Earth Day

We’re nearing the end of April, already. I had hoped to get some vegetables planted a bit earlier this year, but — in between a few really mild, beautiful days — it keeps being cool and rainy. I don’t want to get my seeds/onions/potatoes in the ground only to have them rot.

Rita is broody again. The young Easter Eggers are out in the barn, in the mini-coop, still with a heat lamp. I suspect there are three boys in my group of seven chicks, even though I ordered only one. The baby-roo who came marked as such is starting to get aggressive (mostly with the other chicks, but definitely wanting to challenge me, too), so if he continues down that path, I kind of hope I DO have an extra boy to take his place.

M and I spent F’s entire morning nap playing outside. I just tagged along while M explored. It was a perfect day for it!

No such thing…

No such thing as too many baby chick photos, right? We’re really loving having baby peeps again. M and I could spend all day playing with them, but we only take them out of their house when F is napping. Too many ways for it to all go wrong if a baby human is in the mix! They’re pretty active little chicks and are still nothing but robust. I can’t get enough of their chubby cheek floofs. Beatrice (the dark one I’m holding in my hand and also in the last photo) is the biggest chick, with the biggest cheeks. I haven’t yet gotten a photo that does her justice — she’s like a cartoon bird!

New Chicks!

The new babies are here! I ordered Easter Eggers from Cackle Hatchery — they hatched on Wednesday (the 15th) and arrived yesterday morning (the 17th). Our Buff Orpingtons were ordered through our local ag center during their chick days, so I didn’t really have to think about them being sent through the post (I’m not sure if they were, or if they were hatched more locally — but they came with a LOT of other chicks, either way). I was so nervous about these little guys going through the mail, but they arrived in perfect shape, looking very robust.

Including an extra girl, we got six female chicks (Sally, Beatrice, Poppy, Jellybean, Tofu, and Veggie Bite) and one male chick (Eddie). You can guess which ones M named. “Veggie bites” are what we call soy “chicken” nuggets, but of course she doesn’t know that they’re chicken substitutes. So Veggie Bite (and Tofu) are extra hilarious as chicken names.

Easter Eggers are basically mutts, so they come in lots of different colors. We have four light chicks and three dark (with variation among them), but you can’t really guess what adult feathering will look like, so that’ll be a fun surprise. M and I have been enjoying watching these little peeps, and once they’re a bit more settled in and less stressed from their travels (not that they appear stressed at all), we’ll be able to start playing with them!

Winter Odds and Ends

— Here’s Charlie, thinking about coming outside. She didn’t that day, but everybody came out later in the week; the snow had finally melted and given them a patch of grass to walk on. The chickens have been much pickier about walking on the snow this year (i.e., they completely refuse to), which I still think must mean they’re pretty happy in their big coop.

— In sad chicken news, I had to bring Laverne to the vet to have her euthanized. I’ve read that chickens are so good at hiding their illnesses (being prey animals and not wanting to seem weak) that they often appear to decline very rapidly once it becomes noticeable to us humans. That was definitely the case. She was my most special lap chicken, so it was hard to say goodbye. It was almost impossible to find a vet that would see a chicken. I called all around, and the one large-animal vet (within an hour’s drive) that works with poultry was completely booked up. I finally called back our regular vet and begged, and they were accommodating and very kind to the lady crying about her chicken.

— F is crawling! Not very well, admittedly. But babies operate on a steep learning curve, so it won’t be long before she’s zooming around. So far, F has done everything a bit earlier than M. Sitting (5mos vs 5.5mos), first tooth (7mos vs 8mos), and now crawling (7.5mos vs 9mos+, but there were complicating factors for M). It makes me scared to think how early she might walk! And also convinced that I must have gestated F an extra month or so — how else do we explain a 10lb3oz baby when the first was barely over 7lbs?

— M is the best big sister, though. All things considered, she’s very patient with F and usually mostly delighted by her, too. M’s favorite book at the moment is The Life and Times of the Honeybee. I wouldn’t say that it’s for the preschool set, exactly, but we MUST read it EVERY night, and she’s just fascinated by it. I love seeing what captures her mind. In less intellectual pursuits, she’s also in love with the Littlest Pet Shop toys right now.

— I’ve been reading quite a bit this year (since my birthday and Christmas, really, since I got a bunch of books). I need to do a post to talk about the books I’ve read lately. Right now I’m reading The Power of Off by Nancy Colier, about technology addiction. I’m only halfway through, but I can’t recommend it strongly enough. SO many passages have made me want to whip out a highlighter, and it’s just very validating to have somebody saying, “This is a real addiction,” and explaining why it happens and what it does to us. I think I’ve convinced at least one other person to read the book and go through the 30-day detox with me. I’m excited!

Chickens and Things

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It’s really winter for real, isn’t it? We had a string of Very Cold days, the kind that, when it returns to “just freezing” outside, makes you think, “Ah, it feels pretty good out here!” I’m so glad that I got the big coop in the barn built this year. The chickens are staying warmer (they have a huge, south-facing window to let in the warm sunlight), and they have much more room to mill around. They’ve had no interest in going out into the snow, which to me is a sign that they’re content indoors. The worst of the hens’ molting seems to be over, and now I’ve got two hens laying again. Last year, I had enough eggs to make myself a big angel food cake for my birthday — not so much, this year! Luckily, I still have a few quiches in the freezer from this spring. M won’t eat them (too delicious?), but I thawed one recently and had it for several breakfasts (and one lunch) in a row.

