Tag Archive: homesteading


Silver Laced Polish in Just A Couple Of Chickens

Silver Laced Polish Chickens enjoy heat lamps in the winter… and I learned to hang them high enough to clear their head feathers! But now I have to watchit for teflon-coated heat lamps as well!

I used red heat lamps extensively both when I was brooding my 100 poultry chicks, and each winter of their lives, to keep them comfortable.

Other than the Polish Chickens burning their head feathers on the hot bulb, I had no problem… but that was more than two years ago and there’s a new technology out there resulting in red heat lamps that are coated with teflon.

And teflon is extremely toxic to birds when heated… teflon fumes = dead chicks. The teflon makes the bulbs shatterproof, and these bulbs are intended for food warming, but this new development makes it important that backyard poultry farmers be very careful when choosing the right heat lamp bulb.

In another new technology development, there are energy efficient, ceramic heat lamps available that don’t put out any light… and have no teflon threat, and Rocio Crespo, DVM, MS, DVSc, Dip ACPV suggests that we use them for our brooders and not risk the red heat lamps.

Dr. Crespo presented a talk to the Pacific Northwest Poultry Association (PNPA) in November this year, and I was very happy to be able to hear her speak. For one thing, I totally would have used heat lamps for my birds – and potentially gassed them all to death, and for another thing, she had many other valuable pieces of information. I learned a huge amount!

Rocio Crespo is the Branch Director, Associate Professor at the Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Puyallup, WA. Her knowledge of chicken keeping, and her availability as a knowledge resource is amazing. People contact her with chicken health mysteries they cannot solve, and this is how she learned of the teflon danger. An entire brooder of new chicks expired one night, and Dr. Crespo narrowed down the clues until a light bulb moment appeared overhead. A red teflon light bulb.

I had kept my chicks in constant light, thinking that was better for them, and for me (checking on them in the night), but the lightless heat of the creamic bulb gives the chicks a chance to learn the cycles of day and night, which Dr. Crespo says is better.

SO!  good to know… no more red bulbs for me for poultry. And no more overheating my teflon frying pans… if it isn’t good for chickens it probably isn’t good for children. (Oops.)

Thank you Dr. Crespo and the PNPA!

 

Silver Laced Polish Chickens love Just A Couple Of Chickens

My Silver Laced Polish chickens were some of the sweetest in the flock, and the easiest to catch and snuggle, maybe because they couldn’t see or hear as well as the other chickens. But hey, this is a fabulous face. That is it’s face… all those fabulous feathers are the face.

100 years ago, I wouldn’t have had much choice in chickens.
I would have been limited to whatever chickens my neighbors raised.

Today I can choose my chickens based on all kinds of preferences:

  • big or small,
  • brightly colored or monochrome,
  • weird combs or standard,
  • old breeds or new,
  • mellow or feisty.

Now, I know enough to choose a bird that is well suited to my climate – but only because I didn’t choose properly the first time around.

My fancy top-hat Polish chickens were not comfortable in the minus 10 degree winter days of Northern New Mexico. They would spend all day under the low hanging heat lamp, regularly torching their top hat feathers into little puffs of smoke.

I also didn’t realize that the kinds of chickens that lay lots and lots of huge, perfect eggs are not always the same kind of chickens that sport fantastically decorated feathers.

Since my egg and feather business at www.TheFeatheredEgg.com offers blown eggs and natural feathers that were raised with love and care in my own small flock, I wanted exotic feathers from my hens, and so my second flock was full of exotic wonders.

They didn’t lay well at all.

And I learned that heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, and turkeys were definitely healthier, hardier, and more able to beat me at chess.

I learned that if I want eggs… I should choose a heritage egg layer.

If I want meat, I should stick with the broiler breeds – which will also lay eggs, and some of them will lay very well.

And if I want feathers, really special feathers, I’m going to have to compromise on both eggs and meat.
Beauty comes at a price.

There is a super-cool chicken selector tool at www.MyPetChicken.com to help with this process… I could spend hours on that thing!  It’s so fun!

