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.

DSC_0022

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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Oh, Cluck.

I made the decision that the Beakheads should learn to free-range.  Actually, there’s not that much learning involved with walking around the yard eating bugs and delicious green things.  They have that part down.  The real problem is getting them OUT of the coop to said free-ranging area without causing a chicken heart attack or a human heart attack because I’m the one chasing them around.

So I had this brilliant idea a couple of nights ago.  Instead of trying to catch one of them, I would lure them out the door by leaving a trail of scratch for them to follow.  I went into their area in the coop (they were all out in the run)  and stood around with the bucket of scratch and then “accidentally” threw some into the shavings…and it made that sound that grain makes when it hits the floor.  I didn’t have to wait more than a few seconds and half a dozen chickens showed up at the door to the run.

They’re suckers for scratch.

I dropped a little more and started backing out of the gate, talking sweet chicken talk.  They followed the trail of scratch and pretty soon they were standing in the work area.  I had managed to only corral two out of the original half-dozen that had come in and that was just fine.  I wasn’t ready to manage TOO many of them out in the yard, by myself.  Before I try that, I’ll need a box of wine and a large butterfly net because you KNOW they won’t listen to me once they’re out there.  Anyway, I had Ruth and Opal.  I scooped up Opal, and Ruth followed me because…well, she had no idea what else to do.

flock

Cluck was frantically walking back and forth looking for his women!

I plopped Opal down in a patch of white clover and Ruth started maniacally eating clover not far away.  They were very well behaved…and adorable…but what was going on in the run was sort of embarrassing because the rest of the flock was FREAKING OUT.  Cluck was frantically running back and forth at the end of the run because I’d taken not ONE, but TWO of his women.  He was out of his tiny mind.  To make matters worse, the rest of the girls were carrying on something awful because they could SEE Opal and Ruth, but couldn’t get to them.  There was a lot of hurling themselves against the fence and attempts to fly out of the run which of COURSE didn’t work because the run has a top on it.  Vinnie was out of his mind because he was missing a snack.

I let the girls forage around for a little while and they eventually foraged their way back to the run and stood there making chicken noises at the flock that was still inside.  I finally herded them back into the coop and put them back in the pen where they were MOBBED by the other chickens.

Apparently, they are now Free-Range Celebrities or something.

It was time to fill the feeder, so I picked it up and made my way through the door to the work area where I keep the feed storage can.  In some weird mix-up of my feet, the feeder and a lot of chickens, Cluck ended up in the work area with me…outside the chicken pen…

HE. FREAKED. OUT.

He jumped up on the straw bale and hurled himself over and over at the fence.  His eyes were panicked and he was clearly thinking “WRONG SIDE! WRONG SIDE! SWEET LAWD AMIGHTY I’M ON THE WRONG SIDE!!!!!!”

I filled the feeder and he flailed around and generally made a complete idiot of himself.  The chickens IN the pen watched him completely melt-down with mild interest, but none of them panicked.  I finally opened the door to the pen and he STREAKED inside like he was rocket-propelled.  The others gathered around and clucked excitedly.  Except for Vinnie…who was waiting near where the feeder usually sits, because…you know….FRESH FEED.

I put the feeder back in place and they absolutely love the new organic, non-GMO feed (<–that’s the feed link) that I got for them and pretty soon most of them were beak down in the feeder digging for sunflower seeds that are in the feed.  Vinnie looked up at me to see if I had anything else delicious and his wattles were COVERED with feed dust.  He didn’t care.  Just stuck his head back in the feeder.

Nom-nom-nom.

Nom-nom-nom.

Cluck was still trying to get a hold of himself after being on the wrong side of the fence.  I told him, that if he’s ever going to get anywhere with the ladies, he has to at least TRY to be brave.  He ruffled his feathers and shook them, like he was trying to shake off the terror of the entire event and then jumped up on a roost to watch the others.

I don’t think Cluck will be free-ranging with the others any time soon since it causes him that much anxiety.  I told him that he’s got to toughen up otherwise, Vinnie would attempt an overthrow of the GOP.   I know Vinnie wouldn’t do that…unless there was a major pile of treats involved…and then he’d only want to be in charge until the treats were gone.  I don’t think Cluck is worried about Vinnie staging a coup attempt.  I think he’s worried he’ll have a heart attack and Vinnie will end up in charge by default.

And that won’t be good at ALL.

 

New levels of craziness reached.

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

TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. NOW.

TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. NOW.

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

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

That blue circle is the FABULOUS cooling thing!

That blue circle is the FABULOUS cooling thing!

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

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

“Is THAT a CHICKEN????”

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

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

Because it is.

Groovy coop!

Groovy coop!

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

He obviously just doesn’t get it.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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!

 

 

Birds, Bees and Chickens.

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

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

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

My babies are growing up.

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

chicken talkYou know I’m kidding, right?

Because I’d totally make Tom do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I shared this post on Simple Saturdays Blog Hop!

 

Growing up Vinnie.

