andyschickenscratch

city girl meets country living, chickens, adventures, humor

Lawn Maintenance

Okay time to mow the lawn, the grass is starting to take on more of a jungle like appearance and it needs a trim. I fired up the John Deere tractor and headed down to the start with the front lawn. Here we go, I activate the mower deck and begin the task of taming the jungle. After my first pass I noticed that the mower seemed to be cutting the grass a little short. No worries I am an experienced operator and I will just raise the mowing deck a little. I mean I didn’t want to have mow again in two days but the length of the lawn I had just gone over was looking like I had buzz cut it. I was confident that I had solved the problem and continued on. Reaching the end on my next row I turned the tractor like a pro and was engulfed in what could only be described as a massive dust cloud. It is not uncommon for the front lawn to be dusty as it is right next to the main road and therefore it collects a lot of dust from the gravel but this was a little dustier then usual. The length of the grass was only slightly longer but still not the right length. I made a mental note to talk to my husband when he got home from work about how the mower deck did not seem to be working properly. Back across for another pass and I notice that I am not only scalping the lawn but where I am turning there are now crop circles forming. Still unfazed I raised the deck some more, actually at this point it is as high as it will go. Well if that is as high as it will go then it must be all good and time to just get the job done. By the time I finished I have to admit that I was shocked by the number of crop circle formations and in fact given the length of grass that was left we would not have to mow it for the rest of the summer. Oh well nothing I could do expect maybe get some grass seed to fix the crop circles and may be some fertilizer to help will the length and made a mental note to really remember to get Grant to check that mowing deck as there is obviously something wrong with the darn thing.

When Grant got home from work that night he said to me, ” I see you mowed the lawn,” and before I could even tell him about the defective mower deck he asked, “so did you mow that whole lawn with the two front tires flat?” 

Well I guess that would explain that no matter how high I cranked that darn deck I wasn’t getting any where. In my defense I would like to state that the tractor was handling fine and although in hindsight it did seem to be a little hard to turn. Lesson learned, it is important to do a walk around of your equipment before using it.

Have a Beautiful Day

 

Leave a comment »

