My Edible Garden

I've been gardening for most of my life and have been a devoted fan of organic gardening the whole time. It just makes so much more sense to work in harmony with Mother Nature than to fight her. Besides which it is better for the planet and better for our bodies. Here you can see what I'm planting and harvesting, with gardening hints and resources thrown in for good measure.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

One Spoilt Chick

what did you say son?

About a month ago I set some eggs under a very determined broody hen, one I just couldn't seem to break from her broodiness. I also set some shipped Welsummer eggs in my incubator. Shipped eggs have a notoriously low hatch rate. Seriously, if you get 30% or more hatch rate then you are doing good.

Well the post office was not kind to these eggs, one smashed and another cracked; most of them seem to have been scrambled. Out of 14 eggs shipped I got exactly ONE little chick.

Meanwhile broody girl was sitting tight on her eggs but for whatever reason, none of hers hatched. Finally at dusk I took the eggs out from under her and slipped her the poor lonesome little Wellie chick. Pretty sure he's a he and he's one week old today.

See? Look! right there! it's a bug!
Broody mamma is doing an excellent job taking care of this baby, keeping him warm at night and showing him how to scratch and hunt bugs.

Standing tall!

I have some more eggs in the incubator that are due in a couple of weeks. I might see if broody mamma will take on a few more chicks when they hatch.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Lay

Black Copper Marans pullet, Red#55

I love my Black Copper Marans but when you are trying to breed them to the Standard of Perfection, well let's just say that it's hard. This girl, Red #55 is too dark and should have a lot more copper color around her neck. She should also have a lot more feathers down her leg. Both issues can be worked on in the next generation.

Black Coppers should lay really dark chocolate brown eggs like Orange #69 does. Actually hers is about the lightest acceptable color.

I like red #55 as she is fairly large and has a decent
egg from orange #69 laid 10-2-13
shape to her. But I am sooo very disappointed. I can't tell her egg from one of my Buff Orpingtons. ;-(

I _might_ breed her and hatch just a few eggs and raise a couple of pullets to see if her daughters lay reasonably dark. And then again I might just leave her in the layer flock and go look a bit closer at some of the other girls.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eggs for Hatching

Welsummer eggs
Unless you are a chicken nut (what one of my friends calls me & his wife) you might not know that people often ship eggs around the country for the purpose of hatching them.

When a particular type of chicken is hard to come by in an area then sometimes hatching eggs are a good thing to try.

These are my Welsummer eggs that have just arrived from Erhard Weihs of Kummer Poultry Farm. Shipping is very hard on eggs and they don't always make it through the postal service in very good shape. Since they are perishable they should always be sent Priority Mail. Of course they should be well wrapped and padded. I ordered one dozen eggs, Erhard shipped 14. One was broken enroute so I have 13 whole eggs.

After unpacking them I set them in a carton, big end up to let the air cell settle. I will set them in my incubator tomorrow. I'll know in about 10 days how many are viable and growing and how many got scrambled.

This is a great article with a lot of information and links about hatching eggs and also how to handle the special problems presented by shipped eggs.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Girls Moved In!

Today's Eggs
I'm sure you are probably tired of looking at egg pics, but I love collecting all the different colors, sizes and shapes! So much fun!

Add caption

In the second photo I picked out some special eggs, the five in the top semi circle, from left to right are, Black Copper Marans, Welsummer, Buff Orpington, Ameraucauna, Easter egger. The lower three eggs are all from the new Easter Egger pullets.

The girls have moved in

I did finally move some girls into the first part of the new chicken house. Here you can see a piece of plastic rain gutter screwed to the wall for a feed trough and a coffee container has been recycled into an oyster shell dispenser.

Here you can see some of the girls I kept for my flock. The big black girl in the middle is one of my Black Copper Marans; she's not the one that laid the egg in the pictures above. I put her in with the pullets so I can see what color her eggs are but she hasn't laid one yet. (Unless she laid that light speckled brown one next to the olive one at the bottom. If that is the case I am going to be really disappointed as she is one of the bigger hens I have.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Colors Today

Pullet eggs
I love having all these new girls starting to lay!  I wish I could get my camera to pick up the color the same as it is in real life. These eggs are more shades of pale turquoise green than what they look like in the photo.

