Friday, December 31, 2010

Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens

I want a sign for my the girl's run.  I've seen a few cute ones online.  Seems like the really nice ones come out of the UK.  I may have to order one and have one of my friends bring it over with them when they come to visit at the end of January.

I have a number of ceramic, metal, glass and wood chickens in my kitchen and my husband is always saying, "Aint nobody here but us chickens!"  Every once in a while, I like to wipe the whole counter down and when I do, I put the chickens back in different places.  Kind of freaks him out.  It's like they come to life when he's not around and mix things up.

Anyway, I thought that would make for a perfect sign.  I started to do a search for one and low and behold, there's a song with that title.  And it's really true.  Listen to the words.  Chickens really do give you the stink-eye when you go out there at night which is evident from my last posting about their sleep order number.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Creatures of Habit

I always said I'm a creature of habit.  If I don't park my car in the same place at work, I come out of the building at the end of the day and stand there dumbfounded as to where my car might be.  Many occasion, I've thought that my car was stolen before I remembered a mid-morning doctor appointment or some other event which caused me to park elsewhere.

Well, I think this is why I love chickens as much as I do.  They are serious creatures of habit.  Move anything big around in their run and it rocks their world.  Try to feed them something new and they stand there and stare at it for minutes before one ventures a taste.

The one thing that I find particularly interesting, is that they sleep in the exact same order each and ever night.  Poppy is on the end, then Coco, Pumpkin and finally Ginger.  I know this because I go out each night around 8pm to wish them goodnight and every night, they are in that order.

My husband didn't believe me when I told him this last night as we drove home from a late dinner so we went out to say good night together and sure enough, they were in that order.  Until they decided it was unusual for both of us to come say goodnight and hopped down from their roosting bar to see if we had brought treats.

But the one thing they mix up is which direction they face.  I've tried desperatly to get them all facing the same direction.  And the few times they are facing the same direction, the camera runs out of battery or the photo is blurry.  This isn't the best shot but it was the best I could get.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Would you like a Cricket with your Pedicure?

Yes, you read that correctly!

The girls have such muddy feet from all the rain we've had.  I put a layer of leaves in their run to give them some protection.  But of course, they dig through the leaves to get to the dirt, and as a result, they get pretty dirty.  I can ignore the dirty feet but Poppy had it all the way up her legs.  So I filled up a container with some warm water and took it out to the run.

Poppy is a challenge to catch.  She doesn't like it.  But what's ironic, is as soon as I catch her and stroke her, she calms right down and settles down into my lap.  She'll even eat right out of my hand from my lap.  Go figure.

So I put her into the tub of warm water and she thought that was pretty nice and stood there calmly.  I had to rub a bit to get it all off.  She was fine with the all that but did not like having her feed dried with the towel.

A few crickets and a sprig of parsley (her new favorite treat) and she was off to tell the other girls all about spa day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Source of Good Eats

That would be the compost bin.

I moved it inside the girls run after it was built.  For a number of reasons.  One, their run is plenty big for the four of them so they are hurting for space.  Two, I didn't want to see it as I looked out my sliding back door to the back yard.  Three, it makes it easy to clean out their house and dump everything right into the bin.  And finally, and the most important reason, is when I turn it, I move it.  This leaves several inches of rich soil, full of bugs and critters, for the girls to play in.

And, the girls are on to it.  They know that this black "thing" in their area is full of bugs.  I wonder if they can hear them in there wiggling around.  Because they spend a great deal of time studying the bin.  It's like they are looking for the way inside.

I just know I'm going to go out there one of these days and they will have figured out how to open up the bin and the contents of the bin kicked all over their run.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cutting off the Wild Birds

I've been reading up on chicken diseases.  My goodness, that will really instill some fear.  If I hadn't raised healthy chickens in the suburbs growing up, I'm not sure I would have taken on this project.  And I know I'm reading about all the things that could possibly go wrong and that it's unlikely I'll encounter any of these.  But still.  ACK!!!

One of the biggest source of concern for my small flock is potential diseases that wild birds can introduce.  It's HIGHLY recommended that you do not feed wild birds or encourage them to your yard if you have a flock of chickens.

