A Week in Photos Small House Homestead

We had a bit of the January thaw this week. Our weather rose to around 40’s degrees and the sun shone brightly for a few days. We were happy to be able to get our snowbound chickens out of the chicken run for a stroll and a munch on patches of grass that popped up as the snow melted.

Hey lady where are my worms

Crystal says, ‘Hey lady where is the food?’

Our winter has been relatively mild this year with small amounts of snow interspersed with a warmish week in-between. This week the animals certainly enjoyed enjoy our old-fashioned January thaw.

Sunrise hprzontal most pink

A beautiful winter sunrise one day this week on the Small House homestead.

And, I enjoyed a rare opportunity to photographs very pretty sunrise on Saturday morning. I am usually up and at em’ early as our retriever Sassy gets up very early to go outside to the bathroom. My day often begins with the sound of her nails clicking on our linoleum floor and her head pressing down on my arm as her signal, ‘Okay mom its time!’

Sassy 11-18-14

Miss Sassy the snow dog.

Everyday the sun rises but most days I am preoccupied with animals needs or cooking breakfast to actually walk out and concentrate on taking a good a photograph. But luck was with me that day.

Sunrise tree in half interesting for textGreeting The Dawn.

Elsa the fluffy butt

Do these feathers make my butt look big?

After the animals are fed and our breakfast eaten we do our yoga stretches. On this day Sassy was determined to get into the act.

Sassy doing yoga stretches

Sassy and Gene do their yoga stretches.

Circling the fire

The Rhodies circle the wagons.

Crystal bithbat head up USE

Crystal scratching for sunflower seeds under the bird bath

Sassy run three

Sassy gets a good walk everyday.

The chicken monitor

The chicken monitor.

I hope your week was a good one too.

Small House homesteader, Donna

The Small House Homestead Winter – Photo Diary

Pole barn crystal gene USE

Crystal the Rhode Island Red likes to follow us around the homestead.

Our winter thus far has been spent, cooking new gluten-free recipes, doing some deep cleaning inside our home, letting the chickens out to free range with supervision and shoveling snow. Welcome to winter in Michigan!!

This is our week of January 15, 2016. I hope you enjoy the view!

Rhodies and Cochins in dirt USE

Rhodies and Cochin’s alike want to get out of the run no matter the weather.

We shoveled snow away from the door to the covered run so the chicks could scratch and peck. Our girls love their dirt!

Rhodie at pole barn USE

Elsa found a tiny bit of open ground in front of the pole barn door.

We are challenged to find open areas of dirt or leaves to keep the chickens occupied during the long, cold days and out of trouble. Too much time in the coop means chicken squabbles and the lowest chickens in the pecking order seem to be the one who suffer, especially poor Freckles.

If there is a tiny patch of dirt USE

The wondering buddies, Crystal and Elsa.

This was a tiny melted area about the size of a plate near the front of the pole and the girls found it and scratched around satisfying the Rhodies intense drive to dig, scratch and peck.

Crystal and Elsa are wondering buddies. Even when no one else will venture outside in the snow and cold these two avian friends find a way to occupy themselves.

Rhodie at pole barn USE

Posing at the pole barn!

Gene and two chickens USE

Gene and his girls!

Unless there is a terrible snowstorm, we try to get the chickens outside every day, if even for just an hour. Sunlight, fresh air and exercise are good for the girls and helps to keep them busy and occupied too.

Rhoide under forge at buckets USE

When the chicken run gate is open for our morning chores they invariably find their way to the overhand of the forge where there is open dirt and leaves. THIs winter we have stored buckets of bark chips under the forge overhang that we use from time in the chicken coop.

Chicken tracks use

Chickens tracks lead the way to where the girls have been traveling.

I hope you have been having some enjoyable travels too!

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

 

Hawk in the Chicken Coop – Lesson Learned

We experienced our first hawk in the chicken run today on the Small House Homestead.

Chicken complex w tree slight mist

Our netted chicken pasture is made using greenhouse hoop and deer netting.

We had been gone to a presentation in town this morning and we returned home around noon. I headed into the house to pull lunch together that was cooking in the Crockpot and Gene heard a loud chicken ruckus. When he investigated he saw an immature Red tail Hawk on the ground in the raspberry chicken pasture area and some black feathers on the ground as well.

The girls were making an awful racket and had scattered and hid under the thorny and thick raspberries bushes that we had fenced in. We do see Red tail Hawks flying in the skies here and hear them calling to one another quite often. This was our first on the ground hawk sighting here in over a year of the new Cochin coop due to our property being surrounded by thick woods.

Raccoons have always been our main chicken predator confirming Gene belief that”A large hawk would not come down here due to the woods…. there is not enough space for a big hawk to fly in and around.” Today we learned otherwise.

We did a head count and we were very lucky that no chicken was hurt. We learned a valuable lesson today…never say NEVER. This was an immature bird and likely learning to hunt, smelled chicken and came to investigate.

Proud Rhodie greets the day

One of the Rhodies playing around the new run.

