Just a quick post to share a few shots I took today while playing with the bunnies and chicks. I hope they are a feast for your eyes.
Th-th-th-th-th-th-that’s all folks!
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.
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.
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!!
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!
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.
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.
And until NEXT time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios
Another weekend is history and March is less than five days away! I never fail to question where the time went, but I can see through progress, that time is being spent well, here on the farm. We do piddle slower than some folk, not in too much of a hurry that we can’t enjoy a few minutes here and there just admiring the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it is well known that slow and steady wins the race, and though this human race is a long one, I’m sure the finish line will be sweet to happen upon one day.
Life is precious, in all it’s forms, and when it ends, suddenly, whether at the beginning of life or after much time on earth, there is reason to mourn. On the farm, we’ve experienced some failed incubating, and some peepers just weren’t strong enough to recover from the hard work of breaking free from their shell womb. We’ve lost a few heads of cabbage to a horrid pest that has to be uncovered, before the damage is realized. The same garden pest eliminated a few of our cauliflower heads as well. Alas, death is an avoidable part of life and serves it’s mysterious purposes as well.
Our 10 bunny rabbits are still hoppin’-happy. They are such a fabulous distraction from chores that I have accidentally added about 30 minutes to my daily rounds, just cuddling and giggling with the sweet babies. SuperMama is back in her own cage and getting geared up to be mated again. With Daphne and Ms. Bunny No-Name still expecting…note to self: It doesn’t do any good to mark the calendar if you’re going to mark it wrong!
We’re hoping for plenty of chicks and bunnies to sell at the local Farmer’s Market for Easter. If all of my equipment comes in, I will also be selling a very special product that my Mom and I have been working on and honing. I’m still keeping this a secret, until I test a few markets, but personally, I have never had better! Ooooh, the mystery!!
I mulched and watered our fruit trees and roses and all our greenhouse greenery, and anticipate pulling them all out very soon! We need room to start our tomatoes and peppers! Dad and the boys did more work in the garden, preparing the ground for corn and squash, tomatoes, melons and much more. Even though this weekend was best for weeding and pruning, they planted a long row of purple hull peas and I planted mesclun, spinach, and romaine lettuce. We weeded around the onions, and hilled around the cabbages. I still need to do more hilling of the broccoli and cauliflower. There is always more work to be done, but nothing is more rewarding than reaping the rewards of gardening.
The past week was filled with dishes inspired by our garden and chickens. I made a divine butternut squash casserole, and will post the recipe very soon. Keep your eye out for it. We’ve enjoyed our broccoli and carrots and chickens in a delicious pasta bake, and salads, complete with boiled eggs and fresh lettuces, carrots, broccoli and radishes, also from our garden. And as usual, our chickens, rabbits, pigs, and ducks have reaped many healthy benefits from our greens and scraps, as well.
I see buds on the redbud trees and our flower gardens are beginning to burst with color, ah the signs of spring are always such a welcome sight. As I write, it is rather gray out, and it is definitely cooler than yesterday, where I noted many a drops of sweat falling from my brow, while weeding. The free birds are just singing non-stop, such joyful odes to the return of spring.
My Dad scored several free cedars for posts. These posts will flank the long chicken run. He has taught me that it doesn’t take much to cut costs. All you have to do is be observant and bold. Always be on the look-out for resources, and if they aren’t on the side of the road for trash, then just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be told no. Our neighbor cut down many trees, clearing their land, and all Dad and the boys had to do was clean the cedars up and move the logs out.
He has a system going now that started soon after our arrival and my interest in working the garden with him. He has a carpenter that bags saw dust for him to pick up, he has tree trimmers dump mulch in our outer fields to season, and he then trades with the saw dust for other necessities…and/or extra chickens. This is the same man who bartered with the doctor who delivered me. The doctor was paid a nice smoker-grill for his services. That doesn’t happen anymore!
