Chicken Mission

Learning and thriving…

Chickens are definitely a new learning curve for me.  So naturally, I’ve done what I always do-I read and research extensively, then I point my toes and leap.  And, per the usual, there’s always, always always (!) an early misstep.  The good news is, the chickens are alive and well.  The bad news is, for a few days there, it seemed as though I had inadvertently put their health in jeopardy. The culprit?

The common Red Cedar tree.  You see, they take these trees, and make stuff with them.  One of the many products available made from red cedar are cedar shavings.  These are manufactured and packaged for use with small animals.  I found them at a bargain while readying my chicken coop for the ladies, and thought, this is a great idea.  The cedar will help with the chicken smell (ewww) and should have some anti-bug properties to boot.

Fast forward to Thursday of last week.  I’m bleary eyed, reading an article on the deep litter method before going to bed for the evening. About two thirds of the way through the article ( frankly I was almost asleep) I read the following words “….cedar shavings are toxic to chickens and should never be used.”   Bleepity, bleep, bleep!! I said to myself, and for the next hour and a half, I scoured the internet for more information.

The bottom line as far as my research took me, is that there is no bottom line.  A lot of people are convinced cedar is toxic to chickens (as well as other small animals).  It’s discussed in chicken forums across the web that red cedar’s aromatic properties can actually create respiratory issues for the birds and in fact, can kill them.  I couldn’t find any conclusive (and by that I mean cited, scientific, etc) point of reference that gave me the 411 on cedar’s effects on chickens.  On top of which, there are folks out there who say they’ve used cedar shavings as part of their bedding mix for years and had no problems.

What did I do?  Well, my philosophy is this:  If there’s a chance something might kill your chickens, and you don’t want your chickens to die, then quit doing the thing that might kill them.  So I spent the better part of an incredible, beautiful Saturday morning mucking out a chicken coop.

What did I replace the cedar with?  Well, I know you’ll find it hard to believe, but for every bedding material available and used, there’s someone who’s going to say it’s no good for your chickens.  I found folks who think pine shavings are toxic, and then there are folks who use pine religiously.  Some folks are sold on hay, and some folks say it tends to mold and is a mess to try to compost.  So, I used pine shavings and threw some hay on top  and in the nesting boxes for good measure.  I love these chickens, but I don’t see any backyard chicken death epidemics and people are using these materials left and right.

So today, I reached out to my county extension office and asked them.  The agri-extension representative said,

“I can’t speak with authority about cedar shavings, but will try to find out. I do know that pine shavings and/or rice hulls are the preferred bedding materials for the poultry industry. I believe this is for the absorption value of these materials. I will forward your question to someone in the poultry department at TAMU and see what they say.”

TAMU is Texas A&M University, and as soon as I know, I will let you guys know.

So at least for the time being, the Hogwarts quartet are thriving.  And me? I’m still learning…

Crochet

Whitney’s Scarf

Ok, I know.  To the naked eye, I look to be in a be bit of a rut.  But it’s just such awesome gratification when I complete a variation on this scarf.  Not to mention the fact that my dear, sweet darling daughter has been asking for one since the process began.  So this is the “Whitney” scarf.  She sat down with the rainbow of lovely Catania cotton and chose these colors.

You’ll note that the stitch pattern is very similar to the Spring Green scarf I posted last week. But the color variations bring it a little more into alignment with the Seascape version. Instead of chaining 308 to begin, I chained 208 to adjust for the ten-year old factor.

My child has an eye for color.  Always…all her life. This color pallet reminds me of Easter.  The pastels and gemtones of Easter eggs nestled in the grass.

Have a great Monday!

General

Catch and Release

Last week was Spring Break for my kiddos.  We didn’t plan a trip or family vacation, but we did a little “stay-cationing”. We were looking for something to do on Friday and decided to check out the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.  Yes, I know, sexy right?  Not so much, but it was actually pretty cool.  I had expected a freshwater aquarium. I had heard that there was a pond where this kids could fish, but I didn’t realize that they had developed a small wetlands trail and preserve.

Or that they encourage wild life habitat as part of the preserve

It was beautiful and unexpected. And even though I did expect lots and lots of catfish.  I don’t know that I was prepared for these guys!

or these

You could buy fish food from a small vending machine for a quarter and it created quite the frenzy.  I had to coax the kids to go back over after they got splashed by some pretty fishy fish water. You actually did find yourself a little worried about the probability of fish obesity and the heart-health implications of the constant food….

But then when you get down to brass tacks, it’s really all about activities that, although not great for fish well-being, are all cosmic reminders of the interspecies food chain…Right?….Maybe not.

This was an awesome little “catch and release” pond situated in the middle of the center. Apparently, the fish were biting right up until we dropped our lines in the water… 🙂  Note to self: One has to catch in order to release.

Have a great weekend! Check out some of the natural beauty that may be around the corner in your neck of the woods.

Chicken Mission

Hey Chicks, Come out and Play!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I brought the Hogwarts’ four home.  So day one, I donned rubber boots and jetted out to the chicken coop to visit. What can I say? I was excited.  Upon arrival, I called out to them, clucked, cajoled…no chickens.  So I rationalized, hey, maybe they’re sleeping in.  Who knows right?  New place, long drive home, I’ll give them some time.  So I worked around the yard.  I have fire ants in my raised garden beds and I had some eradicating to do anyway.  Basically, I just wanted to give them space.  An hour or so later, back to the coop I went.  No chickens.  I called out to them softly, coaxing, finally decided I’d take a load off and wait them out.  So I opened the door of the coop and had a seat.  Once sitting, this is what I saw.

These ladies were not coming out. Only one of them was even remotely interested.  So I began talking.  I threw out a few leafy greens.  I waited. Finally, Jenny Weasley came through!

I knew I loved that girl! Finally, somebody was going to come out and play.Yo, Jenny what’s up? Hey girl…

Hey Lucy, where did you come from?

Wizard?  I didn’t see you were here too…

Pixie?  Back off a little babe…

Jenny, wait! Where are you going? Don’t go!

Hmmm…maybe we should just give them a little more space…

Chicken Mission

Meet the Flockers

Are four chickens enough to make a “flock”?  I’ll have to google it.  For now, I’m going to use it.  Let’s meet the little flockers!

Jenny Weasley and Minerva McGonagall.  These ladies are 2 month old Black Sex Link pullets.  Jenny (on the left) is bold and inquisitive.  Minerva is on the shy side.  This breed can begin laying as early as four months old!

Here we have Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood.  Hermione (to the rear) is the bolder of the two ladies.  Luna (although nearest the camera in this instance)is by far the most introverted of the four.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call her flightly, but she certainly ducks out quickly if conditions aren’t ideal, and her feathers disarrange easily.  That was random, but it’s like her hair’s messed up.  I think it’s funny. Anyway, these ladies are two month old Plymouth Barred Rock pullets-also reputed to be great layers.  Although they won’t begin laying until they’re around 6 months old. That’s ok, ladies. Pace yourself…

If you’ve noticed a theme with the names, it was purposeful.  My ten-year old just completed the Harry Potter series, and she demanded an active role in assigning identify.  She took one look at Jenny Weasley with her bright red neckline and it was a done deal. It makes for a very unique interpretation of Hogwarts I think.  Hogwarts Henhouse….? Sweet.