Thursday, November 29, 2012

We only lost 1!

All the girls, except for the original downed hen, made it through the terrible ordeal.  More good news, the bees have regained their composure as well.  So we are all one big happy family again.  What a disaster!  I still feel so guilty about dropping the honey comb and starting the whole thing.

I kept the girls in the greenhouse for a couple of days to try and let the bee "attack" pheromones wear off. The bees would get all worked up if I even went near the hive.  This lasted for four days!!!  The girl's trashed the greenhouse but at least the compost got turned into the soil really well.  I wasn't sure if my sorrel plant would survive the decimation but it came back.  Just like Gaga and Franny bounced back!   

(Big exhale)  Everybody is at peace.  The girl's snack away at the chard that is still thriving in the greenhouse and I am very exited to report that we have built temporary cold frames out of straw bales and old glass doors that we saved from the dump.  The girl's and myself will hopefully have a bigger supply of fresh, LOCAL, greens this winter :)

The bees are mostly in.  However, we have had some exceptionally warm days this November and so they've been out and about.  The garden has been put to rest and covered with leaves which I picked up from the recycling center.  I still have carrots in the ground covered...we'll see how long they last.  We haven't had snow for a couple of weeks now and most days it looks and feels like September!  The hens are not complaining and they're funny scratching around in the leaves.

The girls have slowed their laying down for the winter and we've gotten only a couple of eggs this week but we don't mind.  Call me old fashioned, but I believe in giving the girl's a break during the fall and winter.  I've read that hanging a light for them to keep them laying shortens their lifespan and wears them out faster.  

Being a workaholic, I can relate! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicken Bee Fight

Umm... Never thought in a million years that this would happen.

I was working in one of our two hives, checking things out.  The bees had built comb all the way to the back of the hive.  I was hoping to add some spacers into the very back bars.  When I went to pull a bar (gently out) I noticed the comb was going the wrong way and it broke off from the bar.  GRRREAT.  I placed it back it's almost September they will reattach it and I will have to address it in the Spring.
I wanted to check on the brood levels and what was going on towards the front... I should have left them alone.

The comb broke off the bar, it didn't seem like an abnormally hot day, but it just broke off.  The bees freaked out and a normally super mellow hive went HOT on me faster than anything I had ever seen before EVER.  They went for me like flies on you know what.  I was ok I had a bee suit on.  But before I knew what was happening the hens were going crazy.  HOLY MOLY.  They were under full attack.

I went for the hose.  On mist, I tried to pacify the bees and get them away from the chickens.  Two minutes I was spraying trying to get some relief from the swarming pissed off bees.  The girls tried to take cover in their eglu coop.  I tried to close the door for them and kept spraying the air, the hive, myself, the girls...  I went to grab the girls out of the eglu to take refuge in the greenhouse but one of the twins was already down barely breathing.  I grabbed three of the girls and put them in the greenhouse, grabbed one hen that was running going crazy and then the next two.  

It was really bad.  

Bees were all over the girl's faces stinging away.  Burrowing into their feathers to sting them on their bodies.  It was AWFUL...  I was so powerless to do anything.  I had on my suit and leather gloves so I, the loving beekeeper, was going after my bees to get them off my chickens.  The bees were no longer my friends at that moment.  They were trying to get through the open windows and cracks in the doors.  I sealed everything up the best I could went to tend to my poor hens.  The one died in my arms immediately.  There were still bees buzzing around inside the greenhouse!!! AAAAAHHHHH!  It was horrible.  Gaga got it at least 20 times in the face.  Franny took a beating too.  I kept checking their bodies and pulling out stingers as quickly as I could.  The girls were not doing well.  Franny and Gaga that took the brunt of the stinging, were shaking and not moving around.  Just sitting there in the soil looking like they were going to fall over any minute.  I tried feeding them some banana to snap them out of it.  Then I forced them to drink some water by putting drops on their beak.  I was so distraught.  I got them hooked up with a heating pad... they were going into shock.  Moved in their water and some seriously wet feed/mash with more banana and I ran to the Internet.  


Backyard chickens had a stream which sent me to a blog and duh,  give the chickens Benedryl.  
Why had I not thought of that!  
Panic sometimes causes the brain to cease functioning at a normal levels. 

I took a capsule and dissolved it into 2 oz of water and with a head lamp, put drops of Benedryl water on their beaks trying to get them to drink it.  Franny at this point is in really bad shape, she can barely hold her head up.  Gaga, is on the heating pad, eyes swollen shut with labored breathing.  I just want to cry.

