Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cherry, Cherry Coop


'The wildest short around is my cherry, cherry coop,
It's the sharpest thing in town and the envy of my group.
It's one of it's kind and it really looks good,
Red walls in front, and white trimmed wood.'
- The Beach Boys Cherry, Cherry Coupe
 An announcement I've been waiting to share, is that I have given The Fortress a make-over! Though I still want to add a few details, I'm "stoked" so far with the turn out and excited to show it off. The red paint was left over from my upstairs bathroom and looks great next to the white trim boards. It defiantly looks like it belongs on a farm since the combined colors look like a barn. Though I think anything looks better than how it looked before. Check out the finished product!
The sign that adorns the coop door identifies the coop as "Cooptown". It was made by Grandpa Smith and the chickens love their gift.
 Another homemade sign he made them is hung above the gates of Kennel Bar:
The red lettering couldn't go any better with the red walls of the coop. Now everyone can see what I'm talking about when I refer to these places. I also wanted things to look better when people come to visit, especially those who have never met the chickens before but know all about them thanks to this blog.
Like I said, I'm not totally finished with all the details yet, but so far it's a huge improvement. I know some may think I need a life, but if you look in ANY chicken magazine there are tons of photos of dressed up coops. Its the "in" thing to do! We must keep up with the Chicken Jones'. Plus I honestly think the chickens know when you do something nice for them, and I get the 'good vibrations' that they like it too.
                                                                                                       ...cluck... cluck... cluck...

Monday, August 27, 2012

How Do You Know?


Really, how do we know certain things in life? Like, how do we know the cat really loves us and wouldn't eat us in our sleep if he was just a little bit bigger? How do I know I'm not just wasting my time writing about chickens twice a week? How do I know I won't end up the loony bin some day because of those chickens? And more importantly, how do we know those crazy birds are even laying eggs? (Well, besides the obvious 20 I find nightly...that means 5 others are what we like to call, freeloaders.) Unless, those 5 are just recouping and are gearing up for the next round.

I just read a really interesting article in Backyard Poultry about identifying the birds in your flock that are either producing eggs, or those who are not. Break out the gold medals and the stew pot! It makes me want to go out and get a little "closer" to my birds...

One can determine egg production, or lack thereof, in a hen based largely on her appearance alone. The hen's combs and wattles are a good place to start. If a hen is laying, it is said the combs and wattles are bright and healthy looking and larger in size. This is due to higher estrogen levels.

Other signs are a bleached out complexion. Now some chicken breeds are white skinned thanks to genetics. These include the Sussex, Dorking, and Orpington. Other chicken breeds are by nature yellow-skinned like the Barred Rock, Wyandottes and Rhone Island Reds, so it may be easier to watch for a washed out complexion on these birds. Losing yellow pigment starts at the vent then the eye ring, the beak (which fading begins at the base), bottom of the feet and then the shanks. If a hen has lost coloring in her beak, it can be estimated that she's into weeks 4 to 6 of her production. Same with the shanks, by then she's into weeks 15 to 20. Pigment is lost due to the blood supply it takes to support laying eggs. After a hen has stopped laying for the season, the yellow pigment will reappear in the same order it was lost.

Feathers are something else to look at. They may appear ragged looking because of less blood supply in making them look pretty. A hen could be missing feathers at the top of her head due to the rooster (um...doing what roosters do...) and this is cool, once a hen has had a visit by her man, a rooster's sperm "packet" can make the hen fertile for up to 10 days. It may also take longer for a hen to replace feathers since that egg takes top priority over anything else...especially material things. Most hens won't lay during a molt, but there are a few overachievers out there who will do both. In this case, feathers won't grow back. I'm telling myself thing since some of Flock 1 still look terrible and aren't re-growing their feathers, though I see a few of those girls in the nest box.

All in all, laying eggs takes it out of the girls. They may look a mess, while others still maintain a pretty appearance. Body fat may also decrease.

A sure way to tell if a hen is laying or not is to check the pubic bone. A laying hen will have a 3 to 4 finger width pubic bone (about 2-1/2 to 3 inches). A non-layer, or a pullet who hasn't reached laying maturity has a pubic bone width of about one finger.

