The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

February 23, 2016

Chickens help recover garden

Filed under: Chickens,Garden Preparation,Weather,Weeds — bob @ 10:24 am

Earlier this week I decided to move some of my chickens into the lower garden. That area is poorly drained and water sits there almost every spring.

Since the last couple of summers were so damp and rainy, that spot was waterlogged for much of the growing season. I couldn’t plant anything. I couldn’t even till the area, so I let it go fallow.

Right now the spot is dry. Since it has been so warm, the soil is not frozen and there is no snow cover so the chickens will be able to scratch to their hearts’ content.

There’s an old garden shed in that spot that I sometimes use as a temporary chicken coop. And I have the area fenced to keep out deer, woodchucks and those wascally wabbits. It also keeps chickens in.

The weeds in that low spot really took over after two years of non-use. Some weeds grew over three feet high last year. That will be a real challenge this spring. I’ll have to cut down all of that plant material and try to till it the best I can. The chickens can help quite a bit by tearing into those tough weeds ahead of time.

Chickens

Scratching in the weeds is a chicken’s favorite pastime.

So why even bother with that area? Why not turn into lawn or let it revert back to a wild area? Well, the National Weather Service is predicting a warmer than average spring and summer. They are also predicting below average precipitation, at least through spring and maybe well into summer.

If it turns out to be hot and dry,  my sandy-soil upper garden — which did very well last season– will probably be too dry to grow much of anything without a lot of irrigation. During past years when we’ve had droughts, my lower garden rarely needed irrigation until well into the summer.

So that’s where I’m placing my gardening bets this year. If things change, I can always move the chickens back to their normal spot.

Bob

October 8, 2015

Protect backyard chickens from migrating hawks this fall

Filed under: Animals,Chickens — bob @ 12:22 pm

Urban chickens are not making as much news as they were a few years ago but plenty of people still keep chickens in their backyard. Chickens, in a lot of cases, have become just another part of the garden.

Right now the fall wild bird migration is in full swing. It is not just song birds and waterfowl that fly south for the winter, hawks and other predatory birds are making their way south too. On some days, thousands of hawks will fly over certain areas during the migration.

That is causing big problems for some chicken owners, including me.

Last week while I was crouched down in the driveway working on my car, something compelled me to turn around. What I saw was a large hawk getting ready to latch onto one of my chickens.

I have about 75 hens in my flock and usually they are quite vigilant in spotting predators. At least one or two hens out of the 75 will spot a hawk and warn the others even if the hawk is quite a distance away. Even the blue jays will screech out a warning call to the rest of the birds in the area when they spot a predator.

This time however, a hawk was able to silently swoop down without anyone noticing.  I’ve observed that hawks don’t usually bother my hens when there are people close by. The hawk didn’t see me until I stood up and turned around. I surprised it enough that it took off without a chicken and landed in a tree about a hundred yards away. By that time all 75 hens were making quite a ruckus.

Hilda narrowly missed a sure death by seconds.

Hilda narrowly missed a sure death by seconds.

That hawk never did come back to try again. I’m sure it looked for another meal as it continued flying south.

Don’t think that just because you are in a populated area that your hens are safe from hawks. I live in a rural area but have heard reports of chickens being attacked by hawks in suburban and even urban areas this fall.

Free range chickens are the most vulnerable because they often wander far away from cover that could protect them from attack. The best thing to do is keep your hens locked in a pen or chicken run covered with protective netting until the migration is over.

Keep in mind that hawks are protected by law. It is illegal to capture or kill them without a special permit.

Bob

 

 

April 23, 2014

Cycle of life in the chicken flock

Filed under: Chickens — bob @ 9:48 am

The big news around here is the arrival of our new day-old chicks. I have fifty baby chicks to keep warm and look after, much like a mother hen except I use a heat lamp instead of cuddling up with them.

They were shipped from the hatchery by the United States Postal Service to our local Post Office. The Post Master called me to let me know they were ready for me to pick up. This is a unique service that the Post Office provides. UPS, FedEx and other shipping companies don’t ship chicks. It’s one more reason, in my opinion, to support our Postal Service and not let it be disassembled by outside competitors.

 

Chicks eat, drink, run and scratch without needing to be taught by a mother hen.

Even at 24 hours old, chicks eat, drink, run and scratch without needing to be taught by a mother hen.

This latest group of new arrivals will be replacing our flock of old hens. The old gals are not laying enough eggs to pay for the feed they eat, even when they are able to forage out in the yard. So, it’s time for them to move on to the next stage of chicken farming — meat.

Old hens don’t make very good fried or roasted chicken, they are just too tough and scrawny. They do however, make the most delicious chicken broth you have ever tasted.

My old joke is: “I have discovered a fast and easier way to make homemade chicken soup. Instead of butchering one chicken at a time when you start your soup, butcher several at a time and put them in the freezer. Then, take one out of the freezer the next time you make soup.”

I tell that joke every time I pull a hen out of the freezer and it always gets the same response from whoever hears it — silence followed by a quizzical look.

I’ll keep the  old hens around until the newcomers begin laying, about 18 weeks from now.

Bob

June 2, 2010

Backyard Chicken Related Post

Filed under: Chickens — bob @ 11:54 am

I have posted an introduction to baby chick feed at our other website. There I discuss some of the types of feed commercially available for baby chicks.

Bob

May 19, 2010

Chickens or Not?

Filed under: Chickens — bob @ 3:26 pm

I’ve debated on whether or not chickens should be included in discussions about gardening. Judy and I are into our 4th year of keeping  chickens and have a current flock of  88 including laying hens and young pullets as well as cockerels for meat.

Judy holding one of our new chicks.

Back when I was an Agriculture Agent decades ago, the answer to the chicken/garden question was pretty simple: no, chickens are classified as small livestock, not garden produce.  This is the assumption I have been working under with this blog and so, have not discussed poultry at all.

Times have changed and so many people have asked me about chickens that I have decided on a compromise.  I will discuss raising backyard chickens in another forum and not try to do so at length here in “All things green”.

I plan to post a short blurb here when there is something of interest on our other site regarding poultry related issues.

So if you are intrigued by poultry at all, you may want to check out Yellow Farmhouse Garden.

You can follow the development of our 50 baby chicks as they grow, sort of like Jim Carry’s movie “The Truman Show“.  Right now you can see episode #1.

Bob

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