Pasta.

I took a few days off from writing for the Memorial Day holiday.  It really was a lovely weekend.  Perfect weather, great food, and of course my family and chickens provided enough blog fodder for the rest of the millennium.

For some reason, I’ve been on this cooking spree.  Some people go on crime sprees and break into cars, I go on cooking sprees and try new recipes that call for ingredients that I don’t have and sometimes haven’t heard of, which necessitates 137 trips to several local grocery stores by Tom.  He usually forgets half the supplies that I need and ends up going back at least once.  He usually never grumbles about it because he, like the chickens, is motivated by food.  I’m fine with that.

I had found a tasty looking recipe on Pinterest for Chicken Marsala.  Let’s just give a brief “HOORAY” for Pinterest, shall we?  I spend most of my time there surfing around for ideas and recipes while Tom watches programs about aliens, Sasquatches, and mountain monsters.  I’ll find a really great idea for something and when I’m laying on the sofa it’s really easy to think “I CAN DO THAT!!!”  when in reality I’m more likely to print off the instructions and give them to Tom and say “will you make this for me?” while batting my eye lashes.   In this case, when I found the Chicken Marsala recipe, Tom offered to cook it up on Saturday.

So I took him up on that offer.  Because I’m not THAT insane that I’m going to say “No, that’s okay” when my husband offers to make dinner.

Tom went out to get mushrooms, dry sherry and sweet Marsala wine and a few other things for a dessert that I was making that involved fresh strawberries and a ridiculous amount of butter.  He was gone FOREVER.  He finally arrived home carrying an assortment of grocery bags and brown bags.  Apparently, the Tri-State area is not really into sweet Marsala wine and he’d had to check all the grocery stores on the west side of town and a couple of liquor stores where he finally ended up finding it which is typical, it seems, for the things that I pick off of Pinterest that I think are “doable”.

flowersSo he made dinner and we’ll just skip to the part where we ate it.  DELICIOUS.  Totally worth combing the area for Marsala wine and if they don’t have it where you live, I recommend that you  move someplace that does have it because this Chicken Marsala was the absolute BOMB.  I try not to eat carbohydrates, so when he served it over pasta, I just had mine without it.  STILL delicious.  I’ll post the recipe HERE because you really should try it.  Or make your husband cook it for you…and definitely make him shop for ingredients.

After dinner, we had a lot of pasta left.  I remembered that CHICKENS like SPAGHETTI!!  Yes, yes…I know it should be whole grain.  Just pretend that it was…because it wasn’t…but it WAS plain..no sauce and no butter.  Also, before you start writing your reply about what a bad chicken mom I am, I know that they shouldn’t have it very often because it’s bad for them and they’ll get fat.  At the time, I was bored, I knew they’d like it and so I packed up a bowl of it and headed for the coop.

The run was empty.  I LOVE it when they aren’t out in the run and I bring a treat to them because I get to yell “CHICKENS!!!!!!” and they all come barreling out of the coop like they’ve been shot out of a cannon.  Have you ever really watched a chicken running toward you?  It KILLS ME.  Vinnie is the only one in the group with school bus yellow feet and when he runs his feet and legs are REALLY noticeable and I find myself laughing at him every single time…which I’m sure isn’t good for his self-esteem, but hey…if you’ve got school bus yellow legs and feet, be prepared for a few giggles when you run.

They had no idea what I had in the bowl, but I’m sure in their tiny chicken brains, there’s a picture of a bowl with a smiling chicken next to it which means “BOWL=FOOD”.  They danced around in the run and pecked at my new floral Toms through the fence wire.  I had to convince a couple of them that the shoes were not the treat.  I threw an experimental piece of spaghetti into the run which, of course, was met with absolute hysteria because OH MY GOD SOMETHING IS FALLING FROM THE SKY!!!

The pasta just laid there while they got their acts together.  Finally, Vinnie, self-appointed “TRYER OF ALL NEW THINGS” came over to look at it with one eye.  He decided it was treasure and grabbed it and ran off which, of course, started a game of Chicken Keep Away and it was nine against one.  Vinnie raced around the run with the prized piece of pasta hanging out of his beak, a wild look in his eye and his yellow feet and legs just a blur.  I let them chase him around a little, and then I threw in more pasta.

