Recently I tried making my own granola. It ended up being quite simple, and I recommend trying it yourself. Dakota and I both find most store-bought granolas way too sweet and full of "extra" flavors. So, my goal was to make granola that was simple, healthy and tasty.
This is our new chicken, Becky, who we just picked up this afternoon. She's a black sex link, which means she's part Rhode Island Red and part Barred Rock. She should end up about the same size as Lisa and lay brown eggs as well. For now, though, she's just going to concentrate on growing bigger and getting a clean bill of health so she can get out of quarantine and into the coop with her chicken sisters.
More on all that later. For now, please enjoy the cuteness that is Becky.
It was an exciting morning at our house today. Lisa did something pretty thrilling: She laid her very first real egg! That's it at the top of the post, as you may have guessed.
Lisa has been working on laying a real egg for a few days now. On Saturday, she laid a soft-shelled egg. Or, I should say I think that's what happened. Dakota and I went out for a fancy dinner that night, so we missed the actual event. But, on Sunday morning, I found some evidence of a soft shelled egg in the coop. Specifically, there was something that looked almost like part of a snake egg--white and soft--plus half of a yolky soft egg-shaped thing on the floor of the run. I was actually pretty surprised to see it, since Lisa is only 18 weeks old. But, I guess she's just precocious. I found something similar in the run on Monday evening.
This was all very exciting, at least for me, and I have been trying to make sure that Lisa is getting enough calcium in her diet, to help firm up the egg shell. I ended up baking some clean shells from some store-bought eggs in the oven for 30 mins on 250, as suggested on the BackyardChickens forums. Then I crumbled them up and gave them to Lisa, hoping she'd eat a few. It's tough to tell if she went for them.
I looked around and didn't see anything of note when I let the chickens out of the coop in this morning. But, Lisa did head back into the coop after a short visit to the feeder. Dakota put a snazzy new nest box on the coop on Sunday, and Lisa is a big fan, so I thought she might just want to sit in it a bit more.
Then, just as I was packing my lunch for work, Dakota called up to me from the yard with some exciting news: Lisa laid an egg AND she laid it in the nest box. (Apparently, many people have a hard time convincing their chickens to lay in the nest box, but I guess our Lisa is a chicken genius.) Of course, I immediately rushed down to the coop to see, and there it was. An egg!
It's a bit on the small side, and the shell is thin at both ends, but it's definitely a real egg. Dakota and I admired it for a while, and then popped it in the fridge. I haven't cracked it yet. Maybe we will tomorrow morning.
We couldn't be prouder of Lisa. Hopefully she'll keep up the good work. Now if I could just convince Jackie to get healthy!
My summer garden is really coming along nicely, and there should hopefully be a few delicious veggies ready to harvest in a couple of weeks.
This year, I'm growing a few things I've never grown before, including eggplants. These are actually plants I foolishly started last Fall, because I mistakenly thought they were winter vegetables. In fact, they need warm weather to bloom. Since California winters are so mild, I managed to keep a few plants alive until summer, and now they're thriving.
I am growing two varieties of eggplant, one small globe variety and one long skinny variety, usually used in Asian cooking.
I am also trying onions this year, both in pots and in the garden. They take a long time to mature, but I have planted them in stages, so hopefully I'll have one or two a month starting in a few weeks.
I have planted okra for the second year in a row. Last year, my okra was a complete failure. But, after a brief setback when Lisa hopped in the garden and pulled up all the okra seedlings, this year things are going pretty well so far. There are a good number of okra seedlings popping up out of the dirt. If they survive this weekend's heatwave, I think I may actually harvest some this year. Fresh okra, Mmmmmmm!
Also in the garden are tomatoes (of course), peppers, green beans, corn, zucchini, carrots, radishes and cucumbers. Some plants are doing better than others, but I think we should get a few tasty meals out of my efforts this summer. I'll keep you posted.
Sweet old Jackie is still hanging in there. It's hard to say whether she's "better" or not, but she hasn't really gotten any worse. She's still limping, but my main concern these days is her weight.
