Mantras to Live By

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Posted by Jennifer on Fri,12-02-2011 | 3 Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

If you’re one of the six people who read this blog, which, by the way, you can now subscribe too (would really boost my confidence if you did so) you’re probably wondering where I’ve been.  Busy running a farm?  Scrambling to get out chicken orders? Sure.  All of those things have kept me busy but the real reason I haven’t posted is because I lacked a desk and a chair to sit in.  Or at least that was my excuse a month ago.  Now I have a chair and desk but the aforementioned things have kept me off-line.

Well I’m back now, so, without further ado, let’s jump right in to something important everyone, regardless of occupation should memorize: three mantras to live by.  Okay, okay, two mantras apply to almost everyone; the last one is pretty much chicken-farmer specific but it could be easily adjusted to fit many occupations.

Mantra One: It is what it is

Farming is therapeutic (shock therapy is in fact therapy, right?) in that it teaches the farmer to let go and accept the things she cannot change. It is absolutely amazing the number of things in my world, which is small and confined mainly to my house and my own business, that I have no control over.  Zero. Zip. Nada.  NO control. What’s a girl to do when things go disastrously wrong, or even just slightly wrong?  She repeats, “it is what it is” over and over again as a way of accepting events beyond her control or irreversible outcomes.   Take a look at the following examples:

  • Water hoses spontaneously blow holes and water spews everywhere on the one morning I have to be somewhere at a certain time.  It is what it is.
    Water hose

    My Nemesis All Summer Long

     

  • Birds arrive dead in the mail from the hatchery. It is what it is.
  • It’s over 100 degrees for the upteenth day in a row.  It is what it is (repeat this for every over 100 degree day!)

 

Pic of seven day forecast

Multiply this forecast by 90 days!!!

  • Power goes out after a very rough day in the field when we’re finally ready to START processing at 10pm. It is what it is.
  • The misters fail and 94 birds die in one afternoon. It is what it is. Goddamnit.
  • The misters fail a week later and 76 ready-to-process birds die in 30 minutes time. Alright I get it: It is what it is!
    Cartoon woman pulling out her hair

    This is Me At Summer's End

     

You get the idea.  Next time you stub your toe, slam your fingers in the door and spill coffee on yourself all while headed to some super important meeting or the like, just take a deep breath, cuss a little, beat on the steering wheel, rear-end that overpriced, gas-guzzling SUV slowing you down in traffic and repeat after me: IT is what it IS. Far from soothing, but oh-so-true.

Mantra Two: Perfect is good but done is better

Alright, all you half-assers out there, this one does not apply to you.  This mantra belongs only to those perfectionists who try to take imperfect things and situations and perfect them.  Examples of this used to abound, but I’m to a new point of desensitization that I just don’t care about perfection anymore, after all it is what it is.  Here are the examples I could remember:

  • I will build the best hover (a hover is the temperature controlled “box” that houses our heat lamps so the chicks don’t get too cold) known to man.  Oh wait, my chicks are smothering each other and dying while I toil away trying to make this perfect. Perfect is good but done is better.
    Pic of hover

    This Is A Hover

     

  • My processed chickens will be gorgeous.  Holy smokes this one patch of wispy feathers won’t come clean.  Chickens galore are piling up for me to process. Oh, and it’s still raw chicken – raw chicken just isn’t going to be considered pretty by many people. Perfect is good but done is better.
    Pic of raw whole chicken

    Pretty?

     

  • I will move the coops daily and put them into a perfectly STRAIGHT line.  Oh wait, the coops are on pasture complete with holes, hills, and brush.  I can’t get them into a straight line without pulling out the weed-eater and chainsaw. Perfect is good but done is better.

Mantra Three: Chickens are not widgets

This originally started out as my friend Jane’s explanation of why we can’t always meet certain customer demands.  It quickly became a mantra for me and would serve other beginning chicken farmers well. Many instances need this mantra but here are the ones that come to mind:

  • Oh my God, these birds should all weigh 4.2 – 4.7lbs at six and a half weeks old but not one of them is over 3.9lbs!!! Chickens are not widgets.
  • I need 94 birds to dress out at 2.75 – 3.25lbs each, but only 92 are perfect – two others have bruises. Chickens are not widgets (that’s why I always pull extras).
  • A customer wants to increase their order by 70% starting next week. Chickens are not widgets.
    Pic of a widget

    Not A Chicken

     

This mantra as I use it certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all type mantra.  But switch out “chicken” with some other animal or person and you’re good to go.

