Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Nicholas, one day old

I'm now a grandmother. My daughter and son-in-law are now parents and my mother is now a great-grandmother. Meet Nicholas, born December 19th, 8 pounds 14 ounces, a health baby boy

Nicholas, home with Mom by the Christmas tree

Monday, December 24, 2007

hatching chicks

About three weeks ago I got a new incubator. I'm planning on doing some hatching in the spring. The incubator, a hova-bator 1588, holds 42 eggs, but I thought I'd give it a little test run with 8 eggs. Because I have no rooster there would be no point in using eggs from my hens, so I headed over to Codman farm where I volunteer, and collected the 8 eggs you see below. They are all shapes, sizes and colors and I think they are a photogenic bunch of eggs. I discovered that one was cracked a bit at the pointy end. All of them went into the incubator anyway.
Three weeks later 6 of them hatched, including the cracked one. Below you can see a chick emerging from an egg. This is actually the egg that was cracked. I really didn't think it would make it, because early on it appeared that the egg leaked a very tiny bit. I can only assume that the leak got plugged very soon and things progressed. I had heard of repairing cracked eggs with wax or clear nail polish, but I decided to just let it be and see what happened.
Below you can see the 6 chicks that hatched. The yellow one in the back corner is the one from the cracked egg. The other egg that I wondered about was the very small egg. It did hatch a small chick. I think it may be a bantam and is kind of cute with feathered legs.
Below is a close-up of the cracked egg after I took it out to candle. It was then that I discovered that it was developing so back in it went. After the hatch was over,I checked the two eggs that didn't hatch. One was not fertile and one had stopped developing after about 8 days. I'm quite happy with the new incubator and look forward to hatching more in the spring.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First Snow

It's a damp raw slushy day out, just right to stay home and bake for Thanksgiving

Today is the first snow of the season. It's the slushy kind. not the nice fluffy stuff and won't add up to much. It's predicted to be in the 50s for the next couple of days so I guess it won't even last the week. Here it is not really unusual for it to snow on November 20th. What is unusual this year, is that the leaves just don't seem to want to fall off the trees. You can see a Norway maple, and on the far left some mulberry leaves still hanging on. There are also crab apple and beech leaves still on trees in my yard. The tree in the background, an ash, always drops its leaves early and is the only one bare now. It looks like I'll be raking leaves in December when it will probably a colder than I would prefer for this task.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Blue Egg

The type of chickens that lay blue eggs are called Easter Eggers. They are Araucana mixes and can lay blue, green, brown or white or a blend of those colors depending on the genetics. The gene for blue eggs is actually dominant. It is a seperate gene from the ones that control white or brown egg color. So the egg can have both blue and brown color. That can make them look greenish or kakhi.

I was wondering if this hen was ever going to start laying. She finally did start at 7 months and I'm really happy with the color of her eggs. The photo shows it next to a brown egg my Plymouth Barred rock layed for comparison.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dust Bathing Chickens and Dog?

Chickens like to take dust baths such as here , but last week one of my dogs Kahlil decided to join some of the broiler chickens in a dust bath. Luckily I had my camera, because it was an odd thing to see a dog rolling around with chickens.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

dahlias with bees

This year someone gave me some of their extra dahlia tubers. I ended up with showy dinner plate sized yellow ones, spiky burgundy ones and my favorite one, a salmon with petals that curl. I'm now hooked on dahlias and will save and replant the tubers next year. I took these photos a couple of weeks ago before the frost turned the plants black.

I am happy to see that the honey bees like dahlias too. After taking this photo and seeing it on the computer, I noticed that the bee on the left has ragged wings. I'm guessing it's an older bee. It seemed a little sad. I doubt it will survive the winter. To see the wings more clearly, click on the photo.

click on photo to enlarge

Monday, October 15, 2007

chicken tractor in the garden

This year I decided to try raising something a little different in my community garden plot, Cornish Cross broiler chickens. I've raised these before but not in my community garden plot. I got permission to do this and am calling it a pilot project. Hopefully next year other gardeners will join in also.
I started out with 13 female chicks, I brooded them in my garage for about 3 weeks. One suddenly died early on leaving an even dozen. At about 3 weeks I moved them into a 4 x 8 foot tractor in my garden in an area where the winter squash had been harvested. I butchered 3 of them at 26 days to see how they would be as Cornish game hens. They were about 1.5 lbs each and were quite good with a raspberry jam and balsamic vinegar glaze. The other 9 will be butchered shortly.

