Monday, February 28, 2011

Silly Girls

I think this might be the equivalent of when you buy a kid a fancy new toy and all they want to do is play with the box.

I created this fancy sandbox for the girls.  Had to hunt to find an old tire.  Bring it home and scrub it clean.  Let it dry in the sun while I went to the hardware store for sand.  Put it in their run filling it with sand and DE to give them some extra mite protection.  Noticed it was covered in foot prints so I know they were exploring it.  And at one point, I think someone did take a bath in it.

But this morning, I noticed it had quite a bit of dirt in it which I thought was unusual.  Upon further investigation, I discovered a HUGE hole next to the tire.  They are taking dust bathes NEXT to the tire.


Friday, February 25, 2011

New Sand Box

Check out the girl's new sand box!

I had created a dust bath area for the girls in a corner of their run but they kept kicking it full of leaves and rocks.  I was trying to come up with a better solution because they were encroaching on their eating area and starting to create some huge craters.

I subscribe to a few news groups of chicken owners and some of these people are so clever.  I just love the fact that they can find a use for just about anything one might have lying around.  Granted, I didn't have this tire lying around, but I asked if anyone had an old one they wanted to get rid of and bingo!  One bag of sand and a little DE (diatomaceous earth) to prevent mites and the girls have a new sand box that should stay dry and leaf litter free.

I've also put it in the one spot that gets sun year round in their run so if they don't want to dust bath in it, they can nap on the edge which should warm up nicely in the sun.  Once the rain stops, I can move their feeder a tad further away.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snail Management

If you have a garden, then you have issues with snails.  And this is the time of the year that they really beging to multiply in my yard.  I had really hoped to let the chickens have at the yard and hopefully eat all my snails.  But my fear of loseing one to a hawk has forced me to keep them in their run.

I know this is hard on them.  They stand at the gate and watch me intently when I'm out in the garden.  I feel like a bad chicken mama keeping them locked up.  I keep tossing things in their run to keep them busy.  Today, I pulled out a bunch of weeds and put those in there which kept them busy all afternoon.  But when ever I open the gate, they are right there looking and watching and stepping out a few steps outside to see what's out there.

I may have to rethink letting them free range.  The girls are getting bigger and more aware of their surroundings.  My yard is pretty sparse right now with all the roses cut back and no veggies growing.  But once the roses fill in, I might let the girls free range once or twice and stay out there with them to see if this might work out

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do Chickens Mold?

Typically, our rain storms come through at nice intervals giving us plenty of time to dry out in between storms.  But every once in a while, the jet stream sets up just right and we get a series of storms back to back to back.  And this is what happened last week.

Over five days, we received nearly three inches of rain.  And given that our average rainfall total is fifteen inches, that's a lot of rain for us.  The chicken run is a mosh pit.  It just got wetter and wetter until now it's a soggy mess.  And the girls were not happy about it.  Coco didn't miss an opportunity to tell me about her displeasure each time I'd go out to visit them.

Usually, when it rains here, we get breaks in between downpours.  But not with these last storms.  It just poured all day and night long.  The girls like to hide under their house when it rains.  But there's not much to do under there.  And when they are stuck under there all day long, the only thing to do is try to excavate out more real estate under their house.

Today, the weather broke, and I took advantage of the dry weather to get out there and put back all the dirt they dug out.  I also had to replenish their house with pine shavings.  They obviously went in there at one point and started digging because all the pine shavings were relocated to one side of the coup.  Not the end of the world, but it does make cleaning easier if the poop lands on the shavings and not directly on the floor.

And I see that Pumpkin is back to chasing Ginger around.  Which I'm sure is just a sign of boredom.  I added some dry sand to their dust bath area and hopefully, they can get back to their old routines moving forward.

I also met with a carpenter who is drawing up a plan to cover half of their run with corrugated fiberglass panels.  Half opaque to keep their house in the shade and half clear so they get as much sunlight as possible when it's sunny.  By the time the plans are ready and they get to work, we'll probably be at the tail end of our rainy season.  But we'll be in good shape moving forward.

No more beach umbrellas to blow inside out and scare the living daylights out of the girls!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We Planted 9 Fruit Trees

Nine?!?  Where on earth do you have room to plant nine trees, you ask?  Well, thanks to this modern world we live in, we only planted two trees.  One is grafted with five fruits and the other with four.

