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Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Last spring started the beginning of my “we-will-survive-the-zombie-apocolypse” plan.   We went to the feed store and brought home 6 chickens.  Originally we only wanted  4, but then we were afraid that some of them would be roosters, so we bought 2 more.

The original bunch of ladies

Then mid winter, I decided it would be a great idea to let the ladies out to free range.  Bobby the Bobcat thought it was a great idea too.   Poor Henrietta.  We saw him drag her into the forest.

Marshall:  Wow! That was very nature documentaryish

Me:  I was thinking of the theme song from “Lion King”

Mike:  Hakuna Matatata, means no worries.  Wait?  Why are you thinking of that song?

Me:  No, I was thinking the Elton John song, “The Ciiiircle of Liiiiife” but Hakuna Matata works well too.

McKayla:  Aren’t you going to go rescue her?!?

Me:  No way.  I’m not taking a chicken away from a hungry bobcat and I am definitely not taking a chicken to the vet.

bobcat

Once Bobby got a taste for our ladies, he was unstoppable.  The next day Mike came running in screaming that the bobcat was inside the chicken coop.  Awesome, just awesome.  There went Pooper McPooperson.

We had a bit of a reprieve because Dave chased the bobcat around the yard with a look of menace in his eyes.  Whatever he did worked, and the bobcat was scared into hiding.  Yet when Dave went to China, Bobby came back for some more.  My cousin was spending the week.

Him:  Um, cousin, are your chickens supposed to be out?

Me:  No.

Him:  Oh man!  Bobby is back!  Marshall bring me your baseball bat!  We’re going to protect these chickens!

Somehow Bob had scared the ladies out of the coop and was picking them off one by one.  There went Ducky and Big Momma.  Poor, Poor big Momma.

Now we’re just down to two.  And though we’re not supposed to have favorites, I am a little upset that Mrs. Noisy was the one that made it.  I’m pretty sure she thinks she’s part rooster.

We're the queens of the roost

We’ve bobcat proofed the coop and bought 18 baby peeps.  I don’t know what it is about peeps that makes them so darn adorable.  It makes me sort of forget how disgusting adult chickens are.

Aren't we a little bit adorable

I’ve already started naming them.  Collette, Francesca, Henrietta the second, Katherine, Elizabeth, Genevieve, Victoria…

Nate:  Those are girly names.

Me:  These are girls.  And they’re the only baby girls I’m going to get to have.  If my ovaries can’t overact, I’m going to have 18 babies chickies.

Jake:  How are we going to know who is who, they all look the same?

Me: Maybe we could tag them.  We could write their names on the tags.

Dave:  You’ll be hard pressed to write Genevieve on a small tag.

Me:  Maybe I could crochet them little bonnets.  How tolerant do you think they’ll be of Harry Potter sweaters with their initials on them?

Turns out I wasn’t the first one to think of it.

A CHICKEN SWEATER?!? That sounds AWESOME!

 

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hard one fruits

Me:  Nate and Jake!  Please go check to see if the chickens laid any eggs.

I find myself constantly keeping an ear out for the loud clucking which sometimes signals a chicken laying an egg.  Sometimes it signals nothing.  I think they know we come running when they get noisy.  Yes, they are training us well.  I am hoping that eventually the ladies will become more regular about their laying times. 

Nate:  Nope.  The chickens didn’t poop any eggs!  And I’m not eating the chicken’s eggs.

Me:  Why?

Nate: Because there is poop all over them.

Me:  No there isn’t.

Nate:  When they poop them out they get poop on the eggs.

Me:  Nate, they don’t poop eggs, they lay them.  They do not come out of their butts.

Nate:  I’m still not eating them.

 ***

aren't i the cutest thing ever!

We were trying to pick a movie to watch at the movie theater, which is quite a big deal over here. Since we don’t have network tv, we really have no idea what is out and what might be good.  We were watching all of the previews online for all the movies rated PG and below.  At the end of the the trailer for Brave, the announcer asks “If you could change your faith, would you?”

Jake:  I wouldn’t.

Me:  I like that answer.  Why wouldn’t you change your fate?

Jake:  Well, what kind of feet would I get?  I like my feet.  What if I got really ugly feet like the chickens.

 ***

cat and bunny

I bought a flea collar for Frank.  Inadvertently, I purchased a purple one.  He’s stylish, channeling his inner diva.

After I put it on the cat, he went outside to join the boys in tormenting  loving the bunny.

I walked outside to see Jacob swinging the flea collar around like a lasso.

