Last night I dreamed of chickens

Here comes a new adventure in raising dog bait chickens. Yesterday, the mail man brought 44 Light Sussex chicken hatchings egg. As I type the incubator temperature is stabilizing and my mind is racing along all things poultry. Of all of God’s creation that you can pasture, perhaps, I love chickens the best. When I look at chickens and watch them, when I collect the eggs they have laid, when I watch the baby chicks scratching at the ground and growing feathers it brings a deep satisfaction. A satisfaction that I’ve only found in being a wife, raising children, gardens, and chickens. Perhaps the reason is that in the very beginning God told man to go forth and multiply, keep and tend to the ground and the animals  – the dominion mandate.

Light Sussex is a not a common breed of chicken you can buy through any hatcheries in the United States. And while I’m from the Confederate States of America the South it seems I have a propensity toward poultry and gardening in a UK fashion.  When I first saw the Light Sussex breed it was love at first sight. They inspired me to start thinking chicken again and to not be discouraged by previous dog attacks. Especially after seeing the following design for a poultry fence at the Ag Expo.


Last night I dreamed of chickens, there were chickens everywhere, they were standing on my stomach, they were nesting in my hair, they were pecking at my pillow, they were hopping on my head, they were ruffling up their feathers as they raced about my bed.

They were on the chairs and tables, they were on the chandeliers, they were roosting in the corners, they were clucking in my ears, there were chickens, chickens, chickens for as far as I could see… when I woke today, I noticed there were eggs on top of me.

~Jack Prelutsky

How would you like your eggs?

Well, preferably I like my eggs over easy but I’m not sure that is what my setting hen would answer. After three days of over 100 degrees she left the nest. I wonder how they can tell those eggs are dead? And did she really know they were dead or is she one of those hens that can’t ever seem to complete the task? I know they were dead because I’ve let the incubator go over 100 degrees for several hours which results in chick mortality.

My “Green” House

My desire for a true green house of my own has not been realized yet. There is a place here in town that would make the perfect green house and herbal shop but alas…it is not for sale. It is, however, on my list of things to buy/do whenever the Lord decides if/when it should be mine.

Despite not having a green house I have managed to start approximately 135 tomatoes and 60 peppers in the house. This year I choose to start them in plastic bags but it isn’t a requirement. I did it in flats last year with some saran wrap for cover until they sprouted. After I planted them I put them in a dark warm place until they sprout and then I transfer them to my flats. A warm “dark” place doesn’t have to mean pitch black. Last year I just put them in a room that did not receive direct sunlight and they all successfully sprouted. This year I put the baggies inside of a box in a sunny window and they all sprouted. If you are having trouble sprouting pepper seeds then here are some very helpful  pepper growing tips. Yesterday – with a little help from Elias and Malachi – we transplanted our seedlings to flats. Notice how sad the seedlings looked at the transfer but the next day they have bounced back.

The eggs are in the incubator warming up. I don’t expect a very good hatch because for three days I forgot the actual incubator temperature should be between 99 and 102. Opps! I had it set to low. (Speaking of which – hey CH- can I buy some hatching eggs from you about mid April for those Red Stars? Maybe my previous experience was just a fluke.) I am looking forward to having baby chicks around again. I’ve thought about building another incubator – I have that itch to raise more chicks than I can possibly handle. However, before I do that I need to make a brooder box since I no longer have my swimming pool/silver building to do it in.

Baby Chicks Already

Our neighbor Wilma, full of compassion at our chicken losses, brought us 20 baby chicks that hatched this morning in her incubator.So, I’ve scrambled around trying to prepare a spot for them temporarily until I can set up my normal brooding box. Currently they are residing in a blue hospital tub full of straw which I put in the bathtub of the second bathroom after I lined it with an old vinyl tablecloth.

Baby Chicks

As soon as the weather clears off I will prepare our normal spot out in our silver building. My traditional method is to use a child’s swimming pool full of straw as a brooder. It is so easy to clean up and reuse for other things. I leave them in there until they have all their feathers and then transfer them to whatever pen I am using. Last year it was the PVC chicken tractor but since it has met its demise they will probably go straight to the chicken pen. As I write I remember why I didn’t do that last year – our chicken fence wasn’t ready and the coop had to have the door replaced; both which are now taken care of by Jerry.

The Chicken Coop Scoop

I can not tell you how frustrated I am that once again our chicken yard was breached. Everytime we have improved our coop fence after an attack except NOW it appears we need to put a lid on it. I’ve never seen a dog jump a four foot fence before but there it went just like a deer over the top of it. Last time they busted our gate down and the time before that someone was sitting house for us and they didn’t close up the chickens  – they were dead before dawn. Dogs have been the worst predator of all. We shut our coop every night and we let the chickens out every morning to thwart racoons, possums, owls, and coyotes. Despite our diligence with this habit the dogs always come in broad daylight WHILE WE ARE GONE and kill them all. How come they NEVER come when we are home???

New eggs are already in the incubator as of this afternoon with the estimated hatch date of May 20th. Interestingly, that is the same time I hatched this past crew last year. I’m not really happy with the type of chicken I will be hatching – they’re white and I’m not fond of white chickens but the eggs where cheap and available immediately from our neighbor Wilma. There will even be some eggs from the last brood to hatch since we had not collected eggs for the day and happily we got 7 eggs today. (we have 5 surviving hens and they laid seven eggs today…huh?)

Now my mind is going full tilt on rethinking the chicken coop. I’ve never really cared for its location. Our land stays wet 60% of the year and we have a real problem with soaked chicken pen yard and floor. Searching around on Ebay I came across some interesting plans here and here. Enough ideas here to keep me awake for several nights scheming of my own off the ground plans but this still won’t solve the fencing issue…  

Would I be better off fencing my garden and letting my chickens have free range? Then at least if a dog came they could fly away and not be contained inside a fence for the ease of predators. Would that make any difference?  But what about my flowers around the house? *sigh* The chickens will eat my ornamentals.  Oh, the dilemna.  Any thoughts anyone?  I’m open for some suggestions.