Voice deep and mellifluous
Now only in dreams
Happy Birthday Pops…
Voice deep and mellifluous
Now only in dreams
Happy Birthday Pops…
So I’ve been stalking Craftsy. A relatively new site that offers an increasingly broad array of online crafts coursework. There are sewing classes, quilting, knitting, crochet, beadwork, and several others-all taught by prominent artists within their field. They frequently offer discounted deals on classes they’re introducing or highlighting. I’ve considered several, but didn’t bite the bullet until they posted Jennifer Hansen’s Tunisian Crochet.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know I wanted to learn Tunisian. And yet I found myself clicking to purchase. Go figure. There have been a lot of cute Tunisian projects in magazines lately. And I’m pretty excited to be trying a new learning medium. Is that geeky? Yes, it’s pretty geeky. I’m cool with that.
Part of the sales hook for Craftsy is that once you’ve purchased the class, you can take it as many times as you want, whenever you want. There are several projects of increasing complexity for coursework, and my plan is to post my progress as well as feedback on the class and curriculum.
So now I’m going to dig my afghan hook out of what will probably be the last giant tupperware tub in the far corner of my storage area. I’m going to make a very icy bourbon and coke (because it’s Friday night, I’m a grown up and I can). Then I’m going to sneak away and leave my husband entertaining my six year old and his buddy during their first big sleepover, and begin my class! Yes, I know. It’s wrong on so many levels. To tell the truth, if I find the stinking hook, I’ll be ahead of the game.
Have a great weekend!
I had chickens as a kid. Let me correct that statement. My mom had a flock of free ranging bantams. And I’ll be honest. I hated those chickens. Due to their prolific elimination, I was labeled with the moniker of “chicken doo foot” for a couple of years of my childhood. There was also this horrible little rooster that would chase you at will. He had gigantic spurs for such a little rascal. My older brother spent a lot of time and energy feeding a deep anger toward that rooster, and would inevitably torment the chicken as much as the chicken ever tormented the rest of us. I don’t remember why mom got rid of them, but I remember it being a happy day.
Needless to say, it was a little confusing for me when I realized I wanted some. It was counter to everything I’d stood for as a young person. I was a confirmed chicken hater. I can’t even tell you when I stopped. Probably about the time I started thinking about the experiences my children weren’t having.
I was raised in the rural agrarian south, with all the life experiences that went with it. My friends and I grew up with an understanding and appreciation for livestock and the work that goes into it. My kids are somehow managing to grow up in the new rural south. A place where it’s actually possible to maintain a weird kind of quasi-suburban lifestyle. I’m not really okay with that. If you’re going to grow up in East Texas, you really need to understand and experience the whole rural agrarian thing. Otherwise, I might as well park them in a Dallas suburb and move on.
On top of all of that (and oh, how I hate to be a lemming but…) the whole industrialized food chain thing is freaking disturbing. I just want my kids to be able to eat an egg without wondering what the idiots have fed the chicken.
So I had chickens on my agenda for several years before I pulled the trigger. It was the unexpected gift of our little red coop that pushed the goal to reality and launched my three month chicken intensive as chronicled on Such the Like.
Today I’d like close out my generalist’s study of poultry keeping with a list of really important things I’ve learned about chickens the last few months. Because as it happens, I really knew nothing when I started.
1. They poop. A lot. And their poops are all different and some of them are weird, which can make you paranoid about the quality of their poop. And you find yourself inspecting their poop. Boo.
2. They’re work. Before I brought my ladies home, I had been told that a backyard flock was little or no trouble. “You throw them out there and feed them. No big” I can’t agree with my friend’s statement. Refer to number one on my list. Chickens poop a lot. I don’t like the way poop smells. I don’t want my neighbor to smell poop. I like him. It’s not something he should have to worry about. So I spend some time making sure the coop is maintained.
3. Plan your coop. I love the little red coop! There are a lot of things about it that are awesome. There are also a lot of things that aren’t working for me right now. It’s important that food and water be easily accessible for the chicken and for the human. My chickens have no problem getting to their rations. Unfortunately for me however, I have to crouch or kneel to change them out. Not ok! You don’t want to be kneeling in a chicken coop people (reference #1). So I’m looking at improvements to our coop to keep it from being a complete hassle-especially during the summer. We have a lot of 100 degree days inTexasduring the summer. I need this coop maintenance thing to get a little more streamlined.
3. Chickens can be brutal. Granted there was the mean rooster from my childhood, but that was a rooster. I thought hens were laid back, gentle, and generally vacant. Not so much as it turns out. The stories I’ve read will curl your hair…and the whole cannibalism thing! Wow. My ladies have spunk! They’re feisty! They’ve got that certain look in their eye, and I’m keeping my eyes on them.
