Author: Steve

The Chicken Chronicles

As you probably read yesterday, this has been a whopper of a week with bitter cold to winter weather.  The ladies are about sick and tired of it.  😀  Even though they can get out into the snow, I don’t see where they have chosen to do so, and I am sure they are ready to change that.  Look at the looks they are giving me!

Easter Egger hen giving me the stink eye

What Are You Looking At?

Speaking of the Easter Eggers, they really are either the smarter of the two breeds we have, or they are weaker.  Check out how they huddle together at night on cold nights:

Easter Eggers Huddling Together

Easter Eggers Huddling Together

That is actually five birds, though it only looks like three or maybe four.  There is one totally covered by the others and another partially covered by the others.  They are hanging out over by the water dish, which is where I have my heated growing mat that keeps their water from freezing.  Silly birds.

I am please with how the birds are doing though. We had temperatures down to -9 F this week and even without heating the coop there was no signs of frostbite.  In case you are wondering why I cover my coop, look at the next picture and see the blue around the window near the roosting bar.  That is a place where wind would easily blow into the coop and could cause frostbite.  I hope to fix that this upcoming spring or summer.

I guess since I have showed two pics of Easter Eggers, I should show at least one of the Rhode Island Reds, well at least they are in the picture.  They really are a more aggressive bird, and I think they are just plain tougher.  Here they are eating upstairs on a bitter cold day:

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

One of the “fun” things we have discovered lately is that when we check for eggs late in the evening, someone, we think Blondie, will come peck at our hands.  I am not sure if she is playing, getting broodie (haven’t seen her sitting on eggs), or if she is just protecting the nesting box from what seems to be a predator.  Who knows, but it makes getting the eggs and adventure.  😀

Speaking of eggs, my assumption was correct, the egg production fell off this week for the Easter Eggers.  The totals for the week were 19 Rhode Island Red eggs (a few less than normal) and 10 Easter Eggers eggs (a big drop from last week).  In short, the Easter Eggers are proving how much they are daylight dependent when it comes to egg laying.

Speaking of an adventure, I think we may get a couple of more baby chicks in a week or two.  The local co-op is supposed to have baby chicks in next week, and if they have any interesting, winter-hardy breeds that are different from the two we have, we may get a couple of new ones.  I am thinking perhaps Welsummers.  I would like to add a couple of birds, or at least one, a year to keep the egg production somewhat stable.  I am not ready to order them though, I don’t think, as that can get expensive.  I should know something next weekend or the weekend after.

Happenings Around the Homestead

Whew! What a week this has been! There isn’t much happening around the homestead, as we received a whopper of a snow this past week, which was followed by another snow, extreme cold temperatures, and then on Friday night into Saturday we had sleet, freezing rain, and rain. As I write this on Saturday morning, I suspect it is a terrible mess outside. There have been reports of folks roofs leaking, flooding due to drains on roads being clogged with snow and ice, and roads that are in treacherous shape. It doesn’t seem like it will get much better today, as I am expecting the temperature to hover right above freezing all day. By the time this post goes live, this will all be old news though, and we will be talking about the blustery cold temperatures Monday will bring us again. I am so ready for spring. 😀

I am sure many of you looked at the pictures I took, mostly of birds, last week.  I also took a few around the house of some monster icicles:

Monster Icicles #1

Monster Icicles #1

Monster Icicles #2

Monster Icicles #2

Monster Icicles #3

Monster Icicles #3

I just went out to check on the chickens, and wow it is messy.  The rain is melting some of the snow, and water is pooling everywhere.  It remains to be seen how this will be at the end of the day.

Oh!  I took a few pictures of my winter sowing project!

Winter Sowing - Peeking Through

Winter Sowing – Peeking Through

Winter Sowing Holes

Winter Sowing Holes

Even with a slow week around here, it wasn’t without some homesteading excitement though. I received a packet of seeds from Slovenia! These are minerature blue popcorn kernels (seeds).  Check out the seeds and the envelope:

Minerature Blue Popcorn Kernels from Slovenia

Minerature Blue Popcorn Kernels from Slovenia

I know, I know.  I am a bit weird to get so excited over popcorn kernels, but I am excited to incorporate this into my popcorn landrace.  Aren’t those stamps cool too‽


Pointy Ends Down

Over the last year of having chickens, I have learned a lot about eggs.  For example, did you know that in most countries eggs aren’t refrigerated?  I suppose one never stops learning though, right?  Did you know that eggs should ideally be stored pointy side down?  Maybe you knew that, but I sure didn’t.  Check it out – there is a reason for things such as this: Why Eggs Should be Stored Pointy End Down.


