New chickens (again) in Illinois

If you follow Sarah in Illinois on Instagram, you might have seen that some new feathered ladies joined her flock. Sarah seems to be on a quest to have all the chickens–or all the eggs in every colour possible. Read on to meet her new hens.

Back in June, my cousin Emma sent me a message with a picture of her new chicks.

In the message she said that 3 of them were Leghorns if I wanted them. I had mentioned to her over the last several months that I wanted a few Leghorns, but I didn’t want to raise them from chicks. Since she was raising some for herself she said adding a couple Leghorns wasn’t a big deal.

She sent me updates occasionally.

And two weeks ago I went to pick them up.

The 45 minute drive home was either very stressful or very relaxing because one of them laid an egg in the dog crate!

I had everything planned out for the integration into the flock. I divided the run so that the chickens could see and smell each other but not hurt each other.

Then I planned to put them in the coop inside the dog crate every evening.

Well I didn’t make the divider in the run tall enough because Blitz ran towards the chickens and scared one over the divider.

I could have immediately grabbed it and put it back in the separate section, but I decided to wait to see how the chickens would react. So what did they do? All seven chickens ran into the coop and hid from this new smaller chicken.

I had a couple days vacation, so I made a point to go out several times a day to make sure that none of the chickens was injured.

The first night the new chickens roosted up on the dog crate opposite the roost.

After a few days they all started roosting together.

I can’t say that after two weeks all of the chickens are “friends,” but honestly the integration has gone really smoothly. I do occasionally see one chicken picking on another, but the new chickens are very fast so they spend a lot of time playing hide and seek.

And it turns out, one of the chickens is not a Leghorn. It looks like it might be an Easter Egger! Instead of yellow legs like Leghorns have:

It has grayish-green legs.

What does this mean? Well, to me absolutely nothing. I just think of it as a bonus. Easter Eggers can actually lay almost any color egg depending on what they have been bred with, so for me it is like waiting for Christmas morning to see what happens. The two Leghorns have been laying tiny little pure white eggs. As they get older the eggs will get bigger.

Two years ago I thought I would like to raise chickens and started with 4. I now have 10 and I can’t say that I’m done. I’m thinking next I will add Araucana–they lay blue eggs! 😉

Chickens seem to work out very well for you, Sarah. I’m glad to hear the birds integrated so smoothly. It’s great to see how much you enjoy your flock and their eggs. I admit, I love the idea of having Araucanas someday, so I say go for it!

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Morning glory surprise

As a teenager, I once planted a Morning Glory at the base of a light pole by the walkway at my parents’ house. I carefully trained it up the pole and enjoyed the heart shaped leaves and trumpet blossoms all summer.

There’s something about Morning Glories that make them especially special, in my opinion. I like everything about them. So does Sarah in Illinois. She’s sharing a surprise Morning Glory that she’s been enjoying this year.

Every year in the spring when seed displays start popping up in every store, I always buy several packets. I buy all brands and all price ranges. When I see the displays that advertise 4 for $1 or even 10 for $1 I stock up knowing that the germination rate of these bargain packets is not very high.

Last year I remember buying a packet of Morning Glory seeds. I planted them along the outside of the chicken’s run. I had two small vines that climbed up the outside of the run and I was able to enjoy the beautiful blooms every morning.

This spring I recognized the leaf shape sprouting out of the same spot. I was so excited that they had reseeded themselves over the winter.

I started training the vines every morning to climb up the outside of the run. Then of course the chickens became curious of this green treat that was within their reach so I had to create a barrier between them.

My persistence paid off.

Every morning I have 10-20 new blooms on this beautiful vine. And the chickens can enjoy a little shade!

Did you have any surprise plants pop up this year? Do you have any favorite climbing vines? Can you pass the seed displays without buying when they show up in the spring?

What a treat, Sarah. I love it when plants pop up unexpectedly. Although this year we have a surprise plant that’s turned into a major vine and has become quite an obstacle. I’m not sure even chickens could keep it under control. I think I may have to talk about it next week!