Now you have all of the tools necessary to deal with most of life’s speed bumps.  The trick is getting yourself to believe these mantras whenever you need to use them.

 

Season Three is Underway

1

Posted by Jennifer on Mon,08-08-2011 | 1 Comment »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

I owe the blog so many posts it’s not funny.  Most of y’all are unaware that I am on my fourth nervous break down in a two month time frame, that I only had time to write this post because my back was out, that the Gulf Coast Sheep finally arrived and then met disaster, and the list goes on.  However, instead of entertaining you with the more interesting farm news, I felt it was time to finally admit we’re going into the third season of Operation Farm Start-Up.

Now I realize I’m a little behind the ball since summer officially started well over a month ago and unofficially nearly three months ago.  Better late than never.  These posts may be a little dull for my audience (I’m imagining all six of my readers yawning) but they’re pretty therapeutic for me.  Even though Joel Salatin is on my sh*t list at the moment for certain omits from his book, he notes a very apt observation about working farms: they’re threadbare. Slow Food Farm is no exception.

Threadbare is hard when you’re used to things not being threadbare and I find it easy to get overwhelmed by the piles of crap everywhere (sometime literally, like in the case of spent chicken bedding), the half finished projects, a mile-long to do list and such.  Typing a post where I review what has been accomplished and what the goals are for the next season puts things in perspective.  I’m including pictures of my piles of stuff too as my way to lay it out there and get over them.  Plus tackling most of them is on the to-do list for fall and I want a good account of what was.  Hell, if I really wanted to post a tell-all I would photograph the piles of dog hair that have invaded my house.  Oddly, getting rid of those is not on the summer or fall to-do list (sorry Harry).

So here goes…

What we’ve accomplished so far:

  • The brooder and processing shed have been built (lots of piles of stuff in front of the building)
Picture of Shed Where Chicks are Brooded

Brooder & Processing Shed

Int of Processing Shed

Inside Part of The Processing Shed

  • We have our Grant of Exemption from the State
  • There are 12 portable coops in the pasture
Portable coop sin pasture

10 of 12 Coops

  • H-braces and corner posts are in for one of the most important portion of the new fence (thanks to help from our friends Ward and Jill Taylor)

 

Pic of two Harry and Ward building H-brace

Ward & Harry made a lot of progress

  • We sold all but our favorite cow and her granddaughter
  • We have tons of chickens
  • Rabbits are successfully kindling

    Pic of a Kit (Baby Rabbit)

    Mmmm. She'll Be Tasty in ~12 weeks

  • Rabbitry is 85% complete

What we plan to do by the end of summer:

  • Install plumbing in the brooder
  • Run waterline out in the pasture
  • Install automatic waterers for the pasture coops and brooders
  • Set-up grain silos so we can have bulk chicken feed delivered
  • Complete the rabbitry
  • Build a new chicken coop for the laying birds

Oh my goodness, did you just read that to-do list? I can not believe I am typing this blog post instead of working in 130 degree heat outside. . . better get to it!

But real quick, here’s a peek at what blog posts should be coming soon: Who’s Drought Tolerant Now?, Mantras to Live By, The Crazy Chicken Lady, Farm Life Survival Kit, and Help! I’m Grounded.

 

World’s Best Chicken Dog

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Posted by Lady Bird on Mon,07-11-2011 | 5 Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

I know I am mentioned briefly on this site’s “Critters” page but I am hardly mentioned anywhere else,  so let me introduce myself: I am Lady Bird The World’s Best Farm Dog EVER.

Lady Bird checking coop

Checking on a coop of birds - notice I'm not eating the live rouge chicken

Jennifer drones on in her blog about all the hard work her and Harry do and all the perils and fun of farming.  Blah, blah, blah. Well what they’re not telling you about is who actually does most of the dirty work – me.  I sleep out in the pasture every night (Harry and Jennifer alternate nights) and I corral coop escapees that free range too far and I help move the birds during coop moving time so no one gets run over and I clean up spilt feed and eat any dead chickens to prevent predators. Whew.  It’s no wonder I have to try to grab a nap everyday.

