New chickens! Vinnie isn’t happy.

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

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

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

“VINNIE.  STOP IT.”

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

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

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

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Birds, Bees and Chickens.

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

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

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

My babies are growing up.

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

chicken talkYou know I’m kidding, right?

Because I’d totally make Tom do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I shared this post on Simple Saturdays Blog Hop!

 

Pasta Party!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hens vinnie pasta

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

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

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

Look how brave Cluckzilla is!

Look how brave Cluckzilla is!

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

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

I just love those little Noodlefaces to pieces.