These three eggs came from the pen of Easter Eggers that I have for sale. I don't know who is laying which egg, but they sure are cool looking!

Might be one of these girls or their sisters. I kept about 9 girls to add to my layer flock, but these eggs came from the sale pen. Can't wait to see what I get tomorrow!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Almost Ready!

West end door
Well the new layers coop is almost done! While there are some small finish details yet to be done, like putting wire over the vents at the top of the walls, it is almost ready for occupancy.

Here is the west end, the door is hung, tho I still need to put a latch on the outside, it is nicely level and plumb and moves easily.

I do need to go dig around in the shed for a piece of plexiglass I have to put in the other window pane, but it's still pretty warm so I'm not going to worry about that right now.
Front of the layer's section with 2x4" weld wire
The front opening has 2x4" weld wire over it on the inside. I am still debating whether I will put my old windows on this wall or not. I"m really considering building a 4' awning style roof on the front  for shade and to keep the wind from blowing in the rain and leaving it open. If I need to this winter I can always staple on some plastic during the worst of our weather.

the roosts

The roosts run along the back, all at the same height so there will be no jostling for top hen spot. The entire back wall of the building and the first four feet or so of the end walls are solid except for a small open vent at the top. This will keep them from being in a draft while they sleep. In the lower left of the back wall you can see an opening for a pop door. I am making all the openings while I am building. Then I will board them over until I get the pens done on the outside.

nest boxes of recycled candy bins
The nest boxes started out life as candy bins. Some friends gave them to me and they were very rusty. I sanded, primed and painted them. The wooden leg supports are not fastened to them and the bins are not fastened to the wall. That way I can take them completely apart for cleaning if I need to. The wooden fronts slide out so most of the time I can just take them out and sweep the boxes clean. The slanted roof will hopefully keep them from roosting on top.

inside door handle

The door handle on the inside is made of a piece of aluminum I found laying around. I have no idea what it was before, I just beat it with a hammer until it was the right shape and screwed it on.

simple door latch, open position

The door to the next section inside is an old screen door with some fencing and chicken wire added onto it. It swings into the layer's section and I needed a simple latch to keep it shut. This is a small piece of board and one screw.

latch closed

Here it is in the closed position.

in the down position

The cool thing about this is that if the screw ever loosens up in the board allowing it to move freely and it falls downward, it will still hold the door shut.

Before the girls can move in I need to  put the latch on the outside door and put in some feeders and a water system. Maybe after lunch!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Eggs in the Basket

Egg Basket, 9/19/13
I love going to collect eggs, especially when I have new girls beginning to lay. See those green ones in the center of today's basket? Those are from the April hatched pullets. I just love that olive one with the tiny brown speckles! The other one is almost turquoise green. So much fun to see all the new colors!

Close up of speckled egg

The close up doesn't show the colors the best, but it does show the tiny freckles. As you can see these eggs are really tiny, but they will get big pretty soon. Most chickens lay small eggs when they first start, with them gradually getting larger. I have even had hens in their second year lay even larger eggs than in their first year, although they don't generally lay as many of them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Buff Plymouth Rocks

Buff Plymouth Rocks
Awhile back I picked up six buff Plymouth Rocks from a new friend. She can't have roosters where she lives right now but likes to breed standard poultry and asked me to be one of her breeding partners. It looks like I've got four girls and two boys.

They have been in the baby coop and are so funny, they have been total scaredy cats. Er, chicken. They have been refusing to come out of their little cozy space. So finally the other day I crawled in and tossed them out (a couple of them more than once!). The usual color of Plymouth Rocks that most people know is the black and white Barred Rock. The buff color has become quite rare. I happen to love buff, in the sun they look like little golden birds.