I cannot tell you how impacted I was by this video. The act of doing something kind for others is often so simple, yet so ignored. It can make a profound difference on the life of someone else though. How often is something within our power, but we withhold the blessing due to greed?

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.

I hope this touches you as it did me.

Bees and Beekeeping with Honey Flow

One thing that has long caught my interest, but I have never really pursued is beekeeping.  I have gone so far as to have a friend show me his hives, at which time I got stung.  😀  That is a story for another day though.  Anyhow, I want bees.  I have looked at several options, including top bar hives and traditional hives, but on Monday I came across what I think is a great option: Honey Flow!  To be fair, this is not so much about the hive, but it is about the frames, which allow you to gather the honey without opening the hives.  Awesome, right‽   This goes live on Kickstarter next Monday, and I plan on checking it out as soon as it goes live.  If the price is reasonable, I expect to be making my first investment in beekeeping on Monday.


The Chicken Chronicles

Whew, the cold weather is back again!  If you read yesterday’s post, you already know that we have a doozie of a week happening, with a big snowfall yesterday (total of over 8 inches at my home) and some bitter cold temperatures coming.  This resulted in us wrapping the coop with a tarp again to protect the birds from the wind that may come in through my less-than-windproof coop.

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Speaking of that, my aunt brought up a good question the other day.  She can recall growing up not having to do anything special for the chickens in the winter, and I can’t remember my grandpa doing anything special with his henhouse.  So why is it I feel I have to?  Basically it boils down to this:  I am not worried about them surviving the cold.  There is plenty of chickens that make it even in -30 degree weather, but you do have to worry about frostbite.  My Easter Eggers have no waddles or combs to speak of, so I don’t worry about them, but the Rhode Island Reds have waddles and combs that are a larger and more susceptible to frostbite.  They would survive, no doubt, but it is introducing a possible health issue which I don’t want to have to deal with if I can avoid it.  The answer is this: keep the wind and moisture down.  Fortunately I have good ventilation in my coop, perhaps too much, which is why I choose to insulate it further with a tarp for the bitter cold: to keep the possible drafts in the coop to a minimum.  So far our hens haven’t suffered any frostbite that I can see, so I will continue doing this when temperatures are down in the single digits.

Covering the coop this week will probably result in a decrease in the Easter Eggers egg laying.  In fact, their egg production has gone down this week, though I think they laid during the middle of the night twice this week, which ended up meaning the eggs broke and hens ate them.  That could have added 3-4 more eggs to the list, which would put in more in line with the normal production.  This week the totals were as follows: 22 Rhode Island Red eggs and 13 Easter Eggers, an increase of two for the Reds, and a decrease of six for the Easter Eggers.

I was surprised that none of the hens ventured out into the snow yesterday, or at least not that we saw.  I did see what might have been footprints in the snow, but it had already snowed enough more that I couldn’t tell for sure.  They didn’t stay in the coop either, but they did stay in the part of the chicken run right under their hen house, rather than venturing out into the new northern extension.

I don’t mind a good snow like this once a winter, but I do wish it weren’t accompanied by the terribly cold temperatures.  We are now expecting -8 F later this week, which is very cold for our part of the country.  So cold, in fact, there are numerous warnings going out to folks in preparation for the possibility of busted pipes.  In short, this is not something our infrastructure is really built to handle.  Praise God it is just a day or two, right?

Just in case you are interested, I did take some pictures of some of the song birds eating on our deck rail yesterday.  I am particularly fond of the Cardinals, how about you?

Happenings Around the Homestead

Every year about this time I fool myself into thinking spring is right around the corner.  We get a few warm days, and for some reason I believe winter is over.  Well, it is not!  It hit yesterday afternoon (Saturday) with a vengeance, and the temperature dropped several degrees in just a very short period of time.  This morning it is bitter cold outside, and they are saying we may get snow tonight!  My favorite weather forecaster, Beau Dodson, is saying the snow is very likely, as are some bitter cold temperatures mid week.

