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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

The Bedding Debate.

When I first got my chickens, I was determined to do the very best for them.  So I did the wrong thing and read EVERYTHING I could find on the internet.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love, love, love the internet.  When you want a definitive answer about something though, and you’re new to whatever you’re researching, it can be very confusing because you find so many differing opinions and bits of advice.

We talked about bedding, or as some call it “litter”, for the coop a lot.  First I told my husband I wanted shavings…I read some more online and I said I wanted sand…then I read some more and I wanted a combination, then I wanted straw, then I wanted straw and shavings and then my husband wanted me to quit changing my mind.  We’d been using pine shavings that we’d purchased at the farm supply store as brooder bedding and we had a fair amount left.  I didn’t want to be wasteful, so out of that reason came the decision to try shavings in the coop.

small blog logo

In the past, I’ve had shown horses and we always used shavings in the stalls.  It was a little dusty when we dumped in the wheelbarrow of shavings, but after a couple of hours, the dust settled and it didn’t make for a terribly dusty experience.  Farm animals are a dusty bunch, so I expected dust with whatever I used.  Our horses had loved rolling in fresh shavings and I loved burying my nose in their mane and inhaling a deep breath of fresh shavings smell combined with the sweet smell of horse.  The shavings were absorbent and the barn always seemed to smell like hay and fresh-cut lumber.  Not a bad combo at all.

We priced straw and found that we’d pay $7 a bale for it in our area and very few people seemed to be selling it.  We purchased a bale during my “straw phase” and when we broke it open, we found that the interior was full of black mold.  I didn’t want to have to break open every bale of straw before I bought it to inspect for mold and I knew mold was bad for chickens.  Suffice it to say we never spread that moldy straw in our coop and instead used it to cover some new grass seed that was nowhere near our flock.

I looked at sand too.  I hate walking on sand.  I’m sure chickens don’t, but because sand has the tendency to “give” when you’re trying to walk, it makes it difficult to walk around in the area where the chickens are kept.  The advice was to use “washed construction sand”.   Home improvement stores look at you like you’ve lost your mind when you ask for it.  The sales person shrugged and said there was play sand in the garden area.  I knew play sand was a bad choice because it was fine and dusty and if chickens happen to ingest too much of it, it can cause a crop full of sand which can get impacted and the bird could potentially die.  I had read that it was great for dust bathing (I’d made them a dust bath already) and that it was easy maintenance to scoop out chicken poop that had been desiccated by the sand.   I don’t even like to clean the cat box.  The thought of scooping chicken poop out of sand in the large coop area didn’t appeal to me at all.  It also didn’t appeal to me at all that I’d have to buy this stuff by the truckload and have it delivered and then haul it into the coop, push it around to smooth it out and then during my complete cleaning, I’d have to shovel the darn stuff out and sand is HEAVY and I’m OLD.  It also didn’t seem sanitary to me…but then again…how sanitary is any chicken bedding?   I was also worried about the heat and cold and the use of sand.  I want something that warms up quickly in the winter.  Sand doesn’t logically seem to be something that would do that.  We also live in a very humid area and like a child’s sandbox, I envisioned sand holding moisture on humid, damp days and chickens walking around with damp sand clinging to their feet.  It also doesn’t seem like something that would be comfortable…although I’m not a chicken and I’m not sure what their feelings are because they’re very tight beaked about things like giving their opinions.

Oh the DECISIONS.

I finally went with what I had and used shavings.  We can get them for about 4.50 for a compressed package.  So we covered the coop’s wooden floor with shavings using two bags to create a deep soft bed of about 3-4 inches while it’s fluffy.  I always leave some of it in piles near the back and center of the coop, because the chickens spend a ridiculous amount of time scratching around in it and looking for treasures and always scratch the piles flat.  It keeps them busy for a while.  I didn’t want shavings out in the run, so as I spread the shavings, I made sure that there was a more shallow area of shavings right in front of the door.  The chickens have to step up to go through the run door, so the shavings naturally don’t fall out the door.  I also put a flagstone just inside the door on top of the shavings.  The chickens always step on that stone when they are coming and going through the run door.  When it’s dirty, it can be hosed off and replaced.  I’ve not had any problems with shavings out in the run.

vinnie shavings

Vinmaster V (he’s also a rap star) looking out over the shavings floor in the coop. He thinks they’re the bomb-diggity.

