Free-ranging progress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vinnie. Freaked. Out.

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

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

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

And then…Vinnie lunged at Greg.

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

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

Freak.

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

I put their beak on the back of their head.

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

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

 

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Left out.

Sometimes, the chickens do things that make me sad.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them to bits.   The situation with Roseanna has not gotten any better though.  I have to agree with them, she’s a complete weirdo.  She just has no manners.  She steps on other flock members, knocks them over when she comes rampaging through the group and is just generally….well…WEIRD.

The flock has just had it with her.  They peck her when she tries to join them.  She hasn’t been injured yet, but I’m going to have to figure out what to do with this situation.  At this point, she’s become an outcast and spends most of her time by herself, which she doesn’t seem to mind.  Last night, everyone was in The Dust Bowl preening and she sat alone in a pile of twigs just watching.   It broke my heart a little bit.

rosanna alone

It’s ridiculously hot here today….AGAIN.  I’d planned on going to a local farmers market but one of my spies on the scene contacted me and said that it’s packed and it’s HOT.  I’m not good in public on a nice day.  I just don’t like crowds. So, I think we’ll make the trip to another AIR-CONDITIONED market that a local orchard runs.  It’s actually a store…which is better for me and no one will get stabbed if they get in my way because I won’t be hot and sweaty.  I’m only thinking of people’s safety.

The flock has been a bit cranky too.  Cluck has been stalking Vinnie and I’m not sure why other than Vinnie is another boy.   Last night, Vinnie was minding his own goofy business when all of a sudden Cluck freaked out and threatened him with the whole ruffled hackle feathers routine.  Vinnie responded by ruffling his hackle feathers for a split second and then ran like a scared little girl.  Cluck took off after him and Vinnie ran faster and so did Cluck.  Pretty soon, Vinnie ran over to the fence where I was sitting on my chair and looked at me frantically.  Cluck glided up behind him and by this time Vinnie had made himself very tall and skinny and looked as though he might just pass out right there.  I got very close to the fence…just out of Cluck’s pecking distance and whispered..”Cluck, honey” and then yelled “KNOCK IT OFF”…and Cluck blinked at me a few times and turned and walked away.  Vinnie was still all tall and skinny and I tried to calm him down by stroking his chest feathers and finally he stopped his frantic clucking and got back to his  previous business of just chickening around.

AND, one of the Wyandotte sisters has become obsessed with the other chickens’ feathers.  If she sees a feather out-of-place on one of the other birds, she feels that it’s her important responsibility to remove the out-of-place feather.  She thinks she’s the aesthetician of the flock.  I think she’s a budding feather picker and she better stop it or I’m going to put her beak on the back of her head.  She and I have talked and she’s considering her options.

flowers

In other news, the plants on the deck are doing wonderfully!  I don’t want to talk about the garden.  Really.  Topic is completely off-limits.  I’m pretty sure that those tomatoes from the farm market we go to will be DELICIOUS.

 

Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vinnie drill

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

 

I’m participating in Homestead Barn Hop #159!

 

Ugh.

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

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

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

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

borb

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

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

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

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

Roosters.

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

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

cluck

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

borbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seems, legit…right?

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

24.

Yesterday, I ended up taking the entire day off from work because I had an appointment and needed to take care of some other business.  So it really wasn’t that much of a day off.  It’s really just a matter of geography.  I was still working, but just not in my windowless office growing ever more translucent and pale from the lack of sunshine and Vitamin D.

As usual, I shlepped out to the coop first thing to check on the beak faces.  They were all standing at the door to the run when I unlocked the big doors to the coop, peeping sadly.  I’m sure chickens have no sense of time because they looked like they thought that they’d never see the outside of the coop again, which is something that I can totally relate to when I’m sitting in my office at 2 pm in the afternoon and I can’t leave for another two and half hours.

I explained that it was cold outside and that maybe they should stay in for the day and work on their clucking.  They were having NONE of that idea.  So I opened the door to the run and the mass chicken exodus began and ended in about 5.4 seconds, leaving me standing alone in the poof of dust they created as they went screaming out the door.

As I walked out of the coop and locked the door behind me, I turned my head to look at the run and there they all stood.

“Peep.    Peep.”

All of them were scratching around in the dirt but Vinnie and Oprah and they were standing at the fence peeping and looking at me with one eye.  Clearly, I had forgotten to throw the morning ration of scratch.  So, back in the coop, threw some scratch, there was a lot of excited peeping and by this time, my caffeine level was so low, I didn’t know if I could make it to the house.

In case you’re worried…I did make it the house…but BARELY.

So, I got all of the running around and “stuff” done in the morning, and when I got home I checked the chicken mafia and they were all doing fine.  OH…I left something out…while we were out running errands, seeing doctors and doing things of high importance (Greg and Tom were with me), it dawned on us that we needed to stop for dog biscuits otherwise there would be a mass uprising from the canine residents of the family.