We attempted to cover the chicken coop with the tarp yesterday, but the wind was so strong it was merely an exercise in futility.

UPDATE: as of 4:30 AM on Monday morning, we have just over 3″ of snow.  We were also able to cover the chicken coop yesterday to keep it a little better insulated.  The chickens sure are enjoying having the new extended run though, as it allows them to get out in the sun, even when the rest is covered.  We’ll see how they like that today with a big snow.  😀

Speaking of snow, I have long said that we get a real whopper of a snow storm (don’t laugh my New England friends) about every decade.  A local weather enthusiast, Jason Darnell, did some research that backs this up.  We have only had four single day snowfalls of greater than 8 inches, but look at the spacing:

  • December 22, 2004: 14 inches
  • February 15, 1993: 7.9 inches (yes, I know this is just under 8 inches, but it was followed 11 days later with another 7.3 inches).
  • January 16, 1978: 11 inches
  • March 6, 1967: 8 inches

As you can see, other than a 15 year span one time, we get an 8″ or greater snowfall about every decade.

As an interesting addition to this, in 1984 there was a two day snowfall of 8.2 inches and a one day snowfall of 7.1 inches, so we didn’t really skip that decade, we just had a five year snow prior to that.  Actually, it looks like prior to 1984 we had a span of bigger snowfalls every five years, with a few interspersed one to three year big snows:

  • 1984: one day snow of 7.1 inches and a separate two day snowfall of 8.2 inches
  • 1979: three day snowfall of 8 inches
  • 1978: 11 inches
  • 1975: one day snowfall of 5 inches
  • 1970:  two day snowfall of 7 inches
  • 1967: 8 inches
  • 1965: two day snowfall of 7 inches

This week I did get the first round of winter sowing done.  Here let me share a little bit about that.

The principle is this: instead of using grow lights and having to harden of your plants, you begin by planting outside in mini-greenhouses.  During the winter the varying weather causes the seeds to freeze and thaw, expand and contract, and eventually grow.  The mini-greenhouse offers enough protection to keep the plants alive, and also keeps you from having to harden them off, as that happens naturally.  It made sense to me, after all, this is more how it happens in nature, yet still might give me a jump on the summer.

So, you begin by collecting as many milk jugs and other plastic bottles as you can.  This is a small group I am starting with:

Winter Sowing - The Milk Jugs

Winter Sowing – The Milk Jugs

The first thing you have to do is drill some drainage holes in the bottom of the jugs.  If not, too much water will stay in them and the seeds may rot before they grow.

Winter Sowing - Drilling Holes

Winter Sowing – Drilling Holes

Winter Sowing - Drainage Holes

Winter Sowing – Drainage Holes

Once that is done you need to cut the jugs in half.

Winter Sowing - Cutting the Jug

Winter Sowing – Cutting the Jug

Then fill them with potting soil.

Winter Sowing - Filling with Potting Soil

Winter Sowing – Filling with Potting Soil

Once that was done, I put the jugs back together and moved them outside.  I wish I had just finished them on the day I started them, but time did not allow that.

Winter Sowing - Filled Jugs

Winter Sowing – Filled Jugs

Finally it was time to sow seeds.  I just kind of scattered my seeds in the jugs, but I labeled them inside and outside, plus on the bottom, knowing that the sun will fade the labeling sticks.

Winter Sowing - Adding Seeds

Winter Sowing – Adding Seeds

I then taped the jugs shut with duct tape.

Winter Sowing - The Final Mini-Greenhouse

Winter Sowing – The Final Mini-Greenhouse

And finally I set them out by my raised garlic beds where they would get good morning sun.  Notice all the lids are off.  That is to allow the rain to get in the jugs.  It also keeps the temperature from getting too high on warm days.

Winter Sowing - Round 1

Winter Sowing – Round 1

If you want more details, is the place to go, but this should be enough to give you the general idea.  Now let’s watch and see if they grow!

