Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chicken Tunnel Experiment Is A Success!

An update on Chicken Sitting:

Once we had our coop in order we needed to provide the chickens with access to the outdoors. We decided to fence-off a portion of our existing garden (it being already fenced) as a run and then install a tunnel made of arched fencing to allow the chickens to safely navigate the 40 feet from the coop to the garden run. Here's what we did:

Cut a hole in the side of the coop:

Made a vertically-sliding door to allow chickens to leave the coop and enter the tunnel:

Installed a short ramp from the coop opening to the ground, inside the tunnel:

Installed a chicken wire transition from the tunnel to the coop:

Here you  can see the tunnel leading to the garden (fence in background) where the run has been integrated:

Now we had to convince the chickens that the tunnel was something to get excited about! We tried scattering treats along the run: that didn't work. We tried gently pushing the hens into the tunnel: that didn't work. Finally we decided to push the rooster into the tunnel: bingo! Once he was in there and comfortable the rest of them took to it quickly. See:

Here you can see the chickens getting close to finding the run (center right)

Check out this video for fascinating chicken behavior!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Lima Beans and Homemade Tomato Sauce

One of our favorite meals is so simple and so healthy we had to share (again.)  This summer we grew Christmas Lima beans and tomato sauce ingredients, which we canned.  We just finished shelling the limas and they are FABULOUS! The beans are giant with an incredibly rich flavor and a satisfyingly chewy texture. Cooked and topped with homemade tomato sauce and a bit of grated parmesan and they are absolutely delightful.  Really.  Sitting by the fire, eating a bit of this fare and perusing seed catalogs makes for the perfect winter evening in Ohio.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter Hiking

It's been a pretty wintry winter so far here in our part of Ohio. We find the best way to enjoy the season is by getting outdoors, of course. Last weekend we visited Mt. Gilead State Park for a little romp in the snow.

The snow covered trees begged to be photographed...

as did this happy hiker...

The shrubs surrounding this wetland area always harbor many birds.  It's sheltered and warm and a perfect place to be when the sun pops out.  The micro-climate is at least 5-10 degrees warmer it seems.

We've watched so many birds and other wildlife dining on beech nuts this year...they must be mighty tasty. (I just love how those beech leaves highlight that same color in Steve's handknit hat!)

And finally, a picture by our dear friend Paul McAfee of our Black Friday hiking team in Fort Wayne, IN at Eagle Marsh.

We're within a week of the winter solstice and we are SO excited!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Chicken-Sitting, Meet the Chickens, Part 2

If you missed the tale of our new chicken friends, see Part 1.

Here's the 5 hens and one rooster that now live on our little mini-farm.  They are sweet little creatures and are getting less wary of us each day.

The four dark brown hens are Rhode Island Reds.  The lighter red hen is a New Hampshire Red and the rooster is a mystery breed.

So far their favorite perch and hang out spot is the old potting bench.  The nest boxes and tree branch roosts have yet to be used.

The prime egg laying spot is on the floor buried in the straw in one corner.  We've harvested at least a dozen eggs since they've been here and that is without any supplemental light.

The frosted, too far gone greens in the garden (this patch of kale is uncovered) make a nice snack for everyone in the morning.

We have a steep learning curve with this particular type of animal, but we are making progress.  We've applied castor oil to the chickens legs to combat leg scale, Blu Kote to the rooster's rear to stop pecking by his ladies, figured out where best to hang their feeder with the correct feed and purchased a heater pad so we aren't dealing with frozen water all winter long.

The chickens are still waiting to use the chicken tunnel...

Maybe because our landscape now looks like this?

 It's pretty, pretty 'round here.