And yes, I feed the wild birds.  So I'm going to have to cut them off.  I have two big bags of seeds left and it would be cruel to cut them off just as we go into winter.  So I'll finish putting out the seeds I currently have in the garage.  Which should take me well into spring.  And then I'll taper off.

The good news is that I've planted a number of California natives on our side yard as well as some drought tolerant species.  Many of these attract the birds with their flowers and seed pods so they will still have stuff to eat.  They just have to go all natural.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Oatmeal for Christmas

I wanted to give the girls meal worms for Christmas.  Not that they know today to be different from any other day in their lives.  But I felt they should have something special to eat today.  And we have another big storm coming in so it's going to be wet and windy for the next 24 hours.

But I never made it over to the bird store to buy worms.  So we made extra oatmeal for breakfast this morning and set some aside for the girls.  I let it cool while we ate ours and then took it out to them.  I wasn't sure if it would be a hit or not.  I tried yogurt a few weeks back and could only get Pumpkin to try it.  She didn't seem to like the consistency because she backed away from it and proceeded to wipe her beak over and over and over.

But oatmeal was a huge hit.  And I think they appreciated having something warm for breakfast.  They gobbled almost all of it up.  But they do fling it everywhere as they shake their beaks.  So stand back when feeding foods of that consistency to chickens.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Cost of Raising Chickens (getting established)

I know a number of my followers are considering getting chickens for their yards.  I thought it would be interesting to detail the cost is of raising chickens.

Let me start by stating that it was never my intention to make money by having backyard chickens.  These are pets and have names, just like you'd have a pet cat or dog.  And you can't put a price on the entertainment value they provide.

House $775 - I ordered a fully assembled hen house.  I'm not handy, I don't own power tools and I have arthritis in my right hand.  Thus, building one was out of the question.  I spent $440 (no sales tax) on their house, $50 for the red roof and $285 to have it shipped, fully assembled, from upstate New York.  (

Run $1400 - I hired Coastal Construction & Lumber to come push our fence out 12' from its existing line and create the girl's run.  Again, due to lack of power tools and my arthritis, there was no way I was doing this.  These guys even ran a row of 4" by 4" down the middle of the run and secured heavy gauge wire fencing of the top of the entire run to protect the girls from hawks.

Miscellaneous $300-400 - This was for supplies from OSH, Lowes and PetSmart for misc. things such as heavy gauge wire which I buried around their run to prevent critters from digging in.  Three foot wide/tall fence panels which I used for their brooder and will move out to the garden this summer to prevent the girls from eating my veggies when they begin to free range.  Roofing panels to cover a portion of the run so they have a dry place to hang.  Pine shavings, sand and gravel, a heat lamp and different bulbs which I used to keep them at the right temperature when they were babies.  Etc.

Chickens $100 - No, I didn't spend all that on chickens.  I think they cost $2.50 each.  But when I bought them, I also bought a baby chick feeder and waterer as well as an adult chicken feeder and waterer and a 25 lb. back of organic chick starter.

That means I'm in for $2675 thus far.  Ouch!  That sounds like so much.  But if you have some skills and a good right hand, you can do so much of this yourself.  Certainly, you could spend way less on a hen house and a chicken run than I did.  You can also make your own feeders and waterers out of 5 gallon buckets.  Backyard Chickens ( is a wealth of ideas and information.

I'm also really going to promote going green this year.  Subscribe to your local Freecycle group and Craigs List and hit garage sales and Goodwill for supplies.  Borrow tools from friends.  Every little bit helps.

Moving forward is where I think I'll be able to break even.  I spend more than I care to admit on fertilizer and pest control.  (I'll detail that in a future posting.)  I'm thinking/hoping that the girls can provide both of those and save me from having to lug this stuff home in my car.  And that eggs will be the wonderful little bonus I get on the side.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ops, I didn't mean to say that!

So I've been hanging out with the girls for two months now and love hearing all the different sounds they make to communicate with each other.  Every sound from the soft "peep-peep-peep" to the "SQUAWK!!!".

