Free-ranging progress.

We’ve been practicing free-ranging with some of the girls and they’re really doing a great job.  I stopped trying to catch them to bring them out of the pen and for the past several nights have been leaving the door open and leaving a trail of scratch on the ground for them to follow until they are out in the work area.  It took two nights of scratch bribery…I mean…ENCOURAGEMENT and Opal had it all figured out.  Last night she was standing at the door of the pen waiting and making impatient little noises to go out to search for bugs after the recent rain.

I opened the door and she and Mary, one of the Wyandottes, toodled right into the work area and I swung the gate closed behind them.  They jumped up on the straw bale in the work area and because it’s still neatly bound with twine, they decided that they needed to scratch it apart with their feet.  They didn’t have much luck and when the straw REALLY started flying, I kicked their fluffy little butts outside so that they could get down to business in the grass.  Once they realized that they had access to the grass, I didn’t have to do much more encouraging and they were tail up and beak down sucking up bugs and tasty things in the grass.

free range 5I’d like to bring the whole flock out, but some of them are such space-cadets.  Particularly Roseanna, who seems to run on some sort of chicken-rocket-fuel.  She rarely walks anywhere.  Everything is done full-tilt-out-of-control-top-speed.

I’m just too old to chase that around the yard.  She’s a killer chicken.  I’ll most certainly be found face-down in a pile of dog poop that Tom and Greg forgot to pick up after I chase her roughly 30 feet.  That’s no way to die…face down in Labrador Retriever poop!

So I make her stay inside.  She’s insane.  Really.  Tom thinks she’s schizophrenic.  I’m not a chicken psychiatrist, but I tend to agree.  The lights are on, someone’s home…but you really don’t want to meet them.  It’s that kind of situation.

Opal is usually my free-ranging buddy because she’s sweet and docile, sort of knows her name (when she wants to listen), and she follows me everywhere.  I started with her first and then added another pullet, different each time we go out, so that they can learn from her.  It seems to be working.

free range 1The rest of the Beaked Freaks who watch from the run, are totally upset with this whole idea.  First, because they ALL think they should get to go and second because Vinnie and Cluck think I’m stealing their women.  I tried to explain to them that I don’t play for the “other team” especially if that team is made up of chickens.  They don’t listen.  You know, hormones, have to protect the flock, blah-blah-blah.  The amount of whining and complaining they do while they stand at the end of the run is just ridiculous.  If chickens could write, I’m sure there’d be picketing.

Last night, I started them out near the run because they’d walked out on their own.  Opal was furiously eating things in the grass and scratching for things right next to the fence.  Cluck came over and put his head near hers (he was still in the run) and clucked to her very, very deep and low.  She responded with a few noises.  Cluck ruffled his feathers and smoothed them back down and calmly walked away.  He seemed to have gotten his answer that she was all right.

Vinnie was just standing around.  As usual.  He was definitely wound-up because…well, it was probably because they were getting green snacks and he wasn’t.

Greg came out to the free-range fest and we followed the girls around for a little while.  We decided that while we had the Wyandotte out, we’d band her leg and then we’d band the other Wyandottes, because they are essentially identical.  I put Opal away and Greg tried to catch Mary who was standing next to the run.  As he caught her, she made a scared chicken sound and…

Vinnie. Freaked. Out.

He was suddenly at the side of the run clucking and bawking in deep sonorous tones.  Greg picked Mary up and Vinnie kept clucking in that deep, frantic way.

We were impressed.  Very roostery…considering it was Vinnie.

We quickly put a spiral leg band on Mary and Greg put her in the pen.  While he was inside, the others came rampaging into the coop.  Cluck went to the feeder.  Greg (while humming the music from “JAWS”) followed Nina around slowly until she stopped to scratch in the shavings and then he reached down and scooped her up.  She clucked wildly.

And then…Vinnie lunged at Greg.

He didn’t hurt him…didn’t peck him…didn’t go at him feet first.  He just…lunged at him.  We were dumbfounded…and then a little impressed!  That’s what a brave rooster does!  But WAIT…he’s not supposed to do it at US.