Spring Cleaning

Spring has finally arrived here in Central Alberta and that means it time for spring cleaning. Top on the list after the house is the other house which is the hen-house. The hen-house is where the girls (our chickens) live and spent most of the winter “cooped” up in thanks the extreme weather we had. Because it was so cold this winter I threw straw in the coop with reckless abandonment never stopping to think what was going in at some point was going to have to come out. Note to self maybe a little self-control with the straw next year as in I might have gotten a little carried away. Finally with the forecast calling for something other than cold, snow, or rain I picked the day to get the job done.
This being my first coop cleaning I searched the internet for hints on how to do the job right. Big mistake there, I mean by the time I finished reading what some of the sites had to say about what can live in the coop with your chickens I was ready to place a call to NASA to see if there was a chance that I could borrow one of their space suits. To be honest short of having that on I was not going in the coop again. Then I remembered just because it’s is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s right. The internet is a place where you can go on to find cures for the common cold and end up diagnosing yourself with a rare disease and only have 3 days to live. Choosing the right site to look at makes all the difference and in this case I decided to use some of the chicken lovers groups that I am a member of on Facebook.
Picking on what most pertained to my situation I headed to the local farm supply store to pick up what I would need to get the job done. On my list a fairly good respirator face mask after deciding that the rental fee on a space suit my be a little out of my price range. A good scoop shovel and a pitch fork. Thought I showed a lot of self-control there, also I couldn’t find the aisle that dynamite would be in and I am banned from running heavy equipment (I’ll blog about why in a later story) so a back hoe was out of the question too. I came home and put on a hoodie, that I could pull the strings tight enough so that all was showing was my eyes, nose, and mouth, my old farm jeans and my knee-high muck boots. I felt that given that the cats had taken to sitting in wait outside the coop for mice to come out, jeans tucked in would be the best choice. The last thing I wanted was to stir up a little 4 legged creature and have it crawling up my leg!
With my official chicken coop uniform on I put on the dust mask and went to show my husband how professional I looked. When he stopped laughing he took a couple of pictures to show his friends what his wife was up to now. Fine with me it may have looked a little funny but at least it would work for the job. I gathered my tools and headed for the coop. I can honestly say that the coop had not smelt that bad all winter it was just that with the warm weather everything and anything that could cause odor was. I mean it actually made your eyes water and I was about to head in and stir it all up, great.
I opened the coop door to find Blue was in the middle of doing what chickens are suppose to do and she gave me that could you give me a minute here look. I politely excused myself and shut the coop door. I always feel the same way when I accidentally open the open the door on a bath room stall that is already occupiied. Thankfully it wasn’t long before Blue came out the hen door and gave me the the go ahead to begin.
The biggest problem that I have is that I can totally see me getting the job done and forget what all the work the work to complete the job. I seriously had headed in to this task with a smile on my face and a can do attitude, that changed about 3 shovel fulls in to it. I was seriously regretting the reckless abandonment of the straw I had added and did not know that my sweet little girls could produce something that smelled so bad that it made wish that I had no sense of smell. At one point I actually considered getting a pair of the ear plugs that expand in your ear and sticking them up my nose but then I thought how would I go about explaining to the er doctor how I ended up getting ear plugs stuck in my nose. The only solution to my problem was to get it done and fast.
Of course it wasn’t as easy as getting a scoop full and shoveling out the door, it had compacted in to a solid like compound that had to be first loosed by the pitch fork, raked to into a pile and then shoveled out the door. It was a slow going process and with the mask on and the hood on my hoodie securely fasten I was starting to melt. I took me a good hour to get everything out just to realize that I hadn’t thrown the straw mixture far enough out the door to be able to close it, so I had to move the mountain again.
The girls would come over every once in a while to check on my progress or lack of it and to scratch through the mixture to see if there were any bugs to be found. Because I had used the straw in the manner that I did it meant that I didn’t have any straw to replace the straw that I had taken out, but that’s okay because in my research on how to clean the coop I saw that pine shaving were an acceptable material to use and that some peoples chickens prefer them. I let the coop air out and dry for the day and then I went out that evening before the girls headed in for the night and put down pine shavings. The coop actually smelt nice and looked bigger with the extra 3 ft of straw remove. I patted myself on the back for a job well done and headed in for the night or a least till lock down time for the girls. When I went to lock them in all 4 were there and they had each laid an egg, thanking me for working so hard to clean their house I would think. They were all roosted on the top of the roost and seemed quite chatty, I told them it was my pleasure and shut the doors.
The next morning I headed out to do chores which include letting the girls out and then feeding the horses. I usually get half way through the horse chores and the girls show up for a morning visit. When they hadn’t made it over by the time I was done I headed over to the coop to see what the hold up was. As I approached the coop I could hear a heated discussion going on and wondered what the girls were so upset about.
They there were the same as the night before all on the top of the roost but 2 had moved over to the nest top nesting boxes where I had left straw as they had nests already made in it. They were all staring at the floor as if it was going to bite them and they were going between the roost and the nesting boxes as if the floor was lava and they couldn’t touch it just like the childhood game. At one point I think Blue actually gave Olive a push in a take on for the team. I tried to talk them into getting down but they weren’t having any of that. It became apparent that I was going to have to lift them on by one on to the chicken eating floor, and I did manage to get 3 of them safely to the floor of the coop where they ran it what I can only explain as if they were on a hot tin roof out the door. This left poor Olive and even though her friends had left she was not going to weaken on her stand of not touching the floor. I tried to pick her up like I had Blue, Red, and Plum but she turned into ninja chicken bobbing and weaving her way out of my grasp. I finally had to stop and regroup because this was not working. It was then that she got brave or realized that her friends were leaving. She made her way to the bottom rung and made the leap of faith, once on the floor of the coop she stood perfectly still in a I can’t believe that I am still alive manner and then she ran with that hot tin roof style that the other girls had used out the door yelling loudly for her friends to wait for her.
I am happy to say that they have become use to the shavings although they have never used the nesting boxes with the shavings in them. Next winter I will control the amount of straw I add but at least I now have all the tools I need to get the job done right.

Have a Beautiful Day

3 Comments »

Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast

I guess the first real story I should share on here is how we ended up with chickens and how we have come to love them so much. I mean at our place all the chickens have individual names but are usually just called ” the girls”.

