A Big Job

I decided it was finally time to stain and preserve the wood used in the construction of the chicken run.

I bought some transparent stain to paint the frame and got to work Sunday.

Boy did I underestimate the time and trouble it takes to stain the wood. Every surface needs to be covered and plenty of it is hard to reach.

I hauled all the gear into the coop, and one of the chickens escaped while the door was open.

Then the girls started pecking my shoes, my jeans, my hands. They’re so well-trained to expect treats when I go into the pen, they were flummoxed not to get anything except “shoo, shoo, shoo.”

And I was distressed - I had stain on myself, in my hair, on the step ladder. I even dripped some on Peachy’s head!

She shook her head and ruffled her feathers, it must have felt odd.

I worked for most of Sunday morning and I’m not close to being finished.

Actually it’s a mess, half stained, half not. I wish I would have left it alone, just let the wood weather and gradually rot in place.

Now I have an eyesore.

Feathers, feathers everywhere! Ruthie and Penny are in the middle of a severe molt and are looking pretty ragged.

I’m giving them more cat food, for the protein, to help regrow feathers. Thankfully they gobble it up!

I”m glad they are molting now rather than later when it’s colder.

Their laying has picked up, three to four eggs a day, on average.

After cleaning their coop I spread diatomaceous earth to help control mites without using chemicals.

Diatomaceous earth contains fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of algae.

This diatomaceous earth gets underneath the exoskeleton of the mite and kills it.

At least I think that’s how it works.

Meet the Church Ladies (and men)

The leader of the group called me weeks ago asking if I ever let organizations visit my coop.

"Well…." I answered.

She quickly added that the church group was from Mitchell and they liked to plan an out-of-town trip once a month to shake off the cobwebs and since many of the members were born and raised on farms, it would be fun for them to see backyard chickens.

Would I consider allowing them to stop by?

Her obvious affection for my feathered friends persuaded me.

"Of course," I said.

Yesterday, eight people from Mitchell drove to town to visit the cathedral, have lunch AND see my chicken coop and the girls.

The hens rose to the occasion. They all jumped for grapes, as they are inclined to do but Dottie took the lead with her docile nature. All the visitors petted her and scratched her wattle while she sat in my arms with her cocked just so.

The men and women were charmed and intrigued. They asked many questions and were very grateful for my time.

I loved it.

I even showed them the chicken Kong stuffed with dried mealy worms.


Tour de Coop

The tour de Coop last weekend was a success. I was the last house on the tour before folks headed over to the Co-op to celebrate 40 years of business.

Visitors had lots of questions, they were especially curious how my neighbors have reacted to the chickens.

For the record, the neighbors have been great. They’re curious and interested in the process.

It’s been hot enough that the chickens aren’t laying much at all. I’ve gotten two eggs in three days. They hang out underneath the coop to take advantage of the shade.

Then they forage, forage, forage all day long.

My daughter gave me a chicken toy similar to a Kong for dogs.

Fill it up and watch the antics. I bought a canister of dried mealy worms as their treat and use gloves to fill up the toy.

Gross. But the chickens dive for it. They empty the device in less than 10 minutes.

Tomorrow is the Day

The Tour de Coop is tomorrow and the hens and I are pumped. Well, at least I am.

The girls don’t know it yet, but they’ll be getting plenty of snacks as encouragement to do “tricks.” Which will consist of mainly hopping in the air to pluck a treat out of my fingers.

Sometimes they miss and pinch my fingers (Ouch!).

I’ll feed them crusts of bread and past-their-prime grapes, both special favorites.

There are five coops on the tour, mine is the last one and there will be door prizes, then everyone is invited to stop by the Food Co-op to celebrate their 40th year of business.

I’ve been primping up the gardens so if anyone gets bored looking at the chickens they can peruse the flowers. They’re looking pretty nice, though a tad past their prime.

Hope to see you there!

Field Trip

I went with my granddaughter as she met her kindergarten teacher the other night.

The other kindergarten teacher remembers me from when my children went there, she also knows about my chickens and is very curious, asking lots of questions.

She asked if she could bring her class over to see the chickens and I said “Of Course!”

The hens love it when people come around because they know they’ll be getting treats.

And I get to practice making them jump. They’re fun to watch but protective of their food, sharing is a foreign concept to them.

I have to stock up on grapes for practice and to show off at the Tour de Coop coming up this Saturday.

Jump Dottie! Jump!

Chicken Tricks

The Tour de Coop is coming up next weekend and I’ve started “training” the chickens to jump for their treats. I’m starting with grapes and various breakfast cereals.

A couple of them are doing really well. Mainly the blacks, the others just wait for me to hand it to them or scatter it on the ground.

Chicken Food

The hens love spent petunia blossoms. Red ones especially.

I pluck off the faded bloom and toss it into their pen and watch as they scramble over each other in their haste to snag one.

Sometimes they even hop straight up in the air. I’m telling you these hens could so do an agility course.

I might start training them to see who can hop the highest. We could have a performance for the Tour de coop coming up August 17.

Cleaning the Chicken House

I did a deep cleaning on the coop Sunday but there’s a little more to it than that.

A deep cleaning is a once a year task and with the possibility of mites and the fact that I’m on the tour de coop coming up in August, why not get it cleaned up a bit early?

Donning a pair of super thin plastic gloves, you know the kind that comes in hair dye? I was ready to go.

I washed down the walls with soap and water. A half-strength bleach solution is frequently suggested, but I didn’t have any bleach and figured dish soap is better than nothing.

Half way through the clean-up the gloves broke apart so I stripped them off and tossed them into the garbage bag.

Next, I hosed out the floor of the coop to make a quick rinse clean up.

Wow, what a mistake!

The coop slopes because the ground it sits on slopes. The floor, which is water tight, didn’t drain and the water gathered in the corner instead of running out the door.

So now there’s 3 inches of sewage on the floor of the coop. EEWWW.

I used rags to swish it out the door and it collected underneath the coop because the hens had dug shallow depressions to nest in.

I sopped up most of the water on the floor and let it air dry, but in this humidity, nothing dries. More rags were used to dry the floor, after sprinkling a layer of mite powder and fresh bedding, the gross task was complete.

Then the hens all got sprinkled with mite powder. Actually there was so much powder in the air I’m pretty sure I’m mite free, too. At least my lungs are.

The next morning the chickens didn’t make a peep when I came in the yard, they were completely silent.

It was alarming - did I kill the hens with the cleaning and the mite powder? Would I open the door and find the chickens keeled over?

I held my breath as I slid open the door.

Naw. The chickens were fine.They just slept real good in the sweet smelling coop.

Heed this advice: Don’t breathe when you’re sprinkling mite powder on a nervous hen and never hose out a coop unless you’re certain it will drain.

I still feel contaminated.

Chicken Geek

You know you’re a chicken dweeb when you like to shop at Tractor Supply.

Why not? They’ve got good stuff. Candy, clothes, boots, garden products, pet food and most everything you need for backyard chickens.

I get there about once a month to restock my chicken feed and always end up buying a few other goodies. Like bulbs, work gloves or a summer shirt.

They sell chicks in the spring, too.

It was fun to stop and watch the little balls of peeping fluff hop around and warm themselves beneath the heat lamps. Especially when it’s still cold out with snow on the ground. (Remember those days? Despite the heat I can’t help but dread the coming of winter.)

It’s a good thing they have a limit to the number of chickens you can keep. Otherwise I’d probably get more.

Ten is nice number.

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