Sunday, July 27, 2014

Silent Sunday - Success II

"The only thing that ever sat its way to success
was a hen."

Sarah Brown

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chicken Run Done

With the exception of some minor tweaking, the chicken coop and adjoining run are finally complete. (You can't see him, but The Frenchman - who is responsible for the lion's share of the work - is happy dancing off-camera). Neither rain nor wind nor gloom of night kept him from getting this project done. I'm not kidding.

You can see where we started here and we've come a long way, baby!

The roof of this old grain shed was replaced with weathered metal sheeting to keep the hens dry. No easy task given the sharp angle of the roof and persistent bad weather. 

There are two access doors to the coop. The small man-door on the south side generally remains free of snow drifts during the winter - a consideration we had to keep in mind during the entire project.

Post holes were dug by hand and fence posts secured in the ground with quick setting cement. Next, chicken wire was attached.  A ditch was dug around the perimeter of the entire fence line and building and hardware wire was sunk to deter any predators that might attempt to dig their way in. 

Worst. Job. Ever.

The trees had already leafed out by the time we'd begun work in earnest, so we've left them in place, for now, and will decide what to do with them, if anything, in the fall.

Most of our winter weather (read: freakish blizzards blowing horizontal snow) comes from the northwest, so The Frenchman used weathered boards we had on hand - doesn't everyone...? - to construct another layer of fencing along two sides.  It has provided a  welcome level of privacy for us and we like how it makes the entire project look like it's been here for years.

A secondary metal roof was added on the north side of the building to cover the chicken door and provide an area of refuge for the hens to enjoy regardless of the weather conditions outside. They have access to shade no matter the time of day and this is the area they seem to prefer most.

We're experiment with using a combination of wheat straw and pine shavings as litter, for now, although we had a devil of a time sourcing wheat straw. These large bales, weighing approximately 950 lbs., are not easy to get home, either. We had to enlist the help of a friend with a trailer to drive several miles out of town to pick it up and then deliver it to us. 

I'm still working on a bit of landscaping around the coop with a layer of rocks and gravel that will also serve as added security. I'm attempting to grow lavender for the first time and I also have a pot of lemon thyme. Eventually, I'd like to add a few planters on the outside of the fence to pretty it up and introduce a few more bug repellent plants.

For now, we're going to put our feet up and relax with our hens for a while.

(If you're new here and want to see what we did in the interior of the coop, click here for a short tour.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Climbing the Ladder - Country Style

Our hens are continuing to grow and make new discoveries. Today, they experienced rain for the first time and didn't seem to mind it at all. That said, it was an unusually gentle rain, with no wind, so it was a pleasant introduction to the wet stuff.

They celebrated Week 7 last Friday and have yet to establish a discernable hierarchy. They have unique personalities and some are definitely more brave than others, but overall, they seem to move as a unit. 

They've finally figured out how to roost at night, although there's still much jostling for position. They cozy up on the top roost, with the exception of two who seem to prefer the elbow room that's afforded them on the lower one. 

I find myself counting them on a regular basis, to make sure everyone is present and accounted for. So far, so good.

Their favourite activity seems to be dust bathing and up to 7 of them will crowd in together. We're definitely going to have to expand that particular area of the run.

I love spending time with them in their run. It's peaceful and they're infinitely relaxing to be with. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Generous Gift

I'm genuinely blown away by the generosity of others. A good friend from my days in retail art sales recently gifted me with a pair of Rosie's Workwear Coveralls. Rebecca and her husband used to be regular customers of mine when I sold Inuit art. We've kept in touch and expanded our relationship on Facebook.

Now, I can clean the chicken coop in a style befitting our girls.

As you can see, we STILL have work to complete on the chicken run. We have all but a small section of the roof covered with chicken wire to protect our hens from any aerial attacks. It's slow, exhausting work, but necessary if we want our girls to be safe. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

First Days Outside

Our girls are growing up fast and it's been a lot of fun to watch them make new discoveries. This past weekend, the temperatures starting getting hot and we thought it was time to let them experience the great outdoors.

I'm beginning to appreciate the origin of phrases like "Don't be a chicken", "Bird brain", and "Chickening out". 

It took three days before they would finally venture out of their coop and that was only after we opened the large man-door and sat outside of it. The apparent problem with the chicken door route was that once they lost sight of their girlfriends they would panic and hurry back inside.

Today, I'm happy to report, that all twelve girls trotted out the chicken door like pros this morning, eager to greet the new day.

