Archive for We have chickens.

The dark side of Free Range

It’s the same story every Spring.  This year, I think, I will finally make something of these flowerbeds.  This year, I did.  Isadora adopted one for her own and we filled it with shade-loving plants.  She took a Sharpie marker and even went so far as to label one plant’s marker with “most prized possession.”  So sweet, I thought, with slight misgivings.  I didn’t want her to become too attached to the bed and its plants.  There was a reason these beds weren’t yet established, one that can be summed up in three words.  Free. Range. Chickens.

Geranium cuttings, nurtured all year indoors, made their way to the lovely ring bed right outside the back door.  There was no rain, then no rain, and still yet no rain.  Captain Daddio took upon himself the task of watering, did it with relish.  He nurtured that little ring bed, letting the hose soak it for lazy minutes on end.  One day, those geraniums bloomed and we rejoiced!

Then I became The Crazy Lady Who Runs From The House With a Broom And Much Shrieking to chase away the chickens ready to dip their toes into this newly discovered dust bath.  Nevermind that it wasn’t the least bit dusty.  Nevermind that we had all worked so hard to get that bed in bloom.  Nevermind that we had, in exasperation, ceded the front beds (including Isadora’s) to their bathing needs.  Nevermind that they had the entire shaded perimeter of their coop to bathe in, plus those two holes rudely placed square in the middle of major farm thoroughfares, the very same that we’ve been meaning to fill for years.

Perhaps I turned my back for an hour too long, or perhaps the heat had sapped my will to live just long enough to stop caring.  In a heartbeat, the bed was toast.  I rallied for one final advance, then swiftly surrendered.  Some days I think these vandals make a strong case for confinement reared poultry.  Other days I can be heard muttering to myself, “Ah, well.  There’s always next year.”

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Please put away the Slip ‘n Slide after each use.

Or else.

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This Moment

(via SouleMama)

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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Breaking Farm News!

Look at that little yellow face peeking out of the wings!

I should have recognized immediately from the sounds what was going on, but instead it was the rustling commotion under the bush that drew me in.  I had just opened up the chicken coop for the day and was puzzled over the Jersey Giant hen that hadn’t roosted the night before.  I spotted her dashing between the bushes on the periphery of the coop before I even opened their door.  What are YOU doing out here, Missy?  You know better!  And then there was the rustling under the bush.  I peeked in, oblivious to the oh-so-familiar cheeping sound until the sight of fluffy new chicks registered in my brain.  Jersey Giant was a Momma!

Wow.  We scrambled to get them out of the bushes and into the small tractor pen that had been sitting idly in the yard.  Should I be embarrassed to admit that this was the most prepared for chicks that we’d ever been?  This “SURPRISE! Momma-Hatched-Her-Own-Eggs-In-Secret” batch?  Probably.  But whatever pride I did have at the start of this venture has long since flown the coop, so it is with great pleasure that I say that all nine chicks were swiftly rounded up and put into the pen before either lazy (overheated) cat lying prone on the porch got wind of them.  Food and water dishes were pulled from their not-quite-put-away-yet-for-the-season holding patterns and the brood had shelter, food, and water in a heartbeat.  And that Momma – what a momma.  She’s got some strong mothering instincts.  (Clearly.  Our first clue was that she snuck off outside to sit on a clutch of eggs for nearly 3 weeks.)  You’d better watch your fingers and arms and your own children if you try to take her babies away from her.  She fluffs up like an amazing hovercraft and quietly clucks her “get in here now!” little clucks and the chicks swiftly disappear under her generous fluffiness while her beak becomes a defense missile.

I ran some quick numbers and figure that we’ve had almost 300 chicks arrive in the mail over the past few years.  Never before have we gotten to witness them being reared naturally, so this is such a fascinating, unexpected treat.  Day-old chicks need a heat source of 90-100 degrees in their first week.  Nestling under momma’s feathery hover does the trick for these little sweeties, but it was also noted that the day’s ambient temperature of 97 degrees was ideal for them.  I think that every single person in the sweltering region could have noted how the temperature was ideal for brooding chicks but little else.

Even chicks with a momma present need lots of kisses; Errol is our resident expert.

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The Vicarious Farmer: Hiring Contractors

I’ve tried recruiting the chickens to manage the massive crop of wriggling larvae (think young flies) that have sprouted in our new chicken-bits-and-sheep-manure compost pile.  (If ever there was a day to be glad to be on your side of the computer, rather than mine, perhaps this is one.  If you’re squeamish, that is.)  So I invited the chickens over – first by picking up and placing on the pile one of the young roosters.  Their jobs, we’ve learned, is to alert the hens to scratched-up grub.  A good rooster will locate some food and quietly summon the hens with a call that seems both a murmur and a coo.  Chuck Norris the rooster, shown above, is a stellar, selfless food-distributor.  The young rooster I placed on the heap initially – not quite ‘with it’ yet.  He took off running back to the coop and was oblivious to the smorgasbord of protein being offered.  To get these chickens to the heap took far more work than I would like – I lured them in with calls of ‘here, chicky-chicky’ and some grain, and then had to fend off the cats, who’ve learned that ‘here, chicky-chicky’ means there will be food thrown on the lawn for them to enjoy.  I’m not sure how to correct that misunderstanding.



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A letter to the neighbors

Dear Neighbors:

I want to apologize for all of the racket this morning.  Yeah, we sleep with the windows open, too.  What must have sounded like over a hundred squeaky, adolescent roosters crowing between the hours of say, 5 and 7, was in fact over a hundred squeaky adolescent roosters, calling back and forth between the elder cocks in the chicken coop.  What a chorus it was, no?  Well, it was remarkable, even if annoying.  Maybe if I tell you that the crowing will come to an abrupt halt very soon, that the pasture pens will soon be like the forgotten ghost towns after the gold rush, maybe then you’ll overlook it as just one of those quirks of living in the country?  No?  Well then maybe a delicious grass-fed chicken dinner is what you need, when the only sounds interrupting your solitude will be the juicy, chin-dripping bites of tender roast chicken punctuating the otherwise still night.


Your Neighbors

For the rest of you:

Listen carefully first for the elder rooster in the background, followed later by one of the young upstarts.  Had I not been gritting my teeth and covering my head with my pillow in the wee hours of the morning, I could have captured for you the real chorus of every. single. rooster. in. there. crowing at once.  Alas.  You’ll have to use your imagination and magnify this by 100.

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Looking for investors: Step right up.

Well that was rather melodramatic, how I left the last post and then maintained a radio silence for over a week.  Betcha thought I really did die.  Nope.  Been working up a business plan.  And I’m ready to open the door to some venture capital, to get the ball rolling here and start bringing in the dough.

Barn Glass.

Think sea glass, only sharper, less weathered, more barn-y.  Think there’s a market for it?  The Lovely Ladies and their compatriot roosters have been mining the stuff right outside of their coop for weeks now.  All I have to do is stroll by and collect it.  Each piece sounds a bit like a cash register dinging as it clinks the others in my hand.  Cha-ching!

From my viewpoint as an armchair anthropologist, I’d guess that what we now use as a chicken coop was at one point a plate glass factory.  Or a window storage shed.  Or some other facility in which large amounts of glass were moved around precariously and periodically broken.  I also know that whoever worked there drank beer – and lots of it – both in amber bottles and in those pull-tab cans.  And, I might add, that same amateur anthropologist in me is struck by how much my current-day shadow reads like an Edwardian era lady’s silhouette.  That’s the era of our home’s infancy.  And it’s not too far-fetched to imagine the lady of the house looking something like that.  Spooky. But I digress.

Barn glass.  The uses are infinitesimal, as is the supply.  Wherever a decrepit barn and a handful of chickens coexist, so does an earnings potential the likes of which we’ve never seen.  And it’s a renewable resource, so we can market it as ‘green.’  My first order of business as CEO is to sell a barn glass filter photo app for use with the iPhone.  The thought of it brings me back to photography class and talk of shooting photos through a lens smeared with Vaseline.  Surely the Barn Glass Filter App would rival the Hipstamatic and overtake it as the favorite of hipster bloggers and readers alike.

What a lovely image is cast through the lens of dust and chicken manure and time.  What does your world look like through the skewed beauty of barn glass?  Like money.

So, who wants in?  I guarantee this groundbreaking opportunity won’t be available for long…

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