We finished banding Nina and Greg set her down and then he went to get Vinnie.  We’re all for being a protective rooster until you lunge at “THE PEOPLE”.  Greg followed him around singing the “JAWS” theme again…dun-duh…dun-duh…dun-duh…and when he had Vinnie within reach, he snatched him up and tucked him under his arms and held his legs together.  Vinnie, knowing he was busted, changed his attitude a little.  Cluck, who was still eating, didn’t even look up.  Greg walked around with Vinnie under his arm and gave him the “You-Need-To-Be-A-Nice-Chicken” speech.   Vinnie let himself be carried around and Greg finally set him down and he walked away like nothing had happened.

Freak.

I mean, I’m GLAD he’s finally acting like a rooster, but we’ll have none of that bad behavior stuff.  See, I live in this dream-world where roosters are nice…all the time…to everyone…or…

I put their beak on the back of their head.

Vinnie seemed fine this morning.  He was crowing in the coop when I got there to open the doors.  His newest thing is that when I let them out in the morning, Vinnie tries to mate everything and everyone he sees.  This morning, Cluck was inspecting a spot on the ground and Vinnie dashed up behind him, jumped on his back and grabbed the back of Cluck’s neck…

Suffice it to say, it didn’t turn out well for Vinnie.  I think I need to have “The Talk” with him again and explain that he’s supposed to go for the GIRLS.  Although, I think Cluck may have made that point this morning.

 

I shared this post on the From the Farm Blog Hop

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Feelin hot-hot-hot.

So, the southern Indiana heat continues and just for fun, it’s mixed with about 500 percent humidity.  If you go outside and just stand still, you will need a towel to dry off in about a minute and a half.  If you have hair, just figure it’s not going to do what you want it to, so you might as well wear a hat, put it in a pony tail or shellac it to your head…which is what I did this morning with about half a can of AIR TIGHT hairspray.

The chickens are OVER it.  Last night, when I went to the coop after work, they were all standing around panting, which is what chickens do when they’re hot because they can’t sweat.  We provided them with as much “coolness” as we could yesterday by placing frozen water bottles around their environment, feeding cold and frozen treats and I even made them a little wading pool out of a cat litter pan and threw a bottle of frozen water in that.  A few came over to check out the wading pool with the frozen water bottle in it, but since it was a new thing, they didn’t happily jump in to cool their scaly toes, but sort of just walked around it and clucked to themselves.   I tried to coax Vinnie into the wading pool since he’s usually the first one to try new things, but…you know, it’s VINNIE we’re talking about here and the best that I was able to get him to do was to perch on the side of the pan and drink out of it like one of those birds from the seventies.

drinking bird I went out to the coop several times to check on them last night, trying to figure out other ways that I could help them to cool off.  They seem to like lying next to the coop building where the air comes out from underneath the coop.  That’s Cluck’s favorite hang out and on hot days, he’s usually hanging out there (panting) with a couple of his ladies (also panting).

During another chicken check, I found several of them lying in the dust bath.  I think Vinnie had been partially buried in sand and dirt because when he heard me on the path, he popped up very quickly like he was mounted on some sort of springs and a giant cloud of sand and dirt exploded into the air.  He came skittering over to the side of the run looking for treats (even though they’d just devoured a quarter of a cold melon) and he stood there panting. Poor guy!

I spent most of the evening (in between chicken temperature checks) trying to figure out what else I could do to try to cool them off.  This by far is not the hottest it gets here.  This is just JUNE.  It gets ridiculous in the middle of summer.  Sometimes we don’t even use our pool because the water is so warm that it’s not even refreshing.  It’s just DUMB that it gets that hot down here.  We wait all winter for the spring and summer to arrive and then when it does, you’re afraid to step foot out the door without an asbestos suit.

I’ve also got to find a way to have one of the coop doors open at night and I’ve been ranting to Tom about building this massive screen door thing out of wood and hardware cloth.  There are windows in the coop and a fan, but once I close those big main doors, although the fan moves air from the outside through the window, it still gets mighty toasty in there.

yellow melon

This morning when I opened the doors of the coop, I half expected to see golden brown rotisserie chickens on the roosts.  Worrying about the heat and humidity kept me up fairly late last night, but I was up and out to the coop early to spray down the run and refill the watering stations.  I also threw a couple of handfuls hackberry leaves into the wading pool to hopefully entice them to get in to get the leaves out because they are their FAVORITE thing to eat these days.  Vinnie saw me picking leaves and was just out of his mind with excitement.  He purred and rumbled and clucked while I finished picking leaves and then I walked over and tossed them into the wading pool.  He ran over and looked at the leaves in the water and tried to catch one and got a beak full of water instead.  He clucked several times and tried again…same thing…beak full of water.  He was joined by several others and they all tried catching floating hackberry leaves with varying degrees of success.  Most of them just ended up taking drinks of water as the hackberry leaves floated out of their reach.  Tom called a bit ago and said that some of them must have gotten into the wading pan because most of the hackberry leaves were gone and the gravel all around the pan was wet from splashing.

