One Swelled Headed Chicken and Me!

 

043   044  “Well Swif………..we finally made it to the big leagues.  Remember  back in late winter when I wrote the articleGround Your Flighty Flock’ and you volunteered to have your flight feathers trimmed for the occasion.  Well……..You and I are now the July/August FEATURE in Chickens Magazine. I’m pretty darn proud and I can tell that you are really stoked by the way you’re struttin’ around the backyard. I told you that  the “trim” would be worth it. 

What’s that??????????………..Hold all your calls?????? You want to schedule a pedicure at two after a light lunch with a couple of friends????????????   And…. you want more cracked corn before bedtime????????? Read the contract Swif.  Read the contract!  Now……get your butt back to work.  The egg count has been a little light these days in the hen-house”.

Chickens Magazine is a great read and I urge you to pick up the latest issue if you haven’t already.  It is chock-full or useful information for the backyard chicken enthusiast. You can find Chickens at your local checkout or via subscription.

http://www.hobbyfarms.com/chickens-magazine/

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An Apology To Swiffer

006“Ok Swiffer……..I’m gonna’ do the right thing,…….take the higher road………and say……………I’m sorry!  I’m sorry for all the times I cursed your name, for all the times that I  labeled you as the trouble making hen in my small flock of three……………but most of all……..I’m sorry for making fun of those  Ping -Pong ball size eggs that you laid for almost 3 years. 

But…come on….you got to cut me a bit of slack……..It’s not like you were the picture of innocence.  Wasn’t it you who would start squawking the ‘egg-song’ at 5am on those summer mornings?   Wasn’t it you who splattered that soft shell egg all over endearing daughter’s leg as we drove back from the cottage in a van packed to the gills? 

Damn straight it was you!  And……as for those Ping-Pong size eggs that looked more like they came from a quail than a chicken……………. I say…………. THANK YOU!  As it stands, you’re my only girl who continues to lay after 3 years of age.  I don’t even care that you now take some pretty long breaks between your streaks.  It’s just nice to go into the coop from time to time and find one of those Ping-Pong size eggs sitting all by itself in the nest box.  Way to go girl.  You’ve now been given the role as the designated hitter at City Boy Hens………..Congratulations!

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“I Love…. I Love…My Calendar Girls…”

In 1960, Neil Sedaka released Calendar Girl.  The song was about the love for his girlfriend and corresponding events each month which illustrated this love.  Though I am no Neil Sedaka, I must confess that there were a few Charlie’s Angels posters which hung in my room as a teen.  But,  I am here to tell you that this City Boy has cleaned up his act.

“Ladies and gentlemen……….It gives me great pleasure to inform you of a three-way tie for Miss January 2015…………  Drum roll please………….  All the way from Ontario, Canada, please give a big round of applause for this year’s winner of the prestigious title for Miss January 2015.  Ladies and Gentlemen, please give it up for…….. Honda, Swifer & Rosie”.  

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That’s right folks.  Your eyes and ears have not deceived you.  My three chickens were selected to be the January “girls” for Backyard Poultry Magazine’s 2015 calendar.   I am  proud to say that the calendar is proudly displayed in our kitchen, and my prestigious honor” has sure given my friends a hearty laugh! “Hey Ted, ……you pulled yourself together yet?”

Happy New Year to All.  I hope your 2015 will be filled with many new discoveries and lots and lots of laughs!!

Regards,

CB

Spring Spa Day At City Boy Hens

Well…Spring has FINALLY sprung at City Boy Hens.  After almost 6 months of Old Man Winter’s wrath, we are finally being treated to some warmer temps and with that comes……….some major free ranging for the “girls”.  Having 2 women in our house, I do my best to remember to “pamper” them from time to time and occasionally remember to bring home flowers or gift certificates for manicures, pedicures or foot messages.  So glad I am a guy!  What a lunch bag let down those would be to get as  gifts!

Anyways, as the chickens free ranged in the backyard last week, it kinda’ reminded me of a “pampered day” for Endearing Daughter and Beloved Wife.  And………no……… I’M NOT COMPARING MY DAUGHTER & WIFE TO CHICKENS!