They’re serious about their biscuits.

We think there’s crack in this particular brand of biscuit.

Anyway, Greg and I were nosing around in the live animal section of the pet food store we frequent (home of the moldy straw we bought).  The live animal section is your usual mix of fish, ferrets, chinchillas, surly rabbits, hamsters, mice, scaly things, and birds.  For some reason, for the first time, I noticed a large tank of crickets.

Crickets?  CRICKETS.

“GREG….Crickets for the CHICKKKKKKENS!!!!”

“You’ve got to get some!!”

I bought a double serving of crickets, which turns out to cost $2.00.   You can’t do ANYTHING fun for two dollars!

Unless you have chickens….and you buy $2.00 worth of crickets.

We finally headed back home…I balanced the clear, plastic bag of crickets on the console of Tom’s truck because they are CREEPY.  We decided to wait until chicken bedtime to have the cricket rodeo.  I carried the bag around with two fingers, looking for a place to put it and finally settled on the kitchen table, because everyone who knows us, knows the kitchen table is used for setting things on that you don’t know what to do with, but surely you’re going to use soon.

I kind of forgot about the crickets once they were out of my immediate view and thought I might do some baking.

Hell immediately froze solid.  There are trees down, electric went out and Satan keeps calling me asking me to knock it off because he had a soul barbecue planned for the evening and NO ONE was going to have any fun if the whole placed was iced over.

I rarely bake.  Greg has been so helpful and has crawled through a significant amount of chicken poop whenever he has to chase the little rascals back in the coop at night, so I thought I’d bake a new recipe for peanut butter cookies that I’d found online.

I’ve recently bought some cute, old-fashioned aprons to wear when I work in the garden and chicken coop to protect my clothes.  They’re just the half aprons that you tie at the waist and they go down to about the middle of my shins.  Adorable, vintage reproduction fabrics in tiny prints and lots of pockets.  I put one on and started happily to assemble ingredients for the cookies.  Then my daughter walked in…she’s 11…and if she keeps it up, she won’t see 12.

“WHAAAAAAAAT are you WEARING??????  Is that an APRON?”

“Yes. Why?”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH”

“What’s wrong with wearing an apron?  I’m trying not to wipe my hands on my JEANS which I’m sure a chicken has sat on at one point or another today.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAH”

“Emma!”

“Well you just aren’t the type of PERSON who wears an APRON”

“What type of person wears an apron then?”

“Well…like an average mom.”

“What am I then?????”

(Silence)

“EMMA?!”

“Better than average mom?”

Good answer.  I stomped around the kitchen putting the recipe together while Emma tried for about 30 seconds to redeem herself, shrugged her shoulders and went back to her room.

About that time, Greg and Tom arrived home from the store with supplies for dinner.

I glared at them as they came in with bags of groceries…and then Tom made a fatal comment…

“IS THAT AN APRON?”

I had a small, but vicious, high-speed-come-apart right there in the kitchen.  I’ll spare you the details but Tom was immediately sorry he’d said it and frankly, Greg looked a little terrified.   And I was BAKING.  So they knew if they didn’t want a spatula where spatulas should NOT be in their bodies and if they wanted any of the cookies, they’d better just go along with everything I was ranting about and back away slowly.

Not only was I baking…but I was making dinner…which is usually Tom’s job because I work all day…in an windowless office…have I mentioned how pale I am?  Tom and Greg sort of scuttled out of the kitchen for a little bit while I ranted.

The whole thing was compounded by my mixer not working correctly and when I turned it on to cream the butter (2 sticks), brown sugar and white sugar together, the mixer jumped into WARP SPEED and butter and sugar exploded out of the bowl and all over me and the floor, much to the delight of the herd of dogs we have.

Now I was really grouchy.

I finally finished battling the mixer while throwing in swear words that I made up from combining other foul words.  Dinner was simmering on the stove top.  I had the first batch of cookies in the oven and I took them out and they looked like this…(insert choirs of angels singing here)…

984068_10204092493976423_7678072562721785004_n SUCCESS!!!  These are easily the BEST peanut butter cookies I’ve ever made and surely the best I’ve ever tasted.  I should bake when I’m mad more often because apparently a pinch of ranting about aprons being ADORABLE, some intense swearing, and a little violence while loading the dishwasher makes a huge difference.

We had dinner and Greg and Tom feasted on cookies…Emma doesn’t like them because they aren’t Oreos.  We intend to have her committed to a psychiatric facility next week.

After dinner, I actually loaded the dishwasher instead of just stacking the dishes.   I received an email from Hell that it had closed indefinitely due to ice accumulation.

