Hotty McHotterson.

It’s REALLY hot here.  Not quite “Surface of the Sun” hot, but definitely  “Mercury in the Shade” hot.   I don’t like hot.  If someone says “Hey!  Let’s go to Cancun…it’s so hot and sunny there!”  I’d probably reply with “I hear Canada is nice”.  I don’t perspire well.  I also get very cranky and no one wants that.

So, I’m obsessing over whether the chickens are going to burst into flames.  This being the first summer of having chickens, I have no idea how hot is too hot for them.  I’ve read all sorts of things, of course.  I find myself starting to gravitate toward more veterinary level reading these days.  I mean, anecdotal information is wonderful, but sometimes I like to really know the “WHY” behind things that happen.  Anyway,  it’s hot…chicken’s can’t sweat…and I’m afraid they’re going to explode before I even get one egg out of them.

Today, due to a little health thing with my husband (he’s fine), I ended up taking the whole day off work.  The local weather guy had been going on and on about the heat coming today, so I was prepared with all kinds of things to do to keep the chickens cool.  Yesterday, we bought ALL sorts of chicken things to eat that are cold like watermelon, strawberries, bananas and blue berries.  I want them to eat their chicken chow, so they usually get a little scratch in the morning and one treat in the afternoon and constant access to their chicken chow feeder.   It was definitely a good day for watermelon.  Tom quartered it and it was YELLOW inside.  I’d never seen a bright yellow watermelon, but it was delicious!  We took a couple big chunks out to the chickens.  Who attacked it like they were starving wolves on a caribou.

I’ve been obsessed with getting the chickens a wading pool.   I’m just sure they’ll hop right in (you know I don’t believe that, right?  Total sarcasm).  Tom found some sort of plastic pan thing in the shop and put it in the run for me.  I filled it with water and waited for  the air to be filled with the sounds of joyous chickens.

Nuthin.

I’ll give it some time.  They did look at it very closely, but no one even took a drink.  LOSERS.

During the “Yellow Watermelon Incident” earlier today, I shot a little video.  Here ya go…..

(Okay…before you start…let’s be clear…I do NOT talk like that.   That’s my chicken voice.)

STOP IT!!! NO…REALLY….

So, it’s Monday.  I laid in bed this morning and came up with 3,234 excuses I could use to stay home from work.  Then I got up anyway because most of them involved flying saucers and frankly, I’ve used flying saucers too many times as a call-off excuse.  I schlepped out to the coop to let out the Chicken Mafia in my usual state of morning disheveledness.  The humidity that had rolled in over night was absolutely oppressive.  My hair is bad in the morning when I get up to begin with but add about 90 percent humidity and it actually breaks laws of physics.

Anyway, out at the coop I opened the doors and got the usual morning looks that clearly say “Where have you been, it’s been light for HOURS.”  About the only words I could manage to get out this morning were “S’up Chickens.”  I checked food and water and let them out into the run and the usual morning mayhem of those first few minutes of being outside ensued with one difference.

Cluck was standing in the run crowing like a FOOL.

Yesterday's strawberrysicle.

Yesterday’s strawberrysicle.

I popped out of the doors by the run and there stood Cluck.   He watched me for a second to see if I would throw any “SCRAAAATCH….OMG…SCRAAAATCH”…which I didn’t because it’s hot and they don’t need to be revving up their chicken engines with CORN which will just make them hotter.  I just looked at Cluck and said “WHAT was that?”

Cluck shook his feathers from head to toe, twisted his neck funny, opened his beak and…

“AWHHHHHK-ADOODA-DOOOOOOOOOOOO”

And then he looked at me and shook his feathers again.

I’m always floored when something new happens.  Just yesterday I’d been watching Vinnie and Cluck, the two roosters, and marveling at how well-behaved and quiet they were.  Now I was standing there with my face hanging open and just to add drama to the situation, Cluck opened his beak wide, twisted his neck a little, stood up tall and…

“AWWWWWWWHHHK-ADOODA-DOOOOOOO!!”

The others were paying absolutely no attention.  They were chasing bugs and trying to kill each other over fallen hackberry tree leaves.

“AWWWWWHHHHHK-ADOODA-DOOOO!  AWWWWHHHHK-ADOODA-DOOOOOOOO!”

Okay, now he was just showing off.  He had come over to me at the side of the fence…just in case…you know, “SCRAAAAATCH” might happen.  He shook his feathers again, preened a little and then looked at me and blinked a few times.

Then I saw him open his beak and do the neck thing again.

“NO…Cluck…stop it”

“AWWWK-ADOODA-DOOO!”

“CLUCKKKKK…NOOOOOOO…SHHHHHHHHHH”

“AWWWK-ADOODA-DOO! AWWK-ADOODA-DOO!!!”

“STOP IT!!!  CLUCK…You’re going to wake up the neighbors!  Cluck….STOP. I MEAN it!!!!”