I also found, that the chickens will turn the shavings daily for me and they don’t mind at all!  I throw in some treats like dried meal worms and they scratch and scratch and turn the bedding over very nicely when they’re searching for their treats.  Fresh shavings are brought to the top and soiled shavings gravitate to the bottom.  The coop continues to smell like fresh shavings too!  I do have some tracking of shavings into my work area in the front of the coop by my shoes, but it’s a snap to sweep them up with my corn broom and just toss them back in the chicken area.

We discovered that with ten chickens, two bags of shavings in the coop will last between two to three weeks depending on the weather and how often the chickens can’t go out due to rain.  The first time I had to change out the bedding, I was determined to do it myself because they were MY chickens and I promised my husband that I would care for them.  I used a shovel and easily shoveled all of the shavings into a large trash can so that we could add it to the compost that we were creating for the garden and plants in our yard.   When I’d filled the can, I groaned a little.  I expected to have to get  Tom or Greg to carry it around the compost pile.  I tried to move it…IT WAS LIGHT!!  I could do it myself!  Can you imagine if I’d had to shovel sand and then try to move it to…wait…where would I have even PUT the soiled sand?  Anyway, I would have been in traction for a WEEK.

We’ve been using shavings since the beginning and honestly, I just love them.  They smell clean, they’re easy to change out, they have very little dust once they’re spread and my happy chickens love to dig a shallow hole in them and then fluff the shavings around them with their beak like they’re creating a little nest.  I have to believe that they like them when they create that little nest and settle down with their head under their wing to take a nap. If they didn’t, they’d be out sleeping in the dust and dirt in the run.  Shavings seem to make their home cozy, they seem to be as healthy an option as anything else (as long as it’s not cedar shavings…do NOT use those as they can cause respiratory issues with your birds due to the toxic nature of cedar oils) and I can manage them myself without calling a quarry or trying to track down large amounts of clean, bright straw.  I will be using a combination of straw and shavings in my nesting boxes and we plan to use straw bales around the perimeter of the coop during the winter for the insulation it can provide.

I think bedding choice is YOUR choice.  Read everything you can find, but don’t feel like you’re not doing the right thing because what you choose to do doesn’t align with what someone else has done.  Educate yourself and choose what makes sense for the health and happiness of your flock…and possibly your spine.

 

Chickatraz Update

In a couple previous posts, which you can read HERE and HERE, we discovered that chickens can fly much better than we thought they could.  We’d made the top of their indoor area about 4 feet tall initially.  That thoroughly illustrates how new we are to chicken keeping.  We just thought the little darlings would be so happy in their run that they would never even think about trying to get out of it.  It never occurred to us that chickens like to roost in high places…like four foot tall places…like the top of the fence in the coop.

So with this new-found information (I’m sure someone, somewhere probably had told me that the fence was too short and I didn’t listen), we decided that we’d take the walls up another three feet.  My super handy hubby framed out additional height to the existing fence and we added the wire and then I smugly told the chickens that there was a new warden (me) in town.  As usual, they didn’t seem to care…but it made me feel better and as soon as the entire world realizes it’s all about ME we’ll be much better off.

Anyway, we were in the coop one night this past week admiring all of my new and groovy decorations.  I’m clearly going over the top with the whole chicken coop decor thing, but it makes me unbelievably happy to jazz up their coop with silly stuff.  I keep telling my husband about things I want to add to the coop and he just shakes his head and tells me that he’s happy that I’m happy.  My daughter, who is eleven,  has started to just walk by me and say “YOU ARE OBSESSED”, to which I respond “YES I AM”.  Sorry…little tangent there…back to the coop.  Tom was sitting in the chair with his feet on the bale of straw and Greg was in the run area communing with the chickens (read as…picking them up and saying “YOU…are a nice chicken”…we try to keep their self-esteem high).  One of the Gold Laced Wyandotte Sisters was standing on the roost under the new fringe bunting and we could tell that she was eyeing that seven-foot top to the fence wall.  She’d get very tall and skinny, sort of evaluate the height and distance, scrunch down to prepare for take off and then she’d think better of the whole situation and jump off the roost and walk around for a while.

inside coopOf course, we were all sassy about it and thought that we’d foiled their plans to roost on the top of the fence.  She walked around on the coop floor for a bit and we sort of lost interest in her because we were trying to convince some of the others that the cool shelf that runs all the way across the back of the coop was a GREAT place to roost.  The nightly fight on the roosting bars was getting to be a little more physical than we liked.  I tried to show them if they would all just SCOOT DOWN, there was plenty of room on the roosting bar for everyone, but you can’t reason with chickens.  Save your strength…they just don’t listen.

