Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Great Escape


I guess I need to thank Dan for a short burst of creativity here. Yesterday morning, he loaded up the last of the Beefy Boys (until our next bunch show up) Mario and Luigi (sorry Shaw fans...last years cute little calves are all grown up and headed to the big Steer Lot in the Sky). Instead of backing the cattle trailer into the steer lot and running them into it like he usually does, he took advantage of a horseless barn and backed the trailer into the front of the barn and ran them up the aisle into the trailer. This process was done by opening the back pen for the steers....something that usually isn't done, and this back pen is shared with the chickens (since they have full access to the entire steer lot...confused yet?)

I noticed a chickie here and there out in the yard yesterday, but that is nothing abnormal since a couple tend to sneak out everyday anyway. Usually one of those culprits is Fumm, but with his tiny size I figure he might be able to squeeze out of holes the bigger chickens would have difficulty with. Usually Fumm struts back and forth at the entrance to the barn like he's guarding the palace or something.

At lunch, Dan noticed several chickens out and realized he never shut up the opening of the steer pen in the back of barn, thus opening the flood gates to curious chickens who love to wonder. So once again, our yard was filled with chickens, which was a flashback to a time when I did let them wonder. Of course they avoided the flower beds this time of year....had it been a couple of months ago, when I wanted the flower beds to look nice, they would have decided to dig up flowers and create holes to dust bathe in, but yesterday they didn't go past the mowed off garden, probably enjoying the rotting spoils hidden in grass and weeds.

I don't know if Carl watched them from his stroller or not. I pushed him through the yard several times walking back and forth from that grown fence line there in the picture above, as I was cleaning out my flower beds and throwing the old flowers there. Whether he was or not, he seemed to enjoy is afternoon ride...

as the chickies seemed to enjoy their day out!

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Last Cluck??


Once again, I've gone too long in not posting. A few things have happened since the last time I posted...Flock 3 is starting to produce now, so I usually have a few dozen eggs in my fridge. We sent cad-Buddy and Orp down the road to become Amish chickens, so the Shawhan farm is much quieter now with only 2 roosters...though Fumm is mighty enough for several roosters! Sadly, we lost a hen...an Orpington...not sure why. Dan found her dead one evening with no signs of a struggle, so I'm not sure what happened. We also still have escapees everyday, but over the past couple of years I've learned that trying to contain chickens is like trying to contain water in your hand.

I used to be able to throw myself into the dramas that unfold daily outside in the barn, but I feel so out of the loop right now. Mustering the energy to create amusing stories just doesn't seem to happen anymore. Half the time I only log on the computer once a week, if even that, so maybe it's time to stop the Chronicles. I don't want to post crap for the sake on making a post...I feel like it cheats my readers and myself.

Perhaps my priorities have changed? I didn't want the birth of my child to affect this, but I feel like it has, and I'm sorry.

Sorry, sorry, sorry! I guess I haven't completely made up my mind, but I'm sure my absence has spoken for itself.

Maybe I'll keep posting...maybe not.

Thanks so much for all the reads!!!!!!!

Love to all,

The Chicken Lady

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two's Company...Four's a Crowd


So I think we have finally reached our breaking point here on the Shawhan farm with all these roosters! Dan and I have made the decision to get rid of at least two of them. Don't worry, they won't end up on the dinner table! In fact, Eli (the Amish chicken farmer down the road who took Foghorn and Chaz) has offered to take two off our hands.

Sadly, I have to report that both Foghorn and Chaz are now deceased. I didn't much details other than the fact that Eli reported one dead one morning and the other soon followed suit. He has about 200 hens and his only rooster right now is a Bantam like Fumm....which isn't saying much! HA! Although how do we know it wasn't the little guy who knocked out the two big dogs???

Hopefully one day this week we can load two of ours up to become Amish roosters. I think we've decided Cad-Buddy, for his lack of beauty...sorry dude...and Orp, who is the new guy in town but has been giving Dan attitude already! I don't know if he had to adapt a bad 'tude because of Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk, or if that is just his nature, but it is what made us choose to boot him out of the tribe.

I'll be glad to be down to one and a half roosters...poor girls don't need that much punishment! I think Dan is glad we won't be having home-grown chicken dinner and neither am I. Despite the poor attitudes, I feel better knowing they are still alive.

Again, poor behavior gets rewarded with 200 new ladies!

Oh the live of a chickie!