Hand feeding hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are regular guests in Illinois for Sarah. This year she has more visitors than ever… and she’s getting even more up close and personal in a really exciting way.

We are in what I am guessing is the peak of the season for hummingbirds here in Illinois. I am not sure how many birds we are feeding but I know that last weekend they went through over a gallon of syrup in two days.

There are a few sources that say that an accurate way to guess how many hummingbirds you have is to count how many birds are at your feeder at one time and multiply it by six. So for example, if the most birds you see at your feeder are 3, you are probably really feeding closer to 18.

One evening Steve and I tried to count as fast as we could how many hummingbirds were at our feeders at one time and we feel we were pretty accurate at counting 30. So by this estimate we may be feeding close to 180 hummingbirds! I’m not sure if this is true but I know for sure that we have a bunch.

The more I watch them the more I am fascinated by them. I just want to learn more and make our property as inviting as possible for them.

I have had an idea brewing in my mind for quite a while now that I want to hand feed or possibly even hold a hummingbird. So I started collecting the little tubes that come on some fresh flowers. I thought it was just the right size to hold in my hand and already had a small hole for the hummingbird to eat from.

Now I just had to come up with something to attract the hummingbird to this feeder. I looked around the house and found a red plastic cup.

I decided that would be easy enough to cut a flower shape. So I just cut the bottom out of the cup and then cut a petal shape all the way around the disc.

My first idea to attach the flower to the rubber cap on the tube was to use a hot glue gun. Unfortunately this did not hold tight very long. Steve found a bottle of glue we had sitting around the house and it worked perfectly.

After filling the tube with syrup the only thing left to do was hold the tube very very still near where the hummingbirds stop for their meals, and wait. And wait and wait and wait.

I practiced a lot of patience one Saturday evening. But it paid off:

Have you ever hand-fed a hummingbird? Do you ever collect something thinking one day it will be useful? Do you ever have trouble practicing patience?

This is awesome, Sarah! I’ve tried coaxing our chickadees to eat from my hand, but I don’t think I gave it enough time. Apparently I have trouble practicing patience! (Although I blame the cold.)

Hummingbirds arrive in Illinois

Wildlife sightings are one of the highlights of living at the farm. I particularly love to spot hummingbirds because they’re some of our rarer visitors. Sarah in Illinois enjoys her hummingbirds too, and she’s here today with her latest sightings.

Most days I have a to-do list a mile long, but Steve and I still take the time to sit out on our deck, have a drink and throw the ball for Blitz. We also like to watch the hummingbirds.

They seemed to show up late this year. Looking at my garden calendar (see, I use it all the time!) last year the first hummingbirds showed up on May 3. I waited patiently–well not so patiently after friends and family gave me their updates:

While I was mowing I would look over at the feeder every time I made a pass by the house.

After several days, I dumped out the syrup in the feeder and made a fresh batch. I didn’t want them to have any excuse not to stop at my house!

I finally was rewarded with a couple visitors and I shared with my friends on May 12 that I counted 6 at my feeder at one time.

I now have 4-5 regularly visiting through the day. I feel like this is less than I normally have at this time of year, but since they got a late start I am hoping that that is why I have fewer little friends.

I have talked about my love of hummingbirds before, and here is a reminder of how to make your own syrup:

Boil 4 parts water with one part white sugar just until sugar dissolves. Then let cool.

You do not need to add any food coloring. The hummingbirds will find the feeder. You can store the extra syrup in the refrigerator for a few days.

Make sure to keep an eye on your feeder. If the syrup begins to look cloudy or you see bugs, ants or other insects floating in it, throw out the syrup and add fresh.

Anyone else have their hummingbird feeders out? What breed of hummingbirds are in your area? We only see Ruby-Throated around here but I know the west coast gets a much larger variety.