Hysteria. This time, shorter lived as the others forgot about Vinnie and his treasure and were more interested in the pile of pasta on the ground.  They walked around it and on it, looked at it with one eye, and pecked at it a little.

Meanwhile, Vinnie had set his down and was looking at it again.  He pinched off a piece and tasted it and then another piece and another and suddenly, he just gulped the whole thing down and raced back to the pile for more.  He grabbed another piece and raced to the other end of the run, yellow legs flying, while he snarfed down pasta.  Apparently it was “To go” pasta.

The others noticed that he was EATING it and they became more interested in it and gave it a try.  As soon as they finished a strand of spaghetti, they’d race back to the pile for more.

Vinnie was frantic.  He’d take a piece and gulp it down and then notice a piece hanging out of another’s beak and he’d try to take that too.  He had a piece of pasta hanging out of one side of his beak and the other corner of his beak had pasta stuck in it.  He was carrying a piece, trying to take pieces from others and generally was out of his mind because…

HE WANTED IT ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

I watched them for quite a while.  Most entertaining thing I’d seen since the Mixed Vegetable Incident of 2014.  Even Cluck Norris was scarfing down spaghetti and looking for more.  Every one of them was happily clucking and eating and wiping their beaks on logs.  Vinnie wasn’t worried about wiping his beak at ALL and would run up to one of them that was working on a piece of pasta and try to swipe it.  He was completely obsessed.  He didn’t know whether to steal someone’s, go get his own, or scratch in the dust to make sure that none had been dropped.

So he tried all three simultaneously.  Which lead to me going to get a chair to sit in because I was laughing so hard.

The pasta was finally consumed although Vinnie couldn’t be convinced and continued to check everyone else’s beaks and scratch through the dust in the run, just in case.  He found a few bits here and there and vacuumed them up while the rest contentedly took part in a group Preening Party.  He finally decided that there was no more and came over and whistled at me and cocked his head because I was still holding the bowl.  I showed him the empty bowl through the fence and brought it close enough so that he could see inside and he pecked it through the wire and then wandered away to join the rest at the Preening Party.  I watched them a while longer and since the Pasta Show was over, I finally went back up to the house.

vinnie restingI genuinely feel bad for people who don’t interact with their flock.  I understand they are farm animals, but they are fascinating creatures to watch.  Recently, there have been many people who have sort of poked fun at me for the things that I do in the name of “enjoying” my chickens.  I can’t even begin to describe the happiness they bring me.  I love to watch them, I love to provide a clean environment and good food (I know…not the pasta), and clean cool water.  I love to provide places to roost and new things for them to experience.  People say “I grew up on a farm…they’re CHICKENS and they’re dirty and mean.”

If that’s how one feels about their experience with chickens, then I would say to them…

Chickens…you’re doing it wrong.

 

I shared this post on the Backyard Farming Connection Hop #82!

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

 

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.

 

 

 

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

Slide.

Sooooooooo, you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the word “garden” in a couple of posts.  That’s because there still isn’t one.  Well, I guess that’s not exactly true…there are now four orange stakes out in the backyard stuck in various places.  See, this past weekend was all about the chickens.  They’re greedy like that.  Today was Monday and since I work full-time, I wasn’t around all day to harangue, nag and annoy my husband until he rototilled the darn thing up.

eggs and I square

I guess I didn’t do any gardening this weekend now that I think about it.  I grew that wheat fodder for the chicks…sort of gardenish.  I looked at garden plants when we went to Rural King…I think that counts.  I watered the plants, that I still haven’t thinned) in their dissolvable pots and plastic trays.  So that’s not a total loss.  Tom did stick the orange posts in the ground on Saturday to mark something out…the garden…some weird triangulation equation…where he needs to go with the pooper scooper…I’m sure it meant one of those things.

Actually, I had gotten home Friday afternoon and Tom asked me to come out to see where he’d laid out the garden.  I was impressed.  I hadn’t had to do any haranguing that day.

 

We walked out to the part of the yard that slopes away from the pool towards the woods and pond.

As we came around the end of the pool, I looked down the slope and there were approximately 116 orange fence poles (the ones that don’t match the chicken fence…read the whole blog…you’ll see) stuck in the ground all over the slope.

“What do ya think?”

“Ummm…Tom…we’re not going to have any YARD left.”

“You said you wanted it big.”

