August 2017 Update

Hello Everyone!

Wow, I wasn’t really intending to take a month long break from blogging, but life happens. I’m now back to work after having two and a half weeks off from work. On the first day of vacation, we separated the Delaware and New Hampshire cockerels from the pullets. We counted out 7 New Hampshire and 8 Delaware Cockerels. We moved the cockerels into their own coop and run.


The reason we did this is so that we could integrate the pullets in with the laying hens with the least fuss and bother possible. The integration went smoothly and we were even able to start releasing the mutt chicks from their run in the afternoon to start integrating with the can see some of the small white chicks on the left side near the gut bucket.


At first, the chicks respected the fence, but after a while they got bolder and started roaming and foraging more freely. You can see the little white birds clearly roaming outside the electric fence.

Free roaming chicks

The first half week of vacation, we spent in Pennsylvania for a family wedding. The next week, I took off as a stay-cation to do some chores on the farm. Sad to say, I didn’t get as much accomplished as I intended. I thought I would have oodles of time to do farm projects if I didn’t have to work. Nope! It turns out that taking care of a 13 month old little guy while working on the computer is VERY different from doing farm projects while caring for him. I did manage to get one very important task completed. Over the course of 3 days, I whittled our 15 cockerels down to 3 of each breed. I will go over our process for selecting our top 3 from each breed that we will be assessing for temperament in another blog post. For that last week of vacation, David, Mr. G and I, along with Grace, spent the week with some friends in a state park about 5 hours away. It was a very relaxing week, which we all needed.

DENH six

Today I made a surprising discovery. I saw one of the Delaware “pullets” doing something very… un-pullet like… to one the other pullets. I cornered the bird for a closer inspection and, lo-and-behold, we missed a rooster. Thinking back, when I separated the cockerels from the pullets, there was one bird I wasn’t sure about, so I left it with the pullets. We caught, banded and put this cockerel with the 6 others. We aren’t even considering weighing it against the other cockerels for several reasons. One, we want to select for fast maturing birds. If the rooster was still ambiguous at 13 weeks when we separated them, he didn’t mature fast enough. Two, while I was trying to catch a Delaware pullet to show Grace the feather differences between a pullet and a cockerel, this guy deliberately bit Grace. People aggression is a trait we don’t want to encourage in our birds. So we gave him a red band to make it obvious he is going in the freezer. Sadly, it means that we had one more cockerel than pullets in the Delawares, but if you look at our Animal Tally, we are now down to 59 chickens! That is a big difference from our high of 83.

ambiguous rooster.jpg

Another thing we did when we rearranged the chickens, was to move Molasses (who was in with the Delaware and New Hampshire chicks) in with the Dominique cross hens. The two Buff Orpington roosters we had put in with them had been slaughtered and we didn’t think he would get along well with Inca and Mellow. Also, just in case we have another hen go broody, we want the Dominique eggs to be fertilized by Molasses so we can hatch them out for mutts that should be broody as well. At first, Molasses wasn’t too sure about the full grown hens, but they warmed up to each other and he now watches over them like a good rooster should.

Molasses with Doms

We do have a slight problem that we do need to keep an eye on, though. Molasses, has a favorite girl. Blondie, one of our Dom/Buff cross hens, is definitely showing the wear and tear of being constantly loved on. She was a little ragged looking before this because she was Alfredo’s (our now frozen Leghorn rooster) favorite as well.

With summer in high swing, we are now rolling in tomatoes, eggs, and basil. Our hens are dependably laying 20+ eggs a day and the 18 Delaware and New Hampshire pullets are only 16 weeks and haven’t started laying yet. They should start laying in 2 weeks or a month. On an average day, we eat between 10 and 14 eggs. So, to use up the leftovers, we’ve been giving some to my parents as well as making dinners with them. This is great because we are using a lot less meat in our diets. We are actually almost able to make dinner completely off the farm. Except for seasonings (salt, garlic powder, pepper) and some cheese, our favorite summer dinner comes straight from the farm. We slice up a few tomatoes and lay them in a baking dish, chop up some basil and spread it over top, beat and season some eggs and pour it over the tomatoes and basil and top the dish with some shredded cheese. It makes a DELICIOUS dinner. Also, between the eggs we are currently getting and the 18 roosters we have in the freezer, we figure that we are breaking even on our feed bill every month now.

