Little Update on Chicks

The 4 little chicks (hatched April 18th) are getting used to me a little bit and I'm getting so attached.

 I went out to let the other hens out of the coop and checked on momma hen/chicks, she was dutifully keeping them warm. They came out from beneath her one by one, stretching their little wings out and flapping them as they woke- too cute! Then getting a drink of water (directly under my big head poking over their enclosure) which proves they are losing fear of me.

I went out later to get some pictures because the two that look alike are NOT at all alike anymore, now that their wings are feathering up. They may look similar on their heads but have completely different wing patterns! 

Unfortunately, Blogger says I've used up all the photos I can add (according to that automatic Picassa storage), so I cannot yet post more pictures! I had no idea there was a limit... 

Maybe that's fortunate for

I studied all weekend what kind of chickens they will turn into, since discovering many patterns developing on their wings - they will be pretty -- but no idea what kind of breed they all are, and NONE of the possibilities for that kind of chick coloring can come out of the eggs they hatched from! (Many breeds fit the way they look but the egg color is all wrong to be those breeds!) 

I can hardly believe they are still alive - not frozen to death, not eaten by my away-at-college daughters' cat (who was about to go into their coop yard yesterday!) and that they have learned how to eat and run around with no accidents (they can fly now too). They are forever flying up onto momma hens' feed dish and onto the hen's back too.
Soon I'll have to clip wings or buy some kind of net fencing... I'm afraid to let them try getting thru chicken wire.

Well without pictures, this update will be cut short for your sake... although as I said, it's probably fortunate for you!

See you down the road................

Purging is Good for the Soul

This weekend is about PURGING (backing up and removing PC data/pictures/ re-organizing and purging favorites lists, and paper-stuffed binders), then off with winter’s bedding and on with something lighter, out with winter coats, and in with sandals...

And with that purging comes the freedom to let go of the past quarter (because taxes consumed the April 1st end-of-quarter this year, I’m running late).

I like dividing my year into quarters- every new quarter marks the chance to renew my agenda commitments or let them go – like Hew Years’ all over again. If you don’t know me, let me tell you I love New Years’! Working by quarters makes it happen four times year! It keeps me on track. It frees me up of the bypassed no-longer-relevant to-do’s so I can go about projects that matter, like finishing up that pirate story into an illustrated book (for my grandson). It’s a change of season too.

What are your plans this weekend? 

As for blogging-as something new to do, I’m thinking about really committing to posting sky photos to their own website. Why not?  I'm always looking up, and always amazed by the sky- the color or the clouds...

If you don’t know me, I love watching the sky...
(This is a sample of what kinds of shows we get almost daily during the monsoon season of summer)

I didn’t always love it though.
As a small girl in Missouri and Wisconsin I experienced weather as some kind of horrific torrent -like an attack from the sky, in sudden downpours full of lightening- or in a constant heavy, oppressive, and lifeless gray winter sky. It was soul-crushing when dirty snow covered the ground.

Most of my life was spent in California where weather is almost non-existent, or was covered up by smog. In California the sky was so predictable- in the morning a light blue turning to medium blue, dirty around the edges... on a good day, lol. It reflected heat, not light. It made you gag and it made you thirsty. 

Going to the beach was an improvement, but sometimes, I hate to say it, the beach was lurid and sticky – crowded with people, the air muggy, the ocean smelly and seawead rotting in the sun with sandfleas and flies - and the sand too hot for feet to touch without burning... imagine all that and then add sand in your cracks for the ride home. LOL

Before we came here we went to Newport beach for a month of Sundays. It was the closest beach (a 45 minute drive on Sunday mornings, so you can imagine during rush hour...) We had breakfast at a dive in Balboa where they had macadamia-nut pancakes and coconut syrup aover bananas... yum! Then lunched at the restaurant at the end of the pier where you could see sealife swimming around (otter, seal, fish...) and people on the water going farther than the bouy’s in kayaks... whatever.
My favorite part was watching the water around the pillars of the pier change colors all day – such pretty GREENS, and sparkling like the water was gemstones.
I got a few perfect pictures to remember that one last time...

 (Gull a few moments later, same place, different angle)

Then of course, if you knew me, you'd know that I carried a fear of the night sky for over 20 years, too.  Moonless nights were the worst! 

