My house sits on two acres; there’s lawn, woods, vegetable garden, one peach tree, some raspberry and blueberry bushes, two chicken coops, and this beautiful water feature. The centerpiece of which is that 17-ton rock, a wonderful hunk of granite that we got when we dynamited out the foundation for our house. The rock has a blasting hole straight through it, and that is where the water flows. In the summer, there are frogs and dragonflies, fish and (yuck) leeches, and so we call it a pond, and our little corner of the world, “Little Pond Farm” – the name being false advertising as we aren’t really a farm.
Anyway, what do you call a place that has two acres, in a town that’s not suburbs and not rural? Are we in the exurbs? And what is a place that has chickens and produces some food but isn’t a working farm?
A dear friend and neighbor, who has lived in this town for 60+ years, and has raised ponies and golden retrievers, calls her place a “farm.” But she has more right to that title – not only does she own forty acres, but broodmares and foals make for a real farm, don’t they? Years ago, she also kept chickens. In 1942, she did what I do now, sold eggs to her neighbors. Back then, she got 35¢ a dozen, which in today’s dollars is $4.45, more than I get today!
Well, whatever you want to call this little slice of land, I’m happy to be here.
When I looked outside this morning, I was surprised to see that none of the hens were outside in the run. Sure, there’s a new dusting of snow on the ground, but it’s not deep. Usually most of the girls go outside at first light.
I spread some hay on the ground, but still the girls decided to stay indoors. Candy is delighted to have fresh hay and the run to herself, and unlike me, she doesn’t worry a tad about why the hens aren’t milling around.
Sometimes chickens stay indoors because they’ve had a fright from predators, but I don’t think that’s it. They show no signs of stress. And Lily, my Rat Terrier/Border Collie mix who always lets me know when there’s an unwelcome animal in the backyard didn’t sniff the ground or put her hackles up, so I’m sure the hens slept well last night.
I am hoping that the girls are indoors because they are thinking about laying eggs. Indoors is where the nesting boxes are. Maybe “thinking” is too strong a word. Maybe they just have a sense that they should be doing something in there.
The eight hens in the HenCam barn are laying between one and three eggs a day. I don’t expect an egg a day – some of the girls are a few years old and slowing down – but four a day would be nice! I’ve got some custards I’d like to make…
It was 10 degrees F. this morning. There’s 6 inches of hard, icy snow on the ground. But, there are two sure signs of spring:
1) The gardening catalogs have arrived in the mail. I will try (yet again) not to order too many seeds. It’s easy to get carried away when the only green outside is on the pine trees. I don’t have enough room in the garden to plant everything I’d like, so I try and limit my selections. I also have enough gardening experience to know that some things just don’t do well for me; I’m death to sweet peppers. I’ve also got a terrible problem in my vegetable patch with cabbage loopers – but am thinking of planting kale anyway, just for the girls. Leafy greens covered with bugs is their favorite treat.
2) The hens have started laying! I’m getting enough eggs so that I can put the oatmeal back in the pantry, and have my hard-cooked egg on homemade toast in the morning. I know that a number of HenCam viewers found this site because they asked the question “when will the hens start laying?” or “what’s wrong with my Orrpington?” The only thing amiss with your chickens is the dark of winter! So, even if it well below freezing, go out and check your nesting boxes – if possible twice a day, so that the eggs don’t sit there and freeze and crack. Also, if you have pullets who have never laid before, put a wooden egg in each box to give your girls a hint about where to lay. (Purchase these eggs from poultry supply houses, like EggCartons.com. See my site, chickenkeeping.com for a list.)
I spent a couple of enjoyable hours on Saturday at the New England Poultry Congress, where hundreds of birds were on display. This view is of only half of the building! The man in the white coat is one of the judges.
There were classes for junior exhibitors.
There were people walking around with their favorite birds.
I had a chance to talk to knowledgeable people. I finally learned how to tell the difference between White Old English Game and Bantam White Leghorns. (Snowball fits a bit of each description but her yellow legs gives her away as a Leghorn. Let’s just be tactful and say she’d never win a ribbon!)
And I checked out the geese. I have a hankering to get a couple of these Sanbastapol. I love how this breed looks like it’s wearing a wedding gown.
But, even though there was a sale area, I didn’t come home with any new birds. I think I should wait until we’re not snowed in!
Once in awhile I get a question from someone who wants to be a real farmer and make an income off of their flock. I’m not the person to go to for that advice! The place to go is the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Annual Farming For the Future Conference from Feb. 7 to 9. There will be workshops titled, “Mistakes Not to Make Your First Year Farming” and “Raising Premium Pastured Poultry.” I won’t be there – but I have donated a Farmstead Egg Cookbook and HenCam hat to the charity auction.
I’d love to hear from you if you go!