Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday Grandpa!!!


Spring is in full swing here on the Shawhan farm. The garden is fertilized and will be plowed within a couple of weeks, the lawn mower is running and the sheets are on the line to dry. My lilac bush is blooming and so are all the beautiful trees in the hills of Highland County. The cluckies no longer need a light on in the coop during the day and are cranking out 5 to 8 eggs a day...not a bad recovery. We are very proud.

Today was spent driving around the Amish and Mennonite country side which I live within to celebrate dad's birthday. It is HIS birthday, but he brought up a presant for the chickens. He built them a brand new roost, since I sadly don't think my feed trough will comfortably fit 30 chickens (when Flock 2 is added). I want to save my feed trough and put it in the kennel area. I think the chickens will sit there during the warm days of summer and cold days in the winter when the ground is too cold for their little feet! I hope they do since I still want to save my chicken poo!

In honor of the day, and back by popular demand, it is the Choir of the Cluckies!!!! This performance is different than their last public display and many of the chickes are making a post-humus appearance.

Choir of the Cluckies performing "Happy Birthday":


                                                                     ...cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Teen Years: Eating Us Out of House and Home


Hope everyone had a great weekend now that the heat wave has passed. The chickens have been spending more time in the steer lot with the Beefy Boys than moping around in the kennel. Our weasel trap has been set and in place for several days, but still no criminal. I guess we will just have to order weasel lure...whatever the heck that is. It hasn't seemed to upset the ladies that much, however, since we've been getting 8 eggs a day for the past two days. Oh and they just LOVED the visit by Kaleb Harp on Friday night who tucked them all into bed...thanks again!

The chicks have reached the teen know the ones where all they think about is food. In a hunger protest the other day the feeder was flipped over. I guess they got mad because it was empty. We have to fill the feeder at least twice a day.

The chicks turned 4 weeks old with us yesterday and we have already gone through almost a 50 pound bag of chick starter feed. Remember it is very, very important NOT to feed chicks a hen's ration of feed. Their little kidneys can't take what is in a layer feed and it can lead to kidney failure and even death. Flock 1 went through two bags of starter feed before we switched them over to what they eat now. I think you're supposed to slowly intergrate the new feed, like when you change cat food and stuff, but we didn't do that...please don't tell on us! Our chickens are tough here on the Shawhan farm...unless it comes to weasels and cars....

When purchasing our second bag of chick feed yesterday at the feed mill, Dan saw a sign that said it requires a total of 12 pounds of food per chick to reach laying age. Maybe we will need more than two bags....hmmmm...well it didn't say that it all had to be starter feed. Hopefully some will want to watch their figures and cut back a little!

                                                                                      ...cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Clucks of Wisdom With Chaz Shawhan


Today was a very pleasant day for The Chicken Lady. I was able to sleep in, yet I felt like I was able to accomplish a lot through the day. I started out reading my Bible reading for the day then a chapter in my book outside in the morning air. I hung out two loads of laundry to dry in the sunshine, got most of the downstairs cleaned, got some pictures developed for the kids' books at school and even managed a mile in the pool. (I rewarded myself with a Hershey bar with almonds...) Oh, and I had a roast made for lunch and homemade pizza for dinner.

I LOVE this weather. So does Chaz. We had a delightful chat this afternoon...he is such good company. One can have an intellectual conversation with him without worrying if he's going to make a move on you.

Me: "Hello Chaz! How are you today!?"

Chaz: "Very well thank you, and how are you, Rebecca?"

Me: "I'm good. I can't complain with all this nice weather we're having."

Chaz: "It IS quite splendid! Everyone is in much better spirits I do say."

Me: "A lot of people are worried it will be a bad summer."

Chaz: "How do you mean?"

Me: "They are worried it will be hot and dry. It's already 80 degrees in March...who knows what July and August will bring."

Chaz: "I can see why they might be concerned, yes. However, a little red bird I was conversing with earlier told me what beautiful sights he saw this morning flying in from Hillsboro. He was describing the trees, just bursting with colors like white, pink and yellow. And look at this green and lush. Why Jimmy and Charlie are in paradise, I do say."

Me: "Yep..they aren't eating much hay right now."

Chaz: "Have you asked these people if they are enjoying the weather?"

Me: "Hmmm...I guess not..."

Chaz: "Perhaps you might tell them it is better than 8 inches of snow and ice with no traces of the sun. I was but a wee chick this time last year but I remember cold and darkness. Perhaps they need to take the road the red bird traveled and see these vibrant trees and fragrant flowers. Which reminds me...could you pick a few Daffodils and give them to me? Why I'd love so much to be able to place those inside our wonderful new coop your gracious husband made for us."