So Vinnie was on the shelf and fell off the shelf because he’s not very good at….well, anything.  That’s when one of us glanced over at the roost near the fringed bunting again and noticed Mary, the Wyandotte, evaluating the top of the fence again.  She’d scrunch down to take off, and then stand up…scrunch down…and then stand up…over and over again.  We stopped watching the rest of the flock on the other roost attempt to throw each other off the roosting bar while cackling madly, and all watched Mary.  The scrunching and standing continued and then she scrunched REALLY low and took off.

wrongI expected her to crash into the wire and hit the floor, but SHE MADE IT.  She walked happily back and forth on the top of the seven-foot fencing, clucking merrily and looking down at the others.  In a flash, Vinnie was on the roosting bar doing the scrunch and stand thing and that’s when we knew we were in trouble.  Tom grabbed Mary off the top of the fencing and took her back into the chicken area and Vinnie forgot all about the top of the fence because if someone was coming into their area, they MIGHT have TREATS.  He’s impossible.

We decided that we needed to wrap up Chicken Bedtime early and I flipped off the lights.  Chickens can’t see that well in the dark and if they can’t see the top of the fence, I figured they couldn’t fly up there.  I must have figured right because the next morning, everyone was where they were supposed to be when I opened the coop…or they’re sneakier than I thought and they had all jumped down before I’d gotten there.  Either way, I’m not letting them go to the prison commissary this week.

Yesterday, Tom extended the wire to the CEILING.  Figure that out, PRISONERS!

I’ll be in the Warden’s Office…watching Orange is the New Black.

Pasta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HE WANTED IT ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

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

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

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

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

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

Chickens…you’re doing it wrong.

 

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

Salmonella.

If you follow the world of poultry at all, you’ll know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recently issued an advisory statement regarding a particular hatchery’s chicks being infected with Salmonella.  It’s been very difficult for those who have found that their chicks originated from that particular hatchery and emotions, fear and denial have been running fairly high at many of the popular internet chicken water coolers.

The backyard chicken movement across the country is exploding.  People are understanding the value and joy of keeping a small flock of birds for their own use or perhaps to share eggs with the community that are local in origin and humanely obtained.  With the spread of the popularity of backyard chickens, also comes a lot of new folks who not only aren’t knowledgeable about backyard chicken raising, but also do not have the knowledge to follow biological safety.  It’s not their fault.  They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

germ

In one of my previous positions, I was an infectious disease physician extender meaning that I rounded for the physician and saw his patients, evaluated their status and lab results and wrote progress notes that were later confirmed and signed off on by the attending doctor.  During that time, I learned quite a bit about infectious disease, but I’m certainly not an expert and I’ll be honest about that right now.  However, being in healthcare in general, you learn a tremendous amount about how disease is transmitted and what should be done to avoid that from happening.  I thought I’d take a moment and list some friendly tips and some information about Salmonella.

Salmonella is an equal opportunity bacterium.  It would like to live in you and if it decides that you’re a cool place to hang out, you’ll know about it.  Gut-wrenching abdominal cramps, unbelievable diarrhea and fever are the typical symptoms.  Someone on another page that I was reading mentioned that it’s not that common and you might not even know you have it. 1.2 MILLION cases are reported every year.  Some of those people do okay, some are hospitalized because they are so severely dehydrated, some have lasting effects like joint pain and other damage to their bodies and some, frankly, die.   I assure you, you’ll know you have it and so will everyone else at your house and maybe everyone else in your area because you’ll be doubled over on the commode yelling about your abdominal pain while your body tries to purge every molecule of water from it through your backside.  This isn’t one of those overnight stomach bugs.  This is one of those fluid and electrolyte draining, dehydrating, miserable situations that at some point during which you’re sure you’re dying.  Salmonella and Salmonellosis is not anything to take lightly.

Prevention is the key when dealing with a bacterium like Salmonella.  There is no cure other than supportive care and antibiotics are not always helpful because the darn bacterium keep figuring out ways to be resistant to the antibiotics that we’ve over used over the years.  It’s not enough to say “well…it’s just diarrhea…it’s not going to kill you”, because it most certainly CAN kill a human especially if they are a child, elderly or immunosuppressed.