I thought I had started to master what some of these sounds were used to communicate.  Yesterday, I moved a large bag of potting soil from one end of their run to the other.  And when I picked it up, underneath were scads of bugs.  Sow bugs.  Worms.  Ants.  So I made the sound I thought was for, "Come quickly, I've found something good to eat!".

But when they heard the sound, they froze in place, became silent, cocked their heads and scanned the sky for danger.  Ops, wrong sound!  Sorry girls.  I'll keep working on my chicken speak.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pumpkin is not Right

Something is off with her and I can't put my finger on it.  She is so very skittish and I thought it was a phase. But she's not coming around like the other girls.  And she's a whiner!  She's constantly making this plaintive, whinny noise.

One thing I've notice for certain is when we feed her noodles, she misses the noodle more often than she hits it.  The other girls have spot on aim and never miss.  I dole the noodles out through my finger and thumb.  Otherwise, Coco will take the whole thing and slurp it down like an Italian.

As I do this the girls peck at the noodle, but Pumpkin will peck my hand 4-5 times for every one time she hits the noodle.  At first I thought she was just so excited that she was just randomly pecking.  But my husband has also noticed this.  And honestly, I'm surprised she hasn't drawn blood when she hits that sensitive area between the fingers.  OUCH!!!

Last night, I tried an experiment.  The girls have a yellow treat bowl and I would pull a noodle out of my bag, and dangle it and then drop it into the bowl.  Each of the other girls would retrieve it from the bowl and run off and eat it.  But Pumpkin would watch it drop into the bowl, look into the bowl and then stand there and whine.

I wonder if she doesn't see well or maybe just one eye is bad and this is contributing to her extreme skittishness.

Otherwise, she seems fine.  She eats and drinks and hangs out with the other girls and is developmentally right there with them.  But I've always had a feeling that something just isn't quite right with her and I think I may have finally put my finger on it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

We're 2 Months Old Today

My girls are 8 weeks old today.  I think Poppy might be 9 weeks old.  But I'm tired of separating her from the others, so they are all the same age starting now.

I even removed the brooder from the garage on Sunday.  I had left it up thinking they would be too young to know to stay out of the rain and that I might need to bring them in for a dry-off and warm-up.  But I checked on them several times over our wet weekend, and they were just fine.  I even found them inside their house during one down pour.  I thought it was unheard of that chickens would go into their house in the middle of the day.  But they were in there playing and scratching and just having a grand old time.  I think I put in waaayyyyy too many pine shavings.  I made it about 6 inches deep knowing they'd probably sleep in it the first few night, which they did.

Mike sprinkled just a touch of feed at the entrance a week or so ago trying to get them to go in on their own.  So now they find that little bit of food and think there must be more in other corners so they just get busy digging in the shavings, kicking them everywhere.  Someone even emptied one of the nest boxes of shaving, looking for treats there.  Might be switching to straw sooner than anticipated.

Last night, I didn't go outside until 6:30pm when it was totally dark and had been for sometime.  The girls were still out.  The glow from the holiday lights gives them enough light to see.  And they are probably still used to being up till 9pm.  I told them that it was time to go in and Ginger quickly made her way and I helped her the rest of the way into the house.  I snagged Coco next and put her in.  Poppy went and stood under the house, defiantly.  Mike went around one side and shooed her out the other.  The funny thing is, she tried to get away from me by sneaking in between one of the support posts and the garage wall.  She used to fit through that small opening, but not anymore.  So she was an easy snag and we put her into the house as well.

I said to Mike, chase Pumpkin out next.  To which he replied, she's not under the house.  WHAT?!?

I scanned the run and didn't see her.  I panicked because the gate latch doesn't catch unless you manually catch it.  I fear that they will get out of their run and this was going through my head.  I looked into the house and didn't see her and then bent way over to look up at the roosting bar and there she was.  Looking down at me with this look like, "I DON'T like being picked up!  I'll put myself to bed, Thank You!"

Alrighty then.  I went out two hours later and all 4 of them were up on the roosting bar snuggled together.  I gave each of them a tummy tickle.  They all like that except Pumpkin, of course, who let out a big squawk.

I'll try to get a photo to post of them roosting.  They are so, so cute.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Night

Well, Pumpkin doesn't seem to have any ill feelings towards me after she fell out of the hen house a few nights back.  Thank goodness.