YES!!!  Now, if I can keep them from drowning themselves I’ll be in good shape.

So, Tom is out shopping for various cooling devices as I type this…misters, outdoor big fans, etc.  I told him that if it gets too hot, I’m herding the whole mess of them into the air-conditioned three car garage that he uses as his shop.  They can be his “helpers”!  I’m pretty sure the thought of 10 sweaty chickens hanging out in his shop and perching on his table saw is what sent him shopping first thing this morning.  He’ll fix it up so that they have the coolest coop and run in Indiana.

There’s a method to my madness (wink).

Adventures in Chicken Feed.

I obsess about chicken feed.  I know you find that hard to believe (<—sarcasm).  I’m always looking for some kind of wonder-feed that will make my chickens big, shiny, happy and able to bench press a Dodge Ram.  It’s sort of ironic, because my daughter, who’s ten, basically survives on pizza and chicken nuggets and the occasional cereal bar.  She’s one of those kids who decided at some point in her infancy that food with any kind of nutritional value must be avoided at all costs.  At some point I just gave up getting her to try new things because the drama was just too much.  The chickens on the other hand will inhale anything I give them which balances out the feeling that I’m the “WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD” because Emma won’t eat anything green…or anything else for that matter.

square eggs and iI’ve been buying feed for the chickens at a local farm supply store.  I even found non-GMO, organic feed at said farm supply store.  I even went so far as to buy a bag.  However, it did not deter me from my course in finding the BEST CHICKEN FOOD ON THE PLANET.   I have no idea how to judge whether or not it’s the best chicken food on the planet, but I’ll figure that out…or I’ll just buy the kind that looks prettiest.  Which is basically how I make choices about a lot of things.

Yesterday, after Tom’s little stint to the doctor’s office, we came home and hung out for a while.  I have this weird problem with anxiety.  Everything can be perfectly fine and I get so anxious that I’m unable to do anything productive and I sort of spin my wheels and agonize about things that really don’t matter a whole lot.  Tom has come to the point where he can see when I’m getting a little bit too wound up about dumb stuff and he knows that if he gets me out of the house, I’ll calm down because I’m distracted by shiny things.  I also have a tendency to spend money online when I’m anxious, so when he saw me shopping for chickens online he suggested that we go for a ride somewhere and then in the next sentence he said “We could go find that feed store you’ve been talking about.”

Feed store?  I had my flip-flops on and was waiting in the truck before he could find his sun glasses.

I’ve been to a few feed stores recently in the search for the perfect chicken chow.  Last Saturday we went to a local feed store that I’ve never been to before and found that it was a MECCA for animal stuff.  Especially horse stuff.  I used to show horses and had a big beautiful Arabian gelding.  Tom went to the men’s room while I was in this feed store and when he returned I’d already picked out Ariat riding boots, several pieces of tack and was talking to the clerk about fancy over reach boots.  Tom pointed out that I didn’t have a horse and wasn’t getting one.  Thank you Tommy Buzzkill.  So I asked the lady behind the counter (who was totally frazzled because the computer was down and she was having to figure tax on purchases with a calculator) where all the chicken stuff was.  She looked confused and said “We have chicken FOOD…what else do they need?”

Obviously, she knows nothing about chickens.

So we set out for this other feed store yesterday.  I had no idea where it was, but I had an address.  I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find and I knew that this chain of feed stores had locations all over the south, just not in Indiana…which means we had to drive to Kentucky which really is just over the river from where we live.  I assumed that the feed store would be in the town of Henderson because the address is Henderson.  Let’s just say…I was wrong.  After a half hour of driving in the wilds of Kentucky (it really wasn’t that wild, but it was the middle of nowhere) we finally drove up to the store which was essentially a huge pole building with ten thousand anhydrous ammonia tanks parked outside.  I said something witty like “Look!  They make meth here!” as we pulled into a parking space and then I rocketed out of the truck because I get really excited at new stores.

