After the fourth egg it dawned on me that Snowball was finally laying again She was actually laying after almost a year’s off! Oh happy day!

Brennas hands with eggs 2015

A light-colored petite Cochin Bantam egg.

It is funny to me how very one of these chickens develop their own personalities and how we get so attached to them. I’ve had readers write and comment on how sweet she is. I know we are not supposed to have favorites, but Snowball seems to be every reader’s favorite too.

Two misfires and a Cochin egg USE

Snowball’s two misfires and her normal egg.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Home From Florida and Back to Reality

It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that just a few days ago I was sitting in sunny and warm Florida, lodged right on the bright blue Atlantic Ocean. It was a wonderful and relaxing few days in a place and a lifestyle that is frankly, foreign to me.

Ocean shows at townhouse

The townhouse my brother rented and graciously allowed me to stay in.

However the reality of winter and real life came crashing back to me when I came home to a storm front of 55 mph winds roaring in off of Lake Michigan.

A stunning bride

  My stunning niece Carrie, on her wedding day.

It was a whirlwind trip to Florida for my niece’s wedding – just four days total and two of them were travel days. I would have loved to have spent a week or more there on the beach in the sun but I had to keep my expenses as low as possible.

HORZ heart of shells lighter

Shells I found on the beach and fashioned into a heart.

This destination wedding was held at the Victorian Florida House Inn on Amelia Island. This quaint and colorful 1857 vintage inn is located in the heart of the historic district of Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Entry to Inn NICE

The front door of the Florida House Inn is a taste of what is to come inside.

My niece is an events planner for the Hilton group so creating memorable experiences is what she does for a living and it showed. The charming wedding and wonderful reception were held out-of-doors under the Florida sky in the inns courtyard and garden. Having everything, from wedding to reception, lodging all happening in one location made it easy on everyone who attended. http://www.floridahouseinn.com/

Florida House Inn

Today it was spitting sleet so Gene and I spent the morning reworking the chicken runs to protect the chickens from the high winds. Their corner lazing area needed serious reinforcement as its tarp cover was loose and blowing around and the 2″ X 4″ frame had blown down to the ground.

Gene tarping gate USE

Tarping the gate and the run fencing.

I added more dirt and leaves to the slippery base of outdoor dog kennel hang out spot that serves as a wind break and protection from the rain. I also added two long logs and a wooden pallet to give the chickens a place to stand-off of the ground. Gene added another tarp to the metal fencing to provide even more wind protection, especially from the brisk west blowing winds.

Outside vegging area tarp USE

This outdoor vegging corner gives chickens shelter, food and a place to dust.

I chopped open a pumpkin for the chickens to peck at and divided it between the indoor and outdoor runs. I added additional wood ashes to the dusting areas and the under coop areas and generally tried to make the covered and open runs a bit more comfortable and secure for the girls.

VERT feeding corner close

Hay bales make a good wind break and a sheltered feeding area in high winds.

I moved the chicken feeding areas into a sheltered corner behind the hay bales to give them more protection from wind and snow when eating. Their eating areas have been out in the open, sunny run but with the changing seasons that has all changed during the last week.

Rhodies on new log USE

The girls love jumping up and off an old log I found in the woods.

I also rolled an old log into the Rhodies covered run to use as a jungle gym and perching place. I also moved chunks of barley grass into the covered run that I grown in the open run areas. My goal is to keep live greens available and help to keep boredom at bay as boredom leads to infighting.

Rhodies grass USE

A chunk of barley grass helps to keep the busy on a boring inside the run day.

I am trying in particular to give our Cochin/Phoenix mix, Freckles, more options to eat and rest out of the wind. Freckles as you may recall has been under the weather in her post-brooding and molting months.

Close up

Freckles, the Phoenix/Cochin mix in better health. 

We have been giving Freckles a small amount of cat food each morning in a special efforts to get more protein into her. We have been separating her for feeding from the others who quickly gobble up her food. This lowers her stress that arises from pecking and marauding from the other birds and has been a strategy this is working. This week her very pale comb has slowly pinking up on tis way to a normal red color. Her eyes have brightened a bit as well. She is still nervous around the Rhodies and avoids eating with the others in fear of being pecked but she is doing a bit better each week. My goal is to have her well as soon as possible because winter is coming very soon.

It is 32 degree today and spitting snow…..goodbye fall. Hello winter.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Elsa’s First Egg – A Red Letter Day!

It’s always a red-letter day when your chicken lays her fist egg. It doesn’t matter how many flocks you have had in the past but the flocks first egg is always a treasure – a golden egg so to speak. Especially when you have waited five months (five month and one day) for it to happen.

RIR are known for being great egg layers and each bird lays up to 300 lovely, large brown eggs per year. That and their easy-going, hardy natures are the reason I chose them this time around.

Egg alone in a bowl USE

Elsa’s first egg. Big, brown, beautiful and organic!

Elsa is the most mature of our four Rhode Island Red chickens. Elsa is a beautiful Rhodie with a deeply burnished dark neck ruff and black tail feathers. She is the one whose comb got red first, who squatted in submission first and now she is the first of the flock to lay her egg. I also think she is the head chicken of that small Rhode Island Red flock.

