Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Re-purposing a used Chicken

Well the inevitable happened. One of our chickens, the brown leghorn, went broody about 5 months ago. After several attempts to rehabilitate her, we made the decision to part ways with her. Here are the options we discussed.

1. Throw her in the trash. (Complete loss of a resource. We felt like the chicken might have opposition to this idea also.)

2. Compost her. (Partial loss of a resource. We felt like the chicken might have opposition to this idea also.)

3. Dinner. (Complete recapture of a resource though messy. We felt like the chicken might have opposition to this idea also.)

4. Let her sit on fertile eggs we buy for her. (We already have 26 chicks in the garage, not viable for us but the chicken loved the idea.)

5. Let her sit on fertile eggs for someone else. (Partial loss of a resource. Chicken loved the idea!)

A quick listing on, four offers to do business with people in third world countries to relocate their cars and/or complete a business transaction, and two offers for a broody chicken later, we shipped Swoope off to live with another family where she will hopefully be the proud mother of a clutch of Plymouth Rocks. We recouped half the expense for this hen this way and all parties including Swoope made out in the deal. Oh how I love to repourpose things. - Jason

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This is My Life

[Author's note: I'm having major problems with blogger for some reason and can not fix some of the spacing issues on this post.  So sorry for the look of this!  I guess it goes with the topic!]

I happened upon a post today from a blog I visit a few times a month. Chiot's Run chronicles the life of an organic gardener. She does this through her absolutely beautiful photography. Today her post showcased her line-drying laundry. It just so happens that I did laundry and hung it out to dry this morning as well, but I couldn't help but laugh at the juxtaposition of her laundry next to mine.

Photo from Chiot's Run. Note the nice, matching linens, and nice, light-brown clothespins.

Yes, in theory they match since they are all blue - but boy do they have a story to tell! 
Once used during surgery, these "linens" were long ago rescued from the surgery floor 
by my surgeon Uncle who couldn't bare for them to be tossed in the trash after one use.

 Grey, weathered, rusty clothespins.

Holey, stained, fairly nasty - though clean - kitchen & cleaning "linens". 

Yes, this is my life.  Recycled, reused, weathered, stained, and holey.  I'd love to say I wouldn't have it any other way - but I don't know if that is always the truth.  Sometimes we feel sort of junky with all of our various piles of compost, dirt, mulch, chicken run refuse, building materials, logs & sticks waiting to be used in the chiminea, gardening supplies, etc., etc. laying all around our small yard.  While they are in some semblance of order it occasionally hits me - "Is it all worth it?"  
  • Is it worth saving every kitchen scrap to be reused somewhere on our property?  
  • Is it worth bringing home apple cores left from apples eaten during kid-sporting events - instead of just throwing them in the trash at the ballpark or soccer field?  
  • Wouldn't it be more aesthetically pleasing if we finally went out and actually bought some cute kitchen towels?  
  • Is it worth gathering discarded items from the side of the road with the thought that 6 months down the road we can use it for something else instead of having to buy brand new?   
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding - YES!  It certainly would be more pleasing to the eye if we bought new kitchen towels - but what's the point?  There is absolutely no need to throw away these perfectly functional surgical towels just so my laundry looks pretty for my neighbors.  I can bring some flowers into the house if I need a beauty-fix.  It's completely possible that Chiot's Run could have just purchased these new linens to replace her way-past-their-prime older linens.  Please understand that I'm not out to disparage Chiot's Run in any way - that's not what I'm trying to get at here.  It was more just the shake-your-head-and-have-to-laugh-or-you'll-cry kind of epiphany when I saw her post.  Here's what I'm trying to say, and perhaps not as eloquently as I thought while it was forming in my head: the positive in all of this is that no matter what the rag - we're both trying to make a difference, no matter how small.  In attempting to line-dry our clothes - something that is idyllic and lovely and a pain in the butt all at the same time - we're doing just one tiny thing to help the environment.  And if this is my life, then I'll take it. -Carrie   

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Organic Veggies & Fruits from the Co-op

Just a picture of some of the produce from Urban Acres Co-op. Love it!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Flight 101 - Baby Chicks Learn What Their Wings Are For

I'm so entertained by these baby chicks and their antics. It's day 5 or 6 for them and they have learned what those wings are for on the side of their bodies. Around day 3 or 4 they started sprinting from one end of the box to the other with no regard for who they stepped on. Now they're sprinting for a couple of steps and flying for about 12 inches at full speed... into the side of the box! Some lessons you have to learn the hard way I guess. - Jason

How NOT to Name a Chicken- (Tagging Chickens)

O.k. I'm a softie. I had specific intentions to let the little chicks go without names. They are, after all, livestock and we knew we'd be paring down some of them in the long run. But it started with a little brown faced one we couldn't help but nickname Brownie.

Where's Brownie?

That's it. We'll just name that one. She'll be our special little pet and there'll be 24 that we treat like chickens. Except the other peanut butter faced one. She'll be our little Reeses Pieces. No more. Then another one stuck out from the crowd for her big structure. Big Bertha joined Brownie and Reeses on the short list.

