Category Archives: urban chickens

Goodbye, Molly Weasley

When I decided I wanted chickens, my friend Stephanie encouraged me and even dragged me with her to a poultry show. I came home with my first four chicks in a box.

Molly weasley and her Peeps the day I brought them home.

I initially named them all after delicious chicken entrees so that the kids would remember that they could end up as dinner and not get too attached. As fate would have it, three of those first four chicks were roosters, and they did end up being three tasty dinners. One lonely hen survived that initial chicken run to be rechristened Molly Weasley. This evening, Gwen went out to the coop to feed the chickens one of their favorite treats, corn cobs with bits of sweet corn still attached. Sadly, she found Molly Weasley, still warm, laying deceased in the run.

I don’t know what her cause of death was. She hasn’t been behaving strangely and up until yesterday, she was still laying eggs. It seemed disrespectful to tinker with her carcass in search of an issue, so I buried her without probing for more information. Just in case  it was some sort of illness, I’ll keep an eye on the rest of my flock, but hopefully the rest of the girls are fine. For now, I’ll just take a moment to remember her on a happier day.

chicken in the backyard

Free range chicken

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Egg Update

My babies started laying eggs the 8th or 9th of August.  If you read “Whose Egg is This?”  or “Green Eggs“,  you already know this.  With all the egg hubbub in the news and tainted eggs now reaching my neck of the woods, I figured now would be a good time to do a follow-up.  

I was pretty sure this egg wasn’t Molly’s because of the size.  Now, I’m not so sure.  That egg was the only egg we got that day and we didn’t get another little brown egg for nine more days.  It’s typical for chickens to take a day off every few days, but nine?  Plus, Molly’s egg the day after I found the tiny egg was ginormous, really pale brown and weak-shelled.  I’m thinking maybe the mini egg was Molly’s after all.  Research online leads me to believe it’s not impossible for a hen to lay a tiny egg even if she normally lays larger eggs, but I’d love to hear your opinions. 

My favorite hen.

Bella wouldn't hold still for a close-up.

 

I don’t think it was Bellatrix’ egg anymore because she laid her first verified egg August 17th and has only taken one day off since. Nine eggs in ten days is pretty good! 

Hermione really has beautiful markings.

Still not laying.

 

Hermione still hasn’t started laying, but that is typical of a larger breed bird like a Wyandotte. 

Luna's a big girl now.

Luna in the run.

 

So, if Molly laid the tiny egg, Luna was the first of our new girls to start laying.  She’s laid thirteen eggs in the eighteen days since she started.  Her eggs have gotten a little bigger, but her eggs will never really be large because she is a medium-sized bird.  

Between the babies, we’re getting a dozen eggs a week now.  That’s good because Molly stopped laying again the same day that Bella started.  I’m not sure if it’s permanent, but her crop is doing strange things again.  Even if Molly doesn’t start laying again, we’ll soon be getting a dozen and a half, free-range, untainted eggs a week.  I think that’ll be plenty.

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Green Eggs ~ A Tribute to Luna Lovegood Upon the Arrival of Her First Egg

Not to be outdone by the other girls, Luna spent well over an hour in the nest box this morning in the 90-degree coop to provide us with this: 

Easter Egger Egg

Luna's First Egg next to the Mystery Egg for size comparison.

 

See, I knew she didn’t lay that brown Mystery Egg

I could talk about green eggs but I will leave you with some words from the master, Dr. Seuss: 

Say!
I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat…
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see! 

So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE! 

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am

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Whose Egg is This??

This weekend was the 18th Annual Dunegrass Festival in Empire, Michigan and our second annual weekend at the festival.  Aside from Dunegrass, we’ve been to Empire a lot this summer.  Day trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan.  Day trips to North and South Bar beaches.  The kids and I even made a trip out for Food for Thought’s Green Cuisine event which technically is in Honor not Empire, but we did have to run to Empire for gas so we could make the long trip home.  These little staycations are one of the reasons I’ve been away from my blog so much.  There are posts here and here about other reasons I’ve not been around, and a couple more coming I’m sure.  

Delilah at Dunegrass

Delilah playing her bass while standing ON it.

But, I digress.  Dunegrass is technically a real vacation, not a staycation like our daytrips to the beach or the dunes.  We load up the car with food and camping gear.  We set up a campsite in the field with all the other festival-goers and we enjoy great bands like the Rachel Davis Band and Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys.  