They don't seem to be bothered much by the wind, the dog barking next door, the sound of lawn mowers, or kids playing. Even Willow's exciting pacing outside the run doesn't elicit much more than idle curiosity from them. As for our cat, Luna, she's feigning a complete lack of interest.

There was some chaos their first time going back into the coop at night, but the second night I left a light on inside and they went in like it was no big thing.

We're still working on roosting. A few of the girls have finally made the connection and are making their way up to the roosts on their own, but I'm still having to place the vast majority. Once on the roosts, there's a lot of jostling for position and squawking. Then, suddenly, they're all quiet and cooing.

I do love their fuzzy bottoms.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Silent Sunday - Blooms

"In the garden, after a rainfall, you can faintly, 
yes, hear the breaking of new blooms."

Truman Capote

Friday, July 04, 2014

First Out of the Gate

Our girls are 5 weeks old today. The temperatures have become increasingly warmer and we felt it was time they were allowed to venture outside.

This is Purdy. Originally the runt of the litter, she's grown significantly. She's the bravest of the flock and is usually the first one to investigate something new. 

No one went much further than the threshold, perhaps because there was a brisk wind. Purdy went after a fly and got this far out the door before realizing where she was. She promptly turned around and went back inside where her feathers wouldn't get so badly ruffled.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Allow me to introduce our little charmer, Celeste. She has very similar markings to a lot of the other girls in our flock.  She's small and personable and generally quite calm. What most sets her apart is her tendency to be the first one to sit on my person and settle in. Here she is, quite happy to perch on my arm for a while.

I confess, I'm smitten.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I took this photo while on our vacation to Vancouver earlier in the month and treated it in Photoshop with the watercolour filter. I really like the result.

Now that the chicks are in their coop and appear to be settling in well, I've finally had time to turn my attention to my garden.

Last year my garden flourished, for the most part, so naturally I thought it would do as well, if not better this year given that I know more now than I did then.

We've had a very wet and cold spring and summer, so far, and my garden is - in a word - abysmal. To give you an idea, I planted 10 rows of carrots and counted a mere 10 sprouts. 

Now, while I appreciate the symmetry of that, it's demoralizing to say the least.

In fact, other than my potatoes and radishes, very little has come up in my garden other than a vigorous harvest of weeds. 

So, the past few days were spent weeding and reseeding my garden. I figure if it's too late in the season, I won't be any further behind than I already am. 

It's tough being a farmer, what can I say?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Silent Sunday - Time

"Time is a companion who goes with us on the journey
 and reminds us to cherish every moment 
because it'll never come again." 

Cpt. Jean Luc Picard
Star Trek

Friday, June 27, 2014


Meet Lacy, so named because she has a delicate spray of lacy feathers over her shoulders. 

When I first brought our little flock home a mere 4 weeks ago, they all looked like little yellow balls of fluff. Now that they're older and their feathers have begun to appear, I'm beginning to be able to differentiate between them.

One of her sisters has similar colouring - rust coloured breast and white back and tail feathers. Lacy's shoulder markings are more defined and she has a distinguishing dot on her right side.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Moving Day

Our little hens moved into the Big House today. They took to their new home immediately and seemed to really enjoy the luxury of space. This brave girl was the first one to climb one of the ladders and made it all the way to the third rung.

This pretty hen decided to pay her respects and stayed for a brief visit before moving off to explore a little further afield.

This is Pearl. She's the only blond in a sea of redheads and brunettes. She's also larger than the others, is one of the more assertive hens, and seems to be developing more quickly. I'm wondering if, perhaps, she's a different breed.

We were all looking forward to this move and I trust their first night in their new home will pass peacefully. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chicken Coop Countdown - The Interior

The interior of the Prairie Farm Chicken Home for Unwed Mothers is finally complete. *whew* 

That's not to say that we're done yet. Oh, no. That would be too much to hope for. We had no idea, when we set out on this little adventure, just how much freaking work this would be! 

Before we begin our tour and you think I've gone completely off my nut, there is method behind my interior decorating madness.

We re-purposed as many materials as we could on this project, beginning with the structure itself. Originally a grain shed, we converted one half of it into a chicken coop. The other half will serve as storage for feed and tools, etc. 

To save on the mounting costs, we opted to use particle board to cover the insulation on the interior walls, instead of the more expensive plywood. Unfortunately, that meant that they would have to be sealed with paint. I also want to be able to give the coop a thorough scrubbing on a regular basis.

Since I was going to have to paint anyway, I thought I might as well have some fun with it, so I pulled out all the sample pots of paint I've accumulated in the past year and got busy. Besides, I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time in here, myself, so I may as well make it attractive. All the paints are acrylic and the coop has had ample time to air out. 