Faverolles, Chantecler, Minorca, Australorp – ah, that one I had, White Leghorn – great chicken although not heritage – mega egg layer, Cubalaya… whassa cubalya?,
I should stop….
maybe one more spin on the chicken selector tool… really, I should stop… just one more time….

 

A Chicken In Every Yard by Robert and Hannah Lit

This is a GREAT how to raise chickens book, and I’m pleased to have it in my own urban homesteading library now.

The Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon has been a leader in the urban chicken movement and they’ve come out with one of the best, most complete, how to books ever.
It is called A Chicken In Every Yard, and I highly recommend it.

Robert and Hannah Lit started their store on Belmont, right in the middle of the city and have become a resource for the backyard chicken farmers all over Portland. Putting out a book was a natural extension of their work behind the counter, answering every question for every bewildered new urban farmer.

Their advice is uniquely suited for the small flocks that make up backyard chicken flocks, but it goes for big flocks too. The coop section is ideal for city chicken raisers. How to raise chickens is answered by “A Chicken In Every Yard,” and I’d say it is a must for an urban homesteaders library.

This kind of how to book is an essential part of successfully raising chickens. I really enjoy the fact that my book, “Just A Couple Of Chickens” sells well in feed stores across the country, because it’s a fun way to learn a lot about the ups and downs of chicken raising, and while I have a lot of chicken raising in there, my book can’t replace the How To available in the Lit’s book. I own the Lit book myself, because I need the information too.

Stores like The Urban Farm Store are a great place to get chicks for a new, or growing urban flock. They order a variety of breeds and you get to choose one by one. Another way to get chicks is to go to a poultry show, and there’s one coming up nearby, or to contact a local poultry association (like the PNPA) to find a breeder raising the kinds of chickens you are looking for. Portland has all of these resources, and not every place does… it’s a uniquely awesome aspect of this city.

If it is an urban homesteader’s dream to have A Chicken In Every Yard, then this book is a step towards making that happen.

 

 

Just a Couple of Chickens tells How To Raise Chickens

My unscientific egg tally shows the amazing production of today’s modern hens, but not the amazing collection abilities of today’s modern backyard farmers.

Just how many eggs will I get from my hens, once they start laying?

Well!  I’m glad you asked. Because I happen to have an egg tally from 2005 and 2006 when I was knee-deep in my first flock. My flock adventures are described in my book, “Just A Couple of Chickens,” and because I was learning by doing, it’s pretty funny.

Not every egg that my hens laid made it to my egg collection basket. Sometimes, the hens laid on rocks or while strolling over little cliffs in the pen, so those eggs broke. Sometimes – which gradually became many times – the hens would eat their own eggs, and sometimes, I tripped on my own big plans and fell flat on the egg basket… so,

The actual egg count is probably about 10% greater than these numbers.

I also had not only chicken hens, but also duck, geese, pheasant, and chukar partridge. It was a very interesting adventure, which is why I wrote the book.

I had a flock of over 100 birds, about 80 hens of the various species.

In 2005, my hens laid enough eggs for me to blow 1,527. The following year the total was almost half that, 847 blown eggs.

The chicken hens laid half as many eggs in their second year as they did in their first. The molt was the dividing line between first and second year production.
The duck hens, who laid more eggs than the chicken hens, laid 1/4 as many eggs in their second year as they did in their first.
The geese laid half as many eggs in their second year, but the eggs were bigger. Bigger goose eggs are more valuable, and each year the geese will lay larger and larger eggs.
The pheasant hens were mad egg-eating fiends. Nuff said.
The Chukar Partridge hens laid a tremendous number of eggs but were very very fierce in protecting them. I almost lost a hand. They kept producing well in their second year but died of old age in their third  or fourth years.

Imprecise as it was, it was a big success, and the eggs and feathers from my flocks, and birds raised by good-hearted backyard farmers, are still available for sale at www.TheFeatheredEgg.com.

