Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Gardening with Chickens

Here in Southern California we had a couple of warm weeks at the end of January. It's hard to have such nice weather and an empty garden and although we usually have frost well into March (and often April!), I decided to experiment and set out some cool weather seedlings to see how things went.

I did the garden prep and setup a fence inside the garden area so that the chickens could still come in and tend the unplanted side of the garden.

The first weekend in February, I put out 4-5 broccoli seedlings and 2 rows of sweet pea seed. The next weekend we had a pretty hard frost. Two of the broccoli did NOT look well. This week we had a hard freeze (I'm down to one thriving broccoli seedling now) and are expecting snow again this weekend!
If you've ever wondered about the many benefits of chicken-keeping, take a look at my garden. The left side is the planted side of the garden. If you squint really hard might be able to see (actually.. probably not) my lone surviving broccoli seedling at the far end of the garden. The right side is what the garden looks like after the chickens have been taking care of business for only an hour! Every thing's been turned just beautifully. And my girls with their muddy feet and beaks are fat and happy with their worm and bug dinner delights!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chicken Treats

Well, it's not really a treat. They just love it so much that they think it is! It's oatmeal, almond meal, and sunflower seeds with a 1/2 banana. Clara (the brown one below) is molting (again!) and I've been noticing some broken off feathers on a couple of the others (you can see the patch of missing feathers on Ingrid's back below). I suspect foul play (no pun intended!) So I decided to supplement with added protein.
When I put out the container of oatmeal, they plunge their beaks into it and then wipe the excess off in the hay. Yeah, that works out real well! It looks like they have hay whiskers! You can kind of see the hay whiskers on Clara below, which they proceed to then eat off of each other. Very funny!
I didn't think chickens have tongues, but from the looks of how clean they get the bottom of the container, I could be mistaken. I'll keep an eye out for that and keep you posted!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Big Cat Print

My trusty neighbor, Ed, found a big cat print yesterday up the hill from the chicken coop about 10 yards or so. We had a big rain last week, so the ground was good and mushy, otherwise I doubt there would have been any evidence that this big cat was prowling around. Normally our hill is like concrete! Ed, being the good neighbor that he is, took a cast of the print (that thought would never have crossed my mind, and I certainly would not have happened to have any plaster of paris laying around to accomplish the task had the thought occurred!)

As you can see, this was a BIG animal. There were no prints any closer to the hen house. I'm sure I would have seen them if there were. The ground was soggy for days and it would have been easy to spot. I'm thinking my coyote deterrent CD is also a good "big cat" deterrent. One can hope!