The girls took maybe 5-7 drops each of the Benedryl water.  I tried more banana and plain water.  No dice.  I went back inside the house.  10 mins later after the Benedryl, Franny seems the tiniest bit better and Gaga is still the same.  More drops of water and I moved Franny onto the heating pad.  Going to check on them in a minute.  The woman from the blog had good luck with her batam rooster so I've got my fingers crossed.  It just took so long to get the stingers out and trying to get the greenhouse sorted, I'm afraid the Benedryl was administered too late.  

I went on reading the BYC forum and they suggested Neosporin with pain reliever for the stings.  Ran to the medicine cabinet and went to it.  The girls fought me on this hard, especially Gaga, she wasn't having it.  It does look as if her shivering has let up though, I swear it looked like she was having small seizures.  Poor thing. 
Franny enjoyed the application of the ointment to her belly, neck and comb, that's where she took it the most.  She looks less like she is on death's door but I will check on them in a bit.  I don't want to get my hopes up and then be devastated tomorrow.

Lucky, Jack and the other twin seem to be ok.  They were eating the sorrel plant and gobbled up the banana no problem.  They were even scratching the newly placed compost in the beds of the greenhouse before it got dark and they went to roost.

Update: Not so good.
Gaga is standing but and is able to open one eye.  Franny is still on the heating pad, but her wings are drooping and she is panting with an open beak.  She seems more alert and is taking water and banana a little better than before but her breathing worries me.  Do I dare try to give her a few more drops of Benedryl?  I'm at a loss.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ducks To Come!!

Well, we've decided the Eglu will house ducklings! We are going to go with the Cayuga breed because they are least noisy. Unfortunately, we have lots of neighbors we have to cater to!

Taken from

"Cayuga Ducks

Cayuga Ducks characterized by a black bill and black plumage which is a spectacular iridescent green in the correct light. Their coloring makes the adults one of the most beautiful of all duck breeds.

Cayugas are recognized as one of the most adaptable of all domesticated ducks and are active foragers. Adults are fond of eating snails, slugs, and most other insects

They are the most popular exhibition breed in the medium weight class.

For those who wish to keep ducks, but live close to others that would make keeping the Pekin impractical because of the loud quack, The Cayuga duck is a recommended alternative as its quack is not as loud or frequent as the Pekin duck. These ducks exemplify a quiet, calm, docile temperament and they do not fly. Cayuga ducks tend to stay close to home, making them an excellent choice for a home flock or as yard pets."

This taken from

This breed gets its name from Lake Cayuga, just west of New York, America. They were bred from the wild Black Duck and Rouen. They arrived in the UK when they were shown at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851.

As this breed was developed in North America it is used to harsh conditions. The Cayuga is a hardy breed and both the drake and the hen have good temperament and are quiet. When they first start to lay, their eggs can be completely black and this is a good sign that the resulting duck with have a good colour. The ducks do not remain black for all their life and often produce white feathers as they get older, which tend to appear after each moult.

The standard variety is black with iridescent green feathers, although recently a solid Blue was developed in America."

We will place our order soon even though we will get a delayed delivery.

What is so great about, is we can order just a few ducks, geese, chickens or guinea hens. Unlike other websites, where you have to order 25, efowl, for an extra charge, allows you to get what you want (breeds, females or drakes) & exactly how many you want. For us, this is so much easier than trying to find homes for 19 extras!!! Not to mention the mess of raising them all.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hard to report.

Well last spring was a tough one. We had a bear attack, more like a massacre. We lost all of our chickens except one, which we renamed "Lucky," a salmon faverolle. It was horrible. We unfortunately, or fortunately were not home at the time. We had a pet sitter who did all they could but it was just too late. Living in the high country of Colorado, it is one of those things that we live with. We have black bears here and they can be quite destructive. All I can say is, we were devastated. RIP: Wee-Man (Seen here in the photos), Victoria, Luna, Fav 1 and Fav 2. It has taken this long to be able to write about it. The worst part is not a week before Wee-Man was skateboarding, yes skateboarding! In attempts to curb as much child trauma in the situation we went with what we know best, distraction.