This stems from having seen multiple UFO’s --close up-- back in 1980 when I was about 20. Some things burn forever on your memory. I never wanted to see another one, but it’s hard to NOT look for them, once you have seen them. So sky-watching was a must for a while, but not in a good way. Even since moving here 6 years ago I've found 'questionable' artifacts/objects IN my photos...that I fortunately never saw while taking the pictures... here's one:
(If you notice there is an elongated 'cigar' shaped 'thing' beneath the clouds on the rightside near the middle... I would LOVE to know what you think!)
I don't know why it came out

But THIS place is almost always wonderful -to the point where I get lost in those changing shades of blue - just standing, staring, caught up in a marvelous display of beauty in its purest forms.
I'm sure that this is not the only 'magical' place, but I have gained a constant (call it obsessive) missive to capture some of the sky’s magic. In the past two weeks I've probably taken 25 pictures of just the sky & clouds – not including sunsets.

Maybe I'll do a calendar to remember the year past in pictures:
(last touch of winter)

(spring, near the beginning of summer)

Sometimes the contrast is mesmerizing, or it’s completely gray but oddly filled with light ... I've captured 'feathers' and 'pinwheels', towering monsters and smooth obelisks, dusk, dawn, sunset, the blue hour, the stars, planets, and the moon in it's phases, or the atmosphere glowing in shades of yellow or gold to rose and lavender, and dozens of patterns of shadow and light... it is a never-ending show.
(a January sunset)
(a February sunset)
(a March sunset)

On Monday night I looked up into a black universe to see two RED stars and a yellow one - something I'd never seen before. The sky is an open book to the universe and beyond...and we are all gifted with it.

I hope your sky drew you closer to a place of wonder and awe so your mind could wander- if even for a moment, today. It's good for your soul to be lifted off the ground now and then.

A Lesson from Roo - chicken relationships and psychological workings

Hmm, can anyone tell me what breed these are??

Yesterday in the coop I spent a couple of hours making a new larger pen for the chicks. I changed  the hens shallow water dish (filled with rocks to keep the chicks from drowning  but she kept filling it with straw in all her scratching around- so I was cleaning it 3x a day (plus their little special chick waterer)so I'm using a dog dish with rocks now - it has higher sides. 

the water dish...iew!
And boy it's FUNNY as heck to see that little yellow chick scratching around with those little quick feet- just as he was taught to do. (That just made me laugh out loud - the image coming to mind...hubby working behind me had to know what was so funny). Little chicks! 

Anyway I also raised her feed dish (which used to be a wild bird feeder, the one that the bear cub licked years ago). 
It hangs from a chain now about 4-6" above the straw, depending on how much the hen moves that straw around into hills and valleys all the time. I promise this IS relevant...

During the time I was out there, I witnessed both funny and puzzling things.
(Can someone tell me if my rooster is weird? lol)

First, I went out there and saw 2 chicks laying on top of the hen, who was also laying down. They were there long enough for me to run back in for my camera and back out for a few shots before mamma dumped them off by getting up. It was like a slide at the park!

(see all that straw on her back from the feeder dish? LOL)

Two chicks (largest one and the black one) had figured out that they could hop into her elevated feed tray and walk across it -then leap onto mammas back from there! 
I watched them do that later on when they decided they wanted back on again. 
They in turn taught the other two chicks how to play the playground on that hanging tray and jump on mommy.

(notice others are watching)

Seriously it was like watching trapeze artists at the circus or a mom at the park with toddlers. 
At one point all four chicks were on/in the food dish eating momma's food - maybe they were just stuck there because momma hen walked away (tired of the game) but you know "chick food is for babies and they are a week old, after all!

Then I heard a strange & loud kind of "balk-balk-balk" sound coming from Roo. I was busy moving in a huge pallet and a board and scraping them across the floor and all that- kind of stuff they normally wouldn't tolerate in such a small space. 

I turned to see what the ruckus was about, half expecting him to be 'yelling at me' for making a mess having removed all their straw and having moved their nest boxes, etc... but no, he was in the absolute corner with three hens attentive to his weird calling - watching him intently from only a foot away.

He fitted himself until he was finally "setting" in a hollow straw nest the hens often create on the floor, and turning around in it, barely fitting, his tail feathers all pushed up because there wasn't room for him in that 'nest'.  
After a while he stood up and moved to the very edge of that nest and quieted down again. 