RIR circling the food dish

Yesterday she started a kind of “I’m uncomfortable” squawking and I suspected her egg was coming soon. Coincidentally the nest boxes were all full of empty jugs and jars to make it uncomfortable for the three Cochin broodies who has been brooding in the next box for almost 6 weeks. It was time for them to rejoin the flock and while I didn’t want to punish them for their own natural hormones, I wanted to make their time in the box uncomfortable. So I piled on the old Kiefer jugs, lemonade jars and milk cartons I had saved for this purpose.

This morning while I was opening and cleaning out the coop Elsa looked into the nest box (which was full) and started to squawk again loudly so I quickly removed the jugs. Within two hours she had laid. Her egg song was joyous and loud! Good girl Elsa!

And yes she is named Elsa after the character in Frozen. Our North Carolina granddaughter named her that.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

The Heat is On: Photo Diary week of July 6 – July 13

The heat is on in SW Michigan and on the Small House homestead too.

House and barn under the Oak Trees USE

I’ve been hauling hoses to water the garden beds and the vegetables. I put down another truck load of bark chips this week though I am not sure how many more loads I’ll be doing this summer due to the rising heat and humidity…perhaps more come fall.  The mosquitoes have been very thick here on the homestead this summer from all the spring rains which means gearing up in mosquitoes mask, long sleeves and pants.

Herb garden studio in distance USE

I am still working every morning painting the chicken coop pieces and parts though the bulk of it is now painted. I have been teaching the three-month old RIR chicks to go up the ramp into their new coop.

IBarn front-side close view

The garden is growing slow this year due to the cool nights though I’ve started harvesting more lettuce greens, a few cherry tomatoes and a single yellow pepper. I did fertilize the tomatoes this week with my bath of comfrey tea I made a few weeks ago.

Vegetable garden  7 11 15

Album holder flower pot for 2015

July and August are lighter outdoor work months for us because it’s just too hot to take on new large projects and we are also pretty fried by July as well. I have a long list of projects I want to accomplish in the house during the hot months anyway. I need to file, find a replacement door handle for the three season porch and research a new pole barn door as our old one is showing signs of failing. And at some point this summer we have to have the river rock floor in our porch cleaned, repaired and resealed but that project has been waiting for real hot weather and no rain.

Garden view out backporch slider

We are hoping for rain and cooler days ahead.

Working area

 

Gene holding snowball USE

Small House homesteader, Donna

Our Girls Eat Live Green Barley Fodder at Last

I let the girls into the barley fodder “patch” today for the first time.

Grass under screen close USE

 The fodder patch before I removed the protective frame.

This fodder I planted is Amish grown and are untreated barley seeds that I bought at our regular feed mill. I tested just 1 pound of seeds to make sure that they would grow well here and that they would be received well and eaten by my Cochin/Phoenix mix chickens. This turned out to not be a problem!

Snowball in grass lookingup  USE

Snowball happily attacks the fresh barley grass fodder.

I planted the seeds right in their smallish open run where I had a nice size patch of sunshine. This worked perfectly.

The seeds have been growing since I planted them on 3-25-15 and the recent rains and warmer weather really brought them on. I let the seeds grow for about three weeks until they were about 4″ to 5 “ in height. The girls were trying to dust between the frame and the fence and I took pity of them.

Screenchikens dusting

This corner is a favorite outside dusting area. Looks like I crowded them!

I’ve read that grasses any longer than 4”to 5” are too long, can get caught in the chickens crop and cause sour crop so I decided to let the girls eat them while the grass was still reasonably short in length.

Screen one chicken up USE

Freckles look over the grass this morning just before I removed the frame.

They had been standing on the frame and pecking at the grass growing under it, taking off tiny pieces with their beaks.

Once I made my decision, I removed the frame and they took to the grass immediately. The best things about this feed is that it is untreated seeds so there are no chemicals involved and it is a live green food – the absolute best for chickens.

Snowball in nest box USE

Snowball in the nest box laying her egg.

The moral of his story is that…Happy, well-fed chickens lay healthy great tasting eggs!

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

Our Weekend in Photography

Eggs in blue bowl USE

Brown Cochin eggs from our four chickens.

On Saturday Gene worked on the raspberry bed fence project and put up a second gate.

Stapling the fencing USE

Gene stapling the chicken fencing to the bottom of the post.

I experimented with photographing some of our brown Cochin eggs in an antique bowl. I used a piece of fabric I bought at the thrift store when I thought might make a nice seat cover. I feel like I am a bit rusty with my “product photography” and it felt good to practice it again.

Two  Gates

Double fencing on the south end of garden allows for two entry points; one in the vegetable garden and one in the raspberry patch. 

Then our adult daughter Lisa arrived from North Carolina in the afternoon. She is a special education teacher and works in the high school near Charlotte, NC. It is her spring break so she took advantage of that time off of work to come back home to Michigan. We spent our day watching the chickens scratch and peck and chatting and catching up.

