horse next to red barn
Chickens

Grey Mare Don’t Jump

All that talk about the stupidity of chickens.

People love to point out how much of a bird brain they have.  As if it’s their fault.  To be chicken.

No one picks on butterflies and their aimless, tiresome fluttering around.

My semi-secret clan is back in the yard.  Perhaps fuglier than ever.  And lovely.

Ester - Black Frizzle Bantam Cochin

Ester – Black Frizzle Bantam Cochin

Their bird brains designed perfectly to do what they do.

Valiosa, also designed perfectly to do what she does.  As long as it doesn’t involve jumping in any form.

Friday’s Trot Poles and 20 inch, then 10 inch high jump (a speed bump.) were complete carnage.  Poles are not her specialty.

(Any one wishing to come out and  show her the joy in this, be my guest!)

Sticking to dressage.  Impressively, she learned turn on the forehand easily on the second day trying it.  For being very insensitive to the leg, she picked it up immediately.  This week, she wants to offer her “trick” all the time.  – “Halt at E?  OK, how about I turn on the forehand!?  Oh, No?  Well, how about now?…  Or now?

Love this baby horse!

Valiosa going neurologic

She does her own special kind of dressage moves,  love them or not.

"Yes, just had a bath, and now I'm going to roll. And your point is?"

“Yes, just had a bath, and now I’m going to roll. Your point is?”

Not infatuated with the silly little horse at all…

Valiosa October 2015

 

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Chickens

All Cooped up – News from the backyard

Playhouse chicken coop

After two summers, the play-hut chicken-coop is still going strong. 

During the hottest part of the year we decided to make a little enlargement of the chicken pen and a better free-standing nesting box.  I decided, the work team grumbled.

An excellent way to spend time together if you like slow suffocation at the side of the house in grueling temperatures with chicken wire poking out everywhere.

So, finished most of the work alone.  But look how cute it turned out!  My kind of craft project – the chickens don’t care if things are a little wiggly and rinky dink!  No need to be too picky.  As a result, most improvements only last a year or so.

TV cabinet as nesting box

Above is the new nesting box.  An old TV cabinet.  Fixed it up with a matching waterproof roof to help for the winter, and to create an overhang around it.  Painted outside with high-grade outdoor paint.  We’ll see how it holds up.

Below, the backside of the nesting box.  Yes, the top ladder step needs to be fixed.  My son made this ladder so I love it.

TV Nesting box

Awesome, just when you thought you were safe from any more Chicken Blog Posts here, this one just snuck in!  Here’s the inside of the nesting box.

Nesting box chandelier

Carpet remnants are perfect in the nesting boxes.  Toss out if ever dirty, cozy hay and a golf ball on top is all that’s needed.  Curtains for some privacy, and a chandelier just to be annoying.  They have a lot to cackle about.

Next summer we will raise some more babies.  The Chicken Chick website has inspired us to try raising live ones from a broody chicken this time!  Always looking for local adoptive families, let me hear from you!  Need to stick with only 3 chickens.  We are maddening to the neighbors as it is.

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Chickens

Lessons Learned In Chicken Rearing

In no particular order – here’s what we’ve learned in our chicken adventures.

1 There will always be one chick in the lock that is the most friendly and forward.  Here is Snowball, our first favorite.

skylerchick
She quickly became a he, a rooster.

littlerooster

2 A large pumpkin box can make a great brooder, enlarged with several more boxes here for one long room.

brooder

3 Building a daytime grazing pen with you kids for the young pullets can be fun, but not really necessary.

grazing pen

4 The construction wasn’t that great, they kept escaping, and seemed crowded in there. Better to free range instead. Fun project for the kids though, with all the tools involved.

grazing pen2

5 Nesting boxes should be kept dark and private. They prefer to just all lay in the same box. No matter how nice the second one looks… Here is Midnight, checking out the nesting box, when it was brand new.

midnight

6 Pretty much any decorations added to the chicken area will get eaten, or ruined by the weather. Here is our freshly painted coop with a lavender wreath I made on the door. It is falling apart now of course.

coopsummer

7 The first egg will be really exciting.

first egg

8 We also learned that the first eggs are usually not all that perfect. Some can come out with completely soft shells in the beginning, even two at a time!

soft shell

9 It won’t take long and they will all come out normal looking.

eggs2

10 Keeping chickens will also inspire the kids to make artsy projects.

eggart2

11 Some stranger than others.

eggart

night lights

12 We also learned that adding night lights for chickens, as seen above, in the fall to get to see them out after dark a bit in the early evenings is not really a good idea. We had ours on a solar timer and when it went off, the chickens were stuck out there and couldn’t find their way into the coop and had to be hand carried inside. They don’t see very well in dim light.

13 All chickens will gather on your patio and be in the way as much as they can. Here they are at Christmas time looking especially festive.

christmas

14 All coops must have embellishment. Ours has a make shift chandelier made of a recycled ornament.

chandelier

15 Again, any decorations will be ruined quickly. We made the mistake of putting in some wallpaper. It is gone now. Here is Marshmallow checking out her nesting box.

wallpaper

16 Nesting boxes do not have to be fancy. Ours have a lot of cardboard, which can be thrown out when it needs cleaning.

nestingboxes

17 Golf balls in the nesting boxes makes the chickens lay there, pretty much every time. Here is Goldie, wanting some privacy.

golf balls

18 Home made vinegar concoctions make for a great cleaner for chickens and their sensitive respiratory system. Ours has apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, vanilla, orange rinds and tea trea oil.

Cleaning solution

19 Night lights in the coop in the winter work great to extend the egg laying period. Just a few battery candles on a time does the trick.

Night Lights in Coop

OK, that’s it for the chickens. Promise not to torture you with more chicken posts!
Happy Easter Everybody!

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Chickens

Spring Chicken Special!

The joys of keeping chickens in a small urban backyard…

You don’t get popular when talking about your chickens with your friends. It’s sort of one step right below being a cat-lady. My peeps are funny, friendly little ladies though, and having them has been great fun together with my kids.

The inspiration to it all.  For a semi-urban backyard turned "Almost_A-Farm", just add chickens.

The inspiration to it all. For a semi-urban backyard turned “Almost-A-Farm”, just add chickens.

How to keep chickens in a suburban backyard and still get along with the neighbors? Stealth, as quiet-as-possible, backyard chickens, that’s the answer.  Excessive squawkers must move up the hill to our friend’s farm.  Chris, we’re happy to have you!

Goldie, up close and personal!  She's a Buff Orpington and the star of our group.

Goldie, up close and personal! She’s a Buff Orpington and the star of our group.

We keep our little clan of semi secret peeps on the side of our house.  They are really interesting little girls. Very sweet and come running right up as soon as they see us if loose outside.   In most regular conversations, chicken keeping topics have proved not to be too fashionable.  It’s mostly  regarded a bit weird, possibly half crazy to have them as pets.   For the boys and I, it has just been a blast raising these chickens, learning all about them, and eating their eggs.
They deserve their own “Spring Chicken Special” here at Dressage On A Dime.
Here is our story:

Baby chick keeping in the bathtub.  Made for very tame chicks the first year.

Baby chick keeping in the bathtub. Made for very tame chicks the first year.

Tiny start up brooder for 4 chicks.  Heavily decorated by my boys.  You can see Marshmallow, Snoball, Norpan and Brownie passed out under the heatlamp.  We later graduated to a huge, multiple "room" brooder in the garage.

Tiny start up brooder for 4 chicks. Heavily decorated by my boys. You can see Marshmallow, Snowball, Norpan and Brownie passed out under the heatlamp. We later graduated to a huge, “multiple room” brooder in the garage.

Caring for fragile little bodies was a great learning experience for my kids.

Caring for fragile little bodies was a great learning experience for my kids.

I don't share the joy of ball games and rock throwing with my boys, but THIS was something we all had fun learning about!

I don’t share the joy of ball games and rock throwing with my boys, but THIS was something we all had fun learning about! Look how fast they grew in just a few weeks!

They can easily be taught to come to a treat, so it's easy to gather them in again.

Chicks turned pullets! They can easily be taught to come to a treat when a bit older like this, so it’s easy to gather them in again.

We built them a pen with a small coop.  Of course it had to be made bigger...  The original coop is now their large sized nesting box.  Go big from the start!

We built them a pen with a small coop. Of course it had to be made bigger… The original coop is now their large sized nesting box. Go big from the start!

An old children's playhouse, painted and outfitted with net made for a great coop for the ladies.  My boys made the ladder themselves, which is more than half the fun of doing this.

An old children’s playhouse, painted and outfitted with net made for a great coop for the ladies. My boys made the ladder themselves, which is more than half the fun of doing this.

Marshmallow, a White Delaware, puffed up sunbathing on the patio.

Marshmallow, a White Delaware, puffed up sunbathing on the patio.

They’re easy to care for, really, but difficult at the same time. Do it wrong and everything will become a filthy, noisy mess.  Do it right, and you will have a cute set-up with a few happy and tame hens that lay their eggs where you want them, put themselves to sleep at night, and come when you call them.
Yep.
That’s what ours do.
Their set-up could be cuter.  Tools are not my specialty, so we’re stuck with what we’ve got for now.

Would love to have a really nicely built pen of course. Our pen and all the stuff around it has taken a beating from the weather in just one year. A beautiful wood pen is on the wish list, but it’s not going to happen…

Reading with The Golden Pecker, our other Buff Orpington

Reading with The Golden Pecker, our other Buff Orpington

And the eggs, don't forget the eggs!

And the eggs, don’t forget the eggs!

Golden Pecker

Golden Pecker in the patio sofa. She’s really not supposed to be there. Chickens don’t care about that.

The queen of all chicken keeping is the “The Chicken Chick”. You wonder, how interesting can it be, really, but she’s got a wonderful and very active blog, Chicken Resources Directory, Facebook page – you name it, she’s there, and she has the answers to just about any chicken dilemma.
In style!
Did a lot of reading on her site when we started out, and she’s the reason we’re doing sand in both the run and the coop, and have a separate “broody breaker”, among many other things.  The Chicken Chick is the best.

Other great “chickeny resources” are www.backyardchickens.com and www.mypetchicken.com

Come back soon for just one more chicken post.  I’ll share (or torture you, depending on how you see it) some lessons we learned through it all.  Just if you’re considering doing this, too.

“Horses frighten me as much as chickens do,’ he said. ‘That is too bad, because lack of communication with horses has impeded human progress,’ said Abrenuncio. ‘If we ever broke down the barriers, we could produce the centaur.” ― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

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