Haircuts for Hens

Much to my surprise, Helga didn’t peck my finger off as I gave her a spring “haircut.” And by haircut, I mean that her flight feathers needed to be clipped.

Every spring, the girls all need their feathers clipped because they’ll start flying over the pasture’s fence. And when my crazy chicken named LaFonda Flash gets over the fence, its nearly impossible to catch her.

IMG_1329

IMG_1332

Meet Helga, my feisty hen, who today was actually in a lovely mood. Must be the sunshine. You will notice several feathers lying on the grass. Evidence of the “haircuts.”

Waiting in Line

The truth is that no one likes waiting in line. Even chickens.

This morning, I heard loud squawking coming from the henhouse and decided to investigate.  Inside, I found the dilemma. There were six hens needing to lay eggs and only three nest boxes. Poor girls. Waiting and labor combined, not  a good combination.

IMG_1152

 

Spoiled Rotten Hens

My chickens are not just hens…they are my girls. Each have a name and each are spoiled rotten.  Believe it or not, my hens like being held and petted. My children adore catching them, though I’m not sure the girls like being chased. At least, its good exercise for all of them.

IMG_1056

When I saw the little ladies shivering this winter, I went to work to make better accommodations. Heat lamp, electric waterer and extra grains.

IMG_1062
I snapped these photos at night while they were roosting. They looked at me like, “Excuse me, we’re trying to sleep.”

IMG_1065

 

The only thing I didn’t do was sew sweaters. But boy, it would have been cute. I like the patterns below.

enhanced-buzz-5776-1330199752-39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

enhanced-buzz-8363-1330200034-26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweater References: reginadrangel.blogspot.com, hencam.co.uk

 

 

 

Adopting 8 Little Ladies on Father’s Day

We were so blessed on Father’s Day. Two weeks ago, I lost three of my beloved hens due to a predator attack. Since then, we’ve made adjustments to secure the rest of our flock. However, it’s made me feel quite sad seeing the coop so empty, and especially sad for my little Gretchen, who lost her best friend. She wanders alone now in the pasture and doesn’t have a buddy to roost with at night. Chickens tend to make friends and stick with them. But…on Father’s Day that changed.

IMG_1863

A friend from church is going through a transition and needed to find a new home for her 8 chickens. It was a mutual blessing for all of us. She knew her chickens were going to a good home, and our henhouse would once again be full of love and eggs. So on Father’s Day, we collected our new little ladies, which wasn’t easy since those rascals were fast and kept running under the deck!

Once they were settled into their new coop and pasture, they seemed happy to explore. My daughter was giddy to show them around and give them all lots of hugs.

IMG_1846

At night, I checked to see that the girls had all made their way into the coop and then my heart swelled. Gretchen wasn’t perching alone. She had a new friend, a little Ameraucana hen was tucked close beside her. I am sure they slept warm and happy. In this little thing, I see God’s love. He cares even about my hens. And if He cares about a small chicken, believe me when I say…He cares even more for you.

IMG_1858

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Three Sweet Hens

This morning, I went out to collect eggs inside the hen house. My two little children tagged along beside me as they usually do. What we found upon entering reduced me to tears.

Last night a predator, we’re thinking it was a raccoon, got inside the henhouse and wreaked havoc on my precious chickens. Three of my hens were dead and missing large parts of themselves. One of the girls is limping badly. I love my chickens. They are my little girls. They lay eggs like champions and always greet me at the gate. I have even given each one a name based on her personality. Today, I said goodbye to Josephina, Ginger, and Aretha. They were sweet, and I hate that they died this way.

IMG_9286
Ginger, she always strut around like the model on Gilligan’s Island.
IMG_9295
Josephina, aka Josie
IMG_7585
Aretha. She would always pause, kneel slightly and let me pick her up. She liked to be held and petted.

Needless to say, does anyone know a good type of trap that will catch medium sized predators?

 

 

 

The New Cordero Family Flock

Over the last year and a half, our flock has changed due to old age, sickness, and the addition of new chicks. So today, I’d like to introduce you to our current flock of chickens.

IMG_9193
VELVET

Velvet – She is a sixth-month-old Black Australorp hen. Her name is derived from the look and texture of her feathers. She is a total beauty. Currently, she has an itch to become a mother, and hoards eggs below her in the nest box hoping that they will hatch. Trouble is that we butchered the rooster three months ago so none of the eggs are fertilized and won’t ever become baby chicks. I’ve tried to reason with her and have pushed her out of the nest box several times, but the truth isn’t sinking through her thick feathers. Nevertheless, I admire her determination even if it’s a complete misguided nonproductive unfruitful attempt at success.

IMG_9274
COCO CHANEL

Coco Chanel- She is another gorgeous Black Australorp hen who is best buddies with Velvet. Her feathers show nicely like a little black dress. She enjoys strolling around the pasture looking for bugs.