And you know…he didn’t.  He just kept awwk-adooda-dooing…and I kept pleading for him to KNOCK IT OFF.

And where was the OTHER rooster during this whole “WAKE UP WESTSIDE” episode?  Beak down in a pile of strawberries that were part of yesterday’s Strawberrysicle.  Never even looked up.  Just kept sucking down soggy berries.

Cluck strutted around the run, seemingly pleased with himself…then the wind blew and scattered the pullets like fallen leaves and Cluck nearly had a heart attack and streaked for the door to the coop.

So. Darn. BRAVE.

He pulled himself together and strutted around a little more, throwing “Awwk-adooda-doos” in, every once in a while, just to make sure everyone knew he could still do it.  As he walked by Vinnie, who was still munching on strawberries, Vinnie apparently thought he should protect the berry pile and he raised his hackle feathers and jumped at Cluck.  Cluck raised his hackle feathers and they both jumped up and down facing each other while flapping their wings.  Vinnie was the first to stop because…well, STRAWBERRIES.  Cluck jumped around and lunged at him a few times and Vinnie MIGHT have looked up from the strawberry he was eating…but only for a second.

You know, he has priorities.

Cluck gave up and joined Vinnie at the soggy berry pile and as I walked back to the house, I looked back and they were comb to comb eating fruit.

angry villagersI figure it’ll take a couple of days for the neighborhood to figure out where all the noise is coming from.  Unless they already have and they’re busy making torches out of gasoline soaked rags and buying shovels, pitchforks and axes.

 

I shared this post on the Homestead Barn Hop #163!

 

 

Birds, Bees and Chickens.

The chickens are approaching the age of 16 weeks old.  That means that the long-awaited EGGS are practically right around the corner…or not…I’m told that they typically start laying at around the age of 20 weeks…which means I still have a month to go.  That doesn’t stop me from hanging around the chicken coop with a catcher’s mitt waiting for that first egg to shoot out of a pullet though!

small blog logoI’ve noticed some…um…maturing happening with the chickens.  When I went out to the coop last night, Vinnie’s comb was six times the size it had been that morning…well, maybe not six times, but it was definitely bigger.  In the half awake state that I see the chickens in when I go to let them out in the morning, I couldn’t even tell you if they even HAVE combs.  Cluck and Vinnie both, have MUCH larger combs though.  Vinnie’s wattles have gotten very large and long and are very red.  He thinks he’s a pretty big deal.  Cluck doesn’t really have wattles, but his comb has grown to this weird-looking wad of red flesh on his head.  Not very attractive, but then I’m not a female chicken, so what do I know?  At any rate, the boys are looking pretty darn “manly” these days.

The  pullets are changing too.  The Wyandottes look like they’ve taken make-up lessons from a drag queen.  WAY too much blush.   Their faces are bright red and their rose combs are growing quickly too.  Same with the black sex links.  Suddenly, all of the girls have wattles except for Roseanna (the crazy one) and Gloria.  Both of them are Ameraucanas.  I’m assuming they mature later than the others.  Sweet Opal, a Buff Orpington), previously had a very pale face and comb…it’s now bright pink with touches of red that seem to darken daily.

My babies are growing up.

Remember in grade school when they separated the boys and the girls and gave us “THE TALK”?  I think I was in fifth grade and they gave us a little book called “Growing Up and Liking It”.  I read that thing cover to cover.  I recently found a copy online and read the darn thing again. Dumbest thing I’ve ever read.  I was going to try to find a hard copy to leave in the chicken coop, but it looks like I’ll just have to do “The Talk” myself.

chicken talkYou know I’m kidding, right?

Because I’d totally make Tom do it.

Last night, I was hanging out by the chicken run and the flock was snarfing down a pile of fresh chickweed that I’d picked for them.  They eat that stuff faster than it grows, by the way.  Anyway,  Cluckzilla glided over to Opal and her freshly pink face and comb and stood next to her for a moment.  She kept pecking the ground for invisible scratch and didn’t seem to notice him.  He leaned over and softly pecked her back.  No response.  So, Cluck must have thought he was being too subtle and he pecked her on the back and then on the head and then he just stood there.  Opal, who I’ve noticed doesn’t put up with much nonsense, squealed and pecked him in the throat.  Cluck, of course, panicked and ran for the hills…which means he only ran to the end of the run and went to hide in the coop to nurse his hurt feelings.  At this point, I had no idea what was going on.  Opal resumed her scratching for scratch and pretty soon, Cluck returned.

Cluck stood a little distance away from Opal.  He just watched her and sort of inched himself closer and closer.  He delivered a peck to her back and this time Opal FREAKED OUT and went after him.

You lose a lot of your rooster machismo when you run like a fraidy-chicken.

