Sunday, February 26, 2012

Manicure #2

Most people would never bother to wonder if chickens like having their claws trimmed. If you by chance are one of the few who do, let us tell you...........They dont. Thanks to a recent article in "Chickens" magazine (March/ April 2012 issue), we learned a super useful technique for trimming their claws without drawing blood and unleashing coop cannibalism. The trick is to shine a flashlight through the claw to see where the "quick" (the vein in the claw nail) stops. Once you try it, you can see it clear and distinct, and see exactly where to cut. It worked like a charm. The flock is now neatly manicured and their scary, t-rex-like claws are back under control.

Having your flock living in a coop that is surfaced with pine shavings on top of linoleum doesnt allow for the natural wearing down of the claws that would otherwise take place from scratching around in dirt. We learned that we have to pay extra attention to claws getting too long, and the price for negligence is a not-so-happy time spent trying to hold onto a flapping, flailing chicken while your assistant tries to cut the wickedly overgrown claws without injury to chicken or human. As usual, after a generous serving of treats, all is forgiven....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Backyard Chicken Supplies

The world of backyard chicken keeping has officially changed for better!!! Today Jeff and I were picking up bedding for the girls, when feed in "backyard poultry" sizes caught my eye. Now the girls would go throw this way too fast to make it worth it for us, but it is still an exciting development .

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Egg eating?

As we approach the chickens' second birthday, one thing we have learned during our many adventures with indoor chicken keeping is to always expect the unexpected. The girls haven't eaten their eggs in over a year and half...until last week. We came home twice in one week to find half eaten eggs in their nesting box. There is nothing like seeing dried egg yolk in their pin to remind you that they are here to be productive and useful not just pets. If we wanted an animal that was for companionship, we would have a cat or dog, but we have chickens. Chickens who have a job to do! The egg eating seems to have stopped for now, but I hope it doesn't start up again. At some point, we will have to face the possibility of having to eat the chickens which would be hard after living together for two years, but I hope that option doesn't have to come any sooner.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Molting Mania

Even after almost two years with the girls, they still manage to surprise. Last year we missed the bulk of their molting as we were on our honeymoon. (Sorry Mom and Dad for having to deal with that in our absence.) So a few days ago we began to notice the tell tale feather collection and realized that molting had begun. Molting is a winter once a year occurrence when chickens drop most of their feathers and make new ones- kinda of like a chicken reset. All their energy going to making feathers means there are minimal to no eggs and the girls are basically PMSing. They are moody, irritable, and LOUD!

This wouldn't be so bad if it was for the fact that we had a couple over for dinner over the weekend. Cluck walked right up to the wife and pecked her hand. I offered a few treats to the girls hoping that would smooth things over but alas she did it again. Our friend was very kind about the whole thing but still how embarrassing. I really thought Cluck had out grown that bad habit, but I think the molting stress overtook her manners. Ah, the life of an urban farmers' dinner party..... at least I will have plenty of feathers to re-stuff our couch pillows.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Video Tour of Chicken Coop

Happy New Year to all our readers! With the arrival of winter and the holiday season, we have been super busy getting the last of the garden vegetables and herbs harvested and dried, pickled, preserved, etc, etc. The garden beds have been turned over and mulched for the winter, and seed garlic is planted.  Little green shoots are already peeking up through the snow (garlic's awesomeness never ceases to amaze!). This fall's apples have all been crushed, pressed, and bottled, and are bubbling away as the yeasts work hard fermenting the apple juice into next year's hard cider. Finally, the beehive had to be bundled up and prepped for winter. It was so tempting to take some of the sweet delicious honey, already dripping from the frames, but that is what the bees need to live off while holed up all winter in their hive until spring. Beekeeping is turning out to be all about patience. This is the first winter with a beehive so we are anxiously awaiting to see how they fare this winter. Fingers are crossed!

Luckily for our micro-flock of indoor chickens in the basement, no such preparations are needed. They are warm and dry and sheltered from the snow and cold in their basement coop to await spring.

To make up for the sparseness of blog postings this winter, we have put together a video "virtual tour" of or clandestine coop. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting Everyone Ready for Winter

While the winter season has taken an unusually long time to settle upon the urban farm, it is finally here and with it come preparations for the cold season. It struck us how, yet again, keeping chickens indoors sure makes life easier not only for the girls but for us too. This fact is especially apparent when you contrast how we got the bees ready for winter versus the chickens. 

John, our amazing bee mentor, came over to help wrap the hive in felt paper to insulate, check for proper ventilation, balance the hive in such a way that the condensation will drip forward, and helped install a mouse guard over the front in order to prevent those pesky creatures from making a home in my warm, food filled hive. After he left, I ordered a special feeder that slides in with bees which I filled with sugar water, and then I made a candy board. A candy board is made of twenty-five pounds of sugar (yes the cashier gave us a weird look at the grocery store) and three cups of water and a half a cup of vinegar (to prevent molding). The mixture is pressed into a shallow hive box with a queen extruder (plastic screen that only worker bees can fit through) on to bottom to hold everything in. The sugar dries and makes the biggest lollypop you can imagine. The hive box goes on top the rest of the hive with more newspaper above it for insulation and this creates an additional food source for the winter. At this point, all I can do to wait and hope my girls survive to spring. 

As for what we did for getting the chickens ready for winter- nothing at all. 

We chuckle to one another as we read about the latest ideas for keeping chickens' water thawed over winter or how to prevent frostbite on combs. We have noticed that over the past few days the girls seem a little agitated; we wonder if this might have something to do with the furnace turning on more in the basement. Perhaps Jeff and I should take the girls for a drive in the country to introduce them to barn chickens!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Food Safety

Arsenic in apple juice? Another egg safety/cruelty scandal? It makes me shudder to think how our fragile food system is being slowly eroded away.

Check out this article on arsenic in juices (NPR Link).  I find it interesting that the arsenic based pesticides that were in use until 1970 are believed to play a part in this food safety issue forty years later. I wonder what we are using right now in agriculture that our children will pay the price for...

Then there was the story about eggs being produced in cruel/unsanitary conditions.

What really amazes me is the relatively little concern we show about these incidents. Sure I saw the egg story a few times on the news, but it was quickly over after a couple of major corporations dropped the producer. Are we all so addicted to cheap, fast food that we are willing to turn a blind eye to the safety concerns of this mass produced slop?