Greenhouse Chickens

The first chickens were about 3-4 years old and not laying well.

Yesterday was a big day here on Stonycroft. We started the day with biscuits at 7, and from there we made a list of everything that needed to be done on the farm, and then set out on errands. Agway first, our local feed and seed store. Rabbit food, chicken food, and pig food for the new piglets we will get today. Bales of potting mix and shavings for the critters. Juliet was with us, and she fell in love with a salmon-pink flowered geranium, so we let her get that, and then I found a strawberry scented geranium… oh, and we bought 60 strawberry plants. After the feed store we continued down into Tilton, the the hardware store on Main Street that still has much of the fixtures and feel that it did a hundred years ago when it was young. Juliet loved exploring and finding all the cool doo-dads.

Once we had returned home I helped Dad offload the feed and bales, while the kids ran the groceries inside and put them away. Once the truck was clear we took the cap back off… when we had put it on that morning I had pulled a muscle in the part of me I sit upon. I grabbed Glady and the two of us ran to the library. Everyone at the house had made book requests, so we wound up with quite a stack. Dad got a couple of bee books put on inter-library loan, as he is finally studying for the Master Beekeeper’s Exam. Juliet had asked for a cookbook, and we found her a gluten-free one. Pippa asked for a book on raising pigs, as they are to be her responsibility. And for Johann I grabbed a book on tractors and one on robots. I found the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and a book on edible landscaping. Glady found a book on drawing cats, to her delight.

Back at the farm I parceled out the books to some very delighted children, taking my find Teaming with Microbes up to Dad, where he was potting up leggy tomato plants and bemoaning the chickens still invading his greenhouse. we talked about what needed to be done, and then I headed out to the greenhouse. I needed to build nestboxes into the chookabagos (chicken tractors by any other name…) so we would have a chance of keeping more eggs from the older flock. They have been eating their eggs. Te original plan was for me to build slanting shelves out of plywood and one by two that were partially outside the coops so we could collect the eggs. I wound up modifying that plan and using a salvaged drawer from an old dresser and the tray from under a decrepit rabbit cage. I also used the jigsaw for the first time. Ours lacks an on/off switch, so Juliet plugged and unplugged on command. Pippa brought me screws and drill bits as needed, and Johann made dirt angels. You know it must be spring when your son is filthy from head to toe. Pippa discovered the loose Ameracauna hens had made a hidden nest, ad we retrieved about nine eggs out of that. All our Ameracaunas lay green eggs, so it was a pretty nest.

By the time I had finished, Dad was in the greenhouse potting the strawberries into hanging baskets. He put two plants in each basket, and we had only bought everbearing strawberries, so they will be very nice indeed in about a month. We plan to sell some at the farmstand, the rest will be for family use. While he was doing that, I realized I had been putting off butchering the spare roosters for too long. We’d gotten about 6 with the first flock of chickens, and then 3 more with the Ameracaunas. We really only want 2, although I think we will wind up keeping 3. So off the the house for my hatchet and knife.

I haven’t done this for about eight years… maybe more than that. It wasn’t difficult to remember how, the only problem was that Johann was insisting on watching. I made him go a suitable distance away, but he watched me do in most of the chickens, without visible signs of trauma. I wasn’t going to make him go in the house, this is a part of farm life. I skin chickens, plucking is too much time and I didn’t have the set-up for it yesterday, anyway. Part of the way through the third chicken Dad brought me a table, as my back was killing me working on a low surface.

Juliet came out to watch me and demand an anatomy lesson. Then Glady came out to join us. They were fascinated with the whole process. Juliet went from “I won’t touch that thing!” to “Ooh, the heart is so smooth like silk.” Glady was chasing her sister with a foot. She wasn’t perturbed by the process at all. Pippa bravely took a look and then fled. I finished the cleaning inside in the sink. While Dad was helping me clean out the gizzards we discovered that one of the chickens had eaten a balloon. It was pretty well ground up. He suggested I take a picture for BalloonHQ, but I declined to share that gross visual.

Finally finished with that whole process, and with 5 chickens tucked in the freezer, I realized that I needed a hot shower badly. Not only did I have blood and guts on me, but my hip was about to give out. Glady and Dad started dinner while I stood under hot water. We had burgers for dinner, sat and watched an episode of CSI while we were doing that, and then out to the last task of the day.

We moved the chicken tractors out of the greenhouse, with some difficulty. They barely fit through the opening in the end of the greenhouse, but we managed. The second one had two hens roosting on the ridgepole, and the  little buggers hung on all the way outside. Dad and I had to laugh… we didn’t know if that was persistence or agility. It took us a while to catch the now loose flock in the greenhouse, but as it was twilight they were ready to roost, and as long as we moved slowly we could catch them fairly easily. Even though we had gotten 6 inches of snow the day before, it was almost fifty degrees yesterday, and the bed on the south side of the greenhouse was snow-free by the time we put the chickens on it. I imagine the hens are enjoying themselves this morning with all that fresh scratch.

We built the chicken tractors (dubbed chookabagos) in the greenhouse.