Source Code Support

Sometimes I need to make really tough decisions.  It isn’t a matter of wanting to make the decision—the need to make the decision is thrust upon me. The topic of this post is source code support in the form of reader uploads. The topic of just how far I need to support book source code has come up before in conversations with readers. For example, in the Source Code Download Issues post, I discuss problems that readers have had in obtaining source code for my books in the past. The issue addressed in this post is files that are removed from archive (.ZIP) files by applications such as firewalls. In some rare cases, files are missing from the download and the reader looks to me to solve the problem. A few readers have gone so far as to say that I really need to provide CDs with the source code on them and mail those disks out free of charge as part of supporting the book. Unfortunately, supporting the books in this way is well beyond my ability. I could easily go bankrupt providing this level of support.

Up until now, I’ve been willing to send source code to a reader who needs it using e-mail unless the book is on my unsupported list. This past month has been especially hectic with reader requests for source code uploads (well over a hundred of them). In some cases, the books in question are ten or more years old, which means I must look the book up in my archives and determine whether the source code is even available. Once I make that determination, I copy the source from the archive and send it to the reader in one or more e-mails. Some of the source code files are 20 MB or so in size and many reader e-mail accounts won’t accept a file that size, so I have to break the file down into pieces and send multiple e-mails to the reader—a time-consuming and error prone task. This past week I went through several problematic uploads and finally gave up trying to support the reader in a number of cases. Nothing I would do would allow the reader to receive the file using e-mail.

I’ve thought about making the source available on my Web site, but that approach hasn’t worked well in the past because readers will often complain they can’t find the source or that the source on the Web site is corrupted (or any number of other issues). Of course, there are also costs associated with online storage for source code for 89 books. After a lot of thought, I have decided that trying to support a book’s source code in this manner won’t work either.

With this in mind, I’ve decided that you’ll need to rely on the publisher’s site for downloading any source code associated with a book, unless the publisher provides a CD for the book. If there is a source code CD, then you need to follow the procedure described in my Obtaining Replacements for Broken Media post to obtain a new CD. I didn’t come to this decision easily because I prefer to provide the fullest possible level of support for my books whenever possible. The issue is the time required to provide the support. On some days it has gotten to the point where a good part of my day is spent looking for resources that readers need and not getting much else accomplished.

When a publisher decides that it’s no longer feasible to provide download support for a book, the source code for that book will become unavailable. In fact, I’ll likely add the book to my unsupported list. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I had to make it because the e-mail support has gotten to the point of affecting the support I can provide to readers for other needs. Please let me know about any concerns you have about this new policy at [email protected]. If someone has a really good solution for this problem—one in which I can provide long term source code support without incurring huge monetary or time issues, I’ll provide an updated post. Thank you for your continued support of my books.


Review of Dark Shadows

It’s always interesting to see how someone is going to handle a movie version of a television show, especially when that show played long enough in the past that the original actors are unavailable to participate in any significant way (especially in their original roles). Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp (as Barnabas Collins) and Michelle Pfeiffer falls into this category. No matter how you play your part, the people who loved the original show will complain because it isn’t the original show. I remember watching the original Dark Shadows with my mom during lunch in the summer months.  I was somewhere around eight or nine at the time the show started in 1966 (I may not have started watching until 1967). There is only one word to describe the original series—Gothic. The brooding interiors, appearances of vampires and other creatures of the night, and overall pacing of the program made it something special even for an eight year old.

The movie is something similar, but also different, from the original Dark Shadows. Anyone who has become so fixated on the original show that they can’t be objective about any other treatment of the topic will absolutely hate this movie. Johnny Depp has taken the original show and made it his. Anyone familiar with Johnny Depp knows that he plays his parts in an unusual manner. The role he played in Pirates of the Caribbean says it all. When you combine Johnny Depp with director Tim Burton, you have to expect the unexpected.

