Friday, January 4, 2013

And than there were three

We started out with 4 hens, well pullets really.  They were 3 months old and we waited with what patience we could muster for the next 3 months for our first egg.  When they started laying we were so happy.  Having chickens turned out to be even more fun than I had imagined, so of course I wanted more.  About 6 months after getting the first 4 we added two more Cochin to our flock.  These fluffy, feathered legged little girls were a great addition.  Adding new chickens to your flock is a serious project as chickens hate change and can be really brutal to each other.  An established flock can kill a new chicken if the process isn't handled appropriately.  So we took our time and allowed for the old girls to live next to the new girls for quite some time before we allowed the new pullets to roam free with the big girls.  To read more about how to add new birds to your flock click here.

Soon our beloved Cochins, Flower and Elizabeth began laying.  Shortly after beginning to lay eggs Flower became broody, she wanted to have babies.  I wanted to get Cochins for several reasons.  First because I love their fluffy rumps and feathered legs, second because I knew they had a tendency towards going broody and I was very excited to have some baby chicks.  So I found some fertile eggs from two different farms and placed them under Flower and three weeks later we had babies!  It was a lovely experience, read more about that here.

Well we had to keep two of the babies.  Tiger and Blueberry stayed and joined our flock.  Now we had 8 hens in our little back yard.  Than Elizabeth, the other Cochin went broody.  She was not as good of a mother and only one baby hatched.  He turned out to be a cockerel, growing quickly into a rooster.  We didn't name him and we knew his life was going to be short.  When he started to crow he would become dinner. (Another post will follow soon to discuss his fate)  So now we had 9.  9 chickens in our little back yard.  It is winter and everyone is molting and there are no eggs being laid and we had 9 chickens.  I also know that Flower would go broody in the Spring and I have stumbled upon the world of truly original chickens.   I want to get some new breeds of fertile eggs, some really special breeds and have Flower raise them in her competent motherly way and of course I would like to keep a few.  So I was at an impasse.  If I had land I would just keep letting my flock grow and enjoy it.  But I don't.  So I checked in with my wonderful sister-in-law Shea.  She lives on 3 acres and has 5 or so chickens who are getting up there in age - maybe 6 years old.  "Do you want some more chickens?" I ask.  "Yes, yes, yes!"  she replies.  It would seem I have stumbled upon a symbiotic chicken relationship and what a lovely home for the girls.  Ranging on an acre with some sheep - a chicken's dream.

So off go Yoko, Boulder, Minnow, Blueberry and Cookie to their new home.  I am a little sad, I give a little sniffle - I will miss those girls.  But, they are happy and now we have room.  Less than a week after they go, it is time to 'harvest' the rooster.  For those of you that don't know harvest is the new PC word for slaughter.  I new this was his path, but it was still a long trip to the farm where his final moments would take place.  More on that later.

So now we have three girls left.

Flower the white Cochin and best mother in the world (who is still coming out of molt).

Elizabeth the partridge Cochin

And Tiger our Americana/Jersey Giant cross

Here are the girls wondering if it is worth challenging the cat for some left over eggs.

So now we wait, as patiently as we can for our little Flower to go broody.   I have never been so excited for Spring!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another poop story

My son walks out of the bathroom with wet hands and no pants on . . . "mom I dropped a quarter in the toilet" 

"you did?" 

"Yes, and there is a bunch of toilet paper in there as well. I thought the more toilet paper I put in the better as it might suck up the quarter" 

"hmmmm, well I will go take a look" 

From behind me, as I walk toward the bathroom, comes his sweet little voice "oh yeah, and there is poop in there as well. I pooped before I dropped the quarter in." They don't tell you these stories in the baby books :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Growing babies

It is amazing how quickly these chicks are growing.  I love watching these little fluff balls take dust baths in the sun.  They are already beginning to get feisty with each other over table scraps.  It seems that mac and cheese is a favorite of theirs as well as my children.  They have already grown feathers on their wings and some of them have pretty substantial tail feathers, I am thinking they may be the roosters.  I have one rooster and three hens going to a friend.  The principal from Gage's school is taking at least one rooster, maybe two.  I hope to find homes for them all, I really don't want to leave them at Western Farm Center.  I truly don't mind the roosters going to the dinner table, but I would like them to live a good life on pasture until their lives are over.  That being said anyone in Sonoma County ready to have some chickens, let me know!

