New chickens! Vinnie isn’t happy.

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

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

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

“VINNIE.  STOP IT.”

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

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

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

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Strawberry popsicle

The other day, I was “fixing” strawberries (that’s what my aunts used to say) and I collected all of the over ripe berries and berry tops in a plastic container as I worked.  When I was finished, I nearly threw the whole thing away and then it dawned on me that I had a whole herd of perpetually hungry chickens outside.  The only problem was that they’d already eaten half a watermelon that day.  I didn’t want to cause any chicken intestinal issues, so I thought about saving them and then an even better idea struck…I’d just add some water to the plastic container and make a big strawberry popsicle for them!

I can’t think of anything better on a hot day, than a popsicle.  Even if you’re a chicken.

Recently, I’d read a comment that someone made online that chickens don’t need that type of thing.  Basically, the person was putting down the whole idea of doing nice things for your chickens because they’re chickens.   I remember feeling a little sad because I wanted to do the right things for them and this person seemed to indicate that frozen treats were a silly idea.  How sad.  How really, really sad.

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So, because I like to be contrary, I froze that strawberry treat to save for a hot day…which turned out to be today.  I’d had a rough day and I couldn’t wait to go out to visit the birds.  When I arrived home, I changed clothes and grabbed my silly strawberry frozen treat and skittered right out to the coop where I was met by the chickens with their usual greeting of running and clucking.  I actually feel physical comfort when I look at them.  I can’t even tell you what they do for me mentally…it’s good though…I swear.

I threw the frozen strawberry block into the run and scared them all half to death.  If there hadn’t been fence at the end of the run, Cluck would still be running. He’s not a very brave rooster.  Anyway, they all came around to check out the block and pretty soon they were pecking and licking (do chickens have tongues?), well, they were enjoying it…and that was the whole point of doing it.

Although chickens may not need coop decorations or fancy nest boxes or specially prepared food that’s healthy for them, it certainly does no harm.  If they are MY chickens and I’m willing to put up with the ramifications of what I’ve decided to do…like washing nest box curtains, cleaning decor, or making special treats as a part of their regular diet…then I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  Everyone gets to choose how they keep their chickens.

I choose to keep mine happy….because it makes me happy.

Listen to the rain.

I’ve never been much of an outside kind of girl.  When I was in grade school, I played outside and rode my bike and did all of those things that grade school kids do…but pretty much because my mother launched me off the sofa and told me to go play outside because I wasn’t going to watch TV all day.  I’d go on long bike rides in the country and through our small town and pretend that I was a celebrity and everyone wanted to see me.  I was sort of weird.

Anyway, I’ve never even been camping.  FIFTY this year and I’ve never been camping.  I’m okay with that actually.  Camping, to me, is a 5 star hotel where the hairdryer in the room is on the fritz or room service closes too early.  I don’t like discomfort and to me, outside can be fairly uncomfortable, especially since I’ve moved to southern Indiana where summer temperatures are the same as the daily temperature on Mercury and you’re wise to invest in an asbestos suit to wear while walking from the parking lot to the front doors of where you work.

The other outside thing that bothers me is HUMIDITY.  When I first moved to the area, I worked as a physician extender and had to do rounds on patients at the hospital.  The office that I worked in was across the street from the hospital where I saw patients and I would have to walk outside to get to the back entrance to the building.  I’d get all cute in the morning and have my white coat on (LONG SLEEVES) and the moment I’d step out of the building, my naturally wavy hair would frizz immediately and I’d look like I had a bush on my head.  By the time I’d made it to the hospital, I was drenched with sweat and had quite a stunning sweat mustache.  The patients probably thought they were being visited by some sort of voodoo witch doctor.  All I needed was some face paint and a bone through my nose.

Tom has always said that it’s so humid here that it feels like you’ve been slapped in the face with a wet mattress when you go outside.  My favorite has always been something I heard on a weather forecast one day.  Humidity is air you can wear.  I. Hate. It.  So for the past five years, the extent of my “outside” time during the spring and summer has been to run from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car and vice versa.

