Sunday, May 20, 2018

My Chicken Coop 2018

So, what have I been up to lately? Chickens, chickens and more chickens!  I have really found a passion (alongside gardening) with keeping chickens!  This past spring we expanded and modified the coop and just had the fence painted this past weekend. To most people that probably isn't all that exciting, but to me - it feels so good to finally get everything and everyone in their place. To see older versions of my chicken coop click here and here.

I lost my sweet Josie last year - she was my ten year old black Silkie .  Leaving me with just two chickens ~ Gizzy and Pearl. Feeling sad, I had the idea to add to my flock by hatching my own eggs instead of bringing home baby chicks or pullets.  So my kids and I purchased a dozen eggs from a local farm and after 21 days of anxiously waiting four out of the twelve hatched.  They were a fun project for our family and we really enjoyed the process....two were roosters which were rehomed immediately as I cant keep roosters.  Two were hens, but I realized that they were considered "smooth silkies" and not the fluffy "bearded" and "tufted" ones that I am used to. So I decided to rehome those as well. Over the past several months I've been bringing home dozens of chicks, just a couple at a time and enjoying the baby stages. Growing the Silkie breed out takes months and months to determine if they are either a hen or rooster, most say you don't know until the chicken either lays and egg or crows. I've rehomed several as I keep getting roosters which is disappointing since you get attached to each and everyone of these little chicks.

While growing out my day old chicks indoors - I realized that I can only keep these little darlings in my home for so long.  They do become stinky and dusty - I am at my maximum after about three weeks of keeping them inside our home.  I found a rabbit cage at our local feed store that I can keep the teenagers in awhile longer while they still require a heat lamp until about six weeks of age. All of this hands on experience made me realize my coop needed to be expanded and also required separate compartments while the babies grew out as the different ages require different needs.  Food, vitamins, type of shavings, nesting boxes, etc. all play a roll in growing out baby chicks of any breed.

This photo below are my five current "growouts" all hatched at Easter. 

This group of three are ones that I brought home last November and are definitely hens - still waiting on eggs though.  Silkies can take up to a year to start producing eggs. I know it sounds silly to keep chickens if you aren't getting eggs daily, but these beauties are more for esthetics in my gardens.  Silkies are known to not destroy gardens as most other backyard poultry.

Are you ready to see the final unveiling of what it looks like today? Again if you want to see older versions of my chicken coop click here and here.  The coop sign is from Castle & Cottage. It's one of my favorite things about the coop area. I keep it stored during the winter months and enjoy it during the summer months. 

As you can see from the photo above, the coop now has four doors opening from the front. Each of the four compartments can be sectioned off or opened as one large coop for the girls to roam throughout the entire coup. There is a single ladder to get to the top compartment where the floor is solid, this is the area I am keeping my grow outs.  Each of the other sections have very small wire flooring.  My chickens free range most days, so I have no concerns about the bottoms of their feet as this has worked fine since 2011. The little doors within the coop open and close and lock with a little handle above the opening. Currently I have two sections available to the older hens, the babies/teenagers are on the top with shavings and the newest side is closed off completely.  Each section other than the bottom middle has a bar for my adult hens to roost - my Silkies do roost, some say theirs do not.  

I ordered wooden nesting boxes, but the hens seem to prefer these galvanized bins from Home Depot. I am using these nesting pads from Amazon to cushion the bottom of the bins so the eggs don't break.

Because of the coop modifications that I made cleaning and egg collection needed to be addressed.  My coop is set off the ground on 4x4's that sit directly on 10x10 pavers.  The pavers help prevent rot of the wood legs and also prevents predators from digging into the coop from underneath.  As I stated earlier I have the smallest wire flooring that helps eliminate most predators as well. To collect eggs, I simply open the back door and collect the eggs.  Because this door is somewhat heavy (also a good predator deterrent), a chain has been attached to hold the door while I collect the eggs. To clean I just simply open all of the openings and hose the inside of the chicken coop out, I can reach in either side of the coop to access - after hosing out and allow for complete drying - I splash an entire gallon of Costco vinegar in every single nook and cranny to keep my chickens clean and healthy.

I love to come up and sit with the chickens and watch them roam the garden.  Even thought they have the entire yard to do so, they mainly stay closer to the coop - digging in the gravel rocks keeps them happy for bugs dust baths which is fine with me as they don't do too much damage in the landscape. I even used an old chicken feeder to plant succulents in as one of my planters this year.

I still have most of the main staples of the chicken coop I added years ago. the arbor that separates the patio and the chicken coop is a favorite - still growing the same roses, Blush Noisette and Cottage Rose along with the clematis Terniflora clematis (also known as Sweet Autumn). I've picked up vintage bricks at garage sales and slowly have added them to the arbor area and directly in front of the coop picket fenced gate.

The faux weathervane that I found and painted and assembled to the top of the coop is still in place as is the sweet rustic birdhouses both sitting on 4x4 poles. 

New this year are two galvanized tubs sitting in front of both sides of the picket fence filled with Koko Loko roses which are to bloom any day now. In the back ground are bleeding hearts and around the base is white petunias, alyssum seeds, along with different wildflower seedlings I've saved from past years tossed in the dirt. There is a plant in the very front that I can't identify after I brought it home from the NWFGS earlier this spring. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear - I was thinking a tuber rose, but can't confirm....