I realize not everyone is as skilled as my dad is in selling his perspective and goals, but I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with him and learning from him, as he pursues lofty dreams and visions of grandeur—farm style. If only everyone were on board, we might actually take flight sooner, rather than later. But there’s that pesky little element, called time, that has a way of changing and re-arranging things, so I’ll just go with the flow and learn what I can in the process.
Dad will pick up anything that he thinks he might one day utilize. I used to scoff at him, especially as a teen, when he’d make me wait in the truck while he jumped in the dumpster after a piece of lumber or scrap metal. But in getting the garden together, last fall, I began to see the method in his madness. He pulled out some rebar from one of his piles to use in mounting the low tunnels. I used to get in trouble for trouncing over the piles of those long metal rods, as a young child. He would warn me of snakes, and of the dangers of getting hurt or sick with tetanus, but mostly, he would get frustrated that I was going to somehow mess up his treasures. Fast forward 30 years, and he finally found the perfect use for a few of them.
He’s the tidiest of hoarders, and has running inventories, just as he had of his fittings and pipes during his plumbing days. I truly hope my boys learn all they can from him. He’s a big reason I moved my family to this farm. I knew he was just what the doctor ordered for my boys. It’s a messy world out there, and it is my hopes that my boys will be fully equipped to not only survive, but thrive, as grown men. So many skills are being lost in the wind. I want more for my boys than what a city could offer them. As a gal who started life in the country, I valued my upbringing, as it has served me well.
I’ve seen some progress in my sons’ growth and maturity, in the five months we’ve been here. A lot of resistance, but I think they’re wearing a little. It’s starting to sink in that the decision I made was made out of love and hope. One day, I believe that they will look back on this time in their life with nothing but gratitude. But until then…pray for us all! Ha!
And on that note, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios
What a difference a day can make! We started this week with dreary, gray chilliness, and are ending it, shining in the sun! You’ve gotta love Texas’ two-step path to Spring, cold-cold-hot, cold-cold-hot… But hey, who can complain? (Most Texans!!) At least we’ve got a nice swinging variety to keep us twirling into the shortest season on a Texan’s calendar.
Chaca, the wild hog, has been retired from her position as roto-tiller and is now relaxing in a shady spot, south of the garden plots. The rafters of the future chicken coup/well house combo went up today, and we planted a nice long row of potatoes as well as red/white/yellow onions, radishes and nasturtium. We will be steadily plotting and planting in the coming days, getting a nice start on our spring/summer garden. It was so lovely today that we uncovered the low tunnels and watered the winter garden for the first time this year.
Our winter garden is still yielding nicely. Tonight I incorporated some delicious kale into a rich potato soup that included beer, cream, broth, sage breakfast sausage and bacon, and herbs and spices because, well, WE LOVE FOOD! Last night it was a tasty spinach quiche, using our spinach and our farm fresh free-range eggs. I feel like Popeye! I have the strength of 10,000 men!!
Okay, I don’t, but I know that I am feeding my family the best of the best, and in that, I feel very blessed.
Our broccoli is on tomorrow’s menu, as are our carrots. Every other day, I feed all of our free-range and caged chickens and rabbits some of our garden greens, whether they be our various lettuces, or kale, turnip or mustard greens, as well as radish greens. Our radishes are massive, and still crisp and tasty. I was lucky enough to get a picture of our turnips before I misplaced my phone. I have become a greens maniac, and love making a big ol’ pot of greens…with a lot of bacon, of course.
Speaking of bacon, our hogs have been processed and are now in bits and pieces in the freezer, awaiting my culinary finesse. I am awaiting some invisible form of inspiration!
I know I’ll be grinding again soon. We have some sausage to make with the hog and venison. But other things take priority, and right now, we have a garden to plant and a coop and run to build, and well, other things will surely pop up to attempt or succeed in thwarting best made plans, as per usual. Murphy’s Law or something, isn’t it? I’m not sure, but it has been the way of the day for quite a while now. It seems to be the season I’m in.