Me: "Yes, Chaz, I will get some Daffodils....but, um, will Fog Horn be OK with that?"

Chaz: "Oh yes, yes...don't worry about him. Oh and I have that book to return to you...Pride and Prejudice was splendid...just splendid!"

Me: "It is a good one..."

After that we talked about Pride and Prejudice. Now he wants to borrow Vanity Fair and start up monthly book club meetings. He also told me to tell everyone to stop worrying about things that haven't happened yet, stop and smell the roses and to stay positive.

"Our Chicks Lay The Best!"

                                                                          ...cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Palace


Owning chickens has brought out unseen sides of Dan and I. A professional might want to recommend chicken-owning to recently married couples as one of those team building exercises or studies. For example, a newly married wife might discover her husband has a soft spot in his heart for feathered fowl. Or the husband might discover his wife gets overly emotional the day her chicken gets hit on the road.

Something I've learned in this adventure is how much Dan loves to build luxury and highly protective chicken housing. He's good at it too. (That weasel taught us A LOT!) Our 3 week old chicks have been moved into what I call, The Palace. They will live here until they are about 3 months of age, which is the age they should be safe enough to enter The Fortress with Flock 1. If they enter into the group too young, Flock 1 could kill them.

The Palace is basically a bigger version of Brooder 2.0., being an old 300 gallon watering tank. It has the same wood around the top and latching chain mail door. It has the same lighting system, but Dan added a roost, which the chicks love.

They even have a window which you can see in the picture above.

The Palace is placed in a kennel area, separate from the one the older girls can go into.

Our hope is that when the chicks get older we can open the door of the brooder during the day, let the chicks run around in the kennel, then hopefully they'll go back in the brooder at night and we can lock them in, safe from predators. That is OUR plan...I'm sure THEIR plan is different.

Raising these chicks would be a little easier if we didn't have the existing chickens to worry about. Personally, I can't wait until everyone can live together as one big (hopefully) happy family, and start cranking out the eggs!

"Our Chicks Lay The Best!"

                                                                             ...cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Weasel Trappin'


Spring has officially sprung here on the Shawhan farm, but unfortunately, our weasel trap has not. After doing some research and strategically improvements, I think we have improved our chances of catching the guilty-as-charged, Mr. Weasel. Or at least getting sweet revenge.

After our tragic loss, I was floored by every one's sympathy and support in catching the felon. Short of calling America's Most Wanted , I did take someone up on an offer I couldn't refuse. My cousin's fiancĂ©, Jeff Probst, (NOT THE SURVIVOR GUY!!! though that would be cool!) went to Lowe's and made a weasel trap for us, mere HOURS after finding out what had happened. He also did some R&D (research and development) on the process of weasel trapping, saving us even more time.

We acquired our trap one dark and chilly night in an Applebee's parking lot. The mechanisms of the trap were demonstrated to us under the glow of a street lamp. Black coats and gloves were also worn and code words used. The weasel trap is a wooden box with a hole and latching lid. A huge rat trap is placed inside...though the one on YouTube with the miniature bear trap was cool!

One cannot use good old peanut butter to lure in a weasel....nope not that easy. Chicken or turkey liver is supposed to be the vittles of choice. It's fun to shop at Kroger and purchase the plastic tub of liver...reminds me of the days buying night crawlers at the bait shop. OPENING the tub of liver is even more fun.

I thought somewhere down the road I heard it's better to heat up the liver and get a good, delicious aroma going to get Mr. Weasel's tummy growling and licking his chops. Now whenever I microwave any left overs, as a rule of thumb,I always put my food in for 2 minutes. I thought Mr. Weasel would agree.

People, chicken liver doesn't last a minute in the microwave!!! 

 THAT was a fun Sunday night...wiping out my gut-infested microwave at 10 o'clock at night cussing the darn birds and again, not for the first time, questioning my sanity. (I've wiped butts, guts and went shopping for liver... I don't want to know what I've got to do to next!)

After all that work, we didn't catch a weasel. Tried it again night after night, minus the microwaving. Tonight we put the trap in a less open area, since I learned weasels fear owls and exposure. It's now by the log pile under the low mow in the barn. Jimmy and Charlie donated some of their corn that we scattered around the trap to maybe attract some mice or rats which should, in turn, attract Mr. Weasel. We will continue doing this until I break down and buy weasel lure, which they say ups your chances at trapping weasels. In my case, it's executing them.