 We sleep in a tent during a torrential downpour and wake up in puddles that quickly dry up the next morning in the sweltering heat and enjoy tins of Jiffy-Pop cooked over a Coleman campstove. 

Gwen and Dylan enjoying the festival.

Gwen and Dylan at Dunegrass with their balloon accessories.

So, if this is a vacation post, why is it called, Whose Egg is This??  Good question.  Even though we went away for a vacation, we drove the 17 miles back into town several times.  You see, we have animals.  The chickens?  They would have been fine.  I checked their food and water supply each time we came into town, but I never had to refill it.   

Palomino Rabbit

Fiona enjoying some time in the yard.

Our new friend, Fiona, would have been fine too although she probably would have gorged herself on all the extra food the first day and been hungry until we came back to feed her again.  I could have boarded the dog, but I didn’t.  Dogs, especially indoor dogs, have needs.  Like food.  And Water.  And the bathroom.  Mostly, that last one.  As far as I can tell, Luther doesn’t eat when we’re not home; his food sits untouched in his room until we come home and he’s sure we’re not leaving again.  However, if he had too, he would go potty inside.  He’s done it before.  Wouldn’t you? 

So, we came back into town.  When we came home Saturday morning we collected Molly Weasley’s egg from the nest box and found the “little” girls taking turns sitting in it.  I saw both Luna and Bella sitting in the box on separate occasions.  We weren’t home for a long period of time, so Hermione might have been trying it out too, but we never caught her. 

Sunday morning we came home and found this in the nest box: 

Does it even have a yolk?

Bigger than a bantam??

  Isn’t it cute?  Now we just need to figure out to whom it belongs.  

I’m pretty sure it isn’t Molly’s because she’s been laying (much larger) eggs off and on since February.  

Molly enjoying the sunshine in her new run.

It has been 19 weeks since our girls were hatched and now we have eggs!  Don’t you love Urban Farming?? 

It can’t be Luna’s, because she should be laying blue or green or pink but not brown eggs. 

Luna's a big girl now.

Luna in the run.

If I had to guess, I’d say it belonged to Hermione because she is the biggest of the three babies and according to MyPetChicken, she will be the most prolific layer of the three little girls.  But, I never actually saw her in the nest box.  I still haven’t seen her in the nest box even though the other girls have been testing it out since at least Saturday. 

Hermione really has beautiful markings.

Could it be hers?

So, it could belong to Bellatrix.  She was actually sitting in the nest a few times, but I never saw or heard her laying an egg. 

My favorite hen.

Bella wouldn't hold still for a close-up.

  I guess I won’t know for sure until I catch one of them in the act!

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Happy, Happy Day! (Or, Egg Independence Day)

Back in May I told you about Molly Weasley’s crop problems.  Then, I left you hanging without an update. 

Molly’s crop seemed to clear up after her daily massages and diet of soft foods so I started letting her eat her regular diet again after a week.  This return to her regular diet didn’t seem to have an ill effect on her crop, but she gained a strange habit.  Suddenly, Molly wanted to drink her water out of the dirt.  I have always added grit to her food, she eats grass, bugs and dirt from the front yard and she scratches in the dirt for cracked corn and compost so I’m not sure why she felt the need to drink from the ground as well.

Every time I took fresh water to the coop, Molly pecked at the container to try and splash water onto the ground.  If I dumped water out she joyfully scratched at it and drank it.   

Molly was eating so much sand that her droppings started to look like sand castles.  You probably think I’m joking.  I’m not.  I’d take a picture and post it but then I’m sure my husband would have me committed.  He already thinks I take way too many pictures of otherwise trivial things like jars of jelly and whatever we ate for dinner.

Back to the crop.  It seemed to be maintaing a normal size and was regrowing feathers so I figured eating all that sand was some sort of chicken self-doctoring.  After several weeks of sand eating and a normal sized crop, I was expecting my dear hen to start laying again.  No luck. I waited.  And waited.  Still nothing.

Then Molly started picking at the little girls.  You know the term, “hen-pecked”?  That’s what my chicks were.  Luna even had a bloody spot near her tail.  I was at my wit’s end with Molly.  Not laying was one thing but now tormenting the rest of the flock?  Not cool. 

