Posts Tagged With: chickens

April Urban Homesteading Class

Are you envious of my chicken palace? Do you too want to replace your front lawn with vegetables and fruit trees? What you need, my friend, is to attend my Urban Homesteading class!

Small livestock like chickens and rabbits are one component of an urban homestead.

Small livestock like chickens and rabbits are one component of an urban homestead.

This two-session class is an introduction to the concepts of the urban homestead, from gardening to small livestock to using resources wisely. And best of all, I won’t charge you a cent.

The class is offered on a trade basis. You bring a couple cans of tuna or peanut butter for the Irvington Food Pantry and a bag of newspapers for me, and I bring the urban homestead handouts, loads of gardening info, and wacky stories about life with chickens.

Both sessions are at the historic Benton House, a restored 1873 home.


Here are all the details; drop me a line at to register.

  • WHAT: Introduction to Urban Homesteading Classes
  • WHEN: Tuesday, April 16 and Thursday, April 18; 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: The Benton House, 312 South Downey Ave, Irvington, Indianapolis, IN 46219
  • FEE: No cash fee. Students are asked to provide two meat, fish, or peanut butter items for the Irvington Food Pantry or attend the cleanup of the Kyle Oak on April 27. In addition, students are asked to bring a bag of newspapers to be used as sheet mulch.
  • CONTACT: Amy Mullen,

Hope to see you there! (And in case you were wondering, I’m planning to use those newspapers to continue my sheet mulch campaign on the remaining front lawn.)

Categories: Garden books and resources, Randomness | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Prepping for the Apocalypse

Right, so I got about 5 minutes into Doomsday Preppers on Nat Geo before I couldn’t take any more. I mean, I believe in raising my own food. And I’m all about preparing for tornadoes, temporary power outages, and the various disasters we’re prone to here in the heartland (so far, the earthquakes have been minimal, and no tsunamis have been reported).

But you have to draw the line somewhere. Let’s see where I fall on the prepping scale, shall we?

1. Grow some of your own food? Check.

2. Raise chickens in your back yard? Check.

3. Have supply of water and prepared foods on hand in case of emergency? Check.

4. Have the know-how to rig a solar cooker, raise potatoes, and preserve some of your garden bounty? Check.

5. Run drills in the dead of night in case you are about to be invaded by marauding bands of looters who will steal your precious 30-year supply of dried beans? Ch–wait, what?

Seriously. This couple ran armed drills–at night, in the dark–to make sure they were prepared for invasion. They learned Tagalog, just so they could have a way of communicating that the invaders would not understand.

Tagalog? I mean, Klingon at least gets you some geek cred.

Another group had a 30-year supply of food and ran drills so that they could move themselves, their animals, their weapons (can’t forget the weapons), and their supplies by converted school bus to a remote, hidden location.

Remember, this is what I gleaned from 5 minutes of watching this show. I couldn’t get through a whole episode: I started to veer between scoffing and moments of paranoia.

And now, it turns out I don’t even have the right kind of chickens in case the zombie apocalypse arrives. My Rhode Island Reds are just not going to cut it in the camouflage department, making them an easy target for zombies looking for the perfect taste complement to the neighbor’s brain.

"Oh my god, Margaret! The zombies have already gotten a hold of that one!"

One of my friends assures me that in a post-Apocalyptic world, I will be quite valuable thanks to my knowledge of how to raise food. Well, thank god. Because clearly my survival is going to depend on hooking up with some people who have the wherewithal to shoot at invaders, and I better be able to bring something to the table.

And just as clearly, it won’t be my chickens.

Categories: Animals, foreign and domestic | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Horror in the Henhouse, or, The Molting Season

My girls are nearly two years old, which means it’s time for them to molt. For those not familiar with the life cycle of the Gallus gallus, that means they lose their feathers and grow new ones, although not neatly or in a timely fashion. So several of the girls have been losing a feather here, a couple there.

And then there’s Bernice.

I had to shut the chickens into the henhouse for a few days and let them fend for themselves during our ice storm a couple of weeks ago. I loaded them up with food and water, fluffed their bedding, turned on some lights, and closed up the henhouse to wait out the ice storm.

When I was able to get back out there a couple of days later, I was horrified to find that one of the girls looked like she had developed mange. She was missing feathers from her tail (notice the pathetic space in tail above), and had lost so many feathers on her back that I thought the other girls had passed the ice storm ripping into Bernice, Mean Girls-style.

In this other photo, you get a better idea of the sticking-out-like-post-electrocution number the feathers have been doing as they grow back in. And I’d like to emphasize: she actually looks better than she did. Apparently, however, this is normal, and Bernice is just going through the chicken version of my terrible junior high acne-glasses-and-frizzy-perm stage.

In other fun chicken-related news, we have a galloping case of poopy butt in the henhouse. Chickens normally sleep on a roost. Most chickens notice the sun going down, file into the henhouse, jump on the roost with their butts hanging freely over empty space, and settle in for the night. My girls, however, have never gotten the hang of timing the roost jumping so that they have enough light to see. When this happens, they cram themselves into the nest box instead, settling down on their haunches and creating mounds of poo.

The result is a fairly nasty mass of dried chicken poo hanging like a rock from the girls’ rear ends. It’s not blocking their vents (the hole the egg comes out of) so it’s not dangerous, but it sure is gross. I’m going to put some apple cider vinegar in their water and see if that helps. Regardless, come spring, I’m going to have to corral all of them and either clip the poo off (not fun) or try to bathe them and soak the poo off (really, really not fun).

Egg laying drops way off in winter and picks up with longer days. Chickens also lay less when they’re molting; they need to put their energy into growing new feathers. I suppose it’s just as well we’re getting few eggs, since I can’t keep the nest boxes clean, which in turn leads to slightly poopy eggs.

To sum up: my girls are dumb, they look terrible, and they’re not laying much now. But I love them anyway.

Categories: Animals, foreign and domestic, In the garden, The garden year | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Spring Has Sprung

Oh, yeah, spring is here. We've had ridiculously warm weather, a perfect amount of rain, a bumper crop of weeds, and three cats who keep charging the door to get out and roll around in the dirt. Over the last month or so, I've:

–Planted peas, carrots, and radishes in the front vegetable garden.
–Pruned the fruit trees in the front garden (they are looking a bit more like small trees and less like fruit sticks).
–Grubbed roses and other unwanteds out of the bed behind the house, which I am planning to revamp to make it prettier and less labor intensive.
–Buried my old kitchen sink in my soon-to-be herb bed so I can plant in it and hopefully contain the worst of mint's aggressive breaks for freedom.
–Spread corn gluten in all the beds (except the vegetable gardens) and in the lawn (corn gluten meal is an organic corn by-product that acts as a pre-emergent herbicide and a fertilizer, but you can't put it near anyplace you might want to grow plants from seeds).
–Planted raspberry canes and asparagus, both in the back garden.
–Turned the compost.
And sundry other garden tasks I can't recall right now. I still have to do the once-a-year coop clean out, followed by dumping all that lovely poop-laden bedding into the compost piles so it can do my garden some good.
The girls are all doing fine and laying steadily. They are looking a bit raggedy, but I think that's from so much time indoors when the weather was nasty. They're loving the return of weed salad as I chuck my weeding proceeds to them. They're less crazy about the fact the cats like to sniff around the coop, but the cats can't get in, so the birds are learning to roll with it.
On today's agenda: finish some garden plans for clients and then get out to my garden. The daffodils need deadheading, and the front garden could certainly benefit from some edging work. Plus I can enjoy the perfume of the viburnum, which is in full flower next to the front door.
Enjoy your spring!

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Categories: Animals, foreign and domestic, The garden year | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Additions to the Fraudulent Farmstead (or, not exactly news)

Yes, yes, I'm a terrible blogger; yes, I've kept you all waiting; yes, OK, you want pictures of chickens. Have we covered all the bases now? I apologize for the wait; we had some camera issues, and some work issues, and some (let's be honest here) laziness issues. But I'm back!

Shortly after my last post, the Chicken Man called me and told me I could pick up my birds! Amy F and her daughter Caroline accompanied me to the farm, which was jam-packed with birds, sheep, dogs, rabbits, and the ugliest freaking ducks I ever seen. (Seriously, they looked like they had leprosy, which is apparently exactly what Muscovy ducks are supposed to look like.) Chicken Man had six lovely little pullets corralled for me, so I could pick the five I wanted. I grabbed one, which freaked out, flapped at me, and ran away. My first act as a chicken rancher, and I failed miserably. I am so ashamed.

So while Chicken Man caught the pullet (it involved using a very long rod with a hook on the end that he snagged around the chicken leg) and loaded the rest into a box for me (because if I had to do it, he would spend the entire day chasing chickens), we checked out all the other animals. We fed baby goats (far cuter than pushy adult goats) and cuddled rabbits. Then we stopped at Tractor Supply for some extra bedding, and at Dunkin' Donuts to fortify ourselves.
Back at the farmstead, Caroline helped me unload the chickens from the cardboard box. They were just fine, even though they had made some pathetic noises while in the car. It turns out that freaked out chickens in a box = a lot of smelly liquid poop. The girls checked out their new digs, but we had to lure them out into the run with food trailed down the gangplank. Once they discovered the feeder hanging out there, though, nature took over.
The girls were about ten weeks old when I got them. Today, they're about 26 weeks and considerably fatter than in this picture (taken by Mr. Roy). Rhode Island Reds are a large breed.
And also, tough to tell apart. Their names are Nettie, Belva, Esther Mae, Pearl, and Bernice, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you which is which. My mom suggested I paint each bird's toenails a different color so I could tell them apart. I told her I'd be happy to, if she was up for holding frightened, flapping chickens while I gave them a manicure. 
Mostly I just call them "the girls" or "the ladies," as in, "Good morning, ladies; what is that god-awful racket you're making?"
Once the girls arrived, the daily question of "Do you have the chickens yet?" was replaced by "Are they laying eggs yet?" RIReds don't start laying until about 22 to 24 weeks of age. In the meantime, they mostly eat. A lot. I give them pelleted food, with weeds (we call  pulled weeds "chicken salad") and sometimes overripe tomatoes from the garden. So far I haven't let them out to peck in the yard; they're still too excitable. I'm hoping that by next summer they'll calm down enough to be allowed out to forage when I'm gardening. 
I'm happy to report that today all the girls are laying beautiful, brown eggs. They're pretty small; young chickens lay little eggs, while older hens lay bigger ones. But I'm getting on average four eggs a day, which translates to a lot of French toast and some happy friends and neighbors. The girls don't make a whole lot of noise, but when they're pissed off, they are very vocal–especially when I've opened the nest box door to collect eggs while one of them is in there. Then they give me a very "Do you mind?" look and scamper outside to squawk about the nerve of that girl.
Our other addition here at the farmstead comes in the form of a black kitten. I did not need another cat. I did not want another cat. But Amy F and I were at Greencycle, where we dump all the organic matter from gardening to be turned into compost and mulch. Amy, duplicitous wench that she is, stuck her head out the office door and told me to come in. She was holding this tiny, tiny all-black cat. The kitten had come in when she was three or four weeks old on a semi full of pallets destined to be shredded for mulch; no one has any idea how she got on the truck. The lady in the office had been taking care of her, but she needed a home.
I held this little ten-week-old cat, who looked at me so seriously, and I knew I had to take her home. I named her Fiona. I later learned that Fiona means "fair" or "white," so let's just pretend that I meant to do that. 

The other cats, not so thrilled. This sweet, quiet little kitten has become full-on ornery. She loves chasing Ace and Miss Kitty and climbing into places she's not supposed to be. She currently approaches everything with all her claws extended and fangs out. Ginny and I call her Ferocious Fee. But she's learning. She and Ace have come to a sort of agreement; they chase each other and wrestle all the time. Miss Kitty mostly does the cat equivalent of rolling her eyes. She will also whap Fi in the face repeatedly, as if dribbling a basketball, to remind her who is top cat. Miss Kitty and Ace are enjoying snacking on the kitten food, though.
So that brings you up-to-date on additions to farmstead. Updates as they occur. Or, you know, as I get around to them.

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Categories: Animals, foreign and domestic | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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