Sunday, November 27, 2011

Motivational Posters


Well, Thanksgiving turkey was excellent! What was also wonderful were the TWO chicken biscuits I ate on Black Friday morning. I've been nice and haven't told the cluckies that. I don't feel as though I need to right now since on Thanksgiving day they laid 15 eggs (which is the record) and I got 15 eggs again today. On the rare days we get less than 10 eggs, I cut them some slack...our girls really do work hard.

But I can't help but want to motivate them. I look at each one as my very own little feathered child. Any caring parent would want their child to excel in everything they do. Even if that job is to only squirt out an egg every day. I can't even count the times mom and dad would stand against the chain-link fence at a track meet screaming my name and making me run faster, even though the lactic acid was building up in my legs and I was sure that at any minute I was going to fall....ok so that happened once or twice.

Anyway, I don't think Foghorn would appreciate me screaming encouraging words all day to his girlfriends.

"Come on girl, PUSH! HEE, HEE, HO...HEE, HEE, HO!!..Breathe, baby! You can do it! PUSH!!!!"

 Plus I don't have that kind of time. But I don't think it would hurt to hang a motivational poster or two in the coop. You know, give them something to think about...remember those posters they hang up in school about doing your best and believing in yourself? When the chickies were younger and still not producing yet, we got eggs from Eli, the Amish guy down the road. His eggs are huge! I held one up for the girls to see in case anyone got any ideas. So I've had this idea for awhile now. Fast forward to a few months later, and I'm flipping through an issue of Small Farmer's Journal, and what I found made me laugh out loud. It's a drawing that says: 

"An egg a day keeps the hatchet away."

I LOVE IT! Even though in all seriousness, I couldn't take a hatchet to any cluckie. (However, they don't know that.) A little reminder and encouraging words never hurt anyone.  Or if that doesn't work, you know what they...a picture is worth a 1,000 words!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

What a Chicken is Thankful For


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!! The chickens are about to enjoy a fest in stale bread of their favorites! I asked them last night what they were thankful for. Can you guess what it is????

Chickens are thankful for not being turkeys!!!

They do not feel sorry for their poultry cousins.... in fact, their attitudes are more of, better them than us. I did remind them that not everyone likes turkey. There is a good chance that many a family today and over the weekend will be celebrating their Thanksgiving dinners with a golden chicken instead of a butterball turkey. I also told them that Chick-fil-A opens at 4:00 A.M. tomorrow morning and that my one Black Friday request is that I get a chicken biscuit for breakfast. That shut them up pretty fast.

However, the general consensus is that we are all thankful for living in such a great country and for our freedom. We are thankful for those who have served, past, present and future. We are also thankful for all the crops and hardworking farmers who feed us. And we pray that the harvest continues to go safely. This being said, we are thankful for our way of life. To be able to have the opportunities to farm and have the chickens, horses and even those poor steers. (For what little time they spend with us, they are still part of the family.) To be able to garden and enjoy its bounty all winter long. Not everyone is blessed with this way of life. (They might be thankful for that!) But that's OK.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

                                                                         ...cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck.......

(Photo by:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Picking Eggs


BIG changes at the Shawhan farm! Jimmy and Charlie are finally here! The chickens have two Percheron draft horses to torment now besides poor Chuck and Big Mack, our Holstein steers. I asked the boys this morning if they enjoyed being woken up at four in the morning by the roosters, but they were too polite to answer honestly. I was a little worried how Charlie would react to seeing big birds who resemble a T-Rex when they run, but he didn't seem to be that bothered by it. A small welcoming committee was there on Saturday thanks to my sister-in-law and my three year-old nephew, Big Kenny.

As soon as Kenny got out of the car he wanted to "pick eggs." He was all set to go in his rubber gum boots and adventurous spirit.

"Aunt Becca, I want to go pick eggs." He said over and over again in his toddler dialect.

"Ok Kenny." I replied. "We'll go pick eggs and you can take them home with you." (Well a snack and a restroom break were on mom's priority list before the egg picking would take place.) So we all headed into the house for awhile.

FINALLY, it was time to pick our eggs! Out in the cold room, which is the equivalent to a mud room, I gave Kenny the giant yellow basket I use to pick the eggs everyday. This basket was saved from Dan's old family farm where he spent the first 13 years of his life and what he used at Kenny's age to pick eggs. Kenny waited gleefully by the door while we got our shoes on.

"You, you hide the eggs for me Aunt Becca." He told me. (It is crazy what children remember. One Easter I hid Kenny's Easter eggs several times so he could have more than one egg hunt.)

Once we got down to the barn we made our way into the coop. I told Kenny there might be chickens on the eggs right now and we might have to move a few of the ladies. I typically get all the eggs at night when I shut the chickens in since it does seem to take all day for everyone to lay.

We lifted the lid on the nest box, and sure enough each box beheld a hen nestled in the straw. Only one egg was in sight. I think Kenny was a little nervous to get it. I could tell he wanted to, but he seemed a little unsure. I told him it was alright and that no one would peck at him. Slowly he reached in with those innocent hands and proudly held up his treasure. Five more eggs were found after relocation of some of the chickies. Three eggs went home cracked. And one went home covered in poo.