Expect a little comedy in this movie. The comedy isn’t continuous, but it is there and it feels natural when you see it. The comedic element is what adds the true Depp touch to this movie. It isn’t meant to provide a raucous laugh, but more of a good chuckle. The tongue-in-cheek humor can be a little subtle at times and there was one case where I got the joke a few minutes after it appeared on screen. Even so, the humor keeps the movie from becoming a little too dark and possibly boring.

Overall, the movie does follow the same basic plot as the television show, but greatly speeds the plot up and doesn’t include many of the elements of the original show (there are no zombies and the werewolf only makes a cameo appearance). Of course, the original show had over 1,200 episodes in which to convey its content and Johnny Depp only had 113 minutes. I found the movie plot moved along at a nice pace and kept me entertained. There weren’t any places where I was bored and wished for something, anything else to happen. Care was taken to keep the plot coherent and I think most people will enjoy it.

Not to leave Michelle Pfeiffer out, she played something of an accountant. At least, that’s how I essentially viewed her role as the Collinwood family patriarch. I didn’t feel her acting was quite up to the standard of movies like Ladyhawke and Batman Returns. There was a little something missing that made her role feel a bit forced at times.

Eva Green, who plays the evil witch Angelique, does an outstanding job in her role. She plays against Johnny in a way that keeps the plot moving well and doesn’t feel a bit forced. Not having seen the script, I have no way of knowing whether any adlibbing took place, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The two worked together incredibly well. I only barely remember her acting in Casino Royale, a movie that failed to impress me much. I’ll remember her in this role.

Bella Heathcote plays Victoria Winters well. It isn’t an outstanding job, but technically proficient and she did seem to fit the role well enough. This is the first time I’ve seen her acting ability and I hope to see her in future roles because I think she’ll have a lot to offer.

The movie does include a few special effects—some of which you might not notice at first. As with the humor, many of the special effects are subtle and you only realize you’ve seen a special effect after you think about the impossibility of a sequence actually occurring (the physics are simply wrong in some cases). Some special effects are obvious, but not in the exploding car, action-oriented sort of way. A few are really quite amazing because I don’t think I’ve seen them done in any other movie. In short, the special effects work well with the movie and add to it, without being overly obvious in most cases (except when you’d expect them to be obvious).

This is one of Johnny Depp’s better roles. I wouldn’t quite put it on par with his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, but certainly it’s nearly as good. I’ve talked with a few people since I watched the movie who actually do feel this is his best role to date, so what you feel about it will depend on the kind of Johnny Depp you like to watch. One thing is certain, this movie will be going into my library when it’s finally released. No, it’s not the original Dark Shadows, but it’s a fun treatment of the Dark Shadows plot that really does do a great job of entertaining.


Honoring Those Who Gave Their All

I decided to give all of the other posts that are running around in my head a break today to talk about Memorial Day. I would imagine that many people are already starting their holiday, or if they haven’t, they will soon. Time off from work is always a good thing and I would certainly never dissuade anyone from spending time with friends and family. However, along with whatever celebration you have in mind, I would encourage you to spend a little time thinking about the terrible price of our freedom—the price paid by our sailors, marines, soldiers, and airmen. You don’t have to make an event of it—a few moments will do.

The idea behind Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day because people decorated the tombs of the fallen) is to remember those who died in battle. The holiday began sometime around the Civil War as a means of remembering those who died in that war (both North and South) and to provide a time of healing for the country. After World War I, Memorial Day became a time to remember all those who died in service to our country and their fellow man in any war. There are many rituals associated with Memorial Day today, but really, all that anyone would ask is that you think on the cost of your freedom and who paid that price.

There is an official time to spend a moment thinking about Memorial Day.  President Bill Clinton created a memorandum asking all Americans to pause for a moment at 3:00 local time to commemorate those who died. There are some suggestions on how to do this (such as playing taps), but any act of reverence—even a moment of silence is more than sufficient. If you feel so inclined, you might want to participate in a Memorial Day activity of some sort. In fact, it’s especially important to teach your children about the day because these service members died for their freedom too.

I’ll also be taking a special personal day off on Tuesday, 29 May.  So, my next post will be on the 30th. See you then. In the meantime, thank you so much for taking the time to read my posts and to send comments on them.