I often let the chickens out of the tractor while I'm in the garden or volunteering on the adjacent farm. Here you can see Kahlil acting as a good hawk deterrent while the chickens are busy helping eating grass and weeds and helping the soil fertility.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Frost in the Garden

Yesterday morning when I went to my garden in Lincoln, Massachusetts, I discovered the first light frost of the season. The dahlia leaves were black and the pepper leaves were droopy. I decided to pick the rest of the peppers. With hot dry weather this year I've had a great year for sweet red peppers. I'm not a big fan of green peppers, but they are unlikely to turn red before rotting so I'll blanch and freeze them and use them in stir frys over the winter. This last pepper harvest was 10.5 lbs.

Although the dahlia leaves were black, the flowers haven't turned to mush yet.

A few miles to the east at my home in Belmont, Massachusetts we have not had a frost yet.

Note. This post sets a record for time between posts. Where was I? Nowhere, right here. I have been doing lots of work on the house and I did quit my job in May. I guess I just got out of the blogging habit.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cheep Housing

What if you have a few chicks that are are ready to go outside and you haven't had time to build that chicken mansion you've been designing? If you have an old plastic dog crate you are in luck. Get some welded wire, a wire cutter and a pair of pliers and create a quick and dirty version of the fancy igloo type chicken coop. I did this one in 45 minutes. The door is on the end away from the dog crate. Make the door large enough so the sides can fold around the pen for a little extra security and make sure the cage part if high enough for the dog crate to open and close.

Turn the dog crate upside down so rain won't get in and if it's still cool out duct-tape the side vents in the dog crate to let in less ventilation. Wire the cage part to the dog crate so predators can't sneek in. Voila, cheap, cheep temporary housing

" hinge"


With four 8 week old chicks nestled in the corner and a black sex-link hen supervising

Sunday, April 08, 2007


A microclimate is a local area where the climate differs from the surrounding area. This area on the south south east side of my eastern Massachusetts house forms a small microclimate. Due to the exposure, the cement foundation, the bricks of the house and it's proximity to a heated home as well as a westerly wind block it is much warmer than the rest of my yard. The daffodils just 20 feet away only have leaves 4 inches tall and have no buds yet.
The weather here today feels more like Christmas than Easter, but because of this micro climate I get to have some daffodils on Easter! I'm hoping to overwinter an artichoke in the warmest area in the corner next winter.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

12 Day Old Baby Chicks

It always amazes me how quickly baby chicks grow and feather out. At 13 days old, they seem to have tripled in size and are sprouting wing and tail feathers. They also easily fly up onto a low perch.

An Easter Egger chick hams it up for the camera while her fellow Buff Orpingtons and Sliver Laced Wyandottes eat dinner.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Baby Chicks

The baby chicks have arrived. They made it all the way from Ohio to Waltham Massachusetts in one day. The regional facility in Waltham called me to come get them there because my local post office was already closed for the day. They've done this before and it really speeds the chicks along. They're in the new brooder in the cellar for now, but will soon be moved out to the brooder house (aka garage) depending on weather and how soon they start to smell.

Baby chicks - araucanas, buff orpingtons, gold laces wyandottes, and barred rocks

Araucana chick

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Amaryllis Time

I enjoy taking pictures of flowers but about the only thing that blooms now are my indoor amaryillis bulbs that I save from year to year. The red one is the last one that will bloom for the season. The pink one was impressive and is even interesting (to me) in its decay. Now I'll need to wait for the crocus and daffodil bulbs which were poking up, but are under snow once again. Last year I couldn't wait and needed to visit Wellesley College greenhouses.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

To Everything There is a Season

We are now in the season of mud

Lace your boots tightly or the mud will suck them right off your feet.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Boston Area - Backyard Chicken Class

Some of the eggs recently produced by the chickens at Codman Farm

Today I just want to let people in the Boston area know that Codman Community Farm in Lincoln Massachusetts will be running a class this spring on raising backyard chickens. This will be a great opportunity for people who want to raise their own chickens or just find out what's involved. I've included a description of the class here. Probably most people will be interested in raising laying hens, but it will also include raising broilers.

