Found: Chicken Daycare

I haven’t written a lot about my chickens, but they are a perfect example of ‘local’ food – eggs from our backyard! When my buddy Roxane profiled me in the local paper, I was hesitant to let the ‘birds out of the cage’ – call me paranoid, but I really didn’t want to have people potentially knocking on my back door, or worse, breaking into the coop, to peek at what may be some of Fargo’s only backyard birds.

Now that I’ve hosted a recent Wildtree party, and introduced many children and their parents to the birds, its safe to say the word is out, and, being the proud ‘mother hen’ that I am, I can’t resist now posting and sharing some photos of my three sweet Ameracauna hens. Goldie Chest, Red Hen, and ….Goldie Chest, Jr. (I thought at some point we’d give them more creative names, but these have stuck. We do sometimes call Red Hen “Flapper” because…well…she is just extra ‘flappy’. Must be something about being handled by eager children.

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Our birds were adopted in a unique situation. They were hatched, then given away. More than that I cannot blog, but not only is it possible to have chickens in Fargo (with a few restrictions of course) but its also possible to get them free o’ charge. Wish I could say the same for their coop and feed. But I do have many willing helpers to tend the flock (which I do technically have. A flock = 3 or more).

We started out with 7 cotton balls. One we discovered almost right away was a rooster. He and two of his ‘girls’ were given to a friend on a farm outside of town. We kept four. Nice, round number – 4 eggs a day, maybe? That’d be a dozen and a half a week, give or take a few! Nice! Well — imagine our surprise when, while drinking morning coffee and gazing out the window on our tiny coop, we heard a Cock-a-doodle-doo! Skittish, our fluffy blue-grey Silkie “hen”, had showed herself to be a himself — which made sense, actually – we noticed this bird to be aggressive, very dominant, and had started to be nipped by him.  We just failed to notice his cockscomb developing under all the girly plumage. This bird went to another friend of our family, also on a farm (we hear reports from time to time that he is a true cock of the walk.).

But, why chickens in the  first place? Well – we like eggs. Plus, its kind of a unique, quirky, self-sufficienty thing to do. I had done quite a bit of reading about chickens, and thought they’d be a fun project that I could lump into our ‘homeschool experience’, making myself look slightly less crazy for having farm animals 4 blocks away from the Bismarck Tavern.

It has been a GREAT experiment. I truly do like these birds, and if I had a little more space, I would have more. Other varieties I’d consider would be pigeons or Japanese quail. I had been also considering rabbits, but honestly, I just don’t think I could kill a rabbit. And just using their poo for fertilizer wouldn’t justify the expense of keeping them….anywho, back to the birds.

They were housed in the garage over the winter, with a small door to an outside run, which they quite quickly turned into a bare patch of earth. We thought it would be neat to make them a movable pen (which you can see in the slideshow) so they could mow the little grass we have left in the backyard, dig for bugs and worms, and get their own grit from the soil. They have enjoyed it.

Now, here you may REALLY think I’m crazy, but they are LEARNING, people. Their pea-sized brains are taking it in, and remembering. They now know what the word ‘outside’ means, and they make a special questioning kind of noise when they want to be let out to their chicken daycare pen. I am totally not kidding you. At all. *cough*

The pen was cheap to build – I think the pvc pipe and connectors totaled about $7, and then the netting was $18 (would have been free, but we accidentally curbed the remaining netting, and forgot to rescue it. Someone else is building a chicken daycare as we read, I’m sure of it.). The zip ties we had, though I did have to buy a few more. We used colored duct-tape left over from the kids wallet-making-fiesta, so no cost there. Grand project total was in the neighborhood of $25, and Hub’band built it in roughly 2 hours. Yay!

The most time intensive part was picking out pipe fittings while our kids terrorized other customers in our local Fleet Farm. Second most time intensive was snipping the hex netting without making too many gashes in one’s skin. We made a top flap that can be opened, but the whole thing is so light-weight, that we usually just lift it up to let the birds in and out.

We’re pleased with the results, and the happy hens are, too.

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Whats up Wednesday: Found and Local: Dandelion — Menace, or….Medicine?

Ah, the humble dandelion. Some who know me ‘irl’ know that I’ve gone from hating dandelions and pulling them out with my Weed-Hound, to letting them flourish in my yard and making syrup, jelly, fritters, and cookies out of them!

Far from being a nuisance or a bane, the European settlers who brought them here did so – ON PURPOSE. Can you imagine? “Hmm, with what shall I fill my sea-crossing satchel? Family heirloom, or fluffy yellow flower?” And yet, amazingly, some brought this flower. What some people try to eradicate from their yards with all kinds of nasty chemicals, others (well, mostly naturopathic doctors) prescribe as medicine. Dandelion is a diuretic (yeah, makes ya’ pee – in fact, its French name, pissenlit, means ‘to “piss” the bed, apparently),and  a liver cleanser/tonic. Its flowers are beautiful and fragrant. Its early spring greens are high in vitamins (later spring and summer greens are more bitter and not so tasty). The dandelion plant has a long tap-root, like a carrot, and if you can manage to pull a big chunk out, you can roast the root, and make a kind of coffee out of it – a non-caffeinated “coffee”! This is on my list for ‘someday’ when I’m caught up on all my other projects, so much so that I can dig out dandelion taproots.

Do not banish the dandelion, but embrace it, with some of these recipes! *I think I have a bunch of pictures of my dandelion stuff, but can not for the life of me find it on my ‘puter. If I do, I’ll update this post with a slideshow as well.*

 

Chocolate Chip Dandelion Cookies

Dandelion Syrup (which can be used as a base for jelly)

Dandelion Fritters (this one has really beautiful pictures)

Dandelion Wine (I have never tried this – this is also on “the list”)

Stay tuned for a soon-to-be-written post about more “weeds” you can eat!