She's way too skinny, and her comb is very small and pale. Both of these symptoms made me think Jackie has some other issue beyond her limp. I finally decided to deworm her, in case she has some sort of internal parasite that's messing with her ability to get nutrients. I guess lots of people deworm their chickens, although there are not many dewormers sold specifically for chickens.
I ended up getting some SafeGuard Canine Dewormer based on the success of someone else on the Backyard Chickens message boards. They sell it at Pet Co. It comes in three 1 gram doses, and I gave her a little less than one dose each day for 3 days. I made a little mash of the dewormer powder, a bit of her food and a touch of water. She ate it right down because I fed it to her first thing in the morning when she was hungry. Today was the last day of treatment.
As I said, she hasn't necessarily improved, but I guess it may take some time. One positive sign is that her poops are more solid than they were (sorry, I know that may be too much information). On the negative side, her poops are also green. Green poops can apparently sometimes mean they are not absorbing their food. (The green is bile.) So, I am hoping to see some nice, normal, light brown solid poops from Jackie soon.
If she continues to be sick, I am not sure what to do. Other possible fits for her symptoms are coccidiosis (treatable) or lymphoid leukosis (not treatable). At least, that's what I could put together using the Internet and The Chicken Health Handbook.
It could also be something like lice, which is weird, but I guess someone else on the message board had similar chicken problems and it ended up being lice. Anyway, we'll see... I really hope the dewormer did the trick.
I thought I'd post some good chicken news for a change: Dakota has completed his installation of the green roof on the chicken coop. It looks great, too, and is only going to look better as time goes on.
Here he is securing wire mesh over the gravel in the roof frame. I don't know all the technical details, but basically the gravel is there to provide good drainage. Under the gravel is a sheet of resin, to keep the roof waterproof. There are drain holes drilled straight through the resin and the wood underneath it, in case extra water needs to drain.
On top of the gravel, Dakota put a mixture of cactus soil and broken clay pot. Then, he transplanted a plant from a planter on the deck into the roof soil. It's a sedum-like plant that shouldn't need much water or care, and will fill in and spread out over time.
Here's the completed project. Looks pretty classy, I think. It will also keep the coop cool this summer, when things get scorching hot around here. The chickens have yet to give an opinion on their new roof, but I have a feeling they will like it a lot.
It's been four days since we noticed Jackie's limp. Currently, I'd say she's doing fine, not great. Her energy seems high, she's eating normally and she doesn't seem particularly unhappy--if that's possible to tell in a chicken--BUT, her limp is still there. I don't think it's gotten any better, either.
Since Monday, we have been heavily dosing her with the children's liquid multi-vitamin and feeding her a mixture of special foods, including: plain yogurt, cooked oatmeal, banana, peaches and strawberries. I'm not sure if any of it is helping, and I don't want to make her fat, so I don't think I'll give her treats for much longer. I plan to keep up the vitamins for a while, though.
Luckily, Jackie is so nice and low-key, that it hasn't been too hard to give her the vitamins. I just pick her up and squeeze the dropper into her beak. Today, she opened wide for me and I got a whole dose down at once. Jackie wasn't too thrilled about that, unfortunately. She made some funny chicken noises, which I took to mean that maybe some of the vitamin went up her beak.
So, that's the chicken update. Some of my anxiety has subsided, which is good. My nervousness about Jackie's condition actually kept me up worrying for a couple of nights. But, Dakota and I have decided that, while we obviously hope she heals completely, we'll be okay with having a permanently gimpy chicken. Jackie's great, and I just want her to be healthy and happy. (Yes, I am still talking about a chicken, not a kid.)
Jackie is limping! We think she's sick. She's been more low-key, and smaller, than Lisa for a while. While Lisa runs all over the yard when they free range, Jackie usually sits under a bush and relaxes. I thought this was just a difference in temperament, but yesterday we noticed she's wobbly and unwilling to put weight on her left leg.
At first, we thought she might be injured. I looked at her leg and didn't see any cuts or swelling or anything. So, later Dakota and I looked in our chicken books to try to figure out what else it might be. Our current best guess is: chicken rickets.
