Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Workbench

It took us awhile to decide on a location and a method for organizing all of our backyard chicken care taking materials and equipment.  After loads of research we decided on an idea from the wonderful resource Tilly's Nest.  Thanks to Tilly's sage advice, we got stuff out of the garage (so we could park inside again) and near the coop.  In addition, the new workbench area helped our chicken-sitter feel comfortable taking care of the chickens' needs. 
Here is a view of the whole area where you can see the workbench, aluminum cans, various buckets, and compost bins.
The red bucket is for waste clean up (we use it often!)  The green bucket is for bringing feed into the coop.  The green bucket is upside down with a rock on top because a jar of scratch is hiding underneath.  Scratch is something the squirrels love as much as the chickens!  You can also see the rakes we use to clean the coop and the blue trays for transporting hay and pine shavings.

It is hard to read the labels on the cans, but there is one each for chicken feed (egg maker), pine shavings, and straw.  One of the cans holds scratch, meal worms, and oyster shells.  
Here's another view showing our two-bin composting system.  We will probably have to add a third compost bin soon.  Chicken waste is plentiful and great for compost.  It will provide us with a fabulous garden next year.  The workbench will soon need to move into phase two where it gets a roof for the winter.

Bill Digs a Hole

The chickens can't get enough time in the backyard.  Foraging is their thing.  Really.  One might say that foraging is a chicken's passion.  In our case, it is certainly Bill's passion as evidenced by the following pictures.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Portrait of a Chicken

We had a formal photo shoot this evening after a romp around the yard. 
Bruiser Chicken 
Lou Chicken 
Bill Chicken 
Fitz Chicken

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Big Brown Spot

The chickens had a great time roaming the yard tonight.  The experience even perked up a sluggish Fitz.  Before the roaming, we were contemplating giving her the chicken version of a spa bath for what seemed to be another case of soft egg syndrome.  Fitz is still a laying machine and can't keep her calcium level up, even with all the special calcium-rich foods she's getting.  The vet told us to keep on with what we are doing and that she is okay.  Anyway, we think that the spontaneous yard exploration got things moving because a few minutes after she returned to the coop, she laid an egg.  The egg in the middle:
One side of her egg is a normal brown color.  Then there's the side you can see here.  It is very pale brown with a darker brown spot that matches the other side of the egg.  This is a clear example of how Fitz can't keep enough calcium in her system to keep up with the amount of eggs she is laying.  Here's a little PG-rated chicken biology: as the egg is formed inside the chicken it goes through many stages.  The shell is the last stage.  Fitz ran out of shellmaker at the end of the formation of this egg.  Know this: after she laid that funny looking egg, she was back to her pesky (and adorable) self and gave Bruiser a good old peck in the behind! 

If you are wondering if the egg is still edible, yes, it is! 

Outside the Coop

On a whim, we let the birds roam the yard before chicken bedtime.
They liked loved it.
Papa Hen watching his flock.
We were worried about getting them back into the coop, but it was surprisingly easy.  Can't wait to let them explore again.

Bounty from Red Door Coop

This weekend we visited family with homegrown treats in hand.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bruiser laid an egg

Or did she?  There was a light brown egg in the lower nest next to Lou's cute little white egg today.  It had a few little ridges on the shell but is a perfectly respectable egg.  Take a look.
Two golf balls's on the left, Lou's egg, and this other egg, the one at the top of the bunch.  I suspect that it is Bruiser's egg because the three other birds also laid eggs today and she has recently been practicing egg-laying behaviors: hanging out near the nest, laying down the way chickens do in the nesting box, and keeping Lou company while she is in the nest.  Oh, sorry, you want to see it on the scale.  Here goes:
From the size of the egg I wonder if Fitz laid 2 eggs today but Fitz never goes in the lower new nesting box area.  Only time will tell so we will have to give time time.   

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Four Chickens and the View

Fitz, Bill, Lou, and Bruiser.
 There they are again.
This is the view from the chicken coop.
Here's the garden next to the chicken coop.  
I can't resist sharing a view of our front yard.  That's our new tree on the far left and our forest of sunflowers on the right. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rear Window