Since it had happened twice, and I’m fascinated by chicken behavior and I had my phone with me as usual, I looked up what this behavior might mean.  The article that I read from some learned poultry person said that often, just prior to mating the rooster signals the hen that she should squat down for some “lovin'” by pecking her on the back and head.  They usually only do this if they can sense that the female has reached a point where she’s fertile and about to lay an egg.  Hmmm….Cluck only did this to Opal.  Was that because he’s just horny and she’s cute (because, you know, she’s the Cutest Chicken in the LAND), or was her new pink face and possibly chicken pheromones the answer?  They’re JUST sixteen weeks old, but I suppose the teenage chicken hormones could be raging as they rocket along through chicken puberty.

I think I might install the nest boxes this week and stand next to them with my catcher’s mitt and egg basket.

Vinnie, by the way, other than having that crazy red comb, face and wattles, has not made any overtures to any of the females.  He’d rather search for snacks and push other chickens off of perches or disrupt everyone’s dust bathing by stampeding through The Dust Bowl.  I’d say that he’s the subordinate rooster, but Cluck is SUCH a cream puff!

One evening I was sitting next to the run…with my phone…you never know when you might need to take a photo.  I pulled up a rooster crowing on Youtube.   As usual, everyone froze and just listened.  Vinnie chicken footed it over to where I was sitting and I turned the screen so that he could watch the rooster crow.  He shoved one eye up against the fencing so that he could see and I watched his pupils dilate and contract, dilate and contract while the rooster crowed on the screen.  I finally just stopped letting him watch because his eye was freaking me out.  He has these weird yellow eyes anyway.  He stood there and clucked and made a weird “RAAAAWRRRRRR” noise under his breath.  I told him he’d had enough computer time and to get lost.  Because he has the attention span of a gnat, he wandered away to watch for leaves falling from the hackberry tree next to the run.  He’s currently obsessed with eating the fallen leaves…which keeps him busy.  Occasionally I’ll hold a leaf about three feet above his head and he’ll jump for it like a dolphin.  Endlessly amusing.

So, if you need me this weekend, I’ll be sprucing up nesting boxes, oiling my catcher’s mitt and hanging out in the chicken coop.  I’m endlessly optimistic…and totally naïve…and possibly a fool.

I just want to make sure I order that “WELCOME EGG” cake and get the party decorations up.  I’m sure you’ll hear me screeching from wherever you are if an egg happens to make its appearance.  If it doesn’t happen to show up and you don’t hear from me, you might want to get a hold of Tom and send him out to the coop.  I’ll be the one face-down in the shavings, sound asleep from my egg vigil and wearing a catcher’s mitt.

 

I shared this post on Simple Saturdays Blog Hop!

 

Growing up Vinnie.

It’s hard to believe that just 15 weeks ago, I brought home a peeping box of fluff from the farm supply store.  I was new to the chicken world and completely out of my element.   I quickly identified that one of the chicks that we’d brought home was a bit special to me.  It had two yellow dots on its head and was outgoing and friendly.  It LOVED to eat and really loved special snacks.

baby vinnie 1

As it grew, it became even more friendly and seemed to like people.   It was the most active chick in the bunch and would run right up to the side of the brooder box to greet us.  I inquired of several learned chicken people on the internet, and the verdict was that it was probably a male chick.  We named him Vinnie.  That’s him in the back with the two yellow spots on his head.

chicks

I had no idea what breed Vinnie might be.  He’d been pulled from a bin of apparently several breeds and I thought that maybe he was a black sex link due to the yellow dots on his head.  So, again, I inquired of the chicken gurus on the internet.  I found out that he was a Barred Rock.

resized vinnie 2

As Vinnie grew, we came to just love his quirky personality.  He was full of curiosity and well, sort of weird chickeny charm.  I still wasn’t buying that he was a rooster.  He mostly hung out with the pullets and didn’t seem as “roostery” as our other rooster, Cluck Norris.  I REALLY wanted him to be a girl.  I hadn’t planned on having any roosters, let alone TWO.

vinnie and me

Vinnie became the subject of many blog posts.  He always seemed to be in some sort of trouble, falling off of something or trampling one of the other chicks in the brooder.  He was sort of a mess…for realz…but he greeted me every time I went out to spend time with the chicks…which was…well, close to constantly.

vinnie 5

His comb was growing and was a little bit pinker than the rest of the chicks.  I remained firmly in denial that he was a boy.  He was just too sweet!  Roosters aren’t sweet!  Or are they…

Vinnie 6

Vinnie had a big pink, jiggy-jaggy comb now.  I was sure he was a pullet and was an early bloomer.  I had seen photos of other young Barred Rock cockerels on the internet and Vinnie seemed to be way too dark in color to be one of the silvery white and black  youngsters that I compared him to.  I posted this picture to the chicken gurus on-line and everyone agreed.  He must be a pullet.  I happily started thinking about changing his name to Valerie.

vinnie 7

Despite all of the trouble Vinnie/Valerie got into almost ALL of the time, he was actually very tame and would follow us around the yard if we took him out for supervised free range time.