“Yeah…but…I think we’ll need migrant workers at this point.”

I tried to figure out exactly what SHAPE all these poles lined out.  It was either a star or the state of Maryland…and I’d say closer to the state of Maryland.  It seemed as though there were a dizzying number of bright orange fence posts stuck in the ground.  What kind of math did this guy use?

Frankly, I’d expected a completely different thing when he said he was going to “lay out the garden”.  I envisioned some white string and some stakes…this looked like the ground had sprouted quills.    As we walked around in the posts (orange…orange posts) I was getting more and more confused.  I told Tom again that I thought it was kinda….LARGE.  To which he replied that it was just like his drawing…which means absolutely nothing to me because I had NO idea how large he’d drawn it . I vaguely recall him asking some questions and then waving something printed out on the drafting computer in front of me and I was probably distracted by something shiny and I don’t remember anything about the conversation.

I do that.  I’ll agree to all sorts of things and then later I’m dumbfounded to learn that I agreed to any of it.

Anyway, I think I finally asked him WHY there were so many posts and what were those posts doing ALLLLLLL they way down by the edge of the yard near the pond.

Turns out, he had marked out several plots and was trying to find the FLATTEST spot on the SLOPE (see those two words?  One of them doesn’t work with the word GARDEN).

So…about that SLOPE.  Basically, the back of our property sort of slopes into this…um…wooded ravine that holds a creek that empties into the pond.  I guess I hadn’t thought about this clearly…I also don’t go out there much because I saw a SNAKE hole once.  How am I going to plant a garden on the side of a hill?  I stood there amidst the posts (ORANGE!) and thought about finally dragging all those plants in the dissolvable pots and plastic trays down to the garden and how I’d carefully plant them and water them and the garden would be so fresh and new and then…we all know what would happen.

It would rain and the whole thing would wash into the ravine.  Complete with my wood obelisk for my sweet peas and all my cute herb markers that I have yet to make.

Don’t they farm on the sides of hills in China?  Granted those are rice paddies, but I should be able to work this out, right?  I sure hope so, otherwise I’m going to be weeding  tomatoes in a kayak and screaming about snakes the entire time.

Bedtime.

Although chickens have existed in the world for probably thousands of years without human intervention (I’m not a chicken historian, give me a break on that guess), for some reason we, personally, feel that we need to tuck them in every night before it’s time for bed.   I don’t mean actually tuck them in with tiny blankets, but we always go out and check on them one last time and make sure that none of them have done anything silly, like hurt themselves or choke on a piece of pine shaving that they aren’t supposed to be eating.

purplecircle

Apparently, we’re over protective chicken parents.

Last night, they were all in the coop due to the rain yesterday.  Honestly, we could have just left them alone (I’m sure they wish we would), but around 8:30 I announced that I was going to the coop to put the chicks to bed.  The rain had stopped for a bit and my husband came with for his usual moral support.  I had closed the big door to the coop, so they were all comfy and cozy inside and we had put the roosts in that day so we were anxious to see if they were using them because we were convinced they would love sleeping 14 inches above the ground on the wide side of a 2×4…I mean, who wouldn’t love that?

We crept up to the coop door, I undid the lock and slowly opened the door expecting to see snoozing chickens on the roosts.

NOPE.  Every one of them had their beak crammed up against the door to get outside to the run…they are obsessed with being outside.  No matter how many times I explain to them that the Boogie Chicken comes out at night to steal their beaks, they remain stalwart in their obsession.

Which makes me feel bad because they have a really nice setup and if I were a chicken, I would totally dig living there.

I tried not to take their rejection of their newly finished palace personally, but I gave them a brief, stern talking to about roosts and that they needed to at least TRY them because it’s what all the cool chickens do at night.  They pretty much just walked around and peeped at each other.  I also told them that unless they start clucking, no one is going to take them seriously as a chicken.  So get with the program.

We stood in the coop for a while and watched them and nobody even TRIED one of the roosting bars.  Vinnie, the naughty barred rock chick, walked back and forth in front of the roost for a short time, looking at them with one eye (like chickens do), and then made an attempt at flight annnnnnd….perched on top of the feeder.  FAIL.

About that time, my son Greg showed up and said something about a delivery from Domino’s pizza at the front door with 15 meal worm pizzas and that Vinnie had asked if we could get it this time and he’d pay the bill next time.   I told Greg that none of them would even TRY the roosts, so we weren’t paying for anything.