God’s been working on my whole “control freak” persona. He’s steadily remodeling each of us, and in this case, I think He’s teaching me to “roll with it, baby”. Several things have popped up in the past six months, that in the past would’ve sent me into a foot-stomping, my-way-or-the-highway tizzy. I really am a girl who has always liked controlling my surroundings, and I never really so readily recognized the personality flaw until I faced getting to know and help the chickens!
Just saying “No” to things such as butchering venison and cleaning chicken poop/beheading chickens, seemed utterly non-sensical, if I were to become a true farm-person. Time to toughen up Nelly in a whole new way. And time to let go and go with the natural flow, instead of creating unneeded waves.
God seems to be using a friend of mine in this plan of His to elevate me to the next level of servitude and gratitude. Her visits alone bring about a form of forced domestication, of which does not come natural to me. But during this most recent visit, she began, what became a sudden increase in creatures on the farm.
You see, I’m not sure she even realized how crazy she was, until I reacted to the gift she brought to my youngest son. Recognizing my son’s love for animals, she saw no reason not to get him the perfect gift. I mean after all, he had captured an alligator turtle and kept it for a time as a pet for a time…and Pawpaw brought a wild hog to live on the farm. These people are running a happy little menagerie. They’ll barely even notice the addition and it will bring even more joy into their home.
She was right by the way…but the adults’ collective initial reaction was enough to scare my friend away for good. She brought my son a rat. A cute little baby rat named Coconut, complete with a cage and food. She brought my son a R-O-D-E-N-T. All my life, I only saw rats as a nuisance and believed the only place they belonged was stuck in a trap. I have even poisoned a few.
Yes, I had a very poor reaction to my friend’s thoughtful, but insanely crazy gift idea! My Dad’s reaction was even-keel with my own. He even told her, in jest, (we hope-ha ha) that she wasn’t allowed back on his property again.
But I must say, Coconut is a source of enjoyment for the boys and he’s survived his first week on the farm, fat and happy.
Speaking of fat, my Dad, who is also pretty crazy, brought home a year-old pot-bellied pig named Patty. Obviously, this is not an edible, or in my personal opinion, a useful creature, and yet, it is here, I suppose for the same reason as Coconut—free(ish) entertainment.
Personally, I didn’t miss the pig squeals after Dad had to put his last pot-bellied bellower down, due to chronic pain from being crippled during a surgery. I must admit, these additions have me scratching my head, but I’m rolling with it. I’ve seen smiles produced due to both Coconut and Patty the Pig, and I’m all about happy family members. So let the smiles continue. I am not going to put my foot down…at least not for now.
On the feathered end of the farm, we’ve welcomed a Buff Orpington hen, a Black Orpington hen, and a supposed Cuckoo Maran hen. Her feet are orange and Cuckoo Maran’s feet are supposed to be black. She looks exactly like Old Mama, who is believed to be a Barred Plymouth Rock.
The original owners were duped and thusly attempted to unknowingly dupe my dad. We’re keeping them caged, separate from our other flocks for a bit, just to make sure they are healthy. There are a lot of chicken illnesses out there, and our birds are happy and healthy, so we’re gonna make sure we do all we can to keep them that way.
The ducks finally have their quacks! Little changes like this are so easy to notice when you’re in a place teeming with life. From the bunnies and their ever-elongating ears to the bees buzzing around the broccoli blossoms, I love the ever-changing cycle of life and it’s just absolutely magnified here. Spring is definitely in the air, I can feel the power of new life whizzing in the breeze like electricity. This has been a long, cold winter, and this bear’s ready to get out of the cave to stay!!
Speaking of bears, my cubs are demanding my attention. They want to make chocolate-covered bananas. If anything is going to pry me away from writing, it’s chocolate. So until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios!
PS Plant root crops when the moon is waning, or decreasing.
I took a minor trip, to break away from the animals. No, not the farm animals, my own hatchlings, aged 11-17. The farm animals have nothing on the animals that live beneath my roof. From the smells to the yells, I just had to fly the coop for a few days, if only to regain perspective.