Picture of Lady Bird napping

Rest is important

Even still I hear Harry and Jennifer talk about getting a “livestock dog.”  A what? I did some research on-line and visited some other farms and found out there are specific breeds of what is called a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD).  Mainly there are Anatolian Sheppard and Great Pyrenees around these parts.  My friends Ward and Jill Taylor of Taylor’s Farm have a Great Pyrenees, Frank, that they’re training to watch the chickens.  Please.  Who do you think a predator would fear being on the teeth-end of more?  Me, a beagle (hello, hunting dog)/dachshund (hunting dog, again) mixed for hybrid vigor, or Frank, a pure bred over grown cotton ball?

 

Picture of needle for steroids

Steroids

+

Picture of cotton ball

Cotton Ball

=

Picture of Great Pyr Puppy

Frank

OR

 

Picture of snarling wolf
Me

Who would you fear? . . . That’s what I thought.

I’ve never spoken to any predators that have crossed Frank’s path but I know the chicken eating armadillo that came up in my pasture two nights ago didn’t want any part of this chicken dog right here.  That’s right; armadillos, skunks, raccoons, cats, squirrels, rabbits, moose, bear (grizzly and black), coyote, grey wolves, red wolves, and fox of all colors fear me.  A lot of predators have crossed my path in my tenure as a farm dog and all have known to tuck tail and run.

Sure, I try to eat live chickens on occasion if the coop runs one over part way and a leg or something is sticking out.  And, sometimes, when trailing a chicken I’ll get bored and start picking its feathers.  Hey, it’s going to die sooner or later – I might as well start the plucking now. On the rare occasion that I am too full to eat an entire chicken that has passed from natural causes, I’ll eat what I can, piece out the rest and then carry it off and bury it in a variety of hiding places.  This way I can finish it later but the cat, that darn wiener dog Milo Mingus, and other predators can’t find the remains and, therefore, are not drawn to the live chickens.  Also, I roll on any smelly dead chickens to cover my scent thus allowing me to sneak up on predators.

Dog Carrying Off Dead Chicken

Must hide or eat dead chickens

Pic of dog rolling on dead chicken

Covering scent

 

So, next time you hear Jennifer or Harry going on about how hard they’re working, you remember who is behind the scenes.  I’ll be out in the pasture while they’re in the AC and I never get a portion of the chicken sales, instead I do all this out of loyalty.  Well, speaking of work, it’s time for me to do the afternoon feed, water, and predator check.  Man, I hope there’s a bear out there this time – I’ve always wanted a bed made from bearskin.

Pic of bearskin rug

Most comfortable bed ever?

Chicken ER

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Posted by Jennifer on Fri,07-01-2011 | No Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

Animal lovers everywhere may wonder how compassionate we can really be if we’re raising chickens for meat.  Well we do genuinely care about all the critters in our charge and that includes all the chickens from the tiniest chick to the robust, ready-to-eat Scott.

Finally, we got a good rain shower last week starting around 1:30am.  I know what time the rain started because it was my night to sleep in the pasture – I felt the first fat rain drops personally.  Sleeping with the chickens should demonstrate at least some of how much we care, but one could argue we only do that to protect our profit.  So, I offer proof instead in the form of what we do when something bad happens to one of our birds:

As a result of the much needed rain, three of the three-week old chicks got too wet and hypothermia set in.  Harry had checked on everyone around 4:30am and they were fine, but by the time I got out there at 6am-ish, these three birds were in critical condition.  I scooped them up and rushed them to the house.  Now sometimes my shower serves as the chicken ER, but these guys fit just fine in my kitchen sink. First I blow dried them (notice the volume their feathers have in the picture!).