vinnie 8

 At this point, our confirmed rooster, Cluck, had become stand-offish and shy.  Vinnie continued to be charming, sweet and friendly.  However, I noticed that his colors were changing a bit.  His head was becoming lighter in color.  And oh my…those big wattles and that comb!  Maybe the gurus were right the first time!  I desperately didn’t want him to be a boy…but…

vinnie resting

Indeed…he did seem to be a “Vinnie” and not a “Valerie”.  He didn’t act like a cockerel at all though.  He walked away from every challenge from anyone else in the flock.  I started thinking that maybe…he didn’t know he was a rooster yet!  His tail was telling us that he most definitely was a rooster…and the size of his feet?  Not dainty and pullet like at all.

Vinnie 9

We just love Vinnie and all of his strange, goofy, quirks.

vinnie 12

Every day when I get home from work, I can’t wait to change clothes and dash out to the chicken coop with some sort of tasty treat.  Vinnie greets me every time with his “GIMME-GIMME-GIMME” dance.  He was the first to check out a new kind of snack as a baby and now as a big boy, he still leads the way when a new snack is introduced.  He taught Cluck all about the deliciousness of watermelon.

vin15

He’s also a very smart chicken.  He knows everything about cordless drills.

vinnie drill

Sometimes, for fun, he hangs out with his best buddy Greg.

greg and vin

Sometimes, he just likes to bask in the sun and work on his tan…to attract chicks.  See how well it works?  Honestly, I thought he was dead in and I was going to have to use a chicken defibrillator on him when I took this picture.

basking

He’s also very brave.  He protected the whole flock, including Cluck Norris, from the scary orange ball.

ball vinnie

The chickens elected him to be Chairman of the Flock after he gave a riveting speech at the recent rally in the coop.

chairman

He’s also become devilishly handsome.

I hadn’t planned on two roosters, but we love them both.

Vinnie and Cluck have a forever home with us.

vin and cluck

We just adore every bit of them…but I’ll always have a soft spot for my baby Vinnie.

feather

 

 

 

 

Pasta Party!

Tom made spaghetti recently with wonderful homemade meatballs.  It was simply divine.  Boiling spaghetti is always mysterious though.  No matter how much we measure out to cook, we always think we’re not making enough and then end up boiling the whole darn box of noodles and end up with enough spaghetti noodles to feed a small third world country.  Suffice it to say, we did the same thing this time and had a big strainer full of cooked spaghetti noodles and had polished off the sauce and meatballs.  Tom packed up the noodles with some water to keep them moist and stuck them in the fridge for the chickens.

small blog logoAnd to think, at one point he said he didn’t even want chickens.

So, one night when I came home from work, I changed my clothes and grabbed the container of pasta and headed out to my favorite place, Vinnie’s Chickentown (that’s what he likes to call it).  It was time for a pasta party.

The usual mayhem ensued when they spotted me carrying a bowl.  They may be simple chickens, but they quickly picked up that people don’t carry bowls around the backyard unless it has something to do with them.  I stood by the run for a moment and let them do their excited dance that they do when there is ANY possibility of a special treat.  Vinnie was beside himself.  For a rooster who should be very regal and intimidating, he can make an absolute idiot out of himself when he does the “GIMME GIMME GIMME” dance.  Cluck (who has now gained the nickname of “Cluckenstein” or “Cluckzilla” because he’s gotten so LARGE), watched suspiciously from the other side of the run.  He’s always convinced something bad is going to happen.  He was trying to look like he wasn’t watching me, but I knew he was.  He tries to pull off the regal rooster thing too, but doesn’t do so well with the intimidating part because he always looks like he’s about to panic and pass out.

I finally fished out a piece of pasta and held it down where Opal, Oprah, and Jessie were standing so that one of them could grab it.  Like a bolt of lightning, Vinnie’s head shot through the fence, grabbed the noodle and he turned and ran as fast as his school bus yellow feet could carry him…with eight pullets in hot pursuit and Cluck panicked and ran into the fence.  Vinnie sucked down the noodle and strutted away, obviously very pleased with himself.

hens pastaThe girls had returned to the side of the fence and this time I held out a few noodles for them to grab.  Vinnie was still feeling cocky (see what I did there?) from conquering the first noodle and was down by the dusting bath (we call it The Dust Bowl).  As I held the noodles out, Opal stretched her neck and opened her beak to grab one and ZING!  Vinnie’s head shot into the space and grabbed the noodle and he ran like his tail feathers were on fire.  The girls didn’t follow this time but waited at the fence like they were thinking “QUICK!  While he sucks that one down, give us a few!”

I pulled out a handful of noodles and dropped it into the run.  The girls clucked excitedly and then ZOOM….Vinnie ran through, grabbed a beakfull (<—that word is NOT in the spellchecker) of noodles and took off for The Dust Bowl again.  He set the noodles down and looked back and noticed that the others were still feasting on noodles that I’d added to the pile.