I'd originally intended to leave the vintage entrance door, as is, however, upon closer inspection, it was more scruffy than charming so I freshened it up with a coat of paint, as well.

There are actually four different shades of yellow and three shades of green in this room, although it's difficult to tell. 

As I mentioned, a lot of what was used to construct the coop consisted of found materials.  Some of the wood was pretty scrappy, necessitating a paint job to smooth down rough edges and make it harder for mites to hide.

The inside of the nesting boxes were given a coat of the same steel gray paint you see on the floor, as hens prefer cozy, dark places in which to lay their eggs and, again, to smooth off rough edges and fill in any little crevasses mites might find appealing. 

Several years ago, I tried my hand at quilting and eventually abandoned the project altogether. The quilting squares work beautifully as nesting box curtains and all the hard work I put into them has finally been put to good use. There is lots of information on the internet about why nest box curtains are useful, however Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily summarizes it all very well here.

Happy hens need their beauty sleep so I used some of the leftover quilting fabric to fashion simple drapes for each of the two windows and block out as much illumination from our yard light, as possible. I'm sensitive to the fact that they might freak out if the drapes are flapping in the breeze like a predator bird, so I attached ribbons on the bottom corners so I can tie the fabric back, if necessary.

With diatomaceous earth strewn beneath a layer of fresh wheat straw on the floor and inside the nesting boxes, the installation of feed & water stations and a dust bath, the coop is ready for occupancy.

Still left to do: completion of the chicken run and the implementation of security measures.

Tick tock...tick tock...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 20


I'm 20 days old today and my Momma tells me I'm growing like a weed. As you can see, I'm starting to get more feathers on my chest and my tail is coming along quite nicely, too.

I'm very curious and I love to fly onto the edge of the brooder box when my Momma has the lid off to clean up after my messy sisters.

I'm mostly sleeping through the night now and I really look forward to my yogurt and cornmeal treat in the mornings. A fresh clump of dirt to scratch and dig through is another activity my sisters and I enjoy, especially when we find a yummy worm.  Woodbugs and crickets freaked me out a bit at first, until I tasted one.

Well, I've gotta fly. My Momma just freshened our water and I've got to be fast if I want a drink before someone poops in it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Silent Sunday - Photography

"Photography...takes a minute and makes it an eternity."

Isaac B. Singer

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Week Two

We're in Week Two and, so far, everyone appears to be thriving. *knock wood*

I'm being run ragged just keeping their water clean and I worry constantly that they'll succumb to a parasitic disease common to girls their age. I never expected to be so consumed by the quality of their poop. Nevertheless, everyone is doing well.

As you can see, they've mastered perching on a roost and seem to enjoy relaxing up there.

They're beginning to look a little scruffy as they lose their down and begin to grow feathers. They're also beginning to form a comb on their forehead.

They've nearly doubled in size and will soon require more space than they have in their brooder box. 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Silent Sunday - Balance

"Life is like riding a bicycle. 
To keep your balance you must keep moving."

Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Homemade Lemon Iced Tea

Now that the weather has turned warmer, The Frenchman and I have been enjoying refreshing glasses of my homemade Lemon Iced Tea on a daily basis. I usually mix up a batch in the evening so it's cold and ready to drink the next day. 

It's so simple to make, tastes better than anything you can buy in a store, and is healthy.  Enjoy!

Homemade Lemon Iced Tea


8 - 9 cups boiling water
3 black tea bags
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup honey

Combine all of the above ingredients and let sit until the tea has reached the desired strength. I've let mine steep for as long as 3 hours. Remove the tea bags and put in the refrigerator to cool. Serve with ice and a sprig of mint.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Day Five

All of our chicks have made it to Day Five and appear to be thriving.  We can't believe how much they've grown in such a short period of time. It's never too early to get them used to being in front of a camera, and as you can see by our model, their feathers are starting to come in on their wings. She's a natural, wouldn't you agree?

In between looking in on them and checking on their welfare, we're continuing to furiously work on the chicken coop. Will it never end..?! It's going to have to because our girls are going to want to take occupancy in a few short weeks.

I finally made some time to weed my garden yesterday. The weeds were getting so bad, my seeds were either going to get choked out or I was going to destroy them with my hand trowel. Something had to be done, so I took the chance. I sent up a silent prayer that my garden would grow well, in spite of me.

I'm sad to report that Barney, the Barn Cat, has worn out his welcome. He attacked our Luna last week and roughed her up pretty badly. She had a pronounced limp for a couple of days but after spending a whole day and a night resting on a heating pad, she started to recover and she's back to normal now. I had been weaning Barney off regular feedings, so I stopped that altogether and we closed the door to the shed where we'd been keeping him warm during the winter. I haven't seen him since, but I'm sure he's still ranging around here somewhere. We make sure Willow is outside with Luna now, just as an added precaution.

I'll make the rounds to all your blogs when I get some semblance of a routine back in place. In the meantime, I'll share photos and updates on the girls periodically.

Friday, May 30, 2014

They're Here!

I picked our girls up from the rendevous point at noon today and whisked them home with me where they seem to be settling in quite nicely. Twelve little lives entrusted to my care. 

All appear healthy, although there is one runt in the group (not pictured). I'm calling her Purdy and she's the only one I've officially named, so far.

They've had a long, exhausting day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Only two more sleeps...!  


Monday, May 26, 2014

This and That

It's been a busy, busy week and it doesn't show signs of slowing down any time soon. We  hit the ground running when we returned from our trip to Vancouver. The Frenchman continued working on the coop construction and I got in the garden. I'm keeping it simple this year and have made a few minor changes to the layout that should yield good results. 

The weather was shockingly hot last week, hitting 30 degrees Celsius. When you consider that we had a blizzard three weeks ago, it seems even more extreme. Nevertheless, I'm not complaining. 

The goldfinch have returned in droves and are enjoying the birdseed and water we put out for them. So cheerful with their brilliant yellow plumage, I love to watch them from my kitchen window. 

Unfortunately, it's a very bad year for ticks and my poor dog, Willow, is suffering the most. I removed 11 of the horrid creatures off her one night alone. I've given her medication to help control them and it seems to be working. Oddly enough, our cat never gets them. She routinely rolls around in the dirt and I'm inclined to think that has something to do with it.

Our chicks arrive on Friday of this week and we're looking forward to their arrival. We still have lots to do before we can really draw a breath, so I'll be in and out as time allows.

Have an awesome week, Friends!

*Incidentally, the photo above was taken one evening while we were walking the streets of Vancouver. It's an incredibly modern city, however, wonderful examples of heritage architecture still exist. This clock tower is part of a very upscale shopping mall downtown, which, oddly enough, also houses a few government offices.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coop Construction Continues

Construction continues apace on the Prairie Farm Chicken Home for Unwed Mothers. The house you see in the background is our neighbour. Way too close for comfort, but that's the way it goes.

We're using half of this old grain shed as a chicken coop and half as storage for tools and feed. There's still a lot of work to be done before it's ready for occupation and it's all beginning to fall nicely into place.

The Frenchman installed two brand new windows on the 'back' of the building that open so there will be lots of natural light and extra ventilation during the warmer summer months.  Two air vets were also added on the north and side walls. The chicken door you see there has been sealed up. A new one was created that will give the girls access to the chicken run that will be constructed along one side and off the front.

The nesting boxes have been completed and are ready for a coat of paint and some pretty curtains. The wires you see hanging all over the place are there to provide temporary light for The Frenchman while he's working. They won't be staying.

Willow has inspected and approved the roost placement. A vintage door will be occupying that spot before long.

The pressure's on to complete everything. Our chicks arrive on May 30th and will spend some time in the house before moving into their permanent quarters approximately 6 weeks after that.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Our Trip to the City

We returned home last Friday from a week long vacation in Vancouver, BC., where we had both lived for nearly 30 years. Some things had changed in the 2 years since I'd last been there. Most had stayed the same. We stayed in a timeshare on the 22nd floor and this was one view outside the window in our breakfast nook. The glass building on the bottom right is the courthouse.

Most mornings started out quite hazy and quickly cleared to reveal clear, blue skies and we were blessed with gorgeous summer weather for our entire stay. This was the view to the west, also from our breakfast nook window. The church on the bottom right has been a fixture in Vancouver for decades. The highrise in the centre is a hotel and to the left, the red brick building is a hospital.

We were amazed by the noticable absence of traffic. We put it down to high gas prices, parking costs, and better public transit options than were available when we lived there.

We didn't have a vehicle ourselves so we did a lot of walking. We went until we were physically spent and then we went some more. We visited most of our favourite haunts, dined on fabulous food, and drank in all the sights and sounds of city living.

A few friends met with us in our temporary home one evening and it was great to reconnect in person, share a hug and a few laughs. The Frenchman's two daughters joined us often and we were pleased to be able to enjoy their company.

We spent way too much money, bought a few things we don't really need, and ate all the foods we can't get at home - mainly fresh seafood and several ethnic treats.  All in all, it was a great trip and we're happy to be home again.
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