It was on a camping trip with our friends the Bresees that we discovered the difference between grocery store and farm fresh eggs. When camping there is nothing better in the morning than good ole bacon and eggs for breakfast. The bacon was fried and then it was time for us to put our eggs on the griddle. Wendy cracked her farm fresh eggs on to the griddle and there they sat in a perfect circle with beautiful deep yellow colored yolks as the crowning glory in the middle( yes these yolks could be referred  to as beautiful because they were). Next to go on was our grocery store-bought eggs that when cracked the whites ran with reckless abandonment all over that griddle.  They did not maintain a circle like shape nor was the yolk even close in color to theirs actually it was more like the palest yellow you could get. I have to admit that the thought of sneaking their eggs on to my plate did cross my mind. Seriously if you had the choice of eggs that looked like something out of ad for the perfect egg and ours you would have done the same too.

Thankfully they were kind enough to share their eggs and at that point we were hooked. When we got home I vowed that we would start eating free range organic eggs. After a shocking trip to the grocery store and finding out what those eggs cost we ( actually I) decided we need to get a couple of chickens so we to could enjoy wonderful farm fresh eggs when ever we wanted.

After doing my research I knew that the easiest way to go about this was to get a chicken tractor which is a small portable coop that can be moved around the yard. Okay time to find a chicken tractor, well let me tell you that although they are a simple design they are not cheap. My husband Grant who has been sweet enough over the years to build a cat house, 2 bunny hutches and a guinea pig cage was away at work so coming up with one of these was going to be a little tricky. After looking at plans on how to build these I decided that for the safety of all of those involved including the chickens that I not be the one to build it. In later blogs I will explain that although I can picture in my mind what I think the outcome should be it rarely, actually come to think of it, never turns out.

I kept checking a large classified ad site in hope of finding one when I found an ad that not only had a chicken tractor for sale but 2 lovely egg laying chickens to go with it. I contacted the lady right away to say that we would be very interested in them and sadly she replied that there was someone ahead of me that wanted to adopt the girls. Yes she referred to it as adopting and there was an adoption fee to go with them. I told her that if the other adopter fell through we would like them and promised that we could give “the girls” a very loving home. She said that she would let me know and when the phone rang the next morning and she said that the other adoption had fallen through I could hardly contain my excitement. We The Mackenzie’s were going to be chicken farmers.

Grant had gotten home the night before from work which had included a long drive but bless him he was game to get up in the morning to make the 1 1/2 hour drive south to Calgary to pick up the coop and adopt the girls. Along with our daughter Meggie we excitedly made the trip south. Well Meggie and I were excited and I think Grant was just wanting to go and get this done.

Thank goodness for google maps we found the place right by downtown Calgary with out to may wrong turns. These girls were “city girls” and the people who owned them had hoped to have backyard chickens but because the city by law was not in place they had decided to put them up for adoption. When we arrived at their house we were greeted by a nice younger couple and 2 brown and white chickens roaming freely around their back yard. When I say a nice young couple I mean it, they had snacks and juice ready for us and they wanted to get to know us before the adoption was completed.

I have to admit that at this point I wanted these chickens more than anything and that I went about presenting our family in the best possible light. I had to assure them that “the girls” would be going to a very loving home where they would be cared and loved the same as they had with them. They didn’t have any children and these chickens were like their kids to them. To laugh at the fact that they loved them so much would have been wrong in some many ways and I found myself silently vowing to give these chickens the life they felt they deserved. I would cook for them, clean their coop and make their nest the way they liked it and anything thing else they need to live a happy chicken life.

After a long visit she announced that she felt we were in fact the right family for “the girls” to go to and I paid the adoption fee. Her husband helped Grant strap the chicken tractor on to the back of the truck and after email addresses we exchanged so we could keep them posted on how they were adjusting to farm life we were ready to go. I turned to say a final good-bye and noticed that they had tears in their eyes. Okay now I am starting to feel really bad I mean they really loved them. Once again I assured her that they would be very well cared for, I mean at this point I was willing to offer that “the girls” would be living comfortably in our house if that’s what it took to make them feel better. One more hug to them both and we turn to go when out of the mouth of babes Meggie says ” don’t worry we have had a lot of animals at our place and a lot of them have died”, referring to a couple of free range rabbits that didn’t out fox the fox. Before they could compute what she had said we ran Dukes of Hazard style to the truck and started to trip home.

Being that we looked like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies we decided to take the back roads home. I can not tell you how many people do a double when they pass you on the highway when you have a chicken coop strapped to the back of your truck.  Que banjo music. I mean seriously how odd could a chicken tractor with 2 chickens peeking out with their feathers blowing in the wind strapped to the back of a truck look?

