When it rains, it pours

From last season

During the previous couple of weeks, we’ve had such lovely sunny weather that I was finally tempted to go out and start planting some things. Yesterday and today, we’ve had a sharp overturn toward torrential rains and howling winds, and now I’m afraid all my poor seeds will be washed out. Reminder to self: never trust the weather at this time of year.

What I’m happy about is having had time to line my chicken coop with a nice, thick layer of dry leaves prior to the rains. I expand on this in my latest Mother Earth News post:

Using dry leaves for chicken coop bedding has numerous advantages:

1. It’s free: just grab a bag and haul all the leaves you want.

2. Leaves are plentiful and readily available

3. It will entertain your chickens: a bag of leaves will always contain tidbits like seeds, grass stalks, bugs, and other edibles your chickens will enjoy unearthing. 

I’m also proud to say that my post about preparing your chicken coop for the spring has made the latest MEN newsletter:

Our chickens pick up the cue of longer days and generally resume laying around February, even though it’s still cold. The young pullets hatched at the end of last season – say, September or October – are generally ready to start laying in February or March.

I can hear some of you laughing hysterically, saying “Cold? You guys don’t know what cold is”. True, we rarely get any snow, but the shorter winter days still affect our egg production. Come spring, I look forward to:

  1. Having all the omelets we want
  2. Raising baby chicks
  3. Planting
  4. Hiking

I’m not looking forward to:

  1. Passover cleaning.
  2. Uh… no. Nothing else. Just the cleaning. 🙂

Stay snug and warm, everyone!

Naughty roosters

Sadly, a couple of days ago we had to re-home one of our two roosters, because the duo was simply making too much noise for our long-suffering neighbors. As hard as it was for us to part with one of our guys, it’s better than having to give up chicken-keeping entirely.

We have an excess of roosters every year, and it’s never possible to keep them all – and always hard to say goodbye.

This coincides with what I wrote recently in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“It’s hard to be totally pragmatic and just weed out as many birds as possible when you have raised them from an egg. Plus, cockerels are fun and often so handsome it’s hard to part with them. It can be tempting to keep a “backup” rooster or two in case something happens to your alpha roo. 

The problem around here – and in many other backyard flocks – is that we always end up with too many roosters. We hatch chicks every year, and around half are male. This year we had about 60% male chicks.”

Little peeps

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So guess how we have been keeping busy lately? Check out some of our new arrivals, just hatched yesterday and overnight. We have a few more eggs in the incubator in various stages of hatching and are hope all the chicks make it out fine.

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And here is a quail chick – unfortunately, out of the batch of quail eggs, only one proved fertile. You can see this tiny bumblebee-sized chick next to a chicken chick for size comparison. We hope to get some more quail chicks, but so far, it seems content with its larger companion and they snuggle up nicely together under the heating lamp.

Hope everyone is doing well! We’ve finally had a break from the heat and enjoyed some refreshing rain this morning.

In need of fluff

Latest Mother Earth News post is up, this time talking about chick season, which is not as far as it may currently seem:

“Though it may be hard to believe, spring is coming, and chick season with it. If you have never hatched your own chicks before, you might want to give it a go this year.”

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Above: a picture of one of our broodies with her chicks from a couple of years ago.

Some would say, and rationally they would probably be right, that the owner of a little urban flock doesn’t need to hatch chicks at all. It’s time consuming and messy, there are countless hurdles a chick faces on its way to adulthood, and some of the young birds will inevitably be lost at some point.

It’s easier and more convenient to just keep 3-4 hens for eggs and buy point of lay pullets every couple of years to replace the aging flock. It would probably be cheaper in the long run, too. But nothing compares to the magic of another “surprise egg” cracking and letting out a fluffy new chick. The way the children’s eyes light up when they see it, too – it’s so beautiful every single time. ♥

So here’s to full incubators, busy broodies, and a spring and summer full of fluffy peeping chicks.

This kind of day

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Yesterday spring was really in the air. We found the first surprise eggs from our pullets in odd corners – you can imagine the thrill (I don’t have a store bought egg to place side by side for comparison, but they are about 2/3 as large and a 100 times tastier).

I made the nesting boxes all comfy and cozy and placed dummy eggs inside.

I planted peas and sweet peas.

I put the yard in order a bit after the recent winds and rain and being unable to poke my nose out. It was great.

Now today we have more rains, a chilling wind, lots of mud, and I’ve caught whatever bug that has been making its way among the kids. Again.

But that’s OK too, as long as I have the comfort of my warm bed, books, yarn, and hot chocolate.

Stay cozy and warm!

The predators are still around

It has been a while since I’ve last written for Mother Earth News, but here is my latest post about the predators we are still dealing with, despite having moved to a different area:

“When we moved from out in the boonies to a small town and started our new little flock of urban chickens, I thought we’d have an easier life where predators were concerned. Foxes, the bane of our chicken’s existence for years, were left behind, as were hawks and owls.”

Meanwhile, we are still in floods of rain, with my poor little garden quite floated and us cooped up inside – comfortably enough, thankfully, with lots of cozy snuggle-and-read time, crafts, and tea.