A New Chicken Villa — and Opening Day at the Fair

Keeping focused is going to be nearly impossible for me today. I can smell sausages and burgers and funnel cakes and roast pig and French fries and egg rolls. I can hear loud speakers, crowd murmurs, thumping music, giddy children shouting, and rides cranking up. It’s the first day of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair, and as I told you last year, we live RIGHT across the street from the fair grounds. This could be a problem if you weren’t in the right kind of spirit (our neighbors have left town!), but we are totally into it. In fact, we are Fair nerds.

We were up at the crack of dawn arranging all the veggies we are submitting to be judged in the “Hall” where hundreds of pies, preserves, photos, crafts, and of course, home grown veggies, will be displayed. (The theme of the Fair this year, is “Display with Pride.” I took that literally and entered the herb competition for the first time, which required an arrangement that I think I could be really proud of—if I were in sixth grade. But I’m not embarrassed. I totally had fun putting it together—at 11 o’clock last night since time evaporates in a whiff around here.) It’s all I can do not to get up from my desk to run over and see the ox pull and the pet show. But maybe we’ll get over to the Fair tonight in time to see the swimming pig races. Or the corn-husking competition.

But you can see I’m already distracted, off topic, and generally heading towards not getting any work done today (which really is not an option). I intended to write about Roy’s new chicken villa, so I must at least give you the quick scoop.

The “babies,” as we still call them at 4 months old, started laying eggs last week—a little earlier than we expected. So far we’re only getting a few a day (little brick-red eggs), but once all 49 start laying daily, we will be inundated. In anticipation, Roy has expanded their living quarters three-fold. (They need all the grassy pasture we can get them on to make those eggs yummy!)

First, he replaced the temporary outdoor pen next to the coop with a permanent structure (of full standing height). Much relief here as the temporary pen wasn’t tall enough for us to stand in. Now there’s even a door to the outdoor pen, where we can come and go to fill the groovy new water trough Roy built. He took two pieces of gutter and fit them into a hen-height structure that has a little roof over it so they can’t mess up their water as they love to do. (They roost on top of anything.) This beauty holds a lot of water, too, so we’re not constantly running down there to refill. Plus, all we have to do is plop the hose in it to fill it up. The standing chicken waterer had a whole cap-and-pressure system that made it impossible to refill without two hands and/or moving the whole thing. And it didn’t hold enough water for 49 chickens for a day! (Fun chicken fact of the day, as seen in photos at left: chickens can’t swallow unless they tilt their heads up!)

Next Roy moved the temporary pen to a nice shady area (connected to the permanent pen) so the girls can go hang out over there in the hottest parts of the day and dig dust baths. Lastly, he made another temporary pen on fresh grass (also connected) for excellent snacking. The temporary pens are movable so that we can put the hens on to fresh grass from time to time. (Daytime pens still have to be covered with netting to protect the birds from hawks, but they don’t require buried fencing, as predators like skunks and raccoons only do their stalking at night. Theoretically, all the hens should be inside the coop by nightfall, but one of our girls likes to stay out and enjoy the moonlight. So Roy always has to persuade her to go inside so that he can drop the door (lowered on a new slider he made) to lock them in.

The chicken villa still needs some finish work and a few more improvements, but you can already tell how happy the girls are to have all that room to run around in. They are fascinating to watch (Farmer can’t believe his eyes) and the “big girls” (our original flock of laying hens) look down the hill from their pen with obvious envy.

I’m excited, too, about all those eggs on the way. Just think, next year we’ll be able to enter eggs in the Fair, too. I can’t wait!

9 thoughts on “A New Chicken Villa — and Opening Day at the Fair”

  1. Just wanted to say I discovered your blog this spring & I’ve been enjoying every entry. I’ve got a backyard veg. garden in MA (nothing close to the scale of your farm!) so it’s been fun reading along as the various crops start to come in around the same time. Great stuff- and good luck with your herb arrangement at the fair! -Elizabeth

  2. Hi Elizabeth and thank you for reading!

    Well the big news from the Fair is that we got lots of ribbons–blue for yellow wax beans, zucchini and cosmos! Red for green beans, serrano peppers, sungold tomatoes, and plum tomatoes (I think–i have to go back and check today, we went through so quickly last night!) — one other third place for fairy tale eggplants. But alas, nothing for my amateur herb arrangement–little did I know that this category is very competitive–absolutely beautiful things submitted by local nurseries, so there you have it!!! Happy summer to you and hope your veggies are all doing well.

  3. Susie,
    I too just discovered your website not long ago; and while I live in Tennessee, I still delight in reading about your garden – your tomatoes just coming in while mine are in their last stages.

    I look forward to your posts and must also add…that the things I have prepared from your cookbook “Fast Fresh and Green” have been wonderful (should have been named F…….,Green and Delicious)!
    The herb competition may have looked prettier than yours, but I bet none of them were as fresh and tasty as yours!! – Ginger

  4. Thanks Ginger! So glad you’ve enjoyed those recipes and hope your summer hasn’t been too too hot in Tennessee!

  5. I hope you will share a pic of your herb arrangement. I am an Ohio gaI who loves to garden and cook. I consider myself a locavore and enjoy shopping at the local farm stands, and farmers’ markets. As I have gotten older, my garden has grown smaller or been moved to pots and barrels closer to the back door. I have been enjoying your blog for only a few months, and look forward to each new post.

  6. Hi Patricia — I will try to do that when I can! Heading back over to the Fair right now with Libby and Roy to enjoy our free passes! Happy weekend!

  7. Hi Susie, I just got some of the cutest fairy eggplants from your farm stand. Any suggestions on how to cook them?

  8. Hi talia,

    I actually “fan” the eggplants, slicing them from one end to the other about three or four times (but leaving the stem in tact and not cutting through it so that the slices fan out. ) I brush with olive oil and grill about 3 or 4 minutes per side and then season with a little soy sauce/ginger dipping sauce. But you could also slice them all the way lengthwise and roast them at high heat (450) or saute. Make a vinaigrette with mint and lemon and drizzle over. I will try to write a blog soon about these little eggplants!

  9. That sounds yummy! Thanks a lot Susie. I have enjoyed your vegetables all summer long . They are the best of all stands!

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