I can’t say that I was gone long enough to get anywhere with perspective, but at least I got to see other members of my family who make me feel sane. I was also blessed to be able to visit with my life long best friend, and meet her precious baby. Yes, it was a fabulous get-a-way, but I have to admit, I missed the animals.
I found myself talking chicken with anyone who would listen. This is obviously an epidemic, this chicken raising scheme. The chickens have a master plan to rule the world, and I am obviously just a pawn in their grand plan. Okay, maybe I give the flocks a little too much credit. But there’s power in numbers. And chickens practice voodoo…I know they do!
While I was away, the bunnies and hatchlings continued to grow. I am amazed what can happen in a few days time, growth wise. The kits are so active now, and will come right to you, as you open their hutch. They have needle-sharp claws, which they use to climb up your sleeve, if you’ll let them. I’m mesmerized by their cuteness. I try not to think about their actual purpose, because it’s such a joy to play with my food.
My husband came home last week with an interesting chicken horror tale.
His father and mother began raising chickens four or five years ago. At last count, they had a small flock of 16. The morning after the big freeze, my father in law went out to their coop to check on his flock. What he found both startled and disturbed him. Right in the middle of the coop, were all 16 chickens, laying dead in a pile.
Later that evening, he went back out, to clean up the sad loss, and the chickens had all neatly been moved to the corner of the coop. Still dead. (For some reason, as Mike told the story, at this point, I half expected the chickens to be alive and well when my father in law went back the second time. Sadly, I was wrong.) As he bagged each chicken, he noted that they did not seem scathed at all. That is until he came to the bottom of the pile, and there was a headless chicken awaiting him.
They live in south Texas, about 45 minutes north of the coast. Even though through research, I found that ringtail cats aren’t generally prevalent in that area, it is what his friend and he surmised to be the predator at large. His friend informed him that ringtail cats kill for sport, not unlike humans, and that the way he described finding the chickens, lined up with the nature of the ringtail.
What a horrible way to learn about a predator. We live about 3 hours north of them, and we definitely have a mess of predators to deal with here. In November, Dad shot a possum that was perched behind our chicken cages. Luckily, he did not get one of our chickens before his surprising end. We have hawks and a bobcat that lives right across the dry creek bed from us. We constantly keep the cages clean and food and water fresh, to deter unwanted pests and predators from sniffing their way to easy pickin’s.
While I was gone, the inevitable happened. Dad whipped out the incubator. But another thing that happened is that further construction took place on the future chicken “megaplex” that the boys are working up for our ever-growing feathered crowd. Too many generations are crowding the one tiny coop we have, which leads to laying boxes that resemble port-a-potties, and odd roosting situations, and unnecessary fights. Luckily, with our still-thriving winter garden, we are able to supplement with greens and nice scraps, to keep their health up in the more stressful environment. Just like us, they don’t do crowds well for long.
So I’ll leave you today with a few pictures of our roosters. With Mr. M hanging in a cage, the other roosters are finding their pecking orders have slid up a notch. So enjoy our farm studs and have a lovely day in the Son.
As you can see, it’s hard to sleep in, around here.
Until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios
I have been meaning to do a pictorial of our menagerie of chickens and such for about a week now. Unfortunately, a rotten cold plagued me and my family and I haven’t felt much like sharing anything, this past week. Luckily, I am on the mend, and aside from two, the rest of my family is much better as well. HALLELLUJAH!!
So, allow me to share a few of my favorite chickens, as well as a first look at Supermom’s 10 kits, and a sample of our daily egg collection as of late. There might even be a surprise or two sandwiched in between all the cluckers.
First is Mickey, our young, handsome Black Polish Bantam Rooster. He’s a real looker and seems to know it, but he’s not friendly with others, which is why he has a bachelor’s pad all to himself.
Next is SilkiePoo. Again, exotic and lovely to admire, but this Silkie is a bit spastic at the moment. She/he/it is also in her/his/it’s own cage. I tried to pair SilkiePoo with Mickey, but Mickey is just too aggressive. So, until she/he/it is old enough, and/or the run is finally finished, she will be a bachelor/ette/whatever!