Chickens will usually lay one egg per every 24 hours, with the majority of eggs laid around mid morning. Though not all chickens are the same and they aren't machines.

All in all, it might not be so easy being a chicken. You are either looking a mess and working hard, or off to the dinner table you go!

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

Cressler, Joy. E. "Don't Save the Pretty Hens." Backyard Poultry Aug./Sept. 2012: 40+

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Bates Motel


The Chicken Lady has decided to change the name of Hotel California to the Bates Motel. I'm not sure why I thought the persnickety chickens would actually use a perfectly good nest box just because we had changed its location. OK, I do need to give credit where credit is due...three chickens have used it. This has happened not without drama of course, because as you can see, only one nesting box out of six is acceptable in their eyes.

I was informed today of a rather interesting pun intended.

The chickens told me they are scared of the Bates Motel. They say the top two floors are haunted and they have seen ghosts. I guess one of them called that Zack guy from the show Ghost Adventures. Even though he yells at the paranormal spirits, they want him to come out and investigate. Not only is the Bates Motel haunted, but it is run by a creepy rat, who I names Bates, who they say still talks about his mother as if she were alive, even though the word is around the barn that she passed away two months ago.

"Why then, do you use the Bates Motel?" I asked.

Two of the chickens confessed to not being a part of the elite faction of the flock and are therefore demoted to using haunted boxes. The third layer said she was just dying to meet this Zack guy because he's "like, so totally hot!" They all said that using the lower box makes for a quick escape in case you see or hear anything that gives you the hibbe jibees.

Haunted or not, the Bates Motel is here to stay. I told all of them they will be OK as long as:

1.) They don't go in there at night.

2.) They don't steal large amounts of money.

3.) They don't take a shower.

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

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Not Much...


Well...there isn't a whole lot to post about this beautiful Sunday for the Chicken Lady. OK, that's a lie. There HAS been newsworthy events, but I'm not ready to reveal any of them yet! I guess you'll have to keep checking in to see when I announce those!

We have been ecstatic with our egg count. 20 is still the record! Way to go girls!

So far, knock on wood, Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk have not killed each other.

It is funny because Dan removed the hay-filled water trough from the steer lot. The first morning of its absence, the Araucana who had been making daily visits to it, wondered over and found it missing. She must have made this discovery at the same times as the steers because the steers kept sniffing at her and nudging her closer and closer to the fence. Finally, the goosed her enough that she jumped up on the fence and one final goosing sent her over the line and into forbidden chicken territory. It was amusing to witness.

Sorry this is so boring, but such is life. Sometimes boring is a good thing!

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Scratch Out at the OKluck Corral


      One afternoon on my way home from Cooptown I passed the OKluck Corral. A dusty place that often reeked with the stench of Beefy Boys and is guarded by a squadron of rats, I usually pay no mind to the sty. This particular day I couldn't help but notice the tense situation that was going on within its confines. For living in a small world, chickens are full of drama! This day proved to be no exception.

     They stood there beak to beak, glaring at one another; no words were spoken, all communication was done through hateful stares. Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk were going to go at it!

I jumped, startled, when out of no where the stand-off music was played:


I have no idea where that music came from.

     I slowly approached, scared my quick movements would prove to be both of their undoings. What I saw as I inched closer made my jaw drop. Chicken Hawk wore a beat up dusty Stetson and fringed chaps. A shiny plastic pistol hung on his hip. His brown wing was raised above it ever so slightly, ready to draw upon Cad-Buddy's first movement. He narrowed his eyes and spit a bright orange kernel of corn into a sliver spittoon off to the side. I have no idea where that spittoon had come from.


Cad-Buddy stood out thanks to a bright red bandanna tied around his ivory neck. Tie-on rodeo spurs where around his ankles...I'm figuring since he hasn't grown his own yet. I noticed he didn't have a gun on his side, but I did see a cut out cardboard knife wrapped with shiny aluminum foil poking out from his spurs. He incessantly chewed on a toothpick that wiggled up and down, back and forth.


