Fort Chook nears completion

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So, on the weekend we had planned to make the final push to finish our chicken coop, the weather decided to stop cooperating.  Not one, but two storm cells gathered off the coast and decided to join forces to make outside working conditions moderately miserable.  In fact, this first picture (above) was taken from inside the coop’s secured covered run while we waited out a particularly heavy spot of rain.

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Slightly visible in the picture above are actual puddles of water out in the larger garden area (remarkable because we have excellent drainage in this area, but it still couldn’t quite keep up with what was coming down…)

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However, in spite of the very wet weather, we managed to get the coop secured enough to move the pullets from their temporary coop into their newly refurbished and seriously enhanced new home.  They were very happy.

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The last major step in finishing Fort Chook’s defenses was to install the anti-grab and anti-dig hardware cloth “apron” along the bottom edges of the secured run.  We worked on that on Sunday.

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Then we covered the portion of the screening along the trenched bottom edge with about 6 inches of gravel.

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And then put small boulders and fist-size or larger rocks along the top edge to further discourage digging. 

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I was only able to get one section of the coop “rocked” but I will be gathering more rocks this week as time permits to finish the rest.  We have no shortage of rocks here.

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And here we have Fort Chook, about 90 percent finished.  Most of what is left to do is inside the coop itself – roosts, nesting boxes, etc.  With luck, Ft. Chook should keep our birds cozy and safe for a long time to come.

Picking pecks of perlatus puffballs

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We’ve been having a lot of fun exploring the various mushrooms and fungi available in our area, some times as close as our own back yard.  For example, we are currently experiencing an explosion of Lycoperdon perlatus along the trail from the workshop to the lower garden area.  

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Although we have seen these edible mushrooms many times over the past few months, it has only been in small clusters of maybe 2 or 3 or at the most a half-dozen at a time.  Not in the hundreds, if not thousands, that we are currently finding.

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We have eaten puffball mushrooms many times in the past, but not this particular species. We’re more familiar with the giant prairie puffballs common in parts of Texas, having gathered these many times by the five gallon bucketful while living there.  But small as the perlatus are, if they are available by the hundreds,  it seems to me that they are worth picking and preparing, so I did.

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Here is a closeup of one of the clumps I picked yesterday afternoon.  These are still on the small side – maybe 3/4 of an inch across on the larger ones, but they are solid, pure white on the inside and absolutely clear of insect damage, except for the occasional slug bite.  (Yes, slugs love mushrooms, too!)  You can see the brown, grainy studs on the cap that are a trait of this species.  They come off really easily, and are often mostly gone by the time the puffball is mature.  I rubbed the mushrooms together gently in water to loosen and remove most of them before cooking.

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Here is a picture of a perlatus puffball sliced through the middle to show the complete lack of internal structure that is common to puffballs.  If it has a stem and a cap and gills showing, it is NOT a puffball and shouldn’t be eaten without being absolutely certain of an id.

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The finished product- cleaned, trimmed mushrooms in a saucepan with butter,  about to be sauteed for tasting and for storing in the freezer for a treat later!

Six weeks and counting

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The baby Silver Grey Dorking chicks don’t look at all like chicks any more!  They look just like miniature adult hens and roos now.

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The hens are such elegant little critters, all tweeds and soft fall russet colors.  The roosters are beginning to give hints of their future adult glory – as you can see from the first picture, they are already sporting gorgeous combs.

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Here is a full view of one of the little roos.  You can see the dramatic SGD plumage starting to come into play, complete with some nice iridescence on the wings and tail.  All ten chicks are growing and thriving and we couldn’t be more pleased with their progress.

Coop run is finally starting to take shape

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Because we have mountain lions, bobcats and bears (oh, my!) we need a secure and covered chicken run attached to the new coop so the chickens can get out for fresh air and exercise while still being protected.  We  are building one this week in the hopes that the older hens can go out into it by the end of the coming weekend.  The plan is to put a solid heavy duty plywood roof on it, and then waterproof that with metal roofing.  The sides will be heavy duty 2 x 4 mesh stock fencing with galvanized hardware cloth over that to the first supports, and a buried apron of it around the perimeter to prevent digging.  All soffits will either becovered with solid wood or hardware cloth.

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The coop already has a locking door to the outside and we are planning to cover the badly-cut door on the side with a layer of heavy plywood, then cut out a more even new door to replace it.  The eventual plan calls for an autumatic door and opener, but it may be a while before we pick one out.  In the meantime, the new laying boxes should be coming in soon and we got the parts to make an automatic watering bucket.

Someone is just a teeny bit of an over-achiever

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Tomorrow afternoon we will have had our new pullets for a whole week.  They seem to be doing well and we are getting a pretty steady 3 to 4 eggs per day.  This is pretty good for hens who are just starting to lay.  But today one of them really outdid herself.  The small egg on the right is a typical pullet-size egg.  This is the size we have been getting every day this week.  Until today.  As you can see, someone in the flock is getting a bit competitive.

We are really enjoying watching all the chickens.  The little ones are growing well and are to the point where we only put the heat lamp on for them at night.  We are actually getting ready to move them to a larger space soon… probably a wire pen in one of the bedrooms of the old mobile home behind the workshop.  It will give them some more room to grow and run around, and I figure since the house is going to be demolished in a month or so anyway, I don’t care if the chicks kick shavings out of the pen and make a mess of the floor.

We just had a really shed-y weekend

Ok, bad pun. But we bought two sheds this weekend, including one which is 8 x 12, and spent a lot of time getting it to the property and a gravel pad in place to hold it up off the ground before it arrived.  I think we all did a great job.  Here is the final product, set into place on Sunday…

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We also bought a used chicken coop on Saturday. This coop came with five 5 month old pullets, which are just beginning to lay.  Here are some pictures of the three breeds we have in that batch…

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And here is a shot of Will, the Chicken Whisperer, hand feeding the new girls. We got three eggs yesterday, and already had one when I left for work this morning at 6am, so they are settling in really well.

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The Dorking chicks are doing well – no losses so far and it appears we have 8 little hens and two roosters in the batch.

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So that’s all the latest happenings here!  Stay tuned for more fun later this week as we get the new coop set up.