Follow our adventures

Follow our adventures as we raise a tiny flock of chickens in suburban Bexley, Ohio.
Our chicken bloggers include Tami Taylor, a Welsummer, and Tyra, a Jersey Giant.
RIP, Betty, Joan, Sally & Peggy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Slate Run Chickens

Over the weekend we visited some chickens from the past at the Slate Run Historical Farm. These chickens are from the 1800s. The speckled one in the top/left of the picture is a Wyandotte, like Joan.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Turns out we're not in it for the money

In case the dee-lux chicken coop wasn't a tip off, it looks like we're not about to make money off these little ladies any time soon.
Josh Levin at the Good Eater Collaborative did the math. If we hadn't spent all that money on the coop, we might break even in about a year. With the coop? Probably never. And considering these ladies will only be active layers for 2 years or so (after that, as Betsy says, we'll be running a chicken retirement home) we'll probably never be able to quit our day jobs and survive on the backs of Joan, Betty & Peggy*. There goes that plan.

*This from the girl that just spent $50 on 2 week's worth of canned dog food hoping that 'ol Jack'll eat any of it.

Hi, Babies

Note the miniscule wing action.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Salmonella outbreak is another strike against factory farmed eggs

On Aug 18th Wright County Egg, an Iowa factory farming operation, recalled 380 million eggs after some of its facilities were linked to a massive salmonella outbreak. The FDA is recommending that "if consumers are unsure about the source of their eggs, they [should not] eat them and [should] discard them immediately." This is especially true if you're fragile: young, old, or sick.

Wright County Egg is a bad actor, to be sure. According to the NYTimes, the company has had "run-ins with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, the harassment of workers and the hiring of illegal immigrants." They also keep their chickens in the kind of CAFO conditions you're used to hearing about: grossly overcrowded cages, artificial lights, ammonia fumes that could knock you over. A 2008 survey by the UK Soil Association, which certifies food in Britain as organic, found large flocks of caged hens were 19 percent more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella than organically raised hens and 17 percent more likely to be contaminated than free-range or pastured hens. Whether the same would hold true in the US egg industry is unclear, but the Association did find that rates of Salmonella were directly proportional to the size of the flock. The larger the flock, the more likely the hens were to be contaminated.

So, even though Peggy, Joan & Betty will have only the teeny tiniest chance of laying salmonella contaminated eggs, I've started learning about proper sanitation to prevent even that tiny chance of getting ourselves or whomever is lucky enough to eat our eggs sick.

How to prevent salmonella in your backyard flock

  • Collect eggs often.
  • Keep the coop clean! Salmonella is passed around in chicken poop. So get the poop out as often as possible.
  • Keep the ladies healthy by feeding them well, keeping the dry, and finding a good vet to help.
  • Practice biosecurity.
  • Wash, wash, wash your hands, for the love of god.
  • "Don't wash off the bloom from the egg. If the egg is soiled, you can use a dry, stiff nail brush, fine sandpaper or a rough pan scour pad to remove manure that might have caked on. Only wash the eggs before you use them and in warm water. Do this only as a last resort. Dirty eggs might be covered with bacteria, which have trouble getting through the shell so long as it's dry. As soon as the shell is wet with cold water, the pores of the shell opens and germs pass through more easily. And then, as the egg cools even more the contents shrink a little, causing a partial vacuum inside that tends to suck foreign matter into the egg."(from
And, now back to the chickens.

Chicks enjoy The New York Times

The chicks on their first full day in their new home. That's Joan, the Silver Laced Wyandotte, just to the left of the feeder, who gets a good closeup, Peggy, the Black Australorp, who's enjoying her chick food, and Betty, the Barred Plymouth Rock, who's over by the water bowl and having a go at the Times. As usual, she can't stand Thomas Friedman.

Chick Flick!

They don't really do much yet, but they're endlessly watchable!
(I can't figure out how to rotate the video. Ideas?)

Baby chick set up: less than $70

Our baby chicks are snug in their set up in the garage. 60 bucks covered the following supplies:

  • Lamp w/ infrared bulb (to keep the box at ~90 degrees)
  • Chick feeder & 50 lbs of chick feed (though with just 3 of them, an empty, shallow can probably would have worked just fine as a feeder)
  • Waterer (we got one big enough to work when they're full grown)
  • Pine shavings for months
  • Electrolyte powder which was completely unnecessary
  • Day 1 gel food that they didn't touch (went straight for the chick food)
  • We had the big plastic tub already
  • We had a digital thermometer, too
I can't believe that's all you need to take care of tiny lives.

We can start to feed them treats in a week or so, but nothing that would require grit in their gizzard, yet. That limits us to yogurt and hard cooked egg. Something feels wrong about feeding them egg, though. Right?

How to worm a chicken!?

I just read this blog post from a fellow columbus-ite with a backyard flock:
How to worm a chicken in five simple steps. She seems like a pro!
I, on the other hand, am more than a little freaked out by this -- though, not nearly as freaked out as I am about one of the chickens eventually become "egg bound." Barbara Kilarski explains in Keeping Chickens!: Sometimes an egg gets stuck in the chicken's body. If this happens, the backyard farmer must help her relax & sometimes she'll be able to pass the egg. But, if that doesn't work we'll have to "massage some vegetable oil very carefully around her vent while gently massaging the hen's stomach." For the uninitiated, the vent is code for "lady parts." Other books recommend KY. What have we gotten ourselves into!?

Monday, August 23, 2010

No car seat?

They let us take home these day old cuties in a box. I began their socialization almost immediately (pretty much couldn't keep my hands off them).

OMG Chicks!!

Today we headed to Meyer Hatchery and picked up 3 baby chicks and chick supplies to last us through the first month. Total bill: $70-some dollars. About $7 of that was the chicks.

They're just about the most adorable things you've ever seen! From the bottom, they're Peggy, Joanie, & Betty.

Peggy is a Black Australorp.
Joan is a Silver Laced Wyandotte.
Betty is a Barred Plymouth Rock.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Neighbor update

Neighbor Update: Our neighbor closest to where the coop will go was very cool about the impending new neighbors! Yay! I haven't gotten up the nerve to knock on doors and talk to the other neighbors. That's on the list for this week.

The Coop is purchased, now on to the chicks....

We ordered a coop yesterday, which is, other than a couple books and magazines, our first real investment in our chickens. Here's the coop we ordered:

We liked the shape and size of it, and the fact that the shipping cost was only $10! We saw a similar coop that cost $100 more, plus $150 shipping charge. The reviews are pretty good, though, according to most of them, we may have to put in a roosting bar, which shouldn't be too difficult or costly.

We head up to get the chicks this week. More updates (and pics of chicks) when we have them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

T-1 week to chicks

We've narrowed down the breeds to about 10:
It's definitely, maybe, going to be Australorps, Delawares, Dominiques, Golden Comets, Buff Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, or Speckled Sussux. Word on the street is that Plymouth Rocks are dumber than your average chicken, which is saying quite a lot. Andrew says he doesn't want to raise no dummies, so they might be out.
Meyer Hatchery is about 1.5 hours north of Columbus, and I'm hoping to make a visit early next week. How will we pick just 3!?

I have yet to talk to the neighbors, which, of course, should have been first on the list...well before naming the chickens. But I'm not quite sure how to tell my fine, upstanding neighbors that we're planning on starting a barnyard in the backyard. Incidentally, Barnyard in the Backyard is an interesting read available at the Bexley Library.