It’s hard to believe that just 15 weeks ago, I brought home a peeping box of fluff from the farm supply store.  I was new to the chicken world and completely out of my element.   I quickly identified that one of the chicks that we’d brought home was a bit special to me.  It had two yellow dots on its head and was outgoing and friendly.  It LOVED to eat and really loved special snacks.

baby vinnie 1

As it grew, it became even more friendly and seemed to like people.   It was the most active chick in the bunch and would run right up to the side of the brooder box to greet us.  I inquired of several learned chicken people on the internet, and the verdict was that it was probably a male chick.  We named him Vinnie.  That’s him in the back with the two yellow spots on his head.

chicks

I had no idea what breed Vinnie might be.  He’d been pulled from a bin of apparently several breeds and I thought that maybe he was a black sex link due to the yellow dots on his head.  So, again, I inquired of the chicken gurus on the internet.  I found out that he was a Barred Rock.

resized vinnie 2

As Vinnie grew, we came to just love his quirky personality.  He was full of curiosity and well, sort of weird chickeny charm.  I still wasn’t buying that he was a rooster.  He mostly hung out with the pullets and didn’t seem as “roostery” as our other rooster, Cluck Norris.  I REALLY wanted him to be a girl.  I hadn’t planned on having any roosters, let alone TWO.

vinnie and me

Vinnie became the subject of many blog posts.  He always seemed to be in some sort of trouble, falling off of something or trampling one of the other chicks in the brooder.  He was sort of a mess…for realz…but he greeted me every time I went out to spend time with the chicks…which was…well, close to constantly.

vinnie 5

His comb was growing and was a little bit pinker than the rest of the chicks.  I remained firmly in denial that he was a boy.  He was just too sweet!  Roosters aren’t sweet!  Or are they…

Vinnie 6

Vinnie had a big pink, jiggy-jaggy comb now.  I was sure he was a pullet and was an early bloomer.  I had seen photos of other young Barred Rock cockerels on the internet and Vinnie seemed to be way too dark in color to be one of the silvery white and black  youngsters that I compared him to.  I posted this picture to the chicken gurus on-line and everyone agreed.  He must be a pullet.  I happily started thinking about changing his name to Valerie.

vinnie 7

Despite all of the trouble Vinnie/Valerie got into almost ALL of the time, he was actually very tame and would follow us around the yard if we took him out for supervised free range time.

vinnie 8

 At this point, our confirmed rooster, Cluck, had become stand-offish and shy.  Vinnie continued to be charming, sweet and friendly.  However, I noticed that his colors were changing a bit.  His head was becoming lighter in color.  And oh my…those big wattles and that comb!  Maybe the gurus were right the first time!  I desperately didn’t want him to be a boy…but…

vinnie resting

Indeed…he did seem to be a “Vinnie” and not a “Valerie”.  He didn’t act like a cockerel at all though.  He walked away from every challenge from anyone else in the flock.  I started thinking that maybe…he didn’t know he was a rooster yet!  His tail was telling us that he most definitely was a rooster…and the size of his feet?  Not dainty and pullet like at all.

Vinnie 9

We just love Vinnie and all of his strange, goofy, quirks.

vinnie 12

Every day when I get home from work, I can’t wait to change clothes and dash out to the chicken coop with some sort of tasty treat.  Vinnie greets me every time with his “GIMME-GIMME-GIMME” dance.  He was the first to check out a new kind of snack as a baby and now as a big boy, he still leads the way when a new snack is introduced.  He taught Cluck all about the deliciousness of watermelon.

vin15

He’s also a very smart chicken.  He knows everything about cordless drills.

vinnie drill

Sometimes, for fun, he hangs out with his best buddy Greg.

greg and vin

Sometimes, he just likes to bask in the sun and work on his tan…to attract chicks.  See how well it works?  Honestly, I thought he was dead in and I was going to have to use a chicken defibrillator on him when I took this picture.

basking

He’s also very brave.  He protected the whole flock, including Cluck Norris, from the scary orange ball.

ball vinnie

The chickens elected him to be Chairman of the Flock after he gave a riveting speech at the recent rally in the coop.

chairman

He’s also become devilishly handsome.

I hadn’t planned on two roosters, but we love them both.

Vinnie and Cluck have a forever home with us.

vin and cluck

We just adore every bit of them…but I’ll always have a soft spot for my baby Vinnie.

feather

 

 

 

 

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.

Cluck Norris.

When I got our first group of chicks, I had no idea what ‘straight run’ meant.  I just told the beleaguered kid at the farm supply store that I wanted three dark ones and three of those “chipmunky” ones.  He just caught what he could, stuffed them in a box and handed them to me and I happily skipped away with the peeping box.  For some odd reason I thought they sold just females.

As the chicks grew, it became really obvious that one was FOR SURE a boy.  He was bigger than the rest, had a larger, redder comb and feet the size of dinner plates.  Before I actually accepted that he was a boy, I lived in a happy land of denial and thought he was a girl and tried to reassure him that no one would care that he had huge legs and feet and maybe he could just wear a lot of maxi dresses.  My denial quickly wore off when I noticed the brightly colored chestnut feathers that he was growing that absolutely screamed “ROOOOOSTERRRR!!!”

