All posts tagged chickens

The Chicken Evacuation

Barnabas hypnotizing the chicks.

“You have to do what!” I thought I misunderstood my neighbor at the farmers market.

“You have to have an evacuation plan for the chickens in case of an emergency to be certified natural.”

I burst out laughing.

Anyone who is anyone who knows chickens knows that rounding up chickens for an evacuation is like herding 57 toddlers to bed by yourself.

It’s not like the evacuation drill on a cruise ship where all are cordial and follow directions by wearing attractive life vests while standing in line. Forever. Chatty cruise ship crew glide around the passengers telling jokes and promising drinks and snacks when the drill is finished. The passengers are slightly annoyed, but pleased to know what to do in case of an emergency–like the Coke dispenser breaking.

An evacuation plan and an actual evacuation of chickens is much more complex. And messy.

I know since Tom and I had to conduct our own chicken evacuation last Sunday night.

Picture this; 75 teenage chicks in our front yard for their protection. They are surrounded by a flexible, solar-powered, electric fence and covered by an old trampoline with neting. We charged our two dogs to guard them.

Sam, our standard poodle took his charge seriously. Since all night he barks at leaves blowing in the wind while actual people can walk in our house unharmed. Barnabas, our $1000+ rescue mutt mostly barks when Sam does but did watch the chickens intently.

We found out why. We caught him red-mouthed while he finished a poor bird. We grabbed him just as he swallowed the feet.

He wasn’t looking at the chickens as his charge, he was planning his meals. One thing we’ve learned in our new country life is “once a chicken-eater, always a chicken-eater.” It didn’t help that the teenage chicks had chicken brains and kept flying over the fence into the dog area.

Not only that, the other neighbor dogs who used to visit and get treats from me mysteriously stopped showing up.

Time for a chicken intervention-evacuation. We declared an emergency. The chicks had to be moved to our other field where Molly, our livestock guardian dog could look after them. (At 6 months, she played with one to death, but since then there have been no casualties–for more information on that disaster see my old blog titled, “When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Chicken Pie.”)

But how should we evacuate?

When they’re asleep, that’s how. Some kind of special pixie-chicken-dust-trance comes over them at nightfall and you can pick them up without incident. You could probably even vacuum and they’d sleep through it.

Or so I thought.

We set the date and waited until nightfall. Unfortunately, nightfall is past our bedtime.

“I’ll pick them up and you open the lid to the cooler, Pauline.”

Sounded simple enough. “What’s that on your head?”

Tom faced me as a bright red light shown in my face. “It’s an infrared light to be able to see the birds.”

He resembled a cross between a miner and a dentist with the light strapped around his forehead.

I continued, “So let me get this straight. We’re going to load the chickens into the coolers, drive them to the other side of our property and lock them into their new coop?”

“That’s right. We’ll keep Molly and the other birds away from these until they get used to each other.”

It sounded simple but I’m 57 years old and one thing I’ve learned is nothing is simple.

At first the girls cooperated. We quietly loaded 5 or 6 of them into the cooler while they made a cooing noise. Then one rebellious Americauna woke up and alerted the others. I think she said, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” in chicken language.

Almost two hours later we finished. Sweaty, covered with chicken poop, and tired we trudged back to our house.

“I’m too tired to take a shower, Pauline.” I noticed a grin under his infrared face.

“I guess you’re sleeping outside then,” I added. “Let’s strip on the back porch and throw our clothes into the washer.”

My boots already had holes in them. I threw them away along with my socks.

I forgot to tell you. Originally we had 75 chicks, as we loaded them into the new coop we counted them. 56.

I guess dogs have to eat too.

Maybe we need an evacuation plan for Barnabas.

 

 

 

The Ball Drop Has Nothing On Me

I’ve been to Times Square. My kids and I climbed out of the subway as a wave of people threatened to carry my children down Broadway.

“Quick, grab my hand!” I managed to shout to them. My 8-year-old, Micah had a confused look on his face, while my 12-year-old gazed up at a sky-scraper-sized picture of a Victoria Secret model plastered above her head.

“Sarah, pay attention and follow me!”