As we went into the store, a bell rang signaling that a customer (us) had arrived.  There didn’t appear to be anyone around that worked there.  I was instantly disappointed because I really thought it would be a cool feed store.  In the store portion of the building, which was just a fraction of the whole building…and I mean a TINY fraction, there was a big gun safe, a generator and a lot of fly spray on display.  Welcome to Kentucky.  That pretty much sums up the state right there (sorry Kentucky people).  About that time, a short, round, greasy looking guy in a seed corn hat that looked like it had been dipped in grease shuffled out of the back room followed by a woman in a monogrammed company smock and another guy that looked like he lived under a tractor.  I asked if they had organic, non GMO chicken feed.  The round greasy seed corn hat guy chuckled.  The lady told me that she could order it, but it was THIRTY-SEVEN DOLLARS a bag and then she waited for me to be aghast at the price.  I just replied “yep…it can be pricey”.  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said “Jest puttem outside and they’ll find what they need…you don’t need no fancy food.”  I laughed and shot him a death glare at the same time and replied “They’re home eating a yellow watermelon right now.”  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said something he thought was funny that I don’t remember and Living Under a Tractor guy roared with laughter.  I rolled my eyes and thanked them and we were out the door and back in the truck and on our way home. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes.

So the adventure was a total bust.  I continue to seek out the world’s finest chicken chow, which I could totally order online, but shipping is outrageous for a 40 pound bag of chicken feed.  The stuff I have is perfectly fine, non-GMO, organic feed and they love it BUT!  I will not rest until I find them the PRETTIEST non-GMO, organic chicken feed.

You know I’m kidding, right?  As long as they eat it, are healthy, happy and can bench press that Dodge Ram, I don’t care how it looks.

And now…for your listening pleasure….I give you….Cluckzilla (insert applause here)

 

I shared this post on the Backyard Farming Connection Hop #85!

 

 

The Bedding Debate.

When I first got my chickens, I was determined to do the very best for them.  So I did the wrong thing and read EVERYTHING I could find on the internet.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love, love, love the internet.  When you want a definitive answer about something though, and you’re new to whatever you’re researching, it can be very confusing because you find so many differing opinions and bits of advice.

We talked about bedding, or as some call it “litter”, for the coop a lot.  First I told my husband I wanted shavings…I read some more online and I said I wanted sand…then I read some more and I wanted a combination, then I wanted straw, then I wanted straw and shavings and then my husband wanted me to quit changing my mind.  We’d been using pine shavings that we’d purchased at the farm supply store as brooder bedding and we had a fair amount left.  I didn’t want to be wasteful, so out of that reason came the decision to try shavings in the coop.

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In the past, I’ve had shown horses and we always used shavings in the stalls.  It was a little dusty when we dumped in the wheelbarrow of shavings, but after a couple of hours, the dust settled and it didn’t make for a terribly dusty experience.  Farm animals are a dusty bunch, so I expected dust with whatever I used.  Our horses had loved rolling in fresh shavings and I loved burying my nose in their mane and inhaling a deep breath of fresh shavings smell combined with the sweet smell of horse.  The shavings were absorbent and the barn always seemed to smell like hay and fresh-cut lumber.  Not a bad combo at all.

We priced straw and found that we’d pay $7 a bale for it in our area and very few people seemed to be selling it.  We purchased a bale during my “straw phase” and when we broke it open, we found that the interior was full of black mold.  I didn’t want to have to break open every bale of straw before I bought it to inspect for mold and I knew mold was bad for chickens.  Suffice it to say we never spread that moldy straw in our coop and instead used it to cover some new grass seed that was nowhere near our flock.