Enjoying My Own Personal Flower Garden

My wife and I have always worked very hard on our garden. Every little addition we make, we think it through to ensure it will benefit the aesthetic of the space. We spent 6 whole months planning before we got Stamped Concrete MA Patios Walkways Contractors in to add a walkway and patio! That being said, I am so happy with the results and it was well worth the wait. You see, thanks to our lovely bifold patio doors, I can see all the way into our garden from the comfort of our living room. Honestly, investing in bifold doors has totally changed how bright and airy our living room feels. It is so nice to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside, and our patio always looks so pretty, particular since we decided to treat ourselves in some new patio paving (you can see some examples here if you are thinking about doing the same thing, and trust us it makes a huge difference to your patio). We actually only decided to get bifold doors after they were recommended to us by our neighbors. Nowadays, you can build your own bifold doors quite easily, but we decided to get some help from a team of home improvement experts as installing doors is not our strong suit! Anyway, as for our patio, there’s one tradition we have that I don’t have any say in – and I like it that way. Every year Rebecca works out a new arrangement and adds plants to her gift to me, a personal flower garden. Every morning I wake to the scene below our bedroom window of Rebecca’s hard work. I know it’s an effort because getting into that rock garden is hard. It’s on a slope that’s taxing even for me; I can’t even imagine how hard Rebecca must have to work to maintain it for me. I talked about my garden a little last year in the Making Self-Sufficiency Relationships Work post.

One of Rebecca’s goals is to make sure that something is always blooming in my rock garden. It’s a little difficult to accomplish, but I know that people in the past performed the same task to ensure that there would always be something pretty to see. I really respect her efforts to make the garden as pretty as possible and to keep it that way all summer. So, the pictures you see in this post are a mere snapshot of my rock garden. Later in the summer, the scene will change and then it will change again for fall.

A favorite new plant is a pincushion flower. The exquisite blue flowers are really hard to capture, but I managed to get a passable picture of them. The real world flower is even more beautiful than the one shown here.


One of the flowers that came back from last year is the blanket flower. It’s a favorite of mine because the colors change slightly over time and I love the fact that the flowers are bi-colored. This year the blanket flower is paired up with fiber-optic grass. As you can see from the following picture, the combination is really nice.


A few of the rock garden elements are edible. For example, the chives have some beautiful flowers that are also edible (as are the chives). I’ve always found chives to be a nice addition because they combine color and texture so well.


Some of the flowers are quite bright. One of the flowers in this category is the coreopsis. Rebecca has them placed where their profusion of bright flowers will show up best. This is another holdover from last year. Immediately below the coreopsis in this picture is bugleweed ‘metallica crispa’, which has already bloomed for the year, but will continue to add its deeply colored foliage to the garden.


Most of the pictures that I’ve found of wild strawberries online show white flowers. I’ve been assured that the plants in the rock garden are wild strawberries, but they have these dramatic pink flowers. As with many other plants, they’ve come up from last year.


Another bright pink flower in the garden is seathrift (armeria). This year the seathrift is nestled in with some ferns and a happy looking frog.


As I said last year, the view from our bedroom is for me alone. When I go out my back door though, I see some amazing beauty-the rock garden, our herb garden, the woods, and bushes surrounding our patio, we’ve been thinking about getting a fence to frame our garden, we want to choose the right fence to pull this beauty together and make it our own. Most importantly, I see the love my wife has for me in producing something so quiet and peaceful for me to enjoy.


Pogoplug, Your Own Personal Cloud

Everyone is talking about the cloud it seems—the cloud being an Internet presence for offering services, storing data, or otherwise conducting business as if working on a network. However, one of the main concerns about using the cloud, especially for data storage, is the risks it poses. Of course, there are two kinds of clouds. There is the public sort that people use to communicate with just about anyone else, and then there is the private sort that companies used for internal communications or for data sharing with partners. The problem with the cloud is that it often requires a huge investment for anyone to get started. Well, that was true until Pogoplug.

