May 2008 Archives

Chicken mysteries

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The chickens have been easier than the ducklings, but there are still mysteries.

The first is that Mary Ann let us have this great feeder last year. It's easy to fill, easy to clean, keeps the chickens out of each others' faces, and keeps the water out of the food in even a semi-sheltered environment like the yard outside the coop.

Damaged ducklings
Our favorite feeder.

The problem? We'd like to find more of these, but can't. I wondered if a carousel feeder might be the name for it, but that's something else apparently. If you know where to get more, please leave a comment!

And then there's King Rooster, who crowned himself the other day.

King rooster
King Rooster.

Angelika originally called him the Gangster because he looked like he was wearing a mask. He and some of the chicks with white faces, who we called the "Uruk-Hai" after Tolkien, turned out to be the roosters. We had the Gangster in a rabbit with just black chickens who turned out to be hens. When I put all the chickens back into one run, the little Gangster ran around attacking all the Uruk-Hai, pulling their feathers and even jumping on them. They gave up pretty quickly, and he moved to the top of the pecking order despite being a smaller bird.

King rooster
King Rooster, in a different view.

King rooster
King Rooster again.

He's clearly not a Silver-Laced Wyandotte, but we're not sure what he is. Angelika looked through the breeds at McMurray Hatchery, where he came from, and thinks he might be a Modern Bb Red Game or a Bantam Bb Red Old English Game. Right now he's smaller than the Wyandottes, so bantam is possible, but we'd love to hear suggestions from anyone on what he might be.

(He won't be staying with this flock, so we can either find him a new home or eat him.)



On Tuesday, I got the annuals into the whiskey barrel planter. It's full of slugs, so I put in a slug trap, which I still have to fill with beer, of course.

Then the shipments kept arriving - two sets of trees for Angelika's orchard yesterday, another delivery from Miller yesterday, and then our St.Lawrence Nurseries order.

Angelika moved a rose and planted two dwarf cherry trees and a lot of daylilies, while I planted four blueberry bushes, two American Highbush cranberries, two Titania black currants, two mulberry trees, and some more daylilies. I still have to plant twenty lingonberry bushes, five horseradish plants, and twenty-five asparagus crowns.

Lots to do! More soon.

We still don't have plants in the ground. Given the frost I found on the ground yesterday, that might be a good thing.

What we have done is:

  • Installed a bat box - that only took two years!

  • Built a new chicken paddock behind the old one (with Josh's help), installed a gate, and mostly secured its edges with poultry wire. (Ran out of garden staples.)

  • Moved the chicks out of the rabbit cages to the new paddock. Gave them the heating plate, which they seem to love.

  • Moved the ducks out of their paddock and into a 20'x20' electroplastic netting fence in the back. We'll be moving the fence around regularly. (Darth has been reunited with the flock, and all seems well. Feather cannibalism is over.)

  • Bought annuals for the whiskey barrel out by the road, to be planted today.

  • Planted a lot of basket willows that Josh had coppiced.

  • Brought ancient rusted garden fence and tomato cages to metal recycling.

  • Angelika moved the second compost pile to the third spot, freeing the second spot for the pile in the first spot.

  • Farewell, cat litter.

Josh also took down some trees in preparation for the duck pond work, so it looks pretty messy back there right now. There's an old collapsed shed I need to empty (barbed wire and other unpleasantness) as well.

It's probably fair to report here on some failed garden experiments, just for completeness, especially when they took a few hours of my morning.

Two years ago, we decided to try composting cat litter. Angelika has two cats, Rowena and Puschelwuschel. We switched their litter to SwheatScoop, which works pretty well.

Because cats are carnivores, their litter smells pretty awful to start with. They also carry a variety of diseases you don't want to get, so you should use the compost only where it won't come into contact with anything you're going to eat.

Unfortunately our composting efforts never really succeeded. The compost worked long enough to make us think it was a good idea, but results got worse over time. Aerating and adding straw and newspaper didn't make much difference. Then we took in two of Angelika's cousin's cats for a while, and that totally overwhelmed it.

The composter had to be fairly close to the house, which meant that eating on the deck was best at times with no wind at all. The prevailing winds definitely took the stench right to the deck.

This morning, I finally ended it, emptying a foul container into trash bags and taking them to the dump. Six hundred pounds of incredible nastiness, going to the one place where it might actually fit in. Then I cleaned up the area where it had been, which still has some lingering odor, and took apart the composter and cleaned it out too. Finally, I took a shower to get the stench off of myself. I threw out a pair of gloves, and probably need to throw out a pair of shoes.

We'll try again eventually, probably with vermiculture, in smaller quantities, but for right now we're just going to stop the experiment and focus on other less dreadful projects.

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