Monday, May 31, 2010

the Archers

The Archers (BBC) is radio's longest-running serial of all time.

Although I have a fondness for (and massive collection of) Old Time Radio shows I had shunned serials thinking all were the quality of TV soap operas.

The Archers is topical, well-written and -acted, and each daily episode is about 10mins long. It's delightful and available as a podcast at the link above. I've been listening for about a year.

Here's an intro for newbs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

First video of chicks

Chicks in the tractor for a visit. My first attempt to crudely edit video, so don't laugh. Or at least don't point.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

WWI poster: "Uncle Sam Expects You To Keep Hens and Raise Chickens"

Uncle Sam Expects You To Keep Hens and Raise Chickens

Two Hens in the Back Yard for Each Person in the House Will Keep a Family In Fresh Eggs.

EVEN the smallest back yard has room for a flock large enough to supply the house with eggs. The cost of maintaining such a flock is small. Table and kitchen waste provide much of the feed for the hens. They require little attention — only a few minutes a day.

An interested child, old enough to take a little responsibility, can care for a few fowls as well as a grown person.

Every back yard in the United States should contribute its share to a bumper crop of poultry and eggs in 1918.

In Time of Peace a Profitable Recreation
In Time of War a Patriotic Duty.

For information about methods of back-yard Poultry Keeping suited to your location write your state agricultural college or United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Two weeks with the chickens

Guess whut? Chicken butt. (over there in the pic). First day out on a short, enclosed foraging expedition. Peck, scratch, run.

The birds are larger and starting to get feathers on their neck and back.

They scratch in the shredded paper bedding and try to take "dust baths" in it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Painted the tractor

Sunday: Got the two hinged doors on the nesting end (egg access and food/water access doors). Painted white.

Installed a primitive roost a few inches higher than the nesting area; my understanding is that is what they like.

Monday: got most of the chicken wire up; the end you see here in the pics is still un-covered (pic was after painting but before chicken wire).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One week with chickens

Chickens have been here a full week.

In this shot you can see the shoulderblade feathers coming in, and the tail feathers. Easiest to see on the leftmost bird.

Before you ask: Dear Wife was experimenting with fingernail polish colors on her day off. The other hand and fingers are different. She reports that working with opaque colors is difficult...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

C plus six - shoulder feathers

The birds are now developing featherbuds at their shoulder blades. They like to fly-hop onto anything, including hands.

The jump-flying takes them about 8" up now, so we put chickenwire over the brooder. If one jumped out of the brooder and off the counter the dog would surely eat them up.

At right: Dear Wife holding the lighter EE, who is looking around for a way to escape.

raw milk

I think (as do most libertarians) that adult humans should be able to choose whatever foodstuffs (or drugs, or whatever) they put into their body.

Want raw milk or raw milk cheeses? Go for it. Do the homework, know the risks, enjoy the benefits.

Check out what is reputed to be the FDA's response to a lawsuit:

"There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food." [p. 25]

"There is no 'deeply rooted' historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds." [p. 26]

"Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish." [p. 26]

"There is no fundamental right to freedom of contract." [p. 27]

I don't drink raw milk (or haven't since I was a boy on a farm), but the FDA's position here is egregious.

A different internet

The 'net today is substantially different now than it was in the mid-90s when I started making my living at ISPs.

There have been many important changes but the decline of Usenet (nntp) is the one that hits hardest for me.

I have long been a proponent of newsgroup-based community conversation rather than web forums. But the NNTP servers are simply going away; major ISPs took their servers down and the froup members are abandoning the service and not being replaced by others.

Perhaps it is an elitist position, but the early net with clueful users and open SMTP relays was delicious and heady. Now it is click-and-drool. Army of Lusers used to be pejorative; now it is the new normal.

It's ok. On the whole the new 'net is what it should be, I think.

Monday, May 17, 2010

C plus four - bedding

In this pic you can see the paper towel overlay is gone, and they are directly on shredded paper bedding. Under the shred is solid newspaper to facilitated daily cleanout (roll it up, take it to the compost).

The chicks appear to like sleeping in the paper "grass" (see pic on right). They scratch more, which is fun for both them and us. The darker EE is the queen of scratch so far; she'll scratch food away then not be able to find it again. :-)

They do pull at the paper but do not appear to eat it.

The chicks have more pronounced wing feathers, and you can start to see slim tail feather stalks filling in. The have started flapping their wings when they run.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

first draft: chicken tractor

A chicken tractor is a movable coop that is open to the ground.
This lets the chickens do a bit of "free ranging" on bugs and vegetation and retreat back upstairs to roost and nest.

Ours will be called The Chicken Hut, after the great fried chicken place that used to be SW of Coit/SpringValley. We loved the guy that ran it; it's a taqueria now.

This one is pretty normal, other than my shockingly poor carpentry skills. It was built mainly out of scrap and stuff people have given me over time. Still to do: back egg harvesting door and food/water provisioning door. Painting. Putting up the chicken wire. Setting up nest boxes. Luckily I have about 5 weeks before the birds are ready to move outdoors.

It is different in a couple of ways, mainly having to do with my concern about Texas heat.
  1. The area behind the nesting area will have a netted vent up high to let heat out and increase ventilation.
  2. 6" roof overhang on that end to keep weather out of the vent
  3. The insides of the roof are lined with some radiant barrier I inherited in a friend's move.
  4. More covered area to provide shade.
Hopefully these minor changes will minimized heat stress on the birds. My backyard is mostly shady but I still want to keep 'em as cool as possible.