Then there’s Granny, who isn’t as old as her name would suggest, but doesn’t she look like Granny to you? She’s so sweet like a Granny too, this White Crested Polish hen. She is bunked up with Daffy-Doo, another White Crested Polish hen. However, Daffy’s crest is more like Mickey’s, spikey and jagged.
SamKitty just explained that he would really like to be right in the middle of these beautiful chickens, because he admires them greatly. He also admires himself greatly and believes he’s too sexy for his shirt. So he wanted me to share this picture of him, shirtless, of course, because he always models shirtless…because he is so hot…his words, not mine.
My Dad is really getting nervous about SamKitty and his attraction to pretty chickens. So he will probably not appreciate the humor of sticking this troubled, vain man-kitty in the middle of his chickens…or will he?
I’ve introduced Mr. M to you already. He really is the finest specimen of Blue Copper Maran to be seen. He was however, disqualified, for being mis-labeled a Blue Maran, when he was the only Blue Copper Maran in the building and was sure to win the grand champion prize. Bygones.
I’ve also mention my fear of this dominant roo, as he truly gives me the strangest chills when he is around and has charged me on several occasions. He actually got my youngest son in the lip, the other day. So not cool!
He is suffering from double Bumblefoot at the moment and has been caged for the time being. Dad will be operating on him real soon. It’s a simple enough procedure for a man like my pop! Mr. M will be good to strut again in no time.
It’s a catch 22 really, because I rather enjoy him caged, as do many of our other free-range roos.
Anyhow, here is Mr. M with two of our four guineas. They have no names…they live to annoy us all. But they are a beautiful annoyance and one day I will enjoy creating something with their beautiful feathers. Until then, they serve as extra eyes on the farm, alerting us to anything out of the norm…and squeak, squawk, and honking all other hours of the day for no particular reason except to hear their own voice.
Some folks might say that about me and my writing! Haha!
These guys just have one thing to say: “We are the Sultans with Wings”(think Dire Straits)…that’s all…autographs are worthless, as no one can read the henscratch, but you’re welcome to try.
Here’s a group of our free rangers going mad for greens, which were just delivered to their coop. The second-step brooder box is above, with feeders for the layers and for all, hanging below. In the spring, we will clean the coop real good, raking a lot of the mashed down, soiled hay into the compost and spraying down the roofs of the brooder box and laying boxes. During the winter, we let the hay and shavings and compost-y materials such as discarded green scraps and chicken poo accumulate, as it adds needed warmth to the coop. We also have the coop’s open chicken wired areas tarped securely to help with the heat and the brooder box has a heat lamp as well.
Right now, the ducks are in a large cage in the corner of the coop. They are so nasty! They destroyed two cardboard brooders in a matter of days, which is why they wound up in the coop. Their food is suspended and their water is a dog bowl dish, since they wanted to swim in their waterer and spilled it everywhere anyways!! We have to give them a fresh hay bed, daily, and put them outside in a larger, bottomless pin during the day, due to their mess-factors. But even the chicks in the brooder box need fresh paper and shavings every 2-3 days to maintain sanitary, healthy conditions. It’s about stewardship.
Aside from our quail, which a whole blog post was recently dedicated to, and our caged bantams, the majority of our laying hens are happy free-rangers. They are supplemented with laying pellets, fresh garden greens, as well as some dinner scraps, and we will from time to time, put a little apple cider vinegar in their water. Our eggs have won several ribbons at the few shows my dad has shown them at. That is why I boast of them being award winning eggs. Here is Sunday’s collection, although a few more were collected later in the evening.
Since their release, I hadn’t laid eyes on our pair of Sumatra Bantams, with the exception of Saturday evening. They are a beautiful ornamental Japanese breed, given to us late last year. They have made a home in the woods behind the caged area, and only pop up when they think no one is looking. Dad told me that they are sleeping in the trees and do not intermingle with any of the others. I miss them. They are beautiful. Now that Mr. M is caged, they have been spotted closer to the flocks, but they still kept a healthy distance and disappear when they realized humans were near. This is the first time chickens didn’t automatically get with the program and enter the coop with all the others in the evening. It’s rather amazing, really, how quickly new groundlings find their safe havens. Proof those clucks are more than clucks!!