Dinner from land

One interesting thing I found before we left for the vacation with friends was these tomato plants growing out from under our house. At first I couldn’t figure out how these volunteer tomatoes got there and then it dawned on me. Earlier this year we had a “sewage pipe incident” with our back bathroom toilet. Apparently, humans can spread seeds as well has birds can. I found that notion to be quite funny. As much as I like using volunteer plants, we had to mow them down. One, we are going to have our plumbing system inspected and possibly upgraded and we needed them out of the way. Two, this side of the house is shaded until well after noon, and the plants got a late start so we probably wouldn’t get any fruit from them. And three, since they were growing straight out of fresh poo, it wouldn’t be sanitary to harvest anything that did grow from them.

Volunteer Tomatoes

It has now been nearly a year since we moved to the farm. So much has changed! There are a few things I miss from the big city (our former church, cell phone reception, having internet that doesn’t have data limits) but I love my life out here. Each day is a new adventure and I love being in such beautiful country.

Rainbow over house


A Hard Lesson

This week, we learned a very important lesson of farming and animal care. Our animals are dependent on us to keep them secure and safe from predators. Last time I posted, I showed a picture of the makeshift pens we used to separate roosters to fatten them up for slaughter. The base cage was made out of 3 of our left over potato cages made with 1″ by 2″ welded wire. We kept the roosters in by covering the cages in snow fencing. While the welded wire would keep the roosters in, it isn’t predator proof. To make it more predator proof, we would encircle the three cages with 1/4″ hardware cloth. However, there were a couple of times that we forgot to keep the cages encircled in the hardware cloth.

Sunday morning, Grace saw the roosters moving around in their cages before she left for church. After we returned from church, Matthew found one of the roosters missing entirely (except for some feathers next to the cage) and a second rooster has been 3/4ths eaten.  I felt sick. It was my fault that the birds were exposed and vulnerable. I felt even worse because we had plenty of warning. Over the previous week, we had seen multiple signs of raccoon incursion on our property. As seen in the previous post, a raccoon broke my feather drying rack. The raccoon also got into the cat litter and food bags we were keeping on the porch (not a good idea, I know) and the electrolyte supplements my mom has for her horses. Needless to say, this raccoon had gotten way too habituated to ransacking human habitations and had figured out we had a tasty source of live meat. So we set up a live trap and baited it with the what remained of the second rooster.

We also planned to get up extra early the next day and move the electric poultry netting for the hens. The ditch behind my parents’ place was really good  as far as forage for the chickens, but it was out of the way and the wire was grounded out from going up and down multiple hills. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t get the fence well charged in that terrain.

I woke up around 5:45 am Monday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. It was light enough, so I went outside to start moving the hen’s paddock and I found the live trap was tripped. Inside, was a raccoon. It had returned for seconds. We had to euthanize the animal for several reasons. 1) Relocating the raccoon often leads to the raccoon dying of starvation because it doesn’t know where to find food. 2) We couldn’t just release it back onto our property because it was a danger to our birds and could eventually pose a risk to humans and other animals on the property (rabies, biting, etc.). Since we took care of this one animal, we haven’t had any issues. We will probably be setting up several traps around the property so we can remove any other predators that make a habit of coming in too close.


Even though we caught the raccoon, we still moved the chickens to a “flatter” area. By flatter, I mean a hill side that is close to being a similarly graded slope the whole length. The hens LOVE that I included an ash pit where my parents had burned some brush. Anytime it dries out, you can find the hens scratching and bathing in it.

Wood Ash

Earlier this week, we also added a new addition into the hen’s run. We moved Mama and her babies up into the run. The babies are still too small to be contained by the electric poultry netting so we still have them and Mama in the 5′ x 5′ run.