So….with that said……here’s a Spring Spa Day at City Boy Hens:

First:  A Glorious Dust Bath In CB’s Garden!

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Second:  A Light Lunch Of Delicious Mixed Greens!

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Third: Soakin’ Up Some Rays On The Deck!

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Fourth:  Work In A Relaxing Neck Massage!

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Fifth:  Catch An Afternoon Nap!

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Welcome Spring.  I hope you’re here to stay!   You have surely been missed.  We’re all glad to have you back!

 

The Best Backyard Chicken Dog EVER!

003Man oh man…….I had The Best EVER Backyard Chicken Dog.  How can I safely say that he was the best?  Simply because he did his job with excellence.  Never once did he take a run at the hens.  Never once did he shirk his responsibility as protector of the backyard.  Never once did a raccoon, fox, hawk or anything enter the backyard when Stanley was out on patrol.  Never once!

Many a night, he exhausted himself running along the backyard perimeter making sure that those raccoons stayed high up in the trees on the other side of the fence.  Many a day, he sun bathed on the grass or patrolled along worn down snowy paths; always surveying the landscape with eyes and ears on full alert.  Through it all, he was my champ.009

In the beginning, it was a challenge to train this retriever to accept these new “additions” to our “urban farm”, but after one weekend of intensive backyard schooling, this “bird dog” recognized his role as protector and did it with excellence.  Through it all, he always did his job.  But, best of all, he gave us more laughs than I  could have ever imagined.  I never dreamt that a dog could be so funny!  Whether it was his howling accompaniment when Endearing Daughter played the harmonica, or his desperate cries for rescue from the cottage swim raft when  Dutiful Son had to “paddle” him back in the canoe, Stanley kept us all in “stitches”.

This past week, we said so long to our champion protector.  Stanley was the best!  Man’s best friend?  That title is just not fitting enough.  He was more than our “best friend”.  He was, and will always remain an integral member of our wonderful family.  I hope that you, the reader, are just as fortunate as we have been to have an incredible dog like Stanley.  He was the best!

So………so long my good friend.  Long may you run.  Welcome to your new role as the backyard chicken protector in the sky!  You, my champ, are terribly missed.  Thank you for doing your job so well, but more importantly, thanks for making us laugh!

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If you need to brighten your day or just get a “chuckle”, I encourage you to CLICK HERE and read some of our great “laughs” with Stanley.

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Raising Backyard Chickens -Italian Style!

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What started out as a short video about raising backyard chickens really grew into an elaborate production from its inception 18 long months ago.  In the fall of 2012, I asked my cugino Davide (cousin Dave)  if he wanted to make a short video on raising backyard chickens. He not only accepted, but took the project to a level that I had never imagined.  What follows is a 9 minute video on how to raise backyard chickens – Italian Style.  Why Italian style?????????????  Well…….I’ve got Italian blood runnin’ through my veins; though it has been thinned out over the generations and I thought that some humor would bring a bit of flavor to the topic.

If you are just starting out with backyard chickens………… than I hope I can help you along the way.  If you’re a seasoned veteran…….well……… I hope I can bring a laugh to you day!

Thanks to cugino Davide for making this video.  You did a fantastic job!  Thanks also to cugino Dino for playing the mandolin, accordion and drums in the opening number.  You are a multi-talented musician.   Thanks to cugino Damiano for his rendition of an old family folk song at the close of the video.  That song still cracks me up!  But most of all, thanks Nono for the memory of those backyard hens you kept when I was a small boy.  Who would have thought that this childhood memory would have grown into City Boy Hens!!

I hope you all enjoy!

City Boy Cartoon

CB

And The Chicken DREAMS of SPRING.

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It’s 5am IN THE DARK CITY BOY COOP……….

Rosie:  Swifer……you awake?

Swifer:  Ya…..I’m up. 

Rosie:  Hey Honda….where you at?