Our visit lasted two days.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Especially at New Year’s. The thought of thousands of people crowded around, invading my space, waiting  for an enormous ball to drop is frightening to me. I can’t even handle Disney on a crowded day, much less Times Square at midnight.

You couldn’t pay me enough.

Besides, I’ve discovered something better.

The first time I experienced it, I couldn’t help smiling. I stood on fresh mulch inside a metal quantum hut, gazing into a white 5 gallon bucket. Feathers faced me as I leaned against the wall. Then it happened.

The Egg Dropped.

It was a golden brown, covered with a wet substance which immediately dried. The hen shook her bottom, turned around, and promptly exited the coop to look for bugs.

Amazing.

Here are 5 reason I prefer the Egg Drop to the Ball Drop any day of the week.

1. You don’t have to stay up until midnight. In fact, chances are minimal that any Egg Drop would occur at that time. First, you wouldn’t be able to see it and second, chickens–or the ladies as we call them–sleep at night and wake up at dawn. I prefer that time schedule for my past-menopausal-life. Plus, Molly, my Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dog, (LGD) does not take kindly to anyone or anything in the coop after dark. (And she has very big teeth.)

2. No parking problems. We tried parking when we visited the Big Apple. My friend drove around for hours until finally we found a space about the size of a glove compartment several blocks away from our destination. My capable friend parallel parked us faster than you could say Kelly and Michael. Good thing I wasn’t driving since I now live in Mayberry where people think it unnecessary to use their turn signals and no one gets upset when you sit at the light ’cause you’re changing your country western station and didn’t see it turn green.

For the Egg Drop you don’t even need a car. You can walk directly to the coop through the pasture and stand for a few minutes or even bring a lawn chair. Of course, besides mulch, there is a variety of organic matter on the floor, so don’t bring your favorite beach chair.

3. The third reason to forego the Ball Drop for the Egg Drop is to avoid the crowds. Sure, a Golden Comet “lady” might perch on your lawn chair bringing with her more organic matter and Molly the wonder dog might even lay her huge white head on your lap and stare up at you with her soulful eyes. It’s much more relaxing than a drunk singing a song in your ear to the tune of b-flat, whiskey.

4. Another reason to attend the Egg Drop is it’s free! Sure, they don’t actually charge to watch the Ball Drop, but if you want to have a Coke or adult alcoholic beverage, you’d probably have to take out a second mortgage on your own coop. Taking a cab would be a fortune, and who knows whether the Uber could get through the traffic.

5. Last and most important reason to skip the Ball Drop and attend the Egg Drop, is you can eat the egg. I’d like to see you do that with the Ball. Although I heard that the man who sings to the tune in b-flat, whiskey has tried.

Seriously, come to Peeled Poplar Farm next year and you too can experience the Egg Drop for yourself.

You can have it hard boiled, or over easy.

A Funny Thing About Prayers

Today I’m blogging on CBN.com. Check it out if you’re looking to pray more, share more and dare to be involved…

http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/Devotions/hylton-funny-prayers.aspx

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Chicken Pie

After single-digit-weather, 17 degrees felt almost balmy. A perfect day to celebrate my farmer husband’s birthday.

We drove the short distance to the field that held the chickens and Great Pyrenees puppies. They are protected by a pliable electric fence that separates them to keep chickens with chickens and puppies with puppies.

Something wasn’t right.

Our LGD’s (Livestock Guardian Dogs), Molly and Lacey wagged their tails as we drove up. Trouble was, they munched on black feathers. And chicken wasn’t on their menu.

Tom intervened. They’d just begun their feast when we’d appeared.

I heard Tom scolding the “girls,” and watched as their tails swiped back and forth like windshield wipers in a snowstorm. They were clueless about their misdeed. All they knew was a chicken flew over to their side of the fence. I’m sure at first they were playing, but then their carnivore instincts kicked in.

When am I gonna figure this whole livestock thing out? I thought as I collected eggs from the traumatized ladies.

Tom threw the bird in the woods and we trudged back to the van.

“If we were brave, we’d go get that chicken and cook it.”

