Galadriel Freden

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since Jul 27, 2012
West Yorkshire, UK
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Recent posts by Galadriel Freden

I'm tractoring chickens over my new allotment this winter:  it's mostly grass with some thistles, nettles and dock.  It's a small plot, maybe 12 feet by 36 feet, so only five chickens in my tractor!  I've also sheet mulched about a quarter of it, and will not put the tractor there.  Right now things are still growing slowly, but I hope as winter comes the chickens will be able to outpace the regrowth (they can't keep up with it now, though they're doing good work).

On a larger scale, pigs might be a better option.
10 hours ago

Galadriel Freden wrote:
Here's what I want to know:  do I have to pull swiftly, or can I pull slowly and firmly?  I have a horror of the headless chicken running around, which makes me leary of the swift pull.  Is it obvious when they are dead?  Is there an obvious sound or feel?  Is there anything I should be aware of?

We want to kill our cockerels quickly and humanely--and legally.  Any suggestions or advice is appreciated.

Just as a follow up, I have done the broomstick method now, both to put down a very badly injured adult hen and to kill cockerels for eating.  The very first one (the fully grown adult):  head stayed on, some flapping, hard to know if dead...  The second, 4 month old cockerel:  head came off, crazy amount of flapping, luckily only an initial splash of blood and not as messy as I feared--and I knew for sure that bird was dead despite the fact that he was still trying to escape for another full minute.  I kept a good grip on him so there was no headless chicken chase. 

To answer my own question above, I pulled gently until the neck was fully extended, then gave a swift jerk, followed by another swift jerk just to make sure.  The first time there was a definite sound like a snap or a crack, that I could also feel through the bird's legs (which I was holding).  The bird immediately began flapping.  This also happened the second time (the younger bird), though feeling that crack through the legs made me think I'd dislocated them rather than breaking his neck so I gave another hard pull, thus pulling his head off (three pulls altogether).  Though I haven't been able to hear and feel the snap every time, they all start that manic flapping as soon as I do the first hard pull, which I now associate with a broken neck.  Once flapping I try to hang the bird upside down (I have a hanging basket support on my garage wall that's perfect for this) and let him finish;  I'll feel his neck to make sure there's a gap there, and then quickly slash it to let him bleed out. 

As a side note, all the birds I have done with the broomstick have been Australorps:  very big chickens.  I don't know if it's easier or harder with smaller birds:  I may find out in a month or two when our two Leghorn cockerels start crowing.
1 month ago
I feel your pain.  I've got butterflies too, and I can't really see how decoys would work.  That said, I've never tried so I can't completely disavow them. 

If you can grow over winter, I would recommend doing a winter/spring brassica crop--sow it late summer/early autumn and harvest in six to nine months time, depending on variety.  I grow cauliflowers this way--sown in late September, overwintered in a sheltered spot, then they crop for me early June before the butterflies are active.  I also grow two kinds of cabbage for overwintering, one for late winter harvest and the other for May-June. 

And I find that some brassicas are vigorous enough and have a long enough growing season, they can shake off the damage anyway;  purple sprouting broccoli does this for me--it's got pretty much a 12 month growing period between sowing and harvest, and I harvest in April/May before those pesky bugs are out.  I've had young plants eaten bare by caterpillars in summer, then continue to grow over winter and give a big harvest in spring.  I have a Savoy cabbage like this too:  I'm harvesting them now (July-August) and even though the outer leaves can carry dozens of caterpillars, the damage to the big heads and inner leaves is minimal, as the plants are already so big.

Finally, as a cheap or free option for netting:  look for sheer curtains at your local charity/thrift/op shop.  Or ask around on freecycle.  I've been collecting them piece by piece and they work just as well as manufactured insect mesh, so long as the weave is close enough (no big gaps in the fabric).

As a fun aside, I've noticed a big increase in parasitic wasps in the last few years.  I have a nasturtium growing up the wall right next to my outdoor tap where I fill my watering can every day, and I've watched the wasps wreak carnage on the caterpillars.  Though there has been a lot of damage to the nasturtium, there are currently only a couple caterpillars left crawling around;  the others are immobilized or already dried out husks.  I can't say for certain my cabbages are getting the same treatment (as I don't give them the same amount of daily scrutiny) but I assume so.
2 months ago

Anne Miller wrote:Wouldn't that design work for free range chickens?