It's been wet and miserable here all weekend and is suppose to continue that way through the week.  But the girls are pretty smart and stay out of the rain when it's pouring and scamper out when it stops.

Here are a few updated photos.

Here's their house decorated w/ holiday lights.  Really, I just wanted them to have some light into the evening.  I was bringing them into the garage and leaving the light on until 9pm so I didn't want them to suddenly be in the dark when the sun set at 5pm.

Here's big Poppy studying the butterfly chair I put out in their run.  I saw Coco jump up on it and look down on everyone for a quick second.  Until someone starting making noises that they found something good to eat and then she was down.  I think the chair might be a favorite in the summer when they want to rest out in the sun.

And one of all the girls out scratching in their run, in between rain showers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm a Terrible Mother Hen

Oh, I just feel awful.

I went out to check up on the girls to make sure they were doing okay in their hen house.  I couldn't see them through the window so I opened the side door to peek in and Pumpkin fell out.  Plop.  Right onto the ground.  Fortunately, the ground is only about 16 inches away.  I quickly grabbed her and put her back with her sisters but not before they all started just screaming at me.

Pumpkin already distrusts me and I'm pretty sure this may have sealed that deal permanently.  I tried to get her to come over to me so I could stroke her but she wouldn't come near me.  She just stood there squawking at the top of her lungs.  Oh, the poor thing.  Maybe, she'll think it was all a bad dream in the morning.  Extra treats for Pumpkin tomorrow for sure.

We're Chooks Now

I think I know how parents must feel.  One day, they are bringing home this tiny baby and the next, they are all grown up and off on their own.

Watching The Spice Girls grow up from day old chicks has been surreal.  I'm so happy I did it this way.  I know there are places where you can buy full grown hens who are already laying eggs, but I really wanted the chicks to bond with me and I wanted the experience of raising baby chicks.

It was nerve wracking.  Are they warm enough.  Are they too warm.  Did they knock over the feeder or waterer?  Are they getting along?  But in the end, it was totally worth it.

They are two months old now and Ginger just hops right into my lap any chance she gets.  She just loves attention.  When I put her back to hold one of the other girls, she hops back out into my lap and snuggles right in.  The other girls are a bit more independent and not crazy about me picking them up.  But once I set them in my lap and stroke their backs, they usually settle right down.  Even my wild child, Pumpkin, will settle down in my lap and let me talk to her for a few minutes.

Tonight is their first night in their hen house.  I've put in their feeder and waterer as they are used to having food and water available all  night long.  I also put in an upside down flower pot so they have something to hop onto to get up to the roosting bar which is significantly higher than their dowel was in the brooder.  I also strung some holiday lights which shine into their window so they can see their new surroundings.

Guess I can't call them babies anymore.  They are officially chooks now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Such Smart Girls

Yep, as I suspected, the girls were all lined up at the gate last night when I got home.  But it was still a bit light out.  They were not ready to come in and scattered when I came into the run.  I decided to leave them outside for a bit longer and tackle a few chores.

I lost track of time and found myself out front of the run about 30 minutes later and could hear them crying.  I went around to the gate and there they were, all lined up, ready to come inside.

I scooped up Ginger first, and put her in the box.  Coco was next.  Pumpkin started whinning and pacing knowing that I was going to pick her up next.  So I reached for Poppy instead and gave Pumpkin a few more minutes to think about her actions.  And she's finally caught on.  She hopped up on the edge of the box and then into the box, ready to go back into the garage.

Pretty smart if you ask me.  Only took her a few days to figure out that she'd better move herself into the box if she wants to go inside and doesn't want me to pick her up.

Made the Naughty or Nice Gallery

I submitted a photo of Coco and one of Pumpkin and Coco to the SF Gate "Is your Pet Naughty or Nice" photo gallery and both were selected.  You can view them and the other submissions via the links below.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Green Eggs and Saute

If you read my post titled My First Chicken, you'll recall I mentioned another chicken we had named Sauté. I never tire of the looks on peoples faces when I tell them I had a chicken named Sauté.  When we got the goose, I desperately wanted to name her Pâté.  But, I was the only one who saw the humor in having a chicken named Sauté and a goose named Pâté.  So we ended up calling her Lucy the Loose Goose.

