Thursday, September 19, 2013

Snakes in the Chicken Coop | Bad News

In an earlier post I commented on the necessity of coexisting with snakes when one lives on a farm with a chicken coop. I went on to say that once they invade my henhouse, the idea of coexisting "flies the coop," and I take action. Here's another example.

A few morning ago I went out to check on my young guineas. Usually they're happy to see me, knowing that I'm going to feed them and open the gate so they can free range for the day.

That morning was an exception. They seemed nervous and skittish, and were grouped on one side of the chicken coop. No great guinea smiles to welcome me this morning.

I immediately started looking for the problem, and it didn't take long to find it. A big black snake lay coiled near the fence. From the looks of him, he'd already dined on my breakfast eggs so I went into action mode.

Grabbing a nearby stick, I gave him a couple of pokes. Not death jabs, just a couple of prods to stir him into action.

Sure enough he began to move and I could see the bulges in his sides like a balloon stuffed into a nylon sock.

My chicken pen is made of horse panels, and when he got there he had to put out a mighty effort to squeeze through one of the 2" wide openings.

Once his tail cleared the wire I showed him no mercy, and if there's an afterlife for snakes, he was there with one swift chop of the shovel.

The guineas were watching, still in a huddle. Hunger trumping fear, they finally scattered to get the handful of feed I tossed onto the ground. They've grown so much. The keets who were small a few weeks ago are now the size of premium California grapefruits - with a head and tail added.

I counted. missing.

I recounted.  Still one missing.

Of course I immediately thought of the egg-stealing snake.

"There is surely no way," I thought to myself, "that a snake that size could eat a guinea as big as mine."

Just to be sure, I grabbed the shovel again and gave the nearly headless body a chop.

And there was the convicting evidence. Feathers and bones. My young guinea.

So what have I learned from this experience?

1. Contrary to what I've read, guineas don't always kill snakes. At least not at the age my guineas are now and given a 5 foot long black snake. Or maybe they simply haven't watched the instructional YouTube videos yet.

2. Snakes are dangerous predators. It may be okay to sacrifice an egg occasionally, but a young guinea is another story. I'll keep working on flock safety.

So goes another day in the life of a bird keeper. Some days I win, some days I lose, but I'll always keep on learning.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Congressman Jason Smith Builds a Chicken Coop

Whistle Crossing, LLC was honored to have Congressman Jason Smith, Missouri 8th District, US House of Representatives, visit the Well Kept Chicken coop manufacturing facility this week as part of his Work-A-Day tour. Company CEO Darrel Adamson served as host.

"We appreciate Mr. Smith's interest in small business and his support of Missouri industry," Adamson says. "He is quite talented, and we used his services in several areas during his visit."

Mr. Smith wasn't a mere bystander at Well Kept Chicken.
He readily took part in the machining and part-making process. He is shown at right operating the CNC mill that accurately cuts coop parts for a consistently perfect fit.

Assembly was the next step in the coop making process. Clint Campbell is shown assisting Mr. Smith as he places the front panel onto the plastic A-Frame coop.

Mr. Smith seemed right at home using a power drill to attach the final pieces of the chicken coop. This was no surprise since he runs the same family farm that was started by his great-grandfather, and farming always requires a host of skills.

To honor Mr. Smith's visit, a Well Kept Chicken Signature Coop was created.

Mr. Smith added his personal signature to the chicken coop's front panel.

Participating in the weekly marketing meeting was next on the agenda. Mr. Smith and his assistant are shown conversing with Adamson about marketing methods and the difficulty US manufacturers face when competing against offshore producers who are granted tax breaks and enjoy few regulations.

While in Mansfield Mr. Smith also visited our sister company, Engrave-A-Crete, Inc., who shares a manufacturing facility with Whistle Crossing/Well Kept Chicken. He is shown packaging one of the precision-crafted decorative concrete engraving tools manufactured in Missouri.

"We hope Mr. Smith will stay in touch with the reality of his constituents," Adamson says. "We appreciate that he recognizes the success of small businesses as a driving force in the recovery of our nation's economy. We welcome him back to our company at any time."  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Snakes | Friends or Foes?