I have to say I have a few favorites.  Here is one of them.

She/he is an unknown.  Hatched from one of the eggs I got from Three Graces Farm, the only one with feathered legs from her.  When I asked her what chickens she had with feathered legs, she told me she had a brahma that was eaten by a raccoon a while ago, perhaps we had her last egg?  I hope it is, as I LOVE brahmas.  But I really can't add to my flock.  My chickens are in my back yard and I can only have so many.  My coop will only hold so many.  But, maybe, just maybe I could add another?  Or maybe two?  Hmmmm

Here are my two Black Copper Marans.   It appears that at least one is a rooster.

Flower is still doing a wonderful job of mothering the chicks.  She doesn't eat until they are full and she is always available for a warm up under her belly.  Ever time I pick up the chicks their crops are stuffed full, theses babies eat constantly.  I suppose you would have to consume a lot of calories to maintain their growth rate.

We continue to have so much fun and enjoyment from these babies.  I am looking forward to doing this again!  :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

8 Little Babies

Of our 9 eggs, 8 little baby chicks have hatched and they are amazing!  Flower is being a wonderful mother and continues to demonstrate that she does know what she is doing when I question her mothering ability or decision making.  She sat for 3 days on those eggs as they hatched, never getting up to eat or drink or go to the bathroom.  The first little one hatched on Wednesday and was running around mom in the nest the next day.  A very frisky baby.  Here he is with one of his siblings poking out from under Flower.

The two nights of hatching were some of the worst nights for weather we have had all year.  Heavy rain with thunderstorms and I admit to waking up and worrying about Flower out there in her coop 'giving birth' in that weather.  But everyone did fine.   It is an amazing thing watching these little baby chicks working away, working so hard to get out of their shells.  I could tell by the first day which eggs were going to hatch, leaving one that would not.  Because out of all of those perfect little eggs, with no holes yet came the very busy chirping of little chicks.  I could pick them up and hold them up to my ears and hear the babies chirping away.  Mom would cluck, cluck, cluck back to them to encourage them on their lengthy endeavor.  For some of the chicks it took 12 hours from the first hole in the shell to being completely out and free.  They would lay there in an exhausted heap, sides heaving under Flower for a while recovering from birth.  Then they were fluffy, teeny little chicks that stayed mostly under mom, sticking their heads out once in a while, but mostly resting for the first day of their lives.

Early Friday morning the last chick hatched and we have 8 new baby chicks.  Only one egg did not hatch.  Upon looking at it I found a chick in there that had died early on in its incubation, a miscarriage of sorts.

Friday was another rainy day, so the babies and mama stayed in their coop.  I providing the with food and water that everyone could get to and the babies would run out eat and drink and then scoot back under mama.  Flower seemed very happy to be eating and drinking as well.  Imogen and I dug up a bunch of worms from the compost and added it to their food bowl.  Both mama and babies enjoyed the treat.

On Saturday a warm, sunny Spring day Flower brought her babies out.  What fun it was to see these little tiny babies out romping with Flower, scratching at the dirt the way she did looking for little, tiny buys that might fit into their mouth.   Flower, the wonderful mother that she is would chew the worms into little pieces and leave them on the ground for her babies.

I began to be concerned that some of the babies might get too cold, so I put them back in the coop and shut the door.  Somehow thinking I was a better mother than Flower.  Later as it got warmer I let everyone out again.  I kept checking to see how everyone was doing and started to get worried again that they had been out too long, so I wandered back to chase everyone back in and found the lovely Flower warming her babies as they needed it, when they needed it.

 The chicks would come out when they wanted and scoot back under when they were ready.  It was so fun to see.  Some would just stick their heads out and peak, staying nice and cozy under their mama.  Why did I believe for a second that I would know better than Flower?

The auntie hens watch on the other side of the fence and seem to be taking it all in pretty well.  No one has tried to kill the little ones through the fence.  Although I will keep them separated for quite some time yet.

