“Lil’ Buff,” my Buff Orpington Hen

February 5th, 2010

Meet “Lil’ Buff,” a super-friendly hen amongst our motley crew of 9 remaining gregarious hens.

The Buff Orpington is a dual-purpose breed and lays tinted brown eggs. She has golden plumage with lots of fluff around her legs and tail. Lil’ Buff’s calm, curious temperament makes her an ideal mascot during farm tours. She is smaller in size compared to my other Buff hens. Because of her small size, I can carry her around for quite some time. She tolerates lots of human handling. I have two remaining Buff hens left: Lil’ Buff and Big Buff Too. he’s got a distinctive high-pitched chirp unlike any of my hens. Listen to her as she checks out the woodshed in this short video. (The other soft clucking you hear is a Silver Laced Wyandotte, no longer in our flock).

To me, the Buff Orps have personality very similar to a Golden Retriever: friendly, cuddly and calm. When I cuddle Lil’ Buff during the late afternoons (usually after 4:30pm, when they’re done with working the pasture), she’ll pet/peck my arms as if to mean, “I pet you, I pet you.” Unlike most other hens who sit (roost) in my lap, she prefers to be cuddled standing up.

She has taught me a lot of things about being a chicken keeper: becoming a broody hen and snapping her out of the broodiness; becoming infected with bumble foot and treating her infection with natural products (tumeric powder, comfrey leaves, tea tree oil foot dip) to heal her infection; becoming crop bound and using manual massage to break up the stuck crop. Currently, she’s not broody or bumblefooted nor cropbound.

I can immediately tell her apart physically from the other hens because she is missing a tine on her comb. She does not tolerate other hens’ bullying during meal time; she’s as headstrong as three other Australorp hens twice her size.

Her favorite treats are organic sunflower seeds with shells, coconut meat and yacon.

R.I.P Feb 14,  2006 – June 2, 2010.

Thank you for being my teacher.

Interesting things

January 5th, 2010

Some recent items of interest:

Tea, rain, and recent farm tours

November 29th, 2009

As those of you following on facebook or twitter may know, we sold out of our second harvest of tea in early November.  I can see from the happy growing tea plants that it’s time to harvest again, but the weather has been very rainy for a couple weeks now.  The tea loves the rain, but we’re waiting for a sunny day which is important to the harvest process of picking and sun-withering.

Meanwhile, there have been several recent farm tours, including neighbors, a large group of mothers with their toddlers and babies from Waikoloa, and a couple guys with Kanu Hawaii from Oahu:

really loved the organic farm tour ben and jacoby gave today ... on Twitpic

On October 31, there was the big tour from the Hamakua Sustainable Agriculture Classes, pictures from that event (some by Nicole):

Origami Inflatable Hen

November 21st, 2009

Origami Inflatable Hen – Gallina de origami

Leyla Torres combines two of my passions in this video diagram: origami and chickens.

She demonstrates her inflatable hen from duo-colored origami paper and folds a waterbomb base, with the hen color on the outside.

I first learned the inflatable hen from Leyla at Origami USA convention June 2008.

If you are following along, may I recommend using at least 10″ square paper. You’ll need to know inside reverse folds and squash folds.

Have fun!

“Chicken…always sunny and useful, will endure”

October 22nd, 2009

Today’s title comes from a very timely article published in The New Yorker (Sept. 28, 2009) by Susan Orlean, “The It Bird – The return of the back-yard chicken.”

Tuesday evening, Ben & I presented “Hawaii Backyard Poultry Management” as part of “Practical Agriculture for Hamakua 2009″. In case you missed the class, here’s the PDF (2 MB) as maintained on our Ahualoa Chicken Notes. The file covers a source of local stock of baby chicks, feeding organically and challenges of feeding locally. We had a lot of fun talking chicken with 15 chicken enthusiasts. (bok, bok!)

Ben and I got started into farming by the first class of its kind in 2006. Back then, Jim Cain was the program manager. Now, Donna Mitts is the lead organizer. Take a look at the classes offered http://www.hamakuadev.org/ many which are geared towards specifically farming in Hawaii.

There’s plenty of venues to talk chicken story with us:

Saturday, October 24 (9 am to 2pm) Ben and I will host an educational table at Hamakua Alive! (Pau’auilo Elementary and Middle School 43-1497 Old Main Road Paauilo, HI 96776) We’ll be happy to talk story about backyard chickens and tea (camellia sinensis).  By the way, we have a limited quantity of black tea available for purchase.

Tuesday, October 27 from 6pm, Vicky Dunaway will discuss “A Pastured Poultry Model That Works” for about 20 mins. Her talk is followed by a public screening of “Mad City Chickens,” a feature length documentary about the return of urban backyard chickens. We hope you’ll join us for the 1 hr 18 minute movie.

Halloween, Saturday, October 31, join the Practical Ag class for a farm tour on our homestead, “Ahualoa Egg & Tea Farm” from 9 am to 11 am. I hope to introduce you to Ophelia, my favorite Barred Rock hen and Lil’ Buff, my favorite Buff Orpington. Register with Donna Mitts (call 936-2117 or email ohanadonna@yahoo.com).

In this short video Susan Orlean introduces Tookey, a Gingernut Ranger, one of her original hen who is currently at the top of the pecking order. (In our flock of ten remaining hens, I picked out the top hen: it’s Alpha-hen, an Australian Orpington, commonly shortened to Australorp.) Watching chickens, online or in real life, makes me happy. It’s nice to know the chickens are making a comeback in backyard all across America.

Aftermath of dog attack on chickens – actions you can take

August 18th, 2009

I described the dog attack on our flock of egg-laying hens in this previous post.

I am so sorry for your loss. Please accept my deepest condolences.

Here are the actions we took in the aftermath of the dog attack. This applies to Hawaii County. Your jurisdiction may be different. Now is a good time to find out about what the rules and regulations are regarding stray dogs killing livestock in your area.

I hope this helps you if you are in a similar situation. A big thank you to all our friends and family who supported us.

Thursday afternoon of the attack, Ben took photos of the dead hens. He called the Hawaii Island Humane Society, (Kamuela office 808-885-4558). A Humane Society officer came to our house on Friday morning to talk to us about the stray dog incident and actions we can take..

The takeaway: keep a digital camera on you at all times to snap photos of the stray dog off the owner’s property. If the stray dog is in your yard, on the road; take a photo. This is proof that the dog owner failed to confine or contain the animal properly.

What can I do about Loose Dogs in my Neighborhood If you are able to safely contain them with no possible injury to yourself, either on a leash, in your yard, kennel etc. We will gladly come pick them up within 24 hours or you may bring the animal in. We also rent out humane dog traps for a $75.00 deposit.If the animal is a repeat offender, take a photo of the animal and send it to kona.aco@hihs.org or bring it in to any shelter to have an officer talk to the owner.

He went to the owner of the dangerous dog to issue a warning. In this case, we wanted to remain anonymous.

After the Humane Society Animal Officer left, I called my local police department (808-775-7533) to file a property damage report. This is a case of dangerous dog killing livestock. My livestock are egg-laying hens.

After the police officer took digital photos of the crime scene (Ben buried the hens), statements from me, Ben and my father-in-law, he gave me the report number and his contact information. Ben assessed the cost of our egg-laying hens at $50 each, or $150 for a total of three dead hens.

We decided not to press charges this time. [You will need to sign paperwork if you are not pressing charges.] Remember to request a copy of the report from the police department for your records. The report will usually take 2-3 weeks to be available for pickup.

However, the next time a dangerous dog kills one of my hens, I will pursue the matter as civil suit, demanding monetary damages.

Hawaii County Code, Chapter 4, on Animals:

Section 4-28. Dangerous dogs may be slain.
(b) Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary which may be found elsewhere in this chapter, where livestock have been killed, maimed or injured by any dangerous, fierce or vicious stray dog, the owner of such livestock or the owner’s agent, after being deputized as a special officer in accordance with the provisions of section 4-5, may take any action necessary to protect the owner’s livestock from such dangerous, fierce, or vicious dog, including, without limitation, slaying or otherwise disposing of the same.
(1980, Ord. No. 510, sec. 2.)

I read the Backyard Chickens “Predator and Pest” forum. I found it very helpful reading through chicken owner’s experiences with predator attacks and various actions they took:

Summary: Immediately after a dog attack, write down the color, breed and description of the dog(s). Note the time and date of the attack. Note the direction where the dog left your property. Do this when the incident is still fresh in your mind.

It’s a good idea to chat with your friendly neighbors and find out if they have seen stray dogs on their property. Let them know you are documenting the stray dog incidents by taking digital photos of the stray dog.

Take lots of high-quality photos of the crime scene with your digital camera. Take close-up photos also. If you find dog prints in the mud, document those.

Call your local Humane Society to complain about the stray dog. File a property damage with the local police, especially if the stray dog killed your livestock.

Dangerous dog kills three hens

August 14th, 2009

[WARNING: this blog has graphic photos.]

August 13, 2009 — a brown dog killed three of my egg-laying hens, including my pet hen, Big Buff.

Jim and Ben chased off the stray dog from our property around 1:30pm. The attack occurred about an hour after Ben let out the hens to free range on grass and bugs. Our family have seen this dog off the owner’s property multiple times. The dog belongs to our neighbor whose property borders our fence line.

I do not fault the dog for being a dog; I fault the owner for being irresponsible.

I expected to hear a vocal squawking alarm call from the flock when the attack happened. Did I hear a very short burst of call when I was on the computer? Did I miss the alarm call for “I’m being attacked by a dog, help!” call? Or was it “Quick, hide, my fellow hens, I’m being eaten by a predator!” call.

Dangerous dog kills three hens

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Small-Scale Broiler Processing in Hawaii

August 9th, 2009

Late June, Slow Food Hawaii sent out an announcement that Shane and Christie Fox of Fox Farms (in Papaaloa, near Laupahoehoe) are raising meat birds again. Christie ordered the Cornish Cross broiler chicks from Asagi Hatchery on Oahu. It’s a shorter travel time therefore less stress on the chicks compared to ordering from a mainland hatchery.

I contacted Shane if I can help eviscerate the 7-week old meat birds. (I’m not squeamish about gutting poultry.) He’s happy that I can help his farm process 80 broilers. This would be my third time processing poultry. The first was in 2006 with Jan Dean (her Delaware heritage breed and my 3 roosters), the second time was January of this year (16 stewing hens).

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Train your baby chicks to devour a variety of leafy greens

June 4th, 2009

It’s been more than two weeks since I’ve been fostering the baby chicks for Hillery Gunther. The weather has been thankfully, overcast and cooler than last week.

They are slowly losing their fuzzy down feathers and growing taller and longer. The cochins’ feathers on their shanks are starting to become more pronounced. There are couple of bold australorps leaping onto my forearms. I’m concerned that the cardboard brooder pen won’t keep the stronger australorps in much longer. I’ve even got a footage of them dust bathing in the pine shavings.

I’m slowly introducing them to eat a variety of leafy greens:

I’m sprouting a small tray of wheatgrass for the chicks. I want to supplement their diet in addition to the dry chick starter crumbles. Some baby cochins look at me in judgment, “What?! Another day, another trough of this dry crumbles? Bah! FEED ME GREENS!”

When I offer the chicks something new, I rip off teeny, beak sized pieces. The australorps are usually the first to investigate, to taste, to trample over the more shy cochins for the leafy greens. Go figure.

The chicks create this high-pitched frenzied chatter when I show them the bunch of chayote leaves “Ohh, guys, get some greens. The human’s got this green stuff in her hands. We goota have some fresh enzymes! Hey, get the girls here! Greeeens!”

I’m going to incorporate a variety of different greens around my homestead: broccoli leaves, cabbage greens, chard, spinach, plaintain leaf, tender dandelion leaves, etc. My goal is to make sure they develop different gut bacteria for a variety of plant matter.

Next time, when Hillery brings avocado, I am going to offer a small taste to the babies. I’m sure they’ll go bananas over avocado!

chicks & hens love warmth

May 24th, 2009

Blink. Did you catch the baby chicks growing? I did. They are no longer the mini puffpalls that arrived in the mail on Monday.

I see the beginnings of mini tail feathers on the baby australorps. Their primary wing feathers are growing longer daily. The baby cochins wings do not look any different than day 1.

I blanketed the chick condo with couple inches of triple screened pine shavings. I turned 37 today; oooo, my lower back feels creaky in spite of Friday yoga class. Changing chick’s paper litter twice in one week was too much for my lower back. Ben isn’t here to take care of diaper duty. It’s up to me and I’m taking it easy on my back.

I was lucky to capture two videos of chick & hen basking in the warmth of the brooder and the sunshine. My heart just melts when I see them so relaxed.

Did you catch the “beak smacking” towards then end of the video? They seem content when they do the “beak smacking.”