My chicken surprised me

First, let me apologize for my absence. I got sick on December 28, a mere cold supposedly, but it laid me low for two months. And being old, I also had visits to my GP, urgent care, the ER, and the dentist for one thing or another in the last two and a half months. The result was that my energy has been sapped and my garden neglected. It has been all I can do to just maintain our four hens, and keep up with composting chores.

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Princess Ariel is the white hen in front, with Dino-peep (a barred rock) right behind her. The two black ones in back are Princess Aurora and old Chicken Little, both Black Sex-linked hens. We are getting three eggs a day, almost every day. Can’t keep up with them!

It is spring, and three out of four of our chickens are now laying. We are awash in eggs. I devil some of them, make 5-egg frittatas and 6-egg German pancakes, and even freeze some of them for use during the winter when my hens stop laying. (To freeze eggs, break them into a bowl, then break the yokes and mix them slightly with a dash of salt. Pour the eggs into a small Ziploc bag, squeeze out the air, and freeze them flat. I freeze them four to a baggie for our winter scrambled eggs. Or two to a baggie for use in baking.)

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This is Huevos Rancheros season as well. I melt grated Mexican cheese onto a corn tortilla, and top with a fried egg and salsa. That orange is from our tree. I LOVE springtime here on our little urban farmlet.

But how did my new hen surprise me? Well, I thought Princess Aurora, my white hen with black tail and wing feathers, was an Americauna (or however that is spelled), and I was expecting her to lay blue- or green-colored eggs. Nope. They are light brown.

Back to the internet I went, where I figured out that Princess Ariel is a Light Sussex breed of hen. They are a nice meat and egg breed, although we don’t eat our chickens. Our spoiled girls get laying pellets, and a daily feeding of scratch to give them something to do, plus mealworms and an assortment of seasonal organic greens. They have a nice enclosed cage that keeps them safe at night, plus an open run for daytime use. They have a good life, I think, plus a very generous vacation and retirement package.

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The nest box of our chicken coop is decorated with art on the outside, and the cage is lit with a solar light. They can roost inside or outside the nest box at night. Chicken Little is old and prefers the shelter of the nest box these days. The area to the left of the cage is fenced, but open on the top for daytime use. If the girls ran free in the yard, there would one NO greenery left. And there would be chicken poop on my pathways. So they have their part of the yard, and I have mine.

The Light Sussex is a friendly breed, and Princess Ariel seems very people oriented. She tries to follow me as best she can inside her cage and run, always interested in where I am more than where her fellow hens are. I suspect that she associates me with getting fed, and that she is more food focused than the others, but who knows.

Despite my neglect of the vegetable garden, the fruit orchard is providing. The number of lines this year is astounding. These are Bearrs limes, which turn yellow and fall from the tree when ripe. This is about a third of what is on the counter now, awaiting squeezing and freezing.

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This is about five pounds of limes.

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I squeeze the limes and pour the juice into ice cube trays for freezing. When the juice is frozen, I pop the cubes into a Ziploc freezer bag. When we want some limeade, we just put a couple of cubes into a glass of water and add a teaspoon of sugar, plus regular ice cubes when the lime cubes have melted.

 

It is also navel orange season. But we have rats in the yard, and they like oranges too.

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I would go out to get an orange for breakfast only to find that the rats had beaten me to it.

Sadly, the rats got more than half of my orange crop, and it wasn’t a particularly large crop with year. I did manage to trap one in a snap trap, but I haven’t been diligent about my trapping.

The rats also ate ALL of my snow pea crop as soon as the seeds sprouted, all of the bok choy and komatsuna, and all of my Lacinato kale. It seems that they don’t like leeks, so I do have a dozen leeks that are nearly ready to harvest. I have given up on my winter garden and am about to plant my summer garden of tomatoes and bell peppers. Unless I give up on that too before planting. Between being constantly sick, and the ongoing rat problem, I am pretty depressed about gardening. Encouragement would be appreciated.

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Hope springs eternal in the garden, and this August Price peach flower bud holds out hope of a peach crop down the road. There are about 80 blossoms on this semi-dwarf tree, the most ever. The abundant rain this fall has been a boon to my mini-orchard.

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The tiny Garden Gold dwarf peach tree in a pot is blooming nicely this spring. I never get any peaches from it, but I am hopeful this year.

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The Florida Prince peach tree is loaded with fruit, despite having been attacked by shot hole borer beetles. It seems to have fought off the infestation and is bearing a bumper crop. Maybe all the water helped.

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Our Katy apricot was LOADED with blossoms last week. I am hoping to get some apricots, unless the birds get them all.

With rats, birds, possums, and pests, it is hard to get a crop these days. A changing climate isn’t helping either, what with weather that is too warm, too dry, or just unpredictable. But I keep trying.

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A volunteer tomato plant is growing nicely in my Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation. So far the nights have been too cool for it to set fruit, but look–tomato flowers in March!

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Deer Tongue and Black-seeded Simpson lettuces have self-seeded themselves in some of my little garden boxes. I see a salad in our future.

And so my garden and I struggle on. Best wishes for your spring garden!

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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3 Responses to My chicken surprised me

  1. Mary Mueller says:

    Your garden still looks great, maybe it likes your neglect….but it does NOT look neglected!

  2. Norma Chang says:

    Glad you are better. You seem to have gourmet rats 🙂 Your fruits trees are gorgeous, hope you get lots of fruits. Are all those limes from just one tree?

  3. Linda Scotton says:

    Encouragement to you on your garden! You are an inspiration to all urban gardeners. Hope you are feeling better and get your strength back!

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