Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New additions to flock: Cream Crested Legbars

Cream Crested Legbar chick at 2 days old. Purchased after they hatched and placed under broody Kate during the night. When morning came, she thought her eggs had hatched and started raising them.

Kate and chicks, kept inside the first few days. This is her first time being a Mom.

Chicks at 2 months old are finally named: Robin and Lily. They still like to hang around with their Mom, like when she's taking a dust bath.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lots of snow this year but we're already getting eggs

Despite a cold winter, they started laying eggs mid-January -- all 5 hens are in production. I am really happy with the colors we're getting from our "Easter Eggers". Each bird is laying 3-5 eggs per week.
This is our current flock. It is looking pretty rough out in the chicken run, but they seem to be doing ok this winter.
There is a heater under the waterer to keep it from freezing.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Update on new chickens

Chickens at 12 weeks - almost full size. Fancypants is still "mothering" them and seems healthy.

Kate: hopefully a pullet? Straight even tail and smaller size. Tame.

"Jacklyn": large aggressive bird with thick legs and a rooster tail :-(
Farrah: pullet or roo? I can't tell yet. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Worried about worn out Mom

Fancypants and chicks resting up away from the other hens
This past week I've noticed a marked change in our mother hen Fancypants Johnson. She's 7 years old and has taken a beating raising the latest batch of chicks. The other chickens chase them away from the feeders, attacking the mother and pulling out chunks of feathers. Poor thing has gotten thin, lethargic and her breathing is laboured.

What can be done? They have getaways, like the roost in the photo. Also I put food and water out in different places so it is harder for the other chickens to guard it. When I am out there -- usually twice a day, I hand feed them or put them out in the yard with a feeder so they can eat in peace. Tough to know how much to intervene.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Managing chicks at 3 weeks

Farrah, Jacklyn, and Kate
Brooder converted to safe haven for chicks in the run. Keeps laying hens out of their medicated feed. 

Making more of an effort this time around to handle the chicks so that they are tame

Everyone's crazy about corn on the cob

Friday, August 5, 2016

Scratching for bugs with mom

Mother hen showing the chicks the best place to look for bugs (by the compost bins). I've seen her peck at bugs and start clucking to show the chicks where they are. Also she'll also pick them up and drop them for the chicks to eat.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer hatching -- 3 new chicks

We tried a big hatch this summer -- we're hoping for a couple of hens to add to our aging flock. In early July we set 9 fertile eggs under our trusty broody hen Fancypants Johnson. She is seven years old and this will be her fourth time as a mother!

Since we don't have a rooster, we bought fertile eggs from a small farm in Bellingham where they have a variety of standard hen breeds that they cross with Silkie and Auracana roosters. The eggs were multicoloured -- white, pale blue, and brown. We wanted hens that look unique have a variety of egg colours.

The hatch was not as successful as we had hoped. Four eggs broke under the hen over the last few weeks. Not sure if they were thin-shelled or if they were getting stepped on by other chickens trying to lay eggs in the nest or ... ? Two eggs didn't hatch -- were not fertile after all. So we ended up with 3 chicks -- hopefully at least one will be female. All have feathered legs and look to me like Silkie-crosses.

1 day old! A blue, white and light brown egg hatched. 

Three days old in their new brooder.
Silkie-cross breeds. We think Fancypants also is a Silkie-cross, which explains why she is broody every year (they are known for this). 

Learning to use the feeder.

What's going on in there?

Special time in the yard for the rest of the flock.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hens enjoying a sunny spring day


Fancypants Johnson

Taking a dust bath
Eating raspberry leaves

Friday, June 13, 2014

Visited Walter and company at the farm today

This afternoon we were in Richmond so we stopped by the vegetable farm of some guys who bought the two cochin bantam hens a couple of years ago. At the time of the sale, we also gave them Walter our beloved aging hen who had started to crow. Today when we walked over to the coop, there was Walter -- going on five years old and still ruling the roost. It was great to see she's still doing well. They also still have one of the little cochins -- really cute to see too.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Five chickens, five eggs

Bringing in the day's eggs just as it is starting to rain ... Most days this spring we've been getting an egg from each hen. Pretty remarkable considering their ages are so varied -- between 1 and 4.5 years. Anyhow it has been nice to have lots of eggs for meals and to share with everyone. I love the varied colours. Three "Easter Eggers" lay blue or green, the black copper maran has a rich brown egg, and the polish (Fancy Pants) lays a white egg. The pale blue in the middle is my favorite.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

First post after a break from blogging

The fall and winter flew by and I realized I hadn't posted since July. Today it is raining so I won't be taking photos, but the chickens are doing fine. We have 5 laying hens who are working out well. Two are hatchlings from last summer and three are ones who have been with us for 2+ years. The latest improvement has been a diy automatic coop door opener with a light sensor. When it starts to get light in the morning, it opens (saving me having to get out of bed at 6am.) They've even stopped squawking in the morning to get out! Then at dusk when they've gone in to roost for the night, the door closes. This makes both everyday and vacation care of the coop a lot easier.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Other backyard projects

With a month since the last rain, we're spending more and more time working outside -- enjoying the weather and getting more things growing.

Right now the vegetable garden is in full swing. We have taken down the greenhouse and are back to a regular garden plot. Improvements include wooden walkways and more square footage. In various stages of growth are peas, beans, tomatoes, asparagus, potatoes, squashes, herbs, lettuces, kale and other greens, beets, carrots, and more! My favorite lunch these days is a scramble made of veggies that are ready and our eggs. The other day, my 12 year old wrote up a recipe for scramble:


  • 3 kale leaves 
  • 1 tsp of nutritional yeast
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 frying pan 
  • 1 stove 
  • 1 cup of ham
Close your eyes and throw all that random crap in a pan. Cook on high until you set the smoke detector off (that means its done). Put it on a plate then force feed it to your family. Hope you enjoy!

Besides the vegetables, another major project this summer has been the aquaponics system -- it has now been expanded to the deck. The main components of the system are two insulated barrels containing tilapia, a solar heater, and gravel grow bed that acts as a giant filter. Richard has spent many hours configuring these systems. I get to take over when it comes to the gardening part. Plants really thrive in the fish water! I hope I'll be able to grow veggies in this bed through the winter.

After a year and a half of keeping tilapia, we're now on the third generation of fish. We still have some of the original fish for breeding. These are in the tank in the laundry room. We have eaten some of them -- most of the larger fish from the first generation were smoked last fall. I had imagined the fish tanks as being a source of dinner all the time, but I don't actually feel like having fish very often


The newest backyard project has been an expansion of the worm composting operation. We've had a worm compost bin for kitchen scraps for many years, but last year when we had a surplus of "red wigglers", we advertised them on Craigslist and had a surprising response. So -- long story short -- Richard is now breeding them to sell in Spring 2014. The new bins are in the shed. He's hoping to get 100 bins going by Fall! Care involves adding shredded cardboard, scraps from the local produce store, chicken manure, etc. and monitoring moisture. Under good conditions the worms should double in population every 3 months. Between now and Spring, we need to get a website going and figure out packaging.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Older chickens...

It has been four years this month that we've had chickens -- hard to believe. Of the original flock of four hens, we have one left -- Fancypants Johnson. Two of the hens were sold a couple of years ago because they weren't getting along with the younger chickens, and one was given to someone with a farm last year because she started crowing.

Chickens can live as long as 10 years, but the average lifespan is 5 years. After 3 years old they're not very productive egg layers, so on a real farm they're usually replaced by younger chickens before they're 3. 

In the case of Fancypants, she is still productive; probably because she has taken lots of breaks from egglaying. She doesn't lay eggs during the dark months of winter, when she is broody, or when has molted her feathers. But I figure she has laid about 600 eggs in her lifetime! Last week, she started up again after spending 3 months broody with chicks, and she's all of a sudden putting out an egg every day, which I think is amazing at age 4. The downside is that she was very noisy about getting back into it. She had early morning squawking attacks four days in a row, but now has quieted down some -- lucky for her. I was really thinking that if she didn't adjust we would have to make a difficult decision and it was weighing heavily on my mind. She is the most tame of our chickens and the only one that the kids still call by name.
Update: toward the end of July she's back to her old self and is pretty calm and quiet...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Asymetrical chick may be a "gynandromorph"

Gynandromorph chick at 5 weeks
Last week I noticed that one of the 5 week old chicks has different colored feet -- one white, one yellow. Its feathers and waddles were also asymetrical, so last night I decided to look into it on

After posting some information and pictures in their forum, I got feedback that it could be a gynandromorph -- half male / half female. Apparently this can happen if an egg was fertilized by two sperm.  Here are some photos. The left side looks male with a red waddle and thick yellow leg. The right side lacks the waddle and the pale leg is thinner like a hen would have.

I'll post more photos as this one matures when there's more to see!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Free for all in the chicken run

Mother and chicks needed more space so we set up a little area for them in the chicken run. They've got their own nesting box, feeder, and waterer under cover, but they share the run with our two other hens.

One problem with this setup is trying to feed them separately. To prevent illness when they're little, it is common practice to use a medicated chick feed for the first several weeks. However we don't want our laying hens ingesting a bunch of this. (You'd think they wouldn't be interested in this crumbly textured feed, but they seem to love it.) So yesterday I put the feeder in a box that only the chicks can fit into. We'll see how it works out. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

New baby chicks!

We have eggs hatching this weekend! We went and took a peek under the mother hen tonight and several chicks are out! One was just coming out of the shell so we're just letting them be right now. We'll take some photos tomorrow. Update: 7 of 8 eggs have hatched!