Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cleaning out the Coop

A week or so ago we actually had some decent weather.  It was still cold out but sunny, a good day to clean out the chicken coop.  I clean out the coop 2 to 3 times a year.  I scrape and shovel out all the litter and put in on one of the garden spots.

It is a daunting task and not one for the weak stomached to clean out a chicken coop.  Lets face it they don't call them foul for any old reason!  I have worked with some seriously raunchy lab samples in my day, so this does not bother me at all.  I don several layers of clothing, a nice shower cap thing that my husband has to wear from one is his surgeries, gloves,  and a dusk mask.  Also I have to wear my glasses - can't be in all that dust and ick with contacts in.  Sexy isn't it?!  :o)

I gather up a shovel and the wheel barrel and off to the coop I go.  We had purchased new pine shavings for the coop and left them in the truck.  My son drives the truck over to the coop so I don't have to carry the bales of shavings.  Our coop is 8x8 and it takes 3 bales of shavings to give a nice layer for the coop floor.

The chickens start to panic because they are spooked by my get up.  Had I just walked over to them without the dusk mask and shiny shower cap they would be all running for me looking for treats.  I open the door and the goofy birds are so panic stricken they don't know which way to run.  I finally chase them around the coop and out the door.

Once I have all the birds out of the coop I remove the feed and water tanks and the blocks they each sit on.   You have to raise their food and water so they don't kick litter and whatnot into it.  You want their feed and water to be about shoulder height to the birds.  As you can see I also have ropes from the top of the coop to the feed and water stations.  This is to keep the birds off of the tops of the tanks.  Chickens love to stand (and poop) on everything so you have to do what you can to keep them off of some things.

I commence to shoveling load after load of the spent litter into the wheel barrel and taking it to a garden plot near by.  This litter is pretty well composted and pretty much just dirt now but it is still a little hot. This mean that the nitrogen levels are pretty high and the compost needs time to mellow.  This will be the last time I can throw the litter directly into this garden spot.  I will move to the next garden spot the next time I clean out the coop.  As I work on the coop the chickens have the option to free range in the yard but they are too scared to move and just huddle at the end of the run.  I think I hear a few scream, "AHHHH Monster!!!"  When I stepped out of the coop to wheel the loaded barrel out to dump it.

I takes about 4 loads to clean the coop out completely.  I inspect the fool to make sure it is holding up - which it is very nicely.  I also look for possible signs of vermin.  We built the coop very tight and so far so good no rat holes or signs of vermin!  *phew*  I do not want to deal with rats!  *shudder*
I generally change out the hay in the nest boxes as well but my husband just put fresh hay in them so I will leave them alone this time.  It looks pretty good.  You may have noticed there are only 4 nest boxes for 10 laying hens.  This is just fine as the goofy birds all lay in the same hole anyway.  I could have gotten away with just 2 nest boxes and it would have been fine.  I rarely find the eggs in all 4 holes.  Usually they are all in 2 holes.  I will do a post about the coop and our lessons learned from our design in a later post.

Once everything is cleaned out to my satisfaction, I dump in 3 big bales of shavings and kick them around to cover the floor with new fresh litter.  I also will open the window and the lid to the nest boxes to air out the coop for a few hours.  I replace the blocks and the food and water tanks, and that is it.  The chickens usually meander in after I take off my silly shiny shower cap and scary dust mask and wonder about the coop in total amazement.  I hear them whisper to each other, "wow its to clean in here!  Everything smell so new and fresh."  They cluck their thanks to me and proceed to poop everywhere again.  Ah the vicious cycle of having chickens.  I love having them and I don't mind taking care of them.
This litter will last until mid to late summer.  I will go in every now and then and stir it all up with a shovel.  That helps keep the smell down and it rotates the used litter on top down to the bottom and brings up some fresher stuff.  The chickens are pooping machines and the used litter has been very beneficial to the garden spots.  We hope to be able to plant corn in the one spot this year.  Once I am done and put all my tools away and trow away the plastic bags from the shavings....I head straight to the shower!!  The dust from the coop is very fine and it gets everywhere.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crafty: Crocheted toys and more

I recently was in a craft swap on the internet.  The swap was a easter egg swap.  We were paired up and had to craft stuff for easter eggs and also make a medium gift to go along with the eggs.  My partner had me craft for her 6 year old son and here is what I made for him:

Head on over to the Crafty Corner of this blog for more information and links to where I found these cute patterns.  Check it out!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recipe: Stuffed Bell Peppers

Here is a quick and tasty meal that is great for a weeknight.  It goes even quicker if you happen to have left over white rice!  Head on over to the Whats Cookin?  page for the complete recipe for my STuffed Bell Peppers.  Check it out!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teenage Little Girl Chickens

Today was a pretty nice day so we let the chickens free range around the yard.  We try to let them free range as much as possible.  This serves 2 purposes.  One, they get to run around and explore and that makes for happy birds, and two, they eat every bug in the yard, and that makes for happy owners!  Let me introduce you to Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dumb.  These 2 girls go everywhere together.  They are truly BFFs.  Where one is the other is close behind.  They also enable each other and are the most mischievous chickens I own.

