City Boy TRAPPER??????

003For the last few weeks there has been a raccoon “visiting” our property.  He has left his messy calling card at my garbage bin several times and my wife informed me that he even paid a visit to the chicken coop in the middle of the afternoon last week.  The deal breaker came Sunday afternoon when he attempted to scale the property fence in order to sample my free ranging ladies.

As you may have guessed, our dog, Stanley was fast asleep inside the house on every occasion when Mr. Raccoon dropped by.  I say this because I can’t blame the dog.  No animal (not even a squirrel) will venture into the backyard if Stanley is on patrol.  But, age is catching up to old Stanley and sleep has become his favorite pastime these days.  Now that I think about it…..sleep has always been Stanley’s favorite pastime.009

So last night, I borrowed a trap from my brother and then proceeded to bait it with a delicious aromatic sardine.  Like clockwork, Swiffer woke me with her dreaded EGG SONG this morning and I stumbled outside to take a peak at the trap and……….GOTTCHA!002

Ya… I know there’s a bunch of you out there saying “Oh…he’s so cute”.  Well…it wouldn’t be too darn cute to wake up one morning and find that buddy has gotten in to the coop and killed my hens.  Not to mention that free ranging during late afternoons and weekends has been severely curtailed now that Mr. Raccoon is boldly walking around my property in the middle of the day.  So much for being a nocturnal animal!

Well Mr. Raccoon….you are officially being EVICTED from City Boy Hens!   So off we went, wife (camera person), myself and one freakishly stinky raccoon for a “little drive”.  Note: My brother passed on this great tip. Make sure to put a plastic liner (tarp) down before placing the trap in your vehicle……just in case Buddy decides to leave you with a thank you present for the relocation favor.  Pick up trucks and trailers would work great in these situations because the trapped raccoon would be outside of the vehicle’s interior, thus preventing the “present” from stinking & staining  your vehicle interior.

Once you arrive at your destination, point the front of the trap towards a covered area.  This will help the raccoon  feel that the odds are in his favor for a successful escape.

Next…carefully open the door to the trap.  You’ll need to have something on hand to keep the door open at this point. Your hand is probably not a good choice!   For me, my 1986 Titan 1020 hockey stick was the perfect tool for the job.006

“And down the ice comes Sittler…….He sees a break in the defence.    He moves to his right…..fakes a shot……….He shoots……He scores!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!007

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Oh…I almost forget…….Make sure you wear your best flannels and steel-toe crocks for the job!  It’s always important to look your best in your safest gear!

The Dreaded EGG SONG Has Arrived!

006That damn hen is going to blow our cover.  I don’t know what the heck is going on lately but Swiffer has started to do the EGG SONG.  This morning, the “song” (it’s kinda like a cross between a goose in distress and a car alarm going off in your driveway) began at 5:38!  Why now??????? After 7 months of laying like a champ, why the hell are you now making all this racket?  You DO remember that you and the other 2 hens are illegal?????  Did you forget that only our IMMEDIATE neighbors know that you 3 chickens live in our backyard????????? Are you aware that your so-called “song” can be heard way down the street past those IMMEDIATE neighbors???? Why must you have such a big mouth??????

OK….lay on the couch and tell me what’s really troubling you.  Does it have something to do with my post on Rosie from a few weeks ago?  You’re right….she was in the spotlight that week and we did get some good “views” for that post, but you didn’t hear Honda kickin’ up a fuss.  Besides…….her eggs are enormous and she deserved a little “shout out” for her daily accomplishment.  By the way…..you are still laying the SMALLEST EGG!!!!

Guess who's on the right????

Guess who’s on the right????

Ya know….Maybe the soup pot is not a bad idea.   Now that I think about it, you were the one who bullied Rosie for a month when she first came to City Boy  Hens last November.   You were also the one who taught her  NOT to lay her egg in the nest box, but right beside yours on the floor of the coop.  You were also the one who took 7 long months and 13 days to lay your first egg, which by the way, was 3 months behind Honda’s initial offering.

So…….What’s it gonna’ be Swiffer?  You want the By-law Officer to write me  up?   Just to let you know….it’s not me that will be going???  IT WILL BE YOU and the two quiet hens!

