it’s hot, damn hot – or, how i forced the chickens to drink cool, CLEAN water.

we’ve had our chickens for a few months now and love them to all their henny bits. they’re silly and adorable and we still can’t believe we’re eating eggs from our own backyard. but their uncanny ability to actually poop in their own water dish has been a bit of a struggle to deal with. it’s been in the 90s for a couple weeks now and today it’s supposed to hit 100 and, like all animals, the number one thing the chickens need to deal with the heat is a constant supply of cool, clean water. i willingly put ice cubes in their waterer every day (and in lucius’s water bottle too) but you can’t imagine how frustrating it is to go out a few hours later and see that they’ve kicked hay and dirt into the dish they drink from or there’s a big turd floating in the dish, slowly getting mushier. two or three times a day, i swish the dirty water out and end up having to refill the gallon reservoir more often because of the waste.

i can’t remember how i first heard about ‘chicken nipples’ but after i did some internet research on DIY chicken waterers, i couldn’t wait to order some. no, chickens don’t have nipples like people do – these are nipples FOR chickens. you’ll see what i mean. i also ordered an inexpensive lidded bucket and made a trip (okay, several trips) to the hardware store for pvc pipe, fittings and a rubber washer.

here they are – the components for my new chicken waterer. except a few fittings and the rubber washer, which i learned later was necessary to keep the hole in the bucket (dear liza, dear liza) from leaking much of the water out. the chicken nipples are the red bits to the left of the bucket.

and here’s the project in its nearly finished stage – holes for nipples drilled, nipples inserted (the red bits poking out from one of the pipes have a little metal bit that the chickens lick at, which releases water into their mouths), and elbows attached but not screwed in very tight yet.

finally – here’s the end result. you can see that the bucket is on the outside of the chicken run and it has a lid. that’s right, chickens – there’s no way you can kick dirt into or poop in THIS water. the first length of pvc pipe extends via a 90 degree elbow from the hole i cut in the bottom of the bucket, and the nipples are in a nice line at a 90 degree angle from the second elbow. it’s much easier for me to fill the bucket with ice and cool water now and the water should stay nice and clean.

veronica took to the new watering system pretty quickly. amelia and estelle have pecked at different parts of the pipe and have found the spot at the second elbow that’s leaking a bit and are at least drinking from there. i’m pretty confident they’ll figure out soon what the nipples are for. i am kind of bummed about the leak at that elbow and considering letting the water run dry and trying to tighten up that elbow a bit. but for now, it’s fine and i feel much better about the chickens surviving this wicked hot day.


for myself, i’m going to the a/c at the movies. doesn’t even matter what movie it is.
stay cool, y’all.

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if you build a bat house, will they come?

chez farm has a terrible mosquito problem. i mean, really terrible. we have a stockpile of insect repellant products and i spend the summer on a constant dose of claritin to keep from scratching my skin entirely off. it’s the only thing we don’t love about our garden. the problem is that most of the lot our house sits on (with the exception of the section of our garden where our vegetable beds are) is shaded by big old trees, flowering bushes, and a lot of creeping ivy and hostas. it’s very pretty, but it leaves lots of cool damp places for mosquitoes to breed. we make a constant effort to clear away leaves and brush piles and try not to let standing water accumulate, but it’s a never-ending battle. we’re also located about two blocks from the east river and on a street with more big old trees, so nearly everyone else on the block also has shady gardens with only pockets of sunny spots. it makes for a beautiful neighborhood that stays cooler in the summer, but it’s also a mosquito paradise.

i was complaining about the mosquitos one day and my brother-in-law mentioned that we should get bats. turns out that bats definitely eat mosquitos, although there is some debate among scientists as to whether having bats around will really noticeably reduce your mosquito population problem or not. anyway, farmer woob was walking down our street one night at dusk with a colleague who’s a birder and they are sure they saw a bat fly by. the next week, the colleague bought us a bat house and we hung it up high outside the house with some good southern exposure, as recommended.


it can take up to two years before any bats actually move into a new bat house (and there’s really no guarantee that any ever will), but at least we know there are bats living in the neighborhood. if i were a bat, i can’t think of a better place to live than a nice new bat house in a garden with an all-you-can-eat mosquito buffet.

if you were a bat, wouldn’t you want to live here too?

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a baker’s dozen of fresh eggs

from our backyard hens, veronica and estelle.


there is nothing better than looking forward to a weekend menu of french toast, egg salad and deviled eggs from your own hens. thanks, girls!

