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June 25th update! Some new members of the clan!

June 25, 2015
Indian Runner Ducks.

And here we have the 3 newest young’ins…

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Indian Runner Ducks

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Jax is the HUGE Jersey Giant on the left. Making time with some of Valiants ladies....

Jax is the HUGE Jersey Giant on the left. Making time with some of Valiants ladies….

High steppin'

High steppin’

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Couple of shots of Chessy, no part of their body they can't get that beak too.....

Couple of shots of Chessy, no part of their body they can’t get that beak too…..

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Brenna

Brenna

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Shonda has a few new lady friends. They all cackle....

Shonda has a few new lady friends. They all cackle….

Notice the proportion of food in the feeder to on the ground? No more food in there for them.

Notice the proportion of food in the feeder to on the ground? No more food in there for them.

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Valiant hanging out with part of his harem.

Valiant hanging out with part of his harem.

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One of the new youngsters..

One of the new youngsters..

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Looming in the background...

Looming in the background…

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Nap time.

Nap time.

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Love these guys.

Love these guys.

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1 of the 5 rescues, and bosses now (they are much older than my girls). I call her BR, most of the young ones call her much worse, she's a bully.

1 of the 5 rescues, and bosses now (they are much older than my girls). I call her BR, most of the young ones call her much worse, she’s a bully.

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This is B, my buddy. She's the dark brahma with the big white chest

This is B, my buddy. She’s the dark brahma with the big white chest

“qui moi” which is French for “Who me?”

He's a strutter.

He’s a strutter.

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Valiant, 1 of the 2 boys in the gang (that we know of)

Valiant, 1 of the 2 boys in the gang (that we know of)

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Silvia

Silvia

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Ok how it came to be…

June 19, 2015

Once Shonda had cleared her head, thought about it, I was already about 20 chickens and months into this, in my head. I have read, and continue to, every ounce I can get on this. I don’t have any other way. I learn like I was coached. I’ll take it all in, use what feels right and get the ideas from the smartest folks.

To date I’ve been incredibly lucky.

So here’s the homestead as of today.

This is "Oui-Oui" one of three Mille fleur d'uccle hens. They're Bantams. It's pronounced "Mill-Lee Flure Dew Clay". Mille fleur, as I understand it, means "Thousand Flowers" in French

This is “Oui-Oui” one of three Mille fleur d’uccle hens. They’re Bantams. It’s pronounced “Mill-Lee Flure Dew Clay”. Mille fleur, as I understand it, means “Thousand Flowers” in French

They will grow up looking like this. Stunning. They don't acquire these colors until after their first molt I am told.

They will grow up looking like this. Stunning. They don’t acquire these colors until after their first molt I am told.

Coop

This is the coop the first night the ladies slept outside. The only “outside” they had at this point was the enclosed run (lit up).

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So this is looking towards that run that is lit up, from inside the coop. Heated Roosts were built over the pop door which was set on a 5am 9pm timer. I had read about a ‘drop board’ and it seemed a no brainer. It’s the white board beneath the roosts with the cutout for the pop door. An oil based primer over top stops any rot, and it takes like 5 minutes to clean their poo off every day. And my Lord they poo.

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This is the opposite side of the pop door. This is the first day of their lives they were outside. They were tentative (and very young) coming out, but went berserk when they realized it was safe. Primitive wire up at that point for protection.

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This is a young “B” (stands for Buddy) next to one of the initial waterers I put inside. She’s a Dark Brahma, of which there are 3.

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The BIG white one is “Ellie” and she likes the ladies. They don’t seem to mind her much, and have gotten better as they have gotten a bit older. Valiant, one of the roosters, isn’t a real fan yet. That’s “Pood”, one of the Polish that died in the first incident with Georgia.

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This is a very young “Brownie” (so named for stud Medfield Hockey Player Lindsay Brown). She’s a Brown Cochin, and will basically have brown Uggs for life… She’s one of the top 4-5 ladies in the hierarchy right now.

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Early shot of the ladies getting used to roosting.

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Ellie and Pood were actually funny together, Pood liked to follow her around, I wonder if she thought Ells was her mom? They sure as hell looked alike.

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This is a VERY young Valiant, one of the two boys I accidently acquired in my batch. He’s grown so fast, and is absolutely beautiful now. I hope like hell he tries to ‘court’ Ellie someday…

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Frick was one of two Dark Brahmas. Frack was one of the casualties from the 1st incident. She’ll have a low cut version of Uggs when she grows up.

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This is a later shot, after the 1st run of fencing was posted and an outside run was enclosed for them to run around.

