This morning when I went out to the see the girls, I discovered the first of what I hope to be the first of many eggs. I was so excited, like a little girl who just got her Barbie Dream House excited. What an unbelievable feeling! I realize I didn’t actually lay the egg but wow! This is very cool for a first time chicken mama who was born and raised in NYC, let me tell you.
So excited, I went out about an hour later to reward the girls with some dandelion leaves when I noticed Gertrude was in the nesting box. So I gave her some privacy and returned 15 minutes or so later to discover she had laid an egg. So we collected our first two eggs ever today. Who the other layer is eggactly I’m not sure since there are three other candidates.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! Today I became a chicken mama of four Rhode Island Reds. I’m so excited and a little nervous too as I’ve never raised chickens before. So this is completely uncharted waters for me. But I’m psyched to learn.
So we are getting chickens today! We have been thinking about raising chickens for a little while now. Our house came with a chicken coop/goat shed which we have been using as a garden shed these last four years.
About three weeks ago a good friend of ours, Dennis told us he was getting 12 chickens and wanted to know if we’d want four of them. “Absolutely!“ came out of my mouth quicker than my brain registered what I was saying. “Great, I have to go pick them up sometime mid-May.” Two days ago we ALL found out mid-May actually meant Mother’s Day weekend, including Dennis who is still has to build his entire coop for the 8 chickens he’s holding on to!
When Mark told me the chickens were coming this weekend, my mind instantly flashed to the I Love Lucy episode when Lucy and Ricky had moved out to Connecticut and became chicken farmers. I remember Lucy and Ethel running around with all those hundreds of baby chicks. Luckily, I’m only starting off with four chickens.
Luckily, three days ago we started to clean our garden shed out. I needed to get the Tower Gardens (aeroponic systems) set up anyway and the shed needed to be completely emptied out. Mark is ‘spatial man’ so the goat shed is now the garden shed and the Tower Gardens will have to find a new home for winter. Right this second, they are being snowed on as we are having an unseasonal snowstorm that has dumped about three inches so far.
Thankfully yesterday was a beautiful day to work outside. The temperatures were cool at first but once you got working, vests and jackets were shed. I was so impressed with my daughter, Samantha yesterday. She’s such a good worker and since she’s been recovering from a concussion she sustained three months ago now, it was even better that she had no symptoms reappear. Fingers crossed, since it’s been a rollercoaster.
Sam helped Mark with constructing the outdoor chicken run. We have dogs so I wanted to make sure that the chickens have their own area to hangout during the day where they will be safe from our dogs and other predators like hawks. The chicken coop was already positioned inside our already chain link fenced area which should help keep them safer as well. Eventually, I’ll gate off the side yard so they can free-range a little more but be safe from the dogs.
Since Dennis first mentioned the chickens, I have been all over Pinterest, joined every chicken raising group on Facebook and Instagram so that I can educate myself on what exactly is needed to raise chickens. A poop board was something I quickly saw was highly recommended to have. Chickens shit a lot and that poop is awesome to add to our garden compost. I knew I would have to deal with this, so I built a poop board for the roost. I’m learning all sorts of new vocabulary in this endeavor. Roost, poop board, layers… Thankfully I found a guide to help me get up to speed.
Everything we used to build the coop with the exception of the two post holders and the chicken wire was lumber we had here at Marleywood. That’s what we named our little piece of paradise here on the mountain four years ago when we move up here. It’s also the name of our company that we named after our dog, Marley.
I’m excited and nervous at the same time about getting the chickens. We’ll be receiving four Rhode Island Reds which from my limited reading I understand to be a good breed of layers and should expect 150-250 eggs per year each hen! Plus we aren’t getting chicks, Dennis said they’d be laying eggs in a couple of weeks, so they’re not babies. But from what I understand their not hens yet, since hens officially are over a year old. So I’m not really sure what their called – pullets I think, since that’s the term for a chicken under 1 years old.
I know I have a lot to learn and I’m excited about it! Who thought at the age of 55 years old I’d be entering this new world?! I know my 3 siblings are all probably shaking their heads. Our Nana grew up on a chicken farm in Georgia; her spirit is probably laughing right now. I just hope my ancestors passed a little of their chicken farming blood down to me. And if anybody reading this has any advice, I’m open to hearing about your experiences and what you’ve learned about the do’s and don’ts of raising chickens. I’m going to need all the help I can get.
Every morning and sometimes evening for the last four months I have gone out to our wood furnace to add wood to the fire. This is the last of our wood supplies for the season before we kick back to our oil furnace. Somewhere between 4 am and 6am every morning, I make my way outside with the dogs to our furnace. Some mornings it’s snowing, some mornings it’s below zero with gale force winds. It may sound crazy but I love going out to the wood furnace.
Early in the season we retrieve the wood that’s stacked around the shed and chicken coop to feed into the fire. This season since November I would pull wood from the stacks sometimes covered in snow and load into either the wheel barrow or sled depending on how deep the snow. Inside the woodshed, four cords plus cords of wood are stacked up next to the wood furnace for later in the winter. We use all the wood on the outside first this year since we had a stack of seasoned wood outside leftover from last year among the green wood that we needed to use to initially get the fire started. We use green wood so that it burned slowly. You don’t want dry wood like you would use in your fireplace. If you used that all the time you’d be loading it all the time and burn through more wood overall.
We harvest some of the wood we use from our own property – a mixture of downed trees from storms to a tree that needs to be moved so we can get the gator through our trails we have on the homestead.
The smell of the smoke billowing from the chimney fills the air with scents of rock maple, ash, beech and oak. I breathe it in – I love the smell of a campfire and it initially filled me with memories of childhood camp outs but now that is mixed with newer memories of living in New Hampshire and being out with the dogs. I find it cathartic in ways – going through the routine of feeding the dogs in the morning, donning my purple work overalls, followed by Sorrels which have cramp-ons attached which I never remove. I have found having boots with cramp-ons to be a necessity to get through the rough New Hampshire winters. After the boots, I put on my purple Carhartt work jacket zipping it up before putting on my leather work gloves and heading out the door into the elements.
Despite some of the harsh conditions I have never once thought, “Ugh, I have to do out and deal with the fire.” I look forward to breathing in the cold, crisp air; listen to the wind blow through the trees, or the dogs barking at who knows what. My morning exercise bending to pick up to 20 pieces of wood, weighing anywhere from 5 lbs. to 25 lbs. ,throwing them into the firebox of our wood furnace. My upper arms have firmed up over the last four years between what we do to prepare for the winter in harvesting our wood, splitting and stacking 9-10 full cords of wood and my morning chore.
The coming weeks my morning routine will be in transition as I wait for the warming of my raised garden beds to that I can begin the spring/summer morning garden chores where the dogs and I with coffee in hand patrol the garden. Today, however was the last of our wood and I am always a little saddened by the day the wood runs out. No more evenings, after he does his fire check before crawling into bed will Mark smell like smoke – mmmm…. And even though it signals the end of the rough cold winter and the approaching days of spring and increasing light, I will miss the routine which has become so rote four months in. Until next season, just 8 months away.