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apple blossoms!

holy shit, look at this!


that’s new apple blossoms on our brand-new green sentinel apple tree, that is. i am speechless with excitement.

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gratuitous chicken pics

for your viewing pleasure.



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garden adventures for chickens

this past weekend was all about hanging out with our new chickens and working in the garden. we let the girls out of their run to explore the rest of their new home and they seemed to have a great time. they poked their beaks into almost all of the garden areas, but spent most their time around the hydrangea bushes and underneath the bunny hutch. they really loved scratching around the dried leaves under the bushes and in the big pile of hay and compost under the hutch. estelle made herself quite a nest in the hay and when she was tired of that spot, nedra took it over. they’re so silly – estelle mostly buried herself with only her tiny head visible above the nest but nedra sprawled around and squirmed her bottom on the ground to get a good dust bath.

while the girls were out and about, we did some work in and around their coop. we shoveled some of the garden soil around the bottom of the coop to fill in the gaps between the coop bottom and the ground. we cleaned out the run, added more soil to cover the chicken wire at the base of the run and then piled hay back on top of the soil so that chickens have something to scratch around (and poop) in. we set in a few large stones to create a path to the back of the coop and a place to stand and access it for cleaning and egg-gathering. we transplanted some hostas and ferns around the coop and the stones and bought some red cedar mulch to lay down around the plants and stones to pretty up the space. we haven’t laid the mulch down yet but it already looks much better now – more like the beginning of a garden area, rather than a muddy bare spot.


we transplanted in some tomato and pepper seedlings too and gave the garden a good soaking. i mulched in the seedlings with some skirting wool that i picked up during my recent trip to juniper moon farm to keep the moisture in and the weeds out. i also put some chipped christmas tree mulch around the blueberry bushes and strawberry plants, too. there are still things we need to do in the garden (there always are) but yesterday was a good productive day. and the best part was having a beer on the patio and surveying our garden after all our hard work.

getting the ladies back in the coop after their adventure is a bit of a challenge. veronica actually strolled right into the run on her own, as soon as she heard farmer woob say that she was going to try to lure the girls in – she’s clearly the brains of the trio. we tried luring estelle and nedra with cabbage but they’re not that trusting of us yet. and they’re pretty difficult to sneak up on and catch – they escaped easily when we tried to corral them behind the blue hydrangea bush. but in the end, we more or less herded them towards the run entrance and, after one false start when the door wasn’t open enough and they scampered behind the run instead of in it, we managed to convince them that the safest spot to flee was into the run where we wanted them to be.


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catch-up garden post

okay, so march and april were pretty busy months. i was out of town off and on for several weeks and it’s been hard to keep up with the blogging about all the work we’ve done in the garden. but never fear, even before the aforementioned chickens arrived, we have been hard at work.

since the winter was so mild and spring came so early, we decided to get an earlier start on the planting this year.

mother earth vegetable garden planner

we planted most of the early season seeds under cover in march, including the beets, carrots, cilantro, collards, cress, kale, lettuces, mustard greens, both kinds of parsley, peas, radicchio, scallions, shallots, spinach, and swiss chard. we used pvc piping and clear plastic sheeting to make temporary covers for the garden beds that acted as mini-greenhouses.

pvc piping and plastic covers for garden plants

the goal was to protect the seeds from any freezing temps that might still occur and to keep the cock-sucking, mother-fucking squirrels from getting in and digging everything up. the first goal was handily met and we did have a few frosts after planting, so i’m glad we did that. the second goal…well, those cock-suckers are resourceful, that’s for damn sure. i had to scour the garden for bricks and slate pieces to weight down the plastic in a nearly unbroken ring around the beds because they kept squirming their way underneath the plastic covers. and of course, the more bricks i used to keep the plastic down, the more work it was to lift the plastic to water underneath. cock-sucking devil beasts.

anyway, the lettuces and peas sprouted easy and took off like gangbusters. the beets, chard, carrots, cress, mustard greens, and parsley were a little slower to sprout but are doing okay. some of the other veggies we’ll have to reseed thanks to the cock-sucking squirrels but we’re still ahead of the game compared to last year. and the tomato and pepper seedlings have been transplanted, so things are going well.

we’re going to try putting some chicken wire over the garden beds next weekend to keep the cock-sucking squirrels out when we reseed more plants. stay tuned.

