Monday, December 10, 2012

Chickens' First Snow

   It has been a really warm fall and early winter, and we finally have snow with noticeable accumulation.  It came on Saturday night, and it has been cold enough to stay around.   The ski resorts in Colorado are just now starting to open for the season.

   Our chickens just celebrated their 13-week birthday last week.  They are all healthy and big!  Amazing how fast they grow.  The feathers are beautiful.  The cuddly ones (Frigglish and Puccini in particular) are warm and soft.  If you've heard that chickens are stinky or smelly, it's not true.  If kept in a clean environment, they smell like sun-dried laundry.

   I got all five of them in a single frame! :D  We have such a beautiful assortment of chickens.  The black and white one is Frigglish (always the sweetest and the cuddliest); the fawn-colored one is Puccini (also tame and loves to roost on our arms); the black one is Tapioca (used to be the black and yellow chick); the white and brown one is Coco (the most streamlined chicken who loves to sit on my back); and the dark brown one is Dorito (the most high-strung one of the flock, rather anti-social with humans).  Each has a distinct personality, which is fun.

   The other day, someone that I had never met before stopped by and gave me some fresh greens for the chickens.  She told me that she was given too much greens for her chickens and was happy to share with me.  I was delighted!  I've always given my girls chopped greens from the SFG boxes (Swiss chard, salad mix, and broccoli leaves), but most of my veggies are now dead (My parsley and broccoli are the only plants that are still green and alive.), so we have to buy the greens from the grocery store.

   The chickens start to lay eggs when they are about 5 months old.  It will be early February 2013 when our chickens turn that age.  It will be couple more months.  I'm very excited about that! :D  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pics of Chicks at 5 Weeks Old

   These photos were taken on October 11, 2012.  The chicks are 5 weeks old.

   Frigglish is still the friendliest of them all.  So calm and content... about the only one that holds still long enough for me to take a pic in rather poor light (early evening with low level of battery in camera).

   Puccini and Frigglish on a new roost that my husband is building/testing for them.  They look like chickens now.  I believe they are called pullets.

   Puccini looking pretty on the roost.  She was seen jumping and flapping her wings against one of the cats that were trying to climb up the walls.  She wasn't backing down at all.  Feisty girl!  She is very sweet with us, humans. ^^

   Here's Tapioca with almost no yellow left on her.  Her black feathers are very pretty with purple and green sheen in the sunlight.  Unfortunately, this photo was taken in the dearly dust hours, so no pretty colors are captured.  Tapioca seems to weight the most among the five pullets.

   They are getting so big and eating a lot.  We are on our 3rd bag of feed.  They are spending more time outside in the run as well.  They love collard greens, lettuce, and Swiss chard.  All of them still like to jump up on us and roost on us, which is pretty sweet.  Chickens have been definitely more fun than I expected. :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chickens Are Now 4 Weeks Old

   Our chickens are now 4 weeks old.  Hard to believe it has been that long since they came to our house.  Here's a picture of four of our five chicks (The black one to the left is Frigglish.  The black one next to her is Tapioca.  The light one in the upper right corner is Coco.  And the brown and tan color one in the lower left is Dorito.  Missing from the shot is Puccini.).

   Here's a good look at Puccini.  Her body is pretty much covered with nice feathers except for her neck and head.  She still has fine downs in these areas and looks a little funky. *giggles*  Her face is starting to show some pink colors (will eventually be red) as the comb is starting to grow.  The white-ish blur in the foreground is Coco barging in onto my arm at the last second to photo-bomb.  She is so 'in your face' with everything she does...

   Right after the previous shot, she 'confronts' the camera. XD  My kitty, Marshmallow, looks on right outside the run.

   Frigglish sitting on my knee, perfectly well-behaved.  This girl is so sweet.  She was the first one to warm up to us and never complained being handled by us.  Such a good girl!  We love Frigglish.

   Tapioca, looking pretty.  She is another one that really warmed up to me in the past week.  She likes to sit on my shoulder as I clean their coop.  Very calm, content, friendly, and trusting.  Sweet bird!  She will be all black at maturity.  Should be gorgeous.