It was an amazing time, and I miss my flock. I look forward to writing the sequel book… titled “Just a Couple More”… and I’ll keep a more scientific record this time.

 

 

Just a couple of rose comb chickens

Just A Couple of Chickens is about the work that went into creating www.TheFeatheredEgg.com.

When I wrote “Just A Couple of Chickens” about raising poultry and a family, I wasn’t thinking about genre and whether it was a memoir, or an autobiography.

If I was thinking anything, it was that this was a how-NOT-to book on chicken raising. It was only when the “raising poultry and a family in hard times” part began that I realized that it might be one of those genres. But I didn’t really understand the difference. And based on the number of arguments in writing forums, writing groups, writing classes, at writing workshops, and on writing panels, I am not the only confused person.

Memoir is fantastically popular right now. Biography is less popular, but still a steady page-turner. But if biography is the story of person’s life – and expected to be more than just the chronological facts… and if autobiography is the story of a person’s life told by the person… then what is memoir?

Memoir is the personal memory, and self interpreted impact or meaning, of a person’s own life. The definition is contained in the word, memoir. It’s about our memories, and how we feel about what we’ve remembered. Memoirs used to be about what the author remembered about other people’s lives, but now it is almost exclusively what the authors remember about their own lives – plus how they feel about those memories.

Complicating the whole issue is the modern audience’s lurking potential for harsh critique should the memoir be revealed to contain inaccuracies. Lies. Fabrications. But since memories are notoriously fallible, that makes it complicated. I understand the upset when a memoir turns out to have been falsified. I don’t share the upset when a memoir has minor inaccuracies. Not that I had either of those problems with my chicken raising memoir. I remembered, and wrote, it in all its accurate and glorious homeliness.

Today’s memoir demands a greater revelation of the meaning and emotion carried by the memories. This is the most consistent comment I’ve had from readers over “Just a Couple of Chickens”… that they want to hear more about what I felt about what I was doing. And what I’m doing now… which is writing a sequel, in which I have the challenge to share how I feel about what I’m doing now…

But I’m not supposed to swear… hmmmm, challenging.

 

Juno and a Polish Chicken in Just a couple of chickens

Raising poultry and a family had some really good times.

The second most common question I got from family and friends when I was living the story of “Just a Couple of Chickens” was…

“What’s it like to be living the Laura Ingalls Wilder life?”

(the first most common question I got was:  “Are you insane?”)

I gave the Laura Ingalls Wilder question a lot of thought
… as I pulled my boots on at 3 am in a snow storm,
… or stuffed sodden partridge down my shirt in a flash flood,
… or tried, yet again, to make something tasty out of a rooster.

I thought about how the Ingalls Family didn’t have all my modern conveniences,
…like a garden hose for instance.

But they did have a lot more knowledge and experience,
… so they probably would have known to drain that garden hose before the first freeze.

They did have debt and money worries, and they did have weather issues, and political complications, and they did face health problems.
So I did feel a close affinity… in the romance of the beginning.

But as time went on, I realized that I really wasn’t living true to Laura’s world.
And I never would be unless I made profound changes.

The Ingalls Family, and most of the people involved in that pioneering time, were doing it with total attention and with no back up plan. It was their whole life, and the whole family was involved in every aspect of it. Every minute of every day was spent doing something related to their home, or basic needs, or food maintenance.

They were not trying to work a full time job on the side. They were not coming into it as a hobby.
As deep as we got into our story… we still had to have at least one adult pulling a full time living in our contemporary world to support our adventure.

And so that truth colors my answer to the second most common question I got from family and friends…
but even so, I wonder if my answer is nonetheless accurate.

“What’s it like to be living the Laura Ingalls Wilder life?”
“It is the same for me as it was for them. Extremely difficult, often uncomfortable, and totally – wonderfully – fulfilling.”

And I then also point out that our story ended up the same as Laura’s story.
We lost the farm and had to go make a living some other way…
She eventually became a highly renowned author…

 

Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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