Saturday, January 26, 2008

Well they're movin' on up! (Movin' on up..)

To this DEELUXE apartment in the sky-y-y...

Well, after months of being crammed into a hutch made for two chickens, my girls finally got a new home!
I spent a lot of time researching, thanks to the folks at, and came up with a design that should work well. Then I hired my carpenter to build it for me. Here it is.

It's got three nest boxes (no more screaming because someone else is using the box!)

And a roost conveniently located near the windows:

I think they like it!

Why didn't I try to build it myself? Well, because I value my marriage. Ramon got started around noon last Sunday, and within a couple of hours had more done than Matt and I could have done in weeks. There would have been hundreds of dollars of ruined materials, several extra trips to Home Depot, tears, recrimination, divorce papers, etc.

As of this writing I have the girls locked into the coop so they have time to settle in and get that it's now "home." But once I let them back out, they not only have the run, but an additional 20 sq feet of extra space under the coop to stretch out in. This is a good thing, because after a couple of weeks of letting them free-range around the yard, I've now decided they really need to be confined. Not only do they dig huge holes on my hillside in search of tasty bugs, but they just poop EVERYWHERE. Seriously, I knew chickens make poop but I was truly stunned as to the sheer volume of this poop. We literally couldn't step outside the kitchen door without stepping in it. So, for now, they will have to make do (no pun intented) with an hour or so of free-ranging in the evenings.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Please Do Not Adjust Your Monitor.

I'm fast learning that chickens aren't like machines..even after calibration, they don't necessarily produce perfectly shaped, evenly-sized eggs. In the past week, the girls have produced some perfect eggs, and some that, well, could most kindly be referred to as "gone awry." Some had soft shells that broke open in the run; some were rough-shelled and almost bleached white. I have started wondering how the farmers at my local farmer's market manage to produce cartons full of so many eggs all shaped exactly the same.

Still, the lack of uniformity is what's so very exciting about this process. Each time we check the nest box, we might find something extraordinary. Last week, I was about to run off to work when I checked the box and found this monster, courtesy of Veronica, I believe:

The egg on the right is actually a jumbo-sized egg: it was 2.5 oz. The monster on the left weighed it at 3 oz. on the nose. To give some perspective, here it is in the carton with the others.

It was indeed, as I suspected, a double-yolker. Very exciting!

On the other end of the spectrum, Gertie gave us this tiny little quail-sized egg, shown below next to a regular-sized egg. Most peculiar.

Tomorrow, Ramon the carpenter is coming to build my new coop. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

And then there were two. And three.

I'm a bit behind on the updates. In the past three weeks, Derby the Barred Rock started laying her eggs, and just the other day we finally got our first egg from Veronica, our Black Star. Derby's eggs are a perfectly smooth color of the lightest cream, which makes a lovely comparison to the burnished amber color of Gertie's eggs. They started off very small, as you can see here. Derby's egg is on the left, Gertie's in the middle and an egg from the farmer's market on the right as comparison. As you can see, Gertie's eggs are now as big as the large eggs from the market. Since taking this photo, Derby's eggs have grown considerably and are now almost as large as Gertie's.

Shortly after Derby started laying, Veronica started giving us "the squat," which is the dead giveaway that eggs are on the way. "The squat" is hard to describe, but you know it the moment you see it. You'll go to touch the pullet, and instead of sliding gracefully out from under your hand, she suddenly drops into a crouch, lifting her wings slightly and then freezes. Its as if she is trying to protect a very important and fragile cargo; which I suppose she is. Getting "the squat" from a chicken for the first time is cause for celebration around our household. Whoever spots it first goes dancing inside to tell the other, "Guess what I just got?" (what can I say, we live simple lives). Veronica seemed to take a long time to finally actually lay an egg; she was giving us "the squat" for a full 10 days before finally laying her first, long and skinny egg next to Derby's almost full-size cream egg. Two or three days ago our last pullet, Ginger, finally gave me a squat as well.

I only wish my poor little winter crop was doing as well. So far whatever wasn't ripped out by squirrels was plowed under by Gertie, who kept managing to get in behind my attempts at protective fencing. I have to say though, if you need your soil aerated, chickens are ideal. Gertie managed to scratch up an entire box full of soil and any seeds that were in there. So I now have a perfectly aerated and fluffy, nitrogen rich pile of soil if I decide to try planting something again!

The other bed has fared slightly better and some of the onions I planted have so far survived. The broccoli and the carrots both sprouted quickly, but haven't grown at all. Unfortunately they are not getting enough sun at the moment, as the position of the house relative to the North-South axis is not ideal in wintertime.

The final insult to my poor carrots was my own husband. I sent him out to cut me some greek oregano for a chicken I was roasting. He returned with a fistful of my carrot tops. *sigh*