Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

* shopping for the chickens

Posted on January 12th, 2011 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Home and Garden, Wants.

The chickens have almost eaten/wasted their first 25 pound bag of food.  Between that and the aforementioned leaky waterer, it was time for a restocking trip.  Last time I went to the Grange Supply, out in Issaquah.  This time, we went to Bothell Feed Center, out in, well, Bothell.  It’s closer to where we live, and I wanted to compare.  They had a really nice chicken coop out front, and a great selection of fancy chicken feed.  I just do not care enough to get the organic omega 3 supplemented feed, especially since they’re not even laying yet, but it’s nice to know where to get some just in case I decide to go that route.  I got a 50 pound bag of plain old pellets for pretty cheap, and a sturdy new waterer (metal this time).  They were very helpful and had a surprisingly good music selection playing in the store (Metric and Florence and the Machine are not bands I would first think of in connection with farm supplies).

The next place I want to hit is the Seattle Farm Co-op warehouse.  They look like they’ve got some cool stuff and neat people, and I just joined their mailing list.  We’ll see how long it takes the girls to get through this 50 pound bag first.


Oh, and I started a new Chickens category to keep the Home and Garden category from getting out of hand.  This week’s new chicken trick: they come running when I call them :)  They could probably do this for a while, but I only just today did the experiment.


* Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

Posted on January 8th, 2011 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Crafty Review, Home and Garden.

I got the Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens out from the library last month and have been working my way through it cover to cover.  I’m glad I didn’t start with it as my first book about chickens; it would’ve been overwhelming.  Now that I have at least a little bit of an idea of what I’m doing, and have read enough from other sources to keep up, it’s a great resource.  It’s well written, informative, and hilariously illustrated.


I want this printed on a t-shirt.  There’s also this one of a poor chicken in a sling.


In other chicken news: don’t cheap out and buy the plastic waterer.  It will crack when it ices up, and then it will leak, and then you will have to go back to the Co-op this weekend to get the metal one you should’ve bought instead.  (See also: cheap plastic feeder pinata problem.)


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* chicken awsum party

Posted on January 2nd, 2011 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Home and Garden.

We went away over the holidays and left the chickens alone for the first time.  A friend came to refill the food a water a few times, and we looked in on them with the chicken cam, but they were otherwise on their own.  I normally shut their roost area at night and open the coop into the backyard during the day.  While we were away, they were confined to the coop and could come and go as they pleased from the roosting area.

Their coop is all lined with hardware cloth, so I wasn’t too worried about predators.  Back during the freak snowstorm over Thanksgiving, we made a little flap to cover the door to the roost to try to cut down on drafts.  It took them a while it figure it out.  The first flap wasn’t see-through, and they wouldn’t even attempt to walk through that one.


They’re all huddled in the back corner of the coop like dummies.


V2 is clear vinyl (weighted with a piece of wood lath), so they realize what’s on the other side.  Hester is better at going through it than the rest.  Once she’s on the other side, the other chickens look very agitated, like she’s walked through a magic force field and violated some fundamental concepts of chicken physics.  Eventually they all figure it out, though.  The preferred method seems to be to peck at it until it swings enough to make a small gap that their head will fit through.  Coincidentally, this is the same method our cat uses with the cat door.

Anyway, the system worked pretty well and the chickens made it through the week just fine.  Except that I forgot that the feeder nut loosens over a few days.  The feeder has a metal rod with an eye that I use to hang it from a cup hook. The rod is threaded and goes through the feed reservoir and the bottom piece, keeping the whole thing together via a washer and nut under the feeding tray.  They somehow manage to spin it around enough to unscrew the nut and let more feed into the tray.  At some point during the week, it came off entirely and rained chicken feed all over the coop.  I imagine it was like a chicken pinata and the chickens thought they were having an awsum party.  By the time we got back, they’d pulverized the feed to dust, which got wet and caked into the hardware cloth lining the bottom of the coop.  We had to tip the whole thing over to clean it out.  Never did find the missing nut either.  I have a suspicion that one of them might have eaten it (shiny!)