   The scene didn't stop with the about to duel roosters. A cluster of hens were leaning out the door from Kennel Bar dressed in lace and furs. I didn't think my jaw could drop any further, but it could. And it did. I couldn't believe my hens were dressed at way! The skimpy clothes revealed everything and and left absolutely nothing to the imagination! I didn't raise my girls to dress that way! I was going to have a good talking to with those trollops...wait until their father got home!

   More conservative girls huddled together in a frightened group outside. They were whispering and all I could hear from their hushed conversation was that they referred to Chicken Hawk as "Duke" and Cad-Buddy as "Eastwood". I have no idea where those names came from.

   Finally, Chicken Hawk... I mean Duke... spoke to Eastwood:

   "You know Eastwood, this flock ain't big enough for the two of us."

Cad-Buddy...I mean Eastwood... showed no expression, other than hate, and replied:

    "What are you gonna do about it? Punk."


  That was the straw that broke the camel's back! It was on! Both roosters flew into the air, feathers all puffed out, bodies arched, dust swirling all around and nails a-flyin'! The hens all shrieked in fright and one of the conservative girls even passed out in the dust. The trollops hanging out of Kennel Bar where cheering on their favorite man, "Go Eastwood! Get him good Duke!"

  Thankfully, within seconds the dust settled and both roosters returned to the ground, untouched. Duke whipped out his shiny pistol and pointed it at Eastwood, screams from the hens filling the still afternoon air. He pulled, pointed, I covered my ears and turned my eyes away...CLICK. It was empty!

 Eastwood laughed out loud and dramatically pulled out his knife from the strings of his spurs, but it fell apart and lay scattered on the ground.

 All of a sudden a stampede of Beefy Boys came out of nowhere and chickens were scrambling everywhere and all went their separate ways. Even the conservative cluckie woke up in time to get away from the barrage of cloven hooves.

This story does have some authenticity to it. Earlier in the week, the two roosters were going at it in a way I've never seen before. No one was hurt, they don't have their spurs yet, and I hope it was just routinely establishing the pecking order, and that it won't in time end up with blood shed and even death. Both roosters have that mean look in their eye, so hopefully things don't get interesting between the two.

This kind of behaviour was never seen out of Foghorn and Chaz. In fact, out of all my roosters, so far I think Chaz was the best. There are days I almost regret sending him off to live with the Amish. It would have been interesting to see if he ever would have turned mean on his own.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hotel Shawhan: Yes, We Have Vacancies!!


Everyone on the Shawhan farm is enjoying this wonderful, beautiful weather! Eli, the Amish chicken farmer down the road says it was an early spring, an early summer, now an early fall. Unfortunately for the Chicken Lady, I think that means it will be an early winter too. I'm not the only one who doesn't like early evenings and two months of no sunshine...the chickens are linked into natural light as well. It seems that with the hot spell behind us, the ladies are kicking it into high gear and we are now in mass egg production!

To accommodate the higher egg numbers, Dan and I had to make some changes. We thought maybe we should start collecting eggs twice a day since so many accumulate in the nest box and some have been broken, probably due to so many hens coming and one nest box is more popular than the same identical two. Whatever. I tried doing this but it seems that at noon all boxes are occupied by more than one chicken. So I just left them alone. Plus we still have chickies who prefer to lay in the steer hay trough, which to a point is fine, if the steers don't break them, but it's a pin in the who you know what to climb over the fences.

We did have a nest box provided in Kennel Bar which could occupy six hens at a time:

This was given to the girls from Grandma Janet, Old Fart's wife. Every now and then we would fine a lonely egg in the top box, but one would think more of the hens would use it. To possibly help with the large number of eggs we get a day, Dan made a modification to this box and we moved it into hopefully it becomes more appealing to the girls.

Dan thought maybe it was too open for a chicken's desire. So he cut up some boards and screwed them to the bottom to make the box itself more enclosed. Maybe this will make the hen feel more secure and she will find this a more desirable place to lay.

(Prissy was in heaven today since Dan was using power tools!)

I added some straw, which the chickens will probably just scratch out, to hopefully make the new and improved nest box more to their liking. Then we moved it into the coop itself, right next to the door. I'm pretty happy with the looks of everything. I was worried the coop would be too crowded, but it fits quite nicely.