He was absolutely panicked.  He left his noodles and ran back to the pile as the girls were finishing off the last noodle.  He stuck his head through the fence and made a panicked low clucking noise.  In the meantime, one of the girls had toodled on down to The Dust Bowl and was happily snarfing down his noodles.

I threw another pile into the run which was attacked with a ferocity that was slightly disturbing.  I had obviously incited some sort of Chicken Noodle Riot.  In the periphery of my vision, I caught sight of something reddish-brown.  Cluck had sidled over to the group and was eyeballing the noodles with interest.  He’s been a bit better about joining the group for snacks.  He took a step closer and since the pile of noodles was dwindling (read as..Vinnie was scooping them up like he’d never eaten before), I decided to throw Cluckzilla his very own pile of noodles.

hens vinnie pasta

Cluck made some sort of ungodly chicken noise and hightailed it for the coop.  Vinnie seized the opportunity of a fresh pile of noodles and shot over to Cluck’s noodle pile.  I dropped another pile where the girls were feasting.   Vinnie ran back to that pile with a noodle still dangling from his beak.  Oprah grabbed for it and he ran to a corner to slurp it down where he wouldn’t be bothered by the others and then ran back to Cluck’s pile and then to the girls’ pile, grabbing a fresh beakfull of noodles from both places.   Cluck had come back to the run and so I threw another pile that would be closer to him.  Of course he freaked out again and ran.  He’s so brave.  It was a handful of noodles.  You’d have thought I was throwing bombs at him.

Vinnie was completely out of his mind at this point.  He had a beakfull of noodles, he was trying to pick up more noodles, noodles were falling out of his beak and he was grabbing them so fast that he was putting too much pressure on the fragile noodles and simply biting them in half and ending up with practically nothing.  Just to make it interesting, I threw out a few more small piles (none of the piles were very big).

Vinnie frantically ran from pile to pile and while the girls stayed put at different piles happily eating pasta.  I had thrown one pile fairly far into the run and I watched as Cluck timidly made his way to the pile.  He put down his head and looked closely at the noodles and took a nibble…then a bigger nibble.  He decided they were safe and tasty and was soon earnestly slurping up noodles.  Vinnie ran up, having just noticed that Cluck had a pile to himself,f and in a brave rooster move Cluck raised his hackles and charged Vinnie…who turned and ran for his life like the subordinate albeit pasta-loving rooster that he is.

Look how brave Cluckzilla is!

Look how brave Cluckzilla is!

Soon the noodles were gone and the group reconvened at The Dust Bowl to preen while they digested crops full of noodly goodness.  Vinnie inspected every square inch of the pasta party area and vacuumed up every little bit he could find and then came over and looked at me and made one of his odd little noises.  I held the empty bowl down at his level and he poked his head through the fence and looked at it with one eye and then the other eye.  He made a few more noises, which I’m sure were probably chicken swear words, and then he turned and wandered down to the group to join the preening party…of course stopping every little bit to inspect the ground for bits of noodle.

I find myself smiling constantly when I’m around the flock.  Their weird personalities, Vinnie’s obsession with snacks, even the challenge of getting Cluck to relax just makes me happy, content and peaceful.  If you’d have told me last year that left over spaghetti and ten chickens would be the highlight of my day, I’d have laughed out loud.

I just love those little Noodlefaces to pieces.

I think I’m Broody.

I have to admit (knock on wood) everything has gone extremely well with my chickens.  They are happy, content and growing, they’re an endless source of amusement for me, and according to my husband, I’ve done my part for stimulating the economy by spending far too much on their coop decorations.  I’ve been patiently (lie) waiting for them to lay eggs and I’m beginning to see signs that they’re maturing.  The pullets are growing wattles and combs and they’ve gone from a pale yellow to pink and are beginning to turn red.  I’ve been creeping around in the coop using my phone’s flashlight app checking every corner for eggs…I know its way too early at 14 weeks, but I’m so afraid I’m going to miss that first egg and find it later after Vinnie has used it for a soccer ball and smashed it to bits.  I have this big “FIRST EGG” party planned with a cake…not for the chickens, but for us.  Basically, I’ll use any excuse to order a bakery cake.  I want to have “WELCOME FIRST EGG!” written on the cake in frosting.  C’mon.  It’s a great idea and you know it…and hey…CAKE.

brown eggObviously, I haven’t found any eggs yet.  Believe me, you’ll know about it when I do find the first one.  In fact, I haven’t even put the nesting boxes in the coop because I don’t want that fool Vinnie to set up camp in one of them and make it his swinging bachelor pad.  I’m also lusting over some unfinished fruit crates that I saw at a local fabric and craft store and of course I think I need them.  Tom has pointed out that I have nesting boxes that are perfectly fine.  I told him that these look WAY more cool and my plan was to paint them and distress them and do some hand painted vines and flowers on them.  I mean, egg laying is a big deal for a hen!  If I had a beautiful bed to ovulate in, I think I’d be much less crabby when it happens.  Obviously, I’m just trying to make their experience just a bit nicer.  He thinks that’s nuts.  It probably is, but I still want those fruit crates!  It gives me something to obsess about, because obsessing about things is one of my best skills.