Papa Hen did an outstanding job on a project in Red Door Coop Sunday.  The hens needed a window and we needed them to have a window.  The window provides more daylight in the coop that will help them when they jump up onto the roost in the evening.  In addition, they will get more light in the coop during the winter when they'll be spending a little more time inside.  For the two humans the window was necessary for safety and for fun.  Safety so we can make sure all four girls are inside on the roost and fun because they look so darn cute all lined up in a row.  Anyway, on with the project.
First a hole was cut in the back of the coop and the window was gently fitted in place.
Next, my tall husband got inside the coop to frame the window's interior.  I didn't witness the task in person but imagine it would have made a good photo for the blog.  Can anyone say pretzel?
Then the outside of the window was framed.
Papa Hen used the remaining wirecloth to cover the entire window.  This is another measure to keep the birds safe since windows can be an entry point for predators.  We can't be too careful.
There is Red Door Coop's own rear window.  When the project was finished, I ushered Fitz and Bill into the coop to inspect Papa Hen's work.  It was hard to tell what they thought, although they did study it in that amusing way chickens do: head turned to side so the eye faces toward to the object of interest.  Adorable.  And weird.  I tried to get a picture through the window, but apparently, it is NOT a picture window.  This is what I got:


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chickens Dig Holes

Every day.  Chickens dig holes every day.  They scratch and scratch with their claws (talons) and then peck at things of interest to chickens.  Then they scratch some more. 
Here's one hole near the main feeder.
Here, Bruiser and Fitz (the two of them together is a rare sight) are guarding the hole near the main feeder.
Here's a hole near the popular "cool" chicken feeder.
Here's a "cool" chicken digging the hole near the popular feeder.
Later, Fitz was letting Bill know where they will dig the next hole.  Hint: the dirtbath!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Local Landmark

It's true.  Red Door Coop has become a bit of a local landmark.  By local I mean right in our backyard.  By landmark I mean that if you are in our backyard you just can't miss it.  However, if you were to enter our backyard and felt unsure as to whether you were in the yard of Red Door Coop or another huge coop with a red door, you could look for two significant points of interest to help you.  Both are located by the large red door. 
At about eye level on the left side of the door, you will see a bouquet of feathers.  They are local, as in found on the gravel floor of the coop. 
Down on the ground, to the right of the door, is a rock that we call Chicken Wing Rock.  You can see why.
We are not sure that Google Earth has spotted and labeled these items yet, but when the Google car drives by, we will let them know that they are missing a couple things. 

Egg Storage

We got something new to hold our eggs.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mystery of the Chickens and the Ladder and the Egg

Dear Readers.  When I returned to the premises of Red Door Coop today after a series of mundane human errands, I opened the coop door to THIS:
One ladder knocked down and partially covered with gravel and straw.
One egg laid in the middle of the run.  Let's take another look at that egg and some of the suspects. 
Hmmmmm...Do any of them look guilty to you?

Now, this Mama Hen aka Chicken Detective observed and collected evidence: one light brown egg in the middle of the run and one fallen ladder partially covered in gravel.  She then observed the suspects and thought about motives. 
Here's what she knows:
1.  The egg is not Lou's because she already laid today AND her eggs are white.
2.  The egg is not Bruiser's because she is still too young to be laying.   
3.  The egg could be Bill or Fitz's because they had not yet laid today.
4.  Bill and Fitz are friends so one would (most likely) not sabotage the other's opportunity to lay in a nesting box in the coop.
5.  Lou is only sometimes friends with Fitz...hmmm...
6.  Lou is friends with Bill.
7.  Bruiser isn't friends with Fitz or Bill.  Related by family?  Yes.  Tolerate each other?  Yes.  Friends?  No.
8.  All chickens like to dig.  Chicken Detective suspects that ladder was knocked over by digging. 
9.  Both Lou and Bruiser dig a lot.  Maybe more often than the older girls. 

One chicken's best laid (ha!) plans...  Or perhaps two chickens hatched (ha!) a plan together?

Dear Readers.  Stay tuned. 

More Nesting Boxes

We had heard that four chickens will happily share two nesting boxes. When Lou started laying her eggs on the floor of the coop instead of inside one of the nesting boxes, we thought it was just a passing phase for the neophyte layer. When it started to look like no, she REALLY likes the floor, we decided it was time to bend to the ways of a stubborn white leghorn. Papa Hen spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon cutting out an additional nesting box door and constructing two more nesting areas.  
Here is the hard-working husband, mid-project.  He is on the outside where he cut the door.  See that wooden divider on the bottom?  That created the two additional nesting boxes on the bottom. 
Here he is putting the door together.  Behind the husband is the black compost bin where the chicken waste is cooking for next year's garden.  Beside him is one of our five huge tomato plants . 
 The second door is made, hinges on tight, and the handle is on, but something is missing.
There it is, the latch.  We have to be sure that the four chickens are safe from predators.
Two doors, two handles, two latches, two caribeners.

Four nesting boxes, four golf balls.  Thanks, Lou Chicken, for motivating us to do a little remodeling of Red Door Coop.  The husband's weekend to-do list was not long enough already! 



Even on a hot summer afternoon some chickens like to pose.