We made it home safely and “the girls” had survived the trip. Meggie decided that we would call them Marilyn and Greta and I couldn’t wait for them to get to work laying us some farm fresh, eggs. Sadly after doing my research I discovered that if chickens are upset they don’t lay eggs and these girls were up set. Maybe they had heard Meggie’s comment before we left.

For two days we waited impatiently for eggs making sure that we were providing them with the best laying environment we could, fresh straw in their nests, clean water and new food daily.  Then one morning Meggie went out to check on “the girls” and she excitedly came running back in to the house with two perfectly shaped farm fresh eggs. We couldn’t wait to eat them and let me tell you we were not disappointed at all. “The girls” were settling in to farm life and a happy hen lays eggs. Check we got this now, we are chicken farmers!

After a few days we decided that Marilyn and Greta knew where their new home was and it was time to let them be free range. Every morning we would let them out to wander freely around the yard and every evening we would lock them in the chicken tractor for the night. You see chickens are mostly creatures of habit and every night they would head back in at about 8;30pm.  Life with chicken was going great, everyday we were getting eggs and “the girls” were enjoying their new-found freedom. Well, that was till we went to West Edmonton Mall one day and let them out before we left thinking that we would be home in time to lock them in. We were in the city longer than planned and when we got home it was dark. Using a flashlight we went to lock “the girls” in and sadly there was only Marilyn on the roost. We looked as  much as we could in the dark and I called my Dad an old chicken farmer from way back and explained that we were missing a chicken. He told us not to worry that something had most likely scared her and she was hiding out up in a tree or something.

Early the next morning I went out to check on Marilyn and look for Greta again, sadly she didn’t turn up. It was a beautiful day

and the kids and I were doing some yard clean up when we heard it. The unmistakable sounds of a chicken in distress and a basset hound’s baying. I looked up from what I was doing in time to see Greta running across our riding arena in a very like chicken fashion (they are actually quite fast) with our Basset hound Ranger hot on her heels in full hound dog tracking mode. The kids and I dropped everything and joined in one that chase. We got Ranger contained and started trying to persuade Greta that the coast was clear and she could come back. Nope she wasn’t having anything to do with it and if a chicken doesn’t want to be caught well then, good luck. I phoned Grant to tell him that there had been a Greta sighting but that we were unsuccessful in catching her. He suggested that we let Marilyn out too and that she would most likely come back. I went back to my chores and could only hope he was right. Every once in a while I would check in with Marilyn only to see that she was happily scratching around oblivious to her friend dramatic morning to say the least. An hour had gone by and Greta had still not returned and to be quite honest I didn’t think she was going too. We went in for lunch and then headed back out to finish our yard work when much to all of our surprise there next to Marilyn happily scratching away looking for tasty bugs was Greta.

Now remember when stressed chickens don’t lay eggs and Greta was obviously suffering from PTSD in this case because for 2 days she did not lay an egg and on the 3rd day when she did it was almost white in color (normally she lays a nice light brown egg) and had several high-speed wobbles in it. I guess that stress doesn’t only change their laying pattern but the shape of the egg too.

Marilyn and Greta were with us all summer providing us with eggs and we kept their previous family updated with stories of “the girls” adventures. My Dad even build them a coop to rival all coops, “the girls” were moving up in the world. Then sadly one night when I went to lock them in they were gone and all that was left behind was a couple of feathers. I knew that without a doubt that our neighborhood fox had got them. It was a sad night as we had all become attached to them and I could now understand how the couple felt in letting them go because they had become a part of our family too.

We made the decision to get more chickens in the spring instead of trying to set things up so late in the fall for new ones. I admit we suffered through store-bought eggs and could not wait to get the new “girls” in the spring. Which by the way is a whole nother story.

All because of bacon and eggs for breakfast we now have 4 lovely laying hens, to us hatching our own chicks. We don’t have a rooster but our friends Mark and Tina supply Meggie with the fertilized eggs and we hatch them out in her little incubator. I can now see why chickens have become such a fad. They are surprisingly smart and great entertainment, not to mention how nice it is to have a constant supply of our own fresh, free range eggs.

 

Working on bringing out their inner duck

Working on bringing out their inner duck

Plum, Blue and Red getting ready to head out for the day.