The girls have been sick for over a week and a half, and we’ve been house-bound almost that long. Out of boredom, I went through a box of my personal ephemera — mostly pretty things that I’ve had up on bulletin boards at various points of my life. I found my animal drawings from several years ago, though, when I was planning to make a little book titled (something like) Animal Facts (and/or Lies). I hadn’t seen them in quite a while, and I was happy that I still found most of them funny. I think I might have to do something with these, after all.

Earlier this week, M got a surprise package from the delivery man. Puzzles! Her great-uncle (and my godfather) had sent them to her, saving another dull day just in the nick of time. These were her biggest puzzles to date — two 60-piece jigsaws and one 48-piece. I had to help her a little with one, as there was a lot of similar-looking greenery, but otherwise she did them all herself. It was the first time where I got a little spooked by her uncanny ability to know where pieces go, since the puzzles were brand new to her, and they weren’t familiar characters (ie, Paw Patrol). Lots of fun for my little puzzler!

Changing of the Guard

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Wednesday evening, I went into the barn to close the chickens’ door, and I noticed there were only three hens in the coop. So I called for the chickens (they’re better at coming when called than the dogs!), and I heard one of them start “bock-bock-bock”-ing in the distance, basically telling me that they saw something scary. I went out behind the barn and could see the two hens at the edge of the woods, but they wouldn’t come any closer. So I started to walk into the weeds, which made a hawk fly up from the ground and into a tree. Ah ha. The hens still wouldn’t move, so I picked them up and carried them back to the coop.

Close call, I thought.

Except what I realized in the morning was that I had miscounted. I’d thought I’d seen Mister Chicken roosting with the hens and the young boys on the window sill, where they like to perch. What I’d really seen was Red (one of the young roosters) sitting with the hens and the two Juniors on the window. My first thought (hope) was that Mister Chicken was still out in the woods, hiding. But I knew why that hawk had been on the ground. And, sure enough, his remains were right where the hawk had been. I hadn’t even looked over there the night before, because I thought all the chickens were accounted for.

I’m sure he was caught because he was protecting his hens. Either he actually charged the hawk when it came for a hen, or he was left out in the open, keeping lookout while the hens hid in the woods. He was the best rooster — I didn’t even know roosters could take such good care of their hens. He always kept an eye out for threats (while the ladies milled about without a care in the world), and when he found a particularly tasty treat, he’d call them over instead of eating it himself.

I’m hoping one of his sons will take over his role with the same dedication he had. Red (in the second photo; Mister Chicken is in the top one) is mature and crowing right now, while the Juniors aren’t quite there yet. The hens are being nicer to the boys now, but they haven’t completely meshed as a single flock.

Farewell, Mister Chicken — can chickens fly in chicken heaven?

The Boys

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Out of four chicks hatched this year (two by Rita, two by Aster before she hatched the guineas), all four were male. One of Rita’s was killed at night a while back — I’ve tried to explain to them the importance of going in the coop at night! But young chickens don’t listen and are impossible to catch. So I’ve got three surplus roosters, plus Mister Chicken.

My plan is to keep them unless/until they become a nuisance. Our neighbors have said they’ll take them, so they won’t wind up in a pot. (Though, when they’re refusing to go inside at night, I’ve often thought they’d look quite nice with a coating of bread crumbs — and I’ve been a vegetarian for fifteen years!) The three of them are closely bonded, and it’s fun to watch them wandering around together. I really wish we would have gotten a couple of female chicks, though; the hens are slowing down their egg production for the winter, and M and I are almost out. Only three left in the fridge!

More Outdoors

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Here’s another big bunch of photos, since I’ve been going Instagram crazy the past couple of days. I managed to get the brooder pen fixed up for the two-week-old chicks yesterday morning. I just had to put chicken wire on top (so the big chickens won’t jump in an harass them) and then bring the food, water, and chicks out, but it took a while with sleeping F strapped to me! Once the guineas and these little chicks get big enough, they’ll go over to live at the neighbors. And my plan is to get a coop built inside the barn (right now, the chickens have the run of the barn and are in there at night, and it gets… messy). But for now, there’s the chicken nursery, with poultry of all ages and sizes, each needing their own food and water. Whew.

After playing outside this morning, we went into town and came across a few good finds at the thrift store. An Aquadoodle mat (with pens and stampers, even though the box said there were none) for just a quarter, some puzzles, and that set of Melmac cups and plates. They’re for M’s playhouse, should it ever get finished. I had been imagining cups JUST like these and figured I’d never find something so cute in person, but there they were, waiting for us at the thrift store. So you never know!

Chicks

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Still waiting on the baby, so here are some more chick photos! Rita wound up hatching two chicks — she started with eight eggs, and one broke early on, so really only seven. The first was born Monday afternoon/evening and the second came along on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she moved her nest into the corner and left two eggs in the middle of the coop (they were cold when I found them, and one was sloshy — definitely no good). Yesterday morning, I took the other three eggs out from under Rita, and I was surprised to find that they were also cold (and all sloshy). Makes it seem all the more amazing that two healthy chicks managed to hatch, with so many duds!

Two is actually exactly as many as I was hoping for — we don’t actually NEED any more chickens until the hens slow down egg production in a year or two. I just hope they’re not both roosters! They’re very curious and friendly, and both they and Rita have let me pick them up to show M, who is smitten. It’s quite a different experience having a hen raising chicks vs. hand-raising them indoors. Don’t have to worry about keeping them warm — Rita does that! She’s doing her job well, so far. I put some scratch grains out in the run (she and the chicks are living in the coop; the other chickens are all living in the barn at night), and she was very happy to stretch her legs and dig in the dirt. The chicks just stayed in the little pop door area, quiet and content, but not adventurous enough to join her outside yet. When I check a minute later, Rita was back inside with them, back to work.