I feel like my chickens are all grown up now.  Getting ready to lay eggs, Cluck said “Rootadoodadoo” the other day, Vinnie is..well, still Vinnie, but other than that, I sort of feel like an empty nester. I find myself looking at incubators and hatching eggs and chicks for sale for hours on the internet.  Last month, the Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers left for their new home, leaving me with ten chickens instead of my original twelve.  Since that time, I’ve been restless for more chickens.  I’ve also become a bit of a chicken snob, because now just any chicken won’t do.  I want SPECIFIC types of chickens that I can nurture and raise and maybe even BREED.

I’m broody.

So, I started to campaign for more chickens.

And Tom said “NO”.

I talked myself out of an incubator and eggs and started looking for pullets that are about the same age for what I thought would be an easier integration for the flock. (Obviously, I took his “NO” seriously.)  However, I’ve read that shipping charges for two pullets can be around $80.  I only want two pullets, but I want Blue or Lavender Orpingtons which are pricey to begin with, and I did the math for the price of the birds and the shipping and if I ordered them and paid what it would cost and Tom found out what I spent, they’d better be gold-plated too or I was going to create some issues around the homestead.   Then there is the whole quarantine issue and I really don’t have space for that and it means that Tom would have to construct another pen and area for them to hang out so that they wouldn’t be near our original flock.  Then I started worrying about shipping chickens in the mail and if the post office mangles a box from an Etsy seller, what were the possibilities that my chickens would arrive safely and not in a crumpled box that says FRAGILE on it?

guitar tom

Tom has been drooling over a 12 string Breedlove guitar. We’re sort of music freaks.   Greg and Tom both love to play the guitar and I have a mandolin that I TELL people that I play but truthfully hasn’t been out of the case for about a month…or so.  We think we’re a band.  Originally, I called the band “Electric Bacon”, but recently thought I wanted to change it to “CHICKEN SWARM”.  I think it has a nice ring to it.  Anyway,  one day, Tom mentioned that he’d found the guitar that he REALLY, REALLY wanted on Ebay…brand new for a really reasonable price…and he had this big plan about how he could order it and put it on the credit card and then we’d pay it off at the end of the month when we get paid.  The plan sounded reasonable, but we always check with each other on large purchases.  I agreed with the plan and he bid on the guitar and he won it for a significantly lower price than it retails for.  I told him “Happy Father’s Day” when he received it from UPS and he’s been a happy clam ever since, although I’ve had to mop up some drool from Greg because it really is a beautiful instrument.

I have an ulterior motive, of course.

After the guitar arrived, I ramped up the campaign for more chickens.  Every time I have the opportunity, I show Tom a picture of an Orpington.  If we’re standing out by the chicken run, I point out that we could use a couple more hens since we have two roosters.  I’ve mentioned 2,345 times that blue or lavender Orpingtons are beautiful and friendly.  The other day, during a very sweet moment, Tom told me that there was no way he could tell me how much he loves me.  I said that chickens make a lovely gift.

I was laying on the sofa with my laptop searching for pullets last night.  There are simply none in this area that fit what I want.  I started talking about driving to  pick them up, blah-blah-blah, and that’s when Tom played his broody breaking card and said that if I hatched them myself I’d be their mama from day one and I wouldn’t have to worry about quarantine stuff…OR I could wait until one of my own got broody and shove some purchased Orpington eggs under her and let HER hatch them. My broody brain screeched to a halt.   I excitedly ranted on and on about hatch rates and incubators and percentages of males to females.  I sort of liked the idea of “fresh chickens” that no one had ever owned before…you know, none of those USED chickens.  Pretty soon, I had made the decision to wait until I see how many eggs this group lays and if we will even be able to use them all and then I started to get excited about waiting and hatching breeds I wanted from hatching eggs.  By the end of the conversation, I was a broken broody…and happily.  I’ll hatch what I want, keep what I want and sell the rest.

Except you know that won’t happen…the selling part, I mean.

Because…well…I’ll have been their mama from day one and what kind of mama sells their babies?

That Breedlove guitar may have been reasonably priced…but it’s going to cost him A LOT of chickens.

 

 

Poor Homely Roseanna.

When I bought my chicks at the local farm supply store, I’ve mentioned before that I was pretty clueless.   I walked from stock tank to stock tank of peeping cuteness and finally stopped at one and watched the chicks pecking like jack hammers at the feed in their long feeder.  When someone finally offered to help me, I said that I wanted “three of those black ones and three of those chipmunk ones”.  I’m sure they thought I was a chicken expert when I used those highly scientific chicken breed types of “black ones” and “chipmunk ones”.