The whole time we were working on this "Hotel California" was in my head, hence the name of this post. As you know by now, I like to name things: Kennel Bar, Cooptown, so this box I've decided to name Hotel California.

It has 6 comfortable vacancies, complete with a straw mattress to fit your laying needs. Surrounding attractions include, a full corn buffet 24/7, a selection of roosting rails and an oyster shell bar, all open 24/7. Fresh water is available daily and access to Kennel Bar is open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. during the summer months. Call us today to make your reservation!

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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Steak & Eggs


The girls have been very busy lately here on the Shawhan farm. It is not uncommon to come home and collect 18 eggs a day now! Yes, that's right, 18...a number we have never seen before here. Currently there are 5 dozen eggs in the fridge, so if anyone wants/needs eggs, PLEASE tell me and I can give you some.

With the nest box being so busy, leave it to a chicken to get creative. For the past few days we have been finding a few eggs in the big watering trough where the steer hay goes. We put this watering trough (which used to be a chickie brooder...HEY I guess there really is no place like home!) over the fence and into the steer lot that weekend we had no power, thanks to that mega wind storm, and we feared we would run out of water. As a precaution, we filled it for the steers, since with no water equals no automatic waterer. Perhaps out of sheer laziness, we never removed the trough after the steers drank all the water out of it. Dan got creative and started throwingthe steers' daily hay into the trough and over the course of time, a nice soft bed of hay formed. Something the chickens were sure to find.

In the mornings a few cluckies make a bee-line for the trough, as that has now become their "spot". I have witnessed a Golden Comet and an Araucana in there, plus the two blue eggs I found in there the other day is a dead give away as to who frequents the trough. This morning a Comet got mad at me when I peeked over the fence at about throwing a hissy fit.

The odd thing is, I will see these eggs in the morning and by the evening when I come to "collect", they are gone! Part of me wonders if the steers are enjoying something different to eat, or maybe they are accidentally breaking the eggs as they go in for hay. I think the chickens are picking up on this too, however, instead of laying the eggs somewhere else and somewhere safer, like the nest box, at least one of them is covering up her baby. Tonight I found this egg buried in what looked like an empty trough of hay.

I just couldn't help but see the irony in the poor steers laying beside the trough full of eggs. Literally, steak and eggs!

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

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Every Day Easter...and the 'How' Behind It


The photo above is my collection of the blue eggs we have been getting since Flock 2 began laying their eggs. Everyday we get between 1 or 2 of these blue-hued ovums. Even last year, Dan and I wanted chickens that laid blue and/or green eggs. (I think some chickens even lay pink eggs, so my next goal will be acquiring some of those!) So while we were carefully selecting Flock 2, we took 5 Araucana hens...well OK 4 because Chicken Hawk turned out to be a dude.

Araucanas are not to be confused with Ameraucanas...though both breeds originate from Chile and both lay blue eggs. After doing some research for today's post, I learned there are differences in the breeds, but I'm not going to confuse you or myself with those specifics. All I really wanted to know anyway was how in the world does the egg shell come out blue? Well, guess what, I found out why and how, but first I want to say a little something about the Araucana breed in general.

First you pronounce "Araucana" air-ah-kana, and as I said before the breed originates from Chile. I guess the Araucana Indians bred together two breeds of chickens; the Quetro (a brown egg-laying breed) and the Collonca (a blue egg-laying breed). The blue gene is dominant. It was after the bird was imported to the United States that two different breeds, each with specific breed characteristics, emerged as either an Araucana or an Ameraucana.

Confused yet?

To make matters worse, there is what chicken people call "Easter Eggers". Technically an Easter Egger is not even a breed, it is just what chicken people call a bird that lays blue eggs, but does not match the characteristics of Araucanas or Ameraucanas. They lay blue eggs because, as I mentioned before, the blue gene is dominate. (Maybe I should get the Araucana breed requirements to make sure I can say with confidence, "Yes, I have Araucanas.") Easter Eggers are basically considered mutts.

