snowy days

The meteorologists were right. I’m sssssooooooo happy about it. Being holed up inside is one of my favorite things to be. And watching Gideon bunny hop through torso-deep snow brought so much happiness to my heart.
IMG_8566Gid could not get enough of the snow. He looooved it. Rolling, spinning, running, hopping, rooting, eating, barking and what seemed at times like dancing through all the powder. IMG_8300IMG_8275IMG_8276 IMG_8323 IMG_8390Tea, walks, bathrobes, fluffy socks, crunching snow, little puddles, netflix, naps, games, boots, cookies, blankets, icy fingers, and bright blue snow light.
IMG_8507 IMG_8567 The ladies would only venture out to an area we cleared of snow. They were not amused. IMG_8570 IMG_8568 IMG_8569Quickly the hens, and most humans in the neighborhood made their way indoors. To warm by the heater and look out the windows in wonder. I’m so sad to see melting this morning. Sigh.

Favorite snowy days moment: Matt and I stalked a few pre-teens around the neighborhood. Throwing snowballs and then hiding behind cars in hopes of confusing them. When they didn’t noticed, we decided an ambush was in order. What ensued was a 15 minute snowball fight that reminded me how hard it is to maneuver in snow.

Advertisements

The 7 Dwarves

It used to be the three musketeers. We’ve got a little sub-flock of three musketeers though. Miss Marple and two of the “chicks” (they are hens/pullets now, but I still call them chicks) are laying, so most days we’re getting three eggs again. Gosh I can’t describe how cool that is.

The bigger the flock, the more problems you’ll tend to have. More ladies to boss each other around, more chances for disease and more opportunity for pecking and all around chicken craziness. Recently, my absolutely favorite chicken Katniss, was getting her feet feathers pecked out. Now I’m not sure if that’s because she pecked them, then others saw the blood and went all psycho, or because someone singled her out. Either way, it was bad news. One day I found her hiding in the coop, blood spread all over the roost and dripping from her foot. Poor girl!

IMG_4885 IMG_5002 IMG_5003-001I love her. She jumps onto my lap and clucks sweetly. She also has the softest feathers out of all of them. I read that one way to keep chickens from pecking each other is to keep them busy and therefore distracted. Well duh. We tried out one suggestion, and so far I think it’s helped.

IMG_5430 IMG_5431 IMG_5454 IMG_5437 IMG_5435We strung wire through a head of cabbage (from our own garden no less) and hung it in the run. Let the chicken jumping commence. I love me some chicken watching time.

Annie

Sigh. Little lady I am SO proud of you. You paced around the coop for three days, trying to pop out that first egg. And you did it. I bet that was weird and slightly unpleasant for you. (See “egg labor” here…be warned.)560498_645838717854_1670373211_nAnnie, you are going to get your own special treat for this. I’m still confused why you don’t really cluck and instead you “scream cluck”. I could have sworn you were a rooster. Well, first things first…just get to laying!

 

Lyra-Girl

It’s been a sad couple days for my Hubby and I. Our hen Lyra died  two nights ago. A raccoon got into the coop and snagged her. We’re both so sad and feel incredibly guilty. For the past two years, we often wait until well after dark to close our coop up. We’ve never had a problem. Well this one time we weren’t so lucky. We got home late and following our normal routine we started to close everything up. As Matt approached the coop he noticed a raccoon scurry across the yard. He soon discovered poor Lyra-girl. We must have been just a few moments too late. She was in-tact except for an injured neck. We pray she went quickly. We buried her in the back yard and held Miss Marple for a long time. She narrowly missed being a raccoon snack as well. Now Miss Marple is out there all alone. Luckily for her, she’s got six buddies who will join her in a few weeks. Until then I take a chair out into the run and sit with her to keep her company.

Treats IMG_0895 016

It’s odd. Matt and I actually grieve the loss of Lyra, not just a hen. The fact that I had about 80 pictures of her to choose from should tell you something. We’ve been talking about her individual quirks, her beautiful  feathers, her puffy cheeks and beard, her green eggs and memories of her crazy chicken-hawkness.

060711 008

I’ve come to realize that it will always be hard to loose a hen. The grief might become less and less shocking, but in reality hens die all the time. They get sick, they get eaten, they get in fights with cats/dogs/eachother, they don’t have very long life spans. Chickens die in chicken ways, which is usually not graceful. But when we think of our pets, we hope they die in natural and graceful ways. When they don’t, when they die suddenly and painfully, it’s all so tragic. So I’m working on how to reconcile these two elements of my pet-parenthood. How do I keep loving my chickens as dear pets, but grieve for them appropriately when they die not-so-pretty chicken deaths? Cause we’ve got 7 more to go folks and I’m really not looking forward to sobbing that much.

IMG_0892 IMG_0904 IMG_0896

If you feel like it, pop on over and read these old posts about Lyra (“A Brood Awakening” and “She’s Back.”)…they are some of my favorites.

P.S. To those with chickens…if you have a run to enclose your ladies make sure you lock them in there if you’ll be away past nightfall. If you don’t have a run, make sure you get them closed in their coop when it gets dark. You honestly never know when something might happen and it’s best to err on the side of caution.

The 7 Dwarfs.

Say “hello” to our new flock.