The three chipmunk ones turned out to be Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers and allegedly they lay blue eggs.  Mine don’t lay any eggs yet and we pointed out to them last night that they need to quit being such freeloaders and get on with the egg laying.  Anyway, the Ameraucana chicks were terribly adorable and grew up to be Cluck Norris, Gloria and Roseanna.  Cluck is our Head-Rooster-In-Charge who you can read about HERE.  Gloria is a pretty little pullet with beautiful chestnut  colored feathers and she can be a bit flighty, but she seems to be Cluck’s favorite girl.  They usually roost side-by-side.  Roseanna…well…didn’t turn out to be the prettiest chicken I’ve ever seen…and I think she may not have both oars in the water either.

RoseannaRoseanna is a mousey-brown-grey-gold color.  She’s a little odd-looking in that it looks as though a hawk’s head was put on a funny looking chicken body. She has a fuzzy beard on her face and the feathers on her head don’t quite lay down right.  She always looks like she’s slightly panicked about something or perhaps angry about something.  She’s built lighter than the other pullets and is tremendously fast.  Early in the spring, it became obvious quite early that she was fascinated with catching bugs and pretty good at it too.  She’d wait until a bug flew close to the hanging lights in the coop and then take a flying leap and catch it in mid-air.   Every night, she’d streak around the coop, chasing bugs until she either snapped them up with her beak or they flew out of her reach.  We noticed that she still seemed to frantically dash about the coop even when there didn’t seem to be any bugs around, but we just figured she has a better idea about bugs than we do and we didn’t think too much else of it.

Roseanna is also tremendously stubborn and possessive.  If she picks a spot on the roosting bar, nobody better try to take it.  If one of the other birds tries to jump up next to her, she hunkers down on the roost and snarls, growls and bites the intruder’s toes until they either get the hint and move away from her or she pushes them off the bar entirely and they hit the floor with a thud.  I thought it was cute at first, but Chicken Bedtime has  become a bit more stressful because she wants the entire roosting bar to herself, which wouldn’t be a problem if the other chickens would just use the other places they have to roost, but they all insist on roosting on the same bar.  It’s basically ten feet of chickens trying to cram onto a four-foot roost.  Roseanna clucks and growls and pecks and carries on the whole time everyone is trying to get situated on the bar and she simply will NOT move from the space she’s chosen.  Of course that ticks off everyone else and the pretty soon they all become a mass of twirling feathers, beaks and feet that clucks and screeches.  It’s usually all Roseanna’s fault because she won’t move.

I’ve noticed recently that the flock has shunned Roseanna.  She is typically by herself in the run, investigating something invisible or running at breakneck speed.  If she tries to join the group while they are Scratching for Treasure (read as “vacuuming up scratch grains”) they peck her until she screeches and runs away.  I told Roseanna that it’s all in her approach to things.  Instead of just walking up to the scratch fest, she bulldozes her way into the group and usually runs over a couple of her flock mates.  The rest of the flock reacts by pecking the snot out of Roseanna until she careens off to another part of the run, and then they go back to scratching.  Roseanna has never been hurt by the others, though.  She clearly annoys them, but there have never been unprovoked attacks.  I have to think that if someone ran me over when I was trying to eat a snack that I’d get a bit testy too.  I think she’s been lucky so far that one of them hasn’t gotten more violent with her.

I feel sorry for her.  She’s like that kid in high school that looked different and behaved really strangely.  I think we all either knew, or were that kid.  The kid who really wasn’t bullied or was a bully, but is so different from everyone else that they stand out like a sore thumb and no one will talk to them because they have “cooties”.  It’s clear that Roseanna is that kid in my flock.  The others just don’t want her around because she’s in their face, stepping on their backs, taking their food (she stole a much prized butterfly that someone else caught), pushing them off the roost, or tearing around like she’s on fire when they’re trying to take one of their 234 daytime naps.  They don’t understand the way that she behaves, but they know that she doesn’t fit in with the social structure of the flock and so they keep her out of their group.

Last night, I was watching them settle down for the night.  Cluck was on his usual roost watching the rest of the flock finish up their drinks and snack bedtime routine.  Roseanna had been doing high-speed laps around the coop when she spied Cluck on the roost and sped over to check things out.  I think she has a little crush on Cluck because whenever she sees him alone, she usually tries to insinuate herself into his general area.  Roseanna looked up at Cluck on the roosting bar and grumbled under her breath.  She  hopped up on the bar and shoved Cluck with her head.  Cluck shifted around on the roost, but didn’t move.  She stuck her head under his breast feathers and just sat there.  I assumed that she was going to try to tear his toes off like she does to the others who try to roost on HER roosting bar.   She didn’t move.  She just sat there with her head under Cluck’s breast feathers.  Cluck relaxed a little bit and resumed alternately preening and watching the others.  When he relaxed, Roseanna seized the opportunity to shove herself under his wing.  Cluck allowed her to snuggle in close with his wing over her back.  Roseanna closed her eyes snuggled closer.