Next trip, I’m going to have to come up with some way to alleviate their boredom.  I read somewhere that you can hang a cabbage from a string and that will keep them occupied.  I might try that when I’m home just for the entertainment value!


* chicken tools of the week

Posted on December 1st, 2010 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Home and Garden.

My favorite non-obvious tools for help with the chickens:

child size rake, just right for turning and spreading bedding, especially in and around smaller nooks of the coop


generic “garden weasel” type cultivator, perfect for breaking up the straw bale


one more: frisbee giveaway from a conference, used upside down to feed them kitchen scraps.  It keeps them from scattering the scraps too badly all over the place, so it’s easy to dump once they’ve decided they’re finished.


* chicken cam

Posted on November 21st, 2010 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Home and Garden.

Mark has seemed skeptical about getting the chickens, so imagine my surprise when he decided on, like, day 2 of chicken ownership that he wanted to build a chicken cam.  One of his friends has a wireless baby monitor camera with IR, remote control, and web streaming, which gave him the idea.  Mark ordered it (the one we got is from Foscam) and it’s now mounted in the chicken coop.  It is pretty hilarious to watch.  The chickens are curious about it and will look directly into it, then sometimes peck it!  We also just watched the evening tussle for the best perch spot.  Apparently the middle is preferred, and tonight Hester won.  Here they are all asleep.


This is the IR in total darkness.  I’d read somewhere that chickens can see in the IR range, so I was worried that peeking at them would wake them up, but so far they haven’t seemed to care.  We only turn on the IR LEDs when we’re watching them, then we turn them off.

Here’s the daytime view in the nesting box, where Lester is currently giving herself a bath:


AND you can watch the cam feed on the iPhone with the Foscam Surveillance Pro app!  How ridiculous is that?


* chicken resources

Posted on November 20th, 2010 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Crafty Links, Crafty Review, Home and Garden.

So far so good with the chickens.  Mark built them a perch, and we got a little fence so they can have the run of the whole back yard.  Hester and Sue are still skittish about getting picked up.  After they roost, they seem to calm down a lot though, so I’ve been picking them up when I shut them up for the night.  I feel a little bit bad that I don’t wake up early enough for them.  They’re always waiting for me in the morning and scramble over each other for the food like they’re starving.  It’s funny watching them eat, especially various kitchen scraps.  They kind of test it and think about it and decide whether it’s better or worse than what they were eating 10 seconds before.  Sue at least seems to like to eat slugs, too, yay!  I’d heard that the Seattle slugs were not tasty to chickens.

To prepare for getting my chickens, I did the usual internetting, but I also took a class and read some books.



I took City Chickens 101 from Seattle Tilth.  It was shorter than I had hoped it would be, but the instructor (whose name I unfortunately don’t remember) stayed afterward as long as we still had questions.  He was a really great teacher.  He tried to present information that was evidence- and science-based.  For example, he cited a lot of work done at agricultural schools, and he had a surprisingly good knowledge of chicken genetics.  Favorite bit of advice: chicken behavior can only be understood by knowing about chicken evolution.  He also recommended getting cheap hens by grifting children whose parents aren’t around at the 4H fair. Haha.

I also got some advice from the farmer I bought the chickens from.  He was really nice and spent a lot of time helping me, both on the phone and at his farm.  I knew he would be good to buy from when he gave me the third degree over the phone about why I wanted them and what I was planning on feeding them.  He also refused to sell me just 1 or 2 since he thought they would be unhappy (I believe he actually said a single chicken would “die of sadness”).  He also gave me a 3 page advice sheet with his tips.


I checked out pretty much every chicken book they had at the library.  None of them really stand out, but I learned different things from the different books.