IMG_9286
HELGA

Helga – She is one fiery dame. She’s got enough attitude for the entire house of hens. And she’s a finger pecker. It’s painful. I’ve given up on showing her attention.

IMG_9389
ROSALINA

Rosalina “Rosa” – Rosa is a Rhode Island Red and best friends with Helga. She is a skittish girl but lays eggs like a champ!

IMG_9351
BLONDIE

Blondie – Named after the female rock singer and for her blonde feathered butt. She’s a year and a half old Buff Orpington who lays light brown eggs.

IMG_9382
GRETCHEN

Gretchen – She is my favorite girl. She is sweet as a sugar cookie and likes to be petted and held! When we go into the pen, she’s the first to greet us. I love you, Gret!

IMG_9279
JOSEPHINA

Josephina “Josie” – Josie is a special girl, and she’s a walking miracle. About five months ago, she developed a limp. Chickens don’t usually recover from a limp. The hen’s health will decline, and the other hens will gang up on it. We monitored Josie daily, and I prayed for her. Slowly, the limp healed and now she’s perfect. God does care about the small things! And He loves his creation.

IMG_9361
GINGER

Ginger – She is the number two in the henhouse line-up. She has just as much strut as Ginger on Gilligan’s Island.

IMG_9207
ARETHA

Aretha – She is Queen of the Chicken Castle. She leads the flock of girls, and they all know it. Her breed says it all: She’s a Black Star. And that’s the truth, she’s the star of the show.

 

#EggLayingHens #Chickens #FamilyFarm

Taking Care of the Garden and Gimpy

IMG_8173

My two kids and I had a diverse night. It started with thinning rows in the garden and ended with giving a hen a sitz bath.

We planted a variety of veggies and fruits in our 16 x 60 garden. We have modeled our garden after Paul Gautschi’s “Back to Eden Organic Gardening.” You can check it out via http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/how-to-grow-an-organic-garden.html.

Below is a picture detailing the layers we did to prepare our garden. First, we laid newspaper to kill the grass and prevent weeds. Second, we spread a 2 inch layer of compost onto of the newspaper, followed by 3 inches of wood chips and a sprinkling of manure. My neighbor who owns a huge cow farm across the road was so kind as to bring a scoop of manure over with his John Deere. Bless his heart! Nothing like free manure for the garden.

8893599_orig

It has been a real learning process doing our garden this year and its far from perfect. We chose the absolute worst spot on our land to put it. We didn’t know that until the first bad rainstorm and half the garden was washed out in places. The water likes to run through the middle of the garden. So we dug trenches around the outskirts and through the center of the lower half. Its looks completely redneck, but its working. We planted sweet corn, cucumber, carrots, spinach, lettuce, green onions, sweet onions, bell peppers, summer squash, dark zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, golden zucchini, cantaloupe, and watermelon. I got real fancy and marked the rows with rocks that I labeled with a black sharpie.

IMG_8164

IMG_8138

IMG_8160

In the meantime, we are doing maintenance. Tonight, Bella helped thin out the row of cucumbers. She continued to ask, “What can I pull next?” Gabriel didn’t bother to ask, he was proactive and started to pull on his own. Cute little bugger.

Afterwards, we had to deal with Josefina, my gimpy hen.

IMG_8156

Two days ago, I went outside to check on the girls. All the hens and ducks came running up to say hello. (They’re hoping for treats.) Poor little Josie was limping up the back forty, trying to reach me. She had to stop several times to catch her breath. I hoped it wasn’t anything major and gave it a little time. But gimpy isn’t getting better. After a google search, I found that a chicken limp can mean three things: a stroke, a lodged egg, or a pulled muscle. Either way, there’s not much that can be done, except a warm bath, massage to loosen a bound egg, and baby aspirin for a tender muscle. We started with phase one. THE BATH. I poured warm water and salt into a 5 gallon bucket and put Josie in. I think she liked it. I massaged her belly and checked her all over.

IMG_8167

IMG_8168

Tomorrow if there’s no improvement, I’ll give the aspirin. I hope she’ll be okay. I like my Josefina. She’s a sweet little girl. My kids think so too!

Clipping Chicken Wings

IMG_8073

Wing clipping is necessary when you don’t want the backyard hens and ducks flying all over, especially into the neighbors’ garden.

I have trimmed the flight feathers on my older chickens about a year ago, but the ducks and new hens have not yet been clipped. It didn’t become a problem until my neighbors planted their veggies, and my naughty ducks decided they wanted to taste test. My neighbor’s have even put up a fence, but my determined ducks are flying over it. So today I put a stop to that. They got clipped. Donald and Quackers put up a protest, but I finally won. My arm did get some battle scars in the process. It is better to tag-team with a partner when clipping, but when I set my mind to something, I get the job done.

