Mwahaha.

It feels like it’s been raining here for WEEKS.  Actually, it’s only been for the past week.  Now that I think about it, the weather was fine until Greg rototilled up that garden.  Ever since then, we’ve had several downpours a day…which is great if you’re trying to grow your own tropical rainforest.  It’s not so great if you’re trying to put a garden in or doing other simple tasks like just walking to the car.

Everything FEELS wet because the humidity is somewhere between “I can’t breathe” and “hey…just a second, I need to wring out my shirt”.  I don’t like it.  It makes me cranky and everything smells….and it’s not good smells either.

This morning as I was talking myself into going to work, I went into the hall bathroom to find towels to steal so that I could take a shower so that I at least smelled better even though my hair would make it look like I was wearing a bush on my head.  I had been smelling something like mildew in the house and I figured it was just the humidity.  I think everything smells moldy when it’s humid.  I think I inherited my super smell skills from my mom who would sniff a piece of bread that LOOKED perfectly fine, but she would declare “MOLDY!!” and toss it.  It’s one of those gifts… sort of like The Long Island Medium, but with mold.  square eggs and i

Anyway, I went into the hall bathroom to get those towels and when I opened the door to the linen closet the moldy smell reached out and slapped me in the face…which isn’t very nice.  Confused, I started rifling through the contents of the closet and everything seemed okay.  Maybe I was just insane (maybe?).  I reached for a couple of towels that were on the shelf, making a mental note to tell my daughter NOT to wad them up when she put the clean towels away, and my hand encountered something wet.

She’d put wet towels…and I mean SOAKING wet…that she’d apparently used for her shower, back in the linen closet.  Not just one…but TWO.  She neatly rolled them up (10 points to Gryffindor), and had just put them back in the linen closet. WET.

I pulled the sodden towels out and was nearly knocked out by the smell of mildew.  Holy Mother of All Things MOLDY!!!!  That wasn’t the worst, though.  I tossed the towels into a pile waiting to be taken to the laundry room  and as they flew through the air, they unfurled and OH MY GOSH!!!  The reeking stink of mold just filled the room.  She’s going to be ELEVEN.  How did this even make sense in her head?  I was ranting about towels and mildew and sanitizing and selling her to gypsies and Tom just finally came and got the towels and took them down to the laundry to room to start the DECON cycle of the washer…also known as “WASH WITH LAVA HOT WATER”.

I just don’t understand.  I just don’t get it.  How was putting wet towels in the linen closet a good idea on ANY level??  Usually she leaves them on the floor like any other normal kid and I pick them up and put them in the laundry or  Tom shoves them in a corner of the bathroom…and I pick them up and take them to the laundry.

This is why I have grey hair.

The humidity also brings bugs that need an aircraft carrier in order to land and take off.  The May flies are still around and last night when Emma went to take her shower, there was one hovering around the bathtub.   She came rocketing out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, proclaiming that there was a BUG in the TUB.  May fly.  Tom, being the great white hunter, went in and saved the day by smashing and flushing.  Drama mitigated.

We’ve also been having problems with wasps and other unidentified flying, stinging things.  Greg had a wasp get into his apartment, so he did what any other brave man would do and screamed while he sucked it off the light fixture with the vacuum cleaner.  One day I was surfing Pinterest (where all genius ideas live) and I found a do it yourself project to make a wasp catcher!  YAY!  It involved an empty two liter soda bottle, some sugar syrup and some wire.  I would show you a picture of it, but…um…it’s not pretty and I’d have to go out in the rain to take one…so just forget it.  Long story short, all I’ve caught is a mosquito, a stick and some mold.  However, I DID have a moment of intense pride when I first hung it up because I’d recycled an empty soda bottle into something seemingly useful…or at least something that the neighbors can talk about at their next meeting to discuss ousting me from the neighborhood.

The chickens are fairing pretty well with all the rain.  This morning, I opened the door to let them out into the run and they all scurried out as usual.  As I was leaving to go back to the house, they were happily munching leaves that had fallen from the trees over their run…which, with my luck, instantly will kill a chicken.  Nobody fell over dead, so I figured the leaves must not be toxic, at least not right away.  As I was closing the door to the coop, I glanced down and there…in the crack of the door jamb was a ROACH.

I didn’t scream…which is good because it was early.  The roach scuttled off to somewhere unknown, but I have a feeling I know where they are living.  The people who lived in the house prior to us buying it had wood stacked along the back of the property.  I think they must have stacked in sometime in the 18th century because now it’s just a decaying pile of something that looks like firewood, but if you touch it, disintegrates into a pile of decayed wood chunks.  When we were making the chicken run, I thought a few logs would be nice for them to perch on and when I tried to pick one up, I found myself holding just a piece of bark while the rest of the log fell apart.  The inside was FULL of termites and peppered with a healthy dose of roaches with a few roly poly bugs thrown in for variety.  While that is surely everything that chickens dream about, it just made me scream a lot.cockroach

I stood there absolutely STRICKEN because there were ROACHES at the door of my CHICKEN COOP.  I knew I couldn’t spray anything…but WAIT…I had diatomaceous earth!!!!  A whole bottle of it was stored in the cabinet in the coop and I’d just been reading the other day how it interferes with a bug’s exoskeleton and turns them into bug jerky!

I got out the diatomaceous earth and gleefully sprinkled it around the coop and in the door jamb and I might have even laughed out loud while I did it…which is going to further unnerve our neighbor Steve and his wife, who think I’m a bat to begin with and won’t even wave at me anymore, when they hear “MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH” coming from behind our garage at 7:30 in the morning.

Thinking I had most likely saved all chicken kind from roaches, I stood back and admired my dusty work.  I could just picture them creepy crawling back to the coop and then encountering the diatomaceous earth and then their legs would just….fall off…or something…I really didn’t care…they just need to DIE!!!!!

Now…about that wood pile.  I’m going to need a backhoe full of diatomaceous earth.  When I dump that baby on that wood pile, there’s going to be the biggest pile of bug jerky and legless crawly things that you’ve ever seen.