Apparently, this is fairly common, although I can't find many personal stories about the treatment of chicken rickets online. Rickets seem to come from a vitamin D deficiency. The symptoms include weak legs and slower growth, both of which fit Jackie's current condition. The only place I really found info on what to do if your pet chicken gets rickets was on the forums of backyardchickens.com, and even that wasn't as specific as I would have liked.
This morning, I ran down to the drug store and got some liquid children's multi-vitamins with vitamin D and then to the grocery store for some plain yogurt. Then, we went down to check on the chickens. Jackie got her foot caught in the floor slats in the night, and I think she wasn't strong enough to pull herself out. It was very sad.
Jackie seemed really quiet and like she wasn't feeling well. I gave her a mixture of plain yogurt, liquid vitamin and cut-up bananas, Jackie's favorite treat. She ate a little yogurt and most of the banana. But, we were worried that she didn't get enough vitamins, so we put a dropper-full in her beak. She seemed to drink it down with no problem. We waited a little while, and then put her outside with Lisa (who was freaking out because we shut her out of the coop while we tended to Jackie and they hate to be apart).
Jackie did eventually perk up a little, and seemed to be somewhat okay--although still limping and sitting down, a lot. This afternoon, I got some unfiltered apple cider vinegar to put in their water. I guess it's supposed to be good for their digestion and to prevent infection and algae in the water and whatnot. Possibly an old wives tale, but I figured it couldn't hurt.
Tonight Jackie seems a bit better. She's still limping a lot and unsteady. We're going to keep giving her the vitamins for at least a week and see what happens. I really hope she gets better soon. It's really sad to see her limp and she's such a sweet little chicken. I have been worrying about her non-stop since we noticed the limp.
Here's a picture of Jackie snuggling up to my dad's Crocs a couple of weeks ago. Chickens love Crocs, and my dad.
Who needs air conditioning? Well... maybe us, but central air is not going to be installed in our little house for quite a few years. It's just too expensive. Sometimes little problems like this are good, because they lead you to find interesting and smart solutions. For example, a solar attic fan.
I didn't know much about attic fans until recently, but it seemed like a good solution for one of our major heat problems: hot air from the attic dropping down into the house on summer nights and turning our house into an oven. Attic fans help suck hot air out of the attic and keep cooler air cycling through. Getting a solar attic fan means we don't have to hook it up to our electrical system, saving us money and, you know, saving the planet.
Our solar attic fan is made by Solatube. It doesn't have a thermostat, so it just automatically turns on when the sun hits it. The stronger the sunlight, the faster it spins. There are other varieties that are a bit more expensive and have a thermostat, but we felt that it was better to get a simpler system with less parts that might break. This fan is really simple, and comes with a 5-year warranty for the solar panel. We bought it from a small distributor in Sherman Oaks.
The attic fan was quite easy for Dakota to install. He just cut a circular hole in the roof, slipped the flashing under the shingles and screwed it all down. I'd say the whole project took him about 45 minutes last Monday.
Dakota installed the fan on the front of the house, because that part of the roof gets the most afternoon sun. I was worried it would look ugly or weird, but the fan has a really low profile, so you can barely see it. It's also completely silent. I don't even know it's there. Of course, I hope I notice its effects once the weather starts getting hotter.
If you: 1) live or work anywhere near Burbank 2) have a lot of old sneakers you can't donate to Goodwill 3) like recycling I have a tip for you. You can drop off your old sneakers at the Burbank Recycling Center. They collect a big bin of old sneakers and then take them to a Nike Reuse-A-Shoe drop-off point in Santa Monica. Nike takes all the shoes and grinds up parts of them to make sports surfaces like tracks and tennis courts.
I dropped off a bunch of our old sneakers at the Burbank Recycling Center a couple of weeks ago. We actually had a big pile, since Dakota really wears out his sneakers pretty quickly, and, of course, he wears a size 15. So, they'll have a lot of material to recycle of his old shoes.
This blog is about a variety of things I'm interested in, including gardening, backyard chickens, crafts, DIY home improvement and resource efficiency. My hope is that it's both informative and fun to read. I hope you like it. If you want to email me, click here.