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.

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.