Fast Times At Farmville High

There’s a rapid pace to farm life that seems to pick up speed during the transition from winter to spring.  Preparations and planting of new garden rows as well as maintenance of winter rows begin.  Taking advantage of the warmer days by cleaning cages and built-up coop floors.  Between a few bugs, plain lethargy, and extreme busyness, I’ve neglected my blogs.

Promises of Spring

Promises of Spring

Since I last shared our farm animal news, Daphne and Phoebe have each given birth to seven kits, boosting our total rabbit population to 31.  That includes Daddy Buck, Father of all 24 rabbits, including Chloe’s last (and incidentally, first) litter of 10, as well as Checkers, an old retired buck who, well, is just here.  We have mated Chloe and Buck again, as Chloe’s 10 kits are completely weaned, getting fatter by the day, and about ready for new homes.  We are going to be selling several of our various chicks and pullets, as well as our bunnies, come Good Friday.

Phoebe and babe

Phoebe and babe

Super Mom Chloe's babies are so loving.  They greet me with kisses every day <3

Super Mom Chloe’s babies are so loving. They greet me with kisses every day ❤

I’m also excited to announce that we will be selling two products my Mama and I have been busy formulating and tweaking, as well, on Good Friday.  If these items are well received at the farmer’s market, you may be able to purchase them online in the near future.  Cross your fingers for us.  As a lady with hard-worked hands, I can say I have reaped the benefits of being the co-creator of our all natural lotion sticks and chap sticks.  I am giddy about our debut!

Our Leonardo, the prize winning Ameraucana-Maran Roo, took 2nd prize at the first ever Chicken Costume Contest, in that particular county, at least.  My Dad likes to say that he couldn’t keep his pants on, because he was pinned in between two lovely brides (hens dressed as brides).  I like to say he had a major wardrobe malfunction.  Either way, I have a much simpler idea if Dad decides to enter another wild and zany chicken contest that requires the chickens to be dressed for success…this year, Leonardo went as a Mexican Cowboy from the Chicken House in La Grange…I’ll post his grand tale soon.  Yes, Dad wrote a nine page handwritten story to go along with his prize roo.  I even monogrammed his boots!!

Leonardo takes a bow at dress rehearsal

Leonardo takes a bow at dress rehearsal

Dad in his modified Tweetie-Roo hat, tries to help Leonardo get ready for the contest

Dad won several prizes for his eggs at the La Grange Poultry show, including best in show.  We do have a lovely assortment of eggs, from whites, tans, browns, and greens, our girls pump out a nice stream of vitamin rich jewels for us to enjoy in so many different ways, from boiled to fried, to baked in a cake.  What a joy to be able to enjoy such fruits of our labor!

Every so often, the tree trimmers drop off a load of mulch in our far field.  Three days ago, they dropped off more than just mulch.  Six newborn kittens were found mewing among the mulch, by my youngest son.  My first instinct was not pretty.  I really wanted him to just put them back and forget he ever found them and let nature take it’s course.  But I always get this prick upon my heart when I harbor such thoughts.  I know we are to be stewards of the earth and if my child is going to grow into a loving man, and potentially a husband and father, I could not in good conscience follow through with my initial thought.

We are now bottle feeding the screaming brat-pack, and I intend to find homes for them as soon as they can eat on their own!  There are already three resident cats, two dogs, countless chickens, and quail, a pig and what was it, 31 bunnies?  I think we have enough mouths to feed around here.  Here’s to hoping for a short-lived kitten-stewardship!  I never said I was perfect…or purrrfect for that matter!

we do what we can

we do what we can

More news on the farm is that our pair of Japanese or Sumatran Bantams are apparently a pair of flaming roos… Dad said, “It’s no wonder we could never find out where she was laying her eggs!  Turns out, she’s a he!”  We’ve recently separated another pair of bantams to find out which is the male and which is the female of that pair.  One or both are laying eggs!  Usually, spurs give away the sex of the chicken, even before their feathers fully develop.  But until the spurs develop, it’s anyone’s guess…unless one wants to start counting wing feathers, that is.  We don’t have that kind of time!