In order to prevent something from occurring, you have to understand how it occurs.  Salmonella bacteria live in the GI tracts of animals.  Those animals aren’t necessarily sick, but they are carriers and at various times, shed the bacteria through their feces.  Humans encounter that feces in a variety of ways, none of which you want to think about too terribly much, because you are, after all, eating poop in order to come in contact with the bacteria.  It can also spread through dust and animal dander and if you’ve ever been around a chicken, you know that not only are they atomic poop machines but they also are dusty, dandery and well, lets just be honest…downright dirty. Without going into too many details about how the condition is spread…because I’ll start screaming…let’s move on with tips on how to minimize your risk for contracting and spreading Salmonellosis or as I like to call it…common sense.

WASH YOUR HANDS

Every time you touch a chicken, touch anything in the coop, open the coop door, change water, add food to the feeder you’re at risk for picking up bacteria.  I shouldn’t even have to tell you to wash your hands.  Many people think a quick rinse under the kitchen sink is washing their hands.  NO.  Let me say that again…NO.  When you utilize your kitchen sink to wash your grubby chicken poopy paws, you’re just introducing that bacteria into the area where you cook and wash dishes.  STOP IT.  Either keep hand sanitizer in your pocket to use on your way to the house (and you should do it before you touch that back door handle, by the way) OR keep antibacterial soap outside of the house near a water source and wash your hands before entering your home.  When you wash your hands, you should do it long enough that you can sing the entire ABC song that you learned in kindergarten while you do it.  Get under your nails with a scrub brush, do the backs of your hands and wrists because bacteria are sneaky.  If you’ve only used hand sanitizer, you’ll still want to get under your nails and wash well with soap and water.  Washing your hands is the number one single thing that you can do to protect yourself and your family.  Make your children and your hubby or wife wash their hands often.  You have no idea if they’ve been out petting chickens or giving them treats or maybe they found a hidden cache of eggs in the sandbox.  You can not expect to stay healthy if you do not wash your hands.  If you know your hands are contaminated by chickens…touch NOTHING in the house until you’ve washed your hands.  You don’t want to be the one with chicken poop under your nails from cleaning up one of your girl’s dirty, poopy vents and then come into the house and answer the phone.  Don’t take anything into the coop that you do not want contaminated.  That includes your children and your dog that likes to eat chicken poop and then kiss you on the lips.  Use bleach wipes to regularly disinfect the area around your sink and your door knobs on entrances and exits that are high traffic for your family.  Using that rich chicken poop compost in your garden?  Make SURE you’ve washed your hands and under your nails after you’ve worked in the garden and wash any food from the garden before you consume it.  You’ll thank me later.

COOP SHOES.

For Pete’s sake, don’t wear your good shoes that you want to wear anyplace else into the chicken coop or anyplace else for that matter where the chickens are leaving precious chicken poop presents for you.  I have three pairs of shoes/boots that are chicken coop only footwear.  I don’t wear them into the house and I don’t wear them in public and it’s not because they’re ugly, it’s because I’ve been walking around in chicken bedding and they aren’t fussy about where they poop and when you’re chasing a chicken in the coop, you aren’t fussy about where you step.  Get yourself some ugly shoes from the discount store and a pair of boots and make those your permanent coop shoes.  Take them off before you go into the house and leave them in the garage on newspaper or on something that you can disinfect.  Tracking chicken poop all over your living quarters is inevitable if you wear your coop shoes into the house…and we all know what that means.  Even though you don’t see it, it’s on the floor.  Let’s say you set your purse or gym bag on the floor or your child’s back pack and then unthinking, you pick it up and put it on the counter or the table.  The bottom of your purse and bags that you set down in public places are simply filthy.  Hang them from the back of a chair instead of throwing them on the floor where someone (probably your kids) have walked and probably tracked in chicken poop that they stepped in outside.  Educate your children.  They don’t want to get sick either and it’s never too early to learn common sense sanitation practices.

WEAR AN APRON.

Cover up your clothes if you’re going to be working in close contact with your flock.  An apron can save you from chicken poopy clothes and from dander and dust.  They aren’t a perfect solution, but unless you like doing laundry and changing your clothes every time you come back to the house, they are helpful and will save you a ton of time in the laundry room.  Wash them frequently in hot soapy water and you might want to just do a chicken clothes load of laundry.  Just a suggestion.  Your family will give you grief about the apron and when they do tell them you’re doing it so they don’t get flaming diarrhea and leave it at that.  “YOU CAN JUST THANK THIS APRON FOR NOT HAVING FLAMING DIARRHEA” and then spin on your heel and leave the room.  That usually gets them.

LEAVE THEM OUTSIDE.