Run uphill view

Since the chicks were about 3 weeks old, Mama had been regularly pacing the fence, and clucking at us any time we walked past, she also has gotten really easy to handle and downright friendly with people. She had also started laying eggs again. On the morning the chicks turned 4 weeks old, I went to open the run to check on their feed situation and Mama tried to make an escape from the run. I figured that she was done with the chicks and wanted to get back with the other hens. A bit sad, I tested my theory. I picked her up and put her inside the run with the other hens. Within 10 seconds, Alfredo jumped on and mated with her. She got up and pranced off to explore the run. I thought “Well, that’s it, she’s done with her babies.” However, about 15 min later I came back outside to see Mama pacing the side of the fence closest to her babies and making her “come here” call to them. Then it dawned on me, she wanted to take her babies back to the flock. So I put all her babies in the tote and brought them up to her. On my way up, I slipped on the hill and jostled them, which made them cheep. Mama tried to come see what was wrong and shocked herself on the fence. She hadn’t had to deal with the electric fence before she was already sitting on the eggs when the fence arrived. Once I got her pen set back up and let her babies back out she was quite content to take her motherly duties back over and started showing them how to scratch around in the taller grass and weeds.

Brooding pen in run

Besides keeping the tiny chicks from slipping through the fence, this is also a good way to introduce the chicks to the flock while keeping them safe from predators, which includes the other chickens. Within an hour of moving them, I looked outside and saw Red (our RIR/Dom cross) challenging Mama through the fence. As I watched, Red kept trying to peck at the chicks through the wire and Mama would push herself between Red and the chick while trying to attack Red through the wire. Alfredo didn’t quite know what to do and stood by watching two of his hens duke it out. In the end, Red back off and I haven’t seen her go after the chicks since.

Mama vs Red

We also definitely need to slaughter a few Roosters this week. Because of the all the reworking of the chicken living arrangements, and the shock of loosing two of the birds we were going to slaughter, we decided to put the surviving rooster back with the other roosters. We banded him with a red zip-tie so we would know who should be on the next “cull” list. He has definitely proved to be up to his old tricks again. He has been guarding the food and terrorizing the other roosters so that they stay in the coop all the time. He is definitely on the list for tomorrow.

Meanie Roo

Earlier today, I pulled all the roosters out of the coop so they would have a chance to get some food and water. One of them was so terrified that he jumped off my back and escaped from the run. When we caught him and put him back, the other roosters started attacking him 2 and 3 at a time. So I pulled him out again. He is one of the two remaining birds that I marked as the 4 heaviest. However, he has since gotten very thin. So I moved him in with Molasses and his little buddies to see how they would do. Molasses was not happy to see him, but after making sure his position as head honcho of this run wouldn’t be challenged, they came to an uneasy truce. This rooster also seemed to be ignoring the chicks and the chicks were just staying out of his way. Since things seemed to be going well, we decided to call this rooster Butterscotch.

Butterscotch N Molasses

However, when Matthew went to refill their feed for the night, a Delaware chick came into the coop where Butterscotch was hanging out by himself and Butterscotch viciously attacked the chick. Matthew went in to try to break up the fight and Butterscotch flew out the door that Matthew left open in his haste to save the chick. We were able to trap him inside the grow-out coop that we are currently not using and decided to leave him there for the night. We have now decided to change his name to Butterball. Our current plan is to move Molasses and the chicks out on pasture in the new length of PoultryNet that we received earlier this week and we will move Butterball and 1-2 hens into the stationary coop to assess how he treats hens. Until he attacked the chick, we were seriously considering him as a nominee for our Buff breeding rooster because he seemed to be conflict adverse, but we are now going to watch him closely and see how he does with the hens as we fatten him back up.


Bagging Groceries

As a family we have two unique ways we “bag” our groceries.

With this Azure order, we ordered a box of organic celery (30 bunches) and a box of whole green cabbages (40lbs). You may ask, what we do with all those veggies so they don’t go to waste? Well, we chop them up, put them in Ziplock bags, and freeze them. This way we have pre-chopped veggies to use in any recipe or amount we need. Celery and Cabbage are two of the easiest because you can bag and then freeze them. You can do this with many other veggies and fruit as well (peppers, berries, onion, etc) but you have to freeze them in a single layer before bagging them because the water in the veggies/fruit leach out and form all the cut food into a solid lump that isn’t easily broken down for meal prep.

celery bag

Today, I finished chopping up all the celery. We now have 13 bags of chopped celery in the freezer. I’m glad to have gotten this far, but my hand is not very happy.