I looked at sand too.  I hate walking on sand.  I’m sure chickens don’t, but because sand has the tendency to “give” when you’re trying to walk, it makes it difficult to walk around in the area where the chickens are kept.  The advice was to use “washed construction sand”.   Home improvement stores look at you like you’ve lost your mind when you ask for it.  The sales person shrugged and said there was play sand in the garden area.  I knew play sand was a bad choice because it was fine and dusty and if chickens happen to ingest too much of it, it can cause a crop full of sand which can get impacted and the bird could potentially die.  I had read that it was great for dust bathing (I’d made them a dust bath already) and that it was easy maintenance to scoop out chicken poop that had been desiccated by the sand.   I don’t even like to clean the cat box.  The thought of scooping chicken poop out of sand in the large coop area didn’t appeal to me at all.  It also didn’t appeal to me at all that I’d have to buy this stuff by the truckload and have it delivered and then haul it into the coop, push it around to smooth it out and then during my complete cleaning, I’d have to shovel the darn stuff out and sand is HEAVY and I’m OLD.  It also didn’t seem sanitary to me…but then again…how sanitary is any chicken bedding?   I was also worried about the heat and cold and the use of sand.  I want something that warms up quickly in the winter.  Sand doesn’t logically seem to be something that would do that.  We also live in a very humid area and like a child’s sandbox, I envisioned sand holding moisture on humid, damp days and chickens walking around with damp sand clinging to their feet.  It also doesn’t seem like something that would be comfortable…although I’m not a chicken and I’m not sure what their feelings are because they’re very tight beaked about things like giving their opinions.

Oh the DECISIONS.

I finally went with what I had and used shavings.  We can get them for about 4.50 for a compressed package.  So we covered the coop’s wooden floor with shavings using two bags to create a deep soft bed of about 3-4 inches while it’s fluffy.  I always leave some of it in piles near the back and center of the coop, because the chickens spend a ridiculous amount of time scratching around in it and looking for treasures and always scratch the piles flat.  It keeps them busy for a while.  I didn’t want shavings out in the run, so as I spread the shavings, I made sure that there was a more shallow area of shavings right in front of the door.  The chickens have to step up to go through the run door, so the shavings naturally don’t fall out the door.  I also put a flagstone just inside the door on top of the shavings.  The chickens always step on that stone when they are coming and going through the run door.  When it’s dirty, it can be hosed off and replaced.  I’ve not had any problems with shavings out in the run.

vinnie shavings

Vinmaster V (he’s also a rap star) looking out over the shavings floor in the coop. He thinks they’re the bomb-diggity.

I also found, that the chickens will turn the shavings daily for me and they don’t mind at all!  I throw in some treats like dried meal worms and they scratch and scratch and turn the bedding over very nicely when they’re searching for their treats.  Fresh shavings are brought to the top and soiled shavings gravitate to the bottom.  The coop continues to smell like fresh shavings too!  I do have some tracking of shavings into my work area in the front of the coop by my shoes, but it’s a snap to sweep them up with my corn broom and just toss them back in the chicken area.

We discovered that with ten chickens, two bags of shavings in the coop will last between two to three weeks depending on the weather and how often the chickens can’t go out due to rain.  The first time I had to change out the bedding, I was determined to do it myself because they were MY chickens and I promised my husband that I would care for them.  I used a shovel and easily shoveled all of the shavings into a large trash can so that we could add it to the compost that we were creating for the garden and plants in our yard.   When I’d filled the can, I groaned a little.  I expected to have to get  Tom or Greg to carry it around the compost pile.  I tried to move it…IT WAS LIGHT!!  I could do it myself!  Can you imagine if I’d had to shovel sand and then try to move it to…wait…where would I have even PUT the soiled sand?  Anyway, I would have been in traction for a WEEK.

We’ve been using shavings since the beginning and honestly, I just love them.  They smell clean, they’re easy to change out, they have very little dust once they’re spread and my happy chickens love to dig a shallow hole in them and then fluff the shavings around them with their beak like they’re creating a little nest.  I have to believe that they like them when they create that little nest and settle down with their head under their wing to take a nap. If they didn’t, they’d be out sleeping in the dust and dirt in the run.  Shavings seem to make their home cozy, they seem to be as healthy an option as anything else (as long as it’s not cedar shavings…do NOT use those as they can cause respiratory issues with your birds due to the toxic nature of cedar oils) and I can manage them myself without calling a quarry or trying to track down large amounts of clean, bright straw.  I will be using a combination of straw and shavings in my nesting boxes and we plan to use straw bales around the perimeter of the coop during the winter for the insulation it can provide.

I think bedding choice is YOUR choice.  Read everything you can find, but don’t feel like you’re not doing the right thing because what you choose to do doesn’t align with what someone else has done.  Educate yourself and choose what makes sense for the health and happiness of your flock…and possibly your spine.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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”.

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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