I am not a snake lover or a snake hater. Living on a farm means we simply coexist. That is, until they invade my henhouse, and then coexistence turns to outright war.

As I gathered the eggs one day recently, I happened to notice a bit of something dark deep down  in the straw of the nest box. Thinking I’d clean it out, I reached under the straw. You guessed it! A black snake was hiding there.

I grabbed him by what I hoped was the tail and pulled. And pulled…and pulled…until finally all nearly 6 ft. of him was writhing in the air.

And there was the evidence. Six definite egg shapes bulging from his otherwise streamlined body.
He was tried and convicted in a single glance, and he was executed a short time later.
Now I hear some of you out there telling me that snakes are an important part of our ecosystem, they keep the mouse and rat population at bay, and that I should catch and release. Others say that killing snakes in Missouri is illegal. Here are my replies.

·         Snakes ARE important to our ecosystem, and they are welcome in my forests, my ponds, my fields and my fence rows, but NOT in my henhouse.

·         Snakes DO eat mice and rats, but I have a barn cat who’s quite adept at the same skills and who doesn’t rob the chicken coop.

·         There is no time in my schedule for the luxury of catch and release, and in this instance I was too irritated to consider it even if I had all day.

·         The Wildlife Code of Missouri does not address killing snakes per se, but it does permit Missourians to protect their property from wildlife. That’s all the permission I need, because that snake devoured my future laying hens, or at the very least my breakfast.

For now, the snakes on my farm and I are back to coexistence. I hope they’re busy spreading the word that things can turn ugly if they visit my chicken coop.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oreo Wisdom

by guest blogger, Small Town Hen

For me, hobby farming is about learning as I go. Some lessons are easy, and some are hard.

Oreo, my favorite little guinea keet, taught me a couple of hard ones, all in a few hours time.

Now I'm not sure whether Oreo was male or female, and I'm not sure Oreo had figured it out yet either, but to keep this story simple, I'm going to refer to Oreo as "he."

Oreo was the only Pied Guinea keet to hatch from the 40 eggs in my incubator, and he was my favorite from the time he crawled out of his shell, wet and exhausted.

It was obvious to me right away that Oreo was a special bird. Besides being the first to hatch, he was the first one to eat, and the first one to drink water. What fun it was to watch advanced, gifted, exceptional Oreo learn.

Why, then, would I be surprised that he was also the first one to fly?

Problem was, the flying part caught me by surprise. One morning he was happily scratching around in the box, and that afternoon he was gone.

Ugh! Not good! Guinea fowl keets are delicate and easily harmed, and I didn't like to think of him out on his own, alone.

Checking around carefully for the little guy, I came to the bucket of water I kept beside the box to replenish the keets' supply. It had no lid on it and I was almost afraid to look in.

When I did, my stomach hit my boot tops. There was Oreo, soaking wet and not moving. I grabbed him out, but it was obviously too late. Oreo - the go-getter, the over achiever, the bold and daring risk taker - had flown out of the box, dropped into the bucket and drowned. 

It was my fault. The lid to the bucket lay right beside it, but I'd been to busy that morning to recognize the danger.

Oreo - the first to fly and the first to die - taught me two valuable lessons that day.

First, never underestimate your young ones. They'll fly long before you think they're ready. And second, always keep the lid on the bucket.

I realize now these are more than just farm lessons. They're life lessons as well.

Thank you, Oreo, and RIP.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Chicken Coops Go to the Planting Festival

Our first show!  Rick and Clint put their shoulders to the job of loading our chicken coops. What would we do without those guys?

We had a great time and met some wonderful people at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Spring Planting Festival.

It took us some time to get our display up. We took nine colorful coops and we stretched over four booth spaces.

Several little boys and girls tried them out, climbing in and out of the doors and playgrounds. While they had lots of fun, our coops are meant for animal use only and aren't toys. Try telling that to these cute faces.

Several people were in costume, one of which was the Renaissance lady pictured. She won over the heart of our employee, Rick. The red in her hair and the jewels in her crown made her hard to resist. She wasn't  interested in him, though, just in our coops.

All in all it was a great experience.  We were gratified by the warm reception to Well Kept Chicken coops. It’s nice to see so many interested in getting back to natural things, such as raising chickens, gathering eggs and planting food crops.