Plum, Blue and Red getting ready to head out for the day.

Our current chickens and their guard dog Kimber

Our current chickens and their guard dog Kimber

First Chick to hatch.....she looks a funny but once all dried up and fluffy they are too cute.

First Chick to hatch…..she looks a funny but once all dried up and fluffy they are too cute.

Ranger the basset hound has come to love the chickens....he's a real mother hen

Ranger the basset hound has come to love the chickens….he’s a real mother hen

Our first chick getting ready to hatch

Our first chick getting ready to hatch

Farm freshs eggs

Farm freshs eggs

Our first batch of chicks we hatched

Our first batch of chicks we hatched

Have a Beautiful Day

1 Comment »

My First Blog

I love to write and I have been sharing my adventures or misadventures (as some may say) on my Facebook page with my friends and family. I have been told by many people to write a book about them but to be honest that task was completely over whelming. I decided to go with a blog and after many days spent over creating it I am finally done. I mean I am sure that there will be some fixing as I go but for now I think this is a great start.

 Creating a blog wasn’t the easy task that I thought it would be, I mean you are putting yourself out in to the public and this is what they see. It took forever to come up with a theme and then when your done that there is customizing it. Who would have thought that simple color selections could be so difficult. I am thankful for computers today that allow you to have 90 tabs open at once because I am sure I did! At this point the edit button has become my greatest friend and I am sure that it will stay that way. Google also played a large part in getting this going because to honest I had no clue what a widget was or did.

I will be sharing some the stories I have all ready written but also new adventures because it is not like me to not try something new. Like I said in my bio I am not an expert, I am just not afraid to try. Although sometimes I think it would just be easy to wait for the expert but what would be the fun in that.

After spending the last 3 days getting this going I have to say that all my creativity is used up but as soon as I am able to think in coherent sentences the blogging will really begin! 

Have A Beautiful Day!

3 Comments »

Celebration of Now

Discover Your Inner Truth

Miles Away Farm Blog

The how to, from scratch, growing, harvesting, preserving, fermenting, savoring food farm blog

Ask Sophia

Bingung? Lagi ada problem? Masalah dengan pacar? ortu? atau mau nanya tentang iman Kristen? Anda pun bisa bertanya kepada Sophia

Hannah and Je together

Small talk of Je Lee

Verve Photo- The New Breed of Documentary Photographers

Photographer and photo editor Geoffrey Hiller has created Verve Photo to feature photographs and interviews by the finest contemporary image makers today.

Old World Garden Farms

Gardening, Cooking & DIY Living

Two Thirds Done

thoughts and experiences of a 72 year old boy

The Chatter Blog

Living: All Day Every Day: Then Chattering About It

Beetles In The Bush

Experiences and reflections of a Missouri entomologist

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

retireediary

The Diary of a Retiree

China Bystander

中國外人

The World according to Dina

Notes on Seeing, Reading & Writing, Living & Loving in The North

Must Be This Tall To Ride

I'm a single dad documenting his journey. A guy trying to walk a higher path. And messing up. A lot.

Yellingrosa's Weblog

Poetry, Visual Arts, Music and IT Tech

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Celebration of Now

Discover Your Inner Truth

Miles Away Farm Blog

The how to, from scratch, growing, harvesting, preserving, fermenting, savoring food farm blog

Ask Sophia

Bingung? Lagi ada problem? Masalah dengan pacar? ortu? atau mau nanya tentang iman Kristen? Anda pun bisa bertanya kepada Sophia

Hannah and Je together

Small talk of Je Lee

Verve Photo- The New Breed of Documentary Photographers

Photographer and photo editor Geoffrey Hiller has created Verve Photo to feature photographs and interviews by the finest contemporary image makers today.

Old World Garden Farms

Gardening, Cooking & DIY Living

Two Thirds Done

thoughts and experiences of a 72 year old boy

The Chatter Blog

Living: All Day Every Day: Then Chattering About It

Beetles In The Bush

Experiences and reflections of a Missouri entomologist

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

retireediary

The Diary of a Retiree

China Bystander

中國外人

The World according to Dina

Notes on Seeing, Reading & Writing, Living & Loving in The North

Must Be This Tall To Ride

I'm a single dad documenting his journey. A guy trying to walk a higher path. And messing up. A lot.

Yellingrosa's Weblog

Poetry, Visual Arts, Music and IT Tech

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.