It’s been a rainy spring.  By that, I mean the rains have been MONSOONAL.  I think that rain is predicted here for the next ten days, which is another excuse to avoid the wolf spider colony in the garden plot.  It’ll be my luck that they’ll be flooded out of their dens by the rain and come knocking on my door asking to hang out at our place until they can have sump pumps installed.  UGH.

Yesterday, it was raining on the way home from work.  I’d let the chickens out in the morning and I was hoping that they were smart enough to not be standing out in the deluge.  They’ve been pretty good about coming in when they’re supposed to though.  I quickly changed out of my work clothes and looked out at the chicken run.

Empty.

Whenever the chicken run is empty in the middle of the day, even if it’s raining, I get a little worried.  I always picture a fox sitting in the coop wearing a bib and reading chicken recipes while they quiver in a corner awaiting their fate.  I asked Tom if he’d checked on them and he said “They’re fine…they’re CHICKENS” which is his stock answer when I get all chicken freaky.  I sat on the sofa for a bit and kept glancing out at the run.  No. Chickens.  It was still raining, now REALLY hard, and I started to worry about other deadly but unlikely chicken trauma and finally I couldn’t take it anymore and jumped up and said “I have to go check those chickens” and headed for the coop.

pouringThe rain was heavy and steady as I walked along the path to the coop.  I don’t run.  Anywhere.  When I got to the chicken run, it was already sodden from the heavy rain.  It was very quiet…which made me even more nervous.  Usually, the chickens are in the coop whooping it up and squabbling over things that apparently only chickens understand.  I went into the dark coop and flipped on the light.  They were all cozily snuggled together on the floor of the coop in the shavings, dozing and watching the rain through the door to the run.  With my arrival, they shifted around a bit and then reformed their snuggle pile in front of the run door and went back to dozing.  Opal, the Buff Orpington and Sweetest Chicken on the Planet, got up and peeked through the run door at the pouring rain outside.  She ruffled her feathers and shook them as if the mere thought of going out into the rain made her feel wet.  She watched the rain for a while and then rejoined the snuggle pile of her coop mates.  Vinnie looked at me with sleepy eyes and tucked his head under his wing.  It was clearly a sleepy, rainy afternoon for them.

I sat down in my chair and watched them doze.  Cluck Norris watched me with half-open eyes until he too was too sleepy and succumbed to the sound of the rain on the roof and the dim light of the coop.  The fan blew a breeze through the fringe bunting on the wall causing the glittery ribbons in it to sparkle.  Outside, crickets sang in the downpour which seemed to have picked up in intensity and the sound of the rain on the roof was delicious.  Tom arrived to help me hang a string of bells that I’d found on-line that have a beautiful tinkling sound when they ring.  They’re strung on a piece of cord and separated by beads and the cord ends with a shining brass sun hanging from it.  The sound of the tinkling bells accompanied the patter of the rain on the roof.

coop rain

We talked for a bit and Tom returned to the house to start dinner.  I stayed in my chair and watched the rain falling on the pergola near the pool and marveled at the amount that our morning glories have grown in just the past 24 hours.  The GREEN outside was just incredible.  The trees and grass were happily soaking up the heavy shower and the smell of the honeysuckle behind the coop hung heavy in the air mixed with the smell of pine shavings and chickens.  Occasionally, the silk flags hanging over the doorway caught a hint of breeze and floated slightly.  The wind chime over the run tinkled now and then and the new bells added their chime to the song of the rain and the breeze and the crickets punctuated by the sleepy clucks of the flock shifting in their snuggle pile.

The sound of the rain on the roof lessened a bit and I saw my opportunity to dash back to the house to help with dinner.  Although, I could have stayed in that coop, listening to the rain and its accompaniment for hours.

I think I’ll spend more time outside.  I think especially when it’s raining.

 

**I shared this post on the Backyard Farm Connection Hop! and Homestead Barn Hop

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

Off.

I had the day off today because my daughter had an appointment for root canal this morning.  She’s eleven.  I didn’t even know eleven year olds were capable of having a problem that would even require root canal, but I’m completely phobic about anything to do with dentists so what do I know?

