Thursday, June 26, 2014

Passing the Test

 The time has FINALLY come on the Shawhan farm that we begin to weed out our old non-laying hens. I have been dreading this day because I will never ever forget bringing home Flock 1 and not sleeping that first night imagining all kinds of meat-eating beasts breaking into the garage and massacring my cute new babies. I will never forget the days we let them roam freely around the yard, giggling as they ran towards us when we pulled into the driveway and sweeping the chicken poo off the porch every night.
 Flock 1 was trained early on to come running across the property when they saw and heard the shake of a bread bag. Those same hens, the ones who are left anyway, still come running to the kennel door when you approach with something yummy to share.

 However, we have to come to the realization that Flock 1 is 4 years old now. That is getting old for a chicken, at least an egg laying one. Personally I've never researched how long a hen can and will lay eggs...I've heard their prime time lasts a year and half to two years. After they finish laying eggs, there isn't anything wrong with them and they are great for pets and entertainment, but if you keep adding to your flock every year like we do, you run into spacing issues. And unfortunately, there isn't any room for freeloaders when space is needed for the working girls.

 Dan and I have decided to test almost every single chicken we have. Now that the brooder is empty, it's the perfect space for a testing facility. We are now testing our 5th chicken in the brooder. We started out by placing one of our Light Brahmas into the brooder with food, oyster shells, water and artificial lighting. (She was a bit camera shy...)

 We started out with five of these birds four years ago, and sadly we are only down to two.

 I was both happy and extremely surprised when this old biddy laid an egg after about three days within the testing facilities walls!! I'm not 100% sure the egg was actually hers or not...I wouldn't put it past another chicken to have snuck over there and given her egg to make it look like she laid it, but since I have proof of this and no one has confessed, I have to just assume it was hers.

 Because she still produced the goods, this hen gets to stay at the Shawhan farm. Her twin, however, did not pass the test and received a failing grade and a black zip tie leg band so we can distinguish the slacker.

 I was under the impression all our hens from Flock 1 had dried up long ago and were no longer part of the Shawhan farm work force, but so far they have proved me wrong!! So far the only Golden Girl who hasn't produced is the one pictured above! I'm pretty proud these girls are still giving an egg every three to four days. Dan is harder on them than I am...he would rather send them along their way and have hens who produce more than just once every few days. My attitude on it is that they are still producing and contributing to my egg fund, so they get to stay!!!

 Thankfully, all the hens who receive a black leg band will go to my cousin's house and live there until the month of October, where they will be on display for school children and the thousands of families who visit the pumpkin farm. I'm happy with this arrangement since that means no one has to die! I couldn't bare that thought, though I know they can't stay forever as we are reaching a record amount of chickens...I believe we are in the 30s to 40s now.

 Those chickens who get to stay are marked with a white leg band and continue to click their long talons together to the beat of a typewriter every morning and sing a wonderful rendition of Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five".

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hazing Reports at Local Farm

Hazing Reports at Local Farm
Young Chickens Too Terrified to Leave Coop Confines
Written By: Jack Kelly of the Manhattan World
 Dan and Rebecca Shawhan's farm (pronounced 'Shaun'), is in the press yet again, for their infamous chickens. This reporter is pretty sure reality TV is going to be knocking at their door any day now, as every day seems to bring about new drama to the young couple's farm.
 The scoop is that now their new flock of chickens, dubbed 'Flock 4', is being hazed by the older chickens on their farm.
 In the past, the Shawhan farm has been in the papers when the older members of their flock threatened to go on egg laying strikes if new members were added. Apparently it continues to be a sore subject for the hens.
 "We aren't sure exactly what is going on," says Dan Shawhan, as he takes off his Pioneer hat and wipes the sweat from his brow. "We introduced Flock 4 a couple of weeks ago and we thought the transition went smoothly. But ever since that first day, Flock 4 has not left the coop." Most days the new chickens can be seen perched on the roost, he continues. No one has yet to see a member of Flock 4 venture past the feeder in the coop and go into Kennel Bar.
 "They all kind of stick together," adds C.E.O. Rebecca Shawhan, known to most as 'The Chicken Lady'. "I haven't seen them mix with the other members of the flock yet."
When asked if she was concerned about the issue, Mrs. Shawhan responds, "Of course not! When they feel like they have to poop out an egg, they'll go to the nest box and become a productive member of the flock. I can't wait until that day gets here."
We have had several anonymous callers who claim they are members of Flock 4 reach out to us, wanting to share their stories. One caller claims that the other members of the flock peck them at night and others will rake their claws down a chalkboard, making it impossible to sleep. Another caller said that the older hens whisper mean and derogatory comments in her ear all night. One member of Flock 4 was so upset on the phone, saying she's about to go crazy if she doesn't get a good nights' sleep, that she was too hysterical to share her story with us. We sent her a package of sleeping pills.
The Shawhan's claim to no nothing about these hazing reports, though they are aware that their flock of hens have created their own sorority, called Sigma Shawhan Sigma. "I guess they have established this organization and their is their way of inducting new members." Says Dan Shawhan.
We asked the C.E.O. what she plans on doing about the actions of her older hens. She responded: "What can I do? I cannot go outside at night and baby-sit my chickens, I have a one year old for crying out loud! As long as the hens are producing eggs, we have no grounds to penalize them. They seem to be getting enough rest, as our egg count has not dropped any."
We were unable to get any comments from the accused members of the Shawhan flock. They refused to speak to us unless we were from a network television station, or they had a lawyer present.
The Manhattan World will continue to bring you any developing updates on this case.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Tell-Tale Crow