So maybe…86 the song.  There’s no need for this racket.  OK…..You win….I’ve written a post about you.  But….don’t come crying back to me if we don’t get as many views for this post as we did for the one with Rosie.  People aren’t generally impressed with such negative behavior……. So…In the mean time ………SHUT IT!003

A Year in Review

Well…..we made it through a year.  The hens have officially been at City Boy Hens for the last 13 months.  For me…it’s a big deal.  Not because the hens are 1 year old, but rather, I or something else, haven’t managed to kill them in that time.   In the last 12 months, they have survived cat and owl attacks, an attempted break in by a raccoon, one weasel close call at the cottage and two red tail hawks that continue to circle the backyard at home looking for a take-out chicken dinner!

The hens have also moved from their first accommodation – The Chicken Ark- which I made last Spring, to  permanent swanky digs that didn’t have to be moved around the yard each day. They, like the Jeffersons, were “Movin’ on up!”

Portable chicken ark.

Portable chicken ark.

The Run

I kept the new digs toasty throughout the Winter by constructing a well insulated coop which generated heat via a 100 watt lightbulb.  The light was on for the better part of the day and this kept the eggs and drinker from freezing. If you would like more info on these accommodations, check out my page: https://cityboyhens.com/laying-eggs/coop-run-requirements/

There are still no signs of  lice or mites on the hens and our dog, Stanley, has yet to develop a taste for raw chicken.  The transition to the cottage in the summer was pretty easy except for some stinky poop on the way up and some aggravated hens who wouldn’t stop squawking when we stopped for a burger.  As I have said before, they love meat!

As Spring continues to tease us with the expectation of warmer and dryer days, I look forward to returning to the cottage in the months to come and watching the hens free ranging down at the beach.  In the mean time, the neighbours at home continue to get the freshest of eggs when there’s surplus and my friend Ted continues to call me the Chicken Man.

I guess it’s like anything in life.  You reap what you sow.  With that said, wouldn’t it be easier to just get some eggs, salami, cookies, pickles or whatever at the grocery store?  From a time perspective, the answer is yes.  But, I’ve learned a lot in my trade-off with time.  Satisfaction, pride in accomplishments, successes with small failures, and the opportunity to share with family and friends have made every moment worth while.  I’ve also met a lot of great people all the way and it is great getting to know you all.

My blog has been up and running for the last few months and I am amazed at the interest.  It has gone to places in the world that I will never reach.  Thanks to all for spending some of your valuable time at City Boy Hens.  As Spring unfolds, I look forward to sharing the progression of my  vegetable garden at the cottage and  some canning posts on making jams and preserving asparagus, peaches, pears, olives, peppers and more as we move into summer.canning

So….the hens are one year old.  Though they all started laying at different times, I think we’ve received around 650 eggs and counting since Honda got the ball rolling last July!  In the end, we’ve all survived.  In fact, I believe we thrived!  My only regret…….the odd Saturday sleep in to 8 o’clock would have been great!

1 Week's Work!

1 Week’s Work!

Saturday Morning Education

Over the past few weekends, both of my kids have had friends sleep over for the night.  For my daughter, it was more of an orchestrated event with a particular movie, snacks and sleeping bags.  For my son, it was just a place for his buddies to crash after a party.

Before going out to the party, my son asked his friends if they wanted to see the chickens.  “You have chickens?” said one of the teenagers, as he gave me “the look”.   If you have backyard chickens, I know you have received “the look”.  It’s similar to a polite smile that screams “This guy is crazy!”

As we entered the coop, I watched their reactions to the chickens.  It’s generally the same for most people : 1 part caution, 1 part fear, 1 part interest.  Maybe it had something to do with me possibly saying something about “attack chickens” that fostered more of the fear part.

For my daughter’s friends, the fear part must have dominated their reactions because nobody even asked to see the chickens.  Not even after I promised fresh eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast.  Maybe they just didn’t care. Maybe the movie JAWS was too captivating. Maybe, they were just being kids.   Anyways, it got me thinking more about our alienation from our food source and the fact that most urban kids (and adults) have very little or no connection with the food that they eat.   I’d bet that most of these young people have never even seen a chicken up close and they have a preconceived notion that chickens are just dirty barn yard animals.  That might explain why the girls had no interest in visiting the hens.