We also learned that we can no longer leave the chickens out in the pasture while we are gone from home. We had been lulled into complacency. We will now have to make sure they are in the netted small run area.  I am grateful we have this netted run area up and ready to use.

main gate in shot from inside the run

The gate to the netted and covered run.

The moral of this story is that no matter how prepared one is; nature is going to throw you a curve ball.

On the positive side of this lesson; the Cochin’s had been taught by their momma to be afraid of large birds (I observed this many times.) Now the Cochin’s have taught the 4-month-old Rhodies to be aware as well. I am just thankful this lesson ended up working in our favor!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

Chicken Run Roof Going Up

In spite of being in the upper 80’s on the homestead today, the chicken run roof is going up.

White roof on run USE

The two roof lines will meet when the roof is completed.

We selected white plastic corrugated roofing panels to match those given to us by a friend used previously on coop number 1. These will also reflect the heat in the winter months and provide more light and warmth in the run during the bitter winter cold that we typically experience here.

Run chiekens ans sunflowers USE FIRST

The run frame as seen from the west. This is tall enough to walk in.

We decided to build a covered outdoor run for our birds to enjoy the fresh air. During the nice weather months the feeders and waterers can be placed in the covered runs so the coops stay dry and clean. During the cold and snowy months, the birds can get out of their coop and move around without walking in the deep snow, which most chickens do not like to do.

This will eventually have chicken wire with plastic panels over it for winter use.

Sunflower edge of run and Rhodies USE

The 4 month old Rhodies scratching around in there outside run area.

This large, covered walk in run area is important for chickens for a number of reasons including:

  1. To provides shelter from weather and direct sunlight.
  2. To provide security from predators.
  3. To provide a measure of biosecurity by not allowing droppings from wild birds to land.

One Rhodie USE

Happy chickens lay happy and tasty eggs!

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

Photo Diary: Enjoying the Simple Life Today

USE FIRST

Playing with the chicksMy almost two-week old Rhode Island Red chicks enjoying the out-of-doors.

We spent our day just enjoying the simple life today…playing with the chicks in the outside pen…

Playing in the grass USE

 

It's a bird..its a plane...oh no its sassy! Gene is smiling

Taking Sassy swimming at the SW Michigan Land Conservancy land, Wau-kee-nau…

Row of yellow waukeena

Enjoying the lovely warm and sunny day as well as the bright yellow and cheerful forsythia in full bloom…

Put my roadside rescue treasures up on the pool shack…

IMG_8484

Photographing my violets in the garden path and picking out my flowers for our summer pots…

Patch of violets USE

Who can ask for more than a home centered life, beautiful sunny weather and spending it together.

Small House Big Sky Homesteader, Donna

Photo Diary 3 – Day 6 and a Birthday Celebration

I moved the chicks to a bigger brooder box today. They were climbing up their stick roost and trying to fly out of their red plastic recycle bin brooder and it was only a matter of days untill they did.

Teatime in the coop w text collage jpeg

All their familiar things are tucked in their new brooder; their “jungle gym” sticks, their clumps of dirt and grass. Their food and water. I added a small dog size plastic Frisbee filled with grit and they took right to it. They are also now eating fermented chicken feed in a jar lid and loving that.

Sisterly love green blue cup USE

Snuggling sisters.

The chicklet’s now have tail feathers showing. These are rapidly developing birds that are jumping up and flying down already!

We had a third photo shoot today, though a bit of a rushed one I admit. We are celebrating three birthdays today, my son Darron, my granddaughter Brenna and my husband Gene so I’ve been up since 6 a.m. getting our food ready.

Knomes perched cut elightly blury

Is it time for the tea party yet?

I needed to marinate the chicken, prep the green beans, toss the salad, make the potato casserole and the corn bread. The table is set and all that is left to do is make the fresh fruit salsa that will top the chicken.

Gene will grill the chicken while I bake the rest of the items. The weather report has promised a nice warm day and it is already sunny, so this should be a read letter day for sure.

I mean really you want me to do what

Dutch treat!

I’m very excited that my granddaughter will be able to hold the chicks, collect eggs, help grandpa with a few farm chores and generally enjoy the country.

Brennas hands with eggs 2015

Brenna loves to collect eggs.

Brenna full length with her first egg

My darling girl is happy with her first egg. It was still warm when she found it.

Today fast paced photo shoot included more teacups photographs for a special creative project I have had. More about that in a future post.

Give me your profile please

I hope you don’t expect me to do that?

I also put a chick in an egg cup and put an egg in the child’s eggs cup and it turned out, if I may say so, quite adorable.

Tw HORIZ teacups maybe

No way am I ever gonna produce that!

I am happy with the progress these photographs although I still have to photo edit and crop most of them in order to be 100% satisfied.

I have written an article and hope to use these photographs to illustrate it. More about that as the process develops.

Ivy cup cute

I’ll have some spiced cider please.

Small House Homesteader, photographer and chicken keeper, Donna

Goldie the Broody Hen

Our 9-month-old hen Goldie began to go broody this past week.

At first I thought she was just having trouble laying her egg and I was concerned with her clucking all the time and sitting on the nest for hours. I thought she might be egg bound. Then Gene figured out that she was acting broody and we realized what was really going on – our first broody hen!