 To make matters worse, one day shortly after the Coop Loop I picked up Molly and found a large, sandy scab on her crop.  Apparently all that sand was more than her crop could take; it seemed to have ruptured causing sand to ooze out.  The sand had all hardened and despite my strong urge to pick at the sandy clump, I resisted.  I checked on Molly’s scab every day to make sure it wasn’t getting worse.  After a couple days, the wound was significantly smaller.  Shortly after, to my great surprise, it had completely healed!

Despite Molly’s return to good health, we were still without eggs.  And, the girls were still being tormented.  I was just about ready to send Molly to the soup pot.

And then . . .

I found this:

Egg Independence once again!

The end of a long, eggless spell!

Beautiful, isn’t it?

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Why Have I Been So Busy Lately?? Part 1 ~ The Coop Loop

As I have gotten older, I have found myself getting involved with more things.  Only natural, right?  I’ve collected new hobbies and new friends, and along with them, more responsibility.  I’d stop volunteering for committees and boards, but I really enjoy helping out and being part of something bigger than me.  Plus I love the social connections I have formed as part of these groups.

Visitors checking out the coop

Chelsea and other visitors inspecting Hogwarts Home of Eggcraft and Hennery during the Coop Loop.

 

Saturday, June 12th was Traverse City’s very first Coop Loop.  I’m proud to say I was part of this event even though it meant adding more meetings to my busy calendar.  This chicken parade of homes was a huge success and If I had to wager on it I would guess that around 200 visitors passed through my yard to meet the girls and inspect my husband’s handiwork.  Luna, Hermione and Bella were in the chicken tractor in the front yard and Molly was in the coop since she’s recently taken to bullying the girls and needed a time-out.  The separation actually worked out well.  If the girls had all been in the coop, it would have been too crowded.  Having chicken viewing in two parts of the yard allowed better flow for the guests.

Tuesday we had a wrap up meeting to discuss how the tour went.  We discussed what was really great about the tour, what we can change and how to make next year’s tour even better.  So, for now my chicken meetings are done, but optional social meetings will be held monthly by the Coop Loop Founders until we start planning the next tour.  Mark your calendar; next year’s tour is scheduled for the third Saturday in June. 

Discussing my chicken tractor with Kate and some other guests.

"What kind of chickens are they?"

I didn’t get to see all the coops on the tour because I was acting as a docent in my own yard, but I hope to see the other coops soon.  Until then I’ll have to get by with the pictures Gary took of our coops.  You can see the rest of them at cooploop.com

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Random Drivel

If you are a regular reader, you have by now realized that I’ve been on a little hiatus.  Things are getting a little crazy around here and I haven’t had much time to devote to a “real” post. 

The craziness began with an amazing trip to Detroit (yes, I said “amazing” and “Detroit” in the same sentence) for the 5th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.  I was too cheap to spring for an internet connection while I was there so blogging was out.  Not to mention the fact that I was busy for three days and spent every spare moment with my family.  I have an amazing opportunity to write about the conference for one of my favorite local publications, but I’ll save that for its own post once an article has been written, approved (hopefully) and gone to print. 

When I returned from the conference I went straight back to work.  It was/is end-of-the-year-assessment time and I had missed three prime days.  Add to that the half day I missed last week to have a lost filling drilled out and temporarily replaced and now I’m knee-deep in paperwork and running out of days to finish it all.

In all my spare time, I’ve been working in the garden a ton; helping with Girls on the Run; finding and starting a summer job at the Mercato in exchange for my summer CSA share from 9 Bean Rows and trying to finish up the final details for the Coop Loop.   There are lots of exciting developments and eventually I’ll tell you more, but I’m still working on sifting my compost heap.  I love you all, but a girl has to prioritize. 

 I’ve had lots of thoughts and ideas, but  I haven’t had the time and energy to sit down and compose something meaningful to share.  I’ll be back to a more manageable schedule soon.  Until then you’ll have to make do with this collection of random drivel.

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Ready for the Big House?