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Good Eats Chicken Treats


We have just begun "harvest time" here on the Shawhan farm! The Chicken Lady has been busy canning green beans, freezing corn and making green bean and carrot baby food. Plus I have made several loaves of zucchini bread. I still have tomatoes and peppers to look forward to, plus 3 loaded down apple trees to make things out of and winter squash to make into baby food. I try to do these things in the couple of hour breaks I get while a certain someone is napping, all the while trying to stay awake myself!

Anyhoo, as I and my sometime helpers toil away in the hot kitchen, the chickens are out celebrating because they know I love them (though I don't get to spend as much time out in the barn anymore) and will bring them all the yummy throw-aways...for lack of a better term.

For example, Dan and I tossed countless bowls over into Kennel Bar of green bean ends. I'm not 100% sure if chickens like green beans, but the next time we dumped over our snapping scraps the tips and other throw-aways were gone. (I figure even if they don't like what I throw them they will enjoy pecking and scratching through them.) One day mom and dad brought up a melon and after cutting off the rhine I tossed that over the fence and the cluckies enjoyed what melon was left. According to all the reading I've done, chickens LOVE melons! However, I think potato skins are poisonous.

Last week we showed the love by sharing with them their ultimate favorite...sweet corn!

Dan and I planted 8 rows of a bi-colored sweet corn called Ambrosia (what we get free from the Pioneer sales rep!) Mom and I froze 30-something bags of corn and on Sunday I went out and pulled a few dozen more...I hate anything I grow to go to waste. I got 12 more bags out that. Dan and I will soon turn into ears of corn since I've been trying to incorporate corn into a meal almost everyday.

Anyway, of course one must shuck all this corn in order to use it, so of course the chickens get to peck and scratch through the shucks and if they are lucky, they will find a random ear of corn that didn't look too good to me.

(Please don't report me...my birds are STILL molting and look terrible! The fact that we have 4 roosters doesn't help either...more on that later. We are working to fix that problem!)

Not to be forgotten, the steers and Jimmy and Charlie enjoy the spoils as well...

Chickens are cool to have because you can throw them many a table scrap. I even save cut off strawberry stems, old bread and corn I've cooked that we don't eat out to them. (I'm a sick person, I know!)

This must be what it's like to have pigs and throw them slop!

Though I will know for sure because I will never own pigs...no offense to those who do.

If anyone needs me in the coming weeks, I will be in the kitchen or spending time with my favorite person in the world!

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

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Quartet


WOW!!! I can't believe I let myself go almost a month without posting! I'm so, so sorry...there really isn't an excuse for this, BUT everything has been happening all at once here on Shawhan farm, particularly green beans. And probably corn next week! Plus I like to try and make my posts good. I don't want to slap something on here only for the sake of "posting".

Anyhoo, I wanted to talk about "The Quartet". It is a "boy band" composed of my four rosters...who I can hear right now. (It's like they know I am talking about them!)

My four roosters now are: Cad-Buddy:

Chicken Hawk:


And Fumm... if you want to even count poor little Fumm in the classification of "rooster":

These four fellas have bounded together and formed a band, which they call "The Quartet". Now I know that sounds nice and sweet, just like what you are thinking of, like four little old men who can really harmonize.


This quartet likes to cock-a-doodle-doo ALL. THE. TIME.  And harmonize they do not.

They told me that during my maternity leave they have all bonded and decided to try for a recording deal. (Chicken Hawk even mailed out a demo tape to Capital Records.)  I'm glad they've become close...at one time I was scared Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk would hurt the younger two, but not anymore. Now it's all about "bros" and "dawg", a very annoying bromance actually. They said they were so excited for their friendship that they decided they all wanted to be famous together, tour the world and they showed the most excitement when they talked about groupies.

They should sound a lot better than what they actually do for all the practicing they do. They like to perform when anyone steps out the back door, when one enters the barn, all morning and I think their favorite practice time is 5:00 A.M.

I don't have the heart to tell them that I don't think they have what it takes to make it big. It would be mean to disappoint them. 

They did what to give a shout out to One Direction and the Beibs...they wanted to tell them to watch out! The Quartet is coming!

Maybe next summer they will be on Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series??? 