As much as I love my chickens, and I really do love them, they are NOT allowed in the house.  They never were kept in the house and I would no more consider allowing them to live in the house at any age, than I would consider living in their house.  Chickens are carriers for many things that make humans sick.  They don’t belong in your living environment.  They are animals and they aren’t clean animals.  They are indiscriminate poopers and they belong in an environment where they can indiscriminately poop.  You can argue with me until you’re blue…chickens need to be outside or outside of your living area anyway, from the DAY you bring them home or they hatch.  They are not clean animals.  You will get sick in some form or another and your feathered room mates will probably be somehow involved with that.  Trust me…you don’t want to hear my “I Told You So” song…because it also comes with a dance.

STOP KISSING THEM.

Really?  Do I have to tell you that?  Come on…they sleep in their own poop…they walk in their own poop and then they scratch their face with their scaly poopy foot.  Do I really need to tell you not to kiss them on their darling cheek?

KIDS!!

Alright.  Your kids are cute, the chickens are cute…look how cute they are together….AWWWWW.  Little Susan likes to kiss the chickens and play with them outside…and oh look…she’s eating a cookie.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Children should be taught proper hand washing so that they know every time they’ve touched the chickens or been outside that they should wash their hands.  They probably have learned about singing the ABC’s while they wash their hands at school.  Ask them…they’ll teach you.  And make them leave their shoes in the garage!  If they’ve been running around where your chickens free range, those shoes are most likely stomping on poop while they’re outside.  Common sense stuff.  Shoes….in the garage…clothes…changed when you come in…hands….WASHED before you do ANYTHING else.  Those should be the rules for children in your home.  And tell them to leave the chickens alone if they don’t understand.  Kids are not nearly as cute when they are spewing poop and crying from stomach pain or lying in a hospital bed.

I’m glad that I have chickens, but I’ve been vigilant about germs from the first moment we set eyes on them at the farm store.  I just hate stomach ailments.  I’d rather chew tinfoil than throw-up or have nausea.  Being an RN, I’m a bit of a freak about it, but I’ve just given you some easy things that you can do to minimize your risk for illness.  If you purchased your chicks from this hatchery with the Salmonella contamination, I would recommend that you contact your local farm extension office for advice regarding their future with you.  I don’t want to sound callous, because I would be devastated if it were my  birds, but if yours test positive for Salmonella you are endangering not only yourself and your own family, but you’re endangering any human who might come in contact with you,  your flock, and your eggs.

The Centers for Disease Control have a great website that can educate you about preventing disease.  I was also on the The Chicken Whisperer’s page today and he’s been doing radio shows with scholars and veterinarians and I understand that tomorrow the hatchery owner of the place with contamination may be joining the show as well as someone from chain of farm stores that sold chicks from this hatchery.  You can find information here about The Chicken Whisperer’s live radio program.

Just use common sense.  Stay healthy.  And for Pete’s sake go wash your hands.

 

 

Mwahaha.

It feels like it’s been raining here for WEEKS.  Actually, it’s only been for the past week.  Now that I think about it, the weather was fine until Greg rototilled up that garden.  Ever since then, we’ve had several downpours a day…which is great if you’re trying to grow your own tropical rainforest.  It’s not so great if you’re trying to put a garden in or doing other simple tasks like just walking to the car.

Everything FEELS wet because the humidity is somewhere between “I can’t breathe” and “hey…just a second, I need to wring out my shirt”.  I don’t like it.  It makes me cranky and everything smells….and it’s not good smells either.

This morning as I was talking myself into going to work, I went into the hall bathroom to find towels to steal so that I could take a shower so that I at least smelled better even though my hair would make it look like I was wearing a bush on my head.  I had been smelling something like mildew in the house and I figured it was just the humidity.  I think everything smells moldy when it’s humid.  I think I inherited my super smell skills from my mom who would sniff a piece of bread that LOOKED perfectly fine, but she would declare “MOLDY!!” and toss it.  It’s one of those gifts… sort of like The Long Island Medium, but with mold.  square eggs and i

Anyway, I went into the hall bathroom to get those towels and when I opened the door to the linen closet the moldy smell reached out and slapped me in the face…which isn’t very nice.  Confused, I started rifling through the contents of the closet and everything seemed okay.  Maybe I was just insane (maybe?).  I reached for a couple of towels that were on the shelf, making a mental note to tell my daughter NOT to wad them up when she put the clean towels away, and my hand encountered something wet.

She’d put wet towels…and I mean SOAKING wet…that she’d apparently used for her shower, back in the linen closet.  Not just one…but TWO.  She neatly rolled them up (10 points to Gryffindor), and had just put them back in the linen closet. WET.

