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.

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The 7 Dwarfs.

Say “hello” to our new flock.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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!

My chickens are cooler than your chickens…literally.

I’ve been waiting to do a post titled, “Weird Things I Think”, but after reviewing my complied notes on the subject, a fear of looking too weird crept into my mind for the very first time. Instead, I’ll interject these thoughts randomly, throughout the year, to spare you the awkwardness of having to “unfollow” my blog.

What do you think about while waiting in line at the grocery store? What thought pops into your head while you fill your tank with gas, or drive from one place to another? I think, “I hope my chickens are okay.” That’s not too weird. But it gets worse.

What do you think about on vacation? What thoughts do you have right before you set out on a fun hike or walk? Perhaps you’re going to see fireworks or eat out at your favorite Portland food cart. I think, “I really wish my chickens could come enjoy this.”

Yes. I actually thought that. I caught myself though, before I said it aloud. Instead I was able to go, “Woah…Matt…you’ll never believe what I just thought.” It’s happened a few times. Deduced down to its motives it’s obvious to see that I have a great deal of love for my chickens and it manifests itself in my wanting to spend time with them and care for them. All very innocent and not at all weird…right?

Anyway, I’m sure SO many of you are wondering, “Well Haley, how do you keep your hens cool on these very hot, hot days?” There have been more than a few 80 degree days this summer when I’m out back, looking at the ladies and wondering if they are miserable. And actually, keeping your chickens cool in summer can be more important than making sure they are warm in winter. Hens can hold and create heat pretty easily, but can’t escape their down coat when it suddenly sky-rockets to 85+ degrees here in Ptown. So here is what I’ve learned and anyone who loves their chickens even a fraction as much as I do, will find it interesting.

1. Water, water, and more water. Change it every day. I put cool water outside in the shade, which I change every afternoon, when it’s the hottest outside. They also have access to cool water in their run and there is a bowl in their coop. The sun comes up well before I get up and actually let them out. So I find them drinking in the morning, when the temp in their coop is already rising.

2. Provide shade. Even if this means you have to set up a tarp somewhere. Imagine if the only place you could go to get away from the heat was your overheated house? Imagine it had one small opening and a bunch of poop all over the ground that was heating up too. That’s the chicken coop people. We often open the large coop door and try to cool it off inside also, but it’s nothing compared to a nice shady spot outside for your hen.

3. Dust to bathe. If your ladies don’t already have a spot to take a dust bath, make one for them. Put some fine dry dirt in an old box and let them go to town. Spreading their feathers and kicking soft, cool dirt on their skin, can cool a chicken off real fast.

4. Mist. I take a hose and mist down the shaded ground around the yard (or whatever shade they have access to). They hate it when I bring the hose out, but right when it’s obvious I’m finished, they make their way over to the cool ground and usually park there until it’s evaporated, dust bathing and pecking around.

5. Provide cool treats. If you’ve got leftover watermelon or cantaloupe, give it to your chickens. They will freak. At first maybe not so much, but eventually they will eat it down until the rind is paper thin. I’ve chopped up frozen bananas, dished up cold plain yogurt, and given them berries that were no good to me anymore. When it’s really hot, just plain ice is a good way to keep things cool. Add cubes to their water (they’ll find it weird) and even throw crushed ice around for them to peck.

So there you have it. Now go forth and think weird thoughts.

She’s back.

Finally, after about 11 weeks of being broody, Lyra, the “chicken hawk”, has regained her mental capacity and composure, and come out of the nesting box to resume her life as a backyard chicken.

 She did not survive her self-inflicted ordeal unscathed however. She is significantly thinner and her poor little comb is grayish and flopped over.

But she doesn’t care. In fact, she acts like she’s on top of her game. She is the only one who can jump up on the fence. So she does it all the time…then flies/flings herself off, aiming straight for and often landing on another hen.

 She also sits on the fence for long periods of time watching Matt work on his projects in the garage. I have a great view of her from the dining room.

 Her reappearance has definitely added a new vibe to the backyard scene. But I’m mostly excited to get some green/blue eggs again. Our eggs have been looking so…so boringly brownish.

Guild Update

Two of the three sisters are looking awesome if I do say so myself.

Some moles have come dangerously close to uprooting the corn and therefore dangerously close to death by shovel or glaring stare and flailing fists of anger.

A few more weeks and we’ll get to plant the missing link, the beans. Sigh…it’s weird how relaxing looking at growing plants is. What’s that all about?

 And it turns out that chard and other hardy greens bolt really quickly. I’m used to leisurely picking leafy salad greens for weeks. But in about 2 weeks, these greens were flowering and tasting much more bitter than normal. So I pulled them to make room for more of what we eat most. Plus it made Miss Marple happy.

These two missed out. Lyra was too busy being a broody…brat. As you can see she’s all turned around, ready to protect the eggs she’s hiding. And Amelia can’t be bothered with Lyra’s attitude, so she lays next door.

Urban farm life is sort of fascinating.