Three chickens in sink

I also offered them some honey water; usually sugar water is best but I don’t regularly have sugar on hand. Then I set up a heat lamp and let them relax in the sink until they started peeping and carrying on. After they were 95% recovered, I took them back to the coop and checked on them throughout the day. All three survived and are hanging out with their pals in the pasture.
Chicks under heat lamp
Now, if you’re wondering about the wood counter top, the toothbrushes and toothpaste on the window seal and the stacked dishes, this is the real proof of how much we care. We opted for raising chickens so we could have humanely raised and processed poultry in lieu of finishing our house. Eventually I’ll have a counter top, cabinet faces, AND a bathroom sink, but not until the chickens have everything they need.

Oh, and that rain – it is already bringing up shoots of green grass!
Green grass shoot

Pigs Hate Tarps

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Posted by Jennifer on Tue,06-28-2011 | No Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011


Do you remember the post from when I first brought the sows home?  I was trying to put up a tarp in the wind and Pigot was attacking it, biting it and trying to run off with it.  I figured she was just being playful, but it turns out she recognized the usefullness of the tarp and used it for shade and rain protection all the while harboring her grudge against it.

The day the shelter behind the rabbitry was complete became doomsday for the tarp. I didn’t get to witness the tarp’s demise but the horror and destruction left behind was hard to take. Shredded pieces of the tarp lay strewn about the pasture.

Shredded tarp piece

Remorseless in their feat, Pigot and Lullabelle even wove sections of their prey into their nesting hay and slept on top of it, while a destroyed portion of the tarp flapped in the breeze, weeping sadly for it’s other half.

Pig sleeping on tarp
Pig sitting up in nest
Tarp flapping in the breeze

I tried to clean up all of the remains, but Harry spotted Pigot later in the day wearing part of her prey on her back (like a cape) while grazing. Merciless sows.

The Basil That Wanted To Live
A product review by Patti Brown-Standen

0

Posted by Jennifer on Fri,06-24-2011 | No Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

I try to keep all blog post original and by me, but a friend/customer visited the farm a couple weeks ago and I sent her home with some basil that was trying to outgrow its little pot.  She emailed me the best product review ever and agreed I could share it with the world, or at least the two people who actually read my blog.  Following is Patti’s story/assessment of the basil – I have only edited as necessary for it to make sense in the blog post context:

I know how critical quality genetics are to your business and I thought you should know you have some kick ass genes in your current basil crop.

I put the basil cutting you gave me in a glass of water to keep it fresh while I commenced its slow demise, picking its leaves one at a time.  Defiantly, it began to send out roots.  At one point, my heart softened and I dug out an old pot, filled it with potting soil, roughly planted the little basil with its tender roots and stuck it out in 100 degree heat.  The first few days, the little basil would seem to be exhausted by evening, limp, withered and leaning on the edge of the pot.  But slowly, it began to thrive.  Until one day, the big bad wolf came to visit …(played by my dog El).

My husband Allan came home to the devastation spread out over the deck.  The little basil lay gasping and exposed in the harsh sun, seemingly near death.  Allan swept up the remaining potting soil, smushed the basil back into the muck (this was battlefield surgery, there was no finesse) and placed it in a spot less convenient to future assaults.

The now much smaller basil struggled for 3 days.  On the third day, it seemed to resurrect.  It may actually make it and hopefully will start growing its disciples soon.   (OK, I now I’m really mixing up my fables now).  The jury is still out (after all, it’s going to be 105 today) but I know if any basil can make it, this little guy with so much game can.

Picture of Basil

Hatchery Hoopla, Searing Heat, and Other Farm Start-Up Fun

2

Posted by Jennifer on Sun,06-19-2011 | 2 Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

Has anyone out there read Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poutry Profits? He is often credited as the first to use the pastured poultry model (never mind what our grandparents and great grandparents did).  He does have a lot of good ideas and has simplified many of the them into several books.  Many of his methods apply to him directly though, rely on extra work hands, and existing infrastructure. The break down for raising meat chickens in the pasture goes something like this: get day old chicks, keep chicks in brooder until three weeks old, at three weeks put chicks in portable coops on pasture, move daily, harvest when at desired weight, process, and sell from the chill tank.