I’ll bet I should call Anderson Cooper, because CNN is DEFINITELY going to want to cover this.

 

******  This post is part of The Homestead Barn Hop and The Down Home Blog Hop!

Monday.

I’m not good at Mondays.  Come to think of it, I’m not good at Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday either.  I’m very good at Friday afternoons, Saturday and Sundays.  Unless you want to count being productive as being “good” at it, in which case…I’m not so good.  Hey.  We all have limitations.

It wasn’t a bad weekend.  The BORBs made it to their new home with their new people and it turns out that they were not a chanting, axe-wielding, hood-wearing, satanic cult.  Nope…just a little girl who is raising chickens for 4H who currently has 30 pullets.  THIRTY.  The BORBs are going to be busy young roosters and they’ve already sent me a note asking me to forward their mail and to please stop worrying about them because with 30 girlfriends, they don’t see a problem with this new situation at all.

The rest of the flock, back at our place, has calmed down considerably since the two buff colored bowling balls are out of the picture.  Yesterday, at “WEED TIME” there was no fighting, no pecking and no chicken screeches that typically occurred whenever any one of them approached a pile of weeds being eaten by one of the BORBs.  In other words, there’s peace in the valley.   Cluck Norris has reclaimed his post as high-ranking rooster but still spends most of his time preening by himself, watching the flock from a distance with one eye on the sky and reading “YOU TOO CAN BE A SCARY ROOSTER”.  He’s such a loner and it seems as though he WANTS to be friendly, he’s just so suspicious of everything and everyone.  I think I need to take him to the bookstore for a different book…perhaps “PARANOIA WILL DESTROY YA”.  Either that or we step up the hugs and compliments during the nightly “YOU MUST LOVE US OR ELSE” chicken boot camp that Greg and I are running.

small blog logo

Vinnie, (he’s the barred rock that we think is rooster that’s in drag as a hen) and Cluck have actually had a couple of those ridiculous rooster showdowns where they get in each other’s face and fluff up their hackle feathers in an attempt to look bigger than they are.  Cluck is very good at it (you know…he’s reading that book).  Vinnie gets all fluffed up for about 4 seconds and then turns around and walks away like “It’s good dude…no worries…and why are you such a GROUCH.”  Vinnie, if he is a rooster, is obviously low man on the totem pole…or rooster pole…or whatever chickens use.

We’ve had a LOT of storms this past weekend.  On Friday afternoon, after I snuck out 15 minutes early (OH STOP IT…I’m salary), the first thing I noticed was that the sky was a bit…mmm…OMINOUS and by ominous, I mean freaking scary looking.  I live just five minutes from where I work, and by the time I was three minutes into the drive, it was raining drops the size of saucers.  I can deal with rain…I sort of like it even when it’s a downpour.  However, I turned a corner and suddenly was hit with winds that rocked my SUV (and not like the way The Foo Fighters rock it, I might add) and the rain became so heavy that it was impossible to see the road.  Because nothing will stop me when I’m heading home on a Friday, I just kept going but was a bit concerned when mature trees were…um…in shapes that they aren’t normally able to achieve.  Later on the news, it was reported that we’d had 120 mph straight line winds that had moved through the area which apparently is what caused the tree origami during the ride home.   Fortunately, we had no damage to the large trees on our property, but much of the area had not fared as well, and damage to homes, trees and property was very heavy.  I’m just glad I was in the car because my hairspray only goes up to 110 mph winds.

The rain (and over an inch fell in about 15 minutes) flooded the front walkway to the house because one of the drains that are strategically placed in various areas to PREVENT flooding, was stuffed with maple tree seeds…you know, those stupid helicopters?  They’re ruining my whole groove because they are EVERYWHERE and you absolutely can not sneak up on the chickens when there are seed helicopters crunching under your feet. I could have driven around to the back of the house, but then Tom’s truck would be between my SUV and the house and of course I had no umbrella…not that it would have helped in the hurricane force winds.   So, I called Tom.

“Hey I’m sitting in the driveway and the walk is all FLOODED.”

He knew I’d sit in the car until next week instead of slog through the water in my work shoes, so he came out in the deluge and dug helicopters out of the drain while I skittered around trying to avoid deep puddles and screaming because I was getting wet.  He’s a good egg.

The rain also meant that my weekend plans of getting the garden in were pretty much washed out…almost literally.  The entire weekend was predicted to have repeated bouts of this storm nonsense which meant that the plants that I still haven’t thinned would go on to be unthinned and unplanted for yet another weekend…if they hadn’t blown away in the 120 mph winds.

Rain always makes me panic a little about the chickens.  I’m firmly convinced that if they don’t have the wherewithal to come in out of the dark, that I’ll find the whole lot of them standing in the rain looking bedraggled and sodden.  Nobody likes a wet chicken.  In the past, whenever there’s been even a HINT of rain, I’ve raced outside to the coop to make sure they were all safely contained inside…or called Tom and Greg obsessively until they went out and dragged them inside and locked up the coop.  Fortunately, during the huge wind/rain event Friday, they were all snug in their  coop.  With the rain predicted for the rest of the weekend, I was pretty sure they were going to have to spend the weekend inside the coop which meant I was going to have to entertain them…because I’m insane.  So, I made the decision that I was going to let them go outside over the weekend and if it started raining, I was going to let them figure it out.

Saturday afternoon, it started to sprinkle.  The sprinkle, quickly turned into full-out raining.  I’ve strategically set up the chicken run (again because I’m insane) so that I can see it from two different vantage points, the sofa and the deck…and since it was raining, I was NOT on the deck.  I looked out from the window behind the sofa and there they stood…in the rain…in the run, fluffing up their feathers and looking slightly annoyed.  I decided I wouldn’t watch…if they were going to drown in the rain, I didn’t want to witness it.  I didn’t watch for all of 30 seconds before I was back at the window….because I’m insane.