Then, a hen squeezed herself in between him and the wall to take over possession of the nest. She tossed straw over her shoulders as if nesting to lay an egg. 
He didn't flinch; he looked like he was standing guard. (I got the impression he was acting almost like a parent with arms crossed who was supervising kids after mandating some kind of work/job to do!) He was so close to the nest that when the white one was in it you couldn't hardly see her at all! 

She made herself comfortable and tossed a bit of straw over her shoulders too. She was making clucking noises as if no one was there and all was normal. He still didn't move a muscle. 

After a good 5 minutes she got up and I watched as the third hen then push her way behind him as the second hen left. Then satisfied that the hens 'got the message' (whatever it was), he finally strutted away and they made their way outside to stand near the door. 

One more hen that waited back went over to look at the nest and did the same thing the other two had done. (Sorry I had an error trying to lead the video).

Now I am not sure, but it sure LOOKED like he was instructing them to start nesting "how to lay eggs"!

I had just gotten them some new feed the day before, one that is called 'crumbles' instead of pellets and has a high protein content - to encourage them to lay again. 
Perhaps he hears those chicks and wonders if it means the chopping block if they don't get busy?
Did you ever consider the psychological workings of a chicken? LOL  I most certainly have been! 
Keeping chickens is a trip because chickens are a trip. 

- If you've got some chicken stories to tell, please do!


UPDATE as of this evening: we have an egg! I almost missed it- it was laid behind the (coop) door! 
(Just to let you know, my chickens are 3 years old and were laying infrequently all winter...then kept dropping. 
When I got them they had been on 16% layer pellets but immediately went into a 2-month-long MOLT (and quit laying), then like a picky cat, didn't like the new brand of pellets at the store, so it took twice as long for them to go thru a bag of it -and they never really got laying again.  I figured they didn't need lay feed if they were not laying so I changed their feed from kitchen scraps and scratch (for 3 weeks), and I watched as the egg-laying production dropped from one egg every other day to ZERO.
I gave them protein like yogurt and scrambled eggs and sausage... but they were getting carbs (biscuits, cereals, etc.) because they LIKE that the most.
So I got granulated 18% protein layer feed... (serving 2 parts lay to 1 part scratch grains). They've been on this higher protein feed product for 3 days.)

And now we'll see how the laying goes... maybe Roo's message really got thru!


Spring has sprung and the weather is ever-changing, bringing WOW to the sky....every 10 minutes something different! If we'd had a normal winter then this blessing would be even more spectacular, but winter was weird again. I have come to EXPECT the unexpected.

Sometimes it feels like we're just super boring when you look in at the surface of things... 
"Work, make supper, sleep, work, make supper, sleep, pay bills, work, make supper, bills... (add: fill up the car, shop for groceries, cleaning...what else???) 

Oh yes, I know routine well. It works well, until suddenly one day - it doesn't!

I went thru a kind of existence until the twins were in pre-school (3 years!) and it was comfortable routine, but a lot of work, and I refuse to go back to that again; I literally thought I would die.

One day when the twins were TWO, I went on some errand that I had to wait in line– I can't remember back 23 years to the place... maybe an ice-cream parlor, or to get a money order.
I stood behind a couple and their twins, who looked to be around SEVEN.  I was so exhausted that I seriously felt that I would not live long enough (to see my twins turn seven). It sort of shocked me to see that someone else had made it that far, that it could be done! Tears started streaming down my face right there in public. I may even have left the place...

[When they got into 3-hour a day pre-school (with 1/2 hour bus ride to and fro!) I started a 1/2 acre garden of tomatoes, corn and beans. (I used the beans from a package of 15-bean soup, lol!) That was the BEST summer of our lives. I spent long hours under the hot sun, listening to nothing but the water and the wind and the rustling of corn stalks. Then they came home and we had so much fun playing with the water, discovering bugs, picking apricots, peaches and tomatoes... I dehydrated the fruit on window screens and we had such a harvest of beans I layered the beans in patterns of color in jars (like sand art) and was still so overwhelmed with produce I was giving it away.
Wish I'd had the internet then, so I'd have known better than to plant an entire package of beans!
My favorite picture of my son is his eyes closed while he pops another cherry tomato in his mouth, and there is a smile of delight on his lips. His twin sister was holding daisies up to her head like bows. They were so darling.]

Back on topic....
I'm not really as bored or as boring as I appear to be  - at least not inside my head I'm not! LOL
It's true though, because I have characters living in their worlds and with their lives in my head as well as my own little world in there. They have lots more going on than I do and I have to keep figuring out how one thing leads into another, how they will react and what will become of it...

