Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Run

Okay, too funny not to share.  And I thought I was obsessed with my chickens.
The paparazzi snapped this photo of Tori Spelling and her pet chicken, Coco, out for a walk in Sherman Oaks, CA.
What's really funny is that she named her white bantam Silkie Coco and my Coco is a jet black Jersey Giant who tips the scales at 10 lbs.

My Egg

Now that I have your attention...

We went to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Sunday to see the baby chick exhibit.  They had this huge egg on display in the lobby and DH insisted I have my photo taken in front of it to show our girls.  Personally, I think it will scare them, so I haven't shown them yet.

The baby chicks were adorable, but I thought the display with all the different eggs was by far the best.  They had a variety of eggs ranging in size from a tiny hummingbird egg up to a Great Elephant Bird egg.  The range of colors and camouflage was amazing; and all the different shapes too.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ever been cussed out by a chicken?

My husband has.  It was hilarious!

Coco is my alpha hen.  She is the biggest of the three and most definitely, the loudest.  She is in charge and you can tell from the way she stands tall and surveys all that goes on in her domain.  But she's also very friendly, docile and rather curious.  She loves to eat out of my hands.

But she doesn't want to be touched.  She watches me pick up Ginger and stroke her.  And she watches me pet Pumpkin.  Who still isn't crazy about being cuddled but likes to have her back scratched.

But put your hands towards Coco like you might pick her up and she backs away and makes this deep, guttural baaaawwwwwk sound.  And that's usually as far as I push it with her. 

So the other night, we both went out to give the girls treats.  Ginger of course hops right up on my knee and nibbles on my hair.  Pumpkin squatted and let Mike give her a good scratch between the wings.  So then he turned his attention to Coco.  He managed to give her a good squeeze on the tail.  And she let him have it!  She went off like a air raid siren and wouldn't stop.


She was standing tall and looking right at Mike and making more racket then I thought a chicken could possibly make.  I looked at him and said, "Are you happy?  This is totally directed towards you."

And in case you can't understand her, she's saying, "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, DON'T TOUCH ME!!!"  I couldn't hear his reply over her squawking.

We finally retreated to the house but it took her several minutes to finally calm down and stop squawking.  I can only hope the neighbors weren't home.

Not the best photo but the most current one of Coco.  She's BEAUTIFUL with a black beak and feet and this iridescent green and violet sheen to her feathers.  Her bright red face and comb contrast nicely against her black feathers.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bath Time

Chickens love to take dust baths.  They say that the sand and dirt up against their skin helps scratch those itches, gets rid of mites and probably helps cool them down if it's hot out.  Which is clearly not the case today.  It has been a rough week for the girls.  We've had inches of rain this week.  I think we only get 13 or so inches annually and we've had about a quarter of that come down this past week.

I've got a contractor lined up who is going to come cover half of their run with corrugated panels to give them more protection from the weather.  But he can't work when it's raining!  And it's been windy so nearly every part of their run is wet.  But they do have this one little corner near their house that tends to stay dry.

And when I went to take the compost out just now, I found the three of them all packed together, taking a dust bath.  Actually, I think it was more a pine shavings bath.  I put those down to give them something dry to walk on.

I don't know why the tire hasn't been a success with them.  They liked it at first.  But now they prefer to make their own hole in the ground.  Maybe the tire isn't big enough for all three of them to use at once.  And clearly, dust bathing is a community sport.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I'm such a proud Flock Mistress.  I knew we were getting close.  She started squatting for me about 8-9 days ago.  And was spending an obscene amount of time inside the hen house.

Plastic Easter Eggs in the nest boxes to show the girls where to put their eggs.

I put three plastic eggs in each of the nest boxes a few weeks back.  The books say to do this so chickens know where to lay their eggs.  I knew they were checking out the nest boxes because each evening, the eggs would be moved and you could see from the indentation in the shavings that someone had been sitting in each nest box.

I got tired of checking and being disappointed so I didn't even look at first the other night.  I fed them treats and chatted with them and brought them some fresh water.

I decided to take a quick peek through the big clean out door and didn't see anything.  But when I went around and opened the nest box lid, there it was.

The green one is the real one.

I didn't realize it was a real egg at first, being that it was green and blended in nicely with the other colored eggs.  But it was smaller and had some pine shavings stuck to it.  I reached in and touched it and sure enough, it was a real egg.

Pumpkin is officially a pullet now that she's laying eggs.  The other girls should follow shortly.

Pumpkin has mellowed out greatly now that she's officially a pullet.  She's let me scratch between her wings a few times and last night, let me pick her up and stroke her.  I think she even enjoyed the attention.

Her first egg is about half the size of a regular jumbo egg from the store.  They will get bigger over time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Poppy Lives On

Poppy made the Picture of the Week at Backyard Chickens!!!

I submitted this photo a while back.  I'm sure they receive dozens of great photos all the time so I really didn't hold out much hope and today when I logged on, there he was.

I wish I had an update on him or a current photo to share.  As you'll recall, I had to give him away because he was a roo and roos are not allowed where I live.

But he will always live on in my heart as a very special chicken.  And now, he lives on the web too!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chickens ARE Smart

I caught another spider in the house this morning.  It's expensive living in California and I have one rule that all bugs (spiders included) must abide by: if you want to live in my house, you must help pay the mortgage.  No $$'s, then out you go!

I took the spider out with me when I took the girls their morning treats.  They all run for the treats but if I call out "Ginger Bug", Ginger comes running to see what special treat I've brought her.  I think she knows that Ginger Bug means I've brought her a bug.

But here's where my girl really shows off her IQ.  She looks into the cup and sees the spider.  But it's a big cup and she's nervous about putting her head all the way in there.  So she crouches down and looks at the bottom of the cup to see if she can get the spider that way.  A quick peck or two and she determines, nope, no spider there.  So back into the top of the cup and she snaps up the bug.

She has done this a couple of times but this morning it was so deliberate.  Such smart girls.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Spice Girls are 5-months old

I had hoped to be outside taking lots of photos and video of them this past weekend but I just wasn't up to it.  I've been fighting a sinus infection for weeks now and it's just taking a long time to kick it.  Not to mention, I feel so guilty going about my normal routine while those across the Pacific in Japan are struggling.  Living in CA and in earthquake country, there are just so many reminders all around us and my heart really goes out to the people there.

I did jet over to Half Moon Bay to pick up a bag of layer pellets for the girls.  Again, being by the beach just kept the whole tsunami thing real.  Knowing how far it came inland in Japan and mentally watching the odometer and noting how devastating that would be had that happened here.

I proudly announced to the guy at the counter that my girls were turning five months old and that I was so excited about getting an egg.  He immediately burst my egg by telling me not to expect eggs for another 6 weeks at least.  Sigh... I guess because they don't have a mama hen to show them the way, the weather has still been cool here combined with the fact that they are still maturing.

I was out in the yard for a bit on Sunday and did notice Pumpkin going into and out of the house quite a bit.  So, just maybe, she's thinking egg and it won't be too much longer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Chicken Dance

A dear friend of mine who lives around the corner has this strange kind of maple tree in front of her house.  The leaves turn brown in the fall but don't fall off the tree.  They hang on through the winter and then in spring, the new leaves push off the old ones.  It makes the tree appear dead in the winter all covered in leaves, when it's very much alive.

I asked her if I could come rake her yard and before I could get over there with my rake, she shows up with 6 HUGE trash bags full of leaves.  Most people would hose down a neighbor who tried to bring them leaves from their yard, but not me.

I dumped two bags into their run.  Coco cautiously studied the leaves.  She stood way back from the leaves and crooned her neck as far out as it would go.  She looked with one eye and then the other and just couldn't decide if this new addition to her turf was friend or foe.  Ginger hid behind Coco for safety.

But not Pumpkin.  Pumpkin flew across the run landing right on top of the pile of leaves scattering them in ever which direction.  Which immediately made Coco and Ginger scatter in every which direction as well.

Pumpkin proceeded to dance on top of the leaves.  She wasn't scratching or digging.  Her feet were not moving.  She was DANCING!  Her tail was swishing from side to side and she swayed on her hips just as happy as a chicken could possibly be.  I think I even heard her coo a Woo Hoo once or twice.

So I sweetened the pile with a big handful of BOSS and scratch and I'll bet they spend the entire day kicking those leaves every which way till the sun goes down.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chickens are Capable of Feeling Empathy

I don't think this will come as news to anyone who has a small flock of chickens.  You really know your chickens and their personalities so well and can quickly identify when their personality is off or has changed.  And you can usually identify the cause of this change.

I've noticed lots of little changes in my girls this past week as they finish maturing and get ready to lay eggs.

Ginger's face and comb has turned from a pale pink to a bright red.  It looks like she's really embarassed about something.  I guess I can't keep calling her the baby.  This is all totally normal and if you look at photos of full grown Buff Orpingtons, they have bright red faces and combs.

Coco's voice has softened.  She not as loud as she used to be and makes softer, clucking sounds than her loud SQWAAAAK!  Which is a very welcome change and I hope is permenant.  She's typically loudest in the morning when I bring treats and is quieter during the day.  But living as close to neighbors as I do, quieter is better.