The run was empty.  They had gone inside!  Apparently, when I didn’t show up with a sack of scratch, they decided they’d had enough of standing around waiting in the rain and had broken camp and gone to the coop.  My shriveled black heart swelled with maternal pride.  Apparently they also know, that no one likes a wet chicken.

power toolsThe rest of the weekend was fairly unproductive.  I ranted about the rain and garden, ranted about stuff on the island in the kitchen, and ranted about having more laundry than the people on “19 Kids and Counting”.   I finally settled down on Sunday and baked some of the BEST chocolate chip cookies I have ever had (no lie) and baked some bread.  Sunday afternoon, on one of my visits to the coop, I found Greg outside the fence of the run showing them a power tool.  I think I’ve severely underestimated them because they were FASCINATED.  Greg held a drill outside their reach and spun the drill bit several times which I honestly thought would send them careening into another county.  They were fixated by the sound and the spinning bit.  Vinnie edged closer…and closer…and Greg stopped spinning the bit for a moment.  Vinnie ran up…pecked the drill bit and took a giant step backward just to make sure that it wasn’t going to get him when it started making that insane WHIRRING noise again.  They stood and watched with one eye while Greg talked to them about power tools, never taking their eye (just ONE eye) off the spinning bit.  He’d stop it and they’d edge closer to see what it was…he’d start it again and they’d all take a step back, but not really in fear…because they were hopelessly curious about that tool.  It was sort of fascinating.  I might give them a list of things to do that involves power tools!  However, I’m not letting them go to Lowe’s with my credit card anymore.

vinnie drill

So, the weekend summary is this:  120 mph winds and torrential rain will screw up your hair and your shoes if you have a tree full of helicopters in your yard.  Chickens, although they act as if they have no brain, will stand around in the rain waiting for you to take them in only if they think they’re going to get handfuls of “CLUCK YEAH!!” scratch, if they go inside.  Otherwise, they will go in just fine on their own, albeit with a surly attitude because they didn’t get any “CLUCK YEAH!” scratch.  Also, chickens love power tools and I make the best chocolate chip cookies, not only on the PLANET, but in the universe.

 

I’m participating in Homestead Barn Hop #159!

 

Ugh.

Well.  Now I feel terrible.  We just returned from checking on the chickens and changing water.  As usual, we spent a little time cuddling with them (also known as sneaking up on them so we can grab them and make them let us hold them), and they were their usual charming (sort of stupid…but sweet) selves.  One of the BORBs that will be going to the 4H family tomorrow was eating from the feeder and I reached down and gave him a little pet…and he didn’t have a total meltdown.  So I picked him up and held him for a bit and let him stand on my leg.  He warbled and complained when I first picked him up, but then he seemed to calm down and seemed to enjoy being held and petted.  He relaxed a little bit and sat down and let me pet him all over, but never took an eye off me.  Before I set him back on the floor, I felt his little nubs on his legs and that caused him to complain a little too…but probably because we’d only been dating 5 minutes.

Image

He calmly walked away and I looked out at Tom who was parked in the chair with his feet on the straw bale.  Tom just said “He’ll be fine.”  Because he knew what I was thinking.  I was regretting selling them.  Tom tried to reason with me about how it would be better for the flock, etc. but all I could think about was that I was the one that got them and now I was getting rid of them.  That makes me feel bad.  I guess I’m just really a little too soft.  I worry about whether they’ll have a nice coop and the right food and if they’ll get their weeds that they love every day.  I hope that I can trust these people who are taking them to be good chicken keepers.  Even as annoying and aggressive as the BORBs are…I still raised them from chicks and I guess I feel a little maternal…even if they do peck on Vinnie’s head like they’re buff colored jack hammers.  He probably had it coming, knowing him.

I feel like I’m betraying them a little.  Like I promised to take care of them and then said “OH…Just kidding!  I don’t care where ya go but ya can’t stay here!”  UGH.  Queen of the Rotten Chicken Keepers.  QRCK.  That’s ME.

Tomorrow, I’m not going with to shuttle the BORB’s to their new people.  I sort of don’t want to know anything about it.  Tom and Greg have to go to Illinois anyway, so they’re going to take them and I’m going to stay home.  I have plenty to do here and I’ll help get them into the carrier tomorrow and wave good bye.

borb

And then I’m going to lay face down on the sofa all day…because I feel GUILTY.

Why can’t I just be one of those people who doesn’t CARE???

Because I wouldn’t like me very much if I didn’t care.

Good luck guys, you’re jerks but I still love ya.

Uh oh.

I’m out of scratch.  I know that puts me on the list of “WORST CHICKEN KEEPERS EVER”.  Actually, I didn’t know that until the chickens pointed it out.

Last night, when we went out to try to convince the chickens that it was time to go inside for the night, we did our usual routine.  I went into coop yelling “CHICK CHICK CHICK!!!  COME ON GUYS!” in my ridiculously high-pitched, sing-song voice and sat down on my usual spot on an upside down livestock waterer that we placed in the corner of the run to put nesting boxes on.   The chickens, came barreling into the coop (most of them anyway, a few INSIST on being holdouts) and led by the incorrigible Vinnie.   Vinnie looked at me with one eye and came waddling over to see what treat I had for them.  Usually, I sit there with a container of scratch or snacks to entice the little darlings to move their fluffy butts and get inside before they’re eaten by a Sasquatch.  Vinnie came over and looked at me expectantly and chortled and whistled.  I held out my empty hands which he inspected thoroughly with one eye and then he looked at me again like he couldn’t believe it.  By this time, I had several others waiting for treats too. They stretched their necks out very long and it was quite obvious that they knew it should be treat time and WHY didn’t I have any?  Vinnie pecked at my rings a few times, whistled and muttered to himself and finally went to check out the feeder because SURELY I had put something delicious in there because darn it…IT’S TREAT TIME.

No treats.  Out of scratch.  I tried to explain it to Opal the Buff Orpington who seemed to be watching and listening intently.  She finally gave a half-hearted few peep/clucks and she too wandered away to check the feeder.

It seemed that disappointment was hanging thick in the air.