Here is the reality:

Get Day Old Chicks

What a phenominal pain in the neck it is to find quality Cornish X Rock chicks – did you know there are several different types of these chubby little food-to-meat convertors?  The hatchery down the road from us doesn’t sell year round, has inconsistent quality birds, and can’t count (orders are shorted), so we had to look out of state initially.  A few months back one of the best meat bird suppliers in the country decided to send their worst birds to the regular buyers, so the show kids could get the best stock. Ordering from them ceased as a result.  Next we tried a hatchery in Nebraska known for good stock.  After seven shipments of some of the smallest, weakest, slowest growing chicks ever, I am glad to say we have found a replacement.  Another problem with the Nebraska hatchery was that most of my order arrived dead for three weeks in a row.  We are trying a better line of Cornish X Rock chickens from a hatchery in Waco starting next week.  Keep your fingers crossed that works out.

 

Picture of chick

Day Old Chick

 

Keep Chick In Brooder For Three Weeks

Okay this part is pretty easy and we’re actually able to turn our birds out to pasture at two weeks because it’s so warm here.  The brooder does have to be cleaned and we have to run fans to keep it tolerable, even for chicks that thrive at 95 degrees. So far the only struggle here was constructing the infrastructure, but it’s up, open, airy and clean. Ventilation fans would be nice, but Joel conveniently leaves out the cost of starting up a farm like ours, so they’re out until we stop hemorrhaging cash and start having some chickens to sell.  The damn fans are over $500 each new!  I’ll be searching Craigslist.

 

Picture of chicks in brooder

Chicks Gossiping at Brooder Watering Hole

 

Put Chicks on Pasture in Portable Coops

Heat hit early this year, but Harry still welded twelve portable coops and we were able to cut and grommet tarps for ten so far. The reality problem with this step of pastured poultry operation is actually collecting the birds and moving them to the coop.  We don’t have transportation crates at the moment (we’re frugal people and they’re about $60 each unless we find them used or pick them up at the port in Houston after ordering direct from a manufacturer), and it’s too hot most parts of the day to safely stir up the birds, put them in boxes and drive them to pasture.  What’s a determined crate-less chicken-farmer to do?  Become nocturnal.  The birds are easy to catch/handle when sleeping and the temperature drops to a more safe bird transporting one.  We’ll be moving birds around 9:00 tonight, for example.

 

Picture of Harry Welding
Harry Welding Coop Frame

Quick picture disclaimer: Harry is only dressed as he is for welding safety.  He does not normally wear all denim – anymore that is. This was just one aspect of getting the infrastructure in.  The coops Joel Salatin recommends turn into ovens for Central Texas meat-birds.

Move Coops Daily

The coops are light enough for me to move by myself and I’m wimpy.  Currently though we’re stuck dragging hose behind the coops which doesn’t always reach the 5 gallon waterers, so I find myself carrying lots of 40+ pound waterers to each coop.  It’s only a short distance but it does take a lot of time – my arms are looking very tone however.  Next, feed has to be schlepped from nearby barrels to the coops and each feeder topped off.  I’m normally done with the first round by 7:00am-ish but I do have to refill waters around 1:00pm.  Joel neglects to mention that this is hot, sweaty work; of course, he may not have many 100+ degree days on his farm in Virginia, but we’ve had a rash of them here and way early in the season.  The extreeme heat presents a special challenge here for the birds too.  Not only will they refuse to grow, but they will kill over if too hot.  All of our coops are now equipped with patio misting systems.

 

Pictures of coops in field

Portable Coops Closed Up for Night

 

Harvest at Desired Weight

Our desired live weight is 4.2 – 5 pounds and typically we have about 42% of our flock within this range at five weeks.  Searing heat and poor genetics however are really slowing our growth – the birds’ feed consumption seems much higher, however; that equals more feed in, less meat out.  At five weeks old we didn’t have a single bird ready this time and at six weeks we were lucky to pull 35 birds for processing.  We actually just did our first processing from our first batch of 200 birds.  All the little Scotts (what we call big, white chickens) were six weeks old but after finding only 22 birds at weight, Harry gave up and started feeding.  In the dark, out of pure desperation, I continued to pick up individual birds, who by this time had gone to sleep (it was after 9:00pm) and managed to find thirteen more.  Never-mind we were supposed to deliver 50 birds the next day.  Another aspect of the harvest at desired weight that I don’t remember reading in Joel’s book is that the birds sometimes exact their revenge by…how do I say this nicely…shooting explosive fecal matter all over the handler.