This is making things quite difficult for us right now because of the demands of having new chicks, the porch’s membrane roof research and quoting project, spring garden demands (two flats of native lupines, 48 comfrey slips and 6 custom grated fruit trees are coming soon and we must have the ground ready) as well as a big joint birthday dinner at the homestead this Sunday (more about that later on this week.)

When it rains…it pours…

Gene named this hen Goldie from the iridescent golden color in her hackles, the ruff around her neck that is prized by fishermen who tie their own flies. Of the five Cochin/Phoenix mixed chicks we rescued last fall, Goldie is the only one that has this unique and rich golden coloration. The golden hue against the subtle and contrasting black and teal and green shimmers is simply beautiful.

Sitting pretty

 Goldie is second in from the right hand side.

Because my hens only started laying eggs about a month ago, it took me a couple of days to recognize this brooding for what it is, a deep hormonal desire to sit on her eggs and hatch them. When a hen goes broody, her pituitary gland releases prolactin, a hormone that stops her from laying. Her body and her hormones are telling her to brood but the catch is we have no rooster and that means no fertile eggs.

Hens who brood like this often do so endlessly without eating or drinking and often they starve themselves to death. So we knew we were going to have to break her of this desire for broodyness or she could be endangering her own life.

To Break a Broody Hen:

  1. Removing her from the nest box repeatedly, often multiple times a day which of course she does not like and she screeches loudly and goes right back on the nest at the first available opportunity.
  2. Finally closing off the chicken door which stops her access to the box (but also to the other hens as well, which obviously not a long-term solution.
  3. Separating her from the nest box in a more assertive way.

Story’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow also has a nice section on “Discouraging Broodiness.” I can recommend this too.

By Tuesday I decided to set up the dog kennel in the corner of the enclosed run for her. I put in leaves, food and water as well as a low wooden perch the same size as the one she is used to. This is a system that was originally set up for momma Clover when she began to peck her chicks after she “weaned” them and they would not leave her alone.

Crate on dest bath sandbox USE

The dog kennel in the sandbox dusting pen in the North coop corner.

I give Goldie several, supervised, outdoor free-ranging periods throughout the day so she can exercise, take in the sunshine and of course find and eat worms. During these times the chicken door is latched shut so she cannot get back to the nest.

I know this sounds cruel. but I must remember that a hen who wants to brood but has no fertilized eggs can actually die from starvation and thirst if she will not leave the nest.

And when one hen is hogging the “favorite” nesting box that every other hen wants to use – big trouble resides in the henhouse. This requires constant monitoring by me as well.

Goldie in pen

Poor Goldie is very unhappy in her temporary, protective kennel home.

Her latest “stunt” is to fly up to the top of the nesting box and try to get in through the ventilation window which is blocked with hardware cloth. She also flies up to the rafters and tries to get in through the roof which of course is impossible with the corrugated plastic roofing panels covering it. This look like a serious injury in the making.

Goldie closer USE

I am sorry Goldie girl, I feel really bad to have to put you through this agony but I have to protect your health above all….

I’ve read that a week is standard to break a broody hen from wanting to brood 24/7, sometimes two weeks, but we shall see just how stubborn Goldie is. She doesn’t yet realize just how stubborn this German chicken momma can be!

Small House homesteader and chicken momma, Donna

 

New Chicken Theme Header

I like to change the photographs at the top of my blog to reflect the current season and what is happening here on the homestead. While customizing a blog is beyond my limited abilities (with the exception if setting my basic blog up in WordPress) I CAN make a custom header in PicMonkey.

Eggs in blue bowl USE

Beautiful brown Cochin eggs are what I find in my nest box every morning.

I love that free blog program to edit my photographs and create photo collages and if I can teach myself how to use it, anyone can.

I knew I wanted to make a new header image that reflects our chicken keeping practice here on the homestead but I lacked a picture of our girls beautiful and petite brown eggs. They only started laying eggs two weeks ago and I had to wait until I had a couple of dozen eggs, enough to make a respectable setting in some kind of a container.

I finally got a chance to work on my photo still life this weekend. I started out using old linens under a fancy Phoenix Bird bowl but did not like the way that translated, just too busy. After several linen changes I tried a piece of yard goods I bought at a thrift ship for a few bucks, thinking it would look really pretty a seat cushion on a painted chair.  Bingo! This one looked wonderful and played up the blue of the old antique crockery bowl and the creamy brown of the brown eggs.

Now that I had a jpg that I liked I needed to put them with two more photographs that also helped to tell the story of our Cochin chickens.

This is what I ended up with..

Chickens 3 panel no text jpeg

Our coop, our eggs and our chickens-without text!

Chicken Keeping Collage 3 panel w text jpeg

With text…

Whether you keep chickens for eggs, meat or as pets these birds are a blessing in my life and I for one am thankful for what they offer me. They are complex social creatures and we are privileged to give them a good home. Their unique personalities and amusing antics make me laugh and help to give me a grounded perspective.

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna