Friday, May 27, 2016

Chicken Drama - Part II

Who knew I was going to have to serve in the capacity of private investigator, and genetics inspector when my son brought our first six hens home that were given to him?

I had no idea what I was getting into when he asked if he could bring the six banty hens home that a neighbor he was working for wanted to use as barter for payment for his work.

I also had no idea how much love was going to spill out of my heart for these funny, bordering on eccentric ladies who came to live with us.

Or how much I was going to learn about the beautiful and amazing way the Lord created chickens and how you have to learn to work with the way they were created, and not against.

I have been so amazed at how a little hen who has never been a mother before just KNOWS how to take care of an adopted chick.   Poor Bella is at the bottom of the roost "totem pole" so to speak. She is always picked on by some of the other hens because she is so small.  You see her head? The other chickens have picked out her feathers while she was broody.

Bella has become an amazing mother to poor little Buttercup.  I have literally spent hours watching them together, because it is so incredible to see how Bella interacts with and talks to Buttercup, and how she keeps *him* perfectly safe.

Did you catch that?  Him?

Yes... indeed.  Buttercup is a rooster!  Of that I have no doubt now.  And... Pepper is a rooster too!  I'll show you below just how I know...

Our chicken coop is daily changing in design.  Now that I have three different stages of baby chicks in one coop, I have had to get very creative in how to keep things running smoothly.  My greenhouse has become a "cage" of sorts during the day for Salt & Pepper.  They don't have a momma to keep them warm, and I was still having to keep the red light on for them.  However, some of the other hens have figured out how to get past the chicken wire over their caged area, and come into their little spot and lay their eggs under the light.  So, I've moved these two into the greenhouse, where it is warm, they don't need a light, and there is dirt for them to peck around and scratch in.  A win-win!

Who would have thought a greenhouse could also serve as a chicken coop? Not me... but like I said... things are constantly evolving because of the three stages of chicks that we are currently in.

Have you noticed a difference between these two chicks? Look closely!  They are black sexlink chicks.  Pepper was hatched by us, and Salt was picked up at a feed store as a companion for Pepper.  If you will notice their tail feathers, do you see one that is pointed and longer? Well, that tail belongs to Pepper!  So far, we have hatched out two roosters, and Salt came from the feed store and is indeed a hen.

It is a gamble in the chick-hatching business, as I've discovered.  I've learned several things about how to identify roosters:

1. If you put your hand into the pen where the baby chicks are, the rooster chick is the one who will approach you first. If you are attempting to discern who is a rooster, and who isn't, even at the feed store (because sometimes sexing doesn't work!), remember that the first one to approach you is most likely a rooster, because hens, by nature, run when they sense danger, while roosters come to meet it.  You can usually tell a rooster by this within a day or two of his life.  My husband and I were already concerned that Pepper was a rooster, but were hoping that because I was his only momma that he was coming to me because he was lonely... nope! My theory held true, in spite of the fact that I wanted it to be wrong! Lol!

2.  You can tell a rooster by the tuft of tail feathers that begin to grow as early as a few days old.

3.  Roosters can generally be hatched at cooler temperatures than hens.  If your eggs get cold at all (which some of ours did at times because of other hens pushing our broody hens off the eggs), then the eggs which hold hens will not hatch.  Rooster eggs can take a bit cooler temperatures and still hatch.

Those are just three of my hands-on experience with roosters, and how to know early on if you have one or not.

I suspect this is why most people buy their chicks from the feedstore where they are sexed, instead of hatching out a whole lot of roosters on your own, lol!

I'm not sure what to rename Buttercup.  He really is the CUTEST little thing you ever saw!   My husband suggested Butterball... but I'm not ready for him to have that name... yet!

Bella is doing an amazing job of teaching Buttercup how to forage for food already.  Here they are mixing and mingling with the other hens and Rudy.

I wondered how Rudy would feel about little Buttercup.  He ruffled his feathers up and got down low when Buttercup first entered the arena.  I spoke sharply to Rudy, and he settled back down, and since then, I have not noticed any issues.

It has been amazing to watch the interaction of Bella and Buttercup.  She will pick at something, and drop it and cluck.  Buttercup will come and eat it, as she has crushed it up for him.  Every 5-10 minutes or so, she will just sit where she is at, and Buttercup will run under her feathers to warm up.

Bella has a very specific "language" when talking to Buttercup that I haven't heard before, and Buttercup seems to understand and obey.  When something that she suspects is dangerous approaches, she has a special cluck that Buttercup obeys, and he scurries under her feathers.

If she finds some food that is particularly yummy, she has a special cluck for that too. In fact, I've noticed some of the other hens come running too when she makes that sound... it must be a common thing for chickens to communicate about what kind of food they have found.

So here we are... having hatched out two roosters, and a new hen that we got from the feed store... and Goldie, our other broody Orpington banty who is sitting on four eggs that are soon to be hatched.  The drama will continue, of that I have no doubt!

I have made some changes in the coop to keep Goldie secluded and only sitting on her eggs.  I hope this effort will result in us successfully hatching a hen.  Momma Mia is our one and only hen that we have hatched successfully from eggs.  I hope out of the four eggs Goldie is sitting on that we get some hens.  Time will tell... stay posted for that story in a few days {smiles}.

In other news... the wild strawberries are here!  I saw this beautiful strawberry yesterday, and what a delight it was to pop in my mouth, so sweet and tender! We have many more that will be ready in just a few days all over our yard!

Apparently a momma robin has decided that the chicken coop is a great place to hatch her babies.  I watched her build this nest over the last couple of days.

We took Annie and Roger for a walk in the woods, and the display of green was astounding!  We have had the most amazing spring, with above-normal warm temperatures and yet lots of rain!

Beautiful lupins adorning the landscape.

Roger is happy to roam around us as we hike.  We have learned we can let him off the leash, and he stays close by.

Annie is NOT so trustworthy... not at all.  We have tried different times to let her off the leash, each time only to have her run and chase something, completely ignoring our calls to come back.  So... she had to watch while Roger got to roam...

We have a busy weekend coming up with a wedding to attend.  I hope that all of you have a safe and blessed holiday weekend as we remember those who sacrificed all for our country.  :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chicken Drama

Drama in the chicken coop.... who would have thought having chickens involved drama?

With such sweet girls as this little one, born in March, and already almost as big as a grown hen... drama? What drama?

On second thought... anything involving a bunch of girls usually means .... drama, lol!

Girls are never mean to each other... right?

Well, as I'm learning, just as in real life, girls bring drama... and in the chicken world... a bunch of girls equates to a bunch of drama too!  Our poor little Buttercup has ushered in a BUNCH of drama into the chicken coop in recent days.  In fact, I've spent the better part of the last several days visiting the chicken coop on an hourly basis just to make sure she is still alive.

Buttercup is a baby banty chick that hatched out a week ago Sunday.  She is soooo small and so sweet.  Her happiest place was cuddled in my hand, or up against my neck.  She wanted to be cuddled and under something so badly.  She was hatched by our little white banty hens who are quite mean-natured.  After she was born,  I took her from under the white banty who hatched her, and put her under the red light with the other two chicks, Salt & Pepper.

On Tuesday I went out to the coop, and realized that all was not well.  Buttercup's eye was swollen shut, and she looked like she had been pecked almost to death by the other two chicks.  She was so much smaller than they, and so...the drama began.

I tried to separate them by putting a piece of chicken wire into their heated area so that they could still see each other but have an area of separation.  However, things just got worse.  Buttercup literally cried and ...cried and ....cried as she stood by the chicken wire looking over at the other two.  She wouldn't eat or drink.  She wanted to be with them so badly.  But, they had just pecked her eye out!  I couldn't let her be with them. Yet she was so lonely.  She quieted as I picked her up and cuddled her.  I felt so bad to see her damaged eye, and her sadness.

Then, I had a thought.

We had another banty Orpington, Bella, who had gone broody and was sitting on some eggs in another part of the coop.  I took Buttercup over to visit Bella.  Buttercup immediately ran under Bella's feathers and stopped crying.  I picked Bella up and Buttercup started crying again.  She quieted when I put Bella back down over her.

Buttercup only had one working eye, and her fate with the other two chicks was not going well.   However, Bella was happy to adopt Buttercup, and the two have been together since.  And the next day, after being with Bella, Buttercup's eye had completely healed over, and looks just fine now! Hopefully she will have no enduring damage from the trauma she suffered.  It seems so far that her eyesight is just fine!  Thank you Lord!  {I pray about everything and any little thing that concerns me, concerns the Lord too... and He has answered my prayers many times concerning our animals!}  How thankful my heart is that Buttercup's eye appears just like new, and she is being well taken care of by Bella, her adopted momma!

Meanwhile, we have been getting a LOT of rain.  It has steadily downpoured here for the last 3-4 days, nonstop.  The chickens didn't seem to mind the rain and mud at all.

Mud was everywhere, and while I didn't enjoy slushing around in the mud, they didn't seem to mind.

Salt & Pepper having some playtime outside the coop.  They've learned to come and jump on my hand when I call them because they know they might get an excursion outside their coop.

More chicken drama... girls picking on girls!  See my poor Anna... we are not sure if she is plucking her own feathers out or if someone else is doing it.  At first several weeks ago when we noticed it, we thought she was molting.  However, it seems to be ongoing.  She did have some feathers growing in, and we thought she was over the molt, but we noticed yesterday that the new feathers have been plucked.  A mystery... that I am continuing to play investigator on... is it bullying, meanness, or is she plucking her own feathers? There are all kinds of theories on the web about what could cause feather plucking, and nothing really definitive.... and it all involves playing detective to see who is doing what... sigh...

Poor bedragled wet Momma Mia.... yet it seems the chickens actually like being out in the rain because of all the bugs coming to the surface.

The house painting is paused... we have had a large rain system stalled over us, and it has just poured for several days.  This is how it looks so far.  Feeling pleased about the painting  is an understatement!  I am so excited about the rustic look of the home, and even though it is not the colors I thought I was getting, I have come to really LOVE the new look!  I just can't wait to have it completed... but patience is a virtue here... and with the rainy forecast for the next several weeks, it could be a while before we can get it finished.

To see puddles here in Idaho means a LOT of rain!  As soon as it stops raining, the puddles dry up within an hour or two.  I haven't heard how much rain we've gotten, but I know it has to be a lot. Everything will be green and happy once the rain ends, and the sunshine comes back out!

Stay tuned for more drama in the coop!  As I finish writing this post... more drama took place today, but I'll save that story for another day.  :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Little Ones and Home Projects

Hello dear friends!  It has been a busy few days around here lately... I'm on my second round of baby chicks this year, and there is a third round coming soon... am I crazy or what?!  Some of my hens are refusing to lay eggs, and just want to be broody, so I figured I might as well have them do something productive.  Pepper was hatched out last week (she is one of the black chicks above). Two of the other eggs that were with her did not hatch out, and I felt really bad for Pepper, as she was so lonely.  So we went to the feed store and brought home "Salt" .  I named her this because she has two sprinkles of "salt" right around her beak, and she is otherwise black.

Pepper and Salt were so happy to be together.

This past Sunday morning I went to the coop, only to find another egg had hatched that I did not think was going to hatch!  It was a banty egg, and this wee little one was sooo tiny!

 I was so happy to meet her!

She is the cutest, softest, fluffiest little thing you can imagine!  Welcome Buttercup to the world!

She is the sweetest little chick, and is working hard to keep up with the two bigger chicks.

Here, Buttercup is only a day old, and the other two are about 4 days old.  You can see how little she is compared to them!  I am now calling them the "Little Ones", and the 7 pullets born in March the "Little Girls".   And towards the end of May, first of June, there is a possibility that we may have more little ones, if the eggs hatch out.  I've found the egg hatching business to be quite a gamble.  One of the eggs didn't hatch out, and as it broke, I could see the baby chick all formed.  I gave her a proper burial.  Such is life on the farm.

We have had many projects ongoing here recently!  My garden has been a very busy place the last few days.  You may remember my children bought me a greenhouse for Mother's Day.  I was shocked and amazed at such a special gift from them. It took quite a bit of work to lay the foundation for the greenhouse to sit on.  It was also hard to decide where in my garden to put the greenhouse, since full sun is something that is very scarce here.  Finally we decided on a spot, and we got to work.  A friend came over to help us.  

The directions to put the greenhouse together might well have been in Chinese for all the help they were.  We had more luck looking at the diagrams than trying to read the instructions!

Rudy and the hens offering their thoughts on the whole event....

Finished!  Such joy in my heart to have my own little greenhouse! It is 6' x 8' long, and just perfect for what I need it for.

