Tag Archives: chicken coop

Housekeeper for Chickens

Recently we completed the once a year task of cleaning out the hen house. It takes a few hours and I have learned to do everything except the bedding on the prior day so the whole thing is less overwhelming. We need to be home all day since I also scrub the concrete areas that were under the most dirty bedding and that takes time to dry.

We only have 3 chickens and get so many eggs from them that we don’t need more.

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Our Buff Orpingtons

Caring for them takes just a few minutes each day so the only real work is their spring cleaning.

I come from a line of chicken farmers and even have the distinction of having an uncle in the Nebraska Poultry Hall of Fame. 🙂    I did not grow up with these people so they did not influence or teach me anything. Like spinning it just came from within. They were farmers and I am not. They probably rolled over in their graves when they saw the care these 3 get. When Lilac, Marigold and Daisy-Dandy (named by children on the street since historically we have called our pets Kitty and Bunny and are trying to reform) stop producing eggs I won’t eat them. They will live out their lives as pets. I don’t claim to have a farmer’s mindset.

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Chicken Tetherball

A farmer does not occasionally set up activities to keep chickens from getting bored. This picture was taken before they reached their current size.

Like any cleaning it is tedious but there is satisfaction in the freshness that results. Another benefit of cleaning is that I get to see two dates written in concrete. We know their home is old and that previous owners were allowed to keep it closer to the property line than is usually allowed because they said it was “historic.” The inside has wide boards which are typical of older structures but we have never researched to find its age.Being a New Englander with a proclivity for history helps me to enjoy the time I spend in there because it is a connection to the past. Our house was built in the 1830s as was the barn/garage so this hen house may also be old. I love the doors.

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Our Buff Orpington

Here are the dates. I wish the pictures were better. They aren’t old but we can see that the previous owner who was here for 60 years wrote October 1953. I put S + B 2014 when Steve added more concrete elsewhere.

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October 1953 date in hen house floor

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Our 2014 date in hen house floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since we have so many predators we can’t let them free range. I would love to see them out there on their own but they wouldn’t last long. So, Steve made what is called a “Chicken Tractor” so we can wheel them around the yard so they can forage safely. Talk about being spoiled. In this picture it is the part that is up against their outdoor run.

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Hen house, run and chicken tractor with Lilac

After they started laying I gained a better understanding of the feeling that people speak of that we and the chickens are working together to provide food for us. Their manure is composted and helps our flowers and vegetables to grow but beyond that are the eggs that keep coming and coming. We give most away because we don’t need a dozen and a half a week. With their efforts we can bake at will and continually have a ready source of protein.

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Courtesy of our chickens

All I know is that it feels very natural to me to be caring for them and enjoying them. For those who aren’t familiar with chickens, I can say that they are very amusing and have unique personalities. I know if I sit down with them that Lilac will jump on my knee and Daisy-Dandy will avoid being touched. I know Marigold will peck at my leg if she feels I am taking too long to get their treat out. Who wouldn’t be in a rush to eat dried mealworms and corn. They are very curious like me and carefully check out anything new in any of their enclosures. We know their many different vocalizations and what they mean just from being around them.  Also like me they don’t like change or disruption. Earlier two were complaining because we have men doing work on our house that includes drilling. They got used to it. One day last winter they were putting up a ruckus so Steve looked out and saw them squawking at a deer in the yard.

Other than when remarking on affronts such as those, they are very peaceful. I feel peaceful just sitting here watching them out the window and writing about them. I have no complaints about being a housekeeper for chickens.

“In Heaven There is No Dirt”

That title sure is different from the one I wrote last week! It is a quote from Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the utopian community of the Shakers. The Shakers were supposed to create heaven on earth and so were advised to be meticulous housekeepers because for some reason she felt there was no dirt in heaven. I have been thinking about the Shakers because a few days ago we were “hawking our wares” as a mutual friend said at the Fiber Loft (thefiberloft.com) in the town of Harvard MA.

This town is not to be confused with Harvard University. Harvard MA is a beautiful little New England town that is picture perfect. I remember one winter day years ago being there and kids were sledding down the hill from the white Congregational Church. It almost looked as though Hollywood had designed a set to look like New England. We are selling our handspun yarns and our hand dyed spinning fibers there and were lucky to go on a perfect spring morning.  Harvard is also historically known for its Shaker settlements in the 1800s into the 1900s and is the site of the first one in MA. All the buildings are now privately owned but it is fun to drive through the area and look at the Shaker architecture still preserved. I like to think about them going about their business creating beautiful furniture, and selling seeds.

The expression also sticks in my head because I have been cleaning everything here, or so it feels.  First, several hours were spent on the annual spring cleaning of the chicken coop. All the bedding was removed and the walls and floor and everything else scrubbed. All my pets have always been fascinated with whatever I am doing. Maybe I am sort of their tv. The hens watched with interest but no alarm until the shop vac was brought in and then they understandably freaked out. They calmed down after it stopped. Here they seem to be saying “Why did you make our cozy coop look like a jail cell?”

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Everybody look in different directions until we find our bedding!

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Phew- that’s better. But everything is better with treats anyway!

 

 

 

 

 

Next day I took on the attic. Spent hours organizing and getting rid of things, lots of things. People who have old houses may recognize this sight:

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Hundreds of chances for tetanus.

The eaves slope and are full of old old nails. There is a wide berth in the middle of the attic where I can stand upright. There are no nails in the ceiling and I never come in contact with the nails in the eaves but it is imposing. However there is one vaccination spinners keep up with and that is the tetanus one. We work with sharp pointy metal things a lot so it is best to be prepared!

Our little scaredy cat even confidently participated with the attic clean up. Last night after I went to sleep Steve said she came up to him with a mouse in her mouth! Maybe I dislodged it from the attic. She then did the let go and catch again game with the poor thing but after awhile got distracted and lost it. Since this morning when I opened my eyes she wasn’t next to my head on the bed staring intently at me to be sure she gets her breakfast, I suspect she found it and wasn’t hungry. I may yet find pieces of it as I used to with another cat in another home. Yuck.

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If I can’t get out of this house at least mice come to me.

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Wool blanket drying on future chicken tractor.

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Glorious alpaca drying.

 

I’ve been washing wool and alpaca. Wool fleece for spinning and snuggly wool blankets that we won’t need again for a long time. There is room for them now in the attic! Steve is building a chicken tractor for our pampered hens so they can be moved around the yard and eat bugs and grass but not get eaten by our ever present predators. Right now it is a good blanket dryer.

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Lovely colors and scents

And of course doing a lot of gardening. May is one of my favorite months because so many bulbs, bushes and trees are blooming.

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So bright.

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The hummingbirds have already found this one and it is only beginning to bloom.

I can’t say that I agree with Mother Ann that there is no dirt in heaven. How would I garden? And see all my pets again? It wouldn’t be heaven for me without gardens and animals. I do like to clean things up and get them fresh again- but there is still a lot of dirt in my world and I hope there always is.