As this pair is ever elusive, now free, and I did not get a picture of them, while caged, you will just have to google them.
One of the many things dad has entrusted in me, is pairing mates. I love this. I was actually pretty good at this back in the day and got 4 human couples together based on my feelers, and I’m proud to report that all four couples are still together to this day.
Here’s a young couple, I recently paired, sharing their dinner. Isn’t that lovely?! When you allow the little things to give you joy, inevitably, they will.
A major predator on the land, that was caught red-handed today, carrying Lavender, our Pearl Guinea in his mouth, is Skaar. BUSTED, BUDDY! You can only imagine how I hate this. This is why I am crossing my fingers for the soon return of a healthy husband and a week of warm, sunny days, so they can get the well-house/coop/run combo up and running. But you know how things go; so many things pop up that demand attention and priorities shift. It is the way of the day, I tell ya!~! GEESH!
Here’s the naughty doggy, just a waggin’ his tail and grinnin’ next to his humble abode. This is where he gets to hang out during the days now, chained to the tree. Hopefully the chickens will keep their distance, because the boy has the thirst for chicken blood. SUCH A BUMMER!! The good news is Lavender, who believes she is a chicken, survived the ordeal. Bad Bad Puppy!!!
These two are part of our quartet of fellows on death row. They had the unfortunate misfortune of being born male, and we tend to eat males around here, since our ladies know how to work it in the egg laying factory. It’s a shame such handsome fellas have to meet such a fateful demise, but alas, it is their purpose, after all. Before you ask, yes, roosters tend to be tougher. They need to be boiled longer and make great soups, as well as chicken and dumplings. We fatten them up before the culling. They really don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late.
My baby brought our favorite little girl into the house and put it in the tub. I’m really not sure why, as I’ve learned not to question the Littlest Chicken Whisperer. Like all boys, he’s prone to lie anyhow, so why bother! Mamas has begun laying. I was so excited, you would’ve thought I just became a grandmother. Chickens have an odd effect on people, I tell ya!
And then there is Chaca, our garden hog. My crazy dad and crazy son captured Chaca and they are letting her root around on our spring/summer garden plot to get it all nice, aeriated and fertilized. Chaca is just certain that one day she will escape her fate…but she’s destined for a luau.
The guys also killed and cleaned two wild hogs for the freezer. It’s been a good hunting season with 4 deer and 3 hogs. Our freezers are blessed beyond measure, our God is a Master of Provisions. I give Him all praise for what has become of our lives, since our move to the farm. He has taken us to a new level and is growing us, just like we’re growing the veggies and animals. Life is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
Let’s not forget the bunnies! Here’s SuperMama’s babes as well as the proud pop, Buck.
Mr. Dominique met an early demise upon release. I’m not sure if he was chased or trying to escape, all I know for sure is that my Lil’ Chicken Whisperer came back reporting that he’d found Mr. D’s body in the creek bed. It’s a pitty, though I admittedly blamed him for the untimely culling of (un)Lucky. His wife is still with us and has been claimed by Mr. Wellsummer. What I’m not sure of, is how Mrs. Wellsummer feels about that. But she seems happy enough to be a free-ranger now, so I’m not too concerned.
There are so many other chicks, pullets and older layers that I’ve not snapped a picture of. These are a few of the ones that have a particular claim to some acreage in my heart. Chickens know voodoo. I’m just sure of it. They have me under their spell. I think about them all the time. I talk about them and write about them and sing about them, even. Working with them brings me an immense joy that I can’t describe except to say it surely comes from my Lord Jesus Christ, son of the God of Abraham; my stay and my stead.
He makes everything magical…just wish I could explain it in a way to save the world. His majesty is beyond me, and at the same time, within and all around me! Oh me oh my, my God is Good.