And I know everyone has a vivid imagination for daydreams too! Perhaps that ability is God's most precious gift. It keeps us from insanity.
Oh I know, sometimes you would wish NOT to be able think or daydream some things like 'worst case scenarios' - or that it persuades more insanity than sanity sometimes, at least for some folks, sometimes.

Oh no, now that i have used the word "folks" I'm going to have to cut this post short. . I can't believe I did that.  Oh what it does to you to be so secluded!  It’s not like I ever HEAR that word, ‘folks’, (at least not too often). 
It's not like Texas where you hear "ya'll" all day long, or like California where you hear "you guys" for every pronoun.

Worse, how could I possibly ILLUSTRATE this post now??

When I went to get groceries I had a conversation with the new checker- a boy from Washington who has a little twang with the long ‘a’ sound as in 'bage' for 'bag'. Like some ‘folks’ say “Aeg” for 'egg'. I think I do that too! We had a few laughs at ourselves.

I recall when I was 8 I moved to southern California from a dairy farm in Missouri. (We pronounced it Missoura). “Miserble” is surely it’s origination...

Anyway, I spent the summer with my cousins and had to wash or dry dishes each night with one of them who was 9 (Mel). We tried to make it fun by competing washing and drying speeds, switching every other night (but it was a pretty lame attempt at a mundane chore now that I think back on it).

She used to tease me mercilessly about how I said “worsh” rather than “wash”. That summer I learned not to say “worsh”. She made me understand how such words like “worsh” and “folks” just countrify you.

Yep; FOLKS... is a sure sign that you are, indeed, countrified!  LOL  (did I just say indeed?) Lord help me. I'm going to just stop here.

First Lesson w/ video

I went out to check under the hen, afraid of a rotten egg left beneath her -since I had only seen 3 chicks peeking out- and there had been 4 developing. 
So I gently lifted her and she walked a foot away, and there were 4 chicks- a tiny black one and two black spotted ones (like the first hatchling) and the yellow-headed spotty one. It is still only 1/2 the size of the first hatchling -you can compare just their head sizes in this picture to see that: 

The little black one obviously hadn't seen the light of day and was pretty scared of me. It went running back under mamma and we didn't see it again!
Mamma hen immediately proceeded to teach her other 3 chicks (almost twice the size of the black one) how to peck for food, first in the straw and then in the food dish.

They got up really close to her and were obviously watching.
It was AMAZING because it was just so obvious - she clucked and pecked (not eating anything, even though I'm sure she hadn't eaten for two days) until the other chicks began to imitate her! 

I got a couple of pictures, only one isn't fuzzy- and a short video clip. Wow, I really didn't think she'd take such an active mothering role, but my ignorance is constantly being enlightened.

All 4 chicks at 2 and 3 days:

I have NO IDEA what breeds they are, or which chick came from the brown egg (only that it wasn't the two that are next to each other facing forward, because there were 4 white eggs (one didn't develop) and only one brown one.

Here is a SHORT video clip of the First Lesson (how to eat):


And now that I have infused the blog with the first few days of successfully hatching some chicks (finally), I promise to move on to other things. I just had to share the experience - it's not a first for me, but it's the first time I paid attention and really cared about the outcome! 
Having learned so much from others experience (on the net), I hope this is helpful to someone else or provides the confidence and inspiration for someone else to give it a try and NOT GIVE UP.

I'd be happy to share your successes too - send a link or share your story in the comments section! Or join in the expansive sharing going on at the Barn Hop!  (or click the permanent link on the right-hand bar)!

Also, The 2nd Annual Hen House Linky party will be open a little while longer (May 2nd to enter) if you’ve got a chicken coop and a story to tell (or details about your flock!) At the end of the party there will be a SURPRISE giveaway for one lucky entrant! 

If you don’t have your own hens yet, you can learn a lot and see what others are doing & be inspired with your own plans. So go check it out... at Deborah Jeans Dandelion House.

First Peek Under the Hen - Video

Things are going on under the hen that I'm not privy to! 
If you've hatched chicks under a hen before then this will likely bore you but for newbies, I think any kind of info on the experience is reassuring, and on this side of things has been a huge amount of elation at the final success - so I'm sharing it all with a wide smile....

(If you have been reading me a while, you know that this chicken-raising journey has been LONG... but is now reaching the epic stage 2 - raising chicks. 
If you care to start at the beginning of the blog you can catch up on everything, but the last post (yesterday) we saw our first chick hatched)...