Our ducks have become free-rangers along with many of our pullets.  The ducks have their own hut, but they prefer to retire with the rest of our chickens in the main coop.  All three turned out to be daffy hens, so we look to add at least one male duck to the group before we’re done. We’ve added several more bantams and Ameracaunas to the mix, as well as 50 plus new Texas A&M quail.  We’ve probably already got 20 adults, so the additions will allow us to retire some of the older quail to the freezer.  They are quick growers and great egg producers, laying after only 6-8 weeks of age, and are also excellent eating…so I shall soon find out.

checking on the quail peeps

checking on the quail peeps

one of these things is not like the others

one of these things is not like the others

We finally got around to operating on and removing Mr. M’s Bumblefoot plugs.  It was icky and Mr. M was an amazing patient.  He’s recuperating in a cage out in the sunlight.  This morning, Dad put him back on the ground, and I hope he doesn’t wind up having to fight his way back to the top of the cockerel-hierarchy.  He was king and head-honcho, the position currently shared (?) between Leonardo and Mr. White.  They are both just chicken enough that I don’t think Mr. M will need to put up too much of a fight to regain his position.  We shall see in time.

before the operation, Leonardo attempted to challenge Mr. M through his waiting cage.

before the operation, Leonardo attempted to challenge Mr. M through his waiting cage.

Dr. Dad operating on Mr. M while I hold him still in a burlap bag

And until NEXT time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

a friend sent this to me...pretty funny, no?

a friend sent this to me…pretty funny, no?

Vaya con Dios

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Frosty Mornin’ To Ya

The robins are going berserk this morning, trying to keep warm.  Our country is currently being slammed by what the meteorologist folks are calling a “Polar Vortex”.  The tag just makes you feel all warm and cozy inside, doesn’t it?!  Global warming at it’s finest, lemme tell ya!  Robins migrate to Texas in the winter, because we are generally a two season location, hot and hotter!

Okay, occasionally a few cool days slip past the border, but normally, Texas winters are pleasant and mild.

The cold doesn’t affect me the same way it does most of the populous, because I wake up radiating heat.  The cool air is most welcome, at least first thing in the morning…as the day carries on, I know the chill will set into my bones.  I probably should take care of the chickens before that occurs!
Owning chickens is not for the weak.  They require much care to remain healthy, fertile and happy.  Because caged chickens have a tendency to defecate in their food and water, you have to stay on top of keeping the food and water containers clean and fresh.  You also have to keep their trays clean.  (Rabbits too…have I even mentioned the rabbits?  Probably not, but I love them and this goes for them as well!)

We have five rabbits, 2 bucks and 3 does

We have five rabbits, 2 bucks and 3 does

But back to the chickens.  Although, I could carry on about this fat lil’ male cardinal who is perched on a branch outside my window…so cute.  And yes, I may or may not have ADHD, but I roll with it.

When working with the chickens, I have learned a thing or two.  They like it when I sing to them.  Not every day is a happy singing day though, as you know, and on those days that a song does not depart from my lips, I talk with them.  The chickens and rabbits each have different personalities.  There are sweet ones, mean ones, goofy ones, and everything in between.  As for the quail, well, they remind me of the aliens from Toy Story.  I cannot differentiate between any of them and they all act and sound the same.  The rooster-quail’s crow is something else!

This past Saturday, I mentioned in my previous blog, that my dad and my youngest son went to show their chickens and eggs at the local annual Poultry Show.  Well, I am happy to report that they raked in the rewards for all their hard work.  1st place in Bantam egg content, 2nd place in Standard egg content, 2nd and 3rd place in best egg trio, 1st place for our Dominiques…you may know them from the unlucky story of Lucky…killers!!  They proved the ol’ saying “the bad guys always win!”

Mr. M was disqualified because Dad was misinformed of his breed…instead of a copper maran, he turned out to be a blue-copper maran!  By just one word missing, he was eliminated from the competition.  He would’ve received 1st as well, as he was the only blue-copper maran in the building…picky picky!!

Mr. M, our blue-copper maran

Mr. M, our blue-copper maran

My little Mamas and Papas received 2nd, Dad reported, but their ribbon was M.I.A.!  Mr, White, whom I have yet to introduce, also placed 1st, but his ribbon was M.I.A. as well…something about a missing judge and his portion of missing ribbons.

Some chicken people can be sneaky!  Someone also took off with a shirt my dad won in a raffle, as a man claimed to be my dad!  Last year that same man is probably the one who made off with Dad’s chicken coop he won.  Sneaky, crafty, snake!  My first chicken love, Leonerdo, won 3rd in his division.  They also won $100 in gift certificates and cards, and won 2 bags of feed and 2 bags of chicken treats.  Made out like real bandits, they did.

He did well for his first show...and on his 11th birthday no less.

He did well for his first show…and on his 11th birthday no less.

My son truly enjoyed his first experience showing chickens.  However, last night, he did confide in me that there were a few boys there that were chiding him and being really ugly towards him.  But thus is life, and I told him they were just jealous of him because he had the coolest chickens and grandpa in the building.  He always amazes me with how he handles things so well.  Sometimes I wonder if he was switched at birth, haha, because he handles things way better than his dad and I do, most days.

My lil' rooster with Leonerdo the third place winner

My lil’ rooster with Leonerdo the third place winner

Watching him handle the chickens with grace and assurance is astounding.  He was definitely made for working with animals.  I was made to learn that I could if I just gave it a shot.  Not something I ever thought I would actually do or enjoy doing though.  But chickens grow on you, with their daffy ways, sounds and personality traits.  Even ol’ Mrs. Dominique has garnered my love for her, though I know she was the one who hurt Lucky so badly…well, she and her husband.  I may name them Bonnie and Clyde.

Naming chickens just happens.  Normally, they are not named right away, as they must grow a little and show their personalities, but some chicks are pegged from day one, such as our newest incubated hatchlings.  We have a lil’ black chick with a white stripe on his head and he is an aggressive lil’ bully, so he got named Stripe, after the Gremlin.  But it was only yesterday that I gave a name to one of our female rabbits.  It was as if she told me herself, as I was getting her water set back into place.  Daphne is such a sweet and interactive lil’ lady, and she can put the drink away like nobody can!

Chickadee, Chickadoo

Chickadee, Chickadoo

Well, it’s time for me to put the laptop away for the day.  It’s time to start school with my youngest two and we still have those chickens to take care of as well.  So, may your day be blessed and your body and soul be warmed by the Sonlight!

Until next time, this is the Chicken Lady, signing OUT.

Vaya con Dios

And So It Goes and So On…

Wouldn’t you know it!?!  The very first time my youngest son gets to show chickens…on his birthday, no less, I get sicker than the dickens over night.  I will spare you the details and instead share a bit more about a couple of my favorite chickens as well as other chickens that are being shown today, by my son and my dad, at the annual Poultry Show in our area.

While sitting here, sulking and beating myself up for my darned luck, I decided to look further into my favorite little true bantam hen, and come share my newly gleaned information about them with you.  I’ve named our pair of  Dun Quail d’Anvers Mamas and Papas.  Mamas stole my heart the day after she arrived on the farm.  She is a rescue chicken, meaning she did not originate on our farm, but was given to us, in this case, by a suddenly overwhelmed grieving widow.  Mamas and Papas are two of eighteen or more different chickens we were given stewardship over.  Every one of the new chickens are unique and more unusual than your typical yard bird.  As this particular blog rambles on, I may decide to talk about them too, but truly, I am all about Mamas!!

Have you ever seen a sweeter chicken face in your life?!

Have you ever seen a sweeter chicken face in your life?!

Here she is with her jealous husband

Here she is with her jealous husband

The night that they all arrived, she caught my eye, but her fancier cousins, the d’Uccles, a leopard-spotted breed of bantam quail, really peaked my interests due to their showy appearance.  But even with their leopard spots and feathered feet, the d’Uccle couple quickly moved down on my list the next day, after Mamas practically hopped in my lap when I went to feed her and her spouse.  I had only held baby chicks and adolescent chicks up to that point and had prayed for the courage to hold a chicken.  And God answered with the ever sweet and eager Mamas!!