Greg decided he would fix this situation and went into the fenced area of the coop where the chicks were scratching for left over fodder and Cheerios that they’d had earlier as a treat.  I like to call the treat “Fodder-O’s”.  The chicks KNEW that something was up because whenever Greg shows up in the coop he picks them up and holds them and says “Hey…YOU are a nice chicken”.  It’s good for socializing them and getting them used to being held, it has made them friendlier and now they all know they are “nice” chickens…and you know we’re all about their emotional development.

So they all ran back to the door to the run, complaining the whole way.  Greg scooped one up, petted it for a while and complimented it on its feet, “Hey…these are NICE chicken feet”.  He set the chick on the 2×4 perch.  Let me just point out that none of these chickens are going to be Olympic Balance Beam gold medalists.  The chick couldn’t seem to figure out walking on the four-inch board and stepped right off and landed on the floor.  Apparently, we don’t learn much from our experience either, because he tried this several times, with several chicks and they all were completely oblivious to what they should do on a roost.

Greg, being the brilliant evil genius that he is, sprinkled feed on the roost and then picked up Vinnie and Oprah Wingfrey, our two most outgoing chicks, and set them on the roosting bar.  We held our breath.

Now that FOOD was involved, the roosting bar was INFINITELY  more interesting.  Oprah and Vinnie pecked at the feed and forgot they were doing something new by standing on the roosting bar.  Then one of them shoved the other one off the bar and jumped to the ground.  So much for that.  So he kept trying with other chicks and suddenly everyone was showing interest (especially because there was FOOD…even though it was the same food they could get out of the feeder…not the brightest crayons in the box) and looking at the roosting bar with one eye…you know, the way chickens do.

This little exercise went on for about 20 minutes or so, which was good because there was nothing on TV and this was pretty entertaining.  We have a long tree branch that we’d propped up on the roosting bar so that they could just shimmy their way up the nice fat branch and wouldn’t even have to TRY very hard to get up there.  One of the Golden Laced Orpingtons decided that she would try the branch and made it almost all the way to the roosting perch and then the branch rolled and she fell off.

Chickens don’t have a graceful bone in their body, it turns out.

So, Greg, using his best Boy Scout training, used some purple rope that we had in the coop and started lashing the top of the branch to the roosting bar while reciting the Boy Scout pledge…and this would have gone well, but I forgot to mention that the chicks are OBSESSED with the purple rope.  Sometimes we throw the end of it outside the run door when we’re trying to get them inside and they’ll chase it right into the coop.  I don’t get it, but whatever.

As Greg was wrapping the rope around the branch and roost, the end of it was on the floor, he gave it a tug to pull more rope around the branch and felt resistance on the other end.  We were so focused on his Boy Scout skills that we hadn’t even noticed that one of BORBs (Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers) had grabbed the other end with his beak and was not about to let go of the prized purple rope.

He was like a big feathery trout.

By this time, I was doubled over laughing in my chair in the work area of the coop and Tom was leaning on the sidewall watching with more than mild amusement.  Greg finally finished lashing the branch to the roost with the prized purple rope.  Now the chickens were REALLY interested.  The ROPE was up there.  He scooped up a few more chicks and placed them on the bar.  They cocked their heads and looked at him with one eye…the way chickens do…and pecked the rope a little, decided it was all dumb and either flew off, fell off, or walked down the now stable branch and resumed scratching for Fodder-O’s.

It was clear that we weren’t really getting anywhere with this particular activity.

We finally decided to give up.  We made sure that they couldn’t possibly make a noose out of the rope and tucked in all the ends and got ready to head back up to the main house.  I started my usual baby talk “Night guys!  I love you!  Sweet dreams!” while Greg  yelled “DON’T STAY UP TOO LATE!” and Tom shook his head because Greg and I have reached some new level of insanity that isn’t classified in any textbooks.  We locked the coop and started walking up the path to the main house, while Greg went to his apartment above the three car detached garage.

So what have we learned from this?

Everyone should buy some purple rope, chickens can be caught like fish,  and you can lead a chicken to a perch, but you can’t make him roost.  Also, I’ve learned that “Fodder-O’s” is not in the spell checker at WordPress.

I think we accomplished quite a lot.