 A couple of weeks ago I ventured out to my field, I mean garden, to put in the first round of green bean seeds. I bought a pound of green bean seeds (Blue Lake Bush beans...the only ones I'll ever grow!) with the intent of selling them by the bushel to my grandparent's farm later this summer. At least the ones I don't can since I didn't can many last year as we are still eating beans from 2012.

 Anyhoo, it was later in the afternoon before I could get outside while Carl took his nap. It was hot, muggy and thunder could be heard in the distance. I was humming Wouldn't It Nice as I loaded up the seed planter and dropped the bar into the dirt to mark off my rows. I gave the seeder a push and watched closely as the kidney shaped seeds dropped into the row before being covered with dirt again. A thrill of excitement coursed through my veins for two reasons:

1.) Using the seeder is 100 times easier to plant a garden with versus making a furrow with a hoe, dropping in the seeds (making sure they make solid contact with the dirt, as it helps with the growing process, as per Dan's advice) and then taking the hoe and closing over the furrow. The only benefit to this planting method as far as I can see is that it provides a good ab workout. Using the seeder gets the job done in minutes; and

2.) A few days before I planted beans I had tried to use the seeder to plant my corn by for whatever it wasn't working. I spent over a hour in the muggy sunshine fighting it. I'd load the seeder, push it through the dirt, and not see any seeds dropping in because they were backing up in the tube they go down before landing in the dirt. I probably loaded that seeder up 4 or 5 times, dumping corn into my yard (I'm sure I'll get a few stray corn stalks in unwanted places), banging the thing on the ground (sorry Mike!) and shoving scissors and drill bits through it to unclog whatever was keeping the seeds from dropping through. At last my time was up, the baby monitor told me so, and I had nothing in the ground to show for my hard work. Of course the dumb thing worked for Dan when he got home and made me out to be a liar.

Back to pushing the device through the dirt, waddling along like I was pregnant again because I'm looking down at the seeds and not thinking I can actually step on the rows, nor am I looking where I'm going, so now I have crocked rows, singing in my mind, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up, in the morning when the day is new..."

 Out of the heavy air, I heard a strange noise. I had to hear it several times since I didn't really notice it at first. I wasn't expecting it. A strangled, alien-like sound. Like a sick animal. I made it to the end of one of my bean rows and I looked towards the barn. The creepy noise came again.

 Wait a second! I thought to myself, interrupting Brian Wilson's falsetto. I've heard that noise can mean only one thing. We have a new rooster! My shoulders sagged in disappointment. Are ever going to get a group of chicks and NOT get a male in a package that promises all females? Four years in a row we've obtained at least one rooster from the new flock.

 Dan and I had had our suspicions about an Araucana that looks like a mini-version of Chicken Hawk, so much that I'd tempted to name this rooster "Mini Me". (Though we haven't settled on a name for him yet.) If he's the only rooster we have, I think we'll be ok having two now that my beloved Fumm is gone and lost forever. I do like only having one though, and Chicken Hawk is a great rooster. So far he hasn't gotten mean and he's relatively quiet throughout the day. I want to do some research to see if the Araucana breed is one that has less aggressive roosters.

 It's still too early to tell if this new guy is only rooster from Flock 4. We have had late bloomers ion the past (remember Chaz??) so it won't surprise me if we were to discover weeks from now yet another one. It's also disappointing we will get one less blue egg now...

 Worse than a preteen boy band, it's as if his short comings are displayed to the world for everyone to know, but I really wish everyone could hear a young rooter find his crow. It's truly an awful sound until he gets it perfected.