Sore finger

The really nice thing about having chickens is I can turn all the scraps from the food we prepare to producing either eggs or meat. This bowl of scraps is what I got from only 7 bunches of celery.

celery scraps

I still have a whole box of cabbage to chop up, but I can work on that this week.

cabbage box

The other way of bagging our groceries, we came up with this year. In order to protect from frost, we put tomato cages over all our veggies and herbs (not just tomatoes) and we put contractor bags over the cages at night. Then it occurred that if we got clear bags, we could have individual mini hot houses for each of our plants that need it. Tomato plants sometimes have a hard time growing large enough to produce a respectable amount of tomatoes if they don’t get enough HOT summer days. While we do get some good, hot weather here, spring has a tendency to linger later and fall has a tendency to arrive early. This means we have to protect our plants from frost even in the middle of May. Even after the frost is no longer a problem, we can use them to give the plants an extra boost.

bagged tomatoes

In chicken news, on Saturday afternoon, I was out on the porch and heard the broody hen clucking. When I went to move the bags from the top of her box, I smelled something nasty. I looked and saw that she was off of the nest, having a snack and a drink, but she had done a really foul poo in the nest box with the eggs. I cleaned up the poo, but saw that the straw in the box was damp and nasty. I took out the eggs and wiped off as much of the poo as I could with a dry paper towel, removed the dirty straw, and added new straw. I was originally planning on candling the eggs on day 10 of incubation, today, but since I had the eggs out of the nest and the hen was off the eggs, I decided to candle them a day early. Candling eggs is the process of holding a light up to an egg that you are trying to hatch (either under a hen or in an incubator) to see if en embryo is developing. The reason I wanted to do this now, rather than wait until hatching, is that I wanted to remove any unfertilized eggs so they wouldn’t go bad, break, and make a stinky mess. You can buy specialized candling light sources, but I just used my husband’s mini-Maglight and sealed the cracks between the flashlight and the egg with my hand. To my amazement, I was able to see all 8 eggs I set under the broody hen had lively little embryos. I was able to see each chick move. It was really cool. Such a high fertilization ratio is REALLY good. I then carefully put the eggs back under the hen, who had taken her place back on the nest and was looking decidedly miffed, until she saw I was returning her eggs. I didn’t get any pictures of the process as I was trying to get the eggs back under the hen as soon as possible, but here she is, settled back on her nest.

Broody 10 days

We also finally “broke” the broody Dominique. What made the difference is that every time I saw her in the nest box, I would take her out carry her around for a minute and put her in the run. I haven’t seen her sitting in a nest box in 4 days.

The Buffs are really growing up now. They are almost 15 weeks old. Sadly, we need to start thinking about thinning out the roosters next week.

buffs around house

The New Hampshires and Delawares are almost 3 weeks old now and are feathering nicely.

New Dels 3 weeks

One interesting note, I filled our watering jug in the stream earlier this week and I was hearing a clunk in the jug when I got down to the last bit of water. I looked and found this little guy. Apparently, we have farm fresh shellfish on the property. Fortunately for this guy and his buddies, no one on the farm really likes crayfish (crawdad) very much and I’m even allergic to shellfish. I put him back in the stream so he can do his thing.


April Showers

The rain has really been rolling in recently and the grass has been coming up like crazy. The view from our front porch is amazing. It is so nice to sit out there an look around. You can practically see the green things growing.Front yard

The Buffs love being outside. So much so, that when a nasty storm rolled in, they all decided to shelter underneath the coop instead of inside.


See, no body home in here.


They have done a very thorough job of clearing the grass from the run. Sometime soon, I need to cover the ground with wood chips. The reason why I want to do this is to keep the run from smelling and being an unhealthy environment for the buffs and any future chicks we have in the area. It is also a great way to create compost.

Inside-oustide run

One neat feature of the run that I am going to miss is the Buffs are current able to do their own “edging” around the run. They reach their heads through the chain link and eat the grass on the other side.  When I put up the 1/2″ hexagonal mesh along the inside for when we have smaller chicks in here next, they will not be able to do this. You can really see the difference in the grass where I already have the mesh on the inside of the gate.

Grass eaten

To supplement their diet, David and I raked up some of the grass that we mowed and whacked down on the property. The Buffs got a little startled when I started pitch forking it into their run, but they soon discovered it was full of spiders, crickets, and other bugs and they went to town on it.

grass pile

We also recently got another undersized egg. Because we didn’t eat the last one, I decided to break this one open and see what was going on with it. It was about half the size of a normal egg, and the shell was very thin and the membrane was very thick. the shell came off when I cracked it leaving an intact membrane. When I tore the membrane, full sized yolk with very little egg white came out. I mixed the egg with some grain and fed it to the buffs.