 My daughter and I dug out the ground under the greenhouse, and then shoveled dirt up to the top of the timbers.  We added a few boards to walk on.  My husband hauled in 12 concrete blocks from which I formed "tables" with 7' long lumber on which to set my plants.  As soon as it is warm enough here to plant, I will be putting all the veggies in the garden. I also plan to plant some herbs and heat-loving plants in the greenhouse along the sides later.

Around the yard... Mr. Simba keeping an eye out for new sleeping spots... he is always turning up for a nap in the funniest of places!

Poor Roger was sick a couple of nights ago and caused quite a mess for us to clean up in my son's room. He must have ate something that didn't agree with his stomach.  However, he seems to be feeling much better today.

The wild roses are beginning to bloom!  It is a joyful sight to see!

I have begun to pull my garden decor from storage, and have lots of work in the garden to do, but some pretty pink petunias were happy to have their own spot staked out for the summer!

These are onions that came up from last year... I love the gorgeous purple blooms on them!

My peony is about to bloom!  Roger ate all my peony blooms last year before they ever opened up. I now have my peony safe in the garden away from all nibblers!  I can't wait to see it in bloom :)

A peek inside my greenhouse...

The unplanted area of my garden is covered with wild strawberries!  Each little white bloom produces about 2-3 wild strawberries.... they should be ripening fairly soon! After all the strawberries have ripened, then I will be able to mow the unplanted area of garden, as it is growing high, fast!

Lupins are blooming now, abundantly, and amazingly!  

Their brilliant purple hue is simply delightful to see all over my yard!

As I was taking pictures of the lupins, Annie laid down in the grass close by.  She just thought I was taking pictures of the lupins.

But the lighting was perfect, and she was lying there so pretty, I got more pictures of her than the lupins, lol! She hates the camera, and always looks away or comes to sit at my feet instead, if she thinks I am taking her picture.

But I tricked her!  I pretended like I was taking pictures of the lupins, and got some beautiful pictures of her instead...

Such a happy face!

She looks like she might be smelling the lupin, but in all reality, she was after a bug, lol!

This beautiful wildflower doesn't have the loveliest name ... it is called the Foothill Death Camas. 

On the website listed above it says this:
Toxicoscordion species - all 8 of them - grow from a poisonous bulb. The bulb is similar in shape to the edible bulb of the true Camas - genus Camassia - which has made many people make the unfortunate mistake to eat the wrong bulb. This was a staple of native Americans, who knew to dig the bulb while the flower was still on the plant to avoid that mistake.

Well, we won't be eating the bulb, just enjoying the beauty of the flower!

Unsuspecting that she was the focus of my camera... these beautiful shots of Annie were captured.

Such a sweet girl!  She never behaves well for pictures at all, so I was so thankful to have captured these of her!

The latest event happening around here is that our house is getting painted. A dear friend of ours is going to paint the house for us.  He is an excellent carpenter and all-around handyman, and we are so thankful that he is going to do this project for us. Some of the siding has to be replaced, some of the wood trim needed to be fixed, and so on.  It was a project that none of us were looking forward to.  Now that we are having him do this, it will mean one less thing on my poor husband's to-do list!

The basic colors I had in mind to paint the house were beige and chocolate brown.  However, the color I chose turned out to be more sandy than I realized.  It was a bit of a disappointment to see this color at first, but the more I look at it, I know it is going to be just fine.  The trim around the windows will be painted dark chocolate, and I am looking forward to seeing how it will all look when it is finished.  We have been joking about the colors... I must have been thinking of breakfast, because the two colors were "Morning Coffee" and "Belgium Waffle", lol!  We are using Clark & Kensington exterior paint after reading good reviews on that particular paint.  

As you can see... life has been quite busy around here, with all the new little ones in the coop, my greenhouse to play in, and the house being painted.  Spring is always a busy time, but wonderful. The wildflowers are beginning to really bloom out, and the brilliant greens of the budding leaves and grass against the colorful backdrop of flowers are just a joy to behold. 

We really have had such a magnificent spring this year, and I'm soaking it up and enjoying it.  Soon enough, the heat of summer will be here, so for now... if you're looking for me... check in the garden first, or the coop... my kids are calling me the chicken whisperer now... lol!  Wherever I am, you'll usually find a chicken or two following me.  They are very curious creatures, and like to know everything I am doing.  I can't even walk to the mailbox without some of the crew following behind me!  

So, please forgive me if I am not posting as often as I usually do... I'm enjoying the beauty of our spring... each and every moment of it! :)