Saturday, November 5, 2011

Free range chickens, annual releasing ceremony, Deep litter chicken coop, winterizing the backyard farm, harvest is in

Yesterday saw  an annual  ritual take place in our backyard, micro farm. Jimmy and I jumped out of bed at the crack of dawn  (ok it was 9 am).  We had our coffee and then set to work  winterizing the back yard. I cleaned the coop and added about 6 inches of  bedding to keep the girls warm.  We  do a deep litter thing in the coop.  It means clean out the poop, but leave  the old bedding and add new on top of it.  By the time of spring cleaning there will be close to 14 inches of bedding in the coop.  This is something you want to do if you don't have any heating or a  lamp in your coop.  The old bedding on the bottom generates heat and keeps the girls warmer.  Its a good idea to sprinkle a little  seven dust on  the floor before the first layer.  When I cleaned the coop last month it was a thorough cleaning and debugging so all I needed to do was  clean out the poop and add new bedding.  I also moved the ladder which HashTag uses as a perch,  as far against the wall as I could.  (bantams like a lower perch)  cuz it was to close to the  high perch and every now and then someone would manage to poo on her head in the middle of the night. Hash and the oldest  girl  were cuddled together nicely  last night  when I checked.  The old grouchy one is now too old to get up on the high perch.  All is well in the Hen house now.  While I was doing this, Jimmy was busy  covering the cat  door in the  fence and patching all points of excursion.  Then we cleaned the  yard and put away the lawn chairs and all other signs of summer.  We put bird netting on the two winter beds ( which are still producing nicely).  Jimmy cut his precious pepper plant off at the base and it is now drying in the kitchen with the other herbs. We walked the perimeter  and policed the entire area for bits of plastic or wire  that might be indigestible.  Then we stood  back, surveyed what we had done and decide it was time.   The annual release of the prisoners  could now commence.   I got the camera and Jimmy opened the gate.   HashTag was, of  course, the first one to realize that   freedom was beckoning and casually walked   through the gate like it "weren't nothin'".  She really does have chicken "Cool" down to an art.  She kept looking behind her  and when she realized the other girls  didn't know the gate was open she calmly went back to tell them.   Unlike Hash, the other girls got all excited, had some sort of chicken  planning meeting and then they all lined up single file and marched out the gate  with  a dignity and ceremony we  humans could  only envy.  I've seen them do this before and I am fascinated by it.  They always seem to know it is  an important moment and they take the time to acknowledge it.    Interestingly enough, Elphie 'the fallen'  took point and led everyone out.  Prissy 'the benevolent' swept the rear.   The only glitch to the annual parade was  our grouchy old girl.  She kept lagging behind getting distracted by dandelions and beetles.  Finally the other  girls just went back, surrounded her and  escorted her through the the process.  They hit all their favorite spots order... and took about 5 minutes in each place.  After about  a half hour they  had another chicken meeting,  acknowledged  that the ritual was complete, and went their separate ways.   Last years ritual took almost an hour before they got to this point.  I think this year they shortened it  for the old girl cuz she just couldn't keep focused on the rite.  And so it is done.  The harvest is in and the girls are free-ranging. Drusilla has taken up her Lordly position atop the the Hot tub to watch over  all, accordingly, as Jimmy  and  I sit in front of a warm fire enjoying the fruits of our labors.
Aaaahhhh... life is good. 

The intrepid HashTag, first on the scene.

Elphie 'the fallen' leading the way. Prissy 'the benevolent' sweeping the rear.

Barred Rock Elphie 'the fallen' and  Leghorn Prissy 'the benevolent

Silkie 'the intrepid'  HashTag

Jimmy's precious peppers hanging to dry

an empty prison

Jimmy patching a point of egress

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