I watered the plants that I still haven’t thinned (oh SHUSH) and rearranged the mail stacked on the breakfast bar (because I’m an Olympic Mail Stacker) and we watched a little TV.  Greg had already locked the chickens in the coop earlier, because it had gotten quite chilly and they finally mustn’t have been able to feel their scaly toes and had gone in on their own.  I received an email from Satan that he was going to Ecuador until things warmed up at his place.

At about 8:30, Tom mentioned the crickets and the chickens in the same sentence.  CRICKETS!!!!  Greg had a friend over and we all shuffled out to the coop while I explained to the crickets that they were going to meet a bunch of new friends.  The chickens were milling about in the pine chip bedding looking for left over weeds from earlier in the evening.  I’ll point out that THEY did not laugh at my 19th century style apron and I might take them all to Olive Garden this week because they were so considerate of my feelings and willing to overlook my craziness.  I waved the bag in front of Vinny, who, as usual was sticking his face through the fencing because being first in line and cute has its benefits is what he’s already learned.

When he saw the crickets I thought he’d come through the fencing.  I should have made popcorn and sold tickets to this.

Greg got into the chicken area and released one cricket.  It barely hit the floor before Vinny slurped it up.  The next five crickets met the same fate.  Greg took them out of the bag one by one and Vinny greedily inhaled them without chewing…do chickens chew?  Huh.  Not sure…anyway…we wanted the others to get a bit of cricket action so Greg finally just unceremoniously dumped the rest of the bag on the floor.

Holy moly.  What followed was like a carnage scene from a cricket horror movie.  I’ve never seen these particular chickens or ANY chicken for that matter move so fast in my life.  THREE minutes…or possibly less…and the crickets were GONE.  Obviously, $2.00 worth of crickets is not nearly enough for a full evening of chicken entertainment.  They continued to frantically look for crickets while making adorable low clucking noises while they darted around and scratched in the bedding.  They got bored with that pretty quickly.  So we moved on to the next phase of our usual evening visit…socializing.  Although I’m sure they consider it “PANIC TIME”.

Greg is bound and determined that he’s going to be friends with Cluck Norris, our rooster…well…one of our roosters…you have to read the whole blog.  He tried to look nonchalant.  Cluck eyed him suspiciously from the other side of the coop.  Greg edged his way over and Cluck took off for the run door…which was locked…MISTAKE.

In a flash of movement, a cloud of dust, a flurry of feathers all accompanied by frantic clucking, Greg scooped Cluck into his arms.  Cluck just gave up.  Greg held him and we petted his Easter Egger beard, admired his feet and told him he should try to be more social and less of a grouch.  Cluck made little noises in his throat and probably was planning how he’d kill us all once his spurs grew in.

Then something interesting happened.  Greg flipped Cluck over on his back while still holding him.  Cluck looked a little surprised, but just laid there.  He was completely relaxed and submissive.  So we checked out his drumsticks and told him he might want to not skip “leg day” at the gym so often.   Then,  Greg carefully turned him back over and set him on the floor.  Cluck just walked away like nothing had happened.  SCORE: Humans 1, Cluck  0.

We watched them for a little while longer while they tried to impress us with roost acrobatics (they seem to like to push each other off of the roosts) and then finally went back to the house.  I was worn out.

Next time I’m buying ten bucks worth of crickets.

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.

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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.

 

Chickentime.

If you have chickens, you know how to do chicken math.  I’ve never been good at math.  In fact, I refuse to do math after 12:00 pm.  If you need something figured out, you’d better get to me between 8 and noon, or I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Chicken math, however, came quite easily to me and I feel as though I could be a natural chicken mathematician.

Let’s work through an example.

Chris wanted 4 hens.  She went to the Rural King and the minimum purchase is six chicks. Chris purchased six chicks.  How many chickens does she have?

ANSWER: NONE.  Chicks don’t count in chicken math.

How about another example, just to make things more clear.

Chris has six chicks.  She went to the Rural King for supplies. There are two trains heading in opposite directions that have no chickens on them, traveling at 50 miles an hour. How many chickens does Chris have?

ANSWER:  Even though Chris purchased six more chicks, she has NO chickens…because chicks don’t count.  And who cares about trains with no chickens on them?

Okay, okay…one more.

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Chris wants 12 chickens.  She has 12 chicks (which don’t count) and three of them are roosters (which also don’t count), how many chicks does she have to buy to have 12 chickens?

ANSWER:  It doesn’t matter, she’s just going to keep buying chickens.

Got it?  It’s really not that hard.  What you have doesn’t count, hatching eggs are not even included in equations and no matter how many you thought you’d have, you discover that you need more because you really don’t have any.  Simple.

As I’ve been raising the chicks (which don’t count), I’ve also discovered the phenomenon of “Chickentime”.  It’s completely different than keeping regular time. it’s a bit more difficult to explain than chicken math, but let me give you examples and I think you’ll pick it up pretty quickly.