Process

Sometimes this is a smooth and painless process, sometimes it is not.  What I have deemed as our first “real” processing (aka processing birds for commercial customers) was last Friday and it was not a smooth process.  First, we didn’t get birds out of the field and to the processing shed until about 9:50pm, and then that was only to discover the power was out.  I cried.  Seriously.  Then the power came back on and we processed.  We’re lacking a few fun tools that would make processing more efficient and I had my worst eviscerating night ever – I broke every crop and had to go after it from the neck end of the bird.  The lack of processing necessities and my slow eviscerating meant we didn’t finish until about 1:30am.  It was a long night to say the least.

Sell from The Chill Tank

The State may actually allow this, but it’s gross.  Who wants someone sticking their arm up to their elbow in a chill tank of multiple chickens and pulling out a bird, bloody water and all?  No thanks.  That and we’re in the sticks.  Directions to our house include things like turn right at the ONLY light in town, and turn left when you see the feral flock of fighting chickens. No one is coming out here regularly and it is not cost effective to raise chickens seasonally.  We prefer to air chill and drain our birds overnight before poly-bagging or vacuum-sealing them, depending on customer preference.  Then we deliver the birds to their new homes on set days.  This first batch was delivered on Saturday morning; fortunately I had time a brief nap first but this customer prefers frozen and we didn’t even have enough time to let the birds freeze before delivering.  I bet no one realized the chicken they got on Saturday was alive at 10:00pm the night before.

What does all this mean to you?  Not much, other than please be patient with us.  Chickens are not widgets and we truly do produce at Nature’s rate, which is slower than normal right now.  We’ll be turning out the best tasting, humanely raised, carefully processed and neatly packaged chickens in no time.

Modern Farm-Woman Attire

8

Posted by Jennifer on Wed,06-15-2011 | 8 Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

One of the hazards of farming is the dreaded farmer’s tan.  Nothing like getting undressed and still looking like you have clothes on – for me this is most noticeable on my arms where I tend to get a distinct sleeve line.  My whole off-farm wardrobe is then dictated by what I have that can cover up the un-tan portions of my body.  Of course, continuing to cover these pale places results in an even more obvious tone difference and a vicious cycle ensues.  Well, no more.  I am starting a “Just Say No to Farmers’ Tan” campaign.

Gone are the days of wearing long pants and boots – hell, we’re in a drought; it’s not as if I’m going to walk through tall grass and stumble upon a snake. Shirts with sleeves are no go too.  Sunscreen is still critical because, aside from the cancer risk, no one wants to look like an old piece of shoe-leather at 45, or ever for that matter.  Wrinkles suck and they’re caused by the sun.

So, what’s the modern farm girl to do?  Well, if you have a swim suit don that.  Personally I haven’t bought a swim suit since I gained weight and have no plans to spend money on something I wouldn’t dare wear in public.  If I find a place to swim at home, I’ll just skinny-dip (or chunky-dunk, as the case may be).  Instead I resurrected clothes from my past – a tube top that looks chic under a cropped jacket, and shorts that were swim suit cover-up in their past life.  I roll the tube-top up and the shorts down to maximize skin exposure.  Don’t have a tube top?  No worries, wear a tank top but take the sleeves down and tie them together in the front with a zip tie.  Instantly you have a tan-line-free top.

There are other essential elements of the farm-woman wardrobe beside the clothes themselves. For example, before sporting my tube top and shorts outside, I slather on a mineral sun block – can’t imagine using the chemical stuff with the quantities and frequency I need.  I use Nature’s Gate on my body and Clarin’s on my face.  The Clarin’s stuff is expensive but one little bottle lasts for several seasons, feels light, and does a great job.  Not really tan related, but next, and this is crucial, I apply mascara.  Mascara, you ask?  Yes, it would be absurd for me to be in the field in nothing but a tube top, short shorts, body odor, a thin layer of dirt and sweat coating my body and NO make-up.  Even a chicken-farmer needs a little “glamour.” The following, paired with either flip-flops (dry weather) or Crocs (wet-weather), is my wardrobe on the farm:

Shorts, tube top, make-up and sunscreens

Modern Farm Wear

Please take steps to eliminate farmers’ tans from your world, don’t forget the sun screen or mascara, and please call before you visit so I can be decent when you arrive.