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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Chicken Dictionary


I gathered this chickie information from yet another article in Chickens Magazine (Sept./Oct. 2012). I thought I’d share it with you since there are terms and “situations” (for lack of a better word) I never knew about until reading this!
Brought to you alphabetical order…
“Alektorophobia”— A fear of chickens. It has a name and is a legitimate phobia.  My bestie Ashlie may suffer from this. She can be around my birds, though she’s expressed a fear of them. In extreme cases, some people are even uncomfortable around feathers and eggs! Imagine…not being able to eat egg because you are so afraid… 
“Concave Sweep”— Some breeds have “a back that curves continuously from the shoulders to partway up the tail.” (Damerow, 64) Some breeds with a definitive sweep include Langshans and Anconas.

 “Heterozygous”--“Genes in a pair that differ from each other.” (Damerow, 64) If two birds with these types of genes hook-up, the off-spring results are more unpredictable.
“Knock-Knee”— This happens when the hocks “are closer together than the feet.” (Damerow, 64) Basically it’s a leg deformity.
“Roosting Call”— Roosters do this to call in all the ladies so everyone can safely roost together at night. It’s a call that’s rapid, low-pitched and repeated over and over.
“Uropygium”— Located at the end of a chicken’s spinal column. This is where the tail feathers are grown. It’s spongy and a “triangular bump.” (Damerow, 65)
“Zoonosis”— A disease that can travel from chickens or other animals and also to humans. The organisms that cause these diseases are common in our environment, even if chickens are not a part of that environment. Humans with repressed immune systems are most likely to obtain this disease. Most of the time the pathogens are not a problem. Common sense in handling chickens and their waste can help prevent the disease. However, an infected chicken can show no signs of having the disease.
I’m sure there are many more chicken terms and need-to-know information out there. If I ever come across any more, I’ll let you know! 

                                                                                       …cluck… cluck… cluck…

 Damerow, Gail. “The Chicken Encyclopedia: Knowing Chicken Speak Means More Than Understanding Cluck, Bock and Cock-a-doodle-doo.” Chickens Magazine Sept./Oct. 2012: 64+


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Naked and Scratching


I am happy to report that all of here on the Shawhan farm are so far surviving the monsoon season. We have received almost 3 inches of rain in the past 4 days, but I know of others who have gotten more than that. Annoying as it is now, in the long run we will be very thankful for a good crop this year. And even though I can't get out to the garden to hoe it, because it's so wet, all my crops are coming up quite nicely. Carl will have several veggies to enjoy once he gets older, as I have planted things I plan to turn into baby food.

Anyhoo, I'm getting off topic. Now that I've got a baby to take care of, I'm home more and inside the house more. (That is the one thing I miss about the time B.C. (Before Carl), is being outside more and working up a sweat.) Some days I don't even get to see my horses or the chickens; it just depends on the weather and other demands. Even though I've adopted the hermit's lifestyle, it hasn't kept me from noticing a certain scraggly chickie getting braver and braver out in the yard...

This particular lady made it a habit to fly the coop or squeeze under the coop, daily. Many a night Dan and I would work together to corral her once golden butt back inside and to safety for the night. Other mornings Dan would report her already outside even though the rest of the flock was still penned inside the coop!

How she's managed to survive this long, I don't know. Maybe no predators find her appealing enough. I usually don't like to take and post photos of my birds who are in molt because they look pretty darn bad, but I couldn't help it with this one. She really does fit the picture of the topic of today's post. So PLEASE, don't call PETA or some other animal rights group on me, or the cops, because I swear she'll re-grow her feathers this fall... well maybe. I was privy to some pretty disturbing information about her the other day.

First of all, because I rarely leave my home I've been watching more T.V. I remember seeing the previews for this show and finally got to see a few episodes...seriously, who has been watching Naked and Afraid????????  I forget the channel it's on, but they dump two strangers out in the wilderness together and they have to survive there for 21 days....COMPLETELY NAKED!!!!!! Who on earth does this!!!!???? Those dreams where you are naked in public are bad enough! Why spend 21 days in the wild butt-naked?! Survivor would be bad enough and at least on that show you might win a million bucks and get to wear a bathing suit...

So I think this particular girl has found out about Naked and Afraid because, lets face it, she's running around the barn and the yard basically naked. She must also be an extreme survivalist spending that much time outside the safety of the coop and roosters. I've seen her far out in the yard in the fence line that separates our property and the neighbors, scratching and foraging around.