Here we go…Chris has 12 young chickens.  She feeds the chickens every morning and lets them out of their coop.  How long does it take Chris to do the activities listed in chickentime.?

ANSWER:  I don’t know, I haven’t seen Chris since last Tuesday since she went out to feed the chickens.

Still unsure?

Another example:  Chris has 8 baskets of laundry to do.  She goes out to take the chickens a basket of weeds.  How long will it take Chris to do the laundry?

ANSWER:  NO CLUE.  Haven’t seen Chris since last Tuesday when she went out to take the chickens a basket of weeds and by the way…there are no clean towels.  Take a chamois from the garage if you want to dry off.

Getting it?  One more example.

Chris needs to clean the bathroom and bedroom.  How long will it take her in chickentime?

ANSWER:  Cleaning is not allowed in computing chickentime.  I’m going out to the coop.

So the next time your family criticizes the huge pile of laundry in the laundry room that growled at them when they went to look for socks, or wonders why they haven’t seen the top of the kitchen counter for three months, explain chickentime to them.

Because you simply don’t have time for these silly extra activities in chickentime…but since they don’t OBSERVE chickentime, they most certainly DO have time and show them to the laundry room where they can start on the growling, quivering heap on the floor, or they can start working on Mount Dishmore in the kitchen.

If you need me, I’ll be on chickentime today…out in the coop.

Breed.

So, let’s just back up a bit.  Remember when I followed the chicken tracks to the back of the farm supply store and found my own personal chicken nirvana?  If you don’t, you missed an episode (pssst…go read it).  Well, I was a little sweaty and overwhelmed, as you recall.  Partially because I was still somewhat shocked and incredulous that my husband was letting me get chickens and partially because I was slipping into coma from all the cuteness.   When the jaded kid working in the chick area asked me which ones I wanted, I sort of panicked and I said “oh…uh..three black ones and uh…three of those chipmunky ones”.  Let’s just say I was not well versed in the finer points of chicken varieties.  Image

When we got them home and I wasn’t feeling woozy from purchasing six chicks, I finally looked them all over to try to figure out what I’d bought.  I think it was Tom who asked me what kind they were.  Huh.  What kind.  I had NO idea.  I had very little criteria when it came to selecting chickens.  They couldn’t be white.  That was it.  No white chickens.  I can’t figure out WHY that was the criteria, but I’ll bet at some point I had a rational reason.  Oh…and they needed to be girls…they only sold girls at the store, right?  I hadn’t paid ANY attention to the tiny print on the sign that said “Straight Run”.  When I realized the gravity of those two words in reference to my chicks, I suddenly knew that Karma was going to get me for something dumb I did or said and I was going to end up with 6 roosters.  I KNEW it.

So when I went back to the farm supply store the next time to pick out the next six chicks, I made SURE I checked the side of the bin to see what sex I was choosing.  Wonderful.  Picked six from a pullet bin.  Perfect.

Except that two of them are roosters.  FAIL, Farm Supply Store…FAIL!!!  Two little Buff Orpington chicks, that are so full of adrenaline or testosterone or what ever chemical makes male chicks crazy, that they rocket around the run like cannon balls only stopping to threaten another unsuspecting run-mate or each other or maybe a rock that happens to be in their path.  They’re insane.

So now it’s time to play “Let’s Count Chris’ Roosters”!   In that first batch that I paid NO attention to what I was buying, 1 for sure rooster, 1 possible rooster, from the second batch, 2 freaking roosters.  FOUR.  FOUR ROOSTERS (Insert laugh like The Count from Sesame Street HERE.)  UGH.

You know what else I paid no attention to?  The name of the breed on the side of the bin.  Didn’t even look at it.  I’m telling you that section of the store with the chicks just sucks the brain right out of my head.  I didn’t expect the store to sell CHICKENS, let alone have specific breeds of chickens.  I just thought they got a bunch of so-cute-you-can’t-resist-them generic chicks.

So I ended up with quite the chick salad.  One Barred Rock, three Golden Lace Wyandotte, two Black Sex Link, three Easter Eggers and three Buff Orpingtons…heck, I might as well keep going and try to collect all the breeds?

Wait…I learned something else…you can ORDER chickens and have them SENT to you!  And you don’t have to worry that the farm supply store kid dumped the wrong chickens in the wrong bin or mixed up the breed or sex information.  You tell them what chickens you want, they box ’em up and BAM.  Chickens at your door.  Gosh, America is fabulous!

Once I get these two Buff Orpington boys rehomed, I’m going to approach the subject of replacing them.  Don’t worry…there’ll be a blog post on that, I’m certain.  When I finally do get the green light (and I will…bwahaha), I will order my very own box of downy joy and tell them the sex and the breed I want and it’s going to be AWESOME.

Annnnnd….I just got a little too excited about that.