I pulled the sodden towels out and was nearly knocked out by the smell of mildew.  Holy Mother of All Things MOLDY!!!!  That wasn’t the worst, though.  I tossed the towels into a pile waiting to be taken to the laundry room  and as they flew through the air, they unfurled and OH MY GOSH!!!  The reeking stink of mold just filled the room.  She’s going to be ELEVEN.  How did this even make sense in her head?  I was ranting about towels and mildew and sanitizing and selling her to gypsies and Tom just finally came and got the towels and took them down to the laundry to room to start the DECON cycle of the washer…also known as “WASH WITH LAVA HOT WATER”.

I just don’t understand.  I just don’t get it.  How was putting wet towels in the linen closet a good idea on ANY level??  Usually she leaves them on the floor like any other normal kid and I pick them up and put them in the laundry or  Tom shoves them in a corner of the bathroom…and I pick them up and take them to the laundry.

This is why I have grey hair.

The humidity also brings bugs that need an aircraft carrier in order to land and take off.  The May flies are still around and last night when Emma went to take her shower, there was one hovering around the bathtub.   She came rocketing out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, proclaiming that there was a BUG in the TUB.  May fly.  Tom, being the great white hunter, went in and saved the day by smashing and flushing.  Drama mitigated.

We’ve also been having problems with wasps and other unidentified flying, stinging things.  Greg had a wasp get into his apartment, so he did what any other brave man would do and screamed while he sucked it off the light fixture with the vacuum cleaner.  One day I was surfing Pinterest (where all genius ideas live) and I found a do it yourself project to make a wasp catcher!  YAY!  It involved an empty two liter soda bottle, some sugar syrup and some wire.  I would show you a picture of it, but…um…it’s not pretty and I’d have to go out in the rain to take one…so just forget it.  Long story short, all I’ve caught is a mosquito, a stick and some mold.  However, I DID have a moment of intense pride when I first hung it up because I’d recycled an empty soda bottle into something seemingly useful…or at least something that the neighbors can talk about at their next meeting to discuss ousting me from the neighborhood.

The chickens are fairing pretty well with all the rain.  This morning, I opened the door to let them out into the run and they all scurried out as usual.  As I was leaving to go back to the house, they were happily munching leaves that had fallen from the trees over their run…which, with my luck, instantly will kill a chicken.  Nobody fell over dead, so I figured the leaves must not be toxic, at least not right away.  As I was closing the door to the coop, I glanced down and there…in the crack of the door jamb was a ROACH.

I didn’t scream…which is good because it was early.  The roach scuttled off to somewhere unknown, but I have a feeling I know where they are living.  The people who lived in the house prior to us buying it had wood stacked along the back of the property.  I think they must have stacked in sometime in the 18th century because now it’s just a decaying pile of something that looks like firewood, but if you touch it, disintegrates into a pile of decayed wood chunks.  When we were making the chicken run, I thought a few logs would be nice for them to perch on and when I tried to pick one up, I found myself holding just a piece of bark while the rest of the log fell apart.  The inside was FULL of termites and peppered with a healthy dose of roaches with a few roly poly bugs thrown in for variety.  While that is surely everything that chickens dream about, it just made me scream a lot.cockroach

I stood there absolutely STRICKEN because there were ROACHES at the door of my CHICKEN COOP.  I knew I couldn’t spray anything…but WAIT…I had diatomaceous earth!!!!  A whole bottle of it was stored in the cabinet in the coop and I’d just been reading the other day how it interferes with a bug’s exoskeleton and turns them into bug jerky!

I got out the diatomaceous earth and gleefully sprinkled it around the coop and in the door jamb and I might have even laughed out loud while I did it…which is going to further unnerve our neighbor Steve and his wife, who think I’m a bat to begin with and won’t even wave at me anymore, when they hear “MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH” coming from behind our garage at 7:30 in the morning.

Thinking I had most likely saved all chicken kind from roaches, I stood back and admired my dusty work.  I could just picture them creepy crawling back to the coop and then encountering the diatomaceous earth and then their legs would just….fall off…or something…I really didn’t care…they just need to DIE!!!!!

Now…about that wood pile.  I’m going to need a backhoe full of diatomaceous earth.  When I dump that baby on that wood pile, there’s going to be the biggest pile of bug jerky and legless crawly things that you’ve ever seen.

I’ll bet I should call Anderson Cooper, because CNN is DEFINITELY going to want to cover this.

 

******  This post is part of The Homestead Barn Hop and The Down Home Blog Hop!

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!