Honda: I’m…..up…….in the damn……..nest box……….pushin’ out this thing………that CB (City Boy) calls…….UHHHHHHHH………an …….egg!  Holy $#*!….that freakin’ kills!!!!

RosieHey, you guys want to hear about my dream?”   Last night I dreamt that all that white stuff out there disappeared and there was this tasty green stuff  growin’ everywhere and CB let us out to eat it.  It was amazing!  Man…I wish we could live in a place like that!”

Honda We do Rosie, it’s just that this has been the longest and coldest winter in the last 20 years!  Don’t you remember last year when CB use to let us out every day when he got home from work?001 

And don’t you remember gettin’ those tasty bugs and those delicious worms when he was makin’ that garden last spring?013 - Copy

And don’t you remember when the days got longer and a whole lot hotter and CB would give us watermelon to cool us down? 

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But, best of all, don’t you remember when CB would load us up in the van and take us up to the cottage with the Family?

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Don’t you remember goin’ down to the beach and searchin’ for stuff to eat in the sand?  Man those were good times.

Running Down To The Beach.

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Honda Spring is comin’ Rosie.  We just got to wait a bit more.  CB said that there’s only 8 more days until it arrives!  In the mean time, we’ll just have to settle for walkin’ in the snow!  That is…if you’re not too chicken!063

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RosieHey…. Swifer……..what’s that over there….underneath that tree?????????? Is that the green stuff????????? 

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Swifer It’s comin’ Rosie……….it’s comin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Are Chickens Really Stupid?

Rosie (L) Honda (R) Swiifer (Back)

I never thought too much about chickens before I started into the hobby of raising a few hens in my backyard a couple of years ago.  In fact, if you had asked me to describe a chicken before that time, I would have said that they were dirty, noisy and down-right stupid.   But, could you blame me?  That was what I learned as a child.

As a kid, I heard about Henny- Penny who was a paranoid chicken with delusional thoughts that “the sky was falling”.  I also recall the not remotely funny joke about the chicken crossing the road and the lunch bag let down punch line that had  no punch at all. Even my sister’s “knock- knock” jokes got better laughs than that tired chestnut!

As I grew older, I learned the hard way that a game called “chicken” had to do with my brother throwing his scout knife at my spread bare feet with the goal of making me flinch and be labeled a “chicken” for the rest of the day by our street hockey gang of kids.   Later on, I heard sayings like “running around like a chicken with your head cut off”,  “scarce as hen’s teeth” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”.  Even Fonzie, on Happy Days taught me that pretty girls were called “chicks” and I discovered that my friend, Giancarlo,  had an overprotective mom that my Dad referred to as a “Mother Hen”.  The list can go on and on, but has ANYONE ever taken the time to REALLY examine the exceptional qualities of the poor old chicken???????

Now, those of us who have gotten to know a chicken or two understand that these birds are anything but stupid.  They live in a social hierarchy where everyone knows their place.  Order is generally  the norm of the day and those that decide to step out of line are generally consequenced.   Now…that’s not a bad thing ….is it?

Chickens also look out for the welfare of the entire flock.  No better example of this is when a rooster or dominant hen will vocally   alert the entire flock of  impending danger.  In the chicken world, it’s never “every man/woman for themselves”.  If that was the case,  than the chicken would just run for cover and forget about the rest.  Instead, a rooster will make the call of alarm to alert his ladies of the danger and then stand his ground to take-on or sacrifice himself to the impending danger for his flock.    Hey……..now that’s a novel idea….looking out for your fellow-man!

As for memory, they have incredible capacity, given that their brain is the size of a cashew nut.  They can come when called (provided that food is offered), they have the ability to distinguish between strangers and owners (they act pretty “chicken” if they don’t know you), they know when to return to the coop at night  and understand what bugs and greens are safe to eat. I’ve seen many a dog who couldn’t get a passing grade on some of these “brain teasers”. I recall many nights that our Lab dove into the garbage buffet, only to hurl it all back up  an hour later.(My apologies if you are reading this post at Breakfast!)