   They are growing fast and very healthy, judging from their behavior.  They like coming out of the coop when it's bright and warm outside.  They are scared by the cats lunging onto the chicken wire every so often, but they run quite fast.  It's fun to see them run around when one of them has something in the mouth that everyone wants ... like a piece of leafy green. XD  Chicken football.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

SFG in Fall

   It's been a long time since I wrote about my Square Foot Garden boxes.  As the weather gradually cools, the production has been slowing down.  I am no longer getting my favorite Swiss chard at the rate I would like, or  the eggplants.   Strawberries are still producing, and I am still picking and using carrots.  I miss the peak of summer when I could get Swiss chard and an eggplant to use in my lunch every single day and the garden looked as if nothing has been harvested.

   Now that it's October, and the morning low is in the low 40s, things are slowing down.  That's just nature's way.  The focus is shifted to the fall/winter crops.  I did convert my Corn Box into Winter Greens Box at the end of August.  I pulled out all the corn plants, replenished the soil with compost that I had been "cooking" in the corner of the backyard, and planted the box with some chrysanthemum plants and veggie seeds.

   You can see the red and yellow mums in the corners and the seedlings in many of the squares.  I have Japanese winter greens, radish, carrots, lettuce mix up.  I've also planted spinach seeds, but they are not up yet.  The Japanese greens are said to grow even in winter, and cold weather improves the flavor.  I am looking forward to having fresh greens in winter.  I use them in so many things in my cooking.

   On the far end of the photo above, you can see my three pots of flowering kale plants.  The lower leaves turn beautiful shades of orange and pink, while the center is starting to grow pink rosettes. ^^

   When I was growing up in Japan, chrysanthemums were everywhere in fall.  There were chrysanthemum festivals and shows (exhibits).  They came in so many shapes and colors, I loved going to those juried shows as a child.  I still love them for their long-lasting and cold hardiness.  And I love the distinct scent of the leaves and flowers.

   Here's a look at the old Spring Veggies Box.  It produced all summer long and still looking quite wonderful with some second crops growing.  The marigold and broccoli are getting huge.  I have the second crop of peas and lettuce mix.  I still have a lot of carrots left.  The Swiss chard has been my favorite and the chicks' favorite.  ^^

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Photos of Chicks at 3 Weeks Old

   That's Tapioca leading down the ramp with Dorito and Coco watching.  Our kitty, Chaba, is watching the chicks. ^^;

   Here's a picture of Frigglish roosting casually on my daughter's wrist as Puccini looks on from the ramp (with Chaba in the background, photo-bombing yet again XD ).  Frigglish is very friendly and loves to fly up on our arms, shoulders, and heads.    These photos were taken on Sept. 27, 2012, when the chicks were 3 weeks plus a day old.  The feathers are now covering most of their bodies and they are losing the baby chick down every day.  They look like mini-chickens. ^^

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chicks Are Now Two Weeks Old

   It's been two weeks since we got the chicks.  They are all healthy and growing so fast. They look more and more like small chickens than chicks now that they have feathers instead of fluffy downs that made them look so adorable as baby chicks.  But they have become so tame and friendly, it's so fun to go inside the run in the morning and open the coop door for them to come outside.  They usually jump on my feet and arms as if to say "Hi, Mom!"  Just adorable!!

   Tapioca, sitting on my hand.  They don't mind being picked up now, but most of the time, they just jump on us as if we are their perches.  Their feet feel so warm on our skin (Chicken's body temperature is around 102F degrees.).

   Coco.  She is the Easter Egger, which will lay blue/green eggs.  Her feet look kind of green.  And she is the only one that has 'cheeks'.  Cute.

   They come and go and switch places.   Here, I've got Dorito, Frigglish, and Tapioca.  Photo-bombing in the background is my kitty, Marshmallow.