Sauté was a wild, feisty hen who wanted nothing to do with being held, wouldn't lay her eggs in the hen house and was downright mean to the neighbor's cat who would stalk her constantly.  This stalking went on for about a year before one day, I found the cat, the hens and the goose all curled up together napping in the sun.  I guess the old saying is true, if you can't beat `em, join `em.

I remember mom saying she was an Araucana but now that I know more about chicken breeds and looking at old photos of her, I'm not so sure.  She definitely laid green eggs which I'd have to hunt for in the rows and rows of plants and shrubs.  But I don't recall her having ear-tufts,a beard or muffs.  So I'm not exactly sure what breed she was.

My favorite memory of her was in the fall after the first rain.  The subterranean termites would take flight out of the ground where they had been feasting on old rotting roots.  Sauté would park herself at one of these vents and gobble up each and every termite that came out.  At the end of the day, she would literally wattle back to the hen house.  It was the only time that she was so fat and full that she had no will to resist being picked up and you could go out and collect her.  Her crop was so stuffed full, to this day, I don't know how it didn't burst wide open.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chickens are Not Dumb

When I tell people that I'm raising chickens, the response I get from most of my "city folk" friends, is that chickens are dumb.  Well, I beg to differ.  I'm not saying that they are smart.  But they have a survival instinct hard wired into them and every day I'm surprised by what they've learned.

The other night, rather than pick up the girls and put them back in the box so I could carry them back to the garage, I tried to entice them with noodles (their favorite treat in the whole wide world) to follow me back to the garage.  They came running but stopped dead in their tracks at the gate threshold.  To them, that's where their world ends and they don't cross it.  They paced back and forth and whined plaintively because they wanted the noodles.  But wouldn't walk across it.

This morning I went to collect them from the brooder in the garage to take them back outside.  Which means, they need to go into the box so I can transport them.  Ginger practically fly's out of the brooder into the box.  Coco will wait patiently while I pick her up and set her into the box.

But neither Poppy or Pumpkin want to be held these days.  So they move to the far corner of the brooder.  This morning, rather than trying to catch them, I simply laid my open palm on the floor of the brooder and said to them, "If you want to go outside, you'll have to hop onto my hand."  And I was floored.  Poppy walked right up onto my hand and let me move her to the box.

Pumpkin was more reluctant and while she would step onto my hand, she'd hop back off as soon as I picked her up.  I tried, unsuccessfully, a few times and finally scooped her up and set her into the box to go outside.

Tonight, I have no doubt that they will all be lined up at the gate waiting for me to bring them back inside to sleep.  It is going to rock their world the first night I leave them out there to sleep in their hen house.  Course, if history serves me correctly, their first night in their hen house will be much more tramatic on me, the worrier, than it will be on them.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Outside All Day

The girls are seven weeks old now and pretty much feathered out.  They still have small tuffs of chick fuzz sticking out here and there.  Saturday was their first full day outside in their run.  It was overcast all day, but still pretty mild, in the low 60's.

It's so fun to watch their new world through their eyes.  They are easily spooked by the wild birds that fly over.  But they got a good chance to exercise their wings and they love to chase each other around.  Coco spent some time inspecting the trail of ants moving along the fence but wasn't quite ready to peck at one.

I put some feed in the big feeder and water in the big three gallon waterer and they had no trouble making the transition to using those.  I'm just amazed how quickly the four of them can drain their little chick feeder and waterer.

We brought them back into the garage last night but I did not turn on their heat lamp.  So it was another first, being their first night without added heat and in total darkness.  I don't think it phased them but I worried all night long.

When I went out this morning, the garage was still dark and when I turned on the light, I clearly woke each of them up from their slumber.  But they quickly shook it off and lined up at the edge of the brooder, ready to go back outside.  So outside we went for day two outside all day.

I think we'll do this for a few more nights and then they will be ready to stay outside and sleep in The Spice Cabinet.

Here's Ginger standing in the door of The Spice Cabinet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scrambled Eggs are YUMMO!