There are actually three kinds of Pogoplug and each serves a specific need. All forms of Pogoplug provide a private cloud environment, but they vary in audience size.


  • Pogoplug PC: This option is for a single user who needs to access data on a PC from anywhere. The software is installed on your system and lets you do things like access any file on your system or stream data to any device. You’ll also be able to use this option to put data on public social media sites such as Facebook.
  • Pogoplug Devices: If you don’t want to expose your PC to possible damage from an online source, you can buy a Pogoplug device that provides everything needed to share data online. The Pogoplug Series 4 seems to be attracting the most attention. The point is that the device provides a safe way to create a personal, private cloud for accessing data through an Internet connection from anywhere. Essentially, using a Pogoplug device provides all of the advantages of personal cloud computing, with very few of the risks, and at a great price.
  • Pogoplug Team: Sometimes you need more than a personal private cloud solution. When you need to share data through a cloud connection with a number of people, you need Pogoplug Team. For a mere $45.00 per year service charge ($15.00 per person), three users can share data in a private cloud setup that relies on your equipment. All you really need is a cheap PC with lots of storage space to accomplish your goal. A number of media sources have discussed this form of Pogoplug, including ComputerWorld and IT World.

I find Pogoplug intriguing because it offers a low cost solution for cloud computing that gets rid of some of the more significant objections that I’ve heard about using the cloud. For me, the main risk factor that Pogoplug addresses is having your data controlled by someone else. You provide the equipment, so your data remains firmly in your possession. If Pogoplug is even moderately successful, you can expect to see others enter the field with similar solutions. What do you think about a solution like Pogoplug? Let me know at [email protected].


Enjoying the Flowered Woods

I always find the springtime woods inviting. All of the flowers are amazing! Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of every flower out there, even though I’m sure that someone has named them at some point. Every spring does bring back a few friends, such as the cranesbill geranium:


The berry brambles produce a riot of flowers too. The gooseberries, black caps (black raspberries), and red raspberries have already bloomed and set fruit. However, the blackberries are only now putting out blossoms and the initial burst of flowers portends a wonderful summer of berry picking.


I can taste the berries now. Our entire woods is packed with berry brambles. There are times when I can pick two or three gallons of berries in a single day. In fact, the limiting factor is usually the amount of time I have to pick, rather than the number of available berries. Everyone eats the berries during the summer months, including both birds and squirrels (oddly enough). There is no doubt in my mind that other forest creatures benefit from the berries too.

Sometimes the woods offers up something special. In times past, I’ve encountered bloodwort (bloodroot) and mayapples. Both plants were used for medicinal purposes in the past. The mayapple fruit is edible in small quantities as long as you know when to pick it. The fruit must ripen on the plant and must be completely yellow. The leaves can be used to make an effective insecticide when boiled, allowed to cool, and then sprayed.

This year we were treated to something special, a jack-in-the-pulpit. It showed up right above the rock garden at the very edge of the woods, so Rebecca was the first to spot it. I must admit that it’s a bit hard to see. We’re fortunate that this one came up so close that we can enjoy it each year. In fact, Rebecca plans to extend the rock garden to include our new addition.


Of course, there is a lot more to see in the woods and I hope to be able to take time to enjoy it all. Do you have a woods near to you? If so, do you ever get to enjoy all of the beauty it contains? Let me know at [email protected].


Visual Studio 11 Updates

Microsoft plans to release the next update for Windows 8 during the first week in June. Most developers are also looking forward to an update of Visual Studio 11 about the same time. Visual Studio 11 contains a number of modest, but important, feature updates. As a result, I’ve been reading everything I can find on these new features and doing a little testing myself. So far, I haven’t seen much mention of the new debugging features or the new/updated tools provided with the new release. These changes are important nonetheless.