IMG_2663

We picked these ladies up last week. The romanticism of chick-raising has diminished slightly this go-around. Now that I know how easy it is once they make it into the back yard, I’m ready for them to flee the coop…so to speak. Chicken Factoid: Did you know that when introducing a new flock to an existing one, you should always try to have a larger new flock? This helps prevent the existing chickens from trying to dominate the new ones.

IMG_2679

I love these little chickies. I hold them everyday. Which, if you have chicks you should totally do. I’ve seen how much more sociable hens are if they are used to being held. Some breeds are going to be flighty no matter what. But generally speaking your hens will be a lot more friendly if they are used to you.

IMG_2681

Another note for those wondering about the large yellow thing. That’s an EcoGlow warmer. Pretty much the most wonderful thing ever created. Chicks need to stay really warm while they’re growing up. Usually you prop up a heat lamp of some kind and gradually over several weeks lift it higher and higher, creating less and less heat. Here are a few reasons the heat lamp isn’t ideal:

1.There is always a risk of fire. The bulbs are extremely hot and if they were to drop or fall for some reason and come into contact with anything it will scorch or catch flame. Chick bedding acts like fire starter when this happens so the two don’t mix well.

2. You run the risk of the bulb going out at night, which would be devastating to smaller chicks.

3. The light (usually red) stays on all night long, therefore your chicks will be up all night long. They will nap when they want, but they won’t have a sleep cycle of any kind. While this isn’t particularly damaging, it isn’t natural either and it can make the transition outside a little chaotic.

IMG_2669

The EcoGlow (I’m not getting paid for this, though I think I should) eliminates all those factors. By using radiant heat, you don’t run the risk of fire. There is no light, so the chicks huddle under it in the dark, just like a hen’s wing and sleep soundly all night. There are varying levels so you can easily heighten the brooder, allowing for bigger birds to fit underneath. You can see mine is currently at a slant so the older ladies can fit too.

IMG_2685

It’s essentially trying to mimic a momma hen. The chicks regulate their own temperature. When they’re cold they hid under it, sometimes hanging halfway out. When they’re feeling warm they come out to explore. Hopefully this means that when these ladies finally make it outside they can handle the elements with ease.

I’ll be bringing you some more chick updates. I have a gut feeling that one in particular isn’t going to make it…but I’ll save that for another post.

Happy Friday!

And it begins again.

This is probably the best sight ever:

IMG_2345It’s been several weeks since the ladies laid their last egg for the winter. It’s been terrible …bearable. I will say right here and now, I’ve become an egg snob. We had to buy eggs eventually. It was sad. We didn’t put as much research into as we could have, but all the eggs we did buy, no matter how organic or free-range they were…were just sad. Sad little pale yolks, with sad flavor. And I feel sad for those ladies where ever they are…laying sad little eggs.

But I’m past it now, since my ladies are on the move again. I actually opened the coop door the other day and saw a small pile of eggs in a makeshift nest just inside the door. I tossed an egg in the nesting box and threw a hen in there to check it out. Like magic, they began to use the nesting box again.The day previous we had given the coop a nice deep clean. Took everything out, swept, and filled it with fresh fir shavings. I told my hubby that I suspected they would lay soon and couldn’t bear the thought of them laying eggs “in such an unclean environment.” He just rolled his eyes.

But they must have agreed with me. Cause the second it was all fresh and clean…pow! They are little egg making machines. This picture was taken of Miss Marple while she was in mid birth push squeeze  plop.

IMG_4976

Poor girl. I didn’t realize it at the time. I thought she was just standing up looking at me. It wasn’t until I heard a soft “thump” that I realized an egg had just dropped from her lovely hind quarters.

I think I’ve already told you enough about my hen-spoiling habits that this won’t come as a surprise. But I just read that you can put fresh culinary herbs in your laying boxes, and it’s like aromatherapy for your hens. Basil, lavender, etc. Someone even used rose petals. One hen supposedly fell asleep in her box she was so relaxed. Chicks of all kinds in the wild rub against plants like this to get some of the natural oil.      !?

Here’s the picture I saw:

eggs-WEB

Am I crazy or does that sound like a cool idea? It’s okay…you can say I’m crazy.

Christmas time is here.

Christmas CardIsn’t Gideon the cutest thing since baby ducklings?

We decided to do a Christmas card, mostly because this year we’ve felt so settled at our home and with our little family here. People like to hear about the chickens and Gideon. We thought it would bring a smile to their face to see them. We literally just turned to each other one afternoon and said, “Hey let’s go take a picture”. It was raining. We rigged up my dinky digital camera onto a ladder with a backpacking-tripod, and balanced an umbrella over it. Gideon got thrown in the wheel barrow, where he stayed freakishly calm. The chickens were swooped up, Matt and I posed. Done. Originally I wanted the picture to be a little chaotic. A chicken flapping around, Gid in mid-jump out of the barrow, Matt or I with our eyes closed, but it was all just so peaceful. I couldn’t bring myself to toss one of the chickens in the air. So I’m satisfied with this. Plus based on what I hear friends say, after you have kids, you consider yourself lucky to get a Christmas picture that’s not chaotic. And if it happens it’s usually after 50 takes. This picture is very reflective of our lives this past year. Busy little people, building our home and shaping our future together.

Have a great Christmas card idea? I wanna hear it! Merry Christmas to you all!