Please pass the info on to anyone who may be interested.

  • Backyard Chickens Class - at Codman Community Farm

    This class covers the basics of keeping a small flock of laying hens or broilers in your back yard. Topics include nutrition, housing, regulations, health and behavior. We will also discuss the various breeds of poultry available and observe some of them here at the farm. You will leave the class with a good sense of what is involved in successfully raising either layer or broiler chickens. For those who wish to attend, there will also be an optional 4th meeting in September where the instructors will demonstrate the butchering and dressing of poultry.

    Class members will have the opportunity to participate in a group purchase of chicks from the Murray McMurray Hatchery.


    Codman Community Farm, 58 Codman Road, Lincoln MA 01773
    Saturday, April 7th 1:00-2:30 pm
    Saturday, May 12th 1:00-2:30 pm
    Saturday, June 2nd 1:00-2:30 pm
    Saturday, September 22nd 9:00-11:00 (optional)
    Heidi Tafel, Farm Manager, Codman Farm
    Joan Teebagy, Volunteer, Codman Farm
    $60 Codman Community Farm Members
    $80 Non-Members
    Mail registration and check to Codman Community Farms, 58 Codman Road, Lincoln, MA 01773. Questions? Call 781-259-0456 or email codmanfarm@comcast.net.

    Name: _______________________________________________
    Address: _____________________________________________

    Phone: ________________ Email: _________________________

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Three Dogs

Here you see, from left to right Cocoa, Bogie and Kahlil. Cocoa and Kahlil are my dogs and Bogie in the middle is my daughter and son-in-law's dog who was visiting for the day. I thought I'd practice sit-stay with three at a time. It actually went better than I thought it would.

In case you can't tell, Bogie and Kahlil are brothers. The are also son's of Kia who lives here

Cocoa's job is to be lovable, retrieve something to bring every guest who visits, eat all crumbs left on the floor and to find varmints like opposoms and mice. Cocoa enjoys watching people eat. including neighbors who are having cook-outs. She will ask to go out of she smells cooking outside Cocoa loves water and wishes she could jump into the bathtub when humans take a bath. Cocoa has an excellent nose. She is 13 years old

Kahlil's job is to be lovable, guard the humans, the house and the chickens, and announce and greet each guest. Kahlil enjoys watching neighborhood children playing and often asks to go outside when kids are playing in the next yard. He does not like landscapers entering the neighbor's yard. Kahlil is suspicious of water and worries when any human takes a bath. Kahlil has an excellent memory. He is 2 years old.

Cocoa and Kahlil are both great dogs and I've very happy to have them in my life. I also know Bogie is much appreciated by my daughter and son-in-law.

For more weekend dog blogging head over to Sweetnicks tonight.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mini Ohio Boooder

Baby chicks need to be kept very warm for the first weeks of their lives. Providing heat for them with heat lamps or other means is called brooding. The first week they need to have the temperature at 90 degrees F. Each week the temperature can be lowered 5 degrees.

The other day when I had plenty of other things that I was supposed to be doing, I decided to build another chick brooder. I’d been thinking about it for a while and guessed that I could build it from scrap wood and other bits of stuff I had leftover from other projects. A few years ago I built a 4’ x 4’ Ohio brooder like the one described here. It will brood (keep warm) up to 250 chicks. I brooded a batch of 75 and then a batch of 100 chicks in it. And all went fine. The main feature of this type of brooder compared to the usual heat lamps is that this type uses about ½ the electricity and is able to use regular house hold incandescent light bulbs instead of the 125 or 250 watt heat lamps.

I made this new brooder about 24 inches by 26 inches. I wanted one about ¼ the size of the original one and found a piece of ½ inch plywood 24 x 26 so went with it. I should be able to brood up 50 to 60 chicks. The sides are 1 foot wide pieces of wood and the legs are 16 inches high. I removed the wiring from my old 4 x 4 foot brooder and put it into this new one, figuring I wouldn’t be using them at the same time anyway. The cords were from old computer monitors. I had partially lined the first brooder with bubble foil insulation which I removed for this new brooder. I didn’t have enough to cover the whole inside, but remembered I did have some bubble wrap. I just took aluminum foil and covered the bubble wrap to make homemade bubble foil insulation and even found some foil tape to tape it on. This was an easier improvement over my original method of gluing the insulation on. On my fist brooder the cover sits down in the frame about an inch. On this one the cover rests on top. I actually like and recommend the first way better and wished I had done this on like that. I think it has less air gaps in the top that way.