The Fleet is In The Field

0

Posted by Jennifer on Thu,06-09-2011 | No Comments »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

We had been taking advantage of the precious grass growing along our driveway and running our two little coops there. However, we’ll be up to twelve coops in the next week and we’re out of room along the driveway. So it was out “to the field.”

Monday night we got four coops of fifty birds each into position and I got two more situated Tuesday with about one hundred younger birds in each. It looks like a real operation, and to quote Harry as he stood back and admired the progress Monday night, “we are starting to look like a real redneck chicken farm.” This was said with pride.

Coops in The Field

Current Fleet of Six

I rigged up a misting system (I use the term “system” loosely) by cutting water hose, creating shorter hose pieces and then tying it to a four-way hose splitter.

Hose Connection

Hose Splitters

Each piece of hose runs into a coop and hangs from the ceiling with a spray nozzle set to “mist.” Better nozzles would be appreciated, but this is working for now and the birds get to enjoy a simulated rain shower during the heat of the day.

Mister in Center of Coop

Redneck Mister

I’ll be changing the central nozzle to those little irrigation type misters along the sides of the coop in the next week, but this is working for now and keeping my birds alive during 100+ degree days.  Also, hopefully we’ll get some grass soon.  My pasture looks as sad in person as it does in the pictures; I’m going to have to bill these chickens as “desert chicken.”  Exotic and tasty.

There’s more work to do and more reports will be coming soon. Oh, and to my followers who think my wardrobe (or the lack of one) is funny – a lot of the ground work for the coops’ field trip was done with me wearing a tube top and wind shorts. Ha, take that farmer’s tan!

Perils of Egg Collection

1

Posted by Jennifer on Mon,05-23-2011 | 1 Comment »
Posted in Past Posts 2011

Warning:  While I try to keep the blog posts pretty PG, this one contains the word “boob” and has pictures that may induce nightmares in small children and chicken owners everywhere.

And I thought people PMS and pregnancy-induced mood swings sucked. Nothing compares to the mood of a broody hen. There are about six girls in my coop brooding right now, so egg collection has become an extreme sport.  They are chickens, so mood-swings sound relatively low risk, however, my mother-in-law has a scar on her arm from a brooding-hen attack when she was a child. A permanent scar is some serious damage.

For those of you who live sans chicken, a chicken goes “broody” or is “brooding” when she stops laying and starts sitting on eggs to hatch them out. This process takes about 21 days during which time other hens will visit her nest and add fresh eggs to the collection. Even if we let a hen sit, we still have to collect the fresh eggs, so each hen gets handled every night.

A couple other changes take place for the hen during this time. One major change is that the hen becomes paranoid. She stops seeing me as friendly-farmer-Jenn and begins to hear voices telling her I’m a predator and she’ll have to attack relentlessly to protect her unborn young. Also, the previously absent minded hen, who formerly laid her egg, clucked loudly to announce it’s arrival and then traipsed off without a care in the world, is now a staunch pro-life advocate. No one can take her unborn child.

Mean hen in nest

Since Sweet-Pea has become Angry Agnes, it may seem logical to don long sleeves and gloves.  My husband used to take off his shirt and wrap his hand in it.  I try to live bra-free at home, so that could lead to a whole other blog posting if I tried it.  Food for thought: Does a chicken pecking your boob because you were collecting eggs topless get you mentioned in Jeff Foxworthy’s act?

Long sleeves and gloves seem like attire-of-the-weak anyway, so I opt to just reach in (always after a moment’s hesitation) and grab hold of the hen behind her head.  Much like you would hold a snake.  Then I am able to “steal” her eggs with minimal bloodshed.  Matilda, the hen pictured on this posting, is particularly sneaky, mean, and paranoid.  She’ll actually reach over and peck me while I’m collecting eggs from neighboring nests.  Really inconvienent since she broods on a top nest – this makes me eye level with her while collecting eggs from the lower level nests. Maybe I’ll start sporting safety glasses.

Go ahead, stick your hand in under her…

Extra mean hen in nest…she is watching you.