At last we went back to the house to get an egg cartoon that are kept in "Aunt Becca's house." I told Kenny he can come and pick eggs anytime he wanted. I may even start calling getting the eggs, "picking the eggs." Speaking of which, that time of the day is fast approaching. Happy picking!!!

                                                                                             ...cluck... cluck... cluck... cluck......

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cluck Notes

Here's some news for you!
The chickies wanted me to share,
Since you all can't be here.
Some news from the coop...
I promise it's not about poop!

~ Rooster Chaz~ Is very excited that no hens escaped from the steer lot today...everyone stayed in! Even Sam and Kailyn. He swears it was from all the hard work Dan and I put in last week re-fortifying the fence...and not from all the rain we received today. After talking to Chaz about this, I asked Foghorn why HE thought all the hens stayed in today...his response was, "Well, it ain't about no fence, I can tell you that right now! It's all because my sexy bad self, that's why. No chick of mine would want to go too far away from these sexy tail feathers..." He kept talking but there were too many expletives and descriptive words to post.... but you get the idea.

~Prissy~ Loves the new stalls all ready for the arrival of Jimmy and Charlie. She can't wait to welcome her new neighbors. She was out in the lot today in between breaks of the rain making mud pies that she plans to bake out in the sun later in the week. Also, she told Dan how she "admires his craftsmanship with wood and enjoyed watching him with power tools....." (This comment somewhat bothers me. I told Dan maybe he shouldn't talk to Prissy alone anymore....)

~Cadberry~ Not only is Cadberry (like the cream eggs at Easter...) excited about this, but all of us are! The scary dude next door is moving!!!! Last night and all day today a U-Haul truck was spotted in the driveway. Personally for me I was always worried that the boys were getting on his nerves, at you know, four in the morning, with their unnecessary wake-up calls. All summer I expected to come home with a note on my door saying "Shut your chickens up!" Thankfully it never happened. I did hear him make a comment once when he was out floating in his inflatable pool about the "bulls and chickens". I didn't correct him that they were steers and not bulls...a big difference buddy. (If I did, he'd probably run me over on his motorcycle.) Anyhow, Cadberry says,"Well maybe now that they are gone, you won't freak out anymore when you see us in their yard. They have the BEST grubs under those leaves. And we love to poo (oops) over there too. HAHAHAHA no one will ever guess how we get over there either!" I told Cadberry she and the others better keep those chicken feet of theirs crossed we don't get some really freaky people next. Oh well, only time will tell.

I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone today,
But next time I'll ask a few more what they want to say.
And post it for the world to see,
What a chicken seems to find news worthy.

                                                                                           ...cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck......

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What to do with all the poo?


Well it seems we have FINALLY secured the steer lot and for the past two days we haven't had any more escapees. Though with chickens, I wouldn't be surprised to come home one day and see more out wondering in the yard. As any caring parent, I would love for the chickens to be "free-range" (though NOT for "green"/PETA reasons), but chickens are destructive critters and my poor flowers and the beds paid for it. Plus I was tired of sweeping their poo off the sidewalk.

Which leads me to the topic of today's of my personal favorite subjects of all time....POOP!! I am so proud of myself for the way I have masterfully developed a system to control the poo in my coop and keep it fairly clean. The picture above is an old feed trough and is used as the chickies roost. It works great as a poop collector, since it falls into the trough and not on the ground. I placed it right below the ledge the chickens roost on in the coop at night. About once a week I go in with a shovel (no judgements here) and scoop the poop from the ledge and also out of the feed trough and save it in a large container. When the container gets full, I take it to my garden and spread it around. Those beans and corn are gonna taste great next summer!

I did some research online and found this cool article with lots of good info. I'll share some of it here. The article is called "Manure Matters: How Manures Measure Up" by Marion Owen. I found it at

First of all, never, ever use human, cat or dog poo, since poo from meat-eating animals risks the threat of parasites and disease. (Though from my experience, chickens can be considered meat-eaters since they like dead rats and birds...) Also, poo with straw and/or sawdust has a different nitrogen composition than just straight old poo.

Chicken poo is the richest poo for nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash. It's considered "hot" and should be composted for 6 months before being added to a garden. If added "hot", it can burn up plants. I learned that dairy cow poo is preferable to steer poo. Steer poo has a higher salt and weed seed content. (Sorry Chuck and Big looks as if your only purpose in life is to end up nice and juicy on our dinner plates...) Horse poo is half as rich as chicken poo, but richer in nitrogen than cow poo. It's also a "hot" poo and needs to be composted. All poo should age for 6 months, or you can be like most of us farmers and spread the poo on the soil in the fall and turn it into the ground in the spring. 75 to 90 percent of plant nutrients fed to animals is excreted in their poo.

Pasteurizing poo??? Hot, composting poo should reach a temperature of 150 degrees F to reduce the chance of passing pathogens to people.