The peach x2/nectarine/plum/apricot is in the foreground and the cherry x4 is in the background.

They've been creating these trees for many years now but it took some time to perfect the technique.  In the past, you'd have the dominate fruit take over the tree.  So even though you planted a tree with multiple grafts, you'd only get one fruit.  But that is no longer an issue.

The trees are grafted with complimentary fruits onto one root stock so the tree self polinates itself.  One tree will produce apricots, nectarines, plums and two kinds of peaches.  The second tree will produce four different types of dark cherries.  And the coolest thing, is that they will all ripen at different times.  So we should have fruit over a long period of time throughout the summer.

Provided, the squirrels don't get all the fruit!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ack, I Ate a Bug!

Ginger is my champion bug eater.  If I find a spider in the house, I'll put it in a plastic container and take it to her.  She's learned to recognize these container and gets so excited when she sees it.  The problem is, I also put other treats in these containers like apple or oatmeal and take it out to them and put it in their treat bowl.

Ginger will ignore the treat and want to see the container.  She'll look inside.  She'll walk around the perimeter.  She'll  inspect the bottom.  She's looking for the bug!  The disappointment on her face when I don't have a bug for her just breaks my heart.

Today, I caught some flying insect in my fingers and brought it to her but had a terrible time getting her attention, because I hadn't put it in a container.  She finally saw its wings flapping in my fingers and came over to investigate.

Earlier in the day, we took advantage of the nice weather and went for a walk along the beach.  I took a drink of water from my container and before I could close my mouth, a bug flew in.  ACK!!!  I couldn't get it out and I'm pretty sure I swallowed it.  Where is Ginger when you need her!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Raising Mealworms

Yes, I've taken the plunge and started raising mealworms to feed to the chickens.  They simply LOVE mealworms and get so excited when I bring some home.  The three of them can chow through a container of a hundred in under a minute.  Actually, probably closer to about 10 seconds.

I try to dole them out slowly but I swear they recognize the container they come in and just go crazy when they see me coming with it!  Ginger will even start pecking at me if I'm not giving them up fast enough.  And it's not her nature to peck at me.

I don't buy them that often.  But even twice a month at $5 a tub quickly will add up to $120 a year.  And since I'm keeping track of what I spend vs. what I'm saving, I thought it was important to address this.  Yes, mealworms are a treat and not a necessity for the girls.  But if you saw how excited they become when I give them this yummy, yummy treat, you'd be driving up to the pet store right about now too.

You can use any old container you have lying around the house that has a lid.  You'll need to punch holes in the lid or cut out a big section and cover it with screen so the worms can get air.  Then hit the bulk food store to get a bag of wheat bran.  That cost me $1 and I bought waaayyyyy toooo much so I probably have enough to last me a whole year.

You'll also need something for the worms to eat like a potato, carrot or apple.  Not sure how quickly this needs to be replaced.  But even if it's a few times a month, the cost is still nominal.

And finally, a few hundred worms.  That was my biggest expense.

Now we wait for the worms to turn into beetles.  The beetles to lay eggs.  And the eggs to hatch and grow into new worms.  They say that you can speed up production by separating the beetles out from the pupae so that the beetles don't eat them.  Although, for three hens, I'll probably end up way more worms than I know what to do with so we'll see about that.

I currently have them in the kitchen must to the displeasure of my husband.  But I want to see how quickly they chow through their apple and potato.  And it's really cold in the garage right now and I want to get them off to a good start.  Once it warms a bit and I have a better idea on how often I need to add veggies for them, I'll move production out to the garage.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pumpkin is STILL a Spaz

I've said it before and I'll say it again; that bird got dropped in the egg somewhere along the line.

She clearly doesn't see well.  The girls have this three gallon waterer.  Which is really cool because if they get mud or debris in the drinking well, you can just dump that out and the reservoir will self fill with fresh water.  I don't have to take the whole thing out and refill it.  The other day, they were eating and I didn't want to step over them to dump it on a plant which is what I usually do.  So I just dumped it. Pumpkin could see the trail of water flowing downhill and chased it and snapped at it like it was a slithering snake.