I'll keep everyone updated on our trapping adventure. Trust me, the world will know when we get him. I say "when" because I'm not stopping until we do.

And Jeff Probst, I'm naming my trap after you. I just need to think of a cool name. You're awesome and have my permission and full hearted blessing to marry my best friend.

                                                                      ...cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

They Aren't Babies Anymore


It feels like Spring here on the Shawhan farm and everyone is enjoying it! So much for the day of rest since Dan and I spent the whole day outside preparing flower beds and yet another brooder...this one I call The Palace. (That will be another post.) So yes, the chicks have been moved from Brooder 2.0 to The Palace since the little guys are getting bigger.

My nephew Rory is almost two years old. (I can't believe how fast time goes by!) Mom seen him not long after he had gotten his hair cut and made the observation that, "He's not a baby anymore, he's a little boy." I feel the same way about my chicks. Sure they are still "chicks" but they aren't "babies" by any means either. They aren't little fluff balls...instead they look like someone took a chick and stuck some feathers in it.

Flock 2 is growing up faster than what it seemed like Flock 1 did. Yesterday marked two weeks that we brought them home and they are already getting their adult chickie feathers. You can really notice it on the Golden Comets A.K.A. my Golden Nuggets.

I guess even chickens go through rites of passage growing up like we do. They get their feathers like we get adult teeth. I hope, for their sake, it isn't as uncomfortable as losing a tooth, or having that tooth hang on by a thread in your mouth for a few days. Personally, I hated that! Maybe the chicks hate looking like ugly ducklings and not being old enough to do all the fun stuff the big girls get to do! (Like dates with Foghorn and laying eggs!)

"Our Chicks Lay the Best!"

                                                                      ...cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Egg Update:


Just wanted the world to know that the girls have been producing well lately. We got a record of 8 eggs the other day since the weasel massacre. Pretty happy with this since we are left with 9 layers until like...July. So we are back to distributing eggs if anyone asks for some, we can probably supply it within a couple of days! I know I've told some not to worry about saving egg cartoons, but if you want to save some and pass them along, I'll be happy to take them off your hands!

The chicks are growing too fast. They are starting to get their big girl feathers...I promise to post and add pictures soon!

"Our chicks lay the best!"

                                 ...cluck ...cluck ...chirp ...chirp...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Brooder 2.0


Everyone here on the Shawhan farm survived Friday's crazy storm that blew through. Personally we didn't get anything all that bad. I had the experience of riding out the lightening and torrential rain in the barn. I don't think the chickens liked it all that much since they wouldn't shut up the whole time...unless it was just my presence. We were VERY fortunate and our hearts and prayers go out to all those who weren't so lucky.

As I mentioned before, one of the silver linings of having The Fortress is that when it does rain that hard, the coop no longer floods. Water had leaked into the garage where the chicks are at, but thankfully Brooder 2.0 kept them dry.

I call it Brooder 2.0 because last year all we used was an old metal water tank with lights and no lid. I remember not sleeping much the night of the day we brought the chicks home because I was worried something would sneak in the garage and get them. I can not say this enough that we lucked out with Flock 1 until recently. No chicks were a meal to anyone and we didn't lose any to sickness or accidents....until Ms. Fluffy Feathers decided to cross the road....

After feeding the weasel so many plump and yummy chickens a few weeks ago, we weren't going to take our chances with Flock 2. So Dan created Brooder 2.0, which is a smaller, plastic water tank. It's 25 inches tall and about the same deep. It's close to a yard wide and long. Eventually we will have to move the chicks into the metal water tank which is longer, but for now the babies are comfortable in this one. Brooder 2.0 is furnished with the same two heat lamps we used last year (250 Watts and 125 Watts).

The fluff balls have access to a feeder that is always full, fresh water daily and a brick they can perch on. Now newspaper is used for bedding (and maybe some leisurely reading..ha ha), and I'm happy to report I haven't had to scrub any more butts. But what it is most comforting, to me anyway, is the lid Brooder 2.0 has. Dan made a wooden lid that is framed in with plywood and a big square of left over chain mail from the construction of The Fortress. This lid is 32 inches long and 22 inches wide. In order to keep this lid open, however, Brooder 2.0 comes with an attractive broken broom handle.

