Posted in Chickens, MyGarden, Sustainability, tagged brooder, chicken coop, cost/benefit, economics, free range, fresh eggs, raising chickens on November 27, 2010 |
10 Comments »
We are coming up to our 9th month of raising eleven chickens from chicks (one had to be fast-tracked to chicken heaven because of disease and a broken leg), and enjoying the nutritional and entertainment benefits of having them! For those of you wondering about the cost/benefit of raising chickens (assuming no zoning restrictions in your ‘hood) here’s the Chickenomics:
Click on image for larger size. As you'll see, the chickens earn their living!
The final word – we do not put a lamp in the coop to extend the hens’ laying season, tricking them into laying the same number of eggs as they do during the longer days of summer. First of all, we don’t consume 9-10 eggs/day nor need to sell them for income. We’re always pleased to be able to get a few dollars for them, and our friends are thrilled knowing their inexpensive, fresh eggs come from super-happy hens!
Read Full Post »
Posted in Chickens, MyGarden, Pest control, tagged Bt, caterpillars in garden, Chickens, garden pests, hummingbird moth, tobacco hornworm, tomato hornworm on July 18, 2010 |
11 Comments »
Well-camouflaged tobacco hornworm can be a garden menace!
Time to talk about the nasties. This bugger is a vicious defoliator, mostly attacking plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and of course, tobacco. The specimen above was first assumed to be the tomato hornworm, but a master gardener from Colorado State clarified the difference between the two caterpillars. They’re the larval stage of the “hawk”, “sphinx” or hummingbird moth – begrudgingly beautiful – but can wipe out your tomato plantation in no time.
These critters added to our tomato heirloom woes (notably “blossom drop” from the very high temps) just yesterday when Roy discovered them feasting on the leaves. In the evening, he applied Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis – an effective natural pesticide against caterpillars. In less than 48 hrs, we put on our “pattern identification lenses”, and picked about 20 of these nasty buggers. Picking them off the leaves is like pulling velcro apart, and they seem to fight back by bending backwards and grabbing you with their vicious little jaws. (Actually I don’t think they bite and people will handle them with bare hands … but these critters still gross me out!)
The Bt was effective almost overnight, but we still found a half dozen or so lively, fat beasties today.
Bt already took effect in less than 24 hrs. for some caterpillars
The happy ending to this story is that we get a whole lot of entertainment feeding these caterpillars to our chickens. The chooks will come to you eagerly, snatch the beasty from your hand, and fight over the gourmet meal. They were pretty subdued in the video, but you do see the Buff Orpi do an Olympic sprint well away from the competition!
A more informative video on tomato and tobacco hornworms to watch is from GardenForkTV.
Read Full Post »
As many chicken owners know, these wonderful, food-providing creatures can also be frustratingly destructive. Lush green lawns can quickly turn to wasteland. Fresh chicken poop is too potent a fertilizer to use and can quickly “burn” grassy areas and gardens. Chickens also love taking dust baths, creating large cozy divets – which can be problematic for people who don’t care much for moon landscapes!
We plant hulless oats for our chicken garden
Using a chicken-wire frame shown in the above picture, we can cultivate a “chicken garden” to allow greens to grow undisturbed in our chicken pen until the plants are more mature. When the area is ready, we can either remove all or just part of the frame to let the chooks go wild and feast on the greens.
Chickens feasting on hulless oats while part of their garden remains protected
The above area is quickly laid to waste within 24 hrs, but provides a great source of nutrition for our hens. This frame allows us to cultivate gardens in different parts of their pen. The hulless oats shown above took about 1 1/2 months to grow to that size, so we’re looking for other greens that grow faster and are just as attractive a food to our chooks.
Read Full Post »
Roy the Chicken Whisperer coaxing chooks to come to him
It’s been a couple of months since we last wrote about our chickens. They’re now about 3 1/2 months old and have adapted well to their new home. Recently however, they’ve been flying up on the 3-ft fence and exploring areas outside of their spacious run. So we thought it’s probably time to clip their wings.
The chooks seem to like Roy the most – which is great – because he’ll be the grim reaper when their time comes – but hopefully not for a few years. To prepare the chook for wing-clipping, Roy likes to turn them upside down like this (and yes, they’ll put up a fight for about 20 secs. or so, but then settle down in submission). I don’t think it’s necessary to flip them over, but it seems easier to articulate the feathers.
Grab chicken at legs to turn upside down before you clip wings.
Next, spread out either the left or right wing. It’s usually sufficient to clip just one wing, but we suspect that our gals are gung ho fliers and may have to do the other wing later on.
Spread out wing to articulate feathers. This girl is a Rhode Island Red.
You (or preferably, your helper) will want to clip only the long outer wings or flight feathers, taking care not to get the shorter inner wings. Make sure you use sharp scissors. We clip only the first 10 or so flight feathers, but some people clip up to 20.
Only clip the flight feathers, and as closely as possible.
Lastly, you’ll want to give them a good pet on the back and praise for being so cooperative. (Um … it’s a bit of a stretch they’ll enjoy the hugs. But it is a good idea to get them used to being handled!)
Handle your chooks frequently or you'll be like Rocky Balboa chasing chickens!
Read Full Post »