 

In.

So it’s been about four or five days since the Peep Squad took over the run.  Every night, we’ve had to chase them down in the coop or come up with a variety of noises that I’m SURE the neighbors can hear, to try to get them to come IN.   You’d think any self-respecting chicken would be packing up her beach bag and heading back to the coop at sunset.  Nope.  NADA.  ZIP.  ZILCH. NONE.

It’s frankly quite irritating and a little frustrating and soon you’re envisioning frying them all.

But I keep my cool.  Mostly.

So tonight I went out at dusk and my husband came with for moral support.   I picked a big basket of chickweed and headed for the coop singing “CHICKCHICKCHICK” at the very top of my lungs…I swear, the neighbors think I’m absolutely out of my mind and soon to be institutionalized.   The excited peeping started out in the run and there was a lot of running and hopping and tripping  over each others big scaly feet.

They KNOW that basket.  I KNOW they know that basket…and I use it to my advantage.

So I sailed on into the coop with my basket and they high tailed it for the ramp and door.  I threw big clumps of chickweed in several areas in the back of the coop and they all took a pile and started scratching and eating.  Perfect time to count fluffy butts.

Ten.  TEN.  I count again…TEN.  UGH.

eggsandisquare

Tom looks back outside and the two Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers are standing at the other end of the run looking insolently at the coop.

I’m in the coop “CHICKCHICKCHICK”‘n it up and talking baby talk and making peeping sounds and throwing grain around like a lawn sprinkler.  I could see two sets of scaly pink feet at the base of the ramp.  Eep!  They were considering making their move.

They came creeping up, drawn by their insane addiction to chickweed, and just when the first one was about to step in…Oprah Wingfrey, one of the black sex link pullets, rushed the door from the other direction.  I grabbed at her…which, in turn, scared the two Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers (it has to be capitalized…they’re like their own special ENTITY.  Want one?  Both?  No?) away from the door to the other end of the pen.

So Tom resorted to a series of owl noises that he thought sounded scary…but the chickens disagreed.

They came creeping up AGAIN.  I tried not breath…threw a little more grain…they were both standing in doorway…ANNNNND….Oprah rushed the door again, this time with the naughty Barred Rock in tow.

I windmilled my arms around and kept the two pullets in and the two BORB (Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers) flipped out in grand style and ran to the other end of the run.

If this wasn’t a semi-family show, I’d insert some colorful swearing right about HERE.

So Tom took it up a notch outside and scared them from that end of the run, toward the coop.  They were traveling at about a million miles an hour at this point.   They’re like little buff colored…cannon balls.  Jerks.

This time I had the rest of the flock examining a nice new bunch of chickweed that I’d placed WAY on the other side of the coop.  It’s not just a hatrack (points to head).

I trickled grain onto the wood in front of the doorway and the crazy little knot heads slowly climbed the ramp and stepped into the coop.  YESSSSSSSSS!

I was leaping through the coop I slammed the run door and I heard the ramp go clattering into the run outside. YAY!!!!

You know I turn fifty this year.  I would also like to keep living in this neighborhood without people running when they see me.  Someone needs to explain this to these chickens.

 

Till.

So, remember all those seeds and onion sets and plants in dissolving pots (I still haven’t thinned them)?  Here’s the thing…we haven’t turned over ONE inch of garden yet.  I don’t mean we haven’t turned over LAST year’s garden, I mean we haven’t turned over vast amounts of green grass to turn it INTO a garden.  You’re right, not only did we get chickens before we had the whole coop thing worked out, but now we have 8,576 plants and seeds and I keep trying to buy MORE and I have absolutely nowhere to put them.

We’re idiots.

AprilIt’s APRIL.

Seriously, I swear, when we started this whole idea we had GREAT intentions.  Tom drafted a garden plan in his fancy-pantsy drafting program.  Like, he spent a LOT of time on it.  There were different colors and different views and measurements and angles and math that I couldn’t even BEGIN to comprehend.   Like, worse than long division, kind of math. He used the word “triangulation” a couple of times.  Our big plan was that we were going to “lay out” the garden and then rent some massive rototiller thing and it all sounds so easy to me…except you know it won’t be.  I’m sure this is going to involve blood, sweat, tears, swearing, rock throwing, yelling, swearing, arguing and then more swearing.  You just KNOW this is what’s going to happen.  And then…THEN…we still have to put a fence around it that involves some twirly post digging thing and a fence stretcher so that we can keep the bunnies from Watership Down and the deer out of the garden.