The barred Rock was the first variety developed in New England and shown in 1849. Several other varieties were developed and today the American Poultry Association recognizes 7 color varieties. Plymouth Rocks were developed as dual purpose farmstead birds, producing good quantities of both meat and eggs. The White Rock variety is still used in developing strains and hybrids of fast growing meat birds. At one time Plymouth Rocks were the most extensively raised breed of chicken in the United States.

My friend and I will be working together next year to decide which birds to use for breeding. We want to make this variety more available to the general public, especially in the western US.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chick Update

Earl Junior

The chicks hatched August 1 are getting pretty big. Looks like there are 4 boys and 2 girls.

One boy looks a lot like his daddy, Earl. And he acts just like him when Earl was younger, kind of bossy and not very gentlemanly. In fact when Earl was younger I really didn't like him much, but as he got a little older he mellowed out and now he's pretty nice.

In the next picture  Junior has his head down and you can see his markings. He might not end up with as much grey on him as Earl, though.

Easter Egger boys

In this second picture standing up is the boy I will probably keep. He is the heavy weight of the hatch and has a nice chest already.

The two girls are the mostly white one standing up in the back of this picture and the buff and white chick hiding behind here.

The white girl has very faint grey and gold markings coming in and I think she is going to be very pretty when she grows up.

This breeding was to try and get more gold and grey patterned girls like their mother because I think she is really pretty. (Well not right at the moment though, she is in a terrible molt right now!) I'll be breeding these three back to their parents when they grow up and hopefully the next generation will give me the color I'm after.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Chick on the Block

A Frizzle
I have been fostering some hens for friends when they were told they had to go because they are not allowed inside the city limits. They are working with the city council to try and get the ordinance changed. In the meantime the girls are hanging out at my house.

Included in the group are two kinds of chickens I haven't learned much about yet, Frizzles and Silkies. I really haven't had a chance to look them up, but I do know that Silkies have black skin, meat and bones and are considered a delicacy in some Asian countries.

Both kinds of birds have mutations from normal bird feathering. And they are both very small, making them a frequent choice for youngsters getting their first chickens.

They are cute, but they sort of look like aliens!

One of the foster girls, a white silkie
I love how the Silkies have bright blue earlobes, like they are wearing earrings!

And the Frizzles have cheek poofs and little topknots. They do sort of resemble a pine cone!

a buff Silkie rooster

I never thought I would have little tiny chickens like Silkies, but recently a new friend gave me this pretty little buff Silkie rooster. Knowing my foster girls could leave any time, I went ahead and bought a little buff Silkie pullet to keep him company when the foster girls leave.

buff Silkie pullet; I think she has eyes in there somewhere

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Egg Shell Color Genetics

Easter Egger pullets
I thought it was about time to give you an update on those cute little chicks up at the top of the page. Those are some of the 30 or so chicks that hatched on my birthday in April so going on 5 months old. They are part Ameraucauna, so actually just mutts, but some will lay blue or green eggs. Ameraucauna chickens lay blue eggs and have a small pea comb. Apparently the pea comb and the blue egg gene are closely linked, so in general if they have a pea comb they are going to lay blue or green and if they have a single comb then they will lay white or brown depending on the mix of breeds they are.
single comb on left, pea comb on right

So how do we get green eggs? Well there are actually only two colors of egg shell, blue and not blue. What I am talking about is the color of the shell itself, all the way through. If you open up a blue egg and look under the inside membrane, you can see that the inside is blue also. But when you look inside a brown egg the inside is white (genetically, "not blue"). You see in a blue egg the blue pigment is an integral part of the egg shell. However, in a brown egg the brown pigment is actually a coating put on the outside.