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Indoor run with waterers and a feeder that has since been replaced. The girls would go INSIDE the feeder and scratch all the food onto the ground……

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This is the shed, coop and run are to the left of this and our initial home shed is back right.

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This is looking INTO the coop from the enclosed run outside the door.

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It was too hot, or really too humid. I tried a de-humidifier for a bit but it was way too much. Dirty as all get out each day and the girls tried sleeping all over it. Early feeder, early waterer on a wagon tire.

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This is where the ladies slept before they got comfortable with the initial roosts.

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Brownie is sitting in the leaves, her camo is clearly big league. The Polish eating was “Ella”, she was a casualty of the 1st accident.

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The coop and run(s) are built at the back of our yard. Behind this is a very large bog/marsh, on conservatory land. This ENORMOUS compost pile is all the underbrush/growth that was cleared to open up the land for the ladies. It’s basically an enormous buffet line for them. Whenever I walk around it and pull out limbs they follow me like a pied piper, knowing every limb turned over is a protein feast of bugs, worms etc.

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Looking in the same direction outside the front gate. Entry door is open just off to the right.

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This is from the pathway looking in. Coop is just out of the photo to the right. Red tub is my initial attempt at a compost bin.

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These? These are 2 of 7 rescues I took in a bit ago. They’re about 8 months to a year old (as my girls are about 4-5 months old (the oldest). I took them in when their owner was told he could not have chickens in his new home in NH, the day of the move. They’re a mix, and they’re great. They lay eggs. 2 of them are gone, these 2 actually, as they took off and didn’t return.

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This is an updated shot of the entry. Gone are the roosts on the far short wall. Replaced with 3 roosts that run the length of the coop above a drop board. Somehow I didn’t see the short wall roosts being able to handle the amount of ladies I may end up with. Shonda won’t read this so please keep that between us…. Homemade waterer in the background, hanging feeder behind “Bonjour”.

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Chez Schilling undergoing renovations. I needed to expand the contained run. The initial one was too small for them and given that the Bantams were picked on by everyone I needed more room for them to spread out. The ladies loved to help, or poop on my tools. This is a very early shot.

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Silvia, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, munches on cut grass I have thrown into the run once a week.

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From inside the new run through the initial one to the shed. Door connecting these two to allow me to split them up if need be (and there’s now a need, but I’ll get to that)

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I’m not sure how many of the girls know Georgia did what she did, but it’s now at the point where they are openly taunting her…..

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Here’s a look soon after the 1st remodel. The waterer in the back is a pretty cool idea I saw. 5 gallon paint bucket, 5 gallon water bottle. Take a block of wood about 4-6 inches high (untreated) and saw cuts and zig zags all along the top. Cut two “windows’ in the bucket, on opposite sides. Pop a hole in the top of the water bottle, place the wood at the bottom of the bucket, so that top of it is just below the ‘window’, with the side with the cuts in it facing up. Turn the bottle over and place it on top of the block. The cap should still be on, but with a hole. The water will drain out, up to the bottom of the window, and stay there as they drink. Insanely cool idea. Still tweaking but I love it.

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Looking out the front door. Two circulating fans to keep the air moving up top, two bags of herbs to keep pests out and smell in (it smells nice inside honestly). Early version of the electrical, since adjusted and cleaned up a bit.

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How the pop door looks now with the roosts moved. Nesting box 1, so named the “Lead off” box, is where the 5 layers all started to lay their eggs. 2 have now moved into the 2 hole…

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The girls “pool” to bathe in. 1st edition. About the time I lug wagon 5 of sand in, Shonda says “why don’t you just used the cinder blocks as a frame and fill that…….

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So…….

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Started to get a bit creative. The “holes’ left open now house different plant life the ladies are either protected against eating, or they don’t seem to ‘eat’.

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Willow actually loved the sand pile their sand came from….

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The waterer

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The herbs I bought from the Chicken Chick.

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This is Frahnsay……

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“B” with one of her sisters. By far the friendliest breed I’ve gotten to date.

Georgia

Georgia hates the fencing now in place.

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Rufus is deaf and too old to care, he just likes to look at them most times.

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Brownie

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Recent shot of Valiant, he has turned out to be a gorgeous one. Jax is the other male, he’s a Jersey Giant, and he is huge. Valiant is the alpha male as of today. Though they did get after it a bit yesterday……

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“BR” laying or sitting. She is one of the 5 rescues left. She’s a Barred Rock, or Barred Plymouth Rock.

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Another tip from Kathy, the Chicken Chick. With sand as my foundation in the coop and run, I can clean any poop up with this.

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The three mademoiselles.

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I’ll say it one more time. Everything, from location to ‘stuff’, screams bugs, flies, mosquitoes. Swampy marsh, humid as hell, grass, crap, compost bin and a lot of other stuff. These vanilla trees, copiously stationed, are magic. Honest to goodness I open my compost bin (with 2 hanging inside off the lid, and I have not had a SINGLE fly come out or in. I have NONE inside the coop, none. I have NONE flying around. Mosquito’s? Nope. I also have grown a few carnivorous plants.

You better believe it!

You better believe it!

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Still hoping for a freak event….

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Valiant pooping on Steve’s tool and acting disinterested in the young lady to his right

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Love this thing. Gives me high temp, humidity over past 36 hours. Allows me to adjust if need be, windows, fans etc.

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Another Chicken Chick recommendation. The corner feeder. PVC pip held into corner trough with ties, back board secured to board outside fencing

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Inside of the run addition with newest and last version of waterer. I’ll keep troughs to allow them to guzzle, but the nipple waterers are magic. No leaking, and I had to do NOTHING for them to know how to drink. Once one did it, the rest followed suit. I have these hanging all over as the summer heat moves in.

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Inside 1st run

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Outside during initial remodel

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Inside 1st run now. 2 waterers, corner feeder and new, last version, hanging feeder.

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The two runs in development

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Another cool Idea I stole after seeing this setup at Home Depot

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They replaced this

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B is checking out the new compost bin, now outside the run but easily accessible for dispensing waste into. Hole in lower back side allows me to remove compost at the bottom for flowers and plants.

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French ladies sunning… Umbrella was originally for cover but they seem to follow the sun around the run, always liking to lay and play in it. So the umbrella is now being used, and will be used all year, to keep the sand in the “pool” dry.

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Silivia with the single greatest mosquito repellent ever. All natural, smells awesome and sold at the Medfield hardware store. Love this stuff.

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Gretchens husband Steve, built this for Shonda……

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Next phase????

Yes, that just happened....

Yes, that just happened….

Next up I’ll let you meet the 24 ladies who will settle in Tombstone ahead of the youngins’ coming up behind.

Time to meet some of the new girls…

June 17, 2015

So after all the tragedy and drama, and some healing. Gretchen reached out and let me know I could ‘replace’ any of the ladies I lost. So after losing a total of 9, I got 20 more. (Chicken math…)

Here’s a look at their first few weeks in the Schilling household. They grow so dang fast!

NONE of these girls are named (but I think there may be a Rooster in the bunch (one of the Barred Rocks?).

If you know your stuff and spot a rooster please shout out!!

Without further ado, the new (nameless) Schilling girls…

These are shots from their first few days home. None are older than a week.

These are shots from their first few days home. None are older than a week.

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So there they were, newbies!

Now fast forward a few weeks and damn how they’ve grown:) Check out the hair….

 

Here's the latest shots of the new ladies.

Here’s the latest shots of the new ladies.

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Quick note about an amazing thing!

June 16, 2015

You ever see one of these?

Vanilla Tree 1 Vanilla Tree

Not a trick question. Ya, they’re vanilla air fresheners, likely seen in a NYC cab. I read on this blog article that these would help keep flies away. In addition to her other suggestions, I gave this one a whirl.

Now let me set this one up. My coop, and area, is in the shade of some pretty large trees, but there are areas of sunlight. Immediately behind my property, and the coop, is marsh, real, nasty, smelly conservatory marshland. It’s hot, it’s humid. My compost bin is just outside the run fencing too.

It is the Taj Mahal for flies and heat loving insects.

Guess what? I have not seen a fly in ANY area of my chickens, inside or outside the coop, in weeks. There are bugs for sure, at night it can get antsy, but flies? None. None when I open the compost bin to add poo, none around their poo outdoors, none around the fruit they savage when I let them have it, none. Now I’d make a case for it being a combo, but outside my coop I have done NOTHING but hang these unsightly yellow trees.

I love it when seemingly inane things turn out to be cool :)

Time to meet the ladies, and some sad stories….

June 12, 2015

Before I get to the introductions, and it’ll happen over 2 days. I wanted to give you an idea of life after baseball.

Some things will never change.

In pretty much the exact manner in which I prepared to pitch, I entered into this. I read, researched, read some more, made phone calls, talked to a poultry vet, read some more.

I wanted to be as prepared and informed as possible, and I am. I am also learning tons as I go thanks to the amazing ladies and the advice and info they’ve given me.

I’ll start off by showing some ‘baby photos’, some of which will be painful. I lost 7 of the girls to a pet dog who, while I wanted to kill her, I knew she was trying to ‘play’ with them. I lost all of my young polish, a gorgeous blue cochin as well, and one of my bantam frenchies (Mille fleur d’uccle). Pronounced Millee-de-Flur dew clay.

It was a very hard lesson to learn, and it happened again to 2 others not long after.

As of today I think the pen is borderline Ft Knox, to get into or out of.

I’ll introduce you to the Schilling pets as well, and there’s a neat little surprise at the end.

You'll see some comments on some pictures along the way. For anyone that doesn't know this about chickens 1) They're wicked smart and 2) They're EXACTLY like dogs, every one has its very own personality and it's on display, all the time! Any of the youngsters you see with

You’ll see some comments on some pictures along the way. For anyone that doesn’t know this about chickens 1) They’re wicked smart and 2) They’re EXACTLY like dogs, every one has its very own personality and it’s on display, all the time! Any of the youngsters you see with “Afros” was killed in the 1st accident. As was “Hairyette” the blue cochin. These were all taken in the basement, in their brooder (built by Steve) which I added a ‘loft’ onto, to allow them as they grew, to move around and start ‘roosting’ before going outside.

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Hairyette would have looked like this, and she was gorgeous as hell.

Hairyette would have looked like this, and she was gorgeous as hell.

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The one on the left is “Valiant”. So named because, again according to Garrison “Anyone willing to have 27 girlfriends, has to be Valiant dad”. That was before we discovered a 2nd rooster.

What Chessy will look like all growed up! A mobile chess board.

What Chessy will look like all growed up! A mobile chess board.

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This is Brownie, a Partridge Hen Cochin.

She will look like this when she's all grown up.

She will look like this when she’s all grown up.

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This was about the time “Valerie” became “Valiant”, as we realized he acted like, and looked like, a boy.

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Check out the neck feathers, and he has enormous feet.

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Life rolls along

June 12, 2015

To say I’ve been blessed could be the understatement of the century. I am at an amazing place in life. My only daughter just graduated (not ready for that one..) my oldest son is at Ron Woolforth’s camp in Texas, two younger boys are here doing their thing and Shonda and I are doing different things together which has been fun.

See her and I move at 2 different speeds. I go light speed, she goes the speed limit, sometimes slower (metaphorically speaking of course. She’s always taken real life speed limit signs as suggestions rather than law).

So when she mentioned late last year that she thought it might be cool to get the kids chickens for christmas, one for each, and one for us. So she’s talking six, and I am picturing the poultry warehouse for KFC (speed limit vs light speed).

I managed to make her idea of six turn into more through my strong power of persuasion. “Come on honey, they’re flock animals, you can’t seriously expect less than a dozen to survive ‘alone’ can you?”

She fell for it/didn’t listen/didn’t care/or maybe I whispered the suggestion, but however it came to be that flock of 6 is now 24 in the coop, and a number more in the baby brooder.

We haven’t gotten here without some sad days, bumps in the road and cuts, bruises, bites and aches.

The idea was to start at the beginning and bring anyone reading up to speed on how I got here, and where I am. Maybe even where I am headed.

I’ll likely sprinkle in other stuff just to keep the flow and hopefully interest going.

A few words of thanks first. The guys at Bay State Structures were awesome. They built this:

A great looking and structurally awesome coop with a small enclosed run…
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I also want to mention 2 important, well 3 important folks in addition to my wife and kids.

First off, the Chicken Lady, Gretchen. Gretchen works here and this is where it all began months ago! Gretchen is my chicken lady and advisor.

Her hubby Steve? He’s responsible for a ton of post coop work. He’s got a carpenters gift and I am sincerely appreciative of everything he’s helped to get done!

And last, but certainly not least! There’s the “Chicken Chick” Kathy Shea Mormino!  Kathy has the best website I’ve ever seen on raising Chickens for any reason. When you see my photos starting tomorrow you will see her influence around the coop and amongst the ladies.

Will post more later, until then here’s a sneak peak at one of the girls before they are introduced!

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Anyone new to this want to guess why this Chicken presents a problem in a coop with ALL laying hens?

Incoming update on “Chez Schilling”

June 9, 2015

I’m raising chickens. Yep, that’s no typo, it’s for real, I’m a farmer… Well not a farmer but I have chickens. I am going to blog about it, and some life stuff I think. Will get the ‘story’ started here this week.

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