Though the new brooding facility on the Shawhan farm seems predator-proof, I am very sorry and sad to report that one of the chicks died this morning. As Dan removed the body, he said it looked as if one of her claws was either stuck in her head or fluff. Who knows if her little leg was broken, or maybe something else was, or she couldn't get up to eat and drink...I don't know. I'm pretty bummed. But as it stands we won't get anymore unless we lose a significant number. We still have 30 chickens, which is where I wanted to be this time this year. I just pray it isn't a disease or anything.

"Our chicks lay the best!"

                                                                    ...cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I am Now the Expert of Chicken Butts....


What a day, what a day, what a day on the Shawhan farm. First, lets start with a chicken update: So far, so good on Flock One. The Fortress has been doing it's job by keeping out predators, rats/mice (though they have tried by chewing on the door) and recent flood waters out of the chickie home. Dan has made it his mission in life to keep weasels out...this carried over to the chick brooder too, but that's a whole other post. The ladies must be feeling alright since yesterday we had a record egg day since the massacre. A total of 7 eggs instead of the usual 3 to 6.

I've had it in the back of my mind since bringing home our 20 bundles of joy about this thing in the chicken world called pastey butt. Sure it has a cute and funny name, but if left untreated, chicks can die from it. I didn't do any research for this post about pastey butt because I'm too tired right now, but it's when poo collects on the butt of a chick. Not sure why the dropping just doesn't drop off, instead it gets embedded in the little fluff around the chick's butt. It can keep building up until it blocks the hole, making it so the chick can't poo anymore. And not being able to poo is a bad thing!!!

So this morning I check my chicks again and compare them to Google images of pastey butt. Sure enough, I had some butts to wipe. At 9:30 A.M. I head outside with warm water, cotton balls, Q-tips, Vasaline and a little pair of bathroom scissors that I will never use on my face ever again. Now on my Google search, I read some interesting stuff. With the butt cleaning, you aren't supposed to stress your chicks, which is why they have a pastey butt to begin with...stress of they say.

I thought it would be a good idea to pick up every chick and after looking at it and cleaning it if need be, I'd put them in the box we brought them home in. HA.HA. The 5 I got in the box didn't like it and are bigger now than 5 days ago. I had to keep the lid shut so they wouldn't get out. I only did that for the first 5. As I got to looking, I noticed the only ones with pastey butt were the Golden Comets, A.K.A. my Golden Nuggets.... oh and Cadburry 2.0. (I try to hold Cadburry often so she gets tame....I don't think she'll like me anymore after today.)

Pastey butt is not fun to remove. I had about 6 cotton balls soaking in my water. I caught a chick, held her where I could see her butt good and started scrubbing. As one cotton ball would dry up I'd put it back in the water and get another. The water is supposed to help loosen the dried on poo. If that didn't work, I'd stealthily cut it out with the little scissors. (All the while praying to God the chick wouldn't chirp and get poked.) After that, I put Vasiline on their butts with a Q-tip. None of the chicks enjoyed their "spa experience". They even tried to peck me. All I could think was that I was stressing them out even more.

After more Google research I learned pastey butt also comes from the diet, or lack thereof. I also read people's suggestions to fix this problem. Some people feed their chicks yogurt, flax seed, scrambled eggs and hard-boiled egg yolks. I thought, Really??? These big farms are scrambling their chicks a breakfast everyday? I wasn't going to use any of these Internet remedies so I called a guy who knows his stuff on animal nutrition. I was to remove the sawdust shavings (since the chicks were probably eating that and not their feed) and put down newspaper and check to make sure a certain ingredient was in their feed. Simple enough....

Round 2 with the chicks was me out there disassembling brooder 2.0, lights, water, feeder...holding the lid of the brooder open with a broomstick and catching some very stressed out chicks and putting them into yet another box. Then I had to tip brooder 2.0 over and sweep out the shavings while praying I didn't break the lid and surrounding wooden frame. Meanwhile my emotions were getting the best of me. Once again I'm wondering why I'm even doing this. Dan was 3 hours away at a planter meeting, receiving a free lunch and I'm thinking, I'm losing it over chicks....what happens when I have a human baby to take care of? At least with a chick if one dies you can go to a feed store or the Amish guy down the road and get another one. If I can't handle THIS without Dan, how will I handle THAT? Plus I was stressing out my chicks, making them hate me and maybe making my problem even worse.

We were very spoiled with the ease of raising Flock One.

My day was filled with a lot of poo and a lot of tears. Owning chickens will teach you life lessons, make you question your sanity and give you the best entertainment that money can't buy.

"Our chicks lay the best!"

                                             ... cluck... cluck... chirp... chirp...