For amusement I tested it out in a room that was 57 degrees F. With two 60 watt bulbs it was 91 degrees inside. With a 100 watt and a 60 watt bulb it was 101 degrees inside. I’m guessing that having chicks in it might raise the temperature a bit also. The reason I built it with two lamps it to have some backup if one burns out.

It was fun to make. I made it with things I already had around and now I have an excuse to get some chicks.

Note: Unlike what I did, make the legs 1 inch down from the top and make the frame the correct size for the plywood top to rest inside the frame on the legs.

brooder with cover on

brooder with cover off showing bubble foil insulation

Friday, February 16, 2007

Chicken en Croute and Egg Thief

If you've landed here looking for a chicken with crust recipe, keep googling because this is a chicken coop encrusted in ice.

I haven't had time to work on the new chicken tractor/coop. The only thing different from my last post is that it's encrusted in ice. It may only look like snow on the top, but it's very icy and solid. It still needs wheels. If the wheels were already on, I could have easily moved it into the garage for the recent ice and snow storm, but it's habitable so other priorities win out for now and it sits on bricks instead of wheels.

I'm now toying with the idea of adding a third door. This would be a chicken size door so that the chickens could come and go during the day, but the large egg thief shown below couldn't get inside. Better dog training would be an alternative to the door and I'm considering it also. I've been kind of letting the egg stealing slide because he's been pretty good with the chickens lately. He wasn't always and there have been past problems chasing chickens. When a dog chases chickens, the chickens panic and flap a lot and that seems to elicit even more prey instinct in the dog. It becomes a bad and vicious circle with potentially fatal results for the chickens. The other day, watching from the window, I saw him mostly inside this new coop with chickens still inside it. I held my breath. Eighty pounds of dog and panicking chickens inside a coop this small would be ugly. He slowly backed out with an egg in his mouth. I exhaled. I guess it's better eating eggs rather than chickens, but eating neither would be best.

With the old raised coop, he only ate eggs that I put aside and forgot. I didn't realize that making the new coop low would give him access to the eggs and that I'd create yet another dog training opportunity for myself.

Kahlil eating an egg he just stole from the nest box. He doesn't seem to be bothered by the feather that came with it that's tickling his nose

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chicken Tractor - Step 4

Today I needed to make the new tractor habitable because tomorrow roofers will be working on the building where their old coop is located. I tacked some plywood onto the back and covered it with a tarp. This is the west end and it is the direction most winds come from here so I wanted it to be draft proof if possible. The bricks holding the tarp should prevent some wind from coming in from underneath.

I screwed the front door on and added a 2x4 inside to roost on and then threw in some hay over the wire floor. I figured the chickens were not used to walking on wire and the hay would be less of a change for them at first. Tonight will be 8F. with 20-30 mile an hour winds. I figured the hay would help keep lessen any draft so I also added some to cover the opening at the bottom between the tractor and ground.

The front door is covered in plexiglass that I got from an old storm door, and a small piece from another project. An area about 8x10 inches is left open in the upper left corner for ventilation.

Here is a view looking in from the front. The chickens are used to roosting higher so having a roost that is only 2 inches high, for now, will be an adjustment.

The next step will be to get some wheels onto this thing to make it mobile.

Update: I just went out with a flashlight to check on the chickens. They are in the front right corner and one is in the nest box. I guess they don't consider a roost that's 2 inches high a 'real' roost, or they are smart because I think they picked the most sheltered area in which to bed down.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Chicken Tractor - Step 3

Too many other household projects have kept me from working on the new chicken tractor. Today my nephew Philip helped out. We finished screwing every thing together and moved it out of the garage. It's heavy so it's a good thing Philip is strong. It has no roof yet, no doors yet and no wheels yet, but it's all together. The next step is doors, because even without the roof and wheels it will be habitable.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Chicken Tractor Step 2