About an hour before we left for the appointment, the doctor had us give her two Valium.  Those started to work in about 20 minutes and I thought we were going to have to carry her in a bucket to the appointment because she was so relaxed.  I, on the other hand, made Tom go into the procedure with her because the sound of a dentist’s drill causes me to lose consciousness.  Sometimes, if it SMELLS like a dental office, I can’t even go inside…you know…that dentisty smell.  Fortunately, this place didn’t have that strong smell and I wasn’t forced to puke into my purse for the hour and a half that I waited in the waiting room while being tortured by The Disney Junior channel.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for pediatric oral surgeons.  This guy was a gem.  However, when I’m the only one in the waiting area and I have to listen to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse “HOTDOG” song a couple of times, I begin to wish for either the remote to change the channel or for a speeding truck to come through the waiting room to put me out of my misery.

I finally went to the window and they told me I could go back to the room if I wanted.   I didn’t hear any drills, so a grabbed my stuff and headed back to where I could see Tom sitting in a room.  When I came through the door, Emma was lying on a reclining chair, covered with a satin and minky blanket, watching TV on the ceiling and wearing the nitrous oxide mask.  She waved at me like she was on a float at the Rose Parade.  I couldn’t believe it.  When I went to the dentist as a kid, the guy practically put his foot on my chest and was not exactly pleasant.  There definitely was no TV on the ceiling at the office that I went to.  They finished up with the procedure and took off the mask and Emma sat up and giggled.  In fact, she laughed all the way home and then passed out in bed for two hours.

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So, I think that was much better than I predicted.  I was sure that Tom would be dragging me unconscious to the truck with a puke filled purse.  I was SURE that Emma would throw up all the way home and that there would be screams of pain from the room while they did the procedure.  Instead, she laughed at everything she saw on the way home and babbled on about people who have phobias about ducks and people who have phobias about phobias and people who have phobias about big words.  She even used the word “paradox” in a sentence and I know sober adults who can’t do that.

Dental science has apparently come a long way.

It rained ALL day yesterday and by “RAINED”, I mean it was pretty much a constant torrential downpour.  I had let the chickens out in the morning during a brief period of drizzle and they’d all merrily scooted out into the run to have their morning round of “I’M IN CHARGE…NO, I’M IN CHARGE” with each other.  Every morning…same thing….they all run outside and then spend 15 minutes trying to prove to each other how big and bad they are.   I usually just stand there and watch and it always ends up the same way with Cluck Norris reminding each one of them that HE is in charge and then they all settle down and look for delicacies on the ground that might have appeared overnight but usually haven’t.

When I came home from work in the afternoon, it was simply POURING.  Thankfully, the chickens had decided that the 2 inches of water in their run was not any fun to stand around in and the run was vacant.  I waited until there was a slight break in the rain and put on my coop shoes and dashed out to the chicken coop.  When I swung open the barn doors, they were all huddled together in the shavings looking a bit damp and decidedly forlorn.  Nobody likes a wet chicken…even wet chickens.

Since they were all inside, I thought I’d just shut the run door since it was supposed to rain heavily through the rest of the afternoon and evening.  Of course, when I entered their enclosure, they all got up and stampeded out the door clucking wildly which sounded oddly like they were laughing at me for thinking that I could close the door and keep them inside so early in the day.  I yelled “You aren’t going to LIKE IT out there!”

Did I mention it was POURING again?  So I just stood there and waited.

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They were outside for all of two seconds before they all stampeded back inside.

I tell them and tell them things and they just don’t listen.

They stood around looking indignant and shaking their feathers to rid them of the raindrops.  I felt sorry for them and gave them a bunch of scratch to dig for in the shavings and when I left, they were happily scratching in the shavings already having forgotten that they needed pontoons on their feet if they wanted to go out into the run at any time in the near future.

This morning, the 2 inches of water in the run was gone and they were able to stampede through the run door and into the watery sunshine that had finally made an appearance.  The run was a little bit wet, but covered with green fallen leaves which they sorted through and checked for tastiness.   I watched the daily argument about who was in charge which was quickly ended by Cluck, who I think is a little over the whole thing happening every day.  When I walked back up the path to the house, I could hear them happily clucking to themselves with an occasional “peep-peep” from big, bad Cluck.

Thank goodness…back to business as usual…which is good for me because I don’t know how to put pontoons on chickens.