Me:  WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!

Jake:  Look what I found on Frank!  How do you think he got this?  (at the kitty strip club?  What kind of question is that?)

Me:  I put it on him.

Jake:  But why?  It is purple?  Frank is a boy.  Why did you give him a girl necklace?

Me:  It is a flea collar.  It will keep the fleas away.  That is poison.  Go wash your hands RIGHT now WITH SOAP!

(Jacob comes back sobbing)

Me:  Why are you crying?

Jake:  I love Frank, I don’t want him to die.

Me:  He’s not going to die.  He is completely safe.

Jake:  But I can never pet Frank again.

Me:  You can still pet him.

Jake:  But then I have to wash my hands all the time.  No thank you!

And the next 4 hours were filled with a  nonstop barrage of flea collar questions and tattling on Nathaniel for touching the flea collar.  I’m pretty sure our bathroom hasn’t seen so much action since we had baby chickens.

Jake:  MOM!!!  NATE TOUCHED THE FLEA COLLAR AND HE WON’T WASH HIS HANDS!!!

Me:  Jake. Stop tattling.  He will be fine.

About twenty minutes later I found Jake on his bed crying.

Me:  Why are you crying now?

Jake:  How long until Nate dies?  Do you think it will be today?

Me:  NATE!  GO WASH YOUR HANDS RIGHT NOW!  WITH SOAP!!!

It’s been a long week.

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Let me tell you some things about chickens that I didn’t really know before we got them.

Now, so that you don’t think I just willy nilly jumped into this whole “urban farmer” thing, I did do research on owning chickens.  I read a few books, looked at a few internet resources, visited some chickens at a local farm.  Still there were some dots, that I apparently, didn’t connect:

They poo alot.  When I say a lot, what I really mean is an obscene amount.  Like they poo so big you wonder if maybe one of them might actually be a German Shepherd in disguise.

I don’t know why I didn’t know this one:  Chickens are birds.  They poo on the go.  They have no compunction about letting it go anytime, anywhere.   I envisioned our ladies pooing in the grass which would then fertilizing the grass. I thought the whole chicken tractor was ingenious, they pood on the grass, we didn’t have to deal with the poo.  It just worked its magic, I would have an amazing lawn.  I didn’t imagine their home being full of chicken poo, not to mention the grass.   Turns out they mostly poo where they sleep.  They are disgusting like that.

Chickens, really, really, really love their homes.

We decided to adopt a baby bunny while dave was away at camp, because that’s what I do when he’s gone.  I adopt animals.  It’s the whole absence of the voice of reason which compels me to do it.

I decided that the bunny shall live outside, mostly so that Frank the killer cat won’t eat her.  In the winter time I’m sure that she’ll spend a fair amount of time inside, and Frank and her will become best friends and love each other, and you will see thousands of adorable cat/bunny snuggling pictures.  For now, survival.

The coop my dad built said that it was good for 6-9 hens, but my ladies seemed a little bit cramped.  I don’t think they minded it, but I did.  I had a brilliant idea to house the bunny in the chicken coop and house the chickens in the dog run temporarily until Dave came home and we could decide on more suitable living arrangements.

I didn’t actually go out and look at the dog run, but I envisioned it, and in my head it had a concrete floor.  It also already had a dog house in it and we moved a doghouse here, so that’s two dog houses.  Plenty of shelter for my ladies.  I knew it wasn’t ideal for my gals, but I figured that they would be safe from predators because it’s a well constructed chain link space and there were two shelters for them to hang out in if they were cold.

The kids and I went to the feed store and bought a bail of hay to lay over the concrete floor to keep their little feet comfortable.

Feed guy:  Do you want a full bail or a half bail?

Me:  Definitely a full bail.  I have a really big space to cover and I read that it should be about 3 inches thick.

He loaded it into dave’s toyota camry trunk.  He had these awesome bailing hooks that he plopped it into the car and then pushed and shoved until the trunk closed.

Feed guy:  Good luck getting that out!

We drove home and Mike and I pulled and tugged and pushed and finagled the hay out of the trunk.  We loaded it onto the twins Radio Flyer wagon and pulled it to the dog run.

Me:  Huh.  The floor isn’t concrete.  Wow!  That dog house is HUGE!  It probably used to house a bull mastiff or something!  Oh, well let’s do this!

Turns out we had about 3/4 a bail of hay left over.