Of course, the most important of these updates is the ability to create Metro applications. Visual Studio 11 provides a complete set of templates you can use to create Metro applications using a combination of HTML5 and JavaScript. From the confusing assortment of posts that I’ve read, I’m not really clear as to whether the main download site provides you with a copy of Visual Studio 11 that includes full support for developing Metro applications. It turns out that you need the SDK in order to build these applications. In order to play with Metro applications, I downloaded the Visual Studio 11 beta from the Metro-style applications site, which definitely includes the SDK. This download only installs on a Windows 8 system. The Metro-style applications site also includes a number of other helpful downloads.

The feature that seems to be garnering the most attention though is the appearance of the new IDE. Many developers find the new IDE incredibly depressing to use. According to a number of sources, the beta team has heard the pleas of testers and decided to do something about it. Essentially, the changes are limited to a difference in colors. The updated IDE will be lighter gray and use some brighter colors in the icons. Of course, having a tool that’s fun, or at least interesting, to use is a requirement. No one wants to work with a depressingly dark gray tool all day. Still, I have to wonder why this particular feature is receiving so much press.

Of the features I’ve tried so far, I’m finding the C++ language additions the most tempting. For example, the IDE now makes it a lot easier to see various C++ elements through the use of color coding. A feature called Reference Highlighting is also interesting because it makes it easy to move between instances of a keyword within a source code file with greater ease. There is also built-in support now for the C++ 11 specification version of the Standard Template Library (STL). If you want, you can even build Metro-style applications using C++. The IDE also makes it a whole lot easier to work with code snippets. These new additions do make the IDE faster and more efficient, but also add complexity. Readers of C++ All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies will be happy to know that I’ll continue using the GNU C++ compiler for the reasons stated in my Choosing the GNU C++ Compiler post.

Because I know I’ll eventually need to provide some level of Metro application support, I have been playing around with the Metro functionality. As part of my reading, I checked out the information on the Metro-Style Design Applications site. From a developer perspective, there are some pros and cons about these new requirements. For example, some developers see them as actually limiting application functionality and making applications less useful. I’m sure that what will happen is that developers will find new ways of adding functionality to applications that fit within the Microsoft guidelines and still offer a great application experience. Undoubtedly, Microsoft will also be tweaking those Metro design documents.

Have you done anything with Visual Studio 11? If so, let me know about the features you like best and which features you wish Microsoft would change. One of the most important questions for me is whether you see yourself using Visual Studio 11 for serious application development anytime soon. Knowing these answers will help me create better blog posts for you in the future. Contact me at [email protected].


Exploring the TimeCheck Application (Part 2)

Last week, in the Exploring the TimeCheck Application (Part 1) post, you saw an overview of what the TimeCheck application will do. Essentially, it’s a time management application that works by recording how you spend your time. Knowing how you spend your time has all sorts of benefits. To start this application, the user needs a method for signing into and out of the system. The main form (frmMain) is displayed when Windows starts. The user chooses a project from the list or types in a custom project, then chooses or types in an activity using this form.


As you can see, this simple form provides the means to sign in or sign out (as needed). It also provides the means necessary to configure the application and to generate reports about activities. If the user clicks Exit when the application begins, the application records an entry in the event log and then exits. For now, let’s look at what you need to do to configure this form.