It’s too bad that we’ve created such a disconnect from our food source over the years.  I know it’s easier to just go to the grocery store to buy those eggs, sausages, olives, canned peaches or whatever.  But, with that convenience, comes a lost opportunity to learn, create, share and take pride in your accomplishments. DSCN4970

Camera Shy!

Camera Shy!

So, with that said,  I got up earlier than usual and prepared breakfast for our guests. The menu included “backyard fresh” eggs, homemade potato hash, bacon,  and homemade biscuits with last years’ blueberry and strawberry jam. Everyone got their first taste of “farm fresh” eggs, though I’m not sure if they were really impressed.  Afterall, they are teenagers (or soon to be), who live in the moment, and are more interested in stuff   that I do not understand or no longer hold of value.  But, I  do hope that our brief “lesson”  regarding our food source stays tucked away somewhere in the archives of their brains.

Maybe, when they become men and women, the memory of our breakfast together will come back and they, too, will want to plant a vegetable garden, raise some chickens, or take an interest in making sausage or canning some pears, or…………    “OK Dad…… stop talking so much and pass the potatoes!”

Winter’s End

034Well…….we made it! Maybe I’m counting my chicks before they hatch since Spring does not officially arrive until next Wednesday, but I’m confident that we have broken the back on Old Man Winter.

Compared to last year, we had a fairly snowy winter in Southern Ontario and it was accompanied by a few really cold nights (-20C).  All said, everything worked out well for the hens.  They continued to lay each morning and accepted confinement to the run.   The use of a 100 watt light bulb during the day kept the drinker and eggs from freezing and humidity in the coop never rose above 68%.  I’ll attribute the latter to cleaning out the poop in the coop on a daily basis and the supplemental heat from the light during the day.

There were a few times when the hens got out in the backyard to roam and it was funny to watch them become accustom to the snow.   As always, Honda had to lead by example, though she too, was also “chicken”. 

"You go first!"

“You go first!”

Chickens2 030

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The hens turn 1-year-old next week.  They have now officially moved from pullets to hens!  I’ve learnt a lot over the last year about raising chickens and I hope that the worry, information searching and solutions will be of use to you.  I look forward to the Spring when the grass will begin to grow again and Stanley will resume his job as protector of the hens while they are free ranging.  Until then, the hens will have to settle for what they can find on the bare patches in the backyard, continue eating spinach and carrot peelings, and mostly stay in the run where those two red-tailed hawks can’t get to them.

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Goodbye Old Man Winter.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!  We’ve shared enough of your company and it’s time to move on.  Please make room for the new starting pitcher named SPRING!

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Saturday Morning Coffee & Quail Eggs

8  Quail eggs

8 Quail eggs

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to hook up with Jill from http://www.freestylefarm.ca/.  I  came across Jill’s blog last September when I was thinking about how to winterize my previous coop.  Since the Autumn, Jill & I have communicated on a regular basis and have shared a lot of information.  As you all know, it is great to be able to share with people who have similar interests.  It is not only a great way to gather knowledge, but also one that imparts inspiration.  Jill has definitely inspired me to think “outside of the box” in many areas and I am grateful for knowing her & Kevin.

Late last year, Jill told me that she was considering getting some quails to add to her urban farm.  If I remember correctly, the rational for this was that her hens were getting older and no longer laying as many eggs.  It turns out  that quails are egg laying machines and start laying at around 6-8 weeks of age. Check out her post at http://www.freestylefarm.ca/2013/02/04/raising-backyard-quails/ for more information on raising quails.

So off I went to Jill and Kevin’s home to trade some eggs, exchange a few items and snap a few photos that I needed for a “wing clipping” page on my blog.  ( I needed a picture of a hen that had not had her primary wing feathers clipped and my hens were all done last year)  Thanks Kevin… This is the best pic. on my blog!   Maybe it has something to do with your profession!