IMG_8067

Clipping involves using sharp scissors to cut off the first ten flight feathers of one wing. It causes a bird to lack the balance needed for flight but lasts only until new feathers grow during the next molt, which may be a few months in young birds or up to a year for older ones. A potential problem is that clipped feathers may not readily fall out during the molt, requiring your assistance.

wingclipping

Wing clipping doesn’t hurt the bird, and isn’t noticeable when they are walking around. The primary flying feathers are hidden underneath when the wings are folded. Also, the flying feathers are easy to pick out — often a different color than the rest. Make sure to use a SHARP scissors.

IMG_8062
Two flight wings I need to clip.
IMG_8074
Completed clipping
IMG_8068
The ducks are all clipped and heading to the pond to decompress.

REFERENCE: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-to-clip-trim-the-wings-of-your-chicken-to-prevent-flight

Butcher Day: Meat Chickens

IMG_7834

Attention Readers: Some pictures contain blood.

Yesterday was butcher day for half our flock of meat chickens. They are Cornish Rocks. The key is to have hot water or the rotten chicken feathers will not pull off.

My father, my husband and I processed 13 chickens in 2 hours. And for our first time butchering, I thought we rocked it.

Our birds weighed roughly between 5 – 7 pounds after 8 weeks of raising them. They are not filled with hormones and other growth stimulators. They were raised on a natural blend of grains (from a local feed supply) and for the last two weeks of life, they foraged grass inside our chicken tractor. When you buy a rotisserie chicken at Meijer, it will weigh 2 – 3 pounds, and you will pay $5.00, which would mean that my 6 pound chicken would cost $15.00 at the store. But because we raised our own, when we subtract feed and bedding, they costed us roughly $6.50 a piece! Between the cost of savings and the knowledge of what I’m actually consuming, I’ll keep raising my own chickens.

Now if you’re thinking you’d like to do it too, let me walk you through butcher day, so you will know if you can handle it.

Step One- Take out all food 12 hours before the butcher.

Step Two- Get all your supplies and equipment set up. Needs: Sharp carving knives for slicing the throat and gutting the bird, metal bucket, 6 ft. table, cooking thermometer, salt, 3 totes (depends on amount of chicken), bags of ice, 2 gallon freezer bags, hose with a spray nozzle.

IMG_7828

Step Three- Get the fire started and water close to boiling in the bucket. Water should read 180 degrees.

Step Four- Slit the throat of bird and hang upside down for three minutes to bleed it out.

Step Five- Dip bird in and out of hot water for thirty seconds. Pluck out all feathers. Then blow torch off the small hairs.

IMG_7831

Step Six- Put bird into cold, saltwater. (Helps draw out blood)

IMG_7837

Step Seven- Cut off the legs. Put bird on its back with chest facing up, slice under the top of chest cavity (breast). Pull out all the organs until bird is clean within (the gizzard and heart are good eat’n if you’d like to keep). Cut off the oil sack on the tail. Hose the inside of bird. Stick into bucket of ice.

IMG_7830

Step Eight- Continue procedure for all other birds and then double bag the birds in Ziploc freezer bags.

IMG_7838

Step Nine- Celebrate and eat those good chickens!

IMG_7842

This is a quick version of the process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Also one book you ought to purchase is “Pastured Poultry Profits” by Joel Salatin. It has everything you need to know about meat chickens and egg laying hens.

We are on the road of small hobby farming. One small step for the Cordero’s, one giant leapt toward self-sustenance! 

 

Farm Fancy and Ranging Free

IMG_7779

I am such a sucker for poultry.

Just being outside with my family and birds is bliss. And entirely entertaining.

My husband and daughter are digging a small pond for our natural spring to pour into. The ducks, Quackers and Donald, are gonna go nuts when that thing fills up! Four days ago, we integrated the ducks into the pen with the full-grown hens. They sized each other up, made some squawks and quacks, and decided it would work.

IMG_7747

Yesterday evening, my husband found the little hens roosting on his power tools in the garage. He wasn’t feeling that, nor the little presents on the garage floor. So today, we decided it was time those girls joined the meat hens outside in the chicken tractor.

IMG_1288

Before putting them with the meat hens, we let the chicks roam the yard with the big hens and ducks. The big hens didn’t give them an ounce of interest, but the ducks were thrilled! We’ve raised them together since they were babies, and it was a reunion. The ducks were quacking and rubbing their heads all over the chicks. Tonight, when I had to split them up, the ducks protested loud and clear.

IMG_7793

These are the meat hens. We have 23 of them and butcher day is vast approaching. I can’t wait. They are so stupid and stinky, but boy will they be delicious.

IMG_7792

IMG_7790

IMG_7774

IMG_7796

We love country life. Never a dull moment.