Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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It's getting kind of "chicken-ey" around here

Today I was returning from an early morning trip to town and I realized I hadn't opened the high tunnel up before I left, and it was a very sunny day--that means HOT in the tunnel.   While walking to the ht I spied a hawk flying out of the chicken pen.  My heart sank.  I ran over to the pen and saw the pile of feathers, remains of one of the newest chickens, and no chickens in sight.  They always run to their coop when danger threatens.  What I want to know is how does the hawk know not to eat the young, aggravating roosters that are just waiting to be butchered, OR the old hens that are at the end of their useful laying period.  The hawk ALWAYS goes for the young pullets that are just nearing laying age.....grrrrrrrr!

I had grandios plans today of straightening a few lumber stacks and covering them better, but when you work with Mother Nature plans are apt to change at any given moment.  I have committed to raising hens for eggs, so the majority of the afternoon was spent stringing the remains of a 3400 yard spool of 12 pound test line over the top of the pen and then tying hundreds of survey marking tape flags on the line.  Great leg workout.......

It may not look like much in the photo, but it took almost a whole roll of survey tape, and about 3 hours of back-breaking work listening to chickens who were upset over the hawk, and also upset over being integrated together (babies and older chickens) just 2 days ago.  Not a good day in "chicken-ville".  I was about ready to kill a couple of the young roosters by the time I was finished!   The term "pecking order" is just exactly what it means--chickens arguing and pecking, squawking, and growling to rank higher in the group I guess.

As I was finishing up the project the wind was blowing at a pretty good clip and the flags were all waving--The chicken empire  is now festively decorated for the holidays!  Hopefully it will "Trick the hawk with o-range rib-b0ns.....fa la la la la, la la la la".   Sorry, couldn't help myself :)


Farm Fresh Eggs

Although it is hard to admit when one does things worthy of being the punch line in a joke, once in a while I like to make other people feel smart by sharing these "blond" moments.

At the present time there are about four different age groups of hens in the empire of the Happy Hens; there are old hens, pullets, almost-pullets, and chicks.  That means that egg production around here is somewhat cramped right now and the loyal fans of the Happy Hens are keeping us BUSY!  Yesterday the high tunnel season sort of officially began with the first delivery of greens, root veggies and fresh eggs.  There are always more orders for eggs than are available so the orders are processed in order of how they were received.  The folks who got eggs were thrilled and the others, well, really wanted eggs.

This morning I was taking inventory of all the ingredients I needed to make the dishes I volunteered for the Thanksgiving meal this year--that would be corn (out of the garden), a sweet potato casserole (from the garden), and deviled eggs (from the Happy Hens) oh crap, I sold all the eggs.

Can you believe that I had to go to the grocery store this morning and BUY eggs?  I was hoping no one I knew would see me, and it was really difficult to choose which eggs to buy.  I know cage-free means that there's a door open somewhere that the chickens could go out IF they knew the door was there and IF there were chickens to follow out that door, and natural means, well, uh, nothing actually.

Rather than stress myself out over natural, brown, white, cage free, listen-to-music-while-they-lay...blah, I just chose organic eggs.  If you've never seen store-bought eggs (organic, nonetheless) right next to a fresh farm egg, here's a picture I took of 2 store bought eggs and 1 egg from the Happy Hens (it was cracked a little)--guess which ones are which......

The only saving grace to this whole mixup is that fresh eggs are harder to peel than store bought eggs, so the deviled eggs won't look like I peeled them with a butcher knife this year....hopefully!

Enjoy your turkey day.


Everything likes chicken

Seems like a large part of a chicken-keeper's life is spent protecting them from everything out there.  "Tastes like chicken" isn't a cliche--it's the truth!  Everything loves chicken.

Back in August, 58 day old chicks arrived at the farm.  25 Red Star, 25 Black Star, 5 Ameracaunas, 1 "Exotic breed" and 2 extras.  I know I've lost 3 of them to who-knows-what and  2 of them to predatory hawks.  I thought I had overhead predators foiled with fence wire and surveying flags every 4-6 feet over top of the pen but I've seen hawks circling the pen on numerous occasions.  I've tried to count the baby chickens--it's really hard to cound 50+ chickens while they are milling about the pen.  The most I can count is 47 or so.  That means the hawks are winning.

So, I have to be smarter than the hawks.  I have a computer.  I found an article in an old Mother Earth News about someone who strung fishing line in a "cobweb" over the chicken coop.  A spool of 10 pound test, about 45 minutes and tripping over several curious chickens and Voila!  I hope the hawks can see fishing line.

Another recent note on the chicken predators--of the subterranean kind.  "Gopher" rats have invaded the Happy Hens complex and have undermined a lot of rock paving put in place around the coop.  Again, I inquired of the Internet how to deal with the problem and an "old time remedy" for dealing with these type of rats (without poison) is to use a mixture of cornmeal and plaster of paris.  I used 1/2 and 1/2 and poured the mix down into the holes that the rats had made.  It turns to "concrete" in their stomachs and kills them.

Religiously, every day for two weeks, I poured a handful of the cornmeal/plaster mixture into each hole the rats had made, and finally I smelled the stench of a dead rat--yay!  Since then I've smelled that smell a few times.  This is going to be an ongoing process as rats multiply continuously, AND a continuous process keeping an "eye on the sky".  Then there are the raccoons, muskrats, weasels ........

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