small blog logoRight about this time, in every situation, Vinnie shows up.  He walked back and forth in front of Roseanna and Cluck whistling and “cluck-cluck-clucking”.  Then he made the fatal mistake of jumping up on the roosting bar with them and Roseanna had a full-blown,  screeching, clucking, feather-flying meltdown.  She lunged at Vinnie, he jumped off the roosting bar to save his school bus yellow toes from her pinching beak and Cluck…who had no idea what was going on…launched himself across the coop where he stood trembling and looking confused.  Which come to think of it, is his reaction to everything.  There was refreshed chaos in the coop and I watched while they chased Roseanna away from the group and she retreated to resume her racing around and jumping on and off perches.

I feel bad for the flock and for Ro-Ro (that’s what we call her).  She’s just a hot mess and she doesn’t show any signs of stopping her behavior and the flock doesn’t show many signs of tolerating her weirdness.  I’m attributing it all to PMS.  Maybe she’s just going through that geeky, weird, teenage stage before she reaches puberty and starts to lay eggs.  I’m leaving it to the flock to sort everything out because they understand their pecking order rules much more clearly than I do, but she’s currently low chicken on the chicken totem pole.  Of course, if things get more heated, I’m going to have to do something about it.

I just have no idea what that will be…as usual!

 

ROOOTadoodadoooo!

It’s Saturday.  I had really hard time sleeping last night, so this morning I was nowhere near awake when I realized that I needed to go and let the Beak Faces out of the coop.  I stumbled into the bathroom and put my contacts in, sleepwalked down to the garage to put on my coop shoes and headed down the path to the coop.  This morning’s pajama ensemble consists of black yoga pants and a black t-shirt.  I look like a ninja…or maybe a cat burglar …either way, I’m sure the neighbors called some authority somewhere that will call me later and tell me to stop wearing all black because I look creepy.

While I was checking the run for safety, I could hear the chickens in the coop clucking to each other during their morning planning session during which they…well, I have no idea what they do…it seems to be super secret because they always stop whenever I get out to the coop. I opened the first barn door and then the second.  The group was all gathered near the front of the chicken area.  I stepped into the coop and the clucking resumed and then…

“ROOOTadoodadoooooo!”

I looked at Cluck Norris, chief-rooster-in-charge, with my mouth hanging open.  Cluck looked at me and Vinnie, who was frozen in place, looked at Cluck as though he was thinking “DUUUDE.  WHAT was THAT?”

I’ll tell you what that was!  Cluck’s first CROW!!!  He’s a big boy now!

circus tricks

Greg and Oprah practice their circus tricks.

Thursday night, Greg and I had sat with the chickens for quite a while prior to Chicken Bedtime while Greg helped them practice their Circus Tricks.  So far, the act entails Oprah Wingfrey sitting on Greg’s shoulder while Greg repeatedly tells her not to poop on his shirt.  It’s not much of an act, but they’re working on big things…until Oprah finally gets tired of it and pecks Greg in the head and then practice is over.  While we were sitting out there, Greg had the brilliant idea to find video of roosters crowing on YouTube.  He played it for the first time and I thought we were going to have to defibrillate the chickens.  They got eerily quiet while Greg played the rooster crowing over and over again.  I pointed out that we were the dumbest chicken owners ever because we were actually trying to TEACH our roosters to crow and most people try to get them to NOT crow.  Either way, the neighbors were probably going to show up with burning torches and pitchforks at any moment.

Apparently, Cluck had paid attention!  The crow this morning wasn’t perfect…definitely not a “Cock-a-doodle-doo”, but “rootadoodadoo” is pretty darn close!  I’m so ridiculously proud of him!  I told him what a great job he did and what a big boy he is!  By this time, I’d let them all out into the run and I was standing outside talking to Cluck.  He eyed me and just stood there like he was thinking “Are you gonna throw scratch, or what?”  So I threw a bunch of scratch grains into the run and watched them have their usual “OH MY GOSH! SCRAAAAATCH!!!” meltdown.

The "class" during Crowing 101...or Listening to Roosters on Youtube.

The “class” during Crowing 101…or Listening to Roosters on Youtube…and Vinnie, heading for the feeder and not paying attention as usual.

Pretty soon, they were all involved in scratching around for grain in the dust and gravel and forgot all about their mother  (me) standing outside the run.  I watched for a bit while they vacuumed up the scratch.  Chickens grow so fast.  One day, you bring home a peeping cardboard carton of fluff and it seems that the next day they’re crowing and asking where the nest boxes are…or asking for the car keys and a booster seat….wait…your’s haven’t asked for that?

Maybe that’s just Vinnie.

 

I shared this post on The Homestead Barn Hop #162