July 30, 2013

Adventure with Chickens & Guineas

We have added Chickens and Guineas to our wild backyard. It feels like a farm now. We have 8 chickens and 3 guineas. And its been quite an adventure, to say the least.

First, we started with 2 Dominiques, and 3 Buff Orpingtons. We didnt have the proper pin yet, so a dog pin was used with some plywood over the cage. The next morning, I went outside to feed them and I was totally freaked out. One of the Dominiques head was pulled out of the cage, the head was missing....so gross. It was likely a raccoon that got its paw in there while the chicken was sleeping. Chickens are heavy sleepers and will evidently sleep through any creature trying to sneak up on them.

Then one of the Buff Orpingtons had some sort of injury to begin with and the poor thing just got pecked too much.

So we were down to 3 chickens and someone, that person shall remain name-less, decides to come home with guineas....WHAT?  So now the bird count is 6.

A temporary pin is built to house the 6 birds. Its working out pretty well, except for the smell of poop. Birds pooping in their water & in their food. G-R-O-S-S ! We just dont have the proper set up yet.

The eggs are covered in poo....gross

The next weekend, the name-less person, returns home with 5 fully grown Golden Comet chickens....OH MY!

The stink is getting pretty bad and its getting hard to shift the pin to new grass. I come up with an idea to move the pin with 11 birds down to the lower fenced area. We are making progress, but while moving the pin, one of the chickens' foot got stuck under the pin...great!

We are down to 10 birds. This isnt working!  Steve reached in the pin and started collecting the birds. He stuffed 5 in a trash can (only temporary).  And put the others in a box. Then he goes for the guineas and then it goes downhill.

Steve tried to pull 1 guinea  out of the cage and somehow it starts flying. So we've got guinea on the loose....I dont think even Jessie Owens could catch a guinea. We tried cornering the guinea and throwing a towel over it....didnt work. Steve then tries to get the 2nd guinea and it flies the coop. Not only is this frustrating, but the guineas start making the most annoying and loud sound Ive ever heard. At this point, we are waiting for the neighbors far away to peek out the window. We had no choice, but to let the 2 guineas roam. He was able to get the 3rd guinea in the pin with the chickens.  The guinea in the pin starts talking (making the most annoying sound) which triggers the other 2 guineas to squawk even more.

After this much excitement, we had to go inside and call it a day. At least the pin got re-located and the stink doesnt knock me down when I go outside.

Slowly, but surely, Steve was able to build a super nice coop. The project even got scrapped due to a design change. You can see the first chicken house, in the background below,  it mysteriously resembles a deer stand. The new A-framed coop that Steve is building features 4 laying boxes. A hanging feeder & water dispenser. There is also plenty of room to roam. The larger area helps immensely with the smell because the birds aren't so confined.

Enjoy the pictures.....

The only item left to do: shingles.  On the side where the blank plywood is.
They are loving a bad melon from the garden
Me and my helper collected these Green June Bug beetles off standing water. They made a nice snack for the birds

The first egg we collected
The pale egg (on the bottom) is from the grocery store. The 2 darker color yolks came from our chickens.

Couldn't resist.....such beautiful early morning light

1 of the  Red Star Chickens that we bought   : :   7.27.13

 Clean eggs....thanks to the nice laying boxes

 Hilarious! .....read the box that the chickens were transported.....mcnuggets


Throwing some food to the chickens. Sometimes I will miss a cucumber when Im picking and as a result,  
cucumbers grow too big and do not taste good. We use those to feed to the chickens. 
I have also given the chickens a few ears of fresh corn from the garden. When Im checking on the corn, 
if I see a really small ear or one that has visible bug damage, I will go ahead the pull it off the stalk and 
feed the chickens. We will also feed the chickens the tomatoes that the birds peck. 
These vegetables out the garden are in addition to the scratch and laying pellets we feed them. 
Since Im new to raising chickens, there is so much I do not know. 
So Im actively trying to educate myself on the art of raising chickens.

looking for eggs

She loves collecting eggs!

July 23, 2013

New Systems + Harvest

We have had a lot of rain. In fact, the weatherman said the most in 75 years. It hasnt felt like summer at all. We had some flooding in the garden, so the corn, cantaloupes and watermelon were under water. It was about 3-4 feet of water.

The moisture has caused a lot of problems for many of the plants. Whenever there is excess moisture, things can get out of balance. Fungi can grow. Diseases can proliferate. Mold can thrive.  And since I dont use any chemicals, I had to pull up about 5 Cherokee Purple Tomato plants because of fungus issues. The cucumbers have had touches of powdery mildew and little developing cucumbers have had mold. 
Here is an example of the fuzzy white mold, {top left }cucumber that was developing. Also, the leaves have the powdery mildew. Ive heard great success stories about spraying a milk solution, yes milk, on the plant and it will re-bound. I didnt try the remedy because i had so many cucumber plants.

I did however come up with a method to combat the moisture with some of the cucumbers. I put some left over tomato cages in the ground and just trained the vines up the cages. This keeps most of the new growth off the ground so air can flow. And within a few days, the cucumbers were looking much better. And the white stuff, is just diatomaceous earth. And excuse the horrendous weeds.

And heres the long, over due photos of what we've picked

a few sweet peas
 first round of squash, zucchini and 1 pickling cucumber

1st cucumber of the season :: june 9

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 june 14

june 17....note to self: plant more

june 17

the last of spring carrots harvested :: june 18

june 18

and this is usually my view after being in the garden in the evening

boston pickling cucumber

squash, zuchinni, cucumbers & eggs

Heirloom Black Cherry tomatoes....they are really delicious

It has been amazing to see the sunflowers grow & bloom

This raised bed has really gone nuts...next time, I will plant less morning glories or plan a bit better. The vines are over taking the cucumbers that I planted in the bed. I cant seem to find the cucumbers until its too late and then they are too large to eat.  Also I cannot find enough supports to contain the vines. They are really pretty, but they are a bit out of control. I have 3 upside-down tomato cages, 4 sticks of 7 foot bamboo, 1 bent rebar, 2, 8 foot twisted garden stakes and of course the PVC pipe trellis.

Here is an Amish Paste tomato that a mouse got into.
This is also an example of a typical harvest right now, 6-8 cucumbers, handful of cherry tomatoes and some large tomatoes (including the mouse bites). By the way, I dont eat the already eaten ones, Im just showing you. Ill toss it in the compost pile.

A baby Ananas D'Amerique A Chair Verte Melon. I planted these from seed which I bought from Baker Creek Heirloom in Missouri. It is a historic heirloom grown by Thomas Jefferson in 1794. It was offered commercially in the USA in 1824. Let's hope I get some before the mice do!

The Ananas Melon is growing visibly everyday

Im having to pick the tomatoes very early because Im having some mouse issues....

To be continued.......
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