Thursday, April 29, 2010

Everyone knows it's windy!

High wind warnings today.  No risk of this one blowing away, as floozy as she looks!

Oskar stared the wind down and won!

In the barn, Godzilla hen relaxed with her two babies.  I am fascinated by the white one -- have not had any white chickens, so I am puzzled by her genetics.  (I call them all "her" until they prove me wrong!)

And now, announcing...

I bought another set of chicks and ducks!  One chick survived the Godzilla massacre, so I got her three chick buddies...

...and two more Indian runner ducklings!  There is such a personality difference between chicks and ducklings.  The ducks are much more inquisitive about me.  They waddle over and look me in the eye as if to ask "do you have a plan for me?"  The chicks' curiosity is usually overwhelmed by their caution.

As the winds whooshed in today, they brought suddenly warmer temperatures.  I got home and checked the barn thermometer -- it read 106 over the babies!  So I rushed out to open their kennel wrappings some and let fresh air in.  The four chicks were huddled in one corner out of the worst heat.  But where were the ducklings?

Oh no!

I peered all over and finally found them.

They have moved to the back of the cardboard box, totally out of the heat rays.  Smart duckies! 

And that's the update from this windy day at Busy Solitude Farm!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bad judgment

After work I visited in the barn with the newbies.  They were out and about, having some exercise and food.

All seemed well as they bellied up to the bar.  But a dark secret loomed just ahead of them.

After supper I went to visit.  I discovered two ducks and two chicks dead in the pen.  The only explanation is that Mama Hen decided they were intruders.  I did not see the second two chicks and hope that she's accepted them.

I feel so guilty for assuming that the hen would accept all these babies into her care.  I let my amusement go before my generally cautious barn sense.  I showed bad judgment, and the babies paid with their short lives.

It's Ulani's birthday today, but my celebration is done.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Won't You be my Neighbor?

"Hey, Bud, would you show a guy around?"  (More photos at end of post!)

I went to the office supply store today.  This was not supposed to happen.  But the office supply store is across the street from the Wal-Mart, and just behind the Wal-Mart is Family Farm and Home.

What could possibly be dangerous about going into Family Farm and Home?  What?  How about 100 gallon galvanized tubs of baby chicks and ducks??!!!

On first glance, I saw no Indian Runner Ducks in the duck tub.  Phew, thought I.  Another close call.  But then I struck up a conversation with the poultry man.  I said to him "seems like last year you got Indian Runners."  And then he had to come over and look in the tub and say "well, there's one, and that's one, and those two over there, too!"

I was sunk.

I got two Indian Runners, two Ameraucanas, and two Golden Laced Wyandottes.  The chicks are pullets (females), but the ducks are what's known as "straight run" which means you get what you get.  The box peeped loudly all the way home.

And then I had a decision to make.  The heat lamp and a dog crate are in the barn.  I could clean it up and give the babies a new home there.

But I also have the new mama hen who hatched two chicks ten days ago.  She's still clinging to four eggs, barely gets up off of them.  Why not let her baby the new kids?  I sat in the isolation pen and opened the box.  The rest of the flock lined up outside the chicken wire to investigate.  The newly hatched chicks popped out of their crate to see what was up.

Bravely I picked up one teensy baby chick and boldly stuck it under the hen.  Withdrawing my hand, I brought one unhatched egg out.  Pause.  No reaction from Mama.  So I put a second chick under her.  And a third and a fourth.  Only removed two of the eggs.  And she just shifted her weight to accommodate the peeps under her.

Then it was time for the ducks.  Would she accept them?  They are already as big as the 10-day old chicks.  Took the darker one, slipped her under Mama.  She popped right back out and they looked each other straight in the eye.  Mama seemed to be saying "you are the homeliest chick I've ever seen, where'd you get that big schnozz?"  But she didn't try to chase the baby away.

The yellow Runner Duck was very eager to join the others.  Mama popped her one in the beak (bill), maybe testing to see "is that thing real?"  The 10-day chicks checked her out eagerly -- "you're kind of funny looking, but maybe we could be friends!"

When I left the barn, Mama had all eight babies with her, under her outstretched wings.  I haven't seen the new chicks since I installed them, but I hear them peeping under her.  And the ducklings peep out to see the action, but seem to love their new, warm bed.

Here are some pictures.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In the Grass, Out of the Ordinary

Upon arriving home from work on Thursday, I went through the usual ritual -- came in the front door, put my purse and keys on the dining table, then joined the dogs and cats at the sliding door to the back yard.  Knowing that the chickens were out in their yard, I had Ulani by her collar getting ready to hook her to her tie-out until the chickens went back in the barn.

And thank goodness for that!

Because when I opened the door, Oskar sprang outside and immediately slammed the brakes and looked intently to his left -- at the snake holding a toad in the grass.  Yup.  I pushed Ulani back in the house and stepped out myself.  Oskar demonstrated some curiosity, but also a strong portion of self control.  I did not worry about what he would do.

My snow shovel is still outside the back door (hey, it's only mid-April here, there's a good chance we'll get another snowfall!).  I took it and started nudging the snake, just enough to irritate him, and sure enough he opened his mouth and turned his head towards the shovel allowing the toad to hop a few feet away.  The toad's left arm was pretty bloody, but it seemed to work and after taking a moment, he hopped under the gate and onto the driveway.  I turned back to the snake and nudged him again, and he slithered into the untrimmed grass around a downspout, disappearing.

And then I let Ulani and the cats out.  They were only modestly interested in the scene of the crime.  Five minutes later you'd never know anything out of the ordinary had occurred on this Thursday after work here at Busy Solitude Farm.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey There Lonely Girl!

What's Dolly Part-hen doing out there?  Last night I thought all the hens were in the barn.  In fact, I spent a good 40 minutes mowing grass back here and never saw this lonely girl left outside by herself.  And she spent the whole night out alone, only to be discovered when I went to check the peas!

She did not seem too upset to be on her own.  She just flipped her gorgeous tailfeathers at me.  So I went into the barn (after securely fastening Ulani to her "please don't eat the chickens" tie-out!), and opened the hatch.

All the hens poured out to the run, followed by Egglebert, Jr.  And then Dolly came inside.

You might remember Dolly Part-hen.  She was born with something wrong in her crop, perhaps some kind of tumor or obstruction.  She was slow to grow.  Some suggested she be culled from the flock, but I was curious to see how she'd make out.  And she's done fine, except she still has the problem.

 You see how her crop gets overly full and bulgy.  It looks terribly uncomfortable.  But she seems to get by alright.

The skin is pink and stretched.  Gradually it will ease back down to normal size, then she'll fill it up again.

Living in the country ain't for sissies!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Guest poster: Oskar says "enough with the chicks"

Oskar told me earlier that it's not only baby things that are cute. He said "I may be 11 years and eight months old, but I've still got it!" Then he proceeded to show me.

What do you think?

Peep portrait

Good morning, peeps!

So far no additional pipping.  Full story below.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blessed Event

I walked into the barn this afternoon to pick up eggs and see what was up, and look what I saw!  Two peeps -- and one is a blond!

I'd known they were a possibility, but thought I had a few more days.  So I quickly mucked out the privacy stall, filled it with clean wood shavings, and put straw in the little dog crate.  Then I grabbed Mama who acted like I was burning her alive.  Stuck her under my arm and scooped up the two babes in my other hand, then thrust them all into their new habitat.

There were three eggs still in the nest.  I know that one was layed this past week, but the other two were the same age as the eggs that hatched, so I put them all into the crate with the others.

No sooner did I put a little jar of chick feed in with them, than Mama started the wonderful, motherly clucking that says "come here, baby, I want to teach you about something good!"  First the dark one came to investigate.

Then the new Blondie peeked out.

She came over while Mama clucked away...

Then started pecking food along with Mom!

I had the other hens and the duck locked out while we got settled in here, but now they are greeting the babies.  I'll get a picture of the isolation room later.  It's about 5x8' framed, with chicken wire all over it and a door that latches.  The crate is turned away from where the "general population" is so that the family can have privacy if they want it.  It's nice because the babies grow up aware of the rest of the flock, and integration is no problem.

Now, do I dare go to the farm store tomorrow and get a couple of Silver Laced Wyandotte chicks to slip under Mama when she's asleep?! 

The end.  Until later!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Garden Walk-Around

The peas I sprouted in the house are pushing up out of the ground!  Take a look -- this is my best pea crop in three years!!!  It's going to be a great spring!
All the daffodils are bursting after our string of 70 degree days.  Wish the blue behind them here was grape hyacinth, but alas it's the evil Creeping Charlie!

Luke joined me for a walk around the yard.  It's my hope to rehabilitate this fence this year, but it may need to wait for another year. The gate no longer closes, the far side leans precariously towards the street. 

We strolled past the perennials, where lots of daffodils and tulips are coming up.

Luke paused for a snack!

White daffodils are not my favorite, but these are quite cheery!

These, I believe, are the Poet's Narcissus that I, uh, borrowed from an abandoned farm down the road.  Looks like they settled in well and will give plenty of first-year blossoms soon.

I am always surprised and delighted when the bleeding hearts reappear.  They're quite small at the moment -- only been up a couple of days -- but they'll cover the tulips in this bed in short order.  Every year I think "plant more bleeding hearts!"  Maybe this year I'll remember!

Oskar enjoyed a fresh marrow bone in the yard while I made my walk-around.  Just look at him smiling!

And look who's still around, now near the gate to the veggie garden!

The mystery digger!  Such clean excavation -- obviously an artist.  Maybe some day we'll figure out just exactly who does this!

Today, thunderstorms.  A quick pause for the garden tour.  But we'll be back soon!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hens Get to Work!

Every day I remind the hens "people need eggs to eat!  Please get to work!"  And I get home and find a few dirty eggs in the nest that I have to take inside, scrub, and put into our Busy Solitude Farm cartons for your enjoyment.

Then this morning when I went into the barn I saw this:

The nest boxes were full.  Well, in fact they were over full--
See the extra tail behind this hen?  Two on a box!!!

And much to my surprise, when this Ameraucana hen left her nest, what did I find?

 Egglebert hopped up to look, too, and when we peered into the nest box we found---
A neatly packaged half-dozen eggs, all clean and shiny!!!

Egglebert gave them his stamp of approval, and you should, too!