Fifty Lifehacks for a More Productive Life

I absolutely LOVE lifehacker articles: ways to make your life more efficient and easy with simple changes or everyday objects.  This list is no different.  My favorites of the list:

#1 – Sadly, I am just now learning this in my life.

#3 – Have been doing this for years – LOVE IT.

#6 – Not ready for this yet.  Are you?  😉

Good grief, I like them all.  Other notables are 11, 20, 24, 32, 35, and 38.  Number 50 pretty much takes the cake though.  That is what makes work not a job anymore.

Billie Jean (Played on Beer Bottles)

This video brought the biggest smile to my face for some reason. I always admire folks who can take something as simple as a bottle and may good music with it. I hope you enjoy it like I did.

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew! This was a big week for the chickens!  Saturday was a beautiful day, which could mean only one thing: it was time to get one of the run extensions built!

To give a little history, I have long wanted to build a northern and southern run extension, which when done would triple the run size, allowing the chickens more room to roam when we can’t let them out to play in the yard.  Ultimately, I would love to get to a point where these could be moved so we could actually let some grass grow in a spot, move the run on top of it, and let the chickens decimate eat the grass.  😀  Anyhow, that is a long way off.  This weekend was time to build the Northern Run.

First, I had to get the materials.  People often laugh at me when they see me leaving the home improvement store with 2x4s heading to my economy car, but let me tell you, this little thing can haul stuff!  No, it is not a pickup, which I dearly want, but it it does the trick.  Look at my Toyota Matrix loaded up with 20 2x4s and other building materials!

The Materials in my Amazing Matrix

The Materials in my Amazing Matrix

So I decided to build this run much more sturdy than originally planned.  My original plans were to make this modular, meaning wall panels that could be easily moved, but I decided that a semi-permanent extension was better.  When I say semi-permanent, that doesn’t mean immovable.  It just takes at least two strong people, if not four.  Here’s the eastern and western walls, which provide the basic strength for the run extension:

The East and West Walls

The East and West Walls

It wasn’t long until I had this thing framed up and ready.  You can see by the looks of this, it was not light at all!  It is 6.5 feet wide by 8 feet long.

The Frame

The Frame

One of the main things I wanted in this was a feeding door on top.  The original run has doors on the northern and southern side that lift up.  While this is fine for letting the birds out to play, it isn’t so convenient when you just want to throw some scraps in there for them to eat, as they quickly run out!  It is also a pain when it comes time to change their water or food, as you have to climb into the run, which is under 3 feet tall, to get to the food and water.  With a feeding door on top we can now throw scraps in without them getting out, and we can hang the waterer and feeder from the 2×4 next to the door for easy filling.  Sadly, I only realized after getting far into the project that I will have to put some sort of roof on this to keep the food from getting wet.  Another project for another day.

Easy Access Feeding Door

Easy Access Feeding Door

As mentioned above, we haven’t liked the doors that swing open from the bottom.  This is our new door that will open out to the side.  MUCH more convenient!

Easy Access Recess Door

Easy Access Recess Door

And this is the completed run before we moved it to the coop:

The Completed Northern Run

The Completed Northern Run

Here it is in place on the northern side of the current run.  You can see it effectively doubled the side of the run, giving the girls a lot more area to roam, including the ability to get out in the sun more.

Completed North Run Extension

Completed North Run Extension

After we installed this, the ladies spent the rest of the afternoon poking around in the new area.  I take that as a sign they were happy.  😀

Happy Chickens in the New North Run

Happy Chickens in the New North Run

I was a bit worried they may try to roost outside, as it was such a mild day and evening, but apparently the events of the day had them all tuckered out.  Nine of the ten are on their roosting pole, while the other is on the other side of the coop hanging out by the watering bowl.  Silly bird!

Night, Night.  Nine of the Ten Ladies Calling it a Night.

Night, Night. Nine of the Ten Ladies Calling it a Night.

As if this wasn’t enough excitement, the ladies had another increase in egg laying this week.  It seems the Easter Eggers are getting back in the swing of things.

The next two projects are chunnels (chicken tunnels – you are going to enjoy this when I get to it!) and the southern run extension.  It is going to be a weekend or two (or more!) before I get to those projects though.  There are just too many other things to do.