Now to the cool part. The blue shell color comes from "an autosomal dominant gene that has been given the genetic symbol of O. This blue color is caused by the deposition of a liver bile pigment throughout the egg and can be seen on the inside of the egg shell." (I broke open a blue egg and could see these lines on the inside of the shell.) "The pigment is concentrated in the egg-laying apparatus and deposited at the same time as the calcium carbonate that makes up the egg shell." (Upson)

I also learned that broken brown eggs have a white interior: (I try to take good pictures, but my camera isn't the best!)

...and broken blue egg shells have a blue interior:

Blue eggs taste the exact same as brown or white eggs. They also have the same nutritional value as any other chicken egg.

Thanks to my blue layers, if I don't have time to color Easter eggs, I can just hard boil some blue ones!

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

P.S. Thanks so much for reading my Chronicles!!! It really means a lot to me! I am up to 2,000 page views!


Upson, Rosalyn. Araucanas.  Araucana Club of America. 18 Jan. 2011. 5 Aug. 2012.

Urquhart, Kristina, Mercedes. "Blue Are You?" Chickens Magazine May/June 2012: 48+

Thursday, August 2, 2012



***This post is written with nothing but total love and affection for my nephew, Kenny. I am very lucky to have this little man in my life and I am very happy and excited for him because soon he will be a big brother! This post is dedicated to him...

Kids say the darnedest things....

Yesterday while lunching with Kenny and my sister-in-law Nicole, I asked Kenny about his chickens. (They too have gone insane and joined us in the adventures of raising chickens.)

"Good." He replied and continued to color with his blue crayon on the Frish's place mat.

Just after I asked him how many eggs he got the day before and if they tasted good, he tells me, "Our chickens are going to beat your chickens."

My jaw fell and hit the table. I think the waitress thought I was really hungry, because she handed me my food first since she had just arrived at our table with our orders. Nicole had to use two hands to lift my jaw back up. Kenny smiled that killer smile at the waitress and gave her wink as she set down his grilled cheese and fries. He began to hum a childlike tune as he dug in and chowed down.

Meanwhile, my blood began to boil. No one..BUT NO ONE challenges me. Dan and I are competitive people... (I've been mad at him the most on the greens of a miniature golf course. We both like to win...Go Big or Go Home, remember?)

Lunch was awkward after that. Nicole tried to keep a calm flow of conversation going since she knew I was struggling to restrain myself. All the while my head was spinning... he was challenging me...he knew how to push my buttons...he was starting something with me...gosh this kid is smart....cute too, that's how he gets away with it...what am I going to do?...I have to get home...I have to get out of here!

Finally the checks came. Kenny pulled out a fat wad of hundreds, "I got this one, mom," he said. The little guy slid off his chair and strutted up to the counter. I saw him give the waitress a fifty dollar bill and slipped her a sheet of paper. (I think it was his phone number.)

Nicole was rambling off a list of apologies as I was heading out the door. We were both in survival mode...

As soon as I got home I locked up all the valuables, I hid money, I pulled out Billy, my .410 and all the ammo I could find. I packed up food and water. I tore the sleeves off my t-shirt, tied a bandanna around my head, painted my face black and put on some combat boots. Then I turned off the all lights, locked all the doors and went outside.

Some hours later Dan arrived home and ventured to the barn. He went through the nightly routine with the animals and headed for the house. Several minutes later he returned looking confused.

"Becca?" He called. Do I expose myself and give away my position? "Becca...are you in here?"

OK, OK! I do love this man...might as well clue him in to the situation. Slowly I materialized out of the wall where I was blended in with it so well.

"What are you doing?" Dan asked. I told him all about my lunch and what Kenny had said. How we had been challenged and it was on!

"He's only three and a half!" Dan exclaimed.

"So." I replied. "He drew first blood."

"It doesn't matter. I've been through all the trials and tribulations with you and these chickens. We've both been knee deep in feathers and chicken liver guts. We've risen above all that and are in a good place now. We got 14 eggs today. Isn't that enough?"

"Not when he drew first blood. He started this. One way or another, it has to end."

"You are going to go to war with your toddler nephew?" Dan asked.

I answered him by slowly materializing back into the wall. The last I've seen of my husband was him walking away and shaking his head. I came back to the house to resupply and write this today. Now I'm going back to my wall and work on a way to beat Kenny Shawhan.

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