A green egg happens when a bird has the blue egg genes along with some of the brown egg genes. She makes a blue egg shell and then coats it with the brown coating. The shade of green it turns out to be depends on the brown genes and the amount of brown tint she adds.
As you can see there are a variety of colors and patterns on these girls. Some have single combs (and so will probably just lay brown eggs) while others have pea combs (and so will lay blue or green).  Some have great muffs and beards and some have clean faces. Purebred Ameraucaunas are required to have muffs and beards by their breed standard and I do think they are cute. But beards and muffs have nothing to do with the blue egg gene, so as long as they have a pea comb they will probably lay blue/green eggs, even if they have a clean face.

And some of them have begun to lay already!
I can't wait to see what other colors I get out of these girls!

Pretty Eggs

Well three of my Black Copper Marans girls are laying right now. I know who is laying the egg on the right, but I haven't been able to figure out who is laying that pretty dark egg on top. I have to finish my new chicken house and get the breeding pens set up so I can separate the girls and figure it out. I have been getting one of these dark ones every other day or so for awhile now. This is the darkest egg I am getting, however Marans can lay even darker than this. So no matter what she looks like I'm going to hatch some of these to keep the dark egg genes in the next generation.

A couple of my Black Copper boys. They are not perfect as far as the standard for their breed goes, so there are a lot of things to work on with them. Once I see which pullet is laying that dark egg I will pick the boy that most nearly complements her for breeding and hope to see some improvement in the next generation.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

New Chicks

New chick on the block!

Well  I have six new chicks this week. Offspring of Earl and one of my EE girls. You saw Earl the other day and I'd show you a picture of mamma but she is molting and having a bad feather day.

These are some great look little round puffballs.

another yellow and grey chick

Altogether there are five chicks from the Easter egger girl,  three grey and yellow and two red. One of the red ones tho has a lot of grey/yellow fuzz on it's body and mostly just red on it's head and back

The last chick here is from the Wellie/leghorn girl. It is much bigger than the EE chicks.

I'm thinking the grey and yellow ones might be what they call lavender, but I'll have to wait for them to get a little bigger to be sure I think.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Earl Grey, Stud Muffin

Stud muffin Earl Grey being admired by one of the ladies.
Gosh can't beleive it's been so long since I posted. So much is going on with my job, it has been really crazy. Some weeks I have worked 60 hours, barely had time to sleep and feed birds let alone do anything else!

Here is my Easter egger boy, Earl Grey. His daddy was a Lavender Orpington and his mamma was an Easter egger. He has really filled out the past couple of months! You know he is so pretty I might just have to paint his picture!

look at that chest!

Check out that chest! That is a lot of meat on a fairly small bird. He gets that from the Orpington blood. I also love the coloring of his feathers on his chest.

Wide Load!

When he was younger he looked a bit narrow in the hips, but as he has grown he has filled in and is nearly as wide in the back as he is in the front.

Nice and wide, front to back!

Chickens should be wide through the back, for ease of laying eggs without problems. Some of my EE girls are pinched in the tail, so I'm hoping that their daughters from Earl will be wider than they are.

Remember back in March, when all those little chicks pictured at the top of this page hatched? Well here are some all grown up. There are 17 girls and about a dozen boys. The boys are destined for freezer camp and are still trying to grow some back and tail feathers; they are actually pretty ugly right now so I didn't take any pics of them today.

Lots of soft browns and golds, some of their mammas were Easter eggers, some were Welsummer or Welsummer/Leghorn crosses and this is the typical female coloration for those breeds. Some have the tiny pea comb of the Easter egger and clean faces, while some have beards and muffs. The pea comb is the best indicator that a hen will lay a blue egg. The gene for blue egg shell color is tightly linked to that for the pea comb. The girls that have single, regular combs could lay green or even brown. Only time will tell.
Love the beards & muffs!
Now those are some cheek poofs!

I just realized that there is a shadow from the chicken wire fence on that last girl! That's not a real pattern on her.

In other news I have managed a little of progress on the new chicken house. The first section is roofed and I should be able to get the second section roof done on my next days off. I lucked into some great pallets, a full 4x8 feet, exactly what I needed for the bottom part of the divider walls inside. Solid bottom walls are best to keep roosters from fighting with each other through a fence.