And Pumpkin is starting to mellow.  She's still a spaz but not as spazy.  She's quieter.  Comes right up to eat out of my hands and has even jumped up on me several times.  I tried to pick her up a few times over the past week and she's still not ready for that kind of a relationship with me.  But there's hope.

And finally, is a link to an interesting article where researchers have studied chickens and determined that chickens do indeed feel empathy.  I could have saved them lots of research time and told them that!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Breakfast Time

I received a video camera as a gift and what better thing to film than my girls.  Here is a video of what goes on at breakfast time.  It's a bit more chaotic than usual because we were both outside.  And they girls wanted to see if they could eat the camera. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pumpkin is Mellowing Out

Tonight, Pumpkin jumped me.  She's learned that behavior from Ginger who LOVES to hop on my back and walk up to my shoulder to nibble on my hair.

I was keeping a close eye on Ginger tonight because her feet were super dirty.  Pumpkin was pecking at the stitching on my back pockets and I didn't think anything of it until she jumped me and hopped up to my shoulder.  I couldn't believe it!

She never wants anything to do with me and backs away quickly if I make any movement like I might try to pick her up.  So the fact that she's willingly jumping on me, is a clear indication that my chicks are almost grown up and eggs shouldn't be too far away now.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Apple on a Stick

I know they are chickens and for thousands of years have been eating off the ground.  But I still have issues with it.  I mean, if they find a bug and eat it, okay.  That's fair game.  But to deliberately go out to their run and throw their food on the ground just seems wrong to me.  So I've come up with a number of ways to keep their treats off the ground like their dog bowl and basket cage.

But apples were a challenge.  And they liked it best when I sat there and held it for them.  Well, I don't have that kind of time during the week.  So I was thinking of ways to present it when I remember I had this metal spike out in the garden.  I have no idea what it was intended to be at one time.  And I've almost tossed it out on a number of occasions only to say, no, there has to be a use for this thing.

Well, voila!  It's the girls new apple holder. Of course, being something new and different, it took some discussion and time for them to get used to the idea of their apple just out there, right at pecking level. 

So I left them alone to discuss this and when I came back this evening, there was nothing left but the core. 
I showed my husband who thought it was great.  And as he turned to leave, stepped on it and bent it in half.  Sigh.  Back to the drawing board again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cool Hen House


My co-workers all know about my Spice Girls, follow my blog, bring me egg cartons and articles on chickens.  One of them brought me an advertisement for the NOGG chicken coop last week.  It's a chicken coop shaped like an egg.

I'm not sure how practical it is and the $3000 price tag may make you rethink raising chickens.  But if you had one of those exquisite gardens that you see in the magazines and the means to purchase one of these, I do think it's absolutely adorable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ginger does Yoga

Ginger demonstrating the classic "Curl up in a Ball" pose.  Used to warm up the beak and block the big scary world from ones gaze.  Also good for scratching those itches one gets towards the tail. 

Ginger and Coco in Savasana or classic relaxation pose.  Usually performed after eating, scratching and preening.  Good for resting tired feet and bonding time with your sisters.

And finally, your basic twist pose.  Good for stretching out the neck and upper back.

House Cleaning

Weekend chores now include tidying up the girls run.  Not the most exciting chore but pretty easy to do and lets me spend some time with my girls.  The girls follow me around and supervise what I'm doing and make sure it passes inspection.

I moved the compost bin into the girls run back when we built it so I could easily toss what they don't eat and the "deposits" from the floor of their hen house into the bin.  So I usually start with turning the compost which means moving it over a few feet and transferring the contents back into the bin.  This helps mix up what's in it and keep the decomposition process going.  And gets the girls all excited.  They love to scratch and dig through what's left on the ground from the turning process and can hardly wait for me to finish.

Next, I scoop out the droppings from the floor of their coop.  The three of them sleep in the exact same spot on the roosting bar each night so it's just a one foot square spot to scoop.  Toss down some fresh pine shavings and a spritz of DE to prevent mites and that's done.

Next, I scrub out their waterer and refill with fresh water, and top off their feeder with food.

And finally, I give the whole yard a quick rake to get the leaves out of the eating and their dust bath area.  And even though it's all the same leaves and pine needles, raked into a pile makes it all seem new and exciting and takes the girls a day or so to kick them back all over their run.

I finish by sitting down with them and hand feeding them some BOSS (black oiled sunflower seeds) which is a crowd pleaser.  They used to be very frightened when I came in to clean their run.  I thought about moving them to a temporary pen while I was cleaning.  But decided that catching and moving them would be more upsetting.  And since this is a weekly chore, I really wanted them to get used to me being in there with a rake and spade.

And it didn't take them long at all to learn that cleaning day is a good thing followed by treats!