In other news, the hay field across the lane has been fenced in and turned into a paddock for the horses my mom will be bringing up in a week and a half. The fencing is just electric for now, but my parents will be putting up more permanent fencing in the near future. Currently, Bobby is grazing it down with some of his cows and calves. If it wasn’t grazed down, the horses could eat themselves sick (and possibly to death) on too much fresh grass. For now, it is nice to be able to look out on the field and watch the calves frolicking about.


Spring has Arrived

Spring is finally here to stay, or so it seems.  The weather has been gorgeous the last two days. The chicks are eager to be put out on grass every morning. The normal greeting committee has increased from 3 to 8 chicks, with more jostling for position on the wall (see the chick trying to fly up on the left of the photo). I’m now having to shut the interior door of the coop now because they were roosting on the feed bin and pooping that up.


It has also been confirmed that Rambo, our bonus rare chick,  is not a Silkie. Black Silkie Bantams start growing a puff of feathers on top of their head well before this time and he has no sign of having a puffed head. The consensus on the Backyard Chickens form post, where I asked what he was, is that he is a Black Cochin. Since Murray McMurray doesn’t have Black Cochin Bantams, and he doesn’t look like he has frizzled feathers. I believe he is a full sized Black Cochin. This is better for us if he is a Cochin. The regular sized Cochins are fairly large, cold hardy birds, that have a good disposition. From what I’ve seen, he doesn’t have as good of a disposition as the buffs though. We will have to wait an see if the guess is correct.


Be cause it was so nice today, David and I decided to go on a hike up one of the hills on the property (with baby in tow). The farm is looking better all the time. The siding is almost done (slow contractor) and I have to say the matching color scheme is really appealing. We want to add an addition on top of the on the stone shed (to the right of the chicken coop), we still have to dismantle the old gas shack that blew away (to the right of my parents’ house and garage on the right), and the contractor needs to clean up, but it is starting to come together.


We had a picnic lunch on the pasture at the top of the hill. It was a lovely time, despite having to constantly wrangle our nine month old so he didn’t eat grass, bugs, or desiccated cow pies.

Hilltop pasture

Upon returning to the house, we decided to walk up to the pond beyond my parents’ house. In the overflow stream, I found a bunch of Red-spotted Newts. They are so cute! I would have been in heaven catching them as a kid. It is lovely to see these little guys. It is a sign that the land hasn’t been chemically contaminated or polluted when they fracked for gas.


Things are moving forward and I am looking forward to learning more about this property.

One Isn’t the Loneliest Number

Well folks, we are down to one rooster. Yesterday we slaughtered 2 of our remaining 3 roosters. We banded the rooster (put a zip tie on his leg) who didn’t want to be caught after the wind storm earlier this week to make sure he would end up on the chopping block. After he was gone, I looked at the two remaining and selected the bigger of the two as the next candidate for slaughter. I was considering waiting until after dark to put the remaining rooster in with the hens, but he was clucking in a distressed way and pacing around in the pen in a dither. So I caught him, with a great deal of squawking, and dumped him in with the hens. He immediately jumped on one the leghorn hens and then tried to mount one of the Dom crosses. She wasn’t having any of that and chased him off. The leghorn hens were more accepting of his attentions but none of the Dom/Dom crosses wanted him to mount them. Things finally settled down and no one looked the worse for wear. 

From the get go, we knew we would be culling our extra roosters and turning them into dinner. Why let all that feed that we’ve put into them go to waste! What we were lacking was some know how and the stomach to proceed. The final decision that we needed to start whittling down our pack of roosters came while we were free ranging them. A group of the leghorn roosters were continually going about 1/8th of a mile down the lane to the neighbors’ house and were raiding their bird feeder. Since then, all the leghorn roosters had been confined and fed a little extra to fatten them up.