We got chicks soon after at Murdoch's in Grand Junction. It was Spring time and we were lucky to get there when we did; as they were running out of chicks. We bought 6 chicks (2 which turned out to be males), no idea what they were, and guarded Lucky with an electric fence, provided by the DOW. The chicks were reared in my daughter's bedroom in an aquarium under a heat lamp until it was warm enough to be released into the reinforced, slightly damaged coop. Lucky was still too large to be consolidated into the new flock. It was a warm Spring so we were grateful that the girls settled in quickly. Given that this was our second go around it was easy to spot the two roosters. Before any real neighbor disturbing crowing set in, we gave them to Sustainable Settings in C-dale. I think there may have been one 4:30 am crowing and that was it. I had many nights waking up thinking there was a bear, but thank god no return, knock on wood!

After awhile we introduced Lucky to the new girls: Jack (after Jack Sparrow, since she was/is attracted to my rings), Frannie who is a bit darker golden than Jack and the twins, Sara and Melissa, named after a set of twins I grew up with. Lucky immediately established herself as top of the pecking order going after the new girls and they did the flapping, jumping, pecking clawing at each other dance. The girls avoided her at all costs, we put them together in the coop and for a few weeks it was tenuous then things seem to settle down and now six months later, they're all one big happy family.

Mid June we inherited a Polish from Susti. She had been a special order someone had not picked up, and she was being picked on /abused by the flock to the point that her crown was almost bare. Poor thing. We brought her home and released her into the coop. Lucky wasn't having it for what seemed like forever and I was heart broken but then they all seemed to work it out with out any intervention. So Lady Gaga joined the flock. (She is quite the looker! Black and White and her crown is back and beautiful!!!) So we were back up to six girls.

We had a long exhale when Fall finally took over and the bears went into hibernation.

My husband and I are currently working on a new coop design complete with electric fencing... we will start work soon even though it's January I want to get a head start on the bears!

We are also looking at converting our Eglu into a duck run. I'm not sure about Colorado, but the duck eggs in France were amazing!!! Especially in custards... We found a website that allows you to order less than 25 chicks at a time!!! For a fee of course but this is so much more manageable! I think we will get ducks from these guys check it out:

Click & Drag it the link won't post for some reason...

It has been a bit of a mild winter this year and we were so glad to get the snow this weekend! I was fearing a drought was coming this Summer, we still have our fingers crossed about that.

The girls have been munching away daily on veggie/salad scraps from the restaurant. Thanks Romi, Alex, Toby & Scott! The girls are too funny and run towards the bottom of the coop for the fresh snacks. Garden planning has begun and seed catalogues are being rifled through now that the holiday season is finally over and the restaurants have calmed down a bit. Looking forward to finally replacing our bees this Spring! So we are a busy family, working, filtering waste vegetable oil for our car, composting in our new worm bin (more on that later), raising chicks (again), bees (hopefully this Spring), garden planning, washing stinky winter dogs, brushing a spoiled cat, rearing kids, and maybe soon raising a couple ducks!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Frost...

The frost has officially hit! The girls were rowdy this morning making a racket I think they're not ready for the cold either. Last night, with the temperature dropping we rushed out to the community garden where we have extended our growing space. We headed out around 8:45 pm for some last minute veggie picking. Bumping around with our headlamps in the dark hoping not to run into a bear before we got into the bear fence! It was freezing! We picked some cucumbers that we were holding out for and a huge zucchini, not as big as the last though 17"!!! The garden really produced for us this year and the sun exposure at the community garden really is 360 degrees. Makes our little plot in the yard seem like a waist of time. I also volunteered this summer at a local sustainable farm in nearby Carbondale. What a great bunch of folks! I ended up working so much that we worked for a full CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share in trade. We also purchased a fruit share from a organic farm, Ella Family Farms. We have been enjoying peaches, apples and pears! I bought an extra case of apples and canned some apple sauce yesterday and made choc chip zucchini bread! Storing away... so far we have a pantry full of pickles, tomato puree, jams and sauce. Haven't braved the pressure canner yet but we're getting there. The girls have enjoying the scraps from all the sauce making. Our plan was to try to "put up" enough food stuff to make it through the winter with out having to buy canned goods. I also purchased a pressure cooker which has made bean reconstituting super easy. Amazing what little changes can make a huge different in your self sufficiency.

I know that this post hasn't been much about the chickens but I was hoping to inspire some out there that perhaps think that living on a "farm" is too far away. It really can be done in a super small space. I would love to hear about some small victories out there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

good summer so far...

Well it's close to the end August and it's been a good summer. Huge harvest this year! And to boot we've added bees to our menagerie. The girls are doing well with the exception of the entire summer Victoria and Sylvia both decided it would be a good idea to stop laying. So weird. My friend Rose said that at times during heat spells, the girls will take a break. I think they're just stubborn! I know that this is a chicken blog but would anyone be interested in hearing our bee story?