I got Keeping Pet Chickens for Christmas last year and it’s a nice short, basic introduction.  It was really good for just getting an idea for what I was in for.


I also got Keeping Chickens with Ashley English.  It’s pretty and easy to read, but with enough detail to be useful.


Oh dear, I see she has a Keeping Bees book coming out March 2011.  I hope I don’t get any ideas….


* meet the chickens

Posted on November 13th, 2010 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Home and Garden.

So I finally got my chickens.  I found them on Craig’s list.  Some egg farmer on Bainbridge Island was reducing his flock.  They’re 9 weeks old, so they’re still cute and tiny and they cheep, but they’re not chicks any more so don’t need a lot of work.  I wanted a mix, so I got one buff Orpington,


one barred Plymouth Rock,


and a Golden Buff of some variety (Hisex brown I think).


The Golden Buff is supposed to be the champion egg-layer of the bunch, and was advertised as having “top genetics” which, being the good geneticist that I am, meant I had to get one.  I got the barred Rock because I think they’re such a pretty breed.  And I got the buff Orpington because I asked the farmer who would be friendly.

Back when I was first agitating for chickens, I kept bugging Mark to name his hypothetical chicken.  I knew I had him when he finally came up with “Lester” after a few weeks of badgering.  Lester was our mortgage broker’s name.  The farmer kept telling us about the superior feed conversion of the Golden Buff, which seems like something a mortgage broker would care about, so she’s Lester.  We named the barred Rock Hester, which seems suitably old fashioned.  The buff Orpington pecked me, making her mean, and I’ve been watching a lot of Glee lately, so her name is Sue Sylvester.  (Actually, it was her sister who pecked me, so we traded her out for a different specimen, but the name stuck just the same.)

So far Lester is the friendliest.  She’s very soft and lets me pet her without too much drama.  Sue will also submit to being picked up.  Hester squawks bloody murder and runs away from me when I try to grab her, so I need to work on her a little more.  She’s the bravest one, though: came out of the coop first, found the food first, ventured into the nesting boxes first.

The Chup is scared of them, even though their combined weight is probably 1/5 of his.  Haha.  He won’t even go near the coop.


* pumpkins

Posted on October 27th, 2010 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Home and Garden.

I winterized two of my raised beds this weekend: cleaned up all the plants, forked out stray roots, and planted a cover crop.  The cover crop is a mix I bought at the Grange Supply Co-op in Issaquah, and has a mix of rye, clover, and a few other things.  I also planted my garlic and shallots, also from the co-op.

I’d been waiting to clean up the garden, hoping that my pumpkins would turn orange, but they didn’t quite make it.  They got really huge, though!  These are my only 2.  I had another couple that rotted and/or got eaten by slugs.  Definitely growing pumpkins again next year.


The Co-op was pretty fun to visit.  I got all the supplies for my chickens (still no chickens yet, though), and some perlite for hypertufa experiments I’m planning.  The people there were really nice, too, and helped me figure out which of the confusing array of chicken feeds would be best to get.  They also let me return the bale of straw when we realized it wouldn’t fit into the car, haha.  The chickens will get wood shavings for now.


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* coop

Posted on August 10th, 2010 by maitreya. Filed under Chickens, Home and Garden.

Ever since we moved, I’ve been thinking about getting chickens.  Not entirely sure why, but they seem like they would be fun.  I’ve been half-heartedly searching Craigslist for the last 6 months or so looking at chicken coops.  They all seemed either ridiculously expensive or really shoddy.  Plan B was building one.  Procrastination pays off sometimes, though: a coworker was giving this away to make room for a bigger coop!  What luck!


I just need to reinforce a few of the joins, reattach the ramp, and line the bottom with hardware cloth, and it’ll be good to go.  We also need to put in a gate so the chickens can range around in the back yard.  I signed up for the city chickens class from Seattle Tilth, but we’ll see if I can actually wait until September….



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