The ladies were having an amazing time being free range while Mike and I scrubbed and cleaned the chicken coop rabbit hutch.  In a perfect world, I would let them free range all day long.  But they like to hang out near the house, which brings us back to the poo.  The first time they decided to hang out on the porch was the last time they got to hang out unsupervised.  Sometime around 5pm we decided it was time to introduce the ladies to their new home.

Normally if they are out foraging we call them, bring their feeder out and they come running to their home.  Mike filled their feed tray with food and we slowly led them to their new home.

They refused to go inside. 

5:15  Still trying to get the chickens in by tricking them with food.

Mike:  Okay, how about I will slowly back into the dog run with their food and you get behind them and scare them in.

Me:  Okay.

Chickens can fly.  Screaming (by mom).

Mike:  Okay, how about I slowly back into the dog run with their food and you scare them with this blue frisbee.  They hate this blue frisbee.

Me:  Okay

Chickens can fly.  Screaming (by mom).

5:30 

Me:  Maybe we should try a new tactic.  How about catching them?

6:00 Still trying to catch them

6:15

Me:  YES!!!  I GOT ONE!!!

6:20

Me:  YES!!! I GOT ANOTHER ONE!   HURRY MIKE OPEN THE DOOR BUT BLOCK THE CHICKEN INSIDE!!!

7:00  They are all finally in their new home.  They are NOT happy!

Normally around 8, the ladies turn in.  They are tired after a long day of hunting for bugs and preening their feathers.

8:15 We hear the biggest chicken racket we’ve ever heard.  We all run outside fully expecting to find some sort of predator with one of our poor ladies in his mouth.

We find them all huddled by the chicken run door crying.  They all have their little necks stretched out longingly looking at their coop across the yard.   If they could talk they’d say, “We want to go home! Please let us out of this jail.”

We all sat around talking to them soothingly.

9:00 They quieted down so we went out to check on them.  As soon as they saw us they started crying again at the door.

It was incredibly sad.

The next day when I went out to check on them they were all sleeping at the door.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them all sleeping at the same time in the middle of the day.  They must have had a hard night.

After we got our bunny and put her in her new home, we let the ladies out to roam around to cheer their little hearts.
They all immediately ran to their coop.  They all jumped back aghast when they saw the sweet little bunny. They all had an astonished look on their little chicken faces.

They’d walk away and eat some bugs and come back to see if things had changed.

They’d walk away and roll around in the dirt and come back to see if things had changed.

We left them out all afternoon and evening hoping that they would go into the dog run.  They never did.  They all huddled around their coop pathetically.  Poor things.

We tried the food trick.  It worked until we got near the dog run and then they all ran away.

Fortunately, the catching was much easier this time around but they weren’t much happier.  I’m hoping that they don’t all decide to revolt and escape like in that movie Chicken Run.

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I chose lime green and purple because I need something bright and cheery to look at during the long dreary days of winter next year.  It was not the most popular choice among the boys in my family.  It doesn’t matter though, I love it!  It turned out much better than I could even imagine!

The day before my Dad left we went to the feed store and bought 4 chicks.  This coop is supposed to hold 4-6, but I figure they will probably want a little space.  This way they can each have a corner and look out and pretend they’re alone.  I can only imagine what it would be like cooped up with a whole bunch of girls.  Someone would be loosing some feathers and I’m sure it wouldn’t be me.

The kids are enamored with these little gals. They are very fun to watch. We are keeping them in the garage to save them from Frank the cat.  Plus, these little guys are noisy!

The boys wanted to test out the coop on the grass today.  Marshall and Michael carried it from the garage to the grass.  It was heavy, and Mike needed to rest often, but they did it.  I’m glad because the weight was something we were concerned about.  The chicken tractor needs to be moved every few days to give the ladies some new pecking ground.  This job will most likely fall to the boys.

Nathaniel really wanted to crawl up into the roosting part of the coop, but I’m not sure if the ladder is load tested for a preschooler. In order to assure that we wouldn’t break the thing on the first day out of the garage we secured the ladder in the up position.

After putting the kids in, we thought about letting them test the security of it over night.  You know, make sure the coyotes couldn’t get in.   Nate wasn’t a huge fan of this idea.

The kids are very excited to put the little gals in here, but we have quite a few more weeks before they can regulate their own temperatures. It’s like we are running a NICU unit for baby chickens.  Plus, we chose one who ended up with pasty butt.  Aren’t we lucky.  Of course, we got one with a nervous tummy.  We get the pleasure of wiping her hiney and feeding them some yogurt/feed mix.  Thankfully, she seems to be on the mend.  She is the one that Nate and Jake chose.  They named her.  Pooper McPooperson.  Poor thing.