Now that Flower is incognito as a pet while she takes care of her brood.  Imogen has claimed Elizabeth to be her new favorite chicken.  I am not sure if that is a blessing or a curse for Elizabeth :).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The babies are here!

We have baby chicks!  This morning Flower was much more concerned about me poking around under her to check on the eggs.  So I took her message and left her alone for a bit.  I was however too intrigued to leave her alone for long.  On my next check I reached under her and a little, perfect, beautiful chick popped her or his little head out.  Imogen and I were so excited and she desperately wanted to hold the baby chick.  We did however respect Flower's nervousness and tucked the baby under her wing again and left her alone.   She appears to be a strict mother as she tucked that little baby tightly under her wing and fluffed herself back out to cover everyone.  There are a lot of eggs left, so we have just begun our hatching endeavor.  Will write soon to let you know how many of the 9 hatched and how things are going with the new mama.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Broody hen

Our beloved Flower, Imogen's favorite chicken, has gone broody.  Which means she wants to have babies.

A broody hen is extrodinarily dedicated to her task.  In fact if you google the topic you will find many,  many people discussing it.  Most of them are debating the best way to break a hen of her broodiness.  Some theorize you break them with kindness.  Simply let them into areas they don't normally go, let them explore farther and they will forget about their baby making frenzy.  Others opt for cruelty.  Encouraging you to put the chicken in her own coop with no bedding to places to have her eggs or make a next.  Keep her as uncomfortable and dissatisfied with her situation that she eventually gives up and drops her broody desires.

I dismissed both of these options and decided to help our little mother have some babies.  We are so excited the babies are due on the 10th of April.  Only a few more days to wait.

As we do not have a rooster, none of our eggs are fertile.  So I set about to search for some fertile eggs and stumbled upon and purchased some Olive Egger Eggs and French Black Copper Marans.  Which means we will have dark brown eggs and greenish/blue eggs.  We also went for a wonderful farm tour at a Three Graces Farm and picked up a few more fertile eggs.  Her rooster is a White Jersey Giant and she has a mix of hens, so that groups will bet the barnyard mix.

Needless to say there have been a few hiccup along the way.  I didn't realize I needed to separate her to from the other hens.  After realizing this and trying to separate her, she would have none of it.  Even with her eggs under her in the new nest she tried frantically to get back to her original nest.  So she stays in her current nest with the other girls sometimes stepping all over her trying to lay in the same box.  I have to watch her closely when she comes out once a day to eat, drink and take a dust bath.  Because she will saunter back into the coop and lay on whatever nest of eggs is closest, often not in her nest, the only nest with fertile eggs.  Interesting that she won't let me move her to a new nest, but has no problem moving her self.

So we wait and hope that the babies are growing well in their eggs.  Our little Flower has been a good mother so far we look forward to seeing her mother her babies.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring Flowers

Yes, it is Spring here in Northern California.  The beginning of Spring at least.  I wandered out into my back yard to take a look at a few things and found beautiful white blooms on my pluot trees.  This exquisite find encouraged me to gather my camera and take a few shots of the first Spring flowers.

Some of the many beautiful flowers I found in my back yard were pink nectarine flowers:

And many lovely blooms on the magnolia tree:

The under rated calendula flower.  A medicinal herb we should all have in our back yard.  The plant has amazing healing power for your skin and will self seed, reproducing the lovely flowers in your garden year after year.

Pluot, pluot and more pluot blooms.  My first blooming fruit tree of the season, always ready to announce Spring well before the other trees.


And the lovely camelia, always blooming long and early.  A wonderful evergreen bush with amazing flowers. I often have my first camelia blooms in January, but they last through June.  I love these flowers.

My final shots were a of a little purple plant.  I don't know what this plant it is, but it lights up the garden in little blue and green shoots in early Spring.  Please leave a note if you know what kind of plant this is.

All the while I wander about the yard taking photos my children are building heffalump traps and the chickens are as chatty as ever.

So we enjoy our Spring, spending as much time as possible outside.   Enjoying our flowers that will soon become fruit and the flowers that are only there to look pretty.   Building traps, watching chickens and beginning to unravel the puzzle that is the vegetable garden every year.  We know that soon Summer will be sneaking in, to both our enjoyment and our wonder.  So for now we enjoy our Spring.