Hummingbird watching sounds like a great way to end the day, Sarah. I’ve seen one bird this year, flitting around Ellie’s diapers as they dried on the clothesline! Apparently he enjoyed the bright colours.

Early mornings in Illinois

I would not call myself a morning person, but there is something magical about those early moments in the day. Time to be alone and enjoy the quiet of the farm. Time to be productive and tackle a little bit of work. Sarah in Illinois–also not a morning person–has come to appreciate her morning routine. She is here today, sharing a bit about how she starts her day.

Having chickens requires me to get up a little earlier every morning to tend to them. This isn’t the easiest for someone who readily admits she is not a “morning person.” However, I do enjoy the fact that everything is a little more peaceful just as the sun rises. It also allows me to spend a little one on one time with Blitz. We like to play ball and visit with Ruff the barn cat.

These two have comically become good friends.

I think because it is early morning, and they both are still a little groggy from sleep.

When I leave the barn I usually pat Ruff on the head and her head is always soaked in Blitz’s slobbers.

I have begun to really enjoy this quiet time in the morning. It helps remind me to slow down and look around.

Are you a morning person? What do you enjoy about the start of the day? Do you have a pair of unlikely buddies around your house?

Aww. It’s great to meet your Ruff, Sarah. I wonder how she and Ralph would get along. Baxter and Ralph’s relationship is definitely not as buddy-buddy as Blitz and Ruff’s. I would say Ralph tolerates Baxter. She definitely does not allow him to slobber on her. It’s great that Ruff and Blitz have become such good friends.

Chickens by the numbers

It’s been more than a year and half since Sarah in Illinois welcomed her first chickens. She is here today with an update on her flock.

7 – Number of chickens still happy and healthy.

2 – Number of breeds of chickens still on my wish list (Leghorns and Ameraucana).

4 – Number of chickens my stepdaughter put charm bracelets on.

5 – Average number of eggs I still collect every day.

3 – Number of weeks a 50 pound bag of feed lasts.

1 – Number of wheelbarrows of corn I still have left to crack

0 – Number of chickens that will leave the coop if there is any snow on the ground.

100 percent – How happy I am that I decided to take on this adventure.

Between their bracelets, disdain for snow and hand-cracked corn, I think you have some pampered hens, Sarah. (Although I think aversion to snow is fairly common in chickens.) It’s great that you’ve been able to keep them healthy and happy and keep receiving eggs from them. Your enjoyment of them is obvious.

Inspiration and a mantra for 2018

Happy New Year from Sarah in Illinois. I’m very happy to have Sarah continuing as a contributor this year, sharing news of what’s happening at her farm in Illinois. Like us here in Ontario, she’s starting off the year in a cold snap, but she’s looking ahead with optimism. She’s sharing some of her inspiration for 2018 today.

Happy New Year!

Our new year in Illinois has been great, but very, very cold. We have not made it above freezing temperatures in about two weeks. Last night we dropped to -6F (-21C) actual temperature. Keeping water available to the chickens has been my biggest struggle, even with a heated water bowl.

There is one more inconvenience that I am dealing with. Frozen eggs!

I gather them in the morning before work, but by the time I get home and there has been 10 hours of single digit temperatures, I usually find this:

However, relief is on the way. The forecast for the upcoming week shows that we are going to rise above freezing every day and I am looking forward to it.

I am also looking forward to the upcoming year. A new year always feels like a blank slate. For us, 2017 had some good points but a lot of struggles and the promise of a fresh new start is invigorating.

If you remember my posts last year or the year before I used the website My One Word to find an inspirational word for the year.

I decided this year that I want to use a phrase as a sort of mantra for my upcoming year and I wrote it in the front of my new planner.

I am not sure where this phrase originated. I found a version attributed to Roy T. Bennett in The Light in the Heart: “Do what is right, not what is easy nor what is popular.”

I found this quote by David Cottrell: “Doing the right thing isn’t always easy – in fact, sometimes it’s real hard – but just remember that doing the right thing is always right.”