That’s all I needed to hear.  You see, we could probably have paid for another child’s wedding with the money we’d been pouring into our poultry adventure. “Someone besides the neighborhood fox should benefit from the chicken and it might as well be us,” I stated as we headed back to the forest.

We loaded the chicken in a bucket and traveled home to watch a youtube video. Also, I knew I could call my friend and farm-wife-guru, Kelly Josey, to figure out what to do with the bird. (The bird was almost completely in tact.)

“Get as many feathers off as you can, dunk it in hit water, then gut it.”

I did what Kelly said.  Soon, what I held in my hand looked like meat that would stock the shelves of any local grocery store. I boiled it, added vegetables and a crust.

I made two chicken pies–courtesy of one of the “ladies.”

When I committed to being a farmer’s wife, I had no idea I’d be plucking and cooking a chicken. In fact, before I moved to the farm, I never really thought about where my food came from. I guess I thought it magically appeared in the store.

Now I know how much work it takes to cultivate the land, plant a seed, and harvest a head of lettuce. I understand how the tomatoes on my sandwich are pruned and fed. And now I’ve a glimpse into the complicated life of owning livestock.

I have a context when I use phrases like, “you reap what you sow,” and “there is a pecking order.”

For Tom’s birthday dinner, we decided to eat my very first farm-to-table chicken pot pie. After that, I understood another phrase–”She’s a tough old bird.”

That she was.

May she rest in peace.

Enjoy the upside-down pic!

 

 

Chickens and Puppies and Kittens, Oh My

Cultivating a DreamBefore last year, almost the only time I’d seen a chicken, was on my dinner plate. On August 1, 2013, I ordered 75 chicks.

I should have had my head examined.

After two dying within a day, and my dog Sam playing with one to death and me sobbing, we’ve pretty much kept the rest. (Although they are difficult to count.) I thought they would pasture and not eat chicken feed. Wrong. If I don’t feed them twice a day at a specific time, they will fly in my hair and on my back and out of the fence as I approach them. This morning, we heard a knocking noise on our window. Our house is a quarter mile from the coop.

Feeding the chickens

“You’re late. It’s probably a chicken,” Tom said.

Also, I didn’t figure out the fact that we don’t have pasture. Now we have mud. And lots of it.

So after three or four catastrophes and about 5,000 hours of man and womanpower, a couple weeks before Christmas, we got our first egg.

You would have thought we had a mid-life-crisis-baby.

So the chicken purchase has cost us close to the national debt and we’ve retrieved perhaps four dozen eggs so far.

But that’s not the end of the story.

You see, we had to store the chicken feed somewhere and not only don’t we have pastures, but we don’t have any storage buildings so the chicken feed is stored under our house.

Rats found the feed. We needed mousers.

Enter Reep and Cheep, two male stray kittens.

Cats

Now I go to Tractor Supply and buy 100 pounds of chicken feed and 20 pounds of kitty food. That’s not counting the warm milk the kitties get every night. (I might need a cow next.)

Then there’s the safety of the “ladies.” We can’t have our national debt chickens being eaten by someone other than us. We needed a guardian. A dog. A Great Pyrenees.

Trouble was, I couldn’t just get one. She’d be lonely, so I got two girls – Molly and Lacey.

Dogs on the porch

Not only had I never had chickens, I’d never had an outside dog.

I picked up “the girls” and they got sick in my car on the way home. Big time. They’d never been on a leash and were afraid of Tom and I. After I put their colorful collars on, I leashed them.

“Come on, Lacey! Come on, Molly!” They sat.

The outside-dog-thing wasn’t going well.

“Where do we put them?” Tom asked.

I hadn’t thought of that either. So we made a make-shift pen under our porch. Then I had the bright idea of putting them on our porch. They weren’t potty trained. That was big time, too.

Tom set up a strand of electric fence next to our chicken “ladies” to hold our puppy “girls.”

Immediately, Molly and Lacey ran from zap to zap like a pinball machine until they retreated to a makeshift doghouse we put in for them.

Lacey didn’t come out for over a day.

Then it got rainy and cold. We put them back on the porch and tried potty training them. They ran away.