I am not going to get discouraged.

I just envision myself in my cute apron and floppy southern-old-woman hat picking tomatoes and putting them in a perfect garden basket while butterflies flit around the garden and the chickens cluck happily in their pen.

The reality is that I’ll be in a  mandolin t-shirt and a pair of ratty shorts, a pair of purple crocs with my hair in a pony tail screaming about garden worms and giant orb spinning spiders that probably migrated here on a banana ship.

I love my dream world.

Run.

So by now, the chicks in the brooder box in the garage were completely over being in a brooder box in the garage.  Whenever I stopped by the brooder box to say hello or to give them food or change their water, inquisitive little beaks were poking through the hardware cloth cover we’d made.  My husband was home from the hospital and was feeling better than ever and we had a three day weekend looming ahead of us.  Of course I took the opportunity to do a little good natured nagging about the chicken coop and run.

My husband and son were easily persuaded to start the run.  I think they were ready for the nonstop peeping and pooping in the garage to go outside as well.  Early in the morning, my husband and I tromped out to the coop to assess the situation…which means we went out and stared at the ground for a while and decided we needed more coffee.  So back to the house for more coffee and some strategizing (secret code for “Watch the Today Show”).

Tom went back out a little before I did (I love Kathie Lee and Hoda), and when I showed up, he had already begun sticking bright orange t-posts into the ground.  Hold up….

“Those are orange.”

“So?”

“They don’t match the fence…it’s green.”

“I’ll get you some spray paint.”

I harrumphed around for a while because I wanted this to be CUTE…but I also wanted it to be DONE, so I clammed up and watched while he hammered posts into the ground.  We had decided to use a vinyl coated garden fencing (did I mention it’s green and the posts are ORANGE?  I’m not bitter) to contain the little rascals this first year.  The plan is that next year, we’ll put in wood posts and taller fencing.  I’m fine with that, they just needed to be out of the garage before they needed counseling from living in overcrowded conditions.  So we started stretching fencing and I just want to tell you that it is absolutely amazing what you can do with a zip-tie.  As I pulled the fencing taut, Tom secured it to the post with a three zip-ties.  We got all the way around the new run and ran out of fencing about ten feet short of where we needed to finish…and I’ll take the blame for that because I kept insisting that the run must be BIGGER.   Anyway, that meant another trip back to the farm supply store.  And you know what that means….CHICKTOPIA!!!!

My son, who’d been wrestling with some plastic bird netting to put over some cana plants he’d been growing, heard that we were going to the farm supply store and he was instantly in the truck…they have free popcorn.  When we arrived, he made a beeline for popcorn warmer, while Tom headed for the fencing section and I went back to look at the seeds…even though I have NO business looking at more seeds because I have a container full of unplanted seeds on the kitchen window seat.  As I was walking back to the seed section I happened to look down at the floor.

Painted yellow chicken tracks…the very same painted tracks that we’d followed the day we got the first batch of chicks.  I heeded their siren song and pretty soon I was standing in front of the stock tanks of peeping fluffiness and I couldn’t remember exactly how I got there.   As I peered into the tanks, I noticed there were an awful lot of turkeys.  They freak me out a little…on to the next tank.  I checked them all out and ended up hanging over the top of a tank just FULL of light Brahmas.  I stood there for a little while trying to think of clever ways that I could bring six more chicks home.  I finally noticed a guy standing next to me.

This guy didn’t look much like someone who wanted chicks.  In fact, he looked a little defeated.  He was talking on the phone and it was quickly apparent that he was talking to his wife.

“How many? (pause) REALLY?? (pause)  I don’t KNOW what kind to get. (pause)  Yes, they are ALL cute. (pause)  I can’t believe I’m doing this. Are you sure we need to do this right now?”

The conversation went on for a minute or so and he finally hung up and stuffed his phone in his pocket and looked dejectedly at the tank of chicks and muttered “I can’t BELIEVE I’m doing this”.

I said “Well, you’re going to have ONE happy wife”.

He looked at me skeptically and replied “She BETTER be happy.”

