Archive for January 29th, 2013

Surprise Drop Hole


Feels like spring here today–I’ve got the heat off and the windows open!

Meanwhile, back in the barn, whenever Adam is here, he moves 20 bales or so of hay down from the loft to keep it handy near the hay feeder in the back of the barn.
When the hay was loaded into the barn last summer and fall, it was all in before that hay feeder was built and the idea arose that getting hay down through a drop hole would be handy. Adam was going to cut one as soon as enough hay was fed out to get to the right spot. Well, what do you know but he looked up in the barn yesterday and realized there was a piece of plywood nailed down over a drop hole that was already there!
He took the plywood cover off it and now I have my drop hole!

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Temperatures warmed up around here yesterday. Snow melted, and work got done outside! I miss getting to spend more time outdoors doing farmy stuff when it’s not freezing. Yesterday, I filled up on fun. The morning started with a farm shopping trip, my hired man Adam on hand. We went to the auto store and he helped me get the right new tractor battery then we picked up lumber for the horse shelter. Back at the farm, Adam laid out the plan.
You probably can’t tell much from that photo, but the shelter will include, of course, shelter plus a hay feeder and hay storage. There will be enough storage for about two weeks’ worth of hay at a time. As long as I can get someone to help me with moving the hay every two weeks with the tractor, I won’t have to worry about getting bales over there. I told him my goal of truly learning to drive the tractor this year, but we both agreed that slippery winter weather wasn’t a good time for an inexperienced tractor driver to practice. Meanwhile, he got the new tractor battery installed. The tractor hasn’t moved since September, so after starting it up, he gave it a good going over and drove it around a bit.
He checked out Glory Bee and the calf, and we trimmed the goats’ hooves. I was covered in mud by the time that was over, but the whole day was a lot of fun with doing various things like that. He showed me how he checks pregnant does, by the way. He thinks Nutmeg and Sprite will deliver within two weeks, and Fanta within a month. February goat babies!

And then, THEN! I asked him to show me how to clip chicken wings. I’ve never clipped my chickens’ wings before, and haven’t wanted to do it either. Clipping chicken wings can be a little controversial–some people are totally opposed to it, other people won’t keep chickens without it. Chickens aren’t great flyers anyway, but the ability to fly can save them from predators. Whether it’s safer (and saner) to have your chickens’ wings clipped depends on your individual situation. At Stringtown Rising, I felt it was safer to allow the chickens the ability to fly. The way I free-ranged them there, in a farm surrounded closely by woods, held more danger for them. Here, if kept in the barn yard, the chickens are pretty safe. But I can’t keep them in the barn yard–they can fly over the fence! And fly over the fence they do–to hang out constantly on my back porch, leaving little chicken nuggets of poop outside my back door. There is also a contingency that insists on roosting on the deck, making an even bigger mess outside the studio. It’s not safe–I’ve lost several chickens over the past year from those who insist on roosting on the deck. I’ve finally had it. I want the chickens roosting in the chicken house, and I want them to stay mostly in the front barn yard.

Catching the chickens took the most time. About half were easy to catch, lured into the chicken house and one of the barn stalls with a bit of feed.
The remaining chickens got real suspicious.

We finally captured the majority of them and went to work clipping. Adam showed me how it’s done. I was worried about attempting this on my own because if you cut too high on the wing feathers, you can hurt them–they’ll bleed. He uses the shorter feathers over the longer wing feathers as the guide. Here, he’s pointing the tip of the scissors at the cutting line at the base of the shorter feathers.
You can use regular house scissors–just spread the wing and cut straight across the feather line.
It doesn’t hurt the chicken as long as you don’t cut too high. It’s just like cutting fingernails.
Yikes, mutilated chicken!
Then he showed me how when the chicken puts their wing back down, it looks perfectly normal.
To hold the chickens while clipping their wings, you can put their head under your arm, which calms them.
This is Crooked Little Hen posing here, by the way. (If you’re new around here, check out The Crooked Little Hen Saves the Day and A Crooked Little Hen Love Story. The Crooked Little Hen is one of my oldest chickens, from my very first incubator hatching five years ago, and one of my most entertaining hens.)

You can also hold them down between your legs. Whichever way is most comfortable for you.
After Adam showed me how, I clipped wings, too! I decided to keep all the chickens we’d caught in the chicken house, full-time, for at least a few weeks to train them to roost there. They can slip out of the barn yard fence if they want to, so once I start letting them out to range the front barn yard, they could go back to the deck if they want to. I need to be sure they don’t want to. My perverted goose had run into the house after the feed, so he was trapped in there, too.
He was so happy! Locked up with hens!
He had to be removed for the safety and innocence of the hens.
He’s not gonna be real happy…..

Meanwhile, we sat down on the back porch to analyze the yet-uncaught chicken situation and….
….realized we’d left the cellar door standing open, which solved everything.
Most of the uncaught chickens were quickly caught after they strolled in for the feed and we shut the door after them! Ha! They were clipped and moved to their new quarters in the chicken house. I counted chickens! Or tried to! There is still a small handful of chickens running around, plus it was hard to count heads inside the chicken house while they were all moving, but I have something shy of two dozen chickens right now.
Today, and possibly for the next several days, I’ll be trying to catch the remaining chickens. The cellar door’s open, c’mon in!

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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