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

Adventures in Holistic Chick Raising-Adding Greens

DAY THREE – Highlight of the Day:

1) Today the chicks began to scratch and peck in their brooder. I found out they also like to sleep under the paper towels…whew…for a minute thought I lost one!

2) Sassy responds to the chicks peeps. They peep and she comes running to see what is the matter. That is the cutest mothering thing she has ever done!

3) Today Report: Poop. Sleep. Eat. Poop.

RIR Babies jpeg

If you’ve been following our blog you have read about the new chicks on our homestead. If you have ever had chicks you know just how they consume your time and energy. In fact, they have seemed to take over my life right now!

Chicken adventures day one and two can be seen here…https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2046&action=edit

The RIR chicks spent a lot of time napping and resting today in their brooder box. Once or twice they all began to peep loudly so of course I drop everything go and check on them. Nothing looks off, but their water seems very warm to me so I change it out for the Susan Burek cooled garlic and honey water. They sip it and that seems to be just what they need. The peeping stopped  and peace again reigns in our household.

Based on herbalist Susan Burek’s recommendation I am feeding our new chicks chickweed, dandelion and a few other greens today as well as the fresh minced garlic. It’s only day three and the chicks are already pecking, beginning to scratch and eating greens. This quite blows me away!

I made a Burek tea of garlic and honey and put it in one of the chick waterers. The second waterer has a steeped green tea made from various organic greens like dandelion greens and chickweed.

Chicks Fresh Greens Tea:

Gather dandelion greens, chickweed, comfrey, and wheatgrass greens and place in a quart canning jar.

Boil water and pout over greens. Let cool. Pour into glass chick waterer.

My goal is to acclimate them to the taste of the garlic from day one and for them to get all the nutritional and medicinal benefits of the raw honey and garlic as well. I used raw honey from our local beekeeper and added some chopped organic steeped garlic I bought at the store. I put that in their waterer today. She does this for at least three weeks.

Chicks Raw Garlic and Raw Honey Tea

Smash and mince four cloves of fresh garlic

Fill a quart canning jar with water and boil the water

Add garlic and steep until the water is cooled

Pour into chick waterer

I will continue this tea for at least three weeks. The greens, garlic and raw honey are all immune system boosters.

Morning and night I clean out the brooder box, putting down fresh paper towels. I always add chopped fresh greens and chopped garlic.  I can’t say for sure if they ate any significant amount if either but they are very interested in it. They peck at everything in general and  worked the greens around. I did see a piece of green grass sticking out of a chicks moth when they came to drink. If nothing else they are getting used to the smell, texture and taste. I call this a good first step to eating holistic herbs and live greens.

They are already growing too. They stretch their necks up tall and practice lifting and flapping their wings. They run from one side of the brooder to the other. Their growth is evidenced in their pronounced pin feathers.

I used raw honey from our local beekeeper and added some chopped organic steeped garlic I bought at the store. I put that in their waterer today. She does this for at least three weeks.

I also tried handling the chicks throughout the day too. They are a little skittish right now, and peep and squirm, but I have no doubt that continued handling will help to tame them.

I did some more introductions of the chicks to Sassy too.  I sat on the floor of the laundry room with a chick in my hands. Sassy hears them cheap but can’t quite figure out where they are located.  She thinks they are in the base of the brooder stand and looks for them there. When I hold one in my hand, stroking it, she sits in front of me and watches what I am doing. A couple of times she tried to nose or lick the bird and I quietly said, “Gentle.” I am hoping she gets the idea of what I want. Once she mouthed it but moved back at my command.

Please know that I am not taking credit for these holistic chicken management techniques, this is a Susan Burke developed system. I totally trust her judgment and experience and I am just following her suggestions.

I am getting up twice a night to change out water and give me chick starter feed.

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

Wood Ash Perfect for Wintertime Chicken Dusting

Hubby brought home big bucket wood fire ashes today from a friend’s house for our well love and well spoiled chickens. They have been unable to dust for a few weeks because we had to close off their dusting area under their coop because they were scraping away at the wood with their beaks and eating it. This was the one area that stayed dry enough to be dusty but I was afraid of wood chip in their throats  – a potential problem.Wood ash close

Gene brought home a buckets worth of wood ash today.

According to This Old House, a cord of wood can produce up to 50 pounds of ash and a number of chicken blogs claim that wood ash is death on mites. Just what we need so thought we’d give it a try.Ash in the dist

Fresh but cooled ashes spread out in the chicken dusting area.

When we built our covered chicken run early this winter, we added a small **sand box** in a shady corner for dust bathing and filled it with sand. Unfortunately we were late in the season to start such a project and by the time we got the temporary tarp on the roof trusses the snow had filled the sand box and the floor of the run. That meant frozen snow and frozen wet sand in the box all winter long. Not your ideal situation for chicken dusting!

Ash in sand box

We also added ashes to the chicken sandbox duster. More next week.

We have a traditional house fireplace but it tends to smoke up the house badly and with my husband’s allergies we do not use it all that often. I was hoping there might be some ashes left over but when I checked on it yesterday it was clean as a whistle. But our friend has an outside wood burner and he burns wood 24/7 so always has plenty of ashes to share. A quick phone call and stop on the way home from work and we have all the ashes we want.

Removing plastic and lathe

Removing the plastic and lathe that closed the dusting area off.

With the temperature warming up this week to the 40’s and 50’s, we were able to shovel the snow out of the bathing area and add the repurposed wood ash.  I dumped a bucket of ash into the sand, and stirred it around to mix it up a little bit but taking care to leave most of the ashes on top for the chickens get the idea this is their new bathing area.

Chickens don’t bath in water like we do. In fact, they get clean by getting dirty. They scratch up a pile of dirt. They lie down on their side, move their legs like they are swimming, peck up some more dirt throwing it around and using their wing force it in their feathers. And it is a very entertaining process to watch.

