New chickens! Vinnie isn’t happy.

We picked up the lavender Orpington pullets yesterday.  THEY’RE ADORABLE!  Of course, you knew they would be.  I mean, they’re baby chickens after all.  When we got home, we put their carrier into the pen that we’d prepared for them and they happily pecked around in the grass, had a big drink of water and ate an entire bowl of food.  I THINK one might be a rooster.  I’m not sure, but the comb is considerably bigger than the other’s.  I’ll just have to wait to see how it grows and if it crows.

Speaking of crowing…there was a little bit of unhappiness and anxiety from the Beaked Wonders…especially, this guy.

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All of the chickens were interested in the new arrivals.  As I was setting up the food and water for the babies, the others were all pressed up against the fence watching us with one eye.  There was a lot of  pacing around and clucking and a little bit of rooster dancing.  The girls in the run who are closer to laying seemed VERY interested in the new arrivals.   They watched quietly as the baby girls, explored their new pen.  Vinnie, on the other hand was OUT OF HIS MIND.  He paced, complained, rooster danced and generally made an idiot out of himself.  Cluck looked over at the other pen and just went on about his business.   Vinnie kept strutting around and complaining until I threw some scratch and then he seemed to calm down a bit until he noticed that I was walking to the other pen with the scratch container and then the complaining started again.  As I walked along the outside of the run, he followed along on the inside and the complaining and angst was RIDICULOUS.  He plastered himself against the fence at the end of the run and watched while I went over to the other pen and threw a few handfuls of scratch.  The complaining got LOUDER and I finally turned around and said sternly,

“VINNIE.  STOP IT.”

He stopped griping and just stared at the two new babies who were some distance away in their pen happily ripping up the grass and sucking down scratch.

I have a feeling that when the new babies are big enough to join the others in the run, I’ll be moving Vinnie to his very own bachelor pad.

I’m sure he’ll have something to say about that too.

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New levels of craziness reached.

Sometimes, I like to take a step back and evaluate whether or not I’ve still got all of my oars in the water.  I mean, I’m pretty close to them being both out of the water on a daily basis, but you know…I just want to make sure that I’m still just STANDING at the edge of crazy and I haven’t actually jumped into full-blown-need-medication-possibly-certifiable craziness.

TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. NOW.

TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. NOW.

So, a couple of nights ago, when it was REALLY hot, I was pretty worried about the chickens.  I know, I know.  They were originally jungle fowl and acclimated to heat and humidity, but I’m telling you what, if I dropped these ten chickens into the jungle somewhere, they’d never make it.  Not because they’d be eaten by a giant jungle bug that eats chickens, but because they are so spoiled and would be waiting around for someone to make them a delicious jungle snack and wouldn’t look for food on their own…and THEN they’d get eaten by a giant jungle bug.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was really worried about them because they were panting and looking at me like I should DO something.  I was doing my best, they just thought I should be installing a new central air unit in the coop apparently.

I finally went into the house (where it was blissfully cool) and then sat around and felt guilty because they were still outside in the heat…probably baking…and possibly suffering from some chicken heat ailment.  My constantly reeling brain came up with countless tragic chicken situations.   I tried to see what was going on in the run from my usual sofa perch, but I couldn’t really tell what they were doing.   So, I went and got our binoculars and watched them through the window like some sort of weird poultry creeper.  Tom took a picture.  I’m not showing it to you because when I end up being committed, I don’t want it to be part of the evidence…but you really should get yourself some binoculars.

That blue circle is the FABULOUS cooling thing!

That blue circle is the FABULOUS cooling thing!

I sent poor Tom (everybody say it “POOR TOM”) to the store yesterday to look for misters.  Whole town is sold out.  There are NONE.  NADA.  ZIP. So much for that idea.  HOWEVER!  He brought home a big box fan to put at the end of the run!  I set a frozen milk jug of water in front of it and BAM. Instant air conditioner…sort of.  The chickens did like it though.   The whole flock stood in front of the fan, which was on the “HURRICANE FORCE WIND” setting and let the cool air ruffle their feathers.  Cluck stopped panting and everyone looked so much more comfortable.  Yay Tom for thinking of getting a fan for the run!  (everybody say it “YAY TOM!!!!”).  Okay, now stop it, or I won’t be able to live with him.

Last Friday, Emma had a friend over to swim (read as: they scream at each other in the pool).  Her father came over to pick up the friend in the early evening and as he came around the back of the house, I was walking by…with a chicken stuffed under my arm.

“Is THAT a CHICKEN????”

“Yes!  Isn’t she darling?  I LOVE them.”

And then Tom went on to explain to the guy that I’ve become obsessed with poultry, writing for a magazine’s blog, blah-blah-blah.  Then Tom offered to show him the coop because Tom has slipped a little toward crazy himself (honestly, he was halfway there already) and thinks my coop is AWESOME.

Because it is.

Groovy coop!

Groovy coop!

So we walked back to the coop (I still had Opal stuffed under my arm) and when we came around the corner and he could see the whole thing, he stopped and just said, “Wow…that’s a….that’s quite a coop.”

He obviously just doesn’t get it.