We all know that sanitation and poo control is important if you have animals of any kind...or a lot of kids. If you have animals, minus dogs or cats, and you have a garden that you grow your food in, it's a pretty logical decision to re-use the poo as fertilizer. I'm not sure the chickens can poo enough in the coop to get me enough fertilizer to cover all of my garden by spring. The re-enforcements are coming though, and Jimmy and Charlie will take up any slack in that department.

I know a lot of people don't like to acknowledge it, but poo is a part of life.

Happy constitutions to you all!!!

                                                                                    ...cluck... cluck... cluck... cluck......

Owen, Marion. "Manure Matters: How Manures Measure Up." 1998. 12 Nov. 2011.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Chronicle Profile: Fog Horn

Cluck, Cluck, Cluck

The chickens are enjoying this wonderful fall weather! All the sunshine and warm days means lots of time outside scratching and pecking their way to happiness. And my happiness too! I have been very happy with my egg count, rarely dropping below the double digits, so way to go girls!

With 17 hens, you may think that theres a lot of estrogen floating around outside. I have to say that it's equaled by the testosterone produced by my two roosters, Foghorn and Chaz..... more on Chaz another day. This post is all about Foghorn.

A few months ago when Dan and I were surprised to see a rooster developing instead of the hen we were promised (ahem, Master Feed Mill), Dan was adamant about calling him Foghorn. I was leaning more towards a manly ruler's name like Maximus or Ceaser, but in the end, Foghorn stuck. I just don't want people associating my rooster to the bumbling big air-headed cartoon you all see on T.V. Foghorn is anything but, and bumbling he does not.

Foghorn's chicken breed is Black Australorp. He is a beautiful bird with the classic archinng tail feathers. His  has that "beetle-green sheen" that is characterstic to Australorps. He's also the biggest bird in the flock. Foghorn matured much faster than Chaz, and so far (keep your fingers crossed), the two don't fight. Eli, who is an Amish man down the road and has a few hundred chickens, says they might always get along since they grew up together. And if two guys can't share 17 chicks, then I guess I should take them to pre-school with me and teach them a thing or two about sharing. But Foghorn does have rule of the roost and he likes to puff out his manly chest and strut his stuff to his ladies.

I have witnessed his mating "dance". ANYONE who spends a few minutes wathcing my chickens will witness some rated X all knew I would address this! One day he put one of his wings down, all splayed out and circled his "woman". I thought it was kind of cool. Normally he just runs after them with that determined look in his eye and you know only one thing is on his little chicken brain.

Early on Foghorn discovered his voice. I will never forget first hearing his pathetic attempts to crow and thinking, "What in the world is attacking my chickens!!" Like the concerned new mommy I was, I would race down to the barn to make sure everything was ok. Eventually I got used to hearing it and it made me laugh. But now, when I get up to use the loo in the wee hours of the morning I cringe when I hear him out there. No kidding I've heard him at 4:00 a.m....and he LOOOVVVEEEESSSS to crow at ten till 5 a.m. when we leave to go to the farm. I expect a note on my door anyday from the scarey neighbor dude...he has to be mad. But, he can deal with it because we live out in the country. Just turn on the fan like we do. But Foghorn will crow at anything new, so in a way I guess he makes a good alarm system.

So far we have a good relationship, but I always keep my guard up when he's in the coop with me. He will look at you with those small beady eyes and you can see him thinking, "I don't really trust you, but if you respect my distance, I'll respect yours."

If little Chicken Hawk ever came in and beat my Foghorn over the head with a baseball bat, he would be chicken dinner to the Mack Daddy, Foghorn.

                                                                                       .......cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck.......

Friday, November 4, 2011



Welcome November and good-bye October! Though none of us can complain here on the Shawhan farm, we had a great month and for the most part, the weather was perfect.

It has been a little over a month now since the "accident" when we lost one of our girls from an insane and highly inconsiderate driver. After "that day" the chickies had to be confined to the roost and kennel area in the barn. They were mad for a while, but they got over it....except Sam and Kailyn.

Last Saturday the steer lot was finally fully chicken-proofed so the gang could go outside and enjoy the bugs, dirt and sunshine but still be safe from the road...and my flower beds wouldn't be destroyed either. HAHA that's what I thought. You know for having such small heads, chickens are smart little boogers and also determined. The other day about half the group was outside wondering around the yard uncovering my strawberry patch which I had just spent most of Tuesday covering. I've walked around trying to find holes in the fence but I can't see much to where they might be escaping. Unless they just fly over, which I wouldn't put past them.

Here's a little back story to getting the steer lot ready: Someone wanted to move the stuffer bin out farther in the lot. For those who don't know, the stuffer is what the steers eat to get fat and tasty...(yeah out here we raise our meat, deal with it). The rats also love this stuffer bin and reside underneath it. So my husband and his band of merry men friends thought it would be fun to wait for all the rats to scurry from under the bin when it was moved and end many a rodent's life. Somehow these rat carcasses ended up in the yard I got to mow the other day and lets just say Becca fought to keep lunch down when she accidentally ran over some. But for the free cluckies, it was a rare delicacy.

Hopefully PETA doesn't read this....

                                                                                                      cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck.....