Some of the other members of the flock finally told me that she wants to get on this show. (What is it about my birds and reality shows??) She loves trying to survive on her own every day and says there is more to life than just laying eggs. They told me she ignores their pleas for her to return to the flock, and in fact, she doesn't even speak to them anymore. I guess she goes around clucking and begocking in Morris Code now. (Another one of her survival skills.)

Another rumor is that she tried to bribe my husband and the neighbor boy into filming her so she can send in a tape to apply for Naked and Afraid.

Plus, she is always running around the Shawhan farm -


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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

It's Independence Day!!


Happy 4th of July everyone!!!

Doesn't today just want to make you burst out singing Martina McBride's song, "Independence Day"? It makes me want to, but I won't offend all the passing Amish peeps with my terrible singing. I'll let Carl be all festive and cute instead.

So I'm sorry this post isn't about chickens and it's really short. However, I thought of some new post ideas at 1:00 A.M. this morning, so I'm hoping the creative juices are back flowing now postpartum. My blog and my chickens are still really important to me, though I don't spend as much time with the chickes as I used to. That will change soon enough, as Carl will one day be old enough to help me with barn chores.

Ok, so I have to go...someone woke up from this above blissful nap!

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's in an Egg?


Juliet asked the most iconic question of all time: “What’s in a name?” Well, the Chicken Lady asked, “What’s in an egg?”
 A lot apparently! One can look at the eggs their hens are producing and determine the overall health of the flock. Personally, we’ve experiences our fair share of weird eggs here on the Shawhan farm, and I’m relieved to know, most of it is completely normal and harmless!

Some eggs have no yolks and are called “fart eggs” in the chicken keeping community. These are usually a first time production by a pullet hen and are completely normal. Just a funny name and not a lot of breakfast!
Blood and meat spots happen sometimes, but rest assured, they are safe to eat if you can stomach it! They are the result from a small defect in “uterine production” where some of the tissue from reproduction is left behind in the shell. (Khuly, 66) The good news is that it is not a sign of disease or an unhealthy bird. The bad news is that it can be hereditary. So if you know which hen(s) is the culprit(s) and you don’t want this in your eggs, don’t plan on breeding them/hatching out a brood.
Some eggs come out with no shells. We call these “membrane eggs” here on the Shawhan farm. For some reason, they just happen from time to time and are no reason for concern. Sometimes eggs with discolored shells appear and are also no cause for alarm.
Egg deformities like ridges and bumps are common and sometimes genetic. Usually nothing to worry about, but could potentially mean a nutritional problem if it is happening to all the eggs in the flock.
There are round eggs, which mean they spent more time passing through the chicken. Pointy eggs or “torpedo eggs” happen when an egg spent less time passing in the hen. These come from older hens (who I guess just want the egg out because they have better things to do with their time). Round eggs come from younger, possibly more patient hens!

In relation to cook-time in a hen: a thick-shelled egg spent longer in the reproductive track than a thin shelled-egg, which spent less time in creation.

Some eggs are wormy AND a cause for alarm!! PLEASE tell me if you ever get wormy eggs from me! That means the girls have worms and will need to be treated. It’s very important that I know this.

 Fingers crossed we don’t end up with worms in our eggs, just all these other goofy odd-balls instead!

                                                                                                           …cluck… cluck… cluck…

Khuly, Patty. “Egg Samples: What do Your Girls’ Eggs Say About Them?” Chickens Magazine Summer 2011: 66+

Friday, June 21, 2013

In the Know of Chickens


I came across an interesting article in the July/August (2012) issue of Chickens Magazine. It was very informative and interesting – all about the ins and outs (literally!) of a chickie. So of course I thought I’d share some the TMI.

 First off, by knowing as much as we can about chickens, from proper care and nutrition, housing, egg laying, anatomy, etcetera…etcetera…etcetera…the better we can take care of our birds. We will be able to spot disease, distress, etcetera…etcetera…etcetera…much quicker. As with ANY animal, pet, livestock, etcetera…etcetera…etcetera…it’s all about observation.

