Hardening off the chicks
It’s been a long time and I’m ashamed of myself for not taking the time to let you great folks out there know all about what Is growing in Grama Pam’s garden right now. The truth is Nothing.
In a past blog I discribed how my dear husband framed in two of my raised beds and made cold frames for me because my 1998 lettuce seed decided to grow in Oct. So I’ve had lots of people ask me “How do you store your seed to make it last so long?” The answer is cheap and easy. I go to the bakery at any supermarket and ask them for empty frosting buckets. They are so happy to get rid of them you won’t even believe it. Then I seal the seed packs in catagories in zip lock bags and seal them up in the buckets. The lids are air tight and the plastic is food grade. Then they go in a cool place until I need them. I also think my seed has great germination rates because I wash my hands before I handle it. This is very important if you smoke.
But that isn’t what I intended to share with you this time. This time I wanted to share what I’m using these wonderful cold frames for. The greens in there are tired and basically chicken food. That’s who’s getting them at present.
My old hens are still laying just fine but they are five years old now. I couldn’t resist the local feed store chick sale this year. Everyone, including me, pretty much expects that food will be very expensive this year. So I’ve raised chickens most of my adult life. Almost as long as I’ve been a gardener. The eggs are a great source of protein granted but these guys are much more to me than just food. (Yes I confess I have been known put a mean rooster or two in the soup kettle.) But they are my main rototilling, fertilizing, pest controllers. I treat them with much kindness and respect and they love me just as much.
I just lost chicky a few months ago to old age. She was a 13 year old americana that layed an egg a day until about three weeks before she went to chicken heaven. A most remarkable hen indeed. I highly recommend the breed for hardyness and dependabillity in production. Plus I just love green eggs!
I always love to go out and see a variety of colors shapes and sizes in my flock so we always get other breeds as well. So! I’m down to 9 old hens and I sent my dear husband out to get the new chicks because I’m scheduled to work that day. He brings home the baker’s dozen and off we go. Mind you these guys need to be kept at 95 degrees for the first week and it’s still in the 20s at night here so we set them up in moms room (she’s visiting my sister for three months and hasn’t a clue I’m raising chickens in her bedroom) in a big cardboard box with a window screen over it and a light bulb to heat them.
Rule of thumb is drop the temp 5 degrees a week until they have enough feathers to keep themselves warm. At 6 weeks they’re pretty safe. Well they are approching 4 weeks now and my daughter (who thinks her dad is very tolerant of his wife’s hobbies) came in recently and made some allusion to the fact that things smelled better when grama was living in that room, so it’s time to get them hardened off and out the door.
It took me all day to finally get it right but long story short my half empty cold frame with the old greens in it turns out to be the perfect chicken nursery school. I ended up stapling poly poultry netting around it to keep them in and their nurse Bonnie out. After a few hours everyone was safely separated and confined. All they need in their new daytime home is water and a thermometer and the earth provides the rest.
Our 11 yr old border collie Bonnie’s first livestock charge was a batch of baby chicks when she was only 5 months old. She takes her job very seriously and rightly so. Our barn cat Latimer would love nothing more than chicken tenders for lunch. This also provides her opportunity to train the new kid Maisie in proper chicken guarding and herding tecniques.
Although they still must come in at night, they will soon be ready to venture out into the new chicken tractor that my adorably sweet husband is now working on for me. And so goes the saga of Grama Pam’s Garden. Since a picture is worth a thousand words and I don’t really know how to type my darling husband saved me with his camera today. Enjoy!
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To be continued…...............................
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