At the ByrdHouse

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Lady Capet

I hope y’all like chickens, because I will be posting about them here from time to time.

I have wanted chickens for years, but our previous homes were in suburban communities where zoning did not allow for keeping chickens. When we moved to a rural community, it was only a matter of time before I had a coop in my own yard.

When we first moved here, one of my neighbors had chickens, so I made a point of becoming friends in the hope that I could learn how to care for them. After the first summer, she bought me 6 pullets and let me keep them with her girls at the bottom of her property.

Speckled Sussex Pullets

I realized right away that I loved them as much as I thought I would. They all have names, of course, and I would pick them up and carry them around the enclosure to keep them used to people.
The arrangement worked out very well, but I wanted to have them closer so I could go out to visit any time I wanted.

After a couple of years sharing space, I got started on a coop of my own, with plans to eventually get more pullets and install a fenced yard around the building so they could come out into the sun and hunt for bugs.

I had a brief affair with a couple of guineas, but quickly learned that they do not like to be enclosed. My neighbors were not thrilled, but I actually enjoyed their shrill screeching. Their little bald heads and dotted feathers are so endearing.

Eventually, they had to be returned to the farm because they were so unhappy and did not want to be handled by a human. They were also egg thieves.

It took me about a year to install the first section of fence so the girls could roam.

Sugar Pie and Little Red Hen

This spring, I rescued a set of four Leghorn cross pullets. They were in bad shape and extremely feral when I brought them home, but had recovered sufficiently within a month that I was able to integrate them into the existing flock without any major problems.

Grace Kelly

Over the summer, my husband extended the chicken yard further with and exterior section of fence. It’s very difficult to keep any living vegetation in the chicken run for long, so I had to plan for separate areas that can be divided and closed off in order to plant cover crops and rotate the girls around. Otherwise, I end up with a giant patch of sandy clay and ankle traps where the girls wallow for dust baths.

If you enjoy chickens, chicken photos, chicken videos, and random chicken stories, check back periodically for updates on my poultry adventures.

Saturday, April 18th

Over the last few weeks, I have established a daily gardening routine because I have been distracted by current events. It consists primarily of going outside to work on a myriad of existing garden chores and long-neglected projects in whatever order strikes me as important at the time. I have done a pretty good job of prioritizing the time-sensitive tasks like building raised beds for seed planting, sowing the seeds, and starting a fertilizer schedule for the roses. Most days I have been breaking for lunch or afternoon tea and returning to the garden until it’s time to make dinner.
Now that the days are longer, I’m often working after dinner as well, although my back and shoulders are beginning to show signs of strain. Weeds. Did I say I have been pulling weeds? Lots of weeds. Weeds forever; but the chickens love them.

I love gardening. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to work on the gardens at this house with a purpose. Maybe, it has to do with finally having a real studio space. I tend to have a very obsessive personality. I’m all in on whatever I consider important and tend to lose sight of the other activities that interest me. Plus, this yard needed so much work when we moved in and we left a house we had spent many years working on. I was feeling overwhelmed about starting over. We will have been here 7 years in a couple of weeks, so a little effort to start putting our mark on the house and property is quite overdue.

The bulk of the work I have done in the yard has pertained to putting up the chicken coop and fencing off a yard for them. I have planted some random flowers, but I haven’t put much effort into establishing flowerbeds with any amount of design consideration. We have a lot of large shrubs and trees that the previous owners planted too close to the foundation of the house and I haven’t wanted to mess with that at all. It’s a daunting task since most of them are hollies, but my husband pulled the second one out today, so I suddenly feel like we may be able to get things under control. I will look up old photos of the house and post a walk through of the gardens in a future post.

I have been having to learn to find balance as I return to creative pursuits, but I have been back in the studio several nights this week. I’m feeling much more focused and motivated to make art for the first time in weeks and have made some progress on the color composition for my current commission. You can expect a post about that in the next couple of days on the blog.

Today I found a fourth bird nest in the rose thicket next to our driveway. I think it is a cardinal nest. We have another cardinal nest in a holly behind the back porch that already has 2 hatchlings in it. I have always planted for the birds and pollinators first, which makes for wild and unconventional gardens, but the birds bring me so much joy. I enjoy the pollinators as well and we were seeing honey bees several weeks ago. The butterflies and moths are emerging now as well as various wasps, bumble and carpenter bees, katydids, and garden spiders. Our current bird count in the nests is over 10 that I am aware of – I am too short to see how many are in the wren nest, but it sounds like at least 3 different babies are in there.

Before I finished for the day, I cut a large fig branch that was on the ground and split it up to attempt propagating new trees. I put two of the cuttings directly in the ground, inside the chicken yard that I have fenced off for growing fodder. I will write about both of those projects separately and at length because friends have been asking me to put down my gardening methods and I realized I’m well on my way to what is currently considered homesteading, although I have managed much larger projects for small businesses and schools in the past.

Everything is in disarray at the moment as I try to get all of the time sensitive projects taken care of and new plants and seedlings established. It won’t look like a junkyard much longer, but it also won’t be pretty for a couple of years. The first concern with any of the flowers and edibles is protecting them from the deer, and that usually requires using ugly fence or other barriers to protect them. I’m also starting a lot of things in pots this year because I don’t have time to build more raised beds until next year.

I will close this lengthy post with some recent photos of the girls, including my new Tea With Chickens ritual that I indulge in on the days when my back is not up for gardening. Thank you for sticking with me to the end.