I tried to explain and one by one, they all went back outside, completely disregarding my repeated “I’M SORRY!!!!”.

Apparently being eaten by a Sasquatch is better than not getting a treat.

So, I’m sitting in the coop…all by myself at this point…looking at my phone and trying to figure out how I was going to redeem myself and how I could convince them that they should come inside.  Tom walked into the coop as I was sitting there…with the place completely void of chickens…and kind of looked at me like I’d lost my mind because I was sitting in a chicken coop in a corner reading Facebook.  Hey…there’s important stuff on there…I have to keep up.

I explained the scratch dilemma and he went outside to suggest that they come (read as: SCARE THEM) back into the coop.

No dice. They merrily flapped and ran around the run.  No treat…no bedtime is apparently the thought process.   Can I use “thought process” in a sentence about chickens?  I’m not sure they HAVE a process for thinking.  I think they just have a big picture of a bag of scratch in their heads.

Anyway, I remembered a big bag of frozen mixed vegetables in the freezer.  Hmmmm….I mentioned it to Tom that maybe they’d like some vegetables!  I bet they come right in!  Tom stood there for a minute and then said

“Do you want me to go make them vegetables?”

“Oh…you don’t have to do that…”

And he trudged back to the house because he’s the worlds best husband (Hi, Honey!!).

I filled the plates with vegetables, so incredibly proud of myself for remembering that we had such a nice treat in the freezer and making a mental note to pick 543 more bags of vegetables.  I set the plates on the floor and resumed my “CHICK CHICK CHICK”ing…(maybe it annoys them too…maybe it’s not just the neighbors thinking a cat is being killed in their yard).

Nothing happened.  I looked at Tom, he looked at me.  I PROMISED him that once they saw the heaping plates of vegetables they’d scoot right inside.

Nothing.

Finally Vinnie stuck his head in the door and chortled with a question mark at the end. You know what I mean, right?  He spied the full plates and made another noise in his throat and eight chickens showed up and all tried to squeeze into the coop at once.

YESSSSSS!  I knew the other four would follow once these clowns came in.

They all stood in the doorway, crammed together, looking at the plates.  Vinnie took one step and suddenly became the world’s tallest, skinniest chicken.

I like to change the words of songs so they fit situations.  When we first got the chicks, we noticed that whenever they’re afraid, they get VERY tall and skinny, so I replaced the words to “If You’re Happy and You Know it” with the following:  (please sing along)

If your neck is long and skinny, you’re afraid.

If your neck is long and skinny, you’re afraid.

If your neck is long and skinny and your eyes are small and beady,

If your neck is long and skinny you’re afraid!!

My daughter thinks I’m a musical genius.  You should hear what I do with Pharrell’s “Happy”.

Vinnie eyed the vegetables suspiciously and took a step again while viewing the vegetables with one eye and whistling softly to himself.  The rest of the chickens that had followed him inside were also very tall and skinny and took a step toward the vegetables too…practically in unison.

chicken veg 1

They were AFRAID of the vegetables.

I couldn’t believe it.  I expected full-on chicken mayhem when they saw them and all they could do was view them from a distance so that they didn’t pass out from terror.  They circled the plates, edging ever closer…and closer…and then someone would move too fast and they’d all get tall and skinny again.  Sigh.  Always the weird animals.  Always ME.

I kept encouraging and coaxing and finally Vinnie stepped all the way up to a plate and got a good close-up look.  Hmmm…he took a corn kernel and scurried away. I watched him as he dropped it and looked at it with one eye and then tasted it again and dropped it and he soon had the undivided attention of the rest of the flock.  He munched it up with his beak and swallowed.  I held my breath.  He cocked his head back at the plate and went back to check it out again…hmmmm…he tried a carrot..and another piece of corn…and then more corn.   Maybe these weren’t the killer vegetables that he’d heard about after all.

The other chicks were now a little frantic because they were afraid of the new vegetables but Vinnie seemed to be enjoying them and WHAT the HECK should they do about that?  Finally, they all approached cautiously and started tasting vegetables.

chicken veg 2

What followed was like a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds.  Absolute chicken hysteria.  They pounced on the plate like they’d never seen food before and that this was likely the LAST time they’d get any.  Corn, peas and carrots were flying, everyone was whistling, clucking and peeping, and if one ran away with a choice piece of the snack, you’d better believe there were two or three hot on the trail.  The other plate sat largely untouched because they were SO obsessed with this plate, that they hadn’t even noticed there were two.  I moved the second plate so that it was in view of the run door because there were still a few outside that were defying the odds that they’d be eaten by a Sasquatch.

All of sudden, a beak and two beady eyes appeared at the doorway, followed by the others in the run.  They watched the vegetable carnage occurring in the coop and didn’t take much convincing that they’d better hustle their downy butts inside RIGHT NOW or they weren’t getting any of WHATEVER that scary stuff was.  The vegetable madness continued (I was proud of myself for thinking of the vegetables and was all puffed up like a toad) and the others leapt right into the fray.  Carrots seemed to be the prized item from the piles of vegetables and so there was quite a bit of arguing about who got them…even though there were TONS of them still on the plate, obviously the BEST one is being held in the beak of someone else who is running away like their feathers are on fire.

As the last one stepped its scaly toes into the run, Tom quickly closed the run door.

AHA!  I triumphantly ran over to close the door tightly and the chickens realized for a moment that they’d been had and then went back to the carrot argument.  They were completely obsessed with the plates of vegetables.

We’d gotten them in early, actually, so we watched them for a bit as they careened around the coop chasing each other to try to steal each other’s carrots.

I’m always happy and content when I put them to bed at night.  I could have sat in the coop watching them for hours, but Tom reminded me that when we’d left the house, Emma was in the shower and by this time she most probably had used half the water in Evansville.  We gathered up the empty vegetable container and as I was leaving the coop, I took one last look back to where they were squabbling at each other about carrots and sucking down green beans.

I’m buying those things by the PALLET.

**********

This post is participating in the From the Farm blog hop!  Join us!

This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life!

This post was shared on Farm Girl Fridays blog hop!