His name is Cluck Norris and he’s the biggest guy in the flock.  Vinnie is the other rooster and he’s not quite as big as Cluck.  Cluck looks the part of the main rooster in charge, so we gave him the job.  We didn’t ask for his resume or anything.  Vinnie submitted his resume several times and we have a whole pile of them.  Cluck just stood around and looked imposing, so we picked him to be the guy in charge.

cluck2I’m not really sure Cluck is “in charge” kind of material though.  He’s a very good guard rooster.  Always watching the sky and sending out DANGER CLUCKS when he sees something suspicious.  He’s kind of loner during the day and spends much of the time away from the other flock members, preening or just watching from a distance while Vinnie makes a mess of things with the hens at the other end of the run.  At snack time, Cluck hangs back and looks a little awkward as he stands just outside of the circle of snack gobblers and he might try to grab a small piece of the snack, but usually he just watches.  We’re still trying to convince the flock that they MUST love us and we handle them daily and we include Cluck in that little exercise as well.  He nearly has a heart attack every time.

I think Cluck used to be a lot more macho.  When we had the Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers, they would routinely gang up on Cluck and his response was to run away.  That’s when I think he suffered the major loss of his machismo.  Now that the BORBs are gone, I expected him to just step right up to being a rooster to be reckoned with and apparently he suffered more damage to his confidence than I thought because now even Opal, the smallest hen in the bunch can give him one peck and he takes off to the other end of the run because he’s a big fraidy cat.  Not cool, Cluck.  NOT COOL.

Cluck pretends like he doesn’t like anything the others like.  I think it’s part of his attempt to be terrifying…or more likely, he’s just afraid of whatever they’re doing or that he’ll get pecked on the head for joining in.  When I asked him why he doesn’t join the flock in dust bathing or snack eating, he just looked horrified and walked away.  He’s a chicken of few words.

cluck1It might all be a show because this weekend I caught him dust bathing with the ladies.  It was a particularly hot weekend and I went out to change the water so that they had something to drink other than the lukewarm poop soup that they’d concocted up that morning in the waterer.  As I came up to the run, a bright flash of chestnut feathers caught my eye in “The Dust Bowl” (the dust bath).  He was flopping around and really getting into his dust bath and didn’t even notice me walk up to the run.  I don’t know how he couldn’t have noticed because Vinnie was standing right in front of me doing his “GIMME GIMME GIMME” dance for treats.  I walked around to the other side of The Dust Bowl and Cluck caught sight of me.  He looked horrified and embarrassed and just laid there like maybe if he didn’t move, I wouldn’t notice him dust bathing like a regular chicken.  He finally couldn’t help himself and flopped around a bit more, got up and shook out the dust and walked away like it had all been an accident and he really had just FALLEN into the dust bath and certainly was too cool to have been actually taking one.

I also found a treat that he will run the others over to get to.  Watermelon.  I had been to the farm market for more strawberries and they had melons in from Florida.  It was hot and I wanted something cool for them to snack on, so I picked up a perfectly round, small, seedless watermelon.  At home, we quartered it and kept half in the fridge and I took the rest to the run for the chickens.

Cluck watched from a distance as I tossed the melon quarters into the coop.  Of course, they’d never seen a watermelon before so there was the usual suspicion about what it was and some of the chickens tried standing two feet away while stretching out their necks to see if it would eat them or if they could possibly eat it before it ate them.  Finally, Vinnie tasted it and decided it was awesome and was soon up to his eyes in one of the melon halves.  Cluck could hardly stand it.  He circled around, cocked his head to look at the strange melon with one eye, but generally stayed away from the group.  I went into the coop and swept the work area.  When I came back out, I glanced over at the run and Cluck was face down in a melon, happily slurping up the watery pink contents.  As soon as he saw me, he froze with a sort of sheepish look on his face.  The melon was irresistible though, and he soon forgot about me and went back to creating the World’s Stickiest Rooster Beak by pecking at the melon.  Apparently, watermelons trump pretending like you’re cool.

cluck3Cluck hasn’t crowed yet.  He was hatched at the beginning of March and by my calculations is between 13 and 14 weeks old.  He does cluck, but usually walks around softly peeping.  He and I have discussed this at length and while he feels peeping makes him look sweet to the ladies, I also told him that they’re going to laugh him out of the Rooster Union.  Recently, at bedtime, he stood on the roost bar and assumed what appeared to be “the crowing stance”, threw back his head, opened his beak wide….and nothing.  Not a whistle, not a croak.   He tried a second time and failed miserable and went back to peeping and being pushed around by the other birds on the roost.

Maybe his hormones haven’t kicked in.  Maybe he’s just a gentle rooster.  Maybe I won’t have to wear a full suit of armor to go into the coop when I start collecting eggs because he’s too much of a chicken (see what I did there?) to try to kill me with his spurs.  Maybe he is thoroughly emotionally destroyed because he’s been challenged and has lost so many times.  I really don’t care, because I’m noticing him start to join in with the others when they are just doing normal chicken things, which is a relief because I was starting to think he needed some counseling.

Maybe he just needs to stop hanging around with Vinnie.  Hanging out with that dork would ruin anyone’s reputation.

 

 

**I shared this post on the Homestead Barn Hop #161