Tom took off in his truck and I took off in the van. We combed our 60+ acres. I knocked on the doors of a couple of our neighbors. Three hours later we still found no trace of them.

My husband thought of Sam – our inside, couch-loving, potty trained Standard Poodle.

Within five minutes Sam found them. Molly came back with Tom, but Lacey ran off again only to show up four hours later.

They have a proper doghouse now. It’s very trendy since it’s made of reclaimed oak and a shiny metal roof. They’re getting used to the electric fence, and each day I take them in with me to meet the chickens. No recent catastrophes. Although I have no doubt there will be others.

Tomorrow, I’ll head to Tractor Supply to get 100 pounds of chicken food, 40 pounds of kitty food, 50 pounds of dog food, with a stop at the local meat market to pick up large dog bones.

And the day after that, I’ll probably head to the vet.

I’m eating the most expensive eggs in the world.

And they taste good.

Before last year, almost the only time I’d seen a chicken, was on my dinner plate. So August 1st, 2013 I ordered 75 chicks.

I should have had my head examined.

After two dying within a day, and my dog Sam playing with one to death and me sobbing, we’ve pretty much kept the rest. (Although they are difficult to count.) I thought they would pasture and not eat chicken feed. Wrong. If I don’t feed them twice a day at a specific time, they will fly in my hair an on my back and out of the fence as I approach them. This morning, we heard a knocking noise on our window. Our house is a quarter mile away from the coop.

“You’re late. It’s probably a chicken,” Tom said.

Also, I didn’t figure out the fact that we don’t have pasture. Now we have mud. And lots of it.

So after three or four catastrophes and about 5000 hours of man and woman power, a couple weeks before Christmas, we got our first egg.

You would have thought we had a mid-life-crisis-baby.

So the chicken purchase has cost us close to the national debt and we’ve retrieved perhaps 4 dozen eggs so far.

But that’s not the end of the story.

You see, we have to store the chicken feed somewhere and not only don’t we have pastures, but we don’t have any storage buildings so the chicken feed is stored under our house.

Rats found the feed. We needed mousers.

Enter Reep and Cheep, two male stray kittens.

So I go to Tractor Supply and buy 100 pounds of chicken feed and 20 pounds of kitty food. That’s not counting the warm milk the kitties get every night. (I might need a cow next.)

Then there’s the safety of the “ladies.” We can’t have our national debt chickens being eaten by someone other than us. We needed a guardian. A dog. A Great Pyrenees.

Trouble was, I couldn’t just get one. She’d be lonely, so I got two girls–Molly and Lacey.

Not only had I never had chickens, I’ve never had an outside dog.

I picked up “the girls” and they got sick in my car on the way home. Big time. They’d never been on a leash and were afraid of Tom and I. After I put their cheerful collars on, I leashed them.

“Come on Lacey! Come on Molly!” They sat. The outside-dog-thing wasn’t going well. On to our next problem.

“Where do we put them?” Tom asked.

I hadn’t thought of that either. So we made a make-shift pen under our porch. Then I had the bright idea of putting them on our porch and we found they weren’t potty trained. That was big time, too.

Tom set up a strand of electric fence next to our chicken “ladies” to hold our puppy “girls.”

Immediately, Molly and Lacey ran from zap to zap like a pinball machine until they retreated to a makeshift doghouse we put in for them.

Lacey didn’t come out for over a day.

Then it got rainy and cold. We put them back on the porch and tried potty training them. They ran away.

Tom took off in his truck and I took off in the van. Three hours later we still found no trace of them.

My husband thought of Sam–our inside, couch-loving, potty trained, standard poodle.

Within five minutes Sam found them. Molly came back but Lacey ran off again only to show up four hours later.

They have a proper dog house now. It’s very trendy since it’s made of reclaimed oak and a shiny metal roof. They’re getting used to the electric fence, and each day I take them in with me to meet the chickens. No recent catastrophes. Although I have no doubt there will be others.

Tomorrow, I’ll head into to Tractor Supply to get 100 pounds of chicken food, 40 pounds of kitty food, and 50 pounds of dog food.

And they day after that, I’ll probably head off to the vet.

I’m eating the most expensive eggs in the world.

And they taste good.