Learning.

When I embarked on this chicken journey in March, I was semi-clueless about what it takes to raise chicks into chickens.  I’d been around chickens at my cousin’s farm, but admittedly, they were all locked up in the hen-house and the most I saw of them was their peaked, pale faces pressed up against the screen door of the hen-house.  I really didn’t know anything much more than that so to say I was inexperienced was probably the understatement of the century.

Along the way, as the chicks grew, I studied and learned as much as I could about their care.  I read website after website, finally settling on a natural approach to attempt to raise the flock without the addition of chemicals or non-natural medications to their life.  It just feels right to me.  I think the major league sports world can be used as an example.  You can have a darn fine baseball player who is pumping themselves full of chemicals and steroids.  You can also have darn fine baseball players who earn their records by working, practicing and playing by just using the gifts they were given.  I think, most people would agree that they are going to respect that second player more when it comes to the end of the season.  Also, the huge problem of the development of resistant strains of viruses and bacteria in the world has become more and more of a concern for everyone.  So I decided not to throw unwarranted, unneeded chemicals and antibiotics into them…if I could at all help it.  I certainly won’t watch them suffer if veterinary help is needed, but I also appreciate that there is often a simpler, smarter way to do things and just because society or a lawyer or a doctor  says it’s the way to do things, it’s not necessarily the absolutely correct thing to do.  What I’m doing feels right to  me based on what I believe and what I’ve learned and the flock is doing beautifully.  So I’m proud of what I’ve learned and the steps I’ve taken to care  the for them.  I go a little over the top, but again, it’s what I’ve chosen to do and I am enjoying it and benefitting from their health.

square eggs and i

While weeding through the internet for information, I’ve had to be careful to not get sucked in by those who are presenting information in a flashy way, because often flash and constant giveaways are used to keep readers when content is poor (I blog…I know these things).  I’ve read everything though, from the good, the bad and the truly ugly and weighed it against what I believe to be correct based on my personal research and used what information is valuable to my philosophy about raising these animals.  I do a little research, I read different authors to look for commonalities and then I make a decision about what seems to be the current thought about what is the correct thing to do.  Certainly that’s more benefit than our predecessors had who were basically blundering around doing the best they could with the tools they had…which wasn’t modern chemicals and antibiotics.  I’m sure that those things may have their place in the mass production of poultry and eggs, but that’s not what I’m doing here.  I’m a small backyard flock owner who is concerned about protecting her flock via preventative measures. Hey…preventative medicine…I believe that’s all the rage in human medicine right now.  I can’t be totally off base.

I know that some will disagree, while others embrace this concept whole heartedly.  We all get to choose what we believe and what information that we follow in everything we do.  I’m finding a wealth of solid, valuable information on smaller websites and blogs that have been written by people, like me, who learned from the beginning, from trial and error and by studying everything they could so that they could do the right thing.  The movement toward living in a simple, natural way is much larger than I’d imagined.  Being educated as a medical type person, a few years ago, I would have waved off the entire natural movement.  Continued news of bacteria and viruses that are simply re-engineering themselves to be super organisms is unsettling to me.  Birds are prime carriers of some of these organisms.  Anything I throw at my flock, could potentially cause additional shift and mutation and I just don’t want any part of that.

Honestly, I don’t think there is ONE right way.  Much like when raising  your children,  you educate yourself as best you can,  you decide what you believe in and then give them the best care you can based on those beliefs.  Although I may, as a rookie, choose to do something that a veteran would not do…it’s my choice.  I’m the one who deals with the results.  If I do something extremely stupid (and I’m smarter than that…I’ve raised three beautiful children and if I can raise a kid, I can raise a chicken) then I have no one to blame but myself and then I adjust what I believe, or I simply just try again.  I  keep reading though, and there is a WEALTH of magazines, websites and blogs to present me with choices regarding what treatment and care to give to my birds.

There’s no rocket science to this.  They’re chickens. Even though they look confused on a good day, they basically have this whole gig figured out.   Despite our misguided notions, they’ve existed for tens of thousands of years without our help and most certainly without our intervention with chemicals and medications.  They’ll continue to exist, provided that we as humans, don’t try to derail what is most assuredly a process that nature and chickens have long ago figured out.

We all love our little flocks.  That goes without saying.  I think that most of us do everything we can to ensure their health, safety and well-being.  I’m going to continue to read and learn and observe and sift through the information so that I can know everything that I can to make sure they are happy as can be expected and receive the best care that I possibly can offer.  I don’t think there’s anyone out there, who isn’t interested likewise.

Stick around.  I’m sure something weird will happen along the way…and you know I’ll write about it.

flowers

 

Roosters.

You might remember from my previous rantings, that I have more roosters than I know what to do with.  Currently, I have 3.5 roosters…what?  Well. Vinnie doesn’t count for a whole rooster because…well, he’s more of the “flock mascot” than an official rooster, so I only count him as half a rooster.  He doesn’t really act like a rooster, but more like maybe a rooster in drag as a hen.  I don’t know.  He may need some counseling to figure the whole thing out.

Let’s just go over the rooster population again, shall we?  Well, we’re going to anyway.

cluck

Cluck Norris is a rusty colored fellow with a bright-colored coral pink comb.  Cluck was in our first batch of chicks and is an Easter Egger.  He’s generally a good guy.  I’ve never had any problems with him being overly aggressive or bossy.  He tends to keep to himself, keep an eye on the sky, and tries to keep the rest of the group under a modicum of control.  We were a bit worried about Cluck’s personality because he eyes us suspiciously when we come into the coop.  Although, the neighbors eye me suspiciously when I’m outside in those black and white leopard print pajama pants, so I can’t say that he’s entirely out of line.  We also are BENT on making sure these chickens are used to being picked and that they understand that we aren’t there to hurt them and that they must humor us from time to time by letting us pick them up and tell them what nice chickens they are.  Cluck thinks that’s the dumbest idea he’s ever heard.  He has, once in a while, started to get a bit of an attitude…that’s when we make sure that we corner his feathery butt and carry him around under our arm until he understands that maybe he’s not completely in charge.  One night, he even sat on Greg’s leg for a significant period of time without being restrained in concrete shoes.   He’s beginning to grow spurs, but he’s still gentle and submissive with us.  I’m sure his “I’M A ROOSTER!!!” hormones haven’t kicked in yet.  He also still peeps like a chick and I’ve talked to him several times and told him that he’ll never be taken seriously if he keeps peeping, but if he feels the need to CROW, please wait until after 10 am and then just crow quietly.  He just looks at me like he’s thinking “When is this bat going to put me down”.