I tried desperately to get her back to the treat bowl before the oatmeal was all gone but she was determined to chase the water snake.  Strange Bird!

She makes strange sounds.  Not normal chicken BOK BOK BOK.  It's more of a growl.  I can't wait to hear the sound she makes when she lays and egg.

Her personality doesn't fit that of the traditional Easter Egger so I started asking around and the consensus is that she's a normal teenager.  Easter Eggers usually mellow out after they begin laying and become docile, loving birds.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cost of Maintaining Chickens

A while back I blogged about the cost of getting my flock established.  See post titled "The Cost of Raising Chickens (getting established)" -

I know some of those costs were excessive considering other options.  But given my lack of handy-man skills and arthritis in my right hand, I choose the path of having other people set up my hen house and run.

Now that my flock is established, I'm want to see what the cost is to maintain them.

The girls chow through a $16 - 50 lb bag of feed every two months.  I spend an additional $10 each month on scratch (cracked multi-grains you toss on the ground for them to scratch at), BOSS (black oiled sunflower seeds) and other grains and crickets for treats.

I also go through a large bag of pine shaving for their house every six months at $10 a bag.
Other costs are nominal.  I use some water to scrub out their feeder and waterer every so often and of course I give them fresh water to drink every few days.  They get some of the left overs we don't finish as well as apple cores, melon rinds, carrot tops and other greens from my veggie garden. 

That's $240 annually which I'm going to round up to $300.  There are other misc. costs such as meal worms (which I'm going to start growing myself), a new basket feeder so their greens stay off the ground, etc.

I'm not seeing any savings yet, but very soon now.

They haven't started laying eggs yet, but we're getting close.  This is a tough one to calculate.  We go through 2-dozen eggs a month.  But I buy cage free eggs for about $3 a dozen.  That would be a savings of $72 annually.  But organic, free-range eggs go for $6 a dozen.  Which is a $144 annual savings.  But it's not a savings if I wasn't spending it to begin with.  So we'll say $72 annual savings on eggs.

I've started composting their waste, but haven't really started full scale production of using it as fertilizer and seeing if I can get away with not having to purchase any chemical fertilizer.

I had planned on the girls being my primary source of bug control, but after reading one too many stories about hawk attacks, I've decided not to let my girls free range.  Which means I may have to use something if the snails get too out of control.  Or do I let them out once a month or so and stay out there with them that entire time to protect them?  I'm not sure what the answer is there.  But I figure I spend roughly $400-500 on fertilizer, pest and weed control each year.

So let's say I save on half of my fertilizer/pest control spend, that's what I then spend on their feed.  Of course, there is some labor involved cleaning out their house and run and composting their waste.  But I no longer have to lug bags and boxes of stuff home from the garden center.

All in all, I'd say that I break even raising chickens.  Clearly, the savings is in the pest control and fertilizer they provide and not just from their fresh eggs.  Although, if you haven't had a fresh egg, from a happy, free range hen, those truly are priceless.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's in a Name?

I guess it comes from my background in planning events but I love a theme.  So when I was thinking of getting chickens, I was of course, looking for a theme to help me come up with names.  And The Spice Girls won out over the others.

My personal favorite was the "French Cuties" and the girls names would have been Sauté, Pâté, Poulet and Soufflé.  But others didn't see the humor in that like I did.  And I'm not sure it would have mattered.  Because you wind up coming up with nick names for them as their personalities develop.

Ginger quickly became called Love Bug.  And lately, we've combined that to Ginger Bug.  She's the most curious and affectionate of the girls.  She comes right up to me.  Doesn't object to being picked up or held and LOVES to stand on my shoulder and take in her world from a birds eye view.  I'd be tempted to get more Buff Orpington's like Ginger down the road.  No guarantee that they will all be so affectionate.  But one can hope.  She's also my master spider eater.

Coco quickly morphed into Coco Puff because she was this black fuzz ball with a white fuzzy rump and oh, so cute.  But she's grown up to be very independent.  Speaks her mind and never misses an opportunity to tell me exactly how she sees things.  So we've started calling her Coco Nogales, who is a character in a book Mike is currently reading called The Wave by Susan Casey.  Coco Nogales is this independently tough boy (even though Coco is a girl) who aspires to be a great surfer.  I think Coco too aspires to be more than a hen.  I'm just not sure what.