I started to look forward to learning how to process our roosters. Before pulling a knife out of the butcher block and going to work, I looked around for resources to study and people who could possibly help. I talked to Bobby (the neighbor who keeps his cows on our pasture) and he usually has another neighbor help him with processing his chickens. That neighbor also skins his chickens rather than plucking them. We prefer to have the skin, since it adds flavor to the broth we make, so I didn’t want to learn how to process them using that method. So I looked up several online resources. I watched maybe half a dozen videos of how to process a chicken on YouTube, and read many more descriptive blogs.

Please note: the resources I reference in this paragraph have graphic pictures of processing chickens. Please do not open them if you have a problem with such images. Two resources that I found particularly helpful were Justin Rhodes’, from Abundant Permaculture, instructions on How to Humanely Butcher Your Own Chicken Dinner and a post from Backyard Chickens on Killing, Plucking, Eviscerating, & Cutting Up Your Chicken – Graphic!

I also consulted a friend from our old church in the city on for any tips she may have on butchering chickens and what tools she favors for the task. She recommended a killing cone (as the two resources I mentioned above do) and having a straight bladed killing knife and a round tipped evisceration knife. She also recommended I buy the tools from Cornerstone Farm and answered several questions I had after reading the resources above. Thanks Diane! I bought a killing cone, a killing knife and an evisceration knife and I was in business.

I started with doing one leghorn rooster one week, one the next, and I stepped up to two roosters the next week. Originally the plan was to keep General Tso, our Rhode Island Red/Dominiker rooster, and slaughter all eight of our more flighty leghorn roosters. However, General Tso started to become aggressive, not only to strangers (he jumped on the contractor who has been doing our roof and siding back several times while we were free ranging the chickens) but to the people who where caring for him and his hens. He developed a particular hatred for my mom, Georga. The first time she saw him full grown he was already in a high dither because we were cleaning up the yard and moving things around. He pranced up to my mom and challenged her and she flapped her jacket at him and chased him a bit. He never forgot that. A little while after that, we had to go away for a pre-Christmas gathering and my parents said they would care for the chickens. My mom went into the coop to care for the chickens and gather eggs. When she was bending over to get an egg, General Tso went for her face and kept attacking. She wasn’t able to get away until she got ahold of his neck and nearly choked him unconscious. After he attacked other family members a few more times we decided he had to go. On the fifth week, I killed one Leghorn rooster while I instructed my mom on slaughtering and processing a chicken on General Tso. She enthusiastically helped. She even made up a new verse to “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” for the occasion. 

🎶And we’ll kill the old red rooster when she comes🎶

Between this, that, and the other, that was the last time, before yesterday, that we slaughtered any roosters. We’ve decided to keep the last rooster as protection for the hens, but if he loses his fear of people and starts attcking, or is hurting the hens, into the stew pot he’ll go. 

We are glad to finally have only two groups of chickens again, and hopefully no more slaughtering until our current batch of chicks grow up enough to gauge their personalities, and they reach slaughtering weight. Now our original tractor stands empty. We will be dismantling it to make something that won’t be so easily flipped by a strong gust of wind. 

Seeing the open pen gave David a bit of a start this morning. He momentarily thought the roosters had all escaped. 

Cat Food Stashes

Over the weekend, Grace was cleaning up and doing laundry to prepare to go out of town this week. She was going through her things and reorganizing when she found a large pile (maybe a cup or more) of dry cat food in her sock bin. She and I were both befuddled as to how the cat food ended up in her socks. We both shrugged, she dumped the cat food and we both moved on with our day. Later, Grace showed me a purse, that had been clasped shut and put on a shelf, that had another large amount of cat food in it. It was then we realized it might be a mouse’s food stash. Earlier this winter, we had a very bad mouse problem in the farm house. For some reason, it was worst in Grace’s room. We had been trapping and thought we had the problem under control. So, therefore, they must be old stashes.

The next morning, Grace woke to see the fattest mouse she had ever seen climb up her shelves to one stash site. Finding the stash gone, the mouse frantically ran to the next stash site. Squeaking in some distress, Grace saw the mouse run out of the room and return a short while later with a piece of cat food in it’s mouth and put it in one of the stash sites. Needless to say, we started another round of mouse trapping. David commented “Oh, you’re trying to kill Gus-Gus.” Yesterday morning, Matthew found a very fat mouse in one of the traps. We aren’t sure if Gus is dead or just an obese family member, only time will tell. All I know is, my cats are very bad mousers.