Chicken Mission

New Construction of the Tractor Variety…

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!

Gardening

My nemesis…

Nemesis…defined as “a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent”

And she knows this…see the look of shame and apology.  It’s because she loves me.  She doesn’t love me enough, however.  She’s dedicated to foiling my every move.  Our battleground?

Our battleground is any area I attempt to cultivate as a garden bed, be it floral or vegetable, and the accompanying accessories.  The weapon? Her pearly whites. Her chompers. Teeth!

It’s April the 11th.  I’ve been ready to plant for weeks, but no…I’m stalked by this evildoer of a mutt.  Let me recount the casualty list to date:  $300+ dollars worth of drip irrigation,  a waterhose (including the fitting that attached it to the spout), the styrofoam covers off the trampoline, two dessert sage bushes (established), a satellite wire, the inputs to our air conditioning unit, an aloe vera plant and numerous small plastic containers.

This teething rascal is relentless!  But it’s April people and I have no choice! I had to plant!  I’m missing the window of opportunity for Texas!  It will be 100+ degrees in a couple of months.  So I planted

A few tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, and I wrapped it all in ragged leftover chicken wire.  And it seems to be working…so far….but I haven’t replaced the drip line yet.  I’m still having to water.  By hand.  Daily.  So, I found this

Which is a wireless fence system purported to accomplish this

My nemesis and I have a date with destiny this weekend.  And my hubbie, a date with drip irrigation!

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…

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.

General

Chicken Mission…the Midlife Crisis Continues

It’s spring and my mind has turned to thoughts of….chickens?  It’s my new learning frontier! This weekend, I am on a chicken mission.

  • Chicken Coop     –      Check
  • Feeder/Waterer  –      Check
  • Nesting Boxes     –     Check
  • Shavings              –     Check

We are go for chickens.  I’m in search of three to four sweet dispositioned young ladies.  I do not want babies.  Baby chicks are high maintenance, and we’re all full up on high maintenance around my house.  I do not want boys.  They are noisy and I like my neighbor.  He’s a very nice man who deserves peace and quiet in his own backyard.  I just want fresh eggs.  Glorious, tasty, healthy fresh eggs.  Eggs from happy, healthy, wholesome chickens!