Let’s begin with some chickie history. Chickens were bred and tamed in Southeast Asia. Supposedly we get our modern-day chicken genes from Red and Gray Jungle Fowl…whatever that is. Every chicken out there has two legs and wings and all have feathers, wattles and combs.
Chicken feathers can tell you the overall health of your bird. Chickens LOVE to dust bathe…especially in your newly planted and mulched flower bed…then they will spend time preening their feathers by taking oil from the uropygial gland under their tail base and return oils lost back to the feathers. The oil helps to repel water as well. Wattles are those flaps of skin under the chicken’s chin. They can be blue, black or red. The comb sits on top of the chickie head and can also be several different colors. The comb can come in all shapes and sizes. The purpose of the comb is to regulate body temperature. Chicken breeds meant for warmer weather will have larger combs and those breed for colder climates will have smaller ones.
Chickens can see colors. Red lights in chick brooders reduce stress.
Ears are located at the side of the chicken’s head. Here’s something cool I didn’t know: A hen who has a white ear lobe will lay white eggs and a hen with red ear lobes will lay brown eggs.

 All chickens have spurs – as with most chicken parts, spurs are more pronounced on males.
Chickens can have five toes, depending on the breed, but most have four. Chicken legs are usually yellow, white, olive, black or slate.

The skin of a chicken is very thin. It varies in color too, being either white or yellow. Also a cool note: the skin color will deepen (like the egg yolk will) if the bird is allowed to get out and free-range.
It takes 20 hours to form an egg shell. Most hens will be done producing an egg by 3:00 P.M. It takes about 3 and ½ hours to make the albumen, and 1 and ½ hours to make the shell membrane. The egg is covered with “bloom” or “cuticle” which protects it from bacteria. The shell is produced in the chickie’s uterus.

As for the rooster, his testies are located on the inside. If hens and roosters are housed together, mating is going on 24/7.


Chickens do not have teeth, so most of food breakdown occurs in the gizzard with the help of grit (pebbles, a store-bought mix, etcetera…etcetera…etcetera…) However, first food is stored in the crop, a pouch located below the chicke’s neck, where is can stay here for up to 12 hours.

Hope you found some of this interesting!

                                                                              …cluck… cluck… cluck…

 Urquhart, Kristina Mercedes. “Anatomy 101: All Chicken Keepers Should Know the Ins and Outs of Their hens and Roosters.” Chickens Magazine July/Aug. 2012: 24+

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Like Father, Like Fumm?


All of us here on the Shawhan farm would like to wish all the father's out there a Happy Father's Day! The festivities began in the wee early hours on this Sunday morning, try 5:00 A.M., by the CONSTANT crowing of certain manly roosters. (I can't believe the cops haven't been called to our house yet for disruption of the peace...)
As I was feeding a certain little man this morning I noticed, much to my own annoyance, that our roosters wouldn't shut up. Over and over and over again they crowed and crowed and crowed! Part of me wondered if something, or someone, dangerous/deadly was out in the coop with the chickens. I knew it was too early for them to be all mad at us for being let out yet, so I didn't know what the deal was. It just seemed so over-the-top, even for them!
Finally a couple of hours later, after a certain little someone finally drifted off to sleep, I went back to my dark and cold hidey hole bedroom and drowned out the constant crowing with the air conditioner until 10 A.M. (Believe it or not, I'm still tired! I even took a nap!)
Anyhoo, Dan never mentioned anything scary out there once he turned everyone loose for the day. I didn't notice anything when I went out to do a couple of barn chores. I don't know if the boys were just saluting dads everywhere or if this is a normal occurrence. I guess the next mornings I'm up at 5:00 A.M. I'll try and listen, much to my own annoyance, for their crows, and if so, something may have to be done about it.
All throughout his upbringing, little Fumm has crowed after Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk. Or maybe Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk have to crow after they hear tiny Fumm try and squeak one out.  Either way, once one does it, the other has to follow. I like to think the two older roosters sort of taught Fumm how his voice works, no matter how puny it is. I like to think too that they are his mentors in life...like his dads, who may one day want to kill him, but are so far pretty tolerable. I hope my older boys will be good and will be kind to him...it would make me a proud momma if they did.
I just couldn't pass up such observations on a day like Father's Day!
                                                                                           ...cluck... cluck... cluck...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

HELLO! It's Nice to Meet You!


WOW! It seems forever since I posted last! I also can't believe that the last time I did this I still had not met a certain little someone :)

Well, Sunday, June 2nd was a day filled with meeting new acquaintances. Dan had to fed in the morning and decided to move Flock 3 in with the rest of the cluckies. I kinda wanted to help him and figured we would do it after church. He beat me to it and had the big move done with before breakfast and church. When I asked if anyone was immediately attacked he said no, but some of the older broads were already putting some of the newbies in their place. It seems like every animal species has a pecking order.

