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 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 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 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 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...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

From all of us here on the Shawhan Farm!
Just to wanted to wish all the mothers out there a wonderful Mother's Day!  That includes our momma chickens as well, since they squirt out potential "babies" daily...ugh, can you imagine giving birth EVERY DAY!
Maybe animals are stronger than us...
With myself fast approaching a "real" motherhood, I hope I can do as good a job as my own mom did raising my brother and I. I have to give her a lot of credit, since she did put up with me for 26 years... and she still continues to do so. Sometimes she even knows me better than I know myself. She never played favorites...I remember staying home from sick and getting attention from her all day long. As soon as my brother got home she would talk to him about his day and give him as much attention as she did to me. She took us to East Fork Lake and the nature center; she sat through I don't know how many dance lessons and track meets...she even humored me once and we tried to do a drive by the house of a guy I had a crush on in high school! She would watch episodes of "My So Called Life" and "Wife Swap" with me every week. We still go on shopping trips. She was always right there when I'd get sick, trying to make me as comfortable as possible; she never lost her cool the day I broke my finger in the window, telling my dad we needed to go to the hospital. (I hope I have her calmness...) She took care of my grandma in the nursing home, going over to visit once or twice a week. She is a strong woman and I hope I can be half as strong as she is. I plan on making a thousand calls to her for questions and advice and I know she'll pick up every single time.
Love you mom!!!!
Anyhoo, hope everyone has a great day!
The Chicken Lady

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mo' Chickens, Mo' Food


So looking back, I've only posted on Sundays for the past 5 weeks now! I can't believe unacceptable. I promise I will try much harder to post twice a week, however, 3rd trimester exhaustion is kicking in and some days I can't muster the creative juices. It is only going to get worse too as Baby Shawhan has just a month and a handful of days left to cook and Dan is officially in the field leaving pregnant wifey-poo to hold down the Shawhan farm solo.

In order to prep for springtime, and the fact the chickens were completely out of food, Dan made up a batch of chicken feed and brought it home. Except when he got home I realized this wasn't an ordinary feed delivery. All of this is chicken food!


Normally he shows up with two or three bags, not half a truck load. And rumor has it, this isn't even all of it! Part of the batch ended up at Ray and Nicole's and there is still some stashed away at the farm.  I think it's safe to say we have enough food to last about 6 months.

Dan admitted to his goof and said he did a whole batch (1 ton OR (1,500 pounds of corn, 400 pounds of soy bean meal and 100 pounds of mineral mix)) when usually he only mixes a batch using half of those ingredients.

The chickens were excited to see the shipment. They all lined up to watch the beautiful golden morsels arrive.

We normally dump a good bit into the empty feeder then store the rest in a plastic garbage can. Thanks to the rats, we had to get rid of our first chicken feed storage container, but thanks to my dad, he gave us a bigger and better one...or a nicer garbage can. This particular shipment of feed required a patched up garbage can Dan found at the now my barn has several garbage cans, including Jimmy and Charlie's feed storage and several 5 gallon buckets stacked on top of each other filled with chicken feed.


Jimmy and Charlie's hay to stored right next door to our hoard of chicken food. I thought it was ironic that on this day, this was all that was left of it...and Jimmy and Charlie are the breadwinners of the Shawhan farm, by far!

There are positive aspects of having so much chicken feed on hand. For starters I won't have to worry about running out while Dan is in the field. It will be one less thing to deal with when the baby arrives. If the economy continues to plummet we can get some fancy bags with plagiarized labels and sell it to the ever growing backyard chicken enthusiast market.

The best thing about it is that now the chicks have been totally converted to this layer ration. Our rule of thumb is to feed the chicks at least two bags of chick starter feed, then integrate them to the big girl ration. As with anything you are changing feed to, we like to mix it slowly into their old feed first before being completely converted.

So now that everyone knows of our "gold mine", please don't come and steal our chicken feed! I know some people actually have to pay for their chicken food, and if that were the case I would be owning chickens. because let's face it, that feed is expensive! Especially if you have more than 4 or 5 birds.

I told Dan now that we have so much feed we need even MORE chickens! One will happen!

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