We've added to more nesting boxes into the little ones coop and they're loving it. Sometimes they would get three chickens deep in the one box making such a ruckus! So my husband added two additional boxes and the first day they were in there!

They've been getting spoiled on all our garden scraps between the yard garden, the community garden and volunteering at the farm. We've been getting spoiled too!

My favorite recipe this summer has been a quick dish I whipped up at my mom's for my teenage vegetarian step daughter:

3 each Olathe corn cobbs (cut off the cobb), sauteed in a little bit of olive oil, cooled slightly and then tossed with the other ingredients

1 large zucchini, shaved thin on a Japanese mandolin
1 each Kholrabi, peeled and julienned
Tossed in a dressing I made with dijon mustard, Colorado honey, balsamic, chopped fresh parsley, basil and oregano and blended oil (EVO & canola)

It was so amazing and delicious. The corn has to be really sweet other wise it will be starchy tasting

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I think we need a second nesting box!

The girls have been piling on in here sometimes three at a time

The weather been amazing here and the girls are loving it. Catching some long awaited sun shine. The girls have been grazing in the yard and living it up getting fresh lettuce srcaps from the greenhouse!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Thaw!

Everyone has made it through the winter ok and I gave the girls eglu a good cleaning today and I've ordered my plastic replacement bars! So excited, those wooden bars are so hard to clean!

We are in full thaw now and the girls are not stoked about the mud! I'm busy in the garden prepping the beds for planting and I got a few things in the ground already. The greenhouse has already produced a full crop of arugula and baby lettuces. The swiss chard that over wintered in there has been producing all winter long. Crazy!

The girls laid most of the winter with a bit of slowing down though. The little ones are laying again but few and far between. They need a nesting box witch my husband has promised to build but still no box yet! Honey do list! The girls have been laying but the eggs fall through the bars because they won't go in their little house. So weird!

Look at my pretty Luna!!! Look at that plumage! Such a foxy Blue Cochin! She's my prolasp girl and seems to be doing really well. She is the only one that makes that pek--kaaa chicken sound. My Favs and Wee-man, our bantam make chicken purring (???) sounds. Wish someone would cover chicken sounds in a book some where.

The tulips and crocuses are popping up through the ground and it feels so good to see the signs of the much awaited spring!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Called back to post

Suzanne has given me a nudge so here goes! Ok to catch up on the lost chicken. Turned out to be a neighbor's bird we kept her in our yard for a awhile giving her much needed food and water. We talked to our neighbors to see who's bird she was. She seemed to be ok after the "dog fight". Her name turned out to be Larry. I have to tell you, our neighborhood is known for attracting strange inhabitants myself included! Larry the chicken (and yes a female) is named after Larry our local wood carver and manager of our little art gallery here in Woody Creek. The locals call themselves woody creatures, strange I know.

Back to the tale of Larry: My neighbor was kind of wandering down the street looking around and I asked her in passing if she was looking for something. She was, her chicken! I was so happy to reunite her with her bird. Larry was a bit shaken up over the whole experience a couple of days in a strangers yard with other chickens to boot! Not even a thank you for care taking her bird! Can you believe it? Strange, very strange. I was raised for the first 10 years of my life in NYC and I have better manners than that. She was kind of spaced out if that maybe explains it... Anyways long story short. Larry and owner walked off into the afternoon Larry riding away on my neighbor's arm like a parrot. It was so surreal like out a strange artsy movie.

Months later now, I have had an extremely successful summer. We had a wedding (ours), a trip to South America not in that order, a trip to Miami for another wedding in July and then work work work. Being a chef is tough. We did a ton of work on our house with upgrades etc, and I did a TON of work in the yard. The girls had a blast. And I have to say our little feather footed creatures are much easier on the lawn and flower beds! They don't scratch as much but they are not proficient layers. They had their molt late September and haven't laid since. Usually molting lasts 6 weeks.

I extended our yard by ripping out a useless deck that rapped around our porch so the girls gained some more lawn. The green house is still producing Swiss chard and herbs and I planted some new spinach and lettuce which is doing really well even in the cold temps and snowy days. I also added numerous fruit trees to the property and a couple of nut trees. We'll see how they do in the high altitude.