borbs

Paul and Reuben were once named Pearl and Ruby.  They came from that notorious bin at the farm store that is marked “PULLETS” and of course…they aren’t pullets.  They’re also known as THE BORBs (Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers).  When we first got them, even as chicks, there was a lot of challenging each other and chest bumping.  It’s just gotten worse now that they’re bigger.  They are nasty little dudes.  In addition to challenging each other constantly, they also bully the other chickens in the pen, including poor Cluck.  Remember those two velociraptors in the first Jurassic Park movie that trapped the kids in the kitchen?  These guys remind me of those two raptors.  Their whole day revolves around being rotten.  They steal the choicest chickweed stems out of the beaks of the pullets and they mercilessly torment poor Vinnie by chasing him away from piles of weeds that I throw into the run.  Vinnie takes it all in stride, chortles a little bit, and then moves onto a BORB free pile of weeds (I make sure I throw out several different areas of weeds so the more submissive chickens get a shot at some).  While Cluck is concerned with watching the sky and sending out “DANGER CLUCKS”, the BORBS are obsessed with getting all the best food, running over other chickens in the run, unprovoked pecking and just being general all around jerks.  They are skittish and aren’t responding to our “You’re a Nice Chicken” boot camp either.

So, I have these 3.5 roosters that are now just over 2 months old.  That means, crowing could be just around the corner (unless Cluck just sticks with peeping and is made fun of at rooster school).  Crowing is the only thing that I’m completely worried about.  I should be worried about being spurred to death, but someone who is spurred to death generally doesn’t wake up the neighbors at ungodly times of the day.  Crowing does wake people up at ungodly hours of the day and then after a few days of that, those people show up on your door step with torches and pitchforks…and they aren’t there to help clean the coop.

Then there’s the problem that is eventually going to occur where one of the roosters decides it’s time to make an attempt at achieving the title of “SUPREME UNIVERSAL RULER”, which is going to cause problems because even Siri on my iPhone refers to me as “SUPREME UNIVERSAL RULER” and much like the Queen of England, I’m not quite ready to relinquish that role to a mere chicken…that was not a shot at Prince Charles…I swear.

I decided I would keep Cluck and of course, Vinnie…who, by the way, hasn’t shown any signs of being a rooster other than his red comb and wattles and slightly curved tail feathers.  The BORBS were going to have to go.  I know that many people just (gulp) eat the chickens that they don’t need for laying.  I was fully aware of that when I got the chicks.  I was on a chicken forum one day lamenting my rooster population when one very nice girl mentioned sending them to “freezer camp”.  Freezer camp?  Huh.  I thought about it for all of 2 seconds and knew I couldn’t do it.  No  matter how rotten they are, I can’t kill them.  They are absolutely  beautiful young birds…with absolutely crazy raging hormones.  They can’t help it.  They’re just wired up to be who they are and I’m wired up to be a soft, sappy, animal lover who can beat the hell out of a spider with a bunny slipper, but who also considers these feathered crazies as living beings who should have a good life…at least as good of a life as a chicken’s life can be.  They just can’t live at MY house.

I ran a couple of ads, one at work and one on Craigslist and had absolutely no one bite on the ads.  I was getting concerned because they’re getting even more aggressive to their run mates and I feel like the anxiety of the whole flock is noticeable.  I found a listing for a small animal swap that was coming up at a local farm store and I decided I’d haul their feathery tushes to that and hope that someone bought them…or that I could PAY someone to take them. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but it had to be done.

Then I got a text.  “Do you still have the roosters?”

CRAIGSLIST!!!!  I replied that I did and told her they were $5 dollars and the next text said that they were looking for 4H project roosters for their daughter and they would like to take them both and since they were a bit of a distance away, they’d be happy to meet us half-way if that was agreeable.

Agreeable???  I could hardly text back because I was so excited.  I might just give her the darn things and be done with it because I’m so grateful to get them to a new home!

So we set up to meet this Saturday.  We’re going to box up the BORBs and shuttle them to a small town about an hour from here in Illinois where we’re meeting the folks who are going to be their new caretakers.  I’m so excited.  The text told me to get off at this specific exit, drive past the hotel to the Shell station and they would be waiting in a black van.

Seems, legit…right?

Greg’s convinced they’ll be in a pot pie by Sunday.

Rotothingy.

Last night as I was rocketing home from work, I noticed an appliance dolly in the side yard as I pulled up to the house.  It’s never a good sign when an item meant to carry around appliances is out in the middle of the grass and it could only mean that Greg and Tom were up to something that I would probably tell them I hadn’t approved and to STOP IT.  I don’t recall signing any paperwork that mentioned appliance dollies.

As I was getting out of my SUV, Greg and Tom pulled into the driveway and loaded in the back of the truck…surrounded seraphim and cherubim…was the thing to till up the GARDEN.  I might have done a tiny dance right there in the driveway…which only adds to the neighbors’ case that I’m batty.

I went back to check the chickens to make sure that Vinny hadn’t taught them any other horrendous tricks.  Everything was good…everyone had their scaly toes on the ground where they should be.  So I grabbed my weed basket and headed for my favorite chickweed patch.  As I came around the back of the pool area, this is what I saw

greg 1

They were starting to till up the garden!!!

Although the fact that they had just started and Greg was already holding a finger gun to his brain was probably not a good sign…and look at that expression on Tom’s face…they’re clearly very excited about this garden project.