They dust to keep mites and lice in check while cleaning their feathers to some extent. And sometimes they get really “dirty” doing it.

Dusting is also a social activity for chickens and they all want to do it at once and the closer to each other the better. They pile on top of one another, fighting and squawking for the best spot, pecking and eating the critters that fly out from under their feathers (like a kind of social grooming process) and spending at least 30 minutes or more most days on this goofy but important behavior.

Heading in the dust

Heading into the dusting area and taste testing the new ashes.

Bringing home wood ash is a simple and inexpensive way to help the girls stay happy and healthy….a chicken family that dusts together stays healthy together right?

The girls were in wood ash heaven once again!

Small House chicken keeper, Donna

Odd Chicken Behaviors and Wintertime Boredom Busters

Collage side by side withorange text jpegFor some reason our chickens have a thing, and I mean a real genuine thing about the wood under their chicken coop. They are “chewing it.” Yes, actually chewing the wood.  When I look at the wood I can actually see little beak marks all up and down the 2 X 4. Everyone, even advanced chicken keepers, are pretty baffled about this strange, even-for-a-chicken behavior. It is actually outright weird and chickens can be pretty weird from time to time anyway-sort of the nature of the beast!

Chickens under coop in dusting area

Our Cochin/Phoenix mix chickens under their coop in their favorite hang-out, now out-of-bounds!

You can literally see little vertical beak mark scratches up and down the board where they have scraped something off its surface.  I’ve considered many possibilities of what might be driving a chicken to do this; perhaps they need to sharpen their beaks, there might be bugs in the wood, there could be moss on the wood, maybe this is just winter boredom…. all kinds of possibilities. I can’t see anything on the surface of the wood other than old wood with some paint on parts of it. And it’s the same paint that is on the rest of their coop that they pay no attention to, so I honestly do not think it is that.

Gene hanging eye hook, close jpeg

Gene is putting up an eye hook to hang the “chicken boredom busters” from.

One day I watched them do this odd behavior all morning and then gag or grasp for air  as a result. I began to imagine tiny wood fibers in their throats and became alarmed. I remember thinking to myself this cannot be healthy. So I consulted the Chicken Critters and More Facebook list and while lot of “maybes” were thrown out, everyone pretty much agrees we need to seal this area off to protect the chickens from splinters and whatever else may be on that wood. Sorry girls, this is another one of those “tough love” decisions at work.

Gene hanging cabbage in run jpeg

Gene hanging the head of cabbage from the roof truss in the covered run.

It’s really too bad too because this is the one area where the soil does not freeze and where their mother (now  re-homed) taught them to dust. And they absolutely adore this area because they can scratch up the sandy oil there, eat the roots of the grass found there and I think they feel protected from the elements and we human messing around in their run.

Corn and cabbage hanging from roof truss jpeg

Head of cabbage and ear of corn….sounds almost human doesn’t it; head and ear?

Since we have taken away their favorite “hang-out” (bad chicken momma!!) we hung a head of cabbage and an ear of corn from the roof truss. My thinking is, if we took away their best playground we should give them back some things fun to do in return. We also added a pile of sand in a corner and they were immediately on top of it like King of the Mountain.

Cabbage hanginging alone in run

Cabbage the best boredom buster out there….but will they know to eat it?

I feel really bad to close their play pen off but in the end we covered it up to keep them out for a few months as a form of protection. Maybe we can open it back up in a few weeks and they will have forgotten about the scraping?

Have you ever encountered weird and odd chicken behaviors in your chickens over the year? Please share them….I need to know that there isn’t something awful in the water here that is making them act so coo-coo. Please tell me I am not alone in this weird chicken-ness?

Small House Homestead and chicken keeper, Donna.

Baby Chicks are on Their Way

I just got word that my newest Rhode Island Red chickets are arriving on or about April 20th. Horray!

I am tickled pink to know that at long last I am going to have Rhode Island Reds once again. They were my first chickens and by far my favorites for their hardiness, consistence, rarely go broody and lay the most gorgeous, large brown eggs. They are also heritage chickens and I like to do my part in keeping that lovely breed from going extinct.

Rhodies boost the title of America’s most well-know and popular chicken, though for many years the breed was facing a critical decline in its breeding population. Thanks to the hobby hatcheries and backyard farmers the Rhode island reds is now a popular chickens among small farms and backyards today.

Rhode Island Red Chicks grow to be one of the most productive and useful dual purpose breeds across the country and world today. They have prolific egg production, and they will dress nicely as a table bird. The Rhode Island Red is also one of the most hardy of all dual purpose breeds, and they will thrive in almost any environment they could face in the United States. They have amenable dispositions and are a favorite among 4-H clubs and state fair competitions around the country. Their active disposition, hardy nature, and superb foraging ability helps them thrive in a free range environment as well. Though the breed has become smaller over the last 60 years, they females still weigh over 6 pounds while the males over 8 pounds. The Rhode Island Red Hens are excellent winter egg layers due to their heavier size and hardiness, and they will generally lay between 200-300 per year – perhaps the best dual purpose egg layer in production today. The hens can become broody, though not as frequently as some other breeds like the Buff Orpington. Roosters can become aggressive, and it is generally best not to have more than one rooster for every 8 – 10 hens.

I’m going to be brooding in my laundry room since it faces the south side of the Small House and between the dryer, the freezer and the boiler this room is about the warmest in the house.

Since I only have room for four additional chicks in the coop, I’ll be using a cardboard box until they get big enough to go outside later on in the spring.

The biggest challenge will be Sassy our trained bird dog so we will get out the baby gate and but we will close off the room and hopefully protect the chicks from our sweet but fierce bird chasing dog.

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna