Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mid Holiday Blah's!

It is gray and cloudy here with just enough mist in the air I cannot do Laundry. The poultry is napping all over the place with heads tucked under wings, feathers fluffed up, looking kind of frumpy. I am holding down the fort as Ralph had to go and deal with some family issues that were not expected and are going to be difficult.
Christmas is over and the New Year is near. It is an odd time of year, full of hope and plans yet we know as every year before it, this new year of 2016 will have high points and low points.
The people around here involved in small business are worried about 2016, a local Amish custom Butcher is closing their doors in February, another casualty of over regulation and the USDA wanting control of everything. There is a  lot of belt tightening and hard budgeting going on. People are not as optimistic a they used to be and the daily news from around the world and out of New York and Washington DC is full of lies, hate and misdirection.
Yes the color of the sky is affecting my mood and its like even the flock of wacky poultry is worried. Lets hide our heads under a wing and it will all go away.

I swept out the store room downstairs and felt an odd mix of reassurance and is well stocked but will it do? The wood pile is a good size. This home is easy to warm and in a quiet corner of the world but will it be enough?
We have so much to do and a new gardening season lurks just ahead, soil to be amended, sod broken, varieties decided on. That growing cycle of the world around us gives us hope, if you have seeds you have things to look forward to. Like tiny pellets of hope!

May you reach goals you set for yourself, make honest realistic plans, try new things, look at how you do things differently and think of how the pioneers built their homes and prepared for the times to come.

Happy New Year seems almost trite when you thing of all that can happen in a year. How about have a BOLD and Determined New Year!

God Bless and Stay safe.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Chicken Evaluation: Part Three....The Buff Orpingtons

This is the third breed we have and they have been unique right from the start. The Buff Orpington is a Dual Purpose breed know to be broody and gentle.

Here is an excerpt from the ALBC website:

" The qualities that won all the Orpington chicken varieties recognition were fast rate of growth, excellent egg production, and excellent table-quality. Historically, Orpington chickens made excellent broilers weighing 2 to 2.5 lbs at 8-10 weeks of age, excellent roasting chickens at 5 months of age, and excellent old fowl for the table as well. They are first-rate layers of large light to dark brown eggs. In fact, they were entered into the first egg-laying contest, held at the North Yorkshire farm of Simon Hunter of Northallerton, England, in 1887.

Orpington chickens were recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard bred in four varieties: Buff, 1902; Black, 1905; White, 1905; and Blue, 1923. Males weigh 10lbs, females 8 lbs. They are listed as recovering."

     We liked the thought of a flock of Black and Gold birds, but perhaps the key to our selecting these chickens was their noted Broodiness. These chicks arrived at the Munfordville post office on the 21st of September. They were bright and vigorous tiny fluffballs of gold!

    We did not loose any from shipping and they went right to eating and drinking. They were friendly and quiet, noticeably different than the other chicks. They would come up to our hands right away and liked to be held. Using that time in our hands to look around and observe their new digs.

    The biggest problem we had with them was their total lack of fear, they would run around under our feet while we tried to feed them and we had our first casualty from that tendency. One got stepped on despite Ralph's extreme caution.

   We enjoy their blend of friendly yet independent attitude. The chicks grew fast and adapted to whatever feed we gave them and loved the introduction of potato peels and the like. We had no pecking issues to speak of with these chicks.

They took to going outside quickly and despite being quite a  bit younger than the Australorpes and Buckeyes made themselves right at home in the bigger pen and outside.

   The sight of fuzzy Buff Butts made us smile a lot. They have a much different feather as growing chicks than the Buckeye or Australorpes.

   Soon Buff's were showing up everywhere and often pushing the other chickens out of the feeder. The Buff's were the only chicks to figure out how to get into the feeders and eat from the top down. All the feeders soon sported tops held down with rocks so the Buff' didn't get in to them.

   They range well and love the Johnson Gras jungle to the west  of the buildings. Often there are 10 to 20 of them out there in little bunches hiding from the Vultures and foraging for bugs. They are deadly on crickets and love some of the bigger black beetles we had around here.

They might be quiet and friendly but they are super active as pasture chickens and range as far as the Buckeyes, there is not one Buff in the group of house chickens. Today as I write this it is raining hard and the only chicken in sight is a young, very. very wet young Buff Cockerel.

This is a breed full of mischief, they are always on top of things or out where you least expect a chicken to be. The young roosters are growing quickly and we have none with bad feet. They fight less than the other chickens but don't back down in a corner. The young pullets are sweet and always come up to see what we have and they are very vocal...always cooing and chiruccking as they investigate things. They love to burrow down in the hay in the barn and still get out to explore. They are always on top of the situation so to speak...if its there they will sit on it!

All in all the Buff's have the  makings of a great Farmstead chicken, at this point they are a delight and a totally satisfactory choice. Again we now go into the next stage of evaluation, table birds and how they dress out.

A 3 month old Buff Orpington Cockerel.

If you are considering a breed of chicken for your small farm or backyard these birds would be perfect, if you have children even more so. However I do think after watching them they will do better with room to roam. I am sure they are quiet enough that having them in a run would be fine but they do love to "free Range".

Now we wait and watch and learn more. The next Chicken evaluation is coming up when we decide to butcher some of the roosters.

Take care and be safe.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and God Bless All

To everyone who has stopped by Our blog...we wish all of you and yours a Merry Christmas.
Let the day be filled with joy and delight.
Remember the reason for Christmas and keep Jesus and his being born in a simple stable in Bethlehem in your mind and heart.

God Bless and keep you

Fiona and Ralph

Friday, December 18, 2015

Chicken Evaluation: Part 2 'The Australorps'

Today I am going to talk about our Australorps or as I refer to them, the house chickens. They are always near the house just in case I have scraps!

This was Ralph's breed choice and he has had them before with great success. He remembered them as gentle, calm and quiet chickens that lay very well and were quite broody.

From the ALBC website:
Australorp chickens are a medium weight breed with fairly close-fitting feathers. They lay and abundance of large tinted eggs, often averaging 26-27 ounces per dozen.  Australorps were recognized as a standard breed by the American Poultry Association in 1929 and are found in only one variety, black. Males weigh 8.5 lbs and females weigh 6.5 lbs.

 The Australorps arrived on September the 8th. My initial impression was how much bigger they were than the Buckeyes and that they seemed quiet and calm, just like Ralph said.

They were amazed by the activity of the Buckeye as well and seemed fairly tolerant of their "uppity" attitude. The chicks grew fast and were very healthy, we had few losses of them. They were a lot leggier than the Buckeyes though and grow considerably faster.

They tended to follow the lead of the Buckeyes when it came to new foods but it never seemed to take them long to dig in. As they got older we did have some problems with pecking, crowding was an issue but after observation we felt it was the Buckeyes more bold nature that seemed to cause the Australorps to pick on them. Only two  of the Australorps had to be separated because they were getting pecked. As I mentioned in the Buckeye evaluation, we would not house these two breeds together if we get another batch of them.

The Australorp are taller and leggier than Ralph remembered, he thought they would be stockier, more old style farm chicken. As they grow we really like the look of the pullets, they are three months old now and we can tell the roosters from the hens easily.

 They are more nervous than we expected, although they were calmer as chicks, as maturing birds they are not wild but not calm either. They are a dual purpose breed but look more refined and less meaty than the Buckeyes. They are much taller than the Buckeyes but do not weigh as much when you pick them up. They do not mind being held as much as the Buckeyes. The Australorp roosters were the first to try to crow...not good sounding but giving it the old college try! As a breed they still hang together more than the other chickens and they do not forage out into the pasture as much as the Buckeye or Buff's.

A three month old Australorpe Cockerel.

Now as with the other chickens we are waiting until the taste tests of the first Roosters. I suspect the Australorps will be the first to  make it to the table as they are maturing quicker. Then the laying and broodiness evaluations start, we think that should begin in February/March. We have to admit despite the extra cost of feeding in winter we are glad we got the chicks this fall as we will have laying hens as the  grass gets good. It is also good to see how they handle the weather.

Now off to treat the chickens to some scraps of apple!

God Bless you all and keep well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chicken Evaluation: Part 1 'The Buckeyes'

Well it has been just over 3 months since we got our first shipment of chicks. The Australorpes and Buckeyes arrived on September the 8th.

We have enjoyed all the chicks very much and now they are becoming teenagers. We are evaluating what we have learned about each breed.

The Buckeyes were my choice and I am very pleased over all. They are very interesting chickens. They are a breed listed as 'Threatened' by the ALBC and that means there are less than 1000 registrations in a year in the US with less than 5000  worldwide.
They are a lovely color..deep mahogany with iridescent tails on the roosters. They have pea combs and are suited to most climates.

This is the description from the ALBC Website.
The Buckeye is a dual-purpose breed of chicken with a deep, lustrous red color of plumage. They have yellow legs and skin, and, thanks to their pea comb, are very cold-weather hardy. While Buckeyes adapt readily to a variety of living conditions, they do best under free-range conditions or conditions where they have room to move around. Because of their active nature they do not do especially well in small confined spaces. Roosters weigh approximately nine pounds; hens weigh approximately six and a half pounds and lay medium-sized, brown eggs.

The Buckeye chicks arrived in good health and were a wide range of shades. They were pale with light brown markings to quite red brown.

We noticed right away that the Buckeye chicks, although not nervous were extremely observant and active. They never stopped moving until they literally dropped mid run into nap mode.

I never did manage to get good photos of was always a mass of blurred images! They were a lot smaller than the Australorpe but that didn't deter them from being territorial or getting all the feed they wanted. They were the first to catch and eat crickets that wandered into the pen. They were curious and always rushed up to see what we were bringing them when we fed them but they did not like to be picked up at all.

We did have pecking problems when they got bigger, mostly due to the fact the Buckeyes did not back down at all and always seemed to pick fights with the bigger Australorpe chicks. We called them the Kungfu-Kick boxers. In retrospect we would not keep both these breeds together as growing chicks. Now they are nearly adults they are fine but the aggressive nature of the Buckeye caused more trouble than milder chicks would have.

They took to going outside exceptionally well. They forage and started to show that behavior when we first let them outside, they were always the chicks at the furthest end of the pen and now they range all over the place and thrive on the pasture and activity of free range. The showed the Australorpes the way around the pasture and the Buckeyes were also the first to eat the table scraps.

We often remarked at how they never walk, they run full speed from place to place and just check everything they see out.

We like the way these young chickens are growing. They are not a fast growing breed but we note they steadily get bigger and show signs of the stocky, sturdy birds we want for our farm flock. They have bright yellow/orange legs and big feet. Their backs are wide and when you pick one up [with much complaining from said Buckeye] they are solid and noticeably heavier than the Australorpes.
They are not pet chickens. However they are very friendly chickens. If we are doing something in the yard they will come around to see whats up and when we work in the tobacco barn there are often Buckeyes laying near by. Picking them up.....well they seem to think that is plain old sissy stuff.

Buckeyes forage, they have discovered the Johnson Grass in the west pasture and thrive in it, it offers protection from over head threats and lots of bugs and fresh shoots of green for them to scratch up and eat. At this stage of their development we would heartily recommend this breed to any one who is looking for a real farm type chicken.

3 Month Old Buckeye Cockerel.

 We still have to find out how suited to the table these birds are, we ordered straight run and right now it looks like we have about 60% roosters. Then we have to evaluate the laying ability and broodiness of the hens.

It is going to be interesting to watch them develop further. We have to admit we are looking forward to our first roast Buckeye.

God Bless you all.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Okay Mamma Pea...20+ questions

My venture into 20+ questions....leads down a murky path!