One of the future occupants of the new chicken tractor, a Welsummer hen

I’m continuing to build the new chicken tractor, egg mobile, mobile coop or whatever it's called I started it last week. Finally, I finally found the 1x2 inch wire for the floor. It took 7 places, but I found some at Masse Hardware in Cambridge MA. I stapled the wire onto the bottom frame. Then I screwed the plywood onto the top frame. Then because the top frame was too heavy to carry outside, I unscrewed the plywood. That’s one reason I like screws better than nails. They are easier to undo. Because any further work will make the tractor to big to carry out the cellar door, I moved the project out to the garage. It’s a little awkward for one person to maneuver, but with a couple of sawhorses and some blocks I think I may manage. I’ve screwed the upright supports to one side of the bottom. The next step will screw them to the top frame which is actually the bottom in the photos and screw on the sides. After I do this to the other side, I should be able to remove all the sawhorses and blocks and will end up the tractor frame upside down. Probably there is a much easier way to do all this, but I’ll only figure it out after the fact.

The first side. It's not screwed on yet. It's just proped up for the photo.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New Chicken Tractor - Step 1

My 4 hens have a little coop that I built about three years ago. It was one of the first things I ever built. It's OK but when I move it into the garage during winter. I feel the need to fashion a little pen around it for snowy days when the chickens can't go outside because the coop is only 4x4. The coop is fine in the garage, but the pen just takes up too much room. I also want something that I can move myself. I've decided to build them a tractor like I read about here. It will have twice the space as my coop and I will be able to move it around by myself. I've built some chicken tractors before. The first ones I build for broilers are all scrapped now. They were just too small for broilers and were rather flimsy too. I think broilers work better in a day-range system. The next tractor was a hoop style shown first in this post I helped my friend Judy build the next year. It is a nice one, and we day ranged two batches of broilers or 175 chickens in all that year with it at her place. It's also good to use to start seeds in the spring by covering it with plastic but that design is way way too big for my tiny back yard. Then last summer I helped put some very final touches on the mobile coop in the second photo in the post. It's quite a fancy coop. The first time I saw it, I thought it that I would like to have it for a summer house for myself. I could just hook it on the back of my car, and tow it to the country. :)

So what you see in the photo, other than my messy workshop, is the top and bottom frame for the new chicken tractor. Those pieces will fit out the cellar door so I was lucky to be able to build them inside on this cold windy day. The pieces measure 4x8 and used 13 2x4s and some deck screws. I still need to go get most of the materials so sadly I probably won't get to work on it again until next weekend.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An Easy New Years Resolution

Among the other things that I got for Christmas, was bronchitis. My cough finally seems like it’s going away. I’ve been taking it easy and my blogging fell a little by the wayside, but hopefully I’ll be back to blogging more now.

I thought of a New Years resolution that didn’t take much effort. It’s so easy that I already did all the required “work” by the last week of the old. year. My resolution was to buy and install at least one compact fluorescent light bulb. After studying the idea I realized that if everyone did this, the impact on energy usage would be huge. We’d all also save some money.

My municipally owned electric company charges 11.38 cents per kilowatt hour. At this time of year I burn a 75 watt bulb for at least 5.5 hours each night during winter in the room I sit in during the evening. A compact fluorescent bulb that gives the same amount of light uses only 20 watts.

Old 75 watt bulb
12375 watts each 30 days = $1.41 electricity cost

New 20 watt compact fluorescent (75 watt equivalent) bulb
3300 watts each 30 days = 37.5 cents electricity cost

Savings with this one bulb in 30 days is 9075 watts and $1.03 in electricity cost. I paid .$1.04 including tax for this bulb so it will be all paid back at the end of the month.

The bulb seems just as bright and doesn’t flicker, or buzz. It may have a very slight green tone, but it really seems very very close to a regular incandescent bulb. It does NOT resemble the light from the florescent tube type light bulbs in my shop in the cellar.

I was so happy with the outcome that I bought some more bulbs for other rooms. Watch the price of the bulbs. They seem to vary wildly from store to store and even within the same store. I found a 75 watt equivalent for 99 cents in a local hardware store. In H*Depot I bought 4 100 watt equivalent for $8 a package and 4 60 watt equivalent for $4 a package but saw others for more. A friend told me some electric companies give them away for free so it may be worth checking that out.

Below is a 100 watt equivalent and a 60 watt equivalent. The size is proportional to the wattage, but I had no trouble using any size in the lamps I have.