I haven’t really added anything…that I can think of.  I just rearrange the stuff on the floor all the time to give them new things to figure out and we ripped out the shelf in the back so that I could haul in a giant fallen branch that they could use as a roost.   I’m sure it adds to the neighbors’ dismay that I’m hauling around giant tree branches and disappear into a tiny building with them.  I’m just waiting for Edwin (the guy’s wife next door…that’s not really her name, but she looks like a guy, so Greg and I call her Edwin) and Jean (who’s real name is Becky and I can’t remember her name so I insist on calling her Jean) to show up at my door any day now telling me that I can’t raise chickens in a subdivision and could I PLEASE shut up that rooster (Cluck).  Of course, I read all the laws and I CAN raise chickens and a rooster in my subdivision so they can just COOL THEIR JETS.

See.  I’m making up conversations with people who’s names I don’t even remember.

Possibly…probably…certainly going to end up in some sort of facility.

But at least I can lower their air conditioning bills by installing fans and frozen milk jugs! WHEEEE!

 

I shared this post on the From the Farm Blog Hop! and the Simple Saturdays Blog Hop and The Homestead Barn Hop #164

 

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

 

 

 

 

Off.

I had the day off today because my daughter had an appointment for root canal this morning.  She’s eleven.  I didn’t even know eleven year olds were capable of having a problem that would even require root canal, but I’m completely phobic about anything to do with dentists so what do I know?

About an hour before we left for the appointment, the doctor had us give her two Valium.  Those started to work in about 20 minutes and I thought we were going to have to carry her in a bucket to the appointment because she was so relaxed.  I, on the other hand, made Tom go into the procedure with her because the sound of a dentist’s drill causes me to lose consciousness.  Sometimes, if it SMELLS like a dental office, I can’t even go inside…you know…that dentisty smell.  Fortunately, this place didn’t have that strong smell and I wasn’t forced to puke into my purse for the hour and a half that I waited in the waiting room while being tortured by The Disney Junior channel.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for pediatric oral surgeons.  This guy was a gem.  However, when I’m the only one in the waiting area and I have to listen to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse “HOTDOG” song a couple of times, I begin to wish for either the remote to change the channel or for a speeding truck to come through the waiting room to put me out of my misery.

I finally went to the window and they told me I could go back to the room if I wanted.   I didn’t hear any drills, so a grabbed my stuff and headed back to where I could see Tom sitting in a room.  When I came through the door, Emma was lying on a reclining chair, covered with a satin and minky blanket, watching TV on the ceiling and wearing the nitrous oxide mask.  She waved at me like she was on a float at the Rose Parade.  I couldn’t believe it.  When I went to the dentist as a kid, the guy practically put his foot on my chest and was not exactly pleasant.  There definitely was no TV on the ceiling at the office that I went to.  They finished up with the procedure and took off the mask and Emma sat up and giggled.  In fact, she laughed all the way home and then passed out in bed for two hours.

purplecircle

So, I think that was much better than I predicted.  I was sure that Tom would be dragging me unconscious to the truck with a puke filled purse.  I was SURE that Emma would throw up all the way home and that there would be screams of pain from the room while they did the procedure.  Instead, she laughed at everything she saw on the way home and babbled on about people who have phobias about ducks and people who have phobias about phobias and people who have phobias about big words.  She even used the word “paradox” in a sentence and I know sober adults who can’t do that.

Dental science has apparently come a long way.

It rained ALL day yesterday and by “RAINED”, I mean it was pretty much a constant torrential downpour.  I had let the chickens out in the morning during a brief period of drizzle and they’d all merrily scooted out into the run to have their morning round of “I’M IN CHARGE…NO, I’M IN CHARGE” with each other.  Every morning…same thing….they all run outside and then spend 15 minutes trying to prove to each other how big and bad they are.   I usually just stand there and watch and it always ends up the same way with Cluck Norris reminding each one of them that HE is in charge and then they all settle down and look for delicacies on the ground that might have appeared overnight but usually haven’t.

When I came home from work in the afternoon, it was simply POURING.  Thankfully, the chickens had decided that the 2 inches of water in their run was not any fun to stand around in and the run was vacant.  I waited until there was a slight break in the rain and put on my coop shoes and dashed out to the chicken coop.  When I swung open the barn doors, they were all huddled together in the shavings looking a bit damp and decidedly forlorn.  Nobody likes a wet chicken…even wet chickens.

Since they were all inside, I thought I’d just shut the run door since it was supposed to rain heavily through the rest of the afternoon and evening.  Of course, when I entered their enclosure, they all got up and stampeded out the door clucking wildly which sounded oddly like they were laughing at me for thinking that I could close the door and keep them inside so early in the day.  I yelled “You aren’t going to LIKE IT out there!”

Did I mention it was POURING again?  So I just stood there and waited.

chickens

They were outside for all of two seconds before they all stampeded back inside.

I tell them and tell them things and they just don’t listen.

They stood around looking indignant and shaking their feathers to rid them of the raindrops.  I felt sorry for them and gave them a bunch of scratch to dig for in the shavings and when I left, they were happily scratching in the shavings already having forgotten that they needed pontoons on their feet if they wanted to go out into the run at any time in the near future.

This morning, the 2 inches of water in the run was gone and they were able to stampede through the run door and into the watery sunshine that had finally made an appearance.  The run was a little bit wet, but covered with green fallen leaves which they sorted through and checked for tastiness.   I watched the daily argument about who was in charge which was quickly ended by Cluck, who I think is a little over the whole thing happening every day.  When I walked back up the path to the house, I could hear them happily clucking to themselves with an occasional “peep-peep” from big, bad Cluck.

Thank goodness…back to business as usual…which is good for me because I don’t know how to put pontoons on chickens.