But, the greatest feat of all…………is that the chicken creates delicious eggs!  Have you ever stopped to think about this astounding feat?  I’m not aware of any other creature in the world that can produce a 2 oz. (or more) egg almost EVERY SINGE DAY.   It doesn’t matter if it’s 85 degrees in August or well below freezing in January, my hens continue to lay.  And, to make it even more impressive, these birds have managed to wrap this delicious offering in a strong calcium package which preserves this tasty treat for weeks!

From a nutritional perspective, the chicken egg contains  all essential amino acids for humans and an extensive list of vitamins and minerals as well! Because of this, nutrition scientists have given the egg the esteemed title as the best food in the entire world for complete proteins.   But what’s most impressive is that this egg equates to around 3% of a chicken’s body weight.  In other words, these “stupid” creatures manage to produce their ENTIRE body weight in eggs within 30 odd days and continue to do so for several years! Now…that’s truly incredible!

So, the next time that you tuck into those eggs for breakfast or crack a few in a bowl for baking or cooking, give thanks to the stupid chicken.  Maybe then, we’ll stop giving these incredible creatures the bum rap that they definitely don’t deserve and hold them in a higher regard.

4 days of work!

Why You May Want To Consider Getting Sex-Link Chicks This Spring!

006If you’re thinking about expanding your flock or getting into backyard chickens for the first time,  you will need to decide on what breed of chicken you desire.  The easiest way to answer this question is to ask yourself why you want the chickens. Do you want them because you are interested in becoming more self-sufficient?  Is a colorful flock or different colored eggs important to you?  Is there a desire to help preserve a declining heritage breed, or……….is it simply the opportunity to get fresh daily eggs?  For me, ……..it’s ALL ABOUT THE EGG and there’s no better egg producing hen than a sex-link chicken.

Now….before all you heritage breed enthusiasts send me out to the firing squad, let me say that I do applaud your desire to preserve some of these declining breeds.  I think that’s great!  Everyone should be passionate about something. It’s just that the Heritage breed “passion”  is  not for me.  I simply want enough eggs on a daily basis for my family to eat and I find that my 3 sex-link chickens meet my expectations.  We all know that the Heritage breeds lay less and generally take a break or slow down in the winter, but  sex-links consistently lay way more eggs and continue throughout the entire year.  For me,  it’s kinda like the 1972 Oldsmobile that my father drove with its 455  V8 engine which sucked gas like there was no tomorrow.  Fast track 40 years later and we’ve developed more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.  Sure, it’s nice to see those old cars on the road from time to time, but I’m glad that the auto industry has made more fuel-efficient cars for us to drive today.

Now, sex-links aren’t a breed.  In fact, they are a hybrid that has been crossed between 2 layer breeds.  They may  be called ISA Browns, Red Sex-Links, Shaver Browns, Cinnamon Queens, Golden Comets or Red Stars depending on the specific breeds that were used in crossing. They are all referred to as sex-links because each gender hatches out in a different color, making it very easy to determine the “boys” from the “girls”.   This is a great attribute which rules out the possibility of getting a bunch of soon to be roosters when buying some straight-run chicks from the local hatchery. But best of all, these hens generally become EGG LAYING MACHINES at around 18-22 weeks of age!  I’m not talking about 250 eggs per year like many heritage breed hens.  My 3 hens each consistently laid one egg almost every single day in their first year of production.  I know for a fact that I collected over 350 eggs that year from each of my hens.  It didn’t matter if it was 80 degrees in August or frigid temps in January or February……3 eggs almost every day! (I do supply additional light in the Winter.)  And I’m not taking about large eggs…these eggs are ginormous!  I’ve weighed some of these eggs and a few have come in at a quarter pound! 003 The only down side is that the eggs are soooooooo darn big that they can’t properly fit into the egg carton! Well……at least for 2 of my hens.  If you’ve “followed” me before, you may remember that I do complain about the Ping-Pong size egg that Swifer lays most days.