I was especially nervous about the new little roosters and the puny size of all the bantams. So far though, so good. Knock on wood, no one has been killed yet. You hear over and over again that when you combine roosters (who haven't grown up together) they will fight and one will end up 6 feet under. (OK...not quite 6 feet when burying a chicken...maybe a trip to Manure Memorial Gardens...). I hope that if we combine YOUNG roosters, there won't be a need to fight to the death. Fumm and Orp. are young enough boys that hopefully Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk won't find them a threat and can whip them once and say, "HEY! I'm the big dog and am in charge." and that can be that. Well it's been almost 2 weeks and no fatalities, so hopefully all is good with the boys.

I can see issues bringing in an already mature rooster, like Fog Horn...then I could understand a fight club scene.

After church, Krogers and Taco Bell, we got home and checked on everybody. After seeing that all was well, I convinced Dan to get the car seat base installed in my car...you know, just in case. After the one in my car was put in, Dan decided to put in the car seat for his truck. I was sitting in the backseat, overseeing the operation, when I noticed something different...I got out and went in the house and sure enough...my water had broken. This was at 1:30 P.M.

All that stuff they told us in child birth class about when to go to the hospital flew out the window! I stood in the house stunned and frozen. I called the hospital (AFTER I called my mom) and they told me I had to come in.

Of all the times to get behind a camper and trailer on the way into Hillsboro, going full speed ahead and topping out at 40 mph.  So anyway, to make a long story short, once I got there and got admitted, we found out the baby was in a breech position, his butt was down and head was up, so I had to have a C-Section.

At 4:04 P.M. Carl Daniel came into our lives at 7 pounds, 14 ounces and with a head of red hair!

I kinda knew in my gut he was going to be a boy so I wasn't that surprised when they told us. More days than not I envisioned a boy...maybe next time I'll envision a girl! The name "Carl" was special to both Dan and I. For him, a man named Carl owned the farm his family has now in Hillsboro. Dan says that without that Carl they wouldn't have what they have today. It was special to me since you all know my Beach boy obsession and Carl Wilson was a part of that. Everyone says Carl was who held the group together and no one has a bad word to say about him. Plus he had the most beautiful voice. "Carl" is simple and American and a name no one can screw up.

We like it :) Just like we LOVE our little Carl Daniel and think we'll keep him around the Shawhan farm!!

We are all settling in just fine and everyone and every chicken, seem to be doing well...except for these hot flashes...if this is what menopause is like, then I am NOT looking forward to that!  I'm just glad he's here and healthy and I can't wait to have a little helper out in the barn and for the day I can give him an egg carton and he can reach in gather the eggs!

I hope to be posting again on a (hopefully) regular basis!

If this doesn't sound the greatest, sorry, tired today!

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's Almost That Time!


Yes, it's almost that time...not what everyone is thinking, however, the time clock still shows 3 weeks until the due date of Baby Shawhan...but what I'm talking about now, is it's almost time to intergrate Flock 3 into the rest of the group!!!

YAY!! I CAN NOT WAIT either! I can't wait until all we have is one group of chickens to tend to. These past few days it would have been nice to have everyone as one big happy family since Jimmy and Charlie left on Monday to like, actually work for a few days...they probably hate me by now. Anyhoo, I really want all the chickens together before Baby Shawhan comes. For one, it will be easier and less confusing on whoever comes to the house to take care of the critters while we are in the hospital, and two, it will be easier on us once we come home.

I plan on making the "big change" sometime this weekend on a day Dan and/or I will be home and can go out and make sure no one is being killed. I am pretty nervous about this intergration. We have 2 adult roosters currently ruling the roost and will be putting in 2 little guys with them. (IF anyone wants Cad-Buddy or a new little rooster, let me know!!) I want to keep Fumm and Dan likes Chicken Hawk.

I'm hoping and praying that since the new roosters are adolescents, the big guys will just prove their dominance and then leave them alone. I'm banking on the fact that since we aren't introducing adult roosters to the flock that Cad-Buddy and Chicken Hawk won't attack them. But I honestly don't know.

GULP! It will be nerve-wrecking for awhile.

I'll let everyone know how it goes!