Pumpkin is sometimes referred to as Punkin, Pumpkin Pie (aka: Pumpkin Pie Spice) and lately, The Spaz.  We've established that she doesn't see well.  And lately, she's been looking like she wants to attack me.  She looks up at me and turns her head from side to side as she crouches down like she's ready to launch at me.  Still hates being picked up and is flighty.  Supposedly, this is a "teenager" thing and she should mellow out when she begins to lay.

I've already started to think about what hens I'd like to add to my flock to replace Poppy and possible names as Poppy is clearly retired at this point.  Mike likes Sprinkles and Twinkles.  Sprinkles would work as I do have sprinkles in my spice cabinet.  But Twinkles?  I like Ichimi, which are Japanese pepper flakes.  You find them on the tables at sushi restaurants.  Honey, Sesame and Nutmeg would be other good ones and also stay in our theme.

Any other suggestions?  If color matters, I'm thinking I'll get a Barred Rocks which is a black and white speckled hen and a Blue Orpington which is really more of a slate gray, with a tinge of lavender, than blue.  And I kind of want to stay inside the Spice Girls theme.  But as you can see from my names above, I use that loosely.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chicken Dinnerware

I was putting treats in the run for the girls and they frequently wouldn't go for it.  Someone told me that I had to have a dedicated treat bowl so they knew to look there.  So I bought a treat bowl.

Yes, that is a Life is Good dog bowl.  I was using a paper plate before and one of the girls would enevitably step on the edge of the plate, flipping the contents of the plate right up into their face.  Causing all of them to flee, screaming and cackling.  The dog bowl is working much better.  They can pearch on the side if they so desire and it stays put!

Then I started to toss greens into their run, but they just walked all over them.  If I chopped them up and put them in their treat bowl, they would eat them.  But I was tired of watching my husband roll his eyes at me as I prepared our dinner.  And then the girls; chopping up spinach and gratting apple to put into their treat bowl.

I was at the petstore and found this seedcake basket and thought hmmmm....

It works brillantly.  I no longer need to chop up their greens.  The greens stay clean and off the ground.  And the next day, I can toss what's left over into the compost bin.

But let's face it, they are chickens.  And chickens want to scratch and dig and work for their food.  And nothing is going to grow in their run.  So I had to go back to the drawing board once again.  I was trying to think of something that was low to the ground and light weight enough that I could move into and out of their run on a regular basis and I figured it out!

These are the plastic flats that hold the 6-packs of plants at the nursery.  I had to add some screen to the bottom to keep the dirt from all falling out.  Then I planted them with a variety of things from Baby's Tears, lettuce, sod and the pots on the far right have Italian parsley growing in them.

I can toss one into their run for several days and let them work at it.  And before it's completely destroyed, move it back into the main garden where it can regerate.  This time of the year, they take a LONG time to regerate.  I'm hoping that this process goes faster when the weather is warmer.  Either that, or I need to make several more of these play boxes for the girls.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

And how appropriate that my little lovies are exactly 16 weeks old today.  We are getting closer and closer to adulthood and more importantly, EGGS!!!  I'm told that they should begin to lay around 20 weeks, so another month.  But they can lay as early as 16 weeks so we're in the zone.

I found a bunch of smooth, round river rocks and put those into their nest boxes over the weekend.  I've been told that it helps encourage the hens to deposit those round things that fall out of them every other day in the nests along with these other random, round things.  Golf balls and ping pong balls would have worked as well.  As would plastic Easter eggs that people hide candy inside (minus the candy of course).  I just don't happen to have any of those lying around.

We had a big rain and lots of wind last night and the wind blew one of their beach umbrellas inside out AGAIN!  I've just had enough of those.  It's time to do something better and more sturdy to give them some sun and rain protection.

The gold standard appears to be corrugated panels.  I can put a few opaque panels over their house which will shade their nest boxes in the summer months.  And clear panels over the next several feet which will give them a nice dry area to hang in during the rainy months.  And will keep their feed dry as well.  What's up there now isn't long enough and water floods into their run, soaking their sandbox where they dust bath.

Guess I have my next project lined up.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ever seen a Chicken Yawn?

This is Ginger in the middle of the biggest yawn.  She was sitting in the sun next to Coco while I tidied their run and put fresh bedding in their house.  It's really a rough life for them.  Hanging out all day.  Kicking back all the leaves and pine needles that I just racked into a big pile.  And snapping up any bug that is scared up in the process.  Life IS Good!!!

The Octo-Yoker

The WHAT?!? you say?

Ever cracked an egg and seen more than one yoke?  I remember the first time this happened to me.  I have some food allergies so I do quite a bit of cooking from scratch.  And I'm also super busy working during the week.  So I love to spend Sunday afternoon in the kitchen getting things prepared for the week.  And why not have a glass of bubbly while you're at it.  Beer and wine have a tendency to give me migraines and champagne does not which is why I was drinking bubbly.

I was baking cookies.  And I cracked an egg into a glass container so I could beat it before I dumped it into the mixer.  And then got distracted and went to stir something on the stove.  I came back to the egg and there were two yokes.  I'm wracking my brain to remember, did I crack two eggs?  No, one whole egg is still on the counter.  But there are two yokes in the glass.

Hmmm, am I on my first glass of champagne or my second?

So it got me thinking, what's the record for most number of yokes in one egg.  There are rumors that it's 9.  But no proof of that.

This lady in New Zealand back in December cracked open an egg from one of her hens and it had 8 yokes in it.  So they've started call it the "Octo-Yoker".  See link for article:

Multi-yoke eggs usually happen to young hens who are just starting to lay.  The hens may ovulate more rapidly at first until they find their natural rhythm.  And these yokes get strung together and as a result, all come out in one egg.  Typically, a long, narrow egg.  But not always.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Really BIG Spider

About five years ago, we started finding this REALLY BIG spider in and around our house.  I think our first experience with him was around the holiday's.  I brought in a grapevine wreath from the garage to hang above the fireplace.  I'm standing on a chair with my face right in this wreath as I'm trying to hang it when I notice that something is staring back at me.

I'm not really afraid of spiders but when they are this size, you just can't help but be startled.  I gave the wreath a good shake, the spider landed on the floor with a rather loud, SPLAT!  I scooped it up and hurried it back outside.

I grew up in this area never ever remember seeing anything like this guy so I started to do some research and low and behold, it's an immigrant from the Mediterranean and Northern Africa.  There are a number of scientist studying these spiders and feel they probably found their way to the Bay Area in someones luggage.  Check out this article on them from the SF Gate in 2006:

I snapped the photo below of him one morning when I found him on our green waste cart and the scientists confirmed that indeed this is the Zoropsis Spinimana that they are studying.  We like to call him Schneider the Spider.

Zoropsis Spinimana - aka: Schneider the Spider
And of course, it seemed like we were finding him all over the place back then.  Mike would even take him several blocks away from our house and dump him for fear that he had some sort of homing ability and was returning to OUR house.

I've been just itching for our girls to grow up big enough so they can eat Schneider the Spider.  And it finally happened.  I was out in the garage and there he was, hanging out on the white washing machine.  I mention the color of the machine only because in the shadow of the light, it makes him appear about three times his normal size.  Which is really big to begin with.

So I scooped him up in a large cup and dumped him out in the girls treat bowl.  I thought for certain that Coco would be the first to snap him up.  But it was Ginger who stepped right up to the plate and chocked him down, legs and all.  Gulp!  I think she may have even burped afterwards.  That's a big treat for a tiny hen.

I never thought the day would come where I'd be excited to find Schneider, but when you have hungry chickens with big beaks, Schneider is indeed YUMMO!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

You don't need a rooster to get eggs!

Say it with me people, "You don't need a rooster to get eggs from a hen."
You simply don't.  Never have - never will!

Hens lay eggs because that's how they were designed to function.  This is also why you can sell a healthy young pullet (pullet  = egg laying hen) for $30 these days.  More if she's an exotic or lays colored eggs.

I'm simply dumbstruck at how many people don't know this about hens.  Not that I expect everyone to be an expert on all things chicken.  But it's important that we know where our food comes from.  When do animals sacrifice their lives so that we can eat it?  And when we are able to enjoy the by-product of the animal AND still enjoy the company and companionship of the animal.

But when your gynecologist asks you how you will get eggs from hens if you don't have a rooster?!?  OMG, "Where did you get your degree?"  I can see how an orthopedist or a plastic surgeon might have skimmed over reproduction 1-0-1 in college.  But I would expect this concept to be clearer to a gynecologist.  And more specifically, MY gynecologist!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Possible Hawk Attack

I think we might have had a hawk try to get at the girls on Sunday.

I spent a few hours out in the garden on Sunday.  The weather was simply too nice not to be outside.  I bought a dwarf Mexican lime that I needed to plant.  I also picked up a small green house which is little more than a bunch of metal tubes stuck together with a heavy plastic cover over them.  But the weather is pretty mild where we live and I'm hoping it allows me to start my veggie seeds a few weeks earlier than I would normally.  And maybe I can grow some greens for the girls during the winter months.

I'm also going to grow more in my garden this year than I usually do now that we have chickens.  I gave up on growing squash long ago because I just couldn't keep up with it.  If you didn't go out there every other day to harvest, you would find a squash the size of a human limb that took a machete to harvest.

I'll also grow more cucumbers and I decided to grow miniature watermelons.  I'm sure the girls will appreciate a cool watermelon on a hot afternoon.  Not to mention, we will too!
So I finished my chores and went inside to get cleaned up.  I was just stepping into the shower when my husband started yelling to me that the girls were upset and to come quickly.  And I could hear them just screaming.  I've never heard them make such a ruckus.  I ran outside just terrified of what I might find and there they were, huddled in the corner of their run, next to the gate.  I could see the fear in their eyes.  But they quieted down as soon as they saw me and I got down to their eye level and spoke to them softly for a few minutes.  I didn't see any blood.  No feathers pulled.  I couldn't figure out what had happened.

Stumped, we came back into the house and the best I can come up with is that a hawk probably took a good shot at the welded wire that covers their run.  I'm not sure if it slammed into the welded wire or just landed on it.  Or if it was even a hawk at all.  But I can't think of anything else that would get them all worked up like that.

We checked up on them several more time throughout the evening and they are fine.  And if indeed it was a hawk, that solidifies my decision not to let them free range.

It was tough being in the garden watching them peer out the gate at me with those sad eyes like they'd give just about anything to be out there with me scratching and digging.  But I'm simply not willing to risk it.  I've read too many stories from others of hawks taking out one of their beloved hens right before their eyes.  So, growing extra goodies in the garden is a must this year so there are plenty of treats to keep them busy and happy while being confined to the safety of their run.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Update on Treats

My girls are growing up.  It's been an interesting journey to see what they would eat and when.  You'll recall that noodles were a huge hit early on.  But then it was a while before anything else was good eats.

I brought home crickets back in late December and they could have cared less.  But today, crickets don't stand a chance around those hungry, hungry beaks.  And it's a hoot to take a bag of crickets and dump them into their run.  They are used to treats being put into their treat bowl.  But they quickly catch on that those hopping things are YUMMO!

A while back I had tossed some beet tops into their run and they just stomped all over them.  So I've been chopping or grating their treats to make them more bite sized.  But now at almost 15 weeks of age, they are starting to figure out how to use their beaks as a tool.  A few weeks back, I put a half a watermelon in their run and they had no trouble pecking it right down to the green outer shell.

Yesterday morning I put a half of apple in their treat bowl and last night, pulled out what was left which was little more than the skin.

This morning they got a grated carrot and some left over rice.  Uncooked, rolled oats are a huge favorite these days.  Usually, the girls chatter and talk while they eat their treats in the morning.  But not when there are rolled oats in the bowl.  The only sound is their little tongs lapping up the oats as quickly as they possibly can.

I'm starting to plan my summer garden now that the weather has warmed.  It's still a tad to early to plant but I'll definitely be growing more things this year than I did in past years.  I stopped growing squash years ago because we couldn't keep up with it's production.  But I'm pretty sure I'll have plenty of help from my three food obsessed chickens.  Watermelon will definitely be on the master plan as will tomatoes, lots of greens, snap peas and I think I'll give pumpkins a try again.

It's such fun watching them study any new treat you give them.  They look at it and discuss it and argue over who's turn it is to taste test the new item.  Here's a Buff Orpington, like Ginger, giving this lobster a quizzical look while she tries to figure out where to place the first peck.

Chicken Humor

Q: Why does a chicken coop always have two doors?

A: If it had four doors it would be a sedan.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's all that Racket?

I was reading a post from another chicken blogger who asked the question, "Why does my hen house sound like a bar room fight every night around bed time?"  To which my husband says, "I don't get it?"  I look up at him and raise an eyebrow and said, "Obviously, you've never gone out to the run at dusk when they are going to bed."

So tonight as the sun began to set, I said to him, "Let's go outside.  There's no way I can possibly explain this to you using words.  It's something you simply need to hear for yourself."  Outside we go and stand next to the hen house and listen.

Someone is stomping around like a gymnast on the roosting bar trying to get into the right position.  Then there's a loud SQUAWK.  More loud chatter and wings flapping.  Then there's another big scuffle as someone is obviously trying to change positions.  Wings flapping.  Something smacks the tin metal roof of the hen house.  CLANG!!!  More loud SQUAWKING!!!   And lots more stomping around on the roosting bar.  Some one is down off the roosting bar and then, in a flurry of flapping, back up again.  And this repeats for about a minute before he says, "I have to see it."

So we open up the big side door to the hen house and the scuffle stops as each girl looks over at us.  Ginger immediately hops down to see if we've brought treats.  When she can't find anything in my hands, she hops up on my shoulder and snuggles up next to my ear.  Mike gives her a small push from the rear to get her back into the house and the whole cycle repeats.  Including Ginger up on the roosting bar, back down again and back out onto my shoulder to roost.

As I lift Ginger off my shoulder and tuck her back in between her sisters on the roosting bar, I turn to him and say, "Yes, this happens EVERY night."  And while the girls continue to squawk and flap and make just an awful ruckus, Mike was speechless.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

All I Need to Know in Life - I learned from my Chickens - by Michaele Oleson

Wake up early, stay busy
Rest when you need to, but always stay alert
Visit you
favourite places every day
Scratch out a living
Routine is good
Plump is good
Don't ponder your purpose in life - your brain is too small
Accept the pecking order and know you enemies
Weed your garden
Look after your children
- Sit on them if necessary
- Take them for walks,
show them the little things and talk constantly
Make a nice nest - share it with friends
Brag on your accomplishments
Protect your nest egg
Test your wings once in a while
Squawk when necessary
As you age, demand respect
Leave a little something for those who care about you
Chase butterflies

By Michaele Oleson

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Moving Forward

As you saw from my previous post, I had to re-home Poppy because she turned out to be a he.  And roosters are not allowed in Sunnyvale.  I suppose if I had the rare fortunate luck to have a rooster who didn't crow, I could have kept him.  But I probably had a better chance of winning the lottery than having a crow less rooster.

I did some research on roosters and some will start crowing as early as three weeks old.  Others may wait till eight or ten months of age and then start crowing in the dead of the night and never stop.  And that would be disastrous.  I have lovely quiet neighbors and I'm don't want to damage that relationship by having a rooster crowing non-stop.

So that leaves me with just three Spice Girls.  And four felt like the right number.  But I'm still so sad about giving Poppy away so I can't do anything at the moment.  Chickens don't seem to have much of a long term memory and the three seem to be doing just fine.  So I think I'll just chill for a bit.

I think I'll wait till my girls are fully grown and wait for Ginger to go broody, meaning she wants to sit on and hatch eggs.  Hens will do this even though there's no rooster around.  Their tiny brains don't process all those details.

I've read that you can let a hen sit on a few fake eggs, golf or ping pong balls work well, and around 21 days, sneak out in the dead of the night and fish out the golf balls and tuck a few baby chicks under her.  There's always a chance that she won't fall for the gag and will reject the chicks.  But it usually works.

And I think one of the most adorable images is that of a mama hen with baby chicks peaking out from under all her feathers.  The hardest part will be trying to decide what kind of chick to get.  Another Cuckoo Marans and hope I get a girl this time?  Or a Barred Rocks which is very similar looking to Poppy but lays light brown eggs instead of the dark chocolate eggs that the Marans lay.  Maybe another Buff Orpington like Ginger.  Or possibly a Black Australorp which are suppose to be very sweet and shy.

I can't decide!!!  Maybe one of each?  Oh boy, we're gonna need a bigger hen house.