I wished him luck and went back to my musing about more chicks.  The babies in the stock tank hopped around, pecked furiously at their feed and peeped non-stop.  Just as I was slipping into a cuteness induced trance, my husband came rolling up with his cart full of fence and just gave me “that look”.

I decided to wait on more chicks…but ONLY because he’d just gotten out of the hospital.

We collected Greg who had been cruising around the store while eating popcorn and looking at virtually everything and headed back home with our roll of fencing that was incredibly too long, but it didn’t come in shorter lengths and frankly I didn’t care at this point because I wanted it to be DONE.  I was a woman on a mission.

We finished the run fairly quickly (thanks to our friends the zip-ties) and the chicks, who were tooling around in a pen inside the coop-to-be, were released for their first taste of fun in the run.  And of course, they just stood there and looked at the door like it was the gateway to hell itself.  Finally, the always sassy, usually in trouble barred rock chick made the first move.  He stuck his head through the door and looked around, deemed it safe and hopped out into the run.  What followed was chicken hysteria as they all rushed to go outside to play.  Once in the run, it seemed like there was a lot of frantic running, some failed attempts at flying, lots more peeping and general pandemonium because apparently, the pecking order outside had to be reestablished from the pecking order in the sardine can (brooder box).  Several of them, during their epic flying moments, flew right into the fence (I don’t think they could see it well) and then sort of looked around and walked away as though they were pretending that it just hadn’t happened.  Everyone started to settle down a bit and soon they were all scratching and foraging and checking out the system of branches that I’d installed in the run as perches.  There was a fair amount of falling off the perches and pushing each other off the perches.  What I was interested in was the reaction to the fabulous dust bath I’d constructed.

I’d made a lovely dust bath for the flock by using a pile of wood ashes mixed with diatomaceous earth.  I ringed the dust bath area with interesting logs from our old woodpile. It looked like chicken bath heaven.  At least to ME, anyway.   I KNEW they were going to just LOVE it.  Excedust bowlpt…they didn’t even seem to know what it was.  They walked through it, jumped in it, stood on the logs, jumped off the logs and pretty much ignored the whole thing.  One of the Buff Orpington chicks walked to the other side of the run, flopped over like he’d been shot and started dust bathing in…plain old dust.  I watched him for a bit while he looked like he was having a seizure (thank goodness I knew what he was doing) and with all the flipping, flopping and flapping, he ended up lying on his back, wings spread on the ground, beak pointing in the air.  He just laid there.  Like he’d been somehow dramatically killed.  All the other chicks ignored him and went about their chick business in the run which mostly consisted of flipping over small rocks to find apparently tasty ants.  The Buff chick was still lying motionless in his dust bowl.  I finally walked over and stood next to where he was lying because I was getting concerned.  Had he suffered some sort of sudden chicken death while I stood stupidly by and thought he was dust bathing?  He popped up, shook off his feathers and made a frantic dash for the other end of the run, seemingly energized by his time at his own personal spa which was not nearly as cool as the spa I had created.

About this time, my husband and son were pretty  much wanting to quit for the day, but I announced that we needed to wrap the entire run in bird netting as well as the top to keep out the hawks.  So we spent the next half hour swearing, yanking, zip-tying, swearing more, sweating, pulling and securing the net.  Pretty soon…TAHDAH!!!  We were done.

The whole time we were doing the netting, the chicks were happily bouncing off each other, the sides of the run, the ground and anything else they encountered.  They were positively giddy.  At the end of the netting stretching, we stood back and admired our work and watched the chicks playing.

Then it occurred to me.  We’d not put a man door in the run…which meant that when it was time to get them in at night, one of us (GREG) was going to have to squeeze through the chicken door in the coop and out into the run. Once there, he’d have to be crouching the whole time because the run is only four feet tall and covered by polyester bird netting.  In this crouch position, he was going to have to chase and catch and deposit each chick back into the coop. Uh oh.

I’m going to have to bake Greg his favorite cookies…and cupcakes…and pie…because I’ve got to sweet talk him into doing every night until either the chickens “get it” and go in at dusk on their own OR we figure out how to put a gate in that run and raise the netting so that humans don’t have to walk like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I’m going to be doing a lot of baking, I fear.

More.