Anyways, I’ve had these chickens for almost 2 years now and they still continue to provide us with at least 18 eggs/wk.  They’ve all gone through a molt and it never really interrupted egg production for 2 of my hens.  There were some “bumps” in the road during the molt like a few “softies”, but no major drop in egg production that had us running out to the grocery store to buy those “other ones”.  As for temperament, these hens are pretty laid back as well.  Dominance has never really been an issue.  I can’t say I ‘ve ever seen any displays of aggression except when I introduced Rosie to the flock and Swifer gave her a good beatin’ for a few weeks.  But overall, they generally get along well….even when they’re subjected to  tight quarters like a 3 hour trip to the cottage.027   There also doesn’t seem to be much that throws them off their egg laying schedule.  Usually the first snow fall of the season might set one of them back for a day, but other “disruptions” like a trip to the cottage doesn’t seem to throw them off their game. 010 As for noise, they’re generally pretty quite.  The egg song has been an issue occasionally, and they do squawk a bit in the warmer months when they want out of the run, but by no means would I say that the level was invasive to a neighbor.  With regards to becoming broody, this has also never been an issue.

I can’t say enough good things about these ISA Brown Hens that I’ve had for the last 2 years.  Did I just get lucky?  Maybe, but I don’t think so because I have encouraged others to give these chickens a try and they always come back saying what great layers their new hens have become.

So………if you’re thinking about adding to the flock this Spring or just jumping in to backyard chickens for the first time, than I urge you to consider giving these chickens a try. What they may lack  in appearance (Don’t worry girls, I think you’re all gorgeous!) they sure make up for in temperament and egg production.046

If you’d like to read more on this topic, CLICK HERE for my page on Hybrid vs Heritage Breed Chickens.

Why That Darn Hen Won’t Use The Nest Box!

Portable chicken ark.

Portable chicken ark.

A couple of years back, my 3 hens moved from their portable Chicken Ark to some swanky digs here at City Boy Hens. It was kinda’ like the Jefferson’s, but this time it was my three hens who were “movin’ on up!”  The Portable Ark worked well, as it provided my hens with some space to “free range” and an upper level to roost and lay eggs,  but it was a pain in the butt to move around the yard each day.

So with hammer, nails, screws and wood,  I built them a home that was fit for Queens.  I meticulously constructed their coop/run; adding insulation, electricity and 2 nest boxes.  I know that some of you may think that the 2 nest boxes was overkill for three hens, but the last thing I wanted to do was make one of my girls have to wait in line in order to deposit her daily offering.  Besides, …….I know what it’s like at the cottage with only 1 bathroom.  Inventing a new dance move in front of a locked bathroom door is no way to start the day while a relaxed occupant casually thumbs through a 3-year-old  tattered magazine.

092Anyways…..I built 2 nest boxes for the hens and proceeded to line those boxes and the bottom of the coop with fluffy aromatic wood shavings.  The shavings in the nest box would make a great landing pad for the eggs and the shavings on the coop floor would make poop pickin’ up a whole lot easier.

As it turns out, Swifer, (YES IT IS THAT DAMN HEN AGAIN)  has chosen  to not make any distinction between the wood shavings in the nest box and those on the coop floor.  In fact, I think she feels the coop floor IS HER NEST BOX because she deposits her egg on the coop floor EVERY morning.  But worst of all, she had taught Rosie that this practice is acceptable.

I am proud to say that I have managed to “re-train” Rosie to use the nest box by  always keeping a plastic egg in one of the boxes, but Swifer ain’t gettin’ fooled by that trick.  In fact, she goes into the nest box and pecks that plastic egg until she has turfed it out on to the floor of the coop!

“OK Swifer…..it’s the beginning of a New Year and with it comes the opportunity to bid the past goodbye and  to start anew.  How ’bout you start laying that “ping-pong poor excuses you call an egg” up in the nest box and I’ll stop decorating the coop walls with pictures of great tasting chicken noodle soup recipes!  Deal?????????????????????”

I do have my doubts……..It’s hard to teach an old chicken new tricks!

Well…..as Meatloaf sang “Two out of 3 ain’t bad!”009

Happy New Year To All!