Control Property Value
Form1 (Name) frmMain
  AcceptButton btnSignIn
  CancelButton btnExit
  FormBorderStyle FixedDialog
  MaximizeBox False
  MinimizeBox False
  ShowInTaskbar False
  Size 300, 165
  Text TimeCheck
  Topmost True
ContextMenuStrip1 (Name) NotificationMenu
NotifyIcon1 (Name) ThisNotifyIcon
  ContextMenuStrip NotificationMenu
  Visible True
ToolTip1 (Name) toolTip1
Button1 (Name) btnSignIn
  AccessibleDescription Sign Into a Project
  Location 207, 12
  Size 75, 23
  TabIndex 0
  Text &Sign In
  ToolTip on toolTip1 Sign Into a Project
Button2 (Name) btnConfigure
  AccessibleDescription Configure the Application Features
  Location 207, 41
  Size 75, 23
  TabIndex 1
  Text &Configure
  ToolTip on toolTip1 Configure the Application Features
Button3 (Name) btnReport
  AccessibleDescription Request a Time Usage Report
  Location 207, 70
  Size 75, 23
  TabIndex 2
  Text &Report
  ToolTip on toolTip1 Request a Time Usage Report
Button4 (Name) btnExit
  AccessibleDescription Exit Without Signing In
  Location 207, 99
  Size 75, 23
  TabIndex 3
  Text &Exit
  ToolTip on toolTip1 Exit Without Signing In
Label1 (Name) lblProjectName
  AccessibleDescription Supply the Name of the Project
  Location 12, 9
  Size 71, 13
  TabIndex 4
  Text &Project Name
  ToolTip on toolTip1 Supply the Name of the Project
ComboBox1 (Name) cbProjectName
  Location 12, 25
  Size 189, 21
  TabIndex 5
Label2 (Name) lblWorkType
  AccessibleDescription Choose the Type of Task Performed
  Location 12, 49
  Size 72, 13
  TabIndex 6
  Text &Type of Work
  ToolTip on toolTip1 Choose the Type of Task Performed
ComboBox2 (Name) cbWorkType
  Location 12, 66
  Size 189, 21
  TabIndex 7

Both frmMain and ThisNotifyIcon have Icon properties that you must fill out. In this case, the application uses a red clock face with the hands set to 3:00. The icon is created using precisely the same technique as described for the GrabAPicture application in the “Exploring the GrabAPicture Application (Part 4)” post.

The NotificationMenu also requires special configuration. In this case, you see a context menu added to frmMain when you select the object. Here’s the entries you need to add to the ContextMenuStrip control.


There isn’t anything fancy about this menu. It simply allows you to perform the tasks that you’d normally perform at the main dialog box. The special Open Window option displays frmMain when you need it (otherwise, the user simply sees an icon in the Notification Area).

You may wonder why NotificationMenu doesn’t include an option for signing out. Generally, the user will sign back into another project when signing out of the first one, except when ending the Windows session, in which case, the application automatically logs the user out. Leaving the Sign Out option off makes it less likely that a user will sign out of a project and then forget to sign into a new one as needed. Of course, you can always add the option when desired.

Next week you’ll see the form used to configure the application, frmConfigure. This form is actually going to appear in two different ways. Administrators will see the full set of configuration options we’ll discuss, while standard users will see a subset of the configuration options designed to meet their specific needs. Because of the duality of this form, you need to spend additional time designing it so that it works equally well for either user type. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact me at [email protected]. You can see the next post in this series at Exploring the TimeCheck Application (Part 3).


New Technique for Tracking Gestures

An interesting new technique is being explored for tracking gestures. This technique is of special interest to me because, at one time, I worked with SONAR in the Navy. At the time I worked with SONAR, it never occurred to me that the techniques I was using, would also have so many civilian applications. However, things like Doppler effect have had a huge affect on sciences such as predicting the weather. Now there is a new use of the Doppler effect in sensing gestures. When someone moves their hand in a specific way, a system can sense the hand movement and use it to perform a task. Right now the technique is more of an experiment than something that’s useful. The current technology can sense five gestures, but the inventor says that it will eventually be able to sense up to ten gestures. Personally, I think the technology will become refined enough to do a lot more.

My interest in this technology is as a means of providing one more form of accessibility aid for those who need it. Using the Doppler effect in this way has the advantage of making it possible to sense gestures in any light and under most conditions. In other words, even though the range of gestures is limited, once refined, the technology should prove extremely reliable. If you have some special need, reliability is always a primary concern. You need to know that the technology you’re using is always going to work as expected, even if that technology is a little less flexible than you’d like it to be. Someone who has some type of movement or speech need could use hand gestures to better communicate with the computer.

More importantly, for me, seeing this technology coming out tells me that science fiction often becomes science fact. Cinematic presentations such as TekWar have emphasized the use of hand gestures for years now. I remember being quite engrossed in the four made-for-television movies when they came out. One of the technologies that grabbed my attention was how people were manipulating computer input in a 3D space using gestures. This sort of technology seemed like complete fantasy at the time, but now it seems a lot closer to reality.