At this point, some of you have decided that I am a rather ridiculous Nelly, and I will give you that, but have you ever been pecked or spurred by a chicken or rooster?  Well, I haven’t and I wanted to keep it that way.  Chickens are kind of spastic and definitely are not predictable.  With Mamas on the farm now, she is giving me the opportunity to get used to handling chickens, a little at a time.  I think she may have me spellbound, as not a day goes by that I don’t think about her cute face and have to go hold her and pet her soft feathers.  That is another thing about my sweet lady.  Unlike the texture and feel of some chickens (crunchier than soft), Mamas, the Bearded Dun Quail d’Anver is so soft and pettable.  She gently lets me know when she’s ready to go home and upon entry, her jealous husband gives her a good peck on the head.  His unruly behavior has not stopped her from giving me a little company every day though, and for that, I am glad!

While walking the land one day, not long after we got our new boarders, I found these terrifically beautiful seeds on our land.  I gathered them for a craft, and immediately decided to create Mamas with the seeds for a lil’ Ducky that I love.  (My friend’s daughter, not a real duck, for crying out loud!)  Mamas has become my muse.

With juniper berries for eyes and oats from Mamas and Papas feed and wild seed for her feathers, from our land.

With juniper berries for eyes and oats from Mamas and Papas feed and wild seed for her feathers, from our land.

So here’s what I learned this morning.  Mamas, Papas and all the Bearded  Dun Quail d’Anvers are true bantams.  This means that there is not a regular-sized chicken counterpart.  So she is an original…and if you know me, you know that suddenly made her even cooler.  These d’Anvers also make great pets for children, although the male tends to be more aggressive, as I noted above…he’s a real pecker!  Because they only need one square foot of living space, they are also great for suburban chicken enthusiasts and homesteaders.

When cooking with bantam eggs, one chicken farmer recommends using 2 bantam eggs in recipes that call for one egg, and 3 bantam eggs in recipes that call for 2 regular hen eggs.  We also raise quail and I use 4-5 quail eggs in place of one regular hen egg.  Quail eggs are more yolk than white and make the cutest little rich boiled eggs you will ever see.  And upon hatching, baby quail are no bigger than your thumb…in fact, it is most likely smaller than your thumb.

The ring around this little 2 day old quail's neck fits around my ring finger... cute and tiny!!

The ring around this little 2 day old quail’s neck fits around my ring finger…
cute and tiny!!

IMG_4159

Quail incubate even quicker than the 21 day incubation period of a bantam or regular-sized hen’s egg.  When we have the incubator’s rotators in, they must be removed and all the various eggs (quail, chicken, and duck, this round) have to be hand-rotated, once the first chick hatches.  Yesterday, a reader asked about the dashes on the eggs in my header picture.  We mark the eggs with a positive and a negative sign to keep up with rotation.  The eggs must be rotated every twelve hours by hand from that point on.

Once hatched, the chicks are very delicate and have specific needs.  For instance, during incubation stage, the eggs need a humid 100 degrees Fahrenheit in order to incubate properly and hatch.  After they move from the incubator into the hatchery box, they still require 100 degrees for another week, before dropping the temperature 10 degrees per week, for several weeks afterwards.  This is done with heat lamps.  All chicks also need to be baptized right away, okay, okay, they need to be dunked in their water in order to learn to drink and from what source.  Otherwise, chicks quickly show their intelligence through drinking, feeding and socializing.

Another thing about chicks…they love greens!  And greens are so very good for them.  I can tell you from the shape our winter garden has taken, that they really, really, really love broccoli leaves!!!  Our free range head rooster, Mr. M, brings his haram over for fresh broccoli and other assorted greens, every day.  Well, except today.  Today, Mr. M, our glorious Maran is being shown, along with Mamas, Papas, and a few other of our most prized birds.  There is a definite hierarchy within our little society of chickens and Mr. M is the head honcho around here.  He even has a tendency to remind me of it, from time to time.  He creeps me out, so I only admire him from a distance.

Mr. M and a few of his favorite gals

Mr. M and a few of his favorite gals

Chickens are fascinating, and provide not only great sources of protein through their eggs and meat, but they also provide hours of entertainment, as you observe their little microcosm.  There is a soap opera story in it for sure, which is why I am slowly introducing you to our chickens, so that you can enjoy future stories concerning their own little world, As Their World Turns with All Their Children.

So, until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OUT!

Vaya con Dios!