   At one point, I had four chicks on my left arm.  They like to jump and sit on our arms so much. ^^;  Their little claws leave small scratch marks on my skin, but they don't hurt.  I guess it's just dry skin. lol  XD

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fun with Chicks

   It has been warm and sunny lately and some of the chicks have been flapping their wings and jumping to the top edge of the brooder walls, we decided to let them out into the run section of their coop to get some outside experience and exercise.  Chicks seem to love the dirt.  Dorito immediately started sand bathing like a seasoned pro.  We couldn't believe how good at it she was, digging and kicking with her leg and tossing the dirt with her wings onto herself.  They are only a little over a week old and so capable. :D

   They also figured out the exit ramp (a piece of board we put to the coop door) quite well.  The little feet walking up and down the ramp are so cute.  Some of them also just 'fly' off from mid point of the ramp, flapping their wings.  One jumped right off from the coop door and landed clear across on the far wall.  They can kind of 'fly' already.   So cute.

   Our kitties are definitely curious about the little birds in the big cage.  Although I was surprised to see that none of them have been having the 'chatter teeth' reaction to seeing the birds, like they usually do when they see sparrows and doves in the backyard.  They seem to know that these chicks belong to the humans and they are somehow special.  Every time I let the chicks out, the cats gather around the chicken coop and watch.  They have no idea how big these chicks are going to be. *giggles*  Some of our kitties will weight less than the grown hens at maturity.  Puccini is a Buff Orpington, so she will weigh about 7 pounds as a hen, and even more as a rooster (in case she was misidentified as a female as a day-old chick...  It happens.).

   The chicks love the chopped Swiss chard from the Square Foot Garden box in the backyard.  They go crazy pecking on the chopped pieces and stepping all over the bowl -- the little girls have no manners when it comes to food. XD  I'm composting their coop bedding in the compost pile for future use in the gardens.

   My family and I are having so much fun with the chicks.  They have grown used to being handled by us and some even falls asleep in our hands and Friglish (The black chick, which will be black and white marked "Barred Plymouth Rock".) is particularly friendly and casual, routinely jumping onto our arms and backs (when I'm crouching down).  They all seem pretty happy. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Week One with the Chicks

Time flies when you're having fun!  It's hard to believe it has been 7 days since the chicks arrived.  They are growing so fast.  (The size of their poo grows noticeably every day! XD)  The wing feathers with pretty patterns are already starting to emerge.

From left to right: Tapioca, Friglish, Dorito, Coco, and Puccini.  We let them out into the run for a while and some of the girls were doing the sand bath thing and got all dingy.

Coco sitting pretty.

Puccini is very friendly, too.

Dorito's wing feathers are showing beautiful patterns.  She'll be a very pretty hen.

The other two dark chicks, we couldn't get good photos.  Friglish is friendly, but the photo came out out of focus.  Tapioca is a little high strung, and with the wing feathers growing, they run with wings flapping as if to test themselves for flying.  They jump a lot, too.

We've had a second case of "Pasty Butt".  Pasty butt is when a poo gets stuck on their butt.  According to the blog article by the company we bought the chicks from, if not taken care of, it will prevent the chick from passing waste and can cause death.  So it's vital that pasty butt is taken care of as soon as it is spotted.  The first time I spotted it was on the day after they arrived.  Dorito had it.  I hadn't read up on the 'pasty butt' at the time, but I figured it would constipate the poor chick, so I moistened a wad of tissue with warm water and gently removed the crusty poo.  She was fine after that.  This time, Tapioca was starting to develop it with one chunk of poo stuck on her butt.  I went ahead and gave her the same treatment as I did to Dorito.  She's been fine since.  It has become one of my chores to check the girls' rear for the telltale sign of PB every morning.  ^^;

Friday, September 7, 2012

Chicks Are Here!

It's been over a month since I wrote in this blog.  The month of August was so busy and it just flew!

Lots of update around the garden, but the biggest news has to be our new chicks.  The chicks were ordered in August from, a company in Texas, scheduled for delivery in September.  Well, I was notified shortly after placing my order that our chicks will be shipped on September 5th, and we can expect them to arrive at our local post office for pick up within a day or two.

I was doing my final supply shopping for the coop (thermometer and pine shavings for the floor) at Wal-mart at 7 in the morning when my cell phone rang and it was the post office.  I didn't even know that there were people working at the post office at 7 in the morning, but apparently, that's when the stuff start come in the back of the building.  I was instructed to come to the 'dock' in the back of the building and press the service button to get help.  I drove right on over after paying for my stuff.

And this is what I picked up at the post office.  The box is clearly marked with "Live Baby Chicks" on a red sticker, and as if it wasn't enough, the box is chirping. :D  Special delivery, indeed!

I got the special gel food ready for the chicks and the lamp turned on inside the coop where I had set up a brooder zone and took the box out to the coop and carefully removed the outer lid.  This is what the inside the box looked like -- padded with wood shredding and another box inside. ^^

I put the whole box inside the brooder and opened the inside box to see the five chicks huddling in the corner.  CUTE!!!!!

I carefully scooped them up and out of the box one by one and gently put them onto the brooder floor.  They  just ran out of my hands to check out the place.  Amazing how much energy these chicks have after a trip in a box!  Much to my delight, they came right up to my hand and pecked on my rings when I put my hand in the brooder.  I was expecting them to huddle in the corner as far away from me as possible and shiver in fear.  Was I wrong!

Close-up of the chicks.  We got one each of Barred Plymouth Rock, Buff Orpington, Black Australorp, Golden Comet, and Easter Egger (Ameraucana).  A variety pack! :D  That was the nice thing about  Their minimum order is 3 chicks (during warm shipping months), and you can mix and match from a wide variety of chicken breeds.

And this is the chicks' home tweet home. ^^  We still have inside door latches to put, more hardware clothes to put at the top where the roof meets the side walls, but it's ready for the chicks.  The brooder area is set up inside the coop.  My daughter decided on the classic American barn color scheme of barn red and white for our coop/run.  The structure is located just past our square foot garden boxes in the backyard.

The morning glory is going crazy on our fence.  I had planted 5 to 7 seeds (I don't remember for sure...) in one small spot, so now the whole thing is densely covering a section of our fence.  Every morning, we see tons of blooms in lavender and magenta.  I don't know what happened to the "Heavenly Blue" I planted or the Moonflower seeds also.  They're there, but no blooms yet.

The broccoli plant in the Summer Veggies box is 3 feet tall and mostly leaves.  I saw this sad excuse of a 'head' the other day.  It's not quite what I expected, but tasted good. ^^;

Also strange is my "Black Krim" tomato.  They taste wonderful with a definite heirloom flavor, but they don't really turn 'black' as the seed catalogs showed in pictures.  The flavor, though, is to die for.

The Swiss Chard (Neon Lights) in the Spring Veggies box is still producing remarkably well.  I have greens to add to my lunch every day from a single square of these guys.  They are, by far, my favorite from the garden.  I also love the eggplant!

The Kamome Pink flowering kale I've been growing from seeds.  The center is looking really dense and the whole 'head' measures 12 inches already.  I'm looking forward to the color change as the weather gets cooler/cold.

Well, this is it for the giant update!  I'll write more about the chicks and my Winter Veggies box (where crops of corn used to grow) in the next update. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Monsoon Moisture

   It's so nice to finally get a break from the heat wave (long streak of 100 degrees or more with no rain).  The brutal heat all but stopped tomatoes from producing fruits and many plants didn't look their best.  So it's a welcome relief to see storm clouds brewing in the sky and hear thunder on a regular basis for the past week or so.  The clouds and rain have kept the temperature hovering in mid 80s to mid 90s during the peak heat of the day, and I am seeing the plants responding to the change in a positive way.

   It's hard to believe that today is Day 114 for my Spring Veggies Box.  I have been picking and eating from this box for quite some time.  I am really glad that I planted the Sweet William and Marigold.  The colors are nice and the butterflies and bees they bring are such a nice addition to the garden.  The Swiss chard has been my favorite to eat after the spinach has finished.  I have since planted more in the spinach square with Swiss chard.  I love their color and versatility in many dishes.  The arugula has been bolting in the heat.  I usually pick and throw the flowers to the compost pile, but here you can see the pale yellow flowers.  They are kind of pretty. ^^  The soy beans are showing flowers, so I'm expecting to be harvesting them soon.

   The Summer Veggies Box is a little bit out of control.  The broccoli, soy beans, eggplant, and four o'clock are all taller than 2 feet and obscuring the boundaries totally.  They really are overflowing.  Looking extremely vigorous.  The ones that really didn't live up to my expectation were the tomato plants.  They started out wonderfully, in June, but then quickly suffered from the 100 degree heat and disease (The unfortunate thing with heirloom tomatoes is their lack of disease resistance.).  I've also noticed in my neighbor's backyard that their tomatoes are producing something like cherry tomato when I know they planted regular size tomatoes.

   My Black Krim tomato has fruits that are starting to change color finally, but the plant itself is also showing signs of some kind of disease.  The Yellow Pear had been stunted for a while during the brutal heat and dryness, but starting to turn around by showing signs of new growth as well as turning the fruits' color into bright yellow.  The Brandywine, which I was so looking forward to, has not done well at all.  The plant has small fruits that are only about 2 inches in diameter and the whole plant is looking yellowish.  The small fruits have turned red, but it's neither the shape nor the color of Brandywine fruits.  It makes me wonder if they were marked wrong at the nursery...  Come to think of it, right next to the group of Brandywine seedlings were some cherry tomato variety.  It would be quite easy for some prankster to switch the tags.  Hmmmm.

   The four o'clocks in the Summer Veggies Box.  Measuring about 2.5 feet tall and about 2 feet spread, totally overflowing its square.  This plant was supposed to have variegated bi-color blooms, but as you can see, the seed produced a solid pink flowers.  Still very pretty and smells wonderful.  Can't complain too much.

   I have three flowering kale plants in pots right next to the Summer Veggies Box.  For some reason, the ones in these pots are growing so much faster than the one that is in the SFG box.  I don't know why.  It's like the Miracle Grow commercial, showing the difference between 'grown with' and 'grown without'.   Here in the picture is one of our kitties, Chaba.

  Already so pretty, and it hasn't even turned colors yet.  That will have to wait till the weather cools off in the fall and early winter. :D  I'm so excited about these guys.

   The Strawberry SFG Box looking phenomenal.  The strawberries seem to really enjoy the break from the heat and dryness.  Ever since we started getting regular afternoon rainstorms, these guys started to look really green with much larger leaves.  I have also given them 2 feedings of the fish tank water.  They continue to produce a lot of white flowers and red berries.  The size is still a little random -- some regular size, some tiny.

   After getting a plant with pink flowers and a plant with white flowers, I was delighted that the third plant to bloom was actually true to the seed variety I purchased!!!  Here's the first of the pink and white variegated Four O'Clock.  No two flowers from this plant are ever alike.  Some have so little pink they are almost white, while others are almost all pink, and there are some that just have such pretty markings.  It's a shame that these blooms are so short-lived!

   Speaking of short-lived, our water lilies only last about 2 days in the sun.  The pond is in a location that is away from the house or trees, so it's completely exposed for much of the day.  They are so gorgeous on the first day.

   Another short-lived flower is the morning glory.  I have them trailing on a fence along the north property line.  The seeds were planted in mid May (rather late) and  it took them until July 28th to produce their first bloom.  I have a mix of different colors along the fence (including the moonflower vine), but this color was the first to appear.  Pale blue with purple and pink star.  We had the rain shower in the early morning, and this photo was taken shortly after.

   Along the sunflower patch in the backyard are more four o'clocks and the sulfur cosmos.  I love this variety of cosmos.  The bright orange, brick red, and yellow colors compliment the sunflower's yellow so well.  They look great as cut flowers, too.   This photo completes my first update in almost 2 weeks.  Our chicken coop is getting close to completion.  I am hoping that I can put a nice series of photos up soon.