I fully expected the rotothingy (nope, not in the WordPress spell check) to be unloaded and parked near the garage and in a few days there’d be stuff hanging on it, like extension cords and jackets and eventually we’d forget we had it and the rental company would just charge us enough to buy the damn thing which is fine, because we had no idea where it was anyway and we’d end up buying tomatoes at the farm market.

But NO!  They were out there and the process was actually STARTING!  I skipped around and picked weeds for the Beak Faces, trying to look nonchalant, but still trying to keep an eye on the progress.  Finally, I gave up being stealthy and just walked over and watched.

I asked Tom why there was a dolly in the side yard and he replied that Greg’s initial idea was to carefully skin the sod off the ground and then transplant it into areas of the yard where there were dead spots of grass.  I looked over at the side yard and indeed, there was a small chunk of sod.  Apparently, Greg had tried his brilliant, money-saving idea and found that skinning sod off the yard is a TERRIBLE idea because it’s very DIFFICULT.  So you’ll notice that the idea seems to have been abandoned in the photos because Greg is just tilling the grass into the garden.  Also, it would have been two years from now by the time he’d gotten all that sod moved and replanted and then there would have been watering and “KEEP OFF THE GRASS” signs and remember Greg had already left the hose on for six hours, so the water bill is going to be ridiculous and by NOT moving the sod, we’re actually saving money, See how that works?

greg 3

Anyway, it was slow going with the rotothing, so I annoyed Greg and took a couple more photos and then took my basket back to the coop where the forlorn chickens were peeping sadly because they’d not gotten their chickweed yet and I’d been gone with the basket for what seemed like years to them.  I need to get them a clock…and maybe teach them to tell time…although they can’t even roost without drama, so I might hold off on that whole clock thing.

Tom and I had to take Emma to her school last night to test drive instruments for next year’s fifth grade music program. So, we left Greg to his own devices with the rotothing which is risky on a good day.  I don’t like going places at night after I’ve worked all day.  I think it’s because I’m old, because it never used to bother me.  We drove over to the school and there were two-zillion cars there.  Once inside they directed us to the gym where we had to fill out far too much paperwork for a music program and were given a “PARENT PACKET”, which is always terrifying because those typically include RULES which I’m bad at following.  The program stretched ON and ON and I griped MORE and MORE and then mothers started asking questions that were CLEARLY answered in the packet if they would just put down their phones and READ THEM.  The leader of the evening noted that she was not going to read the packet to us because we were perfectly capable of doing that ourselves and then she read the packet to us.  By this time, I was an axe-swinging-curse-mumbling maniac.  They had started the program LATE which always makes me mad and I hadn’t eaten all day and why can’t we just PICK an instrument and get out of there.  When they asked “are there any other questions?” and another mother raised her hand, I almost tackled her.  Tom kept giving me the “STOP IT” look.  Finally, they turned us loose to the “instrument petting zoo” and then we had to stand in line….which makes me even crazier.  Emma finally settled on playing the viola (YES!) which I told her was a good choice because orchestras are always in the air conditioning and flutes have to walk with the marching band in 900 degree southern Indiana heat.

Right about that time, Greg sent me a text image.  HE WAS DONE!  My spirits lifted a little!  We headed home and when we got there, Greg was cleaning things up and noted to me that I had just gotten my Mother’s Day present for the next five years.

garden

Then he asked where the Tylenol was…apparently running a rotothing is physically painful work when the ground is packed clay and hasn’t been turned over since the dawn of time.  I haven’t talked to him this morning.  Hopefully he’s not lying on the floor of his apartment in a full body muscle cramp.

So, the garden is finally tilled.  I guess they’re going to give it another till today to work it up a little bit more and then LOOK OUT!  I am going out there and I am going to PLANT like a fool!  Which is more accurate than you think, because I noticed this morning that the squirrels had trashed Greg’s carefully cultivated and planted morning glories that he was trying to train to climb the pergola by the pool…which also means, they’ll be digging up everything that I bury in the garden.

Which means this project is probably doomed because squirrels are jerks and I’ll end up buying tomatoes at the farm market this year anyway.

 

 

 

*********

This blog post is included in the From the Farm blog hop!  Join us!

Sneaky.

I always seem to get animals that have some sort of personality issue.  I was going to write “disorder”, but they aren’t really problems, they’re just….eccentricities.  Or, as my husband likes to call them “WEIRD”.

For example, I used have a show horse named Apollo that was the son of a world champion Arabian stallion.  Apollo was big and goofy, was afraid of mushrooms growing in the arena footing, and when we went to horse shows, he would get all freaky and need to have his tongue held.  No, no, you didn’t read that wrong.  He wanted me to hold his tongue.  He’d stand in his stall at the show with his tongue hanging out and he’d push his face against you until you held his tongue.  He’d then sigh deeply and close his eyes half-way in relief.  So there I’d be…standing next to the stall holding his tongue.  Son of a world champion…complete wuss.

We have a variety of dogs with odd behaviors too.  One insists on chewing on the strings of your workout pants and will basically drive you INSANE until you either change pants or give her what she wants.  This is why my pants that are supposed to have draw string waists, don’t have draw strings anymore.   Another not only insists on being carried to bed (thank goodness she’s a chihuahua) but then when you put her on the bed, she drags her back legs around like she’s paralyzed.  Not a thing wrong with her.  Just WEIRD.  I could go on, but you see where I’m going here.  We have our own little animal “group home”.

This morning (Monday…ruining my life since 1964), it was incredibly hard to get out of bed.  It’s only because I had to go to work which instantly saps me of any shred of motivation that I might have had left over from the weekend.  I walked around and drank Diet Pepsi and whined for a while and then figured that since there was no giant snowstorm predicted (that’s the only reason work would close and tell us to stay home) and the likelihood of one forming in ten minutes in 72 degree temperatures was remote, that I’d better get hopping if I wanted to make it to work by my usual 20 minutes late.