One of the questions that has occupied my mind for years is whether the mouse and keyboard will eventually go away. Voice technology gets close, but not close enough. I certainly couldn’t use something like Dragon Naturally Speaking to write my books, but some people do use it to create less technical documents. (In fact, I’ve reviewed this product several times—the last time on DevSource, but the article is no longer available.) Human speech is so complex that we really do need something to augment technologies used to understand it. Perhaps gesture technologies will fulfill this role.

How do you see the future of computing? Will gesture technology, coupled with some for of spoken input, eventually replace the keyboard and mouse? How do you think this technology will serve as an accessibility aid? Let me know at [email protected].


Adding Chickens to the Coop

The coop is essentially finished. You saw the finishing touches in the Covering and Completing the Chicken Coop post. However, there are still some things to do. For one thing, I need to level out the ground on the side of the coop to make it easier to get inside on winter days. The inside still needs to be wired and I have to paint the outside. Still, the coop is ready for occupancy.

I also need to provide some sort of shelter for the chicken food, so that it doesn’t get wet. The food is currently in a 32 gallon trash can (which performs remarkably well). We’ve found that we need to use the brute strength trash cans to keep animals at bay. The domed lid works best in this case because it sheds the water really well. It’s a mistake to get a trash can with wheels because dumping the 100 pound bags of feed into them is nearly impossible without dumping at least some of it on the ground. (Even though our chickens will feast on grass, bugs, and other sources of food outside, we still need to provide a certain amount of feed consisting of oyster shell, grains, and grass hay.)

As I previously mentioned, we’ll get chicks for the coop on June 25th. Until then, it would still be nice to get something for our efforts, so we bought two laying hens from a friend of ours. Both produce nice brown eggs. The first is a Rhode Island Red (Rose) and the second is a Black Australorp (Violet). A rooster had picked at the two birds a bit before we got them, but except for missing a few feathers, they’re really nice birds.


Our chickens started laying eggs almost immediately. In fact, we received our first egg from Violet the first evening we had her.


Both of our ladies have been raised in the free-range manner, so we’re already receiving the benefits of free-range eggs. There is some discussion on precisely what these benefits are, but most of the places I’ve researched agree that you get these benefits over eggs raised using production methods (chickens in a cage):


  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • Three times more vitamin E
  • Seven times more beta carotene

Some sites also say there is a potential calcium and vitamin D benefit. Whether all of these benefits are real or not remains to be seen. However, the egg yolks are significantly more orange than the eggs we’ve purchased from the store and the eggs taste better, so there is some difference.

In addition to these two chickens, we’ll get a mix of chickens that we’ll raise from chicks. Our brood will include:


  • Four Buff Orpington (great meat birds, cold hearty, and produce copious large eggs)
  • Four Delaware (even better meat birds, cold hearty, lay well during the winter, and produce jumbo eggs)
  • Two Americana (smaller food requirement, extremely cold hearty, produce copious colorful medium size eggs)

We used a number of sources to make our decision on which chicken breeds to get, including Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart. We also asked people who are actually raising these breeds of chickens whenever possible about how they fared.

You might wonder why we didn’t get any Leghorns. After all, the production places use this sort of chicken. The problem with the Leghorn is that its comb will freeze during the winter months and the small weight size makes it necessary to heat the coop. We were warned away from this particular breed by more than a few people who raise chickens in the same way that we intend to raise chickens. Sometimes too much help from technology isn’t a good thing.

You may also wonder why we didn’t get just one breed. There are several reasons. First, having multiple breeds makes the chickens more fun. We want a colorful coop. Second, each of the chicken breeds has different qualities to recommend it. For example, we don’t want all jumbo eggs, but we do want a few for eating purposes. In addition, we don’t like a mono-culture of anything, including animals. Mono-culture environments invite disease and other problems. So, we have a colorful coop that should serve us well. I’ll post updates as time permits to tell you how our new coop is doing. Please let me know if you have any questions at [email protected].