A while back I told you that I won a scholarship to the Farm to Cafeteria conference in Detroit.  I’m super excited, but going away for three or four days requires some planning.  Like finding someone to watch the dog.  And the chickens.  I’m trying to keep this as simple as possible.  One hen in the coop and three in the brooder in the house kicking woodchips everywhere is not the easiest job.  However, if they were all in one place, it wouldn’t be a bad job.  
In theory, the girls are ready to be sleeping outside.   The rule of thumb is that new chicks need to be at ninety-five or a hundred degrees and that the temperature can decrease by five degrees a week until it hits seventy.  At almost seven weeks old, we’ve reached that “safety zone”.   Their down has been replaced with feathers and they haven’t needed the light in the brooder for a while.  
It seems like the stars have aligned.  With the convergence of spring weather, the conference and the girls’ seventh week, I decided it was time.  We’ve been slowly introducing the girls to Molly and allowing them to range together in the chicken run Mr. Hippie built for me but I was still worried about putting them together for good. 
First night in the coop

Hiding in the corner.

Despite my fears, the girls spent their first night in the hen house last night.  I had lots of anxious thoughts.  Was it too cold?  Would Molly be nice to the girls?  

The last time I checked the coop temperature it was fifty degrees even though the actual temperature was considerably colder.  Seeing the girls huddled up in the corner didn’t make me feel any better though.

When I checked the coop this morning, everyone was alive and well.  I opened the hatch and went back out a bit later to see if the little girls had figured out how to get out of the coop and found everyone scratching around the pen:

The chicks survived their first night in the coop.

They made it!

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Upcoming Chicken Events

Traverse City put itself on the Chicken Map last September when it changed the city ordinances to allow residents to keep four hens on in-town parcels.  TC wasn’t the first foreward-thinking city to allow urban chicken keeping but was definitely ahead of the trend; residents of other cities are still fighting for the right to keep chickens in their towns. 

Now that chickens are legal, people are making a squawk about it.  (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)  NMC recently held a class about keeping chickens.  ISLAND, the Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design is hosting a skill swap in June for rabbits, ducks and of course, chickens.  Both the express and the Record Eagle have run chicken articles (featuring my chickens) since September.  The Record Eagle even reprinted the article (much to my surprise) in its free weekly paper, the North Coast.  Edible Grande Traverse, one of my favorite publications, recently featured an article on chickens.  Even though they weren’t mine :), I must admit it was an excellent article.  

Urban Chicken Parade of Homes

Are you chicken enough?

 

Of course, I can’t forget the Coop Loop.  The tour is June 12th from 11:00 – 2:00.  You can do the tour at your own pace or join a guided cycle tour led by a chicken on a Vespa.  The tour concludes with a shindig at the Commons complete with frescas and a raffle.  I’ll hook you up with a map soon so you can join us if you’re around but there’ll be a sign in the yard pointing you to my coop.   

Tony of Traverse City Urban Chickens is the webmaster for our group.  He recently updated the website to include “coop owners” info.  The girls and I are here.   See you on the tour?

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Chicks, Man

The girls are getting so big!  They’ve changed so much over the last few weeks.  They’ve lost almost all of their downy fluff and their feathers and personalities are developing. 

Here they are in the living room not paying attention to the basketball game.  This step-stool chair makes an ok perch, but it is very slippery.  Bella didn’t stay on very long but the other girls did well.

The three girls on a chair.

Luna, Bellatrix and Hermione

 Bellatrix or “Bella” is my favorite.  She comes right to you if you put your hand in the brooder, loves to be held and will sit on my lap for a long time while I work.  She’s “helping” right now. Bella’s a Dominique which is a “heritage” breed because although this breed has been around for a long time, they are now considered critically endangered.

My Bella

Bellatrix "roosting"

 Here she is with Dylan. 

Bellatrix perched on The Boy.

Bella wouldn't pose for her picture.

Even though she wouldn’t look at the camera, you can get a nice view of the feathers coming in on her back.

Hermione, our Golden-Laced Wyandotte, is the most skittish of the three.  She won’t come to me readily but doesn’t protest once I have her. 

Hermione from behind.

View of Hermione's back.

 Her feathers aren’t as evenly developed as the other girls’ feathers are, but she’s starting to catch up.  She still has crazy “hair” but her lipstick is pretty, isn’t it?

Hermione: front view

Hermione close up.

 Luna, an Easter-Egger, looks like a hawk. 

Luna Lovegood

You are the falcon and I am The Falconer.

The pattern on her wings is very pretty.  Luna is the biggest and the bossiest of the three.  She’ll probably lay green eggs, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for blue.

Luna Lovegood

Backside view of Luna

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