So the twelve chicks…I’m sorry, what?  You thought I had six?  I told you about chicken math and Tom had to go back to the Rural King for something and they still had chicks, and pretty soon we were driving back to the house with another box of peeping fluff.  There isn’t a 12 Step program for this, I’ve already checked.  Anyway, the twelve chicks settled happily into their brooder box in the garage.  I checked on them roughly every 12 seconds for a while and then finally relaxed and only checked on them every 10 minutes or so.  I would go bounding down the stairs to the foyer, where the entry to the garage is, and I’d hear Tom yell from the kitchen, “THEY’RE FINE!”  To which I’d reply “I know!  Just checking!!”  Because, you never know what kind of trouble twelve chicks can get into when left to their own devices in a stock watering tub turned chicken brooder.  On one of my check the chick trips, I found post-it notes stuck all over the inside of the brooder on which chicken revolution messages had been scrawled by my 21-year-old son.  There were hand drawn chicks wearing machine guns and messages about overthrowing the humans.  The chicks were sitting around just looking innocently at each other and at me and I knew he’d put them up to the whole thing.

It also seems that chicks have a hobby of putting pine shavings in their food and water.  I started with it on the floor of the brooder box.  Nice clean feeder, Nice clean waterer.  I came back to six feet of shavings in each.  Okay…not six feet, but there were LOTS of shavings floating around.

chicks

This went on for several days until someone online suggested putting the watering device on a block of wood.  Genius.  So I put the waterer on a block of wood and somehow it STILL managed to look like they were soaking the pine chips to whip up a batch of homemade paper.  So I just resigned myself to changing water several times a day and making sure the feeder was cleaned out so that no one got a sliver in their beak.

The chicks grew….and grew….and grew….and soon the brooder looked like a mosh pit at a grunge concert.  One of the chicks, a particularly sassy barred rock and questionable rooster, found a new hobby of waiting until all the others were settled in a chick pile at the other end of the coop and then ran as fast as his scaly legs would carry him and then would LEAP into the chick pile.  This was not well received by the other chicks and there was quite a bit of annoyed peeping and scurrying about while the barred rock chick sort of stood around and seemingly enjoyed what it had done.  I knew I had to get them out of that brooder and SOON before the barred rock chick drove the rest insane with treating them like a pile of autumn leaves.

So we went to look at coops.  Apparently, there are quite a few people out there interested in this hobby, because SAM’S CLUB had a chicken coop…much too small, but who knew?  We checked several places and all of them wanted too much money and the chickens would have been far too crowded and I’ve heard bad things happen when you squish chickens into small places.  So back to the drawing board…or rather the backyard, where I had the perfect coop under my nose the whole time.

Behind our detached garage, are two storage sheds…the kind you find at farm supply stores and that so many people have in their backyard for lawnmowers and things.  Both were filled with stuff that we were “going to get to” that we’d placed in the sheds when we moved onto the property (read as: junk we probably don’t need).  We decided that one would be a great coop and my son moved all of the stuff in that shed to the other shed…which now can’t be opened without setting off an avalanche warning prior to opening the doors.  We cleaned up the coop-to-be and figured out where the yard would be and it was all terribly exciting…well, I was excited.  My husband and son were a bit more skeptical because they were the ones who were going to have to build all the stuff I wanted on the inside.  I had GRAND ideas.  This was going to be not just a chicken coop, but a really decked out chicken coop with artwork and curtains and chicken ladders, and cool nest boxes!  I started shopping for a chandelier online because I figured that these were classy chickens and they needed a classy place to hang out.  When I asked my husband about hanging a chandelier in the chicken coop, his reply was “Hang a WHAT in the chicken coop?”  It was going to take some convincing apparently.

So we had the weekend all set aside for COOPMANIA.  My husband then landed in the hospital with heart issues which was truly frightening…not only because it was his heart, but because all I could imagine were those chicks in that brooder box getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I imagined that one day I’d go out there and all of their heads would be sticking out of the hardware cloth top on the brooder box and they’d have murder in their eyes because the little barred rock chick had pushed them over the edge.

Fortunately, my husband did well with his heart issues and I never had to deal with murderous chicks.  The barred rock settled down a little bit and stopped using the others as a trampoline and soon my husband was home from the hospital and all was in order…except apparently my priorities which became clear when I asked when we could work on the coop.

I couldn’t help it…the revolution posters, the crowded conditions, the rapid growth…it was all ripe for a Chickpocalypse.