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A New Take on Weeding the Garden


There are several arguments one will hear when researching whether or not to own chickens. My personal two cents worth is get some chickens in order to test your sanity, but all the books and magazines out there will tell you that not only will you and your family benefit from all the fresh eggs you'll get, but so too will your garden benefit from chickens...if you have one. Honestly I never gave this much thought since my early experiences were the chickens destroying my flower beds (I could only imagine what they would do in the vegetable garden had I allowed it to go on that long), but now after rescuing my flowers and the fast approaching arrival of Baby Shawhan, I'm beginning to look at my chickens as partners in keeping up with the daunting task of maintaining a HUGE garden this summer.

Thanks to the wonder of mulch, one can keep up with weeding the flower beds pretty easily. It's not too difficult to pluck a weed here and there every few days as you walk past the flower beds...I dead-head every couple of days anyway. A fertile-soiled garden with a combination of (hopefully) plenty of rain this summer will be a different story! Of course one can plant their "crops" in rows spaced far enough apart to allow a tiller through, but personally, I'm worried I'll run out of space for all the goodies I plan to plant if I follow those measurements. Next, a tiller is a huge undertaking, something I like to pass along to someone of the male species. I will be biting my nails and tapping my foot wondering when and IF the tilling will get done and my garden will look presentable again.

Here's a side-note: We all know the saying "Trying to keep up with the Jones'"...since the Shawhan farm sits so close to the Amish, I like to use the phrase "Trying to keep up with the Yoders." There's nothing more depressing than driving past their emaculate gardens and tidy farms only to come home to your weed-infested one. And OK...I'll confess...I care what they might think of their "English" neighbor who chooses the comforts of 21st century living. I will always wonder and hope that they are impressed with the garden I chose to put out each summer and the fact I plow it with my own horses (though a tractor did it this year!) At least my horses look better than theirs, but that is neither here nor there.

Anyhoo, back to the chickens. Everything you read will list off the reasons chickens are a good incorporation into your garden. The first one is obvious: the manure chickens produce is the best thing for fertile soil, IF aged correctly and for a long enough period of time. Putting chicken manure too soon on a garden, as with any manure, will only cause the plants to "burn up" since the poop is still too "hot" for the plants. I think the recommended aging period of poop is at least 6 months. Another plus to chickens in or around your garden (I'll get into that in a minute) is pest control. Chickens LOVE to eats bugs and grubs. Finally, if your chickens are roaming around peck and scratching up these bugs, they are essentially "hoeing" your garden for you...oh and not only do they bugs, but weeds as well.

I don't know why I didn't do this sooner than this spring, but usually I would take a bushel basket with me around to all my flower beds and put the weeds in the basket. (I'm not one for throwing them out in yard unless I know Dan or myself is mowing that day. It looks bad.) Then I would take the full basket to the fence and dump everything over. Before you know it, you're staring at old brown weeds and clumps of dirt all summer. Again, this looks bad. This year, however, I got the brilliant idea to kill two birds with one stone: weed my flower beds and provide my birds with some green supplements to their diet. After filling up a basket, I took it the kennel, where most of the flock was hanging out that day, and dumped it inside. They loved it! Not only did they eat the weeds, but they scratched up the dirt clumps and picked through those as well. By the time I came back with a second basket, everything from the first one was completely gone. I also dumped some over the fence into the steer lot, but most of the birds out there get chased away by the Beefy Boys, who are good garbage disposers as well. Anytime I pull weeds, this is where they get dumped. It's a win/win situation.

Now for the garden: I have high hopes for the Shawhan farm, not just this year, but in the years to come. I want to actually utilize my birds in my garden. I keep telling Dan I want him to build me some "chicken tractors"...yes this actually what they are called...so that I can have chickens in the garden but with my crops' safety at top priority.

Becca wants to have her cake and eat it too. I think it's a realistic goal...

My idea of our "tractors" would be cages, not very wide...wide enough to fit between the rows, but LONG, with enough room to accommodate even just four or five chickens. The bottom would be open to allow the birds to peck and scratch and eat. The sides and top would be enclosed so they couldn't eat the crops themselves. Once they decimate one end of the row, you simply pick up the "tractor" and scoot the chickens up to greener pastures and place the "tractor" back down again. This way the chickens get time in the garden, get some greens and no one would have to necessarily break out the tiller. Though my garden is pretty big...we would have to start small and hopefully build up in time.

This is sometime I really want to try out. Why not try to take full advantage of the resources around us? Plus I really want to see if it works out.

I don't think I have enough to do or want to do this year: a baby, canning, freezing, maintaining the Shawhan farm and hoping getting a few "tractors" up and running... but what have I said in the past?