We fed the girls scrambled eggs tonight.  And while they were hesitant at first, once they each got a taste, they LOVED it!  There are those who say that it's just wrong to feed eggs to chickens.  But it's a healthy treat, full of protein, that is soft enough for them to eat and digest.

I feel bad for the chicks being cooped up in the garage all day long in their brooder.  They don't seem to mind.  They are warm and dry.  Have food and water.  And are in good company with their sisters.  But I still feel bad for them.  Especially, after teasing them by taking them outside for a few hours when the weather is nice.

Here they are roosting together after treats.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My First Chicken

This is me, I'm guessing when I was about 7 years old, holding Fuzzy Feet on the left and Dollars on the right.  Dollars was my first pet chicken and was always my favorite.  And I know you are all, thinking, "I get the name Fuzzy Feet, it's got feathers on its feet, but Dollars?!?"

When Dollars started to loose her chick down and grow in feathers, she would nibble at them and constant fluff up her feathers.  When she'd fluff up, invariably one or two feathers would shake free and float down to the ground in that gentle back and forth motion that dollar bills follow when they settle through the air.  And thus the name Dollars.  And don't forget that I was 5 years old when I coined this name.  I'm surprised I didn't name her Foghorn Leghorn.  If she had been white, I'm sure I would have.

She lived a grand life roaming the back yard with her buddy, Saute (I'll save the explanation of her name for another post.), all day long and finally passed of natural causes when she was about 8 years old.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Playing in the Sand Box

I didn't get a chance to take the girls out on Saturday.  And that really was the better of the two days this weekend.  Sunday started out sunny and fabulous but quickly clouded over and started to drizzle.  So I took the girls out to their run knowing that it would be a quick trip.

Coco and Pumpkin made a bee-line for the sand box to take a dirt bath, rolling in the sand and getting it up under their feathers.  It must help scratch their itchy skin from all those new feathers.  They just roll  in it and fluff up their feathers to get it up under them and against their skin.  So funny to watch.  It seem so unnatural.

I managed to finish burying all the wire fencing and put my tools away before the clouds really opened up. So the run is officially ready for the girls.  They have one more week in the garage at 70 degrees and then I'll start putting them outside for the day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Predator Proofing the Run

I tackled the last big project of the hen run today.

When the guys came to build the fence, I told them that it would be a chicken run and that it was important the fence boards fit super tight.  I also had them run 2 x 4's across the top and cover the entire run with heavy gauge wire fencing.  So today, I made sure that nothing could dig under the fence to make its way into the hen run.

We're fortunate that the largest predators we have are skunk, possums and raccoons, which are neither very big or will dig very deep.  A barrier that extends either ten inches down or out from the fence line is suppose to be enough to deter these critters.

So, I spent the day digging out several inches of dirt from the fence line, cutting wire and anchoring it to the fence and ground and then covering it back up with dirt.  I finished two sides and hope to finish the third and final side tomorrow.  The 4th side is our garage wall.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Roosters are Not Required

This is my favorite chicken story from my childhood.

We lived in Palo Alto in a sizable house with an even more sizable yard.  The driveway was frammed with a grand iron gate where the neighborhood children would gather to visit the chickens and goose.

Lucy was a large, white Chinese goose who guarded the gate and announced visitors.  If she knew the visitor, she had this high-pitched, squeaky honk and we'd find her out there greeting the guest by nibbling on their shoe laces or pant cuffs.  And if she didn't know the guest, we'd usually find them pined up against the gate in fear with Lucy standing tall, honking at the top of her lungs.

And if you wondered where the term "to goose someone" came from, well, most geese stand tall at about 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall and can just reach that "sensitive" area.  And instinctively, they know to go for it.  But I digress.

So we're outside one beautiful morning chatting with a nanny who has brought over her charges to visit the fowl.  The nanny turns to my mother and asks, "Why don't you have a rooster?"  And mother replies, "We don't need one."  And the nanny says, "But don't you want eggs?"  To which my mother replies, "You don't need a rooster to get eggs."

The woman ponders this and stands there looking puzzled.  "But how can the hens lay eggs if you don't have a rooster?" she finally asks.  To which my mother replies, "Well, you lay an egg every month whether or not there's a man around!" 