I scuffed out to the chicken coop, because I KNEW that they were in there standing and staring at the door to the run and wondering where the hole went that they normally went through to get outside.  I don’t think they completely comprehend the concept of a DOOR.  Yesterday while I was cleaning the coop, I locked them all outside and they stood there dumbfounded that the HOLE was gone and pretty soon they were all trying to stand on the ramp and pecking at the door itself as if that was some sort of chicken “OPEN SESAME” trick.

It was another gorgeous morning here, a few clouds, perfect temperatures, nice breeze.  I was sort of enjoying the short walk to the coop.  I’m sure the neighbors were enjoying it too because I was wearing black and white leopard print pajama shorts, purple Crocs and a Jimmy Buffett t-shirt.  I like to think I’m their morning comedic relief.  I sort of see it as a public service.

Anyway, the coop doors were all closed and locked, the run was empty and I always check for evidence of predators trying to get into the run or possible holes they may have made trying to get into said run and everything looked pretty good.  The ground surface of the run looks like the surface of the moon after being scoured by 12 chickens, but I told them they had to make the weeds last, so if they chose not to listen, not a thing I can do about that.  They were warned.

I opened the door to the coop and my jaw dropped.

coop

When we built the interior of the coop, we built a four-foot fence to separate my little work and sitting area from the area where the chickens hang out.  They’ve been out there for several weeks now and everything has been going very well…except for the preponderance of wasps or some sort of flying bad thing that seems to think the rafters of the coop would be a great place to set up shop for a nest.  I’m totally getting a Waspinator…look it up on Google…I had no idea…again someone is raking in tons of cash from an oddball invention, while I slave away in my office and losing every hint of color to my skin.  Anyway, nothing has been bothering the coop.  That wasn’t what I found when I swung open the door.

I unlocked the door, swung it open while singing “GOOD MORNING!” in my high-pitched chicken voice (the neighbors ADORE me) and there standing on the rail of the four-foot fence, looking EXTREMELY proud of himself was Vinnie…that darn Barred Rock.

Remember how the other chickens can’t even figure out how to get to the roosts and we went through “Roost School” (read the whole blog…it’s in there) one night?  Everybody kept falling off and acting like they were 100 feet in the air instead of just TWO feet?  Yeah.  I remember it.  That’s when I thought that perhaps I’d gotten a group of chicks that had been deprived of oxygen in the incubator at the hatchery.  You know, the hatchery worker just said “OOPS!  This group is going to be extra-stupid, but no one will know the difference because…well…chickens aren’t rocket scientists to begin with” (although it’s rumored).

Anyway, Vinnie strutted back and forth on the rail while I stood there with my mouth hanging open.  He fluffed his feathers, stretched one wing and foot at the same time, and whistled and chortled happily like he’d done something REALLY COOL.  He was more like “Aren’t you PROUD of me MOM???” instead of “UH-OH…busted”, which he most assuredly WAS.

All I said was “VINCENT MORTIMER” (that’s his full name).  He did a couple of gymnast-like maneuvers and whistled happily because he was SURE I’d give him a treat.  Then he fluffed his feathers again and sat down.  Like he was staying there.  Because he’s cool…and he obviously thought that I thought he was cool.

WRONG.  I snatched him off the rail and gave him a gentle scolding while he whistled and pecked at the “MARGARITAVILLE” on my t-shirt.  I placed him back in the coop with the herd of water buffalo…I mean, CHICKENS…who were preparing to stampede out into the run when I made the hole in the wall reappear by opening the door.  After the dust settled and they were all outside, I tried to figure out what he’d done to get up there, because FLYING is not his strong suit…neither is anything else, now that I think about it.

Vinnie 1

Last night, when we were turning off their fan and tucking them in for the night, Vinnie had shown a little extra effort and had jumped up on the roost bar…just two feet…I wasn’t as impressed as he thought I should be apparently.  We stood and watched them for a while and noticed that Vinnie seemed to be listening to the sounds of the toads drifting in through the open window which is covered with screen.  He walked back and forth on the roost bar and right about as we were ready to go back to the house for the night…in fact, I was walking out of the coop…we heard a crash and looked at the window and there was Vinnie, smashed up against the screen, standing on the window sill looking triumphant.

TAHDAH!!

For PETE’S SAKE.  I went back into the chicken area, scooped him off the window sill and dropped him next to a pile of scratch.  He quickly seemed to forget about his circus career as a high-window-sill walker and happily whistled while he stole all the sunflower seeds from the pile.  It all seemed under control…probably just a fluke that he ended up on the window sill…so we locked up and went back to the house.  I can see now, what he did. He got on the roost…flew to the window…and then hopped to the top of the fence rail.  I don’t think it was an escape attempt…although he does have a blue print of the coop tattooed on his skin (reference: Prison Break”)…I think he just thought it was something entertaining to do.

vinnie proof

So, now we’re going to take that fencing all the way to the ceiling.  In the meantime, we’ve done some emergency “engineering” and have put up this classy, Vinnie-barricade, because I KNOW he’ll do it again and not only will he do it again, but those other chickens are total lemmings and next thing you know, I’ll go to open the coop in the morning and they’ll all greet me at the big doors instead of being OCD about where the hole in the wall that used to be the run door went.

Apparently, when they were deprived of oxygen at the hatchery, Vinnie must have gotten ahold of a tiny, beak shaped oxygen mask because this was not the action of a dumb chicken.  This actually showed a little thought…and absolutely NO forethought on the part of the stupid humans who thought none of them would ever make it to the top of that four foot wall.

That’s a little scary.  I’m completely denying his request for internet access and a cell phone…I don’t need any international events started by a chicken and I’ve clearly underestimated Vinnie’s abilities.  I’m working on his Yale application right now.

 

**********

<center>
<a href=”http://www.backyardfarmingconnection.com/p/the-backyard-farming-connection-hop.html&#8221; target=”_blank”><img alt=”Manic Mother” src=”http://i1184.photobucket.com/albums/z321/gstuppy/hop-1.png ” style=”height: 129px; width: 129px;”/></a></center

This blog is part of  The Homestead Barn Hop #158

hop-1