On Sunday we did our usual every two weeks trip to the recycle station and then ran Sassy at the SW Michigan’s land Conservancy’s Wau-kee-nau north. We keep a small recycle bin set up in our pole barn and take our recyclable papers, cans, glass to the townships recycle station about every two to three weeks.

Sassy overlooking lake

Sassy overlooks gray and ice filled Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is still partially frozen and dark gray in color. We did see a large flock of Goldeneye ducks in the water  – these birds are very hardy and on their migration south for breeding. This is always a thrill for my husband the waterfowl hunter.

Three Birches USE

The three sisters, birch trees in a meadow.

It’s still pretty cold here in SW Michigan, some nights have been 10 some 30 degrees and day around 40 degrees. During the day we let the chickens out to free range in the almost completed raspberry bed. We are still supervising them as one end remains to be completed.

Benches

A wooden bench for resting overlooking the Lake Michigan.

I’ve also been working on and off on stick picking up and lawn raking. I’ve already raked up much of the pine cones from our pine trees. I am just getting a tiny head start on our massive spring clean-up work on the days the weather cooperates.

I’ve been reading a fun new book this week, Chickens in the Garden. I am really enjoying this book not only for its chicken information and its amazing photographs. I know how hard it is to get high quality photographs of moving objects.

Chickens 3 panel no text jpeg

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Easy to Make High Protein Chicken Feed Medley

I believe that healthy food is our best medicine and in using garden herbs for chicken health. So when I discovered this easy to make infused oil mixture for extra winter protein and nutrition for my chickens, I was thrilled.

Close up

A healthy and happy chicken has bright eyes, glossy feathers and ample energy.

While I can’t grow everything in my garden I do have a number of herbs that I grow and feed directly to our chickens. But winter feeding of herbs is so much harder.

Drinking out of red waterer

Lots of fresh water daily is also important to a chickens good health.

PLEASE NOTE: The credit for this original infused oil mixture goes solely to Susan Burek of Mile High Herbs, This came as a result of a post she made on the Poultry natural Living found on Facebook. This is my favorite chicken group of all time. https://www.facebook.com/groups/herbalpoultrycare/

Snoozle time

Mid afternoon snuggle down time.

While some of you are in states that are getting warmer, some of us “lucky ones” in the Midwest still have 3 to 5 ft. of snow on the ground!! And while our 10 degree below temperature have waned, it is running around 30 degrees at night. I’ve discovered that our woods holds in the snow and cold longer after it is melted in other more open spaces.

IMG_6327

Snow on the coop and covered run.

 So this means we are still feeding our chickens high caloric and protein feed for a few more weeks to help to keep them warm at night. I’ve tried all kind of feed type and combinations and this is the one I have the best luck with. It is versatile and can be adapted in many ways. I make the infused oil up ahead of time and then add that oil to whatever I am feeding that day.

Freckles close

This is Freckles, a Phoenix/Cochin mix and the top bird of our group.

This also kills two birds with one stone (likely a BAD analogy for chicken lovers!) but it gets the oils of the crushed garlic into the chicken as well as giving them the fuel that they need for cold nights. I feed garlic as a preventative measure to keep my birds as healthy as possible and basil for mucus membrane health and for its antibacterial properties.

Cloves of fresh garlic goes into my chickens food and their water. Some times they ignore it but some of them, like Freckles picks it out tosses it on the ground and then eats it. Freckles is the top chicken in our small flock.

Headingout the door of the enclosed run to the outside

Our girls heading outdoors for a little bit of sunbathing!

STEP 1: Garlic Infused Oil:

  1. Pour about 1 cup to cup and a half of a high-grade of virgin olive oil into clean a canning jar.
  2. Peel, crush and chop up 7 garlic cloves and add the garlic to the jar of oil
  3. I like to add dried oregano leaves but you can add almost any of your chicken healthy herbs that you might have on hand.
  4. Cover with lid and let this mix infuse several days to a week before using. The longer it infused the more it smells of the wonderful wholesome and healthy garlic.

STEP 2: Add Oil Mixture to Your Feed of Choice

I’ve been experimenting with many different combinations this winter but the one my chickens seem to like the best and the one they leave the least amount of waste behind.

Making the Oil and Protein Medley:

  1. I toss two handfuls of black oiled sunflower seeds in an ice cream bucket.
  2. Toss in a half a handful of dried meal worms.
  3. I add a large scoop of fermented organic chicken grower feed
  4. Add a chunk of cut up wheat grass
  5. A splash of apple cider vinegar
  6. Stir and feed

Add this mixture in your feeding bowl or pie plate and watch your girls rush in, cluck, cluck, and go to town!

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty!  The girls today on their roost in the covered run.

You would never know today that these chickens were rescued chickens from a flock that was fed nothing but cracked corn. It’s taken me 7 to 8 months of providing fresh water and carefully selected food but they are now 8 months old and beginning to lay the mostly beautiful brown eggs.

The results of my feeding regime? Happy, healthy and well fed chickens. It is worth the effort!

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna