Sunday, November 9, 2008

Take a powder

It's fall and it's time to reinvent the garden. So far I've planted over 100 lettuce, arugula, spinach and radish plants which should be ready for harvest in January/February. I have redesigned the raised beds with 1/2" pvc pipe covered with clear, used, shower curtains. Leafy greens like cool weather so I'm still hoping to plant mustard greens and kale. Space is, as always, at a premium. An interesting part of the fall is, as I now know, dusting the "girls" for mites. As their dusting area is compromised by the fall weather we must help them out with a forced dusting.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's not JUST about the chickens

One of the philosophies I try to embrace is sustainable living. Getting the chickens was a further step towards what we started 8 yrs ago in our back 40 . . . feet that is. (This is Brooklyn, after all.) We have encouraged our tenants to contribute by giving them a house warming gift of a compost bucket. They have responded very positively. Their "trimmings" not only feed the "girls" but also feed the two compost bins we have. This year's produce has been spectacular. With tomatoes weighing in at 1 lb+. We've had squash galore, cucumbers for days. prolific peppers and green beans beyond number.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whose idea was this, anyway?

Guest blogger Wende:

When we first got the chickens, I asked BJ how often they needed to be fed. "Twice a day," she answered matter-of-factly. "We'll never travel again," I lamented. That's not true. BJ has gone upstate to sing at the Bard Music Festival this week, and I'm home tending the ark: dog, cats, chickens.

I have to say that our little quarter-pound-egg-producers are less than docile at dinnertime. I'm feeling eerily like Suzanne Pleshette in The Birds every time I step out into the garden with a bowl of fresh greens.

Do life insurance policies cover acts of chicken?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Good eats!

With artisanal bread, Flying Pigs bacon, microbrewed beer and our own eggs, it's hard to imagine greater bounty! We are blessed indeed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You are what you eat

OK, these are the best fed chickens in Brooklyn. Possibly the best fed chickens in New York City. They get organic greens, morning and night (leafy greens and root vegetables). Because we have the whole house composting for us, I have no hesitation about picking out the choice "trimmings" from our tenants' compost buckets: strawberries, tomatos, melons, etc. They also get 1 1/2 cups of laying feed and 1 1/2 cups of cracked corn with oats each day. I'm a little put off by their carnivorous nature, but they also enjoy raw meat, so I've been giving them extras from our dog's raw food diet.
The girls follow me around in the garden. They know where their "bread & butter" comes from.
All of this good eatin' is making good layin'. I had to laugh when I brought in the biggest egg I'd ever seen come out of a chicken this morning. It weighed nearly four ounces minus the egg cup. And that brown egg is from Red, our "little" hen. Her big sister Uno makes the little blue eggs.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Get out of Jail Free

The girls LOVE to be in the garden. I usually let them out in the mornings with me before it gets too hot. They're quite good at spotting bugs and tender greens to nibble on. As much as I'm not concerned about my "lawn", we will certainly have the best bit of grass in the neighborhood with all their fertilizing. Our cat Scooter is, I think, somewhat intimidated by the chickens, and yet curious. "What are these large birds? And why are they in my yard?"

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And now there are two

After three weeks of solitude in her Brooklyn spa (do chickens need or crave company?) Teddy the farmer at the Fort Greene Greenmarket came through, and Uno is now sharing her coop with Due, a more docile Rhode Island Red than the one that hen-pecked Uno on the ill-fated day of her arrival. Our new girl promptly went to the laying box and added her contribution to Uno's blue egg.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And then there was one...Uno

OK, it's been a rough week. Half an hour after I posted my last entry, Ellie, our sweet, loving Lab/Swiss Mt. dog broke through the screen door, raced into the garden and broke through the chicken wire underneath the hen house. Within seconds only the Araucana was left. The Leghorn and Rhode Island Red had each given us an egg before their demise...and since then we've had a blue egg every day from "Uno," as we've named her.
Ellie is no longer welcome in the garden unless tethered to the window bars. She has almost stopped barking from the upstairs windows and is settling down, and not rushing to the back door every time I go out back.
We've had advice from ex-farmer dog walking friends in Prospect Park on how to "cure" Ellie. (Wende, in a rare cynical mood, likens the dog's therapy to the Ex-Gay movement: I'm trying to get Ellie to control her behavior, if not her impulses.) Our friends suggest beating the dog with the dead chicken if this ever happens again or hanging it around her neck for 24 hours where she won't be able to stand the smell. They grew up on farms and say this works. We live in residential Brooklyn and doubt we'll try it. We do welcome suggestions from other dog and chicken-owning urbanites.
On Saturday I confessed what had happened to the farmer who'd given me the chickens. He was unfazed and happy they hadn't died of disease. He's bringing me another Rhode Island Red this weekend. More brown eggs to come.
And really, these organic eggs are absolutely delicious.
My remaining girl is eating up all of the greens I give her, and chortling happily while watched carefully by one of our Maine Coon kittens. (Did I mention we have two cats, as well as Cujo?)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

At long last, the girls have arrived

I've been dreaming about getting chickens now for months and months - and today my dream has come true! Thanks to Teddy, a farmer at the Fort Greene Greenmarket, I now have three girls: a Rhode Island Red, a Leghorn, and an Araucana. They've laid two eggs in the six hours since they arrived: brown and white. (Next up: a blue egg from the Araucana, and it'll be Easter every day!)
I had originally planned to build my own hen house from a pair of discarded shipping boxes, but it was too complicated and time-consuming. So I bought a Chick-N-Hutch and Chick-N-Pen from McMurray's Hatchery online and put it together a few days ago.
Yesterday I went to the Kensington Stables near Prospect Park here in Brooklyn and bought a bale of hay to dress up the girls' new home.
They're settling in nicely. The day's biggest challenge has been introducing our puppy Ellie to the girls...