Having these galvanized containers brings more green to the chicken coop area and will share the blooms as they bloom - it also keeps the bunnies and chickens from eating the seedlings I've spread in several parts of the landscape but only seeing them happily grow here.  

Here are a few of my adult hens exploring the landscape.  

...and here is the tiniest two babies I've recently brought home.  

There are so many beautiful colors offered to us in the Silkie breed. Currently I have white, partridge (originally thought to be black), blue, splash, paint, buff, grey, blue cream and porcelain. Some of these are in the growout stage so I don't know what I can keep and what will need to find a good home for.  I truly just enjoy every stage of these chickens. 

Look forward to hearing what you all think (if you are even reading), happy to answer questions as well. Please know you can find me both on Facebook and Instagram if you want to see more garden photo's. 

xoox, tracie 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Helleborus in the landscape...

I everyone! It certainly has been quite awhile since I blogged here on Fishtail Cottage.  I've really missed interacting with my gardening friends here on blogger, but I certainly was fine with taking a break.  Sometimes I feel like I just share the same photo's over and over, year after year and wonder if anyone out there gets bored?  I have continued to share my garden on Facebook and have really found Instagram to be an extra special place for me.   But honestly I truly miss sharing my garden here on blogger.  So here I am back to recommit myself in 2018!  It's been cold here in both January and February with temperatures ranging in their forties. The rain here in Seattle hasn't felt as debilitating for me as it did last year, sporadic days of sunshine has certainly brought the spirit of spring to us earlier than last year.  A few days of birds flying through the gardens and bulbs peeking out of the ground is always a welcoming site. 
What has caught my attention this year, is the amount of Helleborus, also known as Hellebores and Lenten Rose I have been collecting over the years.  They have come up in masses this year and they are absolutely wonderful!  These beauties are the one of first to appear in my landscape....a winter blooming flower. When I have planted mine, I have chosen small plants as they are less expensive.....However, doing so takes a few years to establish and bloom these types of prolific blooms I am sharing with you today. So many colors are available so it's very easy to grab a few each year. I had a yellow one I added years ago, but still have not seen a bloom in the garden of that variety since I planted it. 

Growing tips from me..... (I am in Washington State, Growing Zone 8)
  • Hellebores are a shade plant  (a little sunshine is okay)
  • They prefer some moisture but not soaking wet. 
  • The plant itself will grow approximately 2 feet by two feet.
  • No dividing is necessary, the older the plant the more blooms you get. Some of mine have close to 25 blooms right now. 
  • I don't cut these blooms and bring them in the house because I love having color in the garden right now, if you want to you just need to wait till the stamens fall off (otherwise they will wilt really fast)
  • I've noticed that they aren't happy to be moved around in the landscape, so be picky about where they are planted. 
  • These gorgeous plants will reseed, but will take several years to bloom.
  • Super low maintenance plant. Cut last years foliage off in November to avoid disease in spring.
  • Leave the foliage after blooming as a good filler in your garden (also so you don't accidently dig where you have this plant)
  • Deer, bunnies and other garden pests leave these plants alone.
  • I do sprinkle a little slug bait during bloom season around these plants. 
  • These are poisonous so keep pets and children away from them. 
  • be aware that many of these blooms point down to the ground, very few are upright...
  • Great companion plants (for me) is Heather, Pigs Ear, Daffodils, Primroses, Lungwort.
  • WARNING! they can be very addicting as you can tell! 
Thanks so much for coming to visit me today, Please do comment so I know someone out there is reading this and share with your friends!  Happy to answer any questions if you have any ~ I will always try to share my personal knowledge and experiences! xoxo, tracie

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fishtail Cottage Garden in May

So many beautiful flowers appeared in May!  First one to share with you is just a few of my lilac's.... these are some of my most favorite cut flowers to bring inside.

As you can see the landscape came alive in the front yard area where I have a darling little feeder and bath for the birds. The Hanaki peony trees, Adirondack Crabapple Trees and the Northern Highlight Azaleas are amazing when they all come into bloom as other early spring blooms start to fade out. 

I originally only had this one Northern Highlight Azalea in my back yard landscape, however the fragrance was just so amazing I added several more to my gardens in both the front and back yard.  I cannot begin to tell you how amazing this shrub is.

Some other favorite shrubs in my landscape that came into bloom during May was several varieties of Rhododendron's, Mexican Orange and Snowball Shrub. All of which make excellent cut flowers as well.


So many perennials returned with their beauty like the Cornflower, Columbine and Bearded Iris. 

Seeing the landscape evolve each year and how everything fills in is one of my favorite pleasures of my garden.  Look how beautiful the Sandwort ground cover has taken over below this sweet little Maple Seedling that I started a few years ago.

And just one more cottage flower favorite that appeared in May is the Foxglove ~ a wildflower that I've allowed to self seed and take over wherever it desires!  Definitely another favorite of mine that I had to share. 

If you want to see more photo's, please do follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Thank you so much for coming over and visiting today! xoxo, tracie