When I was trying to find that thread, I found one I think was a chicken tractor.  I was trying to find something that looked like your set up.

Mine aren't free range, really (except Florry, of course, who sees the fence as a jumping off point).  I move them around micro paddocks once a week, requiring mobile fencing--some lengths of chicken wire and a few poles in my case.  I can only do a chicken tractor on the lawn, which covers just about one quarter of the non-veg areas they are allowed in.  I'm doing my best to enclose the veg patch to keep her off it, even when she jumps the paddock fence.

Did I mention I'm both cheap and lazy?  That's probably the main reason Florry's still with us, now that I think of it.
3 months ago
I've got a type of chicory--Belgian endive--which this really resembles;  mine has wide, flat leaves like this, slightly furry.  They are good for forcing under cover to get tender heads (typically in winter), though the plants are usually discarded after forcing a couple times.  Mine are in flower right now and the hoverflies are crazy about them :)
3 months ago

Anne Miller wrote:A cattle panel chicken coop would keep her in.  Here is a thread about using them.  Use chicken wire to cover the cattle panel.

That's a great design, for sure. 

It's a difficult trade off between giving them fresh forage every week, and keeping them (her) contained.  I feel it's important to give them a new space regularly, both to break the parasite cycle, and also to keep them happy and interested so they don't start bullying each other.  My property is small--really really small!  A quarter of it is off limits to chickens for most of the year (veg patch).  And it's not even flat or square--it's certainly a job trying to wrangle a piece of chicken wire around shrubs and up mounds every week.  We've kept them fully confined once in the past, when required to by the government because of a bird flu outbreak.  They were in once spot for about three months, fully enclosed in chicken wire, and were the most miserable birds I've ever had.  They were so happy when I finally let them out;  I was happy too :)

I tried giving Florry (and her occasional partner in crime Rock who is just as flighty but at least gives up a lot quicker) a double amputation, i.e. clipping both wings, as the single was useless;  she was still hopping/climbing the 5 foot fence.  Turns out the double is useless too.  Ah well.
3 months ago
Ok, here's the thing.  I've got a broody hen sitting on six white Leghorn eggs.  They're due to hatch in two weeks.  They might not hatch, but they probably will--and I will have six adorable fluffy little yellow escape artists.

I already have one Leghorn hen;  she's a brilliant egg layer, but also brilliant at getting over nearly every fence lower than 2 m.  My chickens for the most part coexist peacefully with my kitchen garden--except her (I still haven't forgiven her for the leeks).  I use the basic paddock shift method outlined by Paul, although my hens have a coop and run at the back of my very small suburban property.  They get moved to a new section of lawn or beds every week, but have permanent access to coop and run. 

I'm chasing after the Leghorn most days;  sometimes multiple times a day.  I can't tell you how many times I've nearly wrung her neck;  the only thing that's stopped me is her amazing eggs.  Why did I say yes to more Leghorn eggs, generously given to me for free by a colleague?  Because they were free, I didn't have to search them out, arrange a meeting time, pay postage...whatever.  But mainly because of the eggs, those reliable, beautiful daily eggs, even in winter.  We wouldn't have had eggs last winter if it weren't for Leghorn Florry, despite the fact that she's two and a half.

Anyway.  To get to the point. 

Here's a fence treatment that I have done, and it works.  They need to be 1-2 inches apart, or Florry just jumps up and shoulders between them.  That's Rock behind them, incidently.  I'm collecting straight-ish garden trimmings as fast as possible, to cover the chicken wire currently enclosing the veg patch.  It's a long piece of chicken wire, and I've only got about 1/5 of it done.  I've got another two or three months before judgement day, and by then, the main summer garden will be over, so hopefully damage will be limited anyway.

I hope these new chicks aren't all boys...
3 months ago
We buried our son in a natural cemetary last summer.  Some things that might need to be considered:

  • Digging a grave is hard.  We didn't dig it ourselves (the cemetery did it for us), and even though it was only 3 feet deep instead of the traditional 6, it was still a deep hole.  If digging by hand, it's probably a two person job at least--and it'll still take a while and be a hard graft.  There needs to be enough space to for the casket, with some wiggle room.  It would probably be a good idea to get gravedigging tools now, before anyone dies.
  • The grave probably needs to be dug several days in advance of burying, to give the gravedigger(s) enough time to complete it.  I'm assuming a family burial plot means the family will be doing the digging.
  • A casket is less distressing for the people doing the burying than just a body swathed in a shroud.  Bear in mind, some sort of stretcher will be a lot easier for carrying the body and lowering it into the grave, if a casket isn't used.  We commissioned a basket with a lid from a local maker for our son;  the basket protected his body from the earth we shoveled back in;  I didn't like the thought of throwing earth directly onto his little body but other people may be ok with that (though you might need to check with them beforehand).
  • Some long straps or thick ropes will be useful for lowering the body into the grave;  these should probably be acquired straight away (and possibly practiced with), so they will be on hand when needed.  We were able to gently lower our son in his basket using the cemetery's straps.  Tossing a body in a hole seems so disrespectful, and we would have been horrified to have our son's body treated this way.
  • If having a funeral or ceremony at the burial site, it's nice to have easy access for mourners, and seating if possible.  Maybe cut/mow a path from the road or house to the grave.  Our cemetery provided a picnic blanket for us to sit on, as it was just the three of us for our son's burial.  People may like to say a few words, or read a letter or poem, or sing;  people listening may prefer to sit comfortably.
  • One more thing:  organ donation.  Maybe discuss it with family members.

  • We arranged everything for our son's burial, with support from the local children's hospice.  Doing it ourselves meant a lot to us.  We kept him with us for a week after his death until his burial by using an electrically cooled mattress that the hospice provided us;  we didn't give his body to a mortician or have him in a refrigerator at the morgue.  I'm so glad we had that week to say goodbye, as we could kiss and cuddle him right up to his burial.  I know they make large cooled mattress pads too, which could be an option (though you'd have to research it, preferrably in advance).  It also meant we didn't have to pay a funeral director.  The only fees we paid were for his basket and to the cemetery itself.

    When someone in the family dies--even when expected--it's such a shock and so much needs to be organized;  better to have the burial side of things ready now while everyone is still alive.  Even if this means getting caskets and shrouds measured and ready. 

    (I wrote about our son's short life, including his burial on my blog:
    3 months ago

    Amit Enventres wrote: As much as humans try to personify dogs, they are basically coexisting wolves.

    I agree and would like to add that in a pack (which you and your family are, in the dog's mind), the leader goes first in everything, followed by the second, third, and so on.  This means the leader eats first, sits down in the best comfiest spot, always walks in front when out for a walk.  Even things like going through a doorway or getting into a car:  leader goes first.

    When we started treating our own dog this way, insisting that she was the lowest in the pack order, her behavior really improved in all areas.  She stopped barking at us and random dogs/people, she stopped pulling on the leash--she basically calmed down and was able to enjoy being just a regular dog, instead of being a stressed out leader whose pack wasn't obeying her.

    My parents in law had a funny little dog who wasn't treated as lowest in the pack order--unless we came to visit!  I'll never forget the chipper, cheerful little trot he did when my husband told him to leave the kitchen while we were eating:  he was so happy to be told what to do;  it meant that someone else was taking up the responsibility of pack leader and he could relax.
    3 months ago
    I don't dispute that people ate grains.  I would even hazard a suggestion that civilization as we know it was built on grain--a food that could be stored for long periods of time, giving rise to an elite class who could persuade/strongarm/etc the rest of the population into growing and preparing it.  Toby Hemenway, I believe, had an interesting lecture about the rise of agriculture and civilization (and how they aren't sustainable in their current forms), which might still be online somewhere.

    It is my suggestion that grain wasn't the bulk of our ancestors' calories in the distant past.  If we accept it is a famine food, that is it costs more calories than it provides, it simply couldn't be the bulk of calories consumed, or our ancestors would have all starved to death.  Maybe I'm wrong about this;  maybe it's not a famine food.  Or maybe they were storing it during times of plenty, and only eating it during hard times such as in the (not necessarily historically accurate) story of Joseph and his Technicolor coat--during actual famines. 

    I don't know;  this is all just my own conjecture based on my own personal reading.  There aren't written records from 10,000 years ago, so does anyone really know?  Technologically we've come so far as a civilization, but we still don't know where we came from;  all the written history we have wasn't very concerned about day to day stuff, like what the general populace (aka poor people) were eating.
    9 months ago