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Archive for January, 2014

Like my small farmers, our chicken coop is unheated.  Tonight is expected to be around 2 degrees.  Burr!  Not so for chickens.  They are designed for the cold.  After all, they lived in the wild long before humans made them farm critters.  Birds all over the world survive the cold.  Think about the arctic terns and penguins.  Granted, they aren’t chickens on my farmlet in rural Virginia, but they are also birds.

Have you ever gone out in the middle of a near zero degree night and put your hand between two chickens in a coop?  I have, and they were toasty warm.  Their feathers overlap each other to provide excellent insulation.  I was amazed the first (and only) time I did this.  So, now, tonight, when it’s expected to be so cold, I’m not worried about our eleven chickens.  They’ll be fine.

I hope all of you stay warm on this frigid, January night.  Sleep well, chickens.  Sleep well, friends.

Frozen Chicken Coop

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Writers Group

There is a group on Facebook that is for people who live in my county.  On that group, I asked if there was a writers group in the county.  Many people responded that there use to be a group, but it broke up years ago.  They were, however, interested in a new group.  I was hoping someone else would step up and take control of the new group.  That did not happen, so I am now the facilitator/leader/instigator.  Yay.

The first meeting is scheduled for February 4, 2014.  We will be meeting in the community room of our local library.  I’ve asked for the podium and a table with chairs around it.  I don’t expect more than ten people.  I’ve asked people to bring copies of a story they’ve written, a notebook and pen, and some object that could be used as a writing prompt.  I think it will be interesting to see who shows up and what they’ve written.

I’ll keep you posted.

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We added two hens to our flock. One was Rhode Island Red; the other, Brahma. They came from my best friend’s son. They started with about fifteen or so Over time, foxes and dogs whittled away at their numbers until only these two remained. They came to our property in a cat carrier that was put into the shop overnight. The next morning, I took the carrier down to the garden where we put our portable chicken coop for the winter. A smaller, even more portable coop was on the upper tier while the larger coop was on the lower. I put the two new chickens in the smaller one which already had food and water for them. All the while, the birds in the established flock were watching my every move, or rather they were watching the new hens. Then I went over to let the flock out into the garden. This allowed them to meet the new hens without actually having contact. The rooster was the first to react to the sounds of the newcomers. One moment, he was busy drinking. The next, he was looking in the direction of the little coop. When he heard them a second time, he left the attached run and went to find them. He got part way, and the chickens stopped talking. He came back to feed. He heard them again and quickly went to find them. He jumped onto the upper tier and cocked his head, listening intently. Then he strutted around to the fencing of the small coop. He moved his head this way and that to get a good look at them. A couple of the hens joined him. He started talking with the new hens. I watched all this while doing my job. Once they were fed, watered, and eggs collected, I walked out of the garden and closed the gate.

When I was about twenty feet away, I turned to watch them. The rooster and hens were still looking at the newcomers. They were communicating in chicken-speak. Then the rooster attempted his mating dance. He started to the side of one of the new hens. Lowered his wingtips, stretched out his neck, and tried to do a semicircle around in front of her only to discover that the coop was in the way. I smiled and chuckled. He tried to dance for her many times in quick succession. Each time, the fence between got in the way. Undeterred, he tried again.

The flock hens came to investigate, too. One by one, they came up to introduce themselves. The new hens reacted to each one with many sounds. One red hen left the garden to inspect the yard for anything new. This was her normal routine. Other hens, one by one followed her. Several remained with the newcomers. I left them to become acquainted.

At lunchtime, I went back out just to have a look. The rooster was still attempting to dance for them. Three hens were there as well. The new hens gave most of their attention to the rooster. I left them alone.

At sundown, the wind started kicking up. I was worried about the two hens in the small coop. They did not have the protection from the weather that the flock had. I let them out of the small coop and herded them to the large one. They reluctantly entered the run where they inspected the food and water. They cleaned their beaks on the ground. They started looking for a place to roost for the night. The red one jumped up on the chain that holds waterer and feeder. It swung back and forth. She used her wings and tail to try to stabilize herself. She fell off with an indignant flapping of wings and clucking. She tried a second time and almost got stabilized. I used the stick to help her off. The white one stepped through the chicken door into the coop. She stood in the doorway, half in, half out. The red one pushed her way past. The rooster and flock talked with her as she did. I gently nudged the white one in and closed the chicken door behind her. It was going to be a cold night. I wanted them safe and warm.

The next morning, I went down with food and water. As soon as the chicken door was opened, the rooster made his appearance. He was followed by many hens. They ate and drank and talked with each other. The rooster did his mating dance. The red hen left the garden for the yard. New chickens and old flock were now one.

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My greenhouse is unheated, and there is an arctic freeze coming.  The forecast calls for twenty-nine tonight, minus four then next night, and nine the night after that.  A very frigid start to the week.  So far my greenhouse is doing well, except for the brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts) that were affected by the last very cold night.  Brassicas are hardy down to zero degrees, if they don’t have a head on them.  The cauliflower and broccoli are not looking too well.  Surprisingly, everything else is looking good, even the plants in pots on the workbench and greenhouse floor.

We have a propane heater that can go into the greenhouse for the next two nights.  I don’t exactly like the idea of the fumes.  The greenhouse is not air tight, so the fumes will be able to escape, which is good since they aren’t exactly healthy for my plants.

Let them freeze, or use a heater that puts out toxic fumes….hmmm, quite the choice.

The heater goes in.  I’ll keep you posted.

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