And on that note, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
VAYA CON DIOS
Here on the farm, we raise various poultry. We have our award winning chickens and roosters and their award winning eggs. We also have guinneas, quail, and our newest feathered friends, three baby ducks. Each of these birds have different needs and different problems. The guinneas pretty much care for themselves, and honk their annoying alarms on and off through out the day, while perching in trees, on the roofs, and occasionally bullying the chickens. They are a rather rogue gang of noisy birds that I really don’t have too much to do with.
Our quail, however, are another story. Quail are tiny and delicate and flighty. They operate under a cult-like mentality, and rarely, will you be able to differentiate between the hens and roosters, unless you catch them in action, as they look nearly identical, male and female. Some more avid, hands-on quail folk will tell you to squeeze their bottom, and if foam comes out, that means the quail is a girl. I’ll pass on that.
A few days back, my Dad noticed that one of our quail hens was egg-bound. In other words, her egg became stuck inside her on it’s way out. This does not bode well for birds, being egg-bound, but at the time, I didn’t know that. I did as instructed; we sat the lady in some warm water, and we could see that the worst possible outcome in such situations had taken place. The egg had broken inside her. The shell was most likely causing internal damage.
The bitty darling was not happy in the water and after cleaning her, helping to dry her, and moving her back to the infirmary cage, I knew things weren’t looking good. She was stiffening. She laid on her side with her legs unusually stretched out…she was dying. We put her in a small animal carrier and brought her into the house to keep an eye on her over night, but when my Dad came over for a visit, he said she was not going to make it.
Farm life is full of both life and death. Truly, there is no where else on earth that continually offers you all the aspects of life than the farm…besides a hospital.
Walking into the caged area often brings surprises, both good and bad. From new layers, and new chicks to baby rabbits who didn’t make it through their first night, and bloodied roosters who apparently looked at their neighbors the wrong way. Some days bring about sorrow, as one fine blogger pointed out, the other day, when she lost a kit of baby rabbits.
She wisely shared Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 here. Farming will help you grow a thick skin, but God’s Word will help you gently cope with the facts of life.
From the incubation stage forward, you deal with loss. As you candle eggs to see which were truly fertile, you cannot help but mourn what might have been, with the unfertilized eggs. No longer edible, these eggs are disposed of and forgotten. It was the day before Christmas when our first quail hatched from the incubator. Quail incubate fully within 16-24 days, depending on the breed. Ours usually hatch around day 17. They are a variation of Chinese painted quail and they lay the most precious mottled brown and khaki egg.
Our first quail hatchling did not survive the night. It’s enough to make you question your methods. But we know, from practice, that we did everything according to book.We dunked it’s little head so that it discovered water and consumption, we kept it’s box at a cozy 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Some babies just weren’t meant to flourish. Thus is life. Like many premature births in nature, nature took it’s course. Out of a dozen quail eggs in the beginning of incubation, 7 were born and 5 survived.
We feed our quail specified quail feed. You can get this at your local feed store. It is of the utmost importance with all caged fowl, to keep their water and food containers clean and fresh. This wards off disease and illness. During the cold seasons, these little delicate birds require extra warmth. With the use of heat lamps, you can keep your quail happy and cozy.
Quail eggs are such a rewarding, precious protein, and pairs will lay you an egg a day, if you offer them a comfortable environment. I use 4-5 quail eggs per standard egg in recipes. They are also fun to boil and peel, just remember to let them age in your fridge or in your cool cupboard for at least a week to allow air between the shell and membrane. This will help with peeling all boiled farm-fresh eggs. The tiny boiled quail eggs are fabulous uncut, in potato salad, but it’s hard not just to pop a few freshly peeled delicacies right in your mouth. YUMMO!
After a few weeks in the hatchery box, with a warm lamp and a small amount of ventilation, these little peeps are ready to move to the caged area. We have a pretty awesome assortment of chickens and roosters to keep our quail company. Within only a month we have received eggs from the hatchery graduates. They are of course unfertile, but even that changes quickly. Yes, quail roosters grow into their roles of dominance and seeding rather quickly, and if you have the time to watch for such action, you can then band the leg of your hens and roosters, respectively.
