Friday, September 19, 2014

Backyard Evidence of Free-Range Chickens

When deciding our chickens would free-range in our fully fenced backyard I knew the landscaping was about to change in good ways and bad. Yes, chickens are good at keeping unwanted pests away, suppling fertilizer and controlling weeds, but they also love to eat prized plants, scratch up the lawn and wreak havoc on vegetable gardens.   

For those of you who are thinking about getting backyard chickens and plan to allow them to free-range, I will give you a glimpse of my backyard to show you what you may be getting yourself into. Here is evidence that I have free-range chickens:

Exhibit #1 Dust Bathing Holes

Exhibit #2 Sad looking Grasses

Exhibit #3 Scratched Lawn

Exhibit #4 Scattered Playground Chips

Exhibit #5 Trampled Ferns

Exhibit #6  Feathers Feathers Feathers!

Of course you can avoid the look of a rustic backyard by keeping your chickens contained full-time in a large run. To keep the damage to a minimum one could also do a combination of containment and free-range.  If you do plan on free-ranging your chickens I strongly suggest reading the book, Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom.  It offers great tips on how to create a beautiful landscape that incorporates chickens. 

I know our backyard is far from perfect because we chose to free-range our chickens, but nothing beats looking out the kitchen window every day and seeing my feathered ladies happily roaming free.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tips From Our Junior Blogger: The Egg Float Test

Tuesday's Tip From Our Junior Blogger
Chicken tending tips straight from the mouth of a 5-year-old!

The Egg Float Test

To see if your eggs are icky put them in water. There are teeny tiny holes on the egg shell that let air inside the egg. If your egg is really old that means lots and lots of air has been sent inside and this makes it float in water. 

  • If the egg is floating on the top of the water then that means there is lots of air that got inside.  The egg should be thrown away because that means it is really old and icky. 

  • If the egg is floating in the middle of the water that means you should cook it and eat it right away.

  • If the egg is on the bottom that means it's good to eat and you don't have to eat it right away like the egg that was floating in the middle.   
Fresh Backyard Eggs to Eat

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Don't Judge a Chicken By It's Photo

If you follow me on social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you may have noticed that I like to post "picture perfect" photos of my children with their chickens. The images make it look like my children are playing nicely together, giggling and taking turns holding the chickens all while I am behind the camera snapping photos to remember the moment and cherish forever. Well, the following illustrates the reality of what usually happens behind the scenes of our weekly "photo shoots."

ChickinBoots - "Hey girls, do you want to go in the backyard and play?"

My girls - " YES!!!  Can we hold the chickens?"  (They ask that every time.)

ChickinBoots - "Sure!  Let me grab the camera."

The girls immediately shoot out the door, throw on their boots and bee-line for the chickens.  Then the chaos begins. Here are some things that can be heard from my girls during a typical photo shoot:

"I get to hold Nelly Dean first!"  

"Can we hold them while we swing?" (No, I don't allow that to happen!)

"She's not sharing Agnes!"

"I can't catch Edna." (Said while crying)

"Eww, Agnes just did a huge poop."

"Can we feed them tomatoes?"

"Mom, I haven't had a turn to hold Edna, yet!

"Nelly won't stop pecking at my dress."

While taking photos I can sometimes be heard saying:

"Can you lean back a little so that I can get Edna in the photo?"

"Hurry and sit down at the table so I can get a photo of you and Nelly before she flies off."

"Stay right there so I can get a photo before the chickens move."

"Go grab Edna so that she can be in the picture, too."

Our photo sessions may sound frustrating, but I actually enjoy every second of it. After taking about 100 photos I typically find a few that I want to use. Then the girls, chickens and I repeat another photo session a few days later. What am I going to do when this gorgeous Pacific Northwest summer weather passes and winter sets in? Probably the same stuff, but instead the girls will be wearing rain jackets, all wet and covered in mud.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tips from Our Junior Blogger: Buff Orpington Chicken

Tuesday's Tip From Our Junior Blogger
Chicken tending tips straight from the mouth of a 5-year-old!

Buff Orpington Chicken

The Buff Orpington chicken is big, golden and puffy.  Her booty is really fluffy. She lays brown eggs.  She has a medium sized comb, wattles and ears.  She doesn't like to be locked in the coop in the morning for too long. She sometimes talks to us when we go outside to hold her.  She is our chicken that likes to be held the most.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The #1 Rule When Owning Backyard Chickens

"Would you like a wake-up
call in the morning, sir?"

When we decided to have backyard chickens I knew there were going to be some bumps along the way and just recently we hit our biggest bump, yet.  Our Barred Rock chicken, Agnes, has become VERY noisy. Our 5-year-old refers to her as "Loud Mouth, Aggie."

She loudly bawks before she lays an egg.

She loudly bawks after she lays an egg.

She loudly bawks at any chicken who enters the coop when she is laying an egg.

She loudly bawks if there is a chicken in a nesting box that she wants to use.

She loudly bawks if she is alone.  

We live in a suburban neighborhood with many surrounding houses. While we have not had any complaints about our noisy chicken, we knew it was just a matter of time.  When owning backyard chickens I believe the #1 rule is you must Respect Your Neighbor, so with a heavy heart my husband and I knew we had to re-home Agnes. I called our local farm store, Healing Ponds Farm and Garden Store, and explained our predicament. They responded, "Oh, you have a chatty chicken. Bring her on in and we will find her a new home."  

Our daughters handled the situation well, especially our 5-year-old. When we told her we had to find Agnes a new home she cried a little, but understood. When it came time to bring Agnes to the farm store, our brave little 5-year-old said to me, "Mom, I have to bring Aggie back to the farm store with Dad because I am Little Chicken Tender."  

Agnes settling in at the farm store.

Drop off at the farm store went smoothly and when leaving the salesperson was on the phone saying, "Yes, a laying Barred Rock hen was just delivered to the store." Hopefully Agnes already found her new home.  We miss our Agnes and our backyard feels a little empty without her.  My heart hurts, but I know that this is all part of being a "backyard farm girl."  

And for those of you wondering, now our backyard is not as noisy and I am sure that our neighbors are quietly thanking us.

Thanks for the memories, Agnes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tips from Our Junior Blogger: Easter Egger Chickens

Tuesday's Tip From Our Junior Blogger
Chicken tending tips straight from the mouth of a Kindergartener!

Easter Egger Chicken

The Easter Egger chicken is brown and black and lays blueish/greenish eggs. Some Easter Eggers lay pink or brown eggs. Easter Eggers have small combs, wattles and ears. Sometimes they have a beard, but ours doesn't have one.  She is very quiet, but makes a soft sound when she comes up to us or when we hold her.   Lots of things scare her like loud sounds or when we move really fast.  She likes to fly over fences.

Not sure of the difference between an Easter Egger or an Ameraucana?  Read here for The Junior Blogger's blog post that explains the two difference breeds.