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introducing the newest members of chez farm – chickens!

last weekend, our dreams of chickens on chez farm finally came home to roost. (sorry, i just could not resist). we decided to go with the coop and chicken package provided by victory chicken co.
they bring the coop, the chickens, starter bags of food, hay, wood chips, all you need for basic chicken-husbandry – easy-peasy.

we did have to prepare the space where the coop would go.


and here we are!


that’s veronica in the run, there. she’s a barred rock hen, about eight months old and already laying lovely brown eggs for us. the other two aren’t visible (they’re inside the coop in this picture) and their names are estelle and nedra. they’re easter egger hens, who lay blue-green eggs. they’re a little more timid and haven’t quite got used to their new surroundings yet. and they’re very camera-shy.

in case you haven’t guessed, veronica, nedra and estelle are named after the ronettes. (oh come on, try and think of better names for chickens than the members of a motown girl group). all three of them are ridiculous and adorable and i’m completely in love with them already. and they’re great layers – we now have nine eggs from hens we’ve only had for six days (plus the one i ate this morning).


see? shy.

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chicken dreams

chickens are also on the agenda this spring! adding laying hens to our food-growing, bee-keeping, angora-rabbit-raising setup will make this feel like a real urban farm. but because we’re still a pair of over-achieving yuppies with delusions of a mid-century modern design aesthetic (and because we have neighbors who can see into our backyard), we’re not content to throw together some scrap wood and chicken wire into some kind of ghetto coop.

you know, there are some fantastic coop designs out there, along with amazingly talented people who designed and built them. our favorite is this one that was profiled in dwell magazine. that bit of green you can see peeking up along the roof top? that there, is a green roof. on a chicken coop. made of reclaimed cedar siding, fer pete’s sake.

Modern Chicken Coop by Mitchell Snyder in Dwell Magazine

this one is pretty great too. i love the lanterns outside the front door.

stylish chicken coop from the art of doing stuff

but as enterprising as we are, we’re sort of overwhelmed by the prospect of designing and building a chicken coop that can live up to these models (also, that second one is way too big for the three chickens (max) we’re going to have). it’s not that we couldn’t do it if we put our minds to it, it’s really more that we’d maybe rather pay someone else to do it for us so we can skip straight to the enjoying-the-chickens-in-their-fancy-already-built-home part.

and THEN, i found out that there is a brooklyn company that provides all-in-one chicken services to aspiring new york city chicken-keepers – victory chicken co. i think we’re going to go with the rosie package: a simple and modern coop sized just right for the three young hens almost ready to start laying that they also provide, and a two-month supply of chicken feed, hay, and wood shavings to keep the girls fed, clean and happy. best part – they build and install the coop, so we really can skip straight to the aforementioned enjoying-our-new-chickens part.

we’re gonna get the teal version.

farm on!

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planning for spring

the other night, i started planning for spring planting at chez farm.

planning the garden

mostly, we have enough seeds from last year’s seed order to carry us through but i ordered a few that we used up last year, plus a few new varieties. as discussed at the end of last season, the greens, purple bush beans, pole beans, purple carrots and amish paste tomatoes are definite keepers. the beets and the cucumbers have one more season to shape up and be productive or they’re getting shipped out.

since we’re focusing this year on the things we apparently grow best, we’re adding to the greens quotient: collards, radicchio, and a new spinach variety. we’re keeping the amish paste tomatoes, trying two new varieties (hungarian heart and mexico midget) and giving them a bit more space than last year. we’re also going to try again with peppers – a chocolate bell pepper, another sweet pepper named tolli’s sweet, and another crack at the ancho gigantea. here’s the new plan for the veg garden plots – you can see a more extensive version of it here:

mother earth vegetable garden planner

i also bought something new and crazy exciting yesterday – columnar apple trees! these are dwarf apple trees that grow in a tall, narrow column and produce fruit on very short branches along the trunk. they’re perfect for small gardens – they can be planted as close together as two feet OR in containers! how exciting is that – apple trees in pots in our brooklyn garden! apparently, you can’t just buy one apple tree, because they need at least one different variety friend to cross-pollinate. so, we bought one green sentinel, which will produce green apples (natch) and one scarlet sentinel, with greenish-yellow apples blushed with red. we ordered them from raintree nursery and i can’t tell you how excited i am for them to be shipped.

columnar green apple tree from Raintree Nursery

columnar apple tree from Raintree Nursery

we also ordered a new blueberry bush and some lingonberries to try in the shadier parts of the garden. i can’t wait for spring!

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