Today for instance, as soon as the run door was opened they took off running for the hills!  ok, not the hills as we live at the top of the mountains...but they took off running for the back yard.  Wing in wing they waddled as fast as their little chicken feet could carry them.  This upset Chip the rooster very much.  He is very protective of his girls and he is always looking out for them.  Whoever came up with the term 'mother hen' should have met Chip...overprotective father hen!  Dee and Dumb just giggled and rounded the house out of Chip's sight.  The spotted the duck box and Dee said to Dumb, "Lets hide in there!"  The both ducked into the duck box and played around in the shavings that were in there, giggling and carrying on like two young teenagers.  Chip finally rounded the corner of the house and started to panic....where did his girls go?~!  He let out crow after crow, and the girls just giggled as they hid in the box.  Dumb said to Dee, "SHHHH  he will hear you!  Be quiet!"

Finally Chip gave out another crow in desperation, and gave up and went back to the front yard to check on the rest of his flock.  At that time Dee and Dumb tumbled out of the duck box laughing their beaks off!  "HAHA  he did not find us!!"  Silly birds.  Dee and Dumb like to hang out in the back yard around the central air unit and under the back deck.

When you go near them to try to corral them back to the front yard they will duck under the deck and hang out in the middle where you can't reach them.  "Neener Neener Neener!  You can't get us!!"  Goofy birds.  I fear that a hawk will show them just how touchable they really are!  I hope not and try to keep an eye on them a best I can - but they roam around and dig up the rocks at their will.

Things should get real interesting around here in a week or so.  We ordered 26 new peeps to add to the flock.  Anyone need any eggs??!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Contacts and Glasses

I wear both contacts and glasses.  Not at the same time mind you, but my vision is pretty bad.  Since I hit 41 a year or so ago, I have had to wear reading glasses as well.  My wonderful eye doctor tried me out first with progressive lenses in my glasses.  Oh boy that did not work out too well at all!  I found myself stumbling walking across the yard and nearly falling when I had to navigate stairs.  I also found myself confused as to when to look out what part of the lens.  Nope progressives were not going to work for me.  I decided on single vision glasses, and contacts and toped them off with reading glasses.

I have found myself becoming a lot like how my dad was.  When my dad died in 2004, we set out to clean out the house and vehicles as the normal process goes.  As we were cleaning things out we must have found 10 pairs of reading glasses that all belonged to my dad!  He had them everywhere... a pair in his shirt pocket, a pair over the visor in the truck, a pair in the car, a pair at his side of the dining room table, a pair by the computer, a pair in the spare room where he did is coin collections, pairs of reading glasses everywhere. I also have started collecting reading glasses.  As I sit here at this computer I have a pair on.  I have a pair at work at my desk.

I have a pair on the dining room table where I am working on a shirt pattern to sew up.

I have a pair by my recliner in the living room by my Nook.

I keep a pair in my purse at all times also.  All my reading glasses are different.  All are the same power but the frames are all different.  That is how I am.  I like diversity in things I have to have.

My husband recently tried contacts for the first time in his 42 years.  He is so happy with them.  The doctor's office gave him this super cute tiny bottle of solution and sent him on his way after practicing a few times taking them out and putting them back in.  I am actually surprised that he can wear contacts.  He has the patients of a nat so I was not sure how he would fair with any challenge of getting the contact to stick in your eye.  Those who have contacts know what I am talking about.  Sometimes they just don't want to go in, sometimes they don't want to come out.  Anyway, he has actually been doing really well with his and I am impressed.  I love to hear him go on and on about them and why did he wait so long to try contacts.  Another challenge for him is that he is not very ambidextrous.  I think he would probably die if he ever lost his right hand/arm.  The dexterity in his left arm/hand is very low.  Trying to handle a contact with his left hand to stick in his left eye is very challenging for him.

As I said he was doing real well with them...until this morning.  He stuck his right contact in his eye just fine and then moved on to the left contact, and while he was struggling with that one, his right one must not have been seated properly and it flipped out of his eye.  He was not a happy camper thinking that he dropped his left contact, picked it up and stuffed it back in his LEFT eye.  He came out of the bathroom and was muttering and blinking like crazy.  He said something was not right, and went back into flush it off and try again. He took it out and put it back in the case and went back to his glasses, as his eye was hurting now.   Dear husband and our son and our friend were trying to get out the door to go to a gun show and his eye/vision was all messed up.  Dear husband asked me to look in his left eye to see if I could see anything in it.   As I got close and peered into his eye I couldn't help but laugh...he said "Do you see anything?!"  I said, "yep...your contact!"  Here he had his left contact in his left eye, dropped the right contact from his right eye - thought it was is left and picked it up and put it in is left eye also!  He took one contact out and still had one in his eye.  He put the other one in his right eye and all was well again.

Oh the joys of learning to deal with contacts.  His vision is not as bad as mine, so it was difficult for him to 'see' a difference between contacts and uncorrected vision.  The boys left about 40 minutes behind schedule.  I sent dear husband on his way with his glasses and his carry case for his contacts.