Nathaniel still afraid of them up close.  The whole time he was saying “Okay, Pooper McPooperson, I’ll let you sit in my lap.  Okay, you can stand in my lap. Oh no, Pooper, don’t move.  Oh no!  Pooper don’t flap your wings!  Oh no!  Mom, I’m done!”

Jacob, on the other hand was much braver.  That is until Ducky here decided to poo all over him.  It was not fun.

Mike named his Spot because she has a small brown spot on her head (completely unseen by anyone but Mike).  Hopefully it’s not a piece of dirt on her head.  Marshall chose a beautiful bird.  She has feathers on her feet and an amazing stripe down her back like a squirrel, hence her name, Squirrel.

Hopefully these little gals will make it to adult hood.  Honestly, some days it’s questionable if these kids make it to adulthood some days.

 

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I am an alarmist.  I’m in the camp of people that thinks our government might collapse in the near future, bringing the dollar down with it.  It’ll be greater than the Great Depression.  Okay, I might not really believe that.  But the mere mention of food shortages, downward economies, lay offs, and etc, I start collecting nuts, dusting off the old sewing machine and looking up how to make my own water barrels on Bing.  (yes, I am trying to conform to the culture here and instead of “googling” something, we “Bing!” it here).

Dave is very lucky that we didn’t buy a house on the other side of the street.  That side of the street is all meadow, unlike this little patch of forest we own.  If we lived across the street, we’d already own two pigs, two goats, two mini cows, and two sheep.  It would be like a mini Noah’s ark at our house (it rains enough here).  Alas, we live in the forest and I’m pretty sure livestock likes open spaces not second growth forest.

Thinking about becoming a tad more self sufficient (aka: prepared for the zombie apocalypse), I bought the most amazing book ever at Home Depot.  What?  You don’t buy all your books at Home Depot?

Abandoning the farm concept (for now) I have plans for a large garden and a tilapia pond (okay, a gold fish pond) and a berry patch and some fruit trees and chicken coop.

I’ve been talking to Dave for months about the garden.  We’ve picked a spot but I’m not completely sure it gets enough sunshine and with this Seattle weather, it’s impossible to tell because we so very rarely have a full day of sun.  I went to a gardening class, read the master gardener website, and checked out copious amounts of books on gardening in this sunless damp place we call home.  (I know, I’m a walking travel brochure).

I think Dave has finally given in to the fish pond.  I’ve picked the location.  Just before I decided to break ground Dave took me to the pond store (yes, we actually have a store here that only sells ponds).  After pricing the whole shebang, I could feed our family and the neighbors for a year and still have enough left over for a large television.  For now, the pond will be an imaginary one rather than a real one.

This really only leaves the chicken coop.  I think Dave thought that he could put me off long enough on building it to steer my interests elsewhere.

After scourging the whole internet for chicken coops, I decided on a chicken tractor rather than a traditional coop.  I figure it’s not permanent.  If chickens aren’t are thing, I can sell it on craigslist, given the chickens to my neighbor and pretend the whole ugly mess never happened.

I found some plans online and we went to Home Depot.  (It turns out that the return on this investment may never happen.)

The plans I bought were made by an engineer, it was full of hypotenuses and geometry.  It was written more like a novel and less like plans.  It was accompanied with a google sketch file.

After lots and lots of cutting, it was finally time to start putting it together.  With every helper under the age of 20, you can add an extra four hours for each hour of “help”.

Dave had told McKayla that she could decorate my coop.  I imagined a neon splattered paint job which channeled 1987.  I would be forced to look outside my window and see this “hip” monstrosity for the next 10 years.  I vetoed her painting, splattering, or muraling my coop.  I am a great mom like that. This of course meant that I had to choose paint colors for the coop.  It also meant that my dad did most of the painting too.

We went through all of the left over paint in the garage.  Fire engine red, army green, mustard brown, creamy sand, white, forest green, royal purple, and daisy yellow.  Then we went to Home Depot for the coordinating color.

The kids helped.

You may think that many hands make light work.  Really though, many hands make stressful work.  Many hands also make messy work.  And many hands make noisy work.

Take note of the kids “paintin clothes”.  One child chose clothes too big for him.  One kid clothes too small.  After vetoing about 20 different outfits, I finally gave up.  Please don’t take note of all the junk in my garage.

After hours and hours of painting and assembling it finally started to look like a chicken tractor.  I think at this point we had to go back to home depot for different hardware, more paint and more wood.  So much for the shopping list.

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