Thanks Kevin!

Thanks Kevin!

Throughout the past week, amidst several bouts of shoveling,  I looked forward to enjoying those eggs with a cup of coffee on Saturday morning. Well…my belly is now full as I write this post. Those eggs were not only beautiful to look at, but packed with flavour. I can now honestly say that I have a NEW PERSONAL BEST in the egg eating category.  It now stands at 8!.

8 Sunny- Side Ups!

8 Sunny Side Ups!

I just might forget to mention that they were quail eggs!

Thank you Jill & Kevin

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A Double Yolk Egg

A great way to start each day!

A great way to start each day!

I never get tired of walking out to the coop to collect eggs.  It still amazes me that a chicken can create this incredible work of art every day and wrap this “gift” in its own protective packaging.  To my knowledge, no other earthly creature has the ability to do this.

And, as if I wasn’t impressed enough, “the girls” have occasionally set the bar a lot higher by creating double yolk eggs.

Double yolks generally only occur during the first few months when a young pullet begins to lay eggs.   At this time, her reproductive system is not quite “firing on every cylinder” and two ovaries occasionally join up to create one egg.  I would think that this is a painful lesson because the eggs are huge.  With that said, you will have no trouble identifying a double yolk egg before you crack it open.  You may even have difficulty getting it to fit into your egg carton!

Ouch!

Ouch!

Two for One!

Two for One!

I haven’t receive a double yolk egg in the last few months and I don’t suspect that I’ll get another.  “Ladies”, I’m content to receive your daily offering of single yolk eggs.  There’s no need to impress me further!

Halfway Through Winter Update

After a Snow Fall

After a Snow Fall

I think we are pretty close to half way through winter.  I can honestly say that I have NEVER paid this much attention to temperature before I got chickens.  If truth be told, I did worry about the hens when the daytime high was only  -14C during the 3rd week in January. I’d also be lying if I didn’t confess that I woke up a few times to check the coop temperature on my wireless weather station on the nights when it dipped down to -20C.  For what it’s worth, here’s what I have discovered:

*NOTE: Coop is insulated with 2″ styrofoam and heated with a 100 watt lightbulb from 6am-7pm.

1)  On the coldest of days, the coop temperature dipped down to 2C.  This kept the eggs and drinker from freezing.

2)  On the coldest night (-20C) the coop temperature dipped down to -3C.  Relative humidity ranged between 55%-65%.

Winter Strategies

Before winter,I read a lot of hype about frostbite being caused by inadequate ventilation combined with high humidity.  It was really what prompted me to buy the wireless weather station for the coop since it provided actual relative humidity readings.  I’m glad I bought this product because it confirmed that I AM managing humidity in my coop by implementing the following steps.

A)  EVERY MORNING pick up as much poop as you can in the coop before you take off for work!

B)  Replace all pine shavings in the coop once every week.

C)  Close coop door once the hens go into the coop at dusk.  My timer is set so that the light stays on for 1 more hour after I close the door.  By doing this, the coop temperature increased another few degrees within the hour.  This, combined with the residual heat that each hen gave off ( I have read that it is 10 watts per hen) generally kept my coop temps. between -3C to +2C throughout the night.

Coop door closed & a handful of scratch.

Coop door closed & a handful of scratch.

D)  A handful of scratch is given when I close the door to the coop.  Scratch is high in calories and fat and generates more heat than layer feed when it is digested.  That’s why it should be given at night and first thing in the morning during the winter.  It also helps to satisfy the hens’ need to scratch and peck, since free ranging is limited during this season.

My hens continue to lay EVERY day!  Occasionally, Honda takes a day off, but for the most part, we get 3 eggs/day from our girls.  I thought that confinement might be an issue because free ranging is limited, but I do not see any signs of bullying or pecking.  I attribute this to the size of the run and satisfying their need to forage by providing leafy vegetables and scratch each day.

Snackin'

Snackin’

On occasion, they do get out to free range, but Swiffer and Rosie are not too interested if there is snow on the ground.  I now understand why we sometimes call people “chicken”!

"You go first!"

“You go first!”