The girls are adjusting to the cold well. It's been down to 8 degrees F (-13 C) only a couple nights. The eglu is double insulated and does really well to keep the girls warm. Thy huddle together towards the back near the egg collection door. I changed their shade back to the full sized winter one and it's given protection from the elements. I have the run literally next to a 5' high wooden fence, so they are well protected from drafts and our harsh mountain winds. The girls do just fine. I close them in at night, which occasionally is a pain in the butt! Victoria likes to run out every time she hears the front door open, I guess she's looking for snacks. What a pill! So I have to wait until it gets late to close the door. I guess when she decides she's not interested in snacks. My little piggy!

The little ones, which aren't so little anymore, have started a weird behavior of perching together on their shelf in their wooden coop. Which is outside of the hut. I'm definitely going to hang a bulb in there for them soon. I have to scoot them up their ramp into their house and close the door on them! They are still sitting out there in 26 F (-3 C) degree weather! And they put up such a stink when I scoot them in. So bizarre! You would think that they want to be warm and toasty. I know I do!

My biggest challenge is keeping the water from freezing. We have a system of pulling in the bowls at night and filling them in the am but during the day, on extremely cold days it freezes. The little ones are going to get a warmer base for under the waterer but the eglu glug is a difficult matter. I have given the girls an auxiliary waterer on occasion and I'm thinking that this winter we may have to do a warmer for them as well. Last winter I just emptied it and filled it enough times that it never became dangerous, but it was a pain in the butt!

I will be starting to put Vaseline on the girl's wattles and combs, this helps to prevent frost bite. I also recommend to all the eglu owners out there, get the winter shade. I have pictures posted from 2 winters ago where the shade created a snow cave and the girls were quite cozy in there. Just make sure you don't let the snow get too deep and heavy! We had a leaning run that we had to shovel out.

Ok and on a totally gross note, our blue Cochin had prolapsed with an egg encased in her cloaca. This is not for the weak stomached but I really need to share this experience in case some one else has this problem. OMG! I really had to fight not to throw up. I brought her in to the kitchen sink and washed her bottom. Really assessed the situation, read so many things online and it scared the bejesus out of me. From everything I read, Luna would be a goner. I had to crack the egg to get the prolapsed cloaca to release it. It was have encased and dried around the egg. I couldn't believe I had missed it. I'm sorry to say that I think it was a couple of days that my poor girl was in this state. I felt so terrible, such a bad chicken mommy! I called the local vet and no one would see a chicken! All this farm and ranch land and no chicken vets? Anyway, I rinsed and rinsed with mild soap and warm NOT HOT water. Then, applied Preparation H (with an exam glove on) to the cloaca and pushed it back in. I started them on Antibiotics right away, I had some from a kit I purchased from McMurray Hatchery online. I was so stressed and scared. We had lost two girls before to strange causes and I was beginning to take it personally. I treated her everyday with the Prep -H and pushed it back in (with a glove) and thank god one day the red and irritated cloaca returned to it's normal position! I was so happy! She's doing well, eating, drinking and gaining weight. I have not been able to determine if she has laid since then, so I'm a little worried to see what's going to happen when she goes back into laying mode. But everything looks ok right now (fingers crossed).

I will get around to taking pictures and posting them! I hope I was able to answer some questions or concerns for Suzanne!
There are tons of books out there on care and maintenance my first one was "Keeping Pet Chickens" by, Johannes Paul and William Windham. It's a good place to start.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WEIRD!!! Rogue Chicken!!!

Got a strange message from a neighbor that one our chickens was out in our neighbors yard and being harassed by a dog. I ran to the window and did a triple count. They were all there. I thought how weird, it must be a big wild bird of some sort. Then later I ran into my neighbor Rich and he said that there was a chicken in his yard! I thought he was joking until I followed him around his shed and sure enough there was a beautiful big girl sitting in his yard. I know I've inspired some people locally to keep chickens but not anyone this close in the neighborhood. So, I have no idea where this chicken came from. I went to the post office to report and check the board and Sherri of course knew before I did that "my" chicken was on the run. We laughed when I told her that the chicken wasn't one of mine and it was a lost chicken found. We're going to post pictures that she's been found. Rich and I caught her with a towel and I put her in with our large girls since we had a spot recently vacated by Penelope (RIP). We're thinking LuLu for a name. The girls are figuring it out in there right now losts of chicken talk in the yard. Lulu is a big girl with feathers on her legs. I can't identify her breed yet. I still can't get over it. Our neighborhood isn't the type to have random chickens crossing the road or the river! Our nearest chicken farm is across the roaring fork river and there's no way she made it this far. WEIRD! I think she's a Black Langshan. But who knows I'll post a picture later maybe you have some ideas.