I HEARD two different cheep 'tones' just before dark yesterday, so was sure of two hatchlings last night but this morning only heard one. I didn't have time to stick around, so I'm hoping it means it was only sleeping.

I did get  two short videos - one when the hen first left the nest and exposed the first little chick [BELOW], and again last night of a chick poking it's head out from underneath her feathers (it could've been the 2nd chick!)

It was comic at the time watching it wriggle around making a little place to cozy up under the hen and poking it's head out over and over- but I'm not sure it lasted long enough for me to get the comedy of it captured on video. I haven't watched it yet, or uploaded it but I will share when I do! 
I could see the hens feathers ruffling on the opposite side and was hoping to see another chick, but it could've just been her.

So, the hen is still setting the nest like a good mother hen should, so I'm not worried about the chicks getting cold. It's COLD out today, but fortunately the cloud cover has kept it from getting right down to freezing again. I turned the heat lamp on today and will keep it on until the hen starts to get hot. Just in case. 

Because yesterday when the chick was only 4 hours old, it was fumbling around about a foot away from her and seemed lost! Of course I panicked and put it right up next to her again.
I was SO anxious going out this morning- half EXPECTING to find that chick in some corner... something I dread seeing!

Yesterday the other chickens acted a bit weird - I guess hearing the chick. It's new to them all, too!

I have cardboard barriers up against the pen fencing so they cannot see in there (only because I don't have other fencing that will work). 

They kind of clumped up together like they were insecure?, right inside the coop entrance, they stayed for HOURS, when usually they're all out roaming the yard. Then they stepped outside and clumped up together, still close enough to hear the chick(s). Finally at the end of the day they all went out to forage. 

They'll have to stay in most of today because of the weather. It's not too cold but it's so gray you can almost see water hanging in the air.

I witnessed another funny chicken "antic":
There was one hen out in the yard (day before last), out by the trees. A big black crow was hopping around the straw (put in the sun to air out). Maybe the other birds went inside out of fear of it (and they all follow the rooster, but even Roo IS a chicken after all!) Maybe this hen got separated and was afraid to bypass the crow?
Then as I approached the crow did a running leap into the air and flew off- but that hen, with wings spread out, RAN after it, as if SHE were the one chasing it off. LOL

Here is the first video- the hen first getting off the nest, the first chick that hatched:


We have a chick!

Yesterday my Dad (who is visiting) and I did everything we could think of to prep the coop for chicks hatching. I wasn't sure if they were due today or tomorrow. 

I went out this morning at 9am to let the other hens and Roo out, and then at 1:00 to check on my hen - and I heard this faint little "cheep, cheep, cheep"!!! What a sweet sound. 
I ran back in to tell everyone I know: One at least, has hatched!! 

Of course I couldn't SEE it... but I'm not going to move her and risk getting pecked, lol.
I wish I could take a picture of the tiny little sounds... oh, I hope she doesn't crush it! 

Nervousness is an edge to my elation.

-Does this make me a bonafied Farmgirl? 

I had a conversation with a friend of mine who says I can be proud of the accomplishment because I don't take no for an answer. I thought I was defiant in my refusal to accept 'no'. She says it's determination.
I like that word 'determination', but I think there's a stubborn streak a mile wide, too. I felt some pride when she said: God love you for your diligence and resourcefulness; look how far your dreams have come since moving from the city to the mountains. 

I hate to say it (sorta), but my nature is to defy the word "no" or in other words if it looks like someone or something is telling me I can't do it, it almost begs me to defy them. 

So when I couldn't get chickens, I studied up for a year and kept at it until I got permission. 
But then another obstacle, I didn't have a coop, so I kept working at that.
When I figured out we HAD a coop (it was just disguised as a tool shed) I figured out how to deal with everything in it until it was turned into a coop. Then I had to get it moved from the North side of the house so that the back window would catch the Southern sun.
Then we couldn't afford to buy chickens, so I found a barter-trade (free) source.
When they went into molt, ate the eggs, weren't getting fertilized, and then quit laying, and I still don't have the money to buy any- "can't" get chicks, just means I had to keep looking for a way. 
I got lucky that our neighbor is overrun with chickens now and had a handful of fertile eggs to give me.
(It helps to mention what you're wanting to do/get to people in passing conversation after you discover you have something in common with them.) People want to share their knowledge and experience on something in common, and