4. Certain chickens are good for certain things. Make sure you’re purchasing a breed that works for your climate and your goals. For me, it was good layers that are heat tolerant and docile. Don’t get sucked in by the babies at the feed store. Do a little homework.
5. The more time you spend with them, the more gratifying the experience. But isn’t that how it is with everything?
So I’ve been quasi-obsessed by the chickens. I know it and you know it. Given my track record, no one should be surprised that I’ve been reading and googling incessantly. It’s probably time to give a recap of the great resources I’ve found and utilized. Maybe in the process, it will give me closure and I’ll be able to bring the chicken mania to a more reasonable level of engagement.
I started with Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
This book was epic. It provided me with more detailed information on the care of poultry than I could absorb. I waded through it, but I felt like I needed something a little more streamlined to get me off the ground.
So I downloaded The Working Chicken by Anna Hess.
This is a succinct well-organized e-book available for your Kindle through Amazon. It cost .99 and was a great read. I felt like between the two, I had a good basic overview (Hess), as well as a desk reference (Damerow) that I would be able to go back to when needed.
So I moved onto magazines, which is very much my MO. Of course, first there’s the mothership…It does not disappointment.
Then Hobby Farms Annual Poultry Issue
Then Chickens…Hobby Farms’ “Essential Poultry Publication”
And of course, there’s the litany that is my Chicken Blog Roll…
Many of the following blogs a present a staggering array of detailed (sometimes graphic) information that poultry keepers need to know. They are passionate about their flocks and their posts demonstrate intense connections with the animals they keep.
There are a ton of resources out there, and the enthusiasts are true enthusiasts. Many of the blogs I’ve highlighted are absolutely beautiful, and the bloggers have brought chicken keeping to the level of art.
If you have an interest, enjoy! I certainly have.
I love the Hogwarts’s four, but the group just cried out for a little more diversity! Enter Bella. Our new three month old Golden Laced Wyandotte.
In my mind, she’s three months old-they’re about three and a half months old… I figured after a short quarantine period, I’d easily be able to introduce her to flock. I fully expected the whole “pecking order” thing. I didn’t, however, expect Hermione to freak out and hammer Bella’s head like she was a snake or something. Lesson learned. I quickly extracted Bella and she now resides in our recently launched chicken tractor. At least until she catches up on the chicken growth chart. But here’s the deal. She looked so little and lonely in the tractor all by herself. Not to mention, the Hogwart’s Four kept staring at her in a relatively hostile way.
Enter Buffy, the Buff Orpington.
Bella is actually Bellatrix LeStrange, the whacked out witch from Harry Potter. I love the name Bellatrix, but my daughter argued, “Mom, this is a sweet chicken! Not an evil witch chicken.” I told her she had a point, but what can I say, I like the name Bellatrix, Bellatrix LaStrange? I think it’s an awesome name for a chicken. She thought about it and said, “Well, i guess Bellatrix was actually kind of pretty in a really freaky way…” We were still mid-debate on Bella’s name when we brought our little Buff Orpington home. I knew immediately what her name had to be. There could be no other name for this one. It had to be Buffy the Buff Orpington. Buffy, named in honor of that bombshell demon killer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That’s it! We all agreed. Buffy and Bella. Bella and Buffy. Right about this time, my husband walked in and said, “What? Now we have a group of vampire themed chickens?” No honey, it’s just a happy accident. Chicken destiny….rock on….
I knew from the beginning that I wanted a chicken tractor for my hens. The coop is awesome, but I feel like they need to be able to stretch their legs, and free-ranging just isn’t a good option for us right now. I also knew that my chicken endeavors are just that, my chicken endeavors. The spouse has not been an active participant. He’s a darn good listener, but he has granted me lots of space on starting our little flock.
Imagine my amazement when he willingly took on the project of tractor construction! And finished it!
He even managed to involve the male offspring (girl child wasn’t having it).
Of course, it could be that one of the fellas helped more than the other.
I’m not naming names mind you…I’m just saying…
So this will be our mobile coop-our chicken RV, if you will. We can position the tractor strategically, moving at frequent intervals (1 to 2 days depending on how many occupants), and those little rascals will eat bugs, pull weeds, and fertilize our pitiful, pitiful backyard. Score!
No haiku today, guess I lied.
My brains feel all mushy inside.
Maybe bourbon and coke
Will give my poems a poke
It’s been a long week and I’m fried.
Have a good weekend everyone….
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…
Passageways are blocked
No Advil Cold and Sinus
Allergies suck it