The poor woman was absolutely speechless.  And eventually nodded and gathered her brood and disappeared down the street.  We never saw her at the gate again after that day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.  Poppy pooped on me tonight.

Mike and I went out to feed the girls some noodles. They just go CRAZY for noodles. They used to be so afraid when I would reach into the brooder. But now they just coming running, pecking at my fingers and begging for more. I really have to restrain myself not to over feed them.

We finished feeding them and I decided to pick up Poppy.  She doesn't like to be held but she'll gladly roost on my wrist or my knee.  So I set her up on my shoulder so she could have a bird's eye view of the other girls.  She quickly sat down and got comfortable.  I was tickling her tummy, and then it happened.  I felt something warm down my back.  Okay, I asked for that.  I just fed her.  I must be good for a few more minutes.  But within seconds, she tagged me again.  ACK!  And before Mike can reach up to take her off of me, she nailed me again.  Three times in about twenty seconds.

Note to Self - hold the girls BEFORE feeding!

Meet the Girls

I just can't resist taking photos of them when they are napping.  They are just so peaceful.

On the left is
Poppy.  She's a Cuckoo Marans (yes, Marans always has an "s" on the end) and will grow up to be black and white speckled all over.  She will also lay dark chocolate eggs.  She's a watcher.  She's always got one eye open and is the only one to open an eye when I check up on them in the middle of the night.  She's not crazy about being picked up but usually relaxes into my lap once I start rubbing her back.

Pumpkin is the brown one in the middle.  Easter Eggers are a combination of the Ameraucanas and Araucanas as well as some other breeds.  Key features of this bread include their beards, ear muffs and colored eggs which can be pink, green or blue.  Personally, I'm hoping for green eggs.  Green eggs and ham anyone?  Pumpkin is my trouble maker and likes to pick on Ginger.

Ginger is the little blond cutie that Pumpkin is using as a pillow.  She's a Buff Orpington.  She is as gentle as can be and never puts up a fight when I go to pick her up.  They say that Orpingtons are so docile that you shouldn't mix them with other breeds because they tend to be picked on and indeed, Pumpkin loves to chase her around.  I'm hoping that with more time, Ginger will grow to stand her ground.

And on the right is
Coco.  She's a Black Jersey Giant.  When I went to purchase the girls, I was hoping for a Black Australorp, but they had run out.  The guy asked me what I was looking for to which I replied, a plump, docile, black hen.  And this is what he suggested.  Only when I got home and did more research did I realize that she will grow up to be a 10 pound bird.  Her sisters will max out at 6-7 pounds.  She is the most aware of the girls always making eye contact with me and holding my gaze.  I fell in love with her the day we brought her home.

Sleepy Coco

This is my favorite photo of Coco.  She's about 6 days old in this photo.  I brought the chicks home, which was so traumatic for them.  The guy from the feed & fuel, pulls them out of their nice warm brooder from all their friends and puts them in a box.  The box is filled with pine shaving and lots of air holes.  But none-the-less, they just scream with fear.  After a bit they tire out and all huddle together for a good sleep.

And this is how they sleep.  Beak down.  Butt up.

They'll be running around one minute.  Eating.  Drinking.  Cheeping.  And then their eyes get heavy and their beaks seem to get heavy too.  And they just topple over and fall asleep.  A sudden noise will wake them up and the cycle repeats.

The Beginning

Those of you who know me, know that I grew up with a pet chicken.

My father brought home several baby chicks one Easter, like so many parents do that time of the year.  But, rather than "disposing" of them when they grew up, he took the complete opposite approach.  He built a hen house and a run to protect them from predators.  He bought feeders and waters and hay to line their nests.

We eventually adopted a goose and had a yard full of fowl.  And a fridge full of fresh eggs.

Earlier this year, I volunteered at a local organic farm and held one of their hens.  She was soft and warm and after watching all the other girls quietly huddled in nesting boxes waiting to lay an egg, I simply had to have hens of my own.

So after some research, I ordered a hen house, had a run built and on October 30th, brought home 4 baby chicks.  We decided to call them The Spice Girls; Coco, Poppy, Ginger and Pumpkin.