Still there were 22 that needed some form of ID to keep a history of the chicken. This one had to have the butt feathers cut, that one seems more sluggish than the others, this one more spunky, etc... We settled on a method of placing a colored zip tie on each leg. The color combination would ensure that no chicken had more than one tie on each leg, ie. Left: Red; Right: White.

Love those fluffy butts! -Carrie

More Chicken Porn

That sounds like a good combination for Valentines Day. We'll call this one Cupid. And so it followed. Until 20 or so had names that just flowed - like Sunrise and Sunset (orange on one foot and red on the other) and Patti (green on both feet.) Well all was well and good until we got to the end and realized that we weren't really sure that all of them were properly marked. A recount was in order. I placed a box in the bin and started calling off chickens to Will as I put them in the box. We got to the end and fell one short. The last, we found, was under the box holding the rest of the clutch!

My heart leapt! There was this little blob of black fuzz laying on the floor of the chicken's bin. She wasn't moving. What had I done? I took her in my hands and her fragile body lay limp. Her tiny chest moved up and down in a shallow reciprocation. Kristen started to cry and I wanted to also. For ten minutes I held her, uncertain about her future. I watched and waited with bated breath. Time crept. Slowly, the life returned back to her body until she was on her feet. I don't think she would have made it a few more seconds under the weight of her sisters. I had but one name to give this little one who carried the weight of the world on her shoulders - Atlas. We only have room enough for 16 in our coop. No matter what, she's earned a place on our perch. I love a fighter.

Editor's note: There are now several with minor amounts of brown showing up in their face and since we could no longer determine the real Reeses from the imposters, we've since deleted the name from our list. ALSO, as an added bonus, we ran out of names and had to find out why. I'm ashamed to say that after three days of having these girls, we realized we officially have 26! A bonus chicken! We broke out a new color of zip ties and slapped two yellow ones on her. What else could we call her but Sunshine!

Below is a list of the official names. See if you can reason your way through the colors and names. -Jason


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rethinking Flock Dynamics

So, did you hear the one about the urban couple living on a 7th of an acre with 16 chickens who bought 25 more??? Yes, we're sure we will be the butt of some peoples jokes, but there's a method to this madness.

For those following our blog, you are well aware of our recent excursion to purchase 13 bantam chickens. For those who are new, you can read about that here.

Life's a dance, you learn as you go. While we don't have any regrets purchasing the bantams and we've enjoyed watching them grow, here are some of the lessens we've learned by having them:
  • Bantams lay smaller eggs, hands down; thus they are less marketable
  • They don't lay as often as the larger breeds
  • Our bantams went to the bottom of the pecking order when placed with the standard sized breed, this may be the reason why their production is lower
  • They are much noisier than our other breeds which equals unhappy neighbors
  • With so many hens in different stages of development too much time was required to keep the flocks separated
For all of these reasons and probably a few others we can't think of right now, we made the decision about a week ago to find other homes for the bantam clutch (and mama) and the two adolescents. As if by God's favor, on the day we made this decision we 1) learned our neighbor's son wanted to take at least the mama & clutch and possibly the adolescents and 2) Carrie was randomly perusing Ideal Poultry's website and they had a weekly special offering Black Sex-Link chicks (females) for only $1.50 each (regularly $2.50 at most hatcheries).

For those not familiar with the Black Sex-Link (a.k.a. Black Star), there are a number of distinct advantages to this breed. A cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Barred Rock hen, the chicks are born with distinct color markings denoting the sex. This is fairly uncommon in the world of chickens, but allows for quick sexing at the hatchery and you are assured of only getting females - so you don't have to find a home for what could otherwise turn out to be roosters. Sex-Links are also reliable layers of large brown eggs - even in weather extremes. We know this first hand because Nellie, one of our original three hens and a black sex link, has laid consistently since she began - including on both the hottest day and the coldest day of the year. For the month of January, probably historically the least egg-friendly month, Nellie laid 18 eggs. Neither our Barred Rock or Brown Leghorn laid a single egg during this same time period. Last, Nellie is the most docile of all our chickens. That title was supposed to go to the Barred Rock, but Charlotte didn't get the memo.

So, our ultimate goal here is to have 15 or 16 (the maximum occupancy for our coop) good egg laying hens. All of the Bantams will be relocated for sure. Our broody Leghorn is flirting with an uncertain future, and Charlotte, who just finished molting, is expected to start up again and secure a place in the flock. All of the chicks who came in today who don't fit the bill will be sold to help recoop, (pun) the cost of this hobby we like to call self-sufficiency.

Keep your eyes peeled for more coming on the new chicks, including ordering, brooding, growth, tagging and the eventual relocation to the outdoor coop. -Jason & Carrie

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Straight Talk about the U.S. Food System from a Preteen

Please watch this. Birke Baehr's passion about the problems and solutions surrounding the food system in this country is contagious and very inspiring - and he's only 11! -Carrie