C plus three - tails

Greater definition on wing feathers, and their tail feathers started appearing yesterday. Still fluffy but definitely sticking out.

That's the Dear Wife's hand in the brooder. We are handling/holding the chicks every day to check for pasty butt and get them used to human contact.

When you pick them up they peep like mad but when you put them back down they'll sit in your hand like nothing happened. Sometimes you have to give them a pretty good nudge to get them to hop down.

Elevated the feed/water about .75" as they are taller now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

C plus two - feathers

I swear they are visibly larger. You can also see feathers starting to develop on their wingtips.

They are starting to sleep further away from each other so I'll drop the heat a degree or two.

Friday, May 14, 2010

C plus one.

All peeps made it through the night; they look happy and healthy.

A closer shot of Rhode Island Reds (left, and sleepy in the background) and an Easter Egger (right). It's hard to see but the 4th peeper, the other EE, is drinking water behind the right-hand bird. Count the feet.

Changed the paper towel superstrate and tossed the poopy paper in the compost bin. The towel is there for the first few days to help the chicks stand easily while their leg parts finish forming and to help them discriminate between feed and bedding. The substrate is shredded paper. Shreds are something of a minority position in the backyard chicken world, commonly used by folks who compost and have access to large amounts of shredded paper. We'll see how it goes. Can always go to wood chips if shreds fail.

Fresh food and water; sanitized the containers with brewing sanitizer (star-san in a spray bottle).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

C minus zero - chicks arrive

Picked up what appear to be two rhode island red (RIR) and two "Ameraucana" chicks from Roach feed. The latter are almost certainly Easter Eggers (EE hereafter) but Ideal sells them as Ameraucanas anyhow. It's a common misnomer. Both EEs do appear to have muffs starting; only one has slate-colored legs. The other has flesh-colored legs.

The EEs are the stripey ones in the pic and the reds are the pale orangey ones. The EEs were first to find the feed bowl and seem to be a bit more active. The RIRs seem like normal, curious, exploring chicks.

In this pic I went to take the shot and the EE went slingshotting off to check out something terrifically interesting about 8" away.

They piled up a bit at 94F, so I cranked it to 96F and they are more evenly distributed now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

decent music on KXT 91.7FM

First website ad I've ever clicked on; it was for KXT 91.7FM.

Been listening a bit for the last week or so. The website says:
KERA's public music station features acoustic, alt-country, indie rock, alternative and world music.
It reminds me of the music used to play in the early 90s before they took my pledge money and dumped music the next freaking day. I don't have very good luck with this kind of thing. I pledged to KETR who promptly dumped Joe Frank and radio drama and went all freaking bluegrass the next week.

Podcasts are going to kill NPR, anyhow. I'd much rather pay $5/podcast/year to support a handful of public radio podcasts (Left Right and Center, Planet Money, It's all Politics, etc) and let the rest collapse under its own weight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

customer email lists done right

Got this email today:

BMW Motorcycles would like to send you our monthly BMW Motorrad USA email newsletter. This newsletter features video links and exclusive content showcasing our motorcycles, race events, and more!

We acquired your email address via a BMW Motorrad contest entry form or on-line BMW registration within the last 36 months. However, we value your privacy and are writing now to ask your permission before we add you to our e-list. Be assured that at any time you can easily remove yourself from the list via click links at the bottom of every email. Thanks in advance for your interest in BMW. Please click one of these two links:
Add me to the list No thanks, please remove me

Nicely handled, Bay-em-vay. I opted in.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

fireflies, spring 2010

first firefly of the season out on our back porch tonite, all by his lonesome...

Earlier in the evening I strung up the sisal for the vertical produce to train on.

Monday, May 3, 2010

brooder dry run

Set up the brooder last night with the hardware and floor material in it. Stabilized at 94F the first try! (90-95F is the target).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

planning for chicks

I have mentioned before my backburner thoughts about building a chicken tractor.
This weekend I mentioned it go my MIL; she liked the idea. I checked COR laws; legal as long as there is no noise or smell problems.

So then I went garage saling a few houses down and an older gentlemen was manning the garage.

Me: is this.... a chicken feeder?
He: Yes.
Me: (sensing a planetary realignment) How much do you want for it?
He: Oh, I dunno. 25 cents.
Me: Deal.

Gulp. All these pieces have been floating around in my head and now they all aligned and locked together like those falling shapes in Tetris. Memories of feeding chickens and cleaning the coop as a boy in east tx.

Armed with 25 cents worth of chicken feeder, I went back and fleshed out some of the research I started doing a couple of years ago: The City Chicken, Backyard Chickens forum, the chicken chooser, etc.

Hopped down to Roach Feed and Seed to get some supplies to get a brooder set up and temps predictable before the chicks start to arrive in a couple of weeks. Pictured are a feeder with mason jar threads, waterer with mason jar threads, some chick feed and watersoluable antibiotics for the chicks during their first few weeks. Not pictured: brooding heat lamp fixture and bulb, brooding container.

We are thinking a handful of chicks, maybe two Rhode Island Reds and a Barred Rock, or an Ameraucana or an Buff Orpington.

messing with the garden

This weekend I

  • weeded
  • harvested an onion to put in some green beans
  • planted two more tomato plants that had been slow to sprout
  • planted two bell pepper seedlings (scrounged)
  • started more lettuce seedlings
I also am sprouting some beans since the ones I planted didn't show. :-( Will plant them after they sprout. Late start, but also sprouting squash and zukes.