1.  Do you like bleu cheese?  Yum, yes I do.

2.  Have you ever smoked?  Only childhood, carefully stuffing stalks of cow-parsnip with Cameo menthol tobacco.

3.  Do you own a gun? Yes, they are necessary on a farm.

4.  What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite?  Lemonaide

5.  Do you get nervous before dental appointments?  I would rather face a charging Grizzly bear than go to the dentist.

6.  What do you think of hot dogs?   Real beef dogs slathered with mustard and homemade relish.

7.  What's your favorite Christmas movie?  Beyond Tomorrow

8.  What do you prefer to drink in the morning?  Water or Hot Chocolate

9.  Can you do push-ups?  Only after I loose something under the bed and have to get back up....

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry?  My Crumrine Silver Earrings

11. What's your favorite hobby?  Making Model Horse Tack and gear.

12. Do you have A.D.D.?  Is that when you can't remember what you went in a room for? :)

13. Do you wear glasses or contacts?  Glasses

14. What's your middle name? Jane.... me Tarzan you Jane....argh!

15. What are your thoughts at this minute?  I Had better pause and get Ralph his din dins! (I Fed him Moroccan Chicken and vegetable cous cous)

16. Name 3 drinks that you regularly consume.  Sweet Tea, Switchel and the odd glass of wine with a meal.

17. What is a current worry of yours?  That I have to go to the "Dentist"

18.  What do you currently hate?     Professional Politicians

19.  Where is your favorite place to be?    Our Farm with Ralph...well actually wherever Ralph is!

20. What do you plan on doing on New Year's Eve this year?  To borrow a phrase from Susan at eieiomg....not a hotdawg thing!

21. To where would you like to travel?   We would enjoy retouring The Four Corners region of this country...well there is just so much to see here and I have been to Europe.

22. Name three people you think will do this questionnaire on their blog.  Well I hope anyone who read this....its a kind of humorous retrospective of ones self!

23. Do you own slippers?  Yes but now I need new ones after a quick foray a few days ago to check the old ones are now barn slippers!

24.  What color shirt are you wearing?  A used to be white T-shirt.....

25.  Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?   Horrible things....slippery and well...just weird!

26.  Can you whistle?  Sort of...enough to call a dog!

27.  What is your favorite color?  GREEN!

28.  What songs do you sing in the shower?  Sing....Sing you have got to be kidding!

29.  Would you be a pirate?  Let see, poor food, evil companions, a life of crime and bad food....NOT!

30.  What's in your pocket right now? A pretty rock I found, an acorn from the oak tree and a broken plant tag.
31.  What's the last thing that made you laugh? A turkey flying into the Oak tree about 5 minutes ago!

32.  What vehicle do you drive?  1997 Dodge  Cumins 4x4 5 speed........I love my old truck.

33.  What's the worst injury you've ever had?  Having a peice of wire driven into my leg by the lawn mower....go figure!
34.  Do you love where you live? Yes we have found heaven on earth here! We are so blessed.

35.  Would you change your first name if you could?   Nope....I was named after my Mother's favorite pony and now after the Movie Shrek..."I" am a princess!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Happy Sunny Afternoon

Yes I know we will be using a lot of these birds for our table but we think they are living a good life now and that means a lot to us. Here is a short video of our mixed flock [mostly turkey's in this clip] out by the oak tree in the afternoon fall sunshine.

Critter Tales......its in Print.

5 acres and a Dream blogger Leigh has her second book coming out....Critter Tales.

I have been following Leigh's blog and get her posts sent right to my email. It is well worth it. The insights and ideas from the experiences of a small farmstead are invaluble with both touchs of humor and sadness and all the things that make up life!

There is  just a lot going on these special 5 acres and they give all that aspire to a lifestyle change and excellent example of what can be done. 

Now get this book and make that change.....

PS: Thank you Leigh, you have given Ralph and I  many good ideas and confirmed other thoughts we were not so sure about.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Free Range Chickens...the fun side!

We have been watching the antics of our free range chickens and they do keep us amused for hours, we really have free range chickens. We really let them run everywhere as they choose. To us Free Range is not just a catch phrase. I thought these cartoons would make you laugh with just a hint of how modern marketing takes something and makes it something else, just to lure people in!

Of course there are a few other chicken issues I  had to add!

Take care and be well...there ain't nobody here but us Chickens!