Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My backyard chickens, coop building and hawk attacks

While helping my rooster scare off a hungry hawk this morning, it occurred to me that I never posted updated photos of my backyard flock. That handful of chicks I posted pics of back in March quickly grew to a flock of 18 chickens (they call the addiction 'chicken math'). One of them ended up being a rooster, which is fine since we live in the countryside. He has saved quite a few hens from hawk attacks, but we did lose one not long ago...and another to egg-binding complications. So our current number is 16, including the roo, Excalibur.

Excalibur, an Easter Egger
Taken when he was younger.
We have Easter Eggers, Speckled Sussex, Plymouth Barred Rock, Cuckoo Maran, Buff Orpington and Black Australorps. I'd  have to say that my favorites are the EE and Barred Rocks. This spring, I'd love to add some Rhode Island Reds to our family.

If you recall, we decided to build a coop from scratch. Yes, I thought it would save money. No, it didn't. Well, it did if you compare what we made to buying an equivalent, but it wasn't the cheapest project. I just got all HGTV with it LOL. So here are a few pics summarizing the process. It's 8 x 8 with a sealed floor covered in sand that I scoop like kitty litter. We put in sand/sweet pdz filled poop boards under the roost and every window, eave, vent covered in 1/4 in hardware cloth to keep out predators. Lots of door locks too!

Note: I now have shredded pine in the nest boxes. They thought the shredded paper was delicious. 

Cynder our Barred Rock
Zuni my sweet Easter Egger who lays blue eggs
The hen up front is Rain, an Easter Egger. She lays pinkish brown eggs. My other EE, Moon (not pictured), lays green eggs.

The nutrient difference free ranging makes. Store bought on the left. Ours on the right. See the color?
So now my biggest problem is hawks. I love all animals and know the hawks needs to eat too, but I'd rather they not eat my chickens. We have evergreen trees the chickens hide under...and plenty of other places to take cover, but the hawks have figured out that our evergreen trees have a fence near them. A perfect place to perch and wait.

That hawk I mentioned was hanging out this morning? He came back while I was in the middle of writing this post and went after one of my Buff Orpingtons named Pippa (after the little girl Pippa in The Promise of Rain). I heard our rooster alarm and ran out in time to chase the hawk away, but he did manage to peck at her comb. I now have her in our basement in a large dog crate I converted into an emergency chicken hospital a few months back. I cleaned up the blood and am hopeful that she'll be okay. She's pretty shaken though and I locked up the rest of the flock in their coop for the rest of the day.

They really love free ranging but I need to put more places for shelter up. This is their first winter with us and many of the shrubs/small trees, such as our fig, that they were successfully using as hiding places, have lost their leaves. We have large expanses of grass where I'd like to add large, ornamental grasses or shrubs where they can hide (berries to eat would be a plus). If only I could train my dogs to guard the flock and not eat them. They're still getting used to our new kitten, Grimalkin.

Predator scares or not, I absolutely love having chickens. I've done so much research on keeping free range, backyard chickens as safe as can be, but I'm off to do more. Finding that balance between giving them a beautiful life and keeping them safe isn't easy. Parenting is parenting...tough no matter what species you're caring for! Tips anyone?

I'm heading downstairs to check on Pippa. I hope you enjoyed the coop building pics!

Note: Many thanks to and all the backyard chicken keepers that hang out there,, and so many other chicken keeping sites. I'm a lurker, but without all the info and ideas shared online, plus great books and magazines, I wouldn't know half of what I do about caring for a flock of fluffy butts. Thanks!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pretty PLEASE, with ice cream and a cherry on top...VOTE for THE PROMISE OF RAIN!

It really is raining today. Actually, it's freezing rain and icicles are hanging off the trees. I love a rainy day. I usually find them cozy, but it's quite cold and gray outside today and I'm feeling forgotten.

I had a blast kick-starting 2014 with my debut, The Promise of Rain, but the downside to a January release, is that by the time end of year contests roll around, folks have forgotten that your book release date qualifies it for a nomination. I realize not all books are for all people, but it really did get awesome can check them out HERE.

So this week, I noticed two Goodreads Listopia lists/contests up that focus on wholesome, tender romances. One is for Favorite Harlequin Heartwarming...I saw my book on this list, but I'd love to see it climb the ranks...and the other I just learned about at Jennifer Shirks' blog Me, My Muse and I. It's called the Swoony Award and voting ends Dec. 31, 2014. I'd love for someone to nominate The Promise of Rain (Jan 2014)! I think at least 3 votes are needed for it to qualify for the list. It's Goodreads page can be found here, if needed.

So two contests/lists on Goodreads I'm shamelessly begging for a little love and votes on:

Favorite Harlequin Heartwarming

The Swoony Award

If you vote or nominate The Promise of Rain, thank you, thank you, thank you with virtual ice cream with a cherry and whipped cream on top! If not, no worries. I'll still thank you for reading this because that means you've taken the time to visit my blog :).

I don't have a cover of my second book, After the Silence (March 2015), to share with you yet, so I'll leave you with my kitten Grim's sweet face...

Please vote for Mommy's book! She loves animals! It has baby elephants in it who are almost as cute as I am :).