I have yet to enjoy a bacon-wrapped quail or any other prepared quail, but my parents say they are divine eating. We are definitely building our quail up for such a time. But in the meantime, I truly enjoy watching them hop around in their spastic manner, attempting the occasional escape, only to find a waffle wall of wire in their way. I love the rooster’s shrill-full crow. It never fails to take me by surprise and give me a rush of goose flesh.
The latest surprise on the farm came in finding our first d’Uccle egg yesterday. D’Uccles are an exotic breed of bantam quail, and are originals. So I’m curious to see if we have another egg waiting today. I just know my dad is going to want to whip out the incubator when he sees what has been collected while he was gone. So I better be off! The farm work calls!
Until next time, this is the Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios!
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!)
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!!
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.
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.
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!
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
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!
There are times in life that take you by surprise, and I’m in one of those stages. I have worn many hats in this life: daughter, sister, wife, mother, singer, songwriter, painter, chef, preschool teacher, etc., but no one could’ve convinced me that chicken farmer was in my life’s blueprint. That being said, I have gladly accepted the challenges and rewards of my newest “hat”.
In this blog, I plan on sharing my on-going experiences with chicken raising and gardening, and anything else I learn along the way. For instance, I recently butchered a couple deer my son brought in. Later, I further broke down the venison in our meat grinder, added pork and pork fat and then, my Dad and I pressed the mixed meat and seasoning into casings for sausage, with an old school grape press.
My dad then smoked the sausage links three ways, with hickory, pecan, and mesquite. After that, we vacuum-packed them and gave them out as Christmas gifts. We have received rave reviews, with the most repeated compliment being, “BEST SAUSAGE EVER”. That made us happy, because all in all, there was about 70 combined hours of labor that went into the 42 lbs. of pork-venison smoked sausage.
We have a beautiful array of chicken types, from marans, legbars, and ameraucanas, to sikies, d’uccles, d’anvers and quail. We also have a fabulous organic winter garden full of nutritious and delicious root veggies and greens. There is much work involved on the farm and I look forward to sharing my experiences, lessons, and yes, even trials on this blog.
For instance, on December 23rd, my husband and I were faced with having to “take care” of a rooster that was on the losing end of a fight. After my husband beheaded Lucky (or Not-so-Lucky, as it turned out), I assisted in skinning the skinny guy. My knife hit the leg bone and jumped right into my leg. ICK!!! Chicken germs are not to be toyed with. This anti-modern-med chicky had to go to the ER for a tetanus shot, 3 staples (SO UNCOOL!!), and antibiotics, to ward off any infection. I was livid! AND I missed out on going to see my 2 living grandparents due to the fact that I couldn’t bend my leg for 3 days without excruciating pain.
I cried and cried at the thought of having to put Lucky out of his misery, but it was the humane thing to do, as the Dominiques who resided next door to him pecked him up pretty bad. Other dramatic moments on the farm have to do with my sweet dog Skaar taking the blame for the mass murders that occurred all too often from November through early December. While I cannot believe my awesome boy could do such a thing, I am in the minority with my consistent arguments in Skaar’s favor. I truly believe it to be a combination of hawks, possums, and the bob cat that lives across the creek on our land. However, Dad’s game camera caught Skaar as recently as Christmas, giving the hens and cocks chase.
When we lost my most beloved rooster, Chief, pictured below, the gig was up. Skaar can only be outside when the chickens are in their coop, or he has to be chained up. I hate that! But Skaar happens to love it in our home, so I can’t complain too much. I look forward to the day when the men around here finish the new coop and chicken run so Skaar can be free to roam the land again.
Well, that is about as good an introduction as you are gonna get from me today. My youngest son turns 11 tomorrow and will be showing eggs and chicken pairs at the local Poultry Show, so I will be sure to have pictures and a report following his first big event!
Until then, live out loud and love every moment!