Go Big or Go Home!!!

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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Mighty Fumm


So it NEVER fails! I carefully select one special chick... someone who really stands out...that is very different from the rest of the new flock, and it turns out to be a rooster. It must some crazy chicken version of Murphy's Law...picking out one special hen will automatically mean that chicken will be a dude.

Dude. Like. Seriously?

Or it relates to that saying, "You make plans and God laughs." Yes...I know this very well...in terms of chicken keeping anyway.

As I've mentioned before, this year we are trying Bantams. Back in March when we selected Flock 3 from the feed store, I got the brilliant idea to get these tiny guys and name them after the giants in the movie we saw the night before. I was too enthralled by giving them a complex, how funny it would be to all of my readers and imagining all the creativity these "runts" would spark in me, that I ignored the sign on the box stating these chicks were not sexed...so getting all hens was not a guarantee...and the words of warning from Dan a box away. I was blinded by humor and passion.

I named each Bantam as I plucked it from the box..."Look honey," I giggled overcome with the hilarious irony of it all. "This one will be Fee...this one will be Fye...this one is Foe and this one...this little yellow one will be Fumm. We'll know which one is Fumm because it's the only yellow one." (I had already given up on having a Cadburry. After all, it would probably be another rooster and I can't have two roosters named Cad-Buddy!)

As time went on and we watched our little fluffies grow, we noticed a few things. First of all, Flock 3 is so different than any other we've had so far because they are all ornery. I have a feeling this will be our most entertaining and handful of chickens we've had to date. Even without 24/7 brooder confinement, they like to "fight" one another. Fumm has always been one to pick a fight with a chick twice his size. I just figured Bantams have "little-man syndrome" and thus the 'tude.

I'll still stand by that statement. I figure as time goes by I'll be validated over and over again!

Another noticeable difference? THREE separate distinctive crows coming from the brooder! That's right...Flock 3 presented us with 3 rooster chicks! (As of right now, we have 5 roosters on the Shawhan farm...though soon that will change!) There's nothing like the combined horror and downright humor you feel while standing in the barn and hearing those first and sorry attempts of a rooster crow. You are filled with dread, disappointment and an overwhelming urge to pee your pants because it's the funniest thing you've ever heard. nothing is so pathetic sounding! What amazes me the most was how over-achieving these guys are! I'm not sure we've detected a rooster this early on by his crows...Cad-Buddy took FOREVER to come out as a rooster! (I might be they hear Chicken Hawk and cad-Buddy and so want to respond...I'm not sure...just a guess.)

Anyhoo, we had a sinking feeling that Fumm was a rooster since he developed his comb and wattles pretty quickly and they were quite pronounced. He also had the 'tude to match. Dan has said we should just get rid of him, but I say no way! He's going to give me so inspiration and his character is going to come out in probably more ways than Fog Horn! I NEED him!

And what a character (not to mention an over-achiever) he already is! Fumm has achieved more feats than any other chick, and some chickens, ever to set foot on the Shawhan farm. He has escaped the mini-kennel we have set up for the chicks and has explored the hay mow and overhead boards of our barn. That is where the above photo was taken. I walked out one morning to put Jimmy and Charlie back out in the pasture for the day and I heard his little body-shaking crow (it's funny to watch him "crow" though I fear he'll strain his little body and get a hernia) above my head. I looked up and there he was, high in the rafters!


"FUMM!?" I awe and disbelief. I raced as fast and safely as my prego-body would allow inside to get the camera and make a phone call. I had to record this! What a bird I have! I can only imagine what he's going to be like as he gets older. When I got back to the barn he was even higher up, in the hay mow over Jimmy's stall. I got a little worried that the neighborhood cat, Marshmellow, would get him and eat him as a mid-morning snack, and I also feared the little dude would have the nerve to go over to the big boys and pay them a visit. I think some of our older hens from Flock 1 could sit on him and kill him...I'm not sure he even weighs a pound!

There wasn't much I could do...no way was going up there after him. It would be a huge waste of time and money to make it so he can't get out that way again. A simple trim of the wings might help, but we have yet to do that. Later on that day he was back in the safety of the mini-kennel. I have seen him out on his adventures since and somehow he manages to get back down. I guess I won't worry too much about him. So far he's the only one brave enough to venture out.

I only imagine what the weeks, months and years will bring us with this little guy. So little but with a HUGE attitude! I look forward to it all!

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