And if you are a fan of Harry Potter then I am sure you remember Albus Dumbledore saying, “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

No matter who first said it, I think it can be applied to every aspect of my life from what I choose to eat, to getting chores done around the house and barn.

So what about you? Do you have a word or a mantra to start your new year? Or do you write out resolutions? Do you feel like I do and think of the new year as a clean, blank slate?

This is a great mantra for the year, Sarah. I like how it can apply to big things as well as the little everyday tasks. I’m doing a word of the year for the first time this year, and I’ll be sharing my choice in an upcoming post.

I’m curious to here how others are starting the new year. Leave a comment and let us know your resolutions or words or mantras.

DIY cracked corn for chickens

Most of us will do anything for our pets. With the help of a local farmer, Sarah in Illinois is giving her hens a special treat this fall. Although I’m not sure how helpful this farmer has actually been.

My chickens are fed layer feed every day, but once in a while I buy a bag of cracked corn for them as a treat. I throw it around in the run for them to peck and scratch at during the day. It gives them something to do and they seem to love it.

So imagine my surprise when my farmer neighbor knocked on my door a few weeks back and told me that he had spilled some corn in the field while he was filling his bins. All I had to do was go out behind my barn and scoop it up before it rained. Well, heck yes. Free corn!

I went out in the field with a wheelbarrow and a scoop shovel, and I got corn. Lots of it.

While the chickens will occasionally eat whole kernels of corn, they much prefer when it is cracked, and I think it is also easier for them to digest.

My dad, whom I have mentioned before doesn’t throw anything away, said that he thought he had an old corn mill stashed somewhere. And it turns out that he did.

The mill is a simple machine. You fill the hopper on top with whole corn. It holds about 4 cups.

Then there is a wheel to crank and it turns a cylinder inside. It has a few slots that the corn falls down into and as it turns it crushes the kernel.

There is a knob on the side that you can turn and adjust the clearance inside the mill. The tighter it is turned, the finer the corn is milled.

We adjusted it to a point where the corn comes out just slightly cracked so that it is a good size for the chickens to handle.

All that is left is to crank away.

And crank.

And crank.

Steve asked me when I wanted him to mount an old motor to the crank.

I am getting closer to giving him the go-ahead!

I am making my way through this corn… 4 cups at a time.

Wheelbarrows of corn, 4 cups at a time. You’re a woman dedicated to her chickens, Sarah. When I was growing up and we had ducks and geese, they would get a ration of corn mixed into their winter feed. I think my Dad’s rationale was that the corn was higher fat and would help the birds in the cold weather. So the timing may be right for this influx of corn. Whether a treat or a bit of extra warmth, I hope your girls appreciate your work.

Lots of eggs in Illinois

The flavour of a fresh, home grown egg can’t be beat in my opinion, so an over-abundance of eggs would be welcome around here. Abundance is exactly what Sarah in Illinois has. Add a few chickens to your household, and the eggs quickly pile up. Sarah is here today sharing some of her favourite egg recipes. She’s also seeking suggestions on other ways to use up her bounty.

We still have 7 healthy chickens so that means we have 6-7 eggs to collect every day. Those eggs add up quickly. I really hate to have any waste, so after I have given eggs to our immediate family, I try to use everything that is left.

The most obvious use for eggs is breakfast. I like to scramble a few and add fresh chives and dill from my herb garden before I leave for work. On the weekends, Steve fries them or makes his favorite: omelets. His specialty is filling the omelets with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese, sausage and fried potatoes.

Probably the most common way we prepare our eggs is hard boiling them to have for breakfasts or an easy to grab, high protein snack.

Blitz’s favorite breakfast? Boiled eggs mashed up with butter. No lie.

Our go-to carry-in dish is to make deviled eggs. This past weekend I made them to take to our family reunion and used a basic recipe of mixing the yolk with mayo, mustard and relish. Then I added ranch dressing to thin it out a little. This isn’t Steve’s favorite, but the kids and I like it.

However, even with all of these uses, we still have plenty of eggs left over. So I decided to search for more recipes.

Growing up mom often made a quiche. I think I am going to try this one by Paula Deen.
One dish that I have always been curious about is Eggs Benedict. I have never tried it before but I think this would be an easy recipe to try.

I keep telling myself to make a batch of these scrambled egg muffins and freeze for a quick breakfast on mornings we are running late.

One of our overachieving hens laid this double-yolker.

What would make your egg recipe list? How do you like your eggs for breakfast? What are your favorite ingredients in an omelet?

Mmmmm… eggs. I love eggs. (BTW, I love that spiral egg rack too.) I’m a poached egg person usually. I love dipping toast fingers in the yolk. We also make our own version of McMuffins some weekend mornings. Omelets, quiches and frittatas are a go-to for an easy dinner. If you’re looking for something a little fancier, a strata is a good go-to. I’ve made this one a few times and it’s good.

New chickens in Illinois

Sarah in Illinois has been chicken farming for about a year. And in case you haven’t guessed from her previous posts, she’s enjoying it. Now she’s expanding her flock, and she’s here today to tell us all about it.

I have mentioned a couple times that I would like to add to my flock of chickens. After a couple weeks of phone and email tag, I finally picked up 4 new hens last weekend. I bought them from a family farm and CSA that is not too far from where I live.

I had very few requirements when looking for new hens. I wanted chickens that were no longer chicks but still young, commonly called pullets. I was not particular on breed, I would have chosen a couple Leghorns if available, for their white eggs, but other than that I really didn’t care.

This farm had only Red Sex Link which meant that they were Rhode Island Red crossed with another breed. The person that I picked them up from was not sure what they were bred with but since I have no interest in breeding chickens of my own and purely wanted them for the eggs, I really didn’t care what breeds they were.

The chickens I picked up are 9 months old, which means they are already laying. And after a day off from all of the trauma of relocating and meeting my older hens, they started laying right away.

Speaking of meeting my older hens, I had done a little research and randomly had a conversation with one of my customers at work on the best way to integrate the new tenants.

It is a good idea to keep them segregated but within view of each other for a while so that they get to know each other without causing many battles. I have also read that it is a good idea to put the new hens on the roost at night when the older hens are resting for the night. Then when everyone wakes up in the morning they are more accepting of each other.

Basically, we did none of that.

I did keep them apart for a short time, but then Steve got in the run to be referee and told me to put them all in together. It was quite comical to watch him reprimanding chickens but honestly it worked pretty well.

Since I brought them home early on a Saturday morning we were able to work in the yard and keep an eye on them all day both Saturday and Sunday. That way if there was a serious injury, we were right there to be able to intercept.

Another distraction was Blitz. He was quite entertained by the new chickens and ran back and forth along the run. I think it was helpful. The chickens were more worried about the 80 pound dog than picking on each other.

I was prepared for more serious injuries. Chickens do have a pecking order and when they assert their position they are likely to peck and injure each other. However, once a chicken is bleeding it is more likely to be picked on by the other hens. So I purchased a lotion that not only helps heal injuries, it dyes the blood a different color so they are less likely to be drawn to the injury. I am very thankful so far I have not even opened the bottle.

As I write this, the chickens have been together one week, and I can say I think everyone is getting along very well. I still occasionally see an older hen dash across the run and peck a newbie for no reason whatsoever, but overall, I think things are going very well.

I am consistently collecting 5-7 eggs every day. It is also exciting that the new chickens’ eggs are much darker than the older hens. They are actually quite pretty. Hmmmmm…maybe I need to start looking into Easter Eggers…

I’m so glad that your new chickens have integrated well with your older ones, Sarah. I’ve heard it can be very challenging. Glad to see that Blitz is still helping out around the farm. I love the colour of the beautiful dark eggs. I think you definitely need to explore more colours.