Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another snake, and CSA update

Yesterday morning I was in the Cornish coop feeding the chickens when I realized there was a rattler curled up in the dog crate we have there for shelter. He wasn't moving; it was still cool. So I quickly upended the crate, throwing him to the bottom, and went out the door, across the yard, and out through the gate, holding the crate up with one hand. There I set it down, went and got my trusty shovel, then dumped him out on the driveway and cut off his head. Yechhhh! THen I stopped to think about it.
DH was perturbed because I didn't come and get him to kill it. Duhhh! He spends most of his leisure time with his community service project and then wonders why I don't even think of being helpless and needing him to do things for me when he's here. Anyway, later I realized that I probably pulled a muscle in my back carrying that crate awkwardly out of the chicken environs. Adrenalin was in charge when I was doing it.

Also, people at the CSA want to buy eggs, and they want to know something about the chickens that lay them. So I sent this Word file to the coordinator to see what she thinks. I have orders for 3 dozen tomorrow, and nobody has even seen them.

Desert Haven
AJ Wischmeyer
22900 West Eagle Mountain Road
Buckeye, AZ 85326
623 386 3295

So you want to know about the chickens that are producing these great eggs. I tend to run on too long, so feel free to stop reading when you get bored.

Desert Haven consists of 20 acres of desert hillsides and a major wash that acts as a wildlife corridor between the BLM lands to the south of us and the Gila River bottom to the north of us. We border both, and our neighbors on both sides have at least 10 acres each, so its really nice out here. However, that also means that we are in the middle of the hunting range for bobcats, foxes, coyotes, skunks, owls, several different varieties of hawk, and a pair of golden eagles. Also rattlesnakes and dogs running loose. Dogs are the absolute worst chicken predator, as they kill for fun.

So, when we decided to obtain some chickens so we could have natural meat and eggs, our first step was to remodel a couple of existing chicken coops to make them as predator-proof as possible. Then we built another one to raise chicks in, and connected all three with a communal yard. The yard we even covered with orchard netting to keep out wild birds and especially predator birds.

The eggs can’t really be called “free range”, because the only time the chckens get to really free range is when I can be right out there in the midst of them. That doesn't happen near as often as they would like. But they get to be out in the yard in the daytime and secure in their coops at night.

What kind of chickens are they? I’m glad you asked. There are 7 Egyptian Fayoumis, 6 hens and a rooster called Walii, 3 Barred Rock hens, and an Ameraucana hen. There were a few more Barred Rocks and Ameraucanas, but I lost some to heat stroke when we first started having days and days of record-breaking heat. Now I keep deep tubs for wading in the yard at all times, and when its really hot, I have a misting attachment on the water hose to turn on. They love the mister, and stand around under it like kids under the shower. The ones who didn’t love the mister have passed on.

Coming up I have 4 Speckled Sussex pullets (hens too young to lay), 2 Light Brahmas, a Black Minorca, another Barred Rock, and 2 White Leghorns. This variety is because I ordered a hatchery-choice bargain assortment last spring. They should start laying in another month or so.

I brought up the older hens on Purina SunFresh certified Natural chick starter and grower until they started to lay, and have gradually switched them over the last six months from Purina Layena to a mixture of whole grains that I balance and augment with kitchen scraps, oyster shell, and dry cat food(salmon-based, natural formula) (when they are molting). The cat food is animal protein, 31 %, that helps them to grow new feathers and prevents them from picking feathers off each other to eat. All of the chickens also supplement their own diet with all the bugs they can catch. I abet this by moving the feed and water dishes to let them get the bugs there, and often put a shovelful of compost, just filled with bugs, in the yard. You should see them chasing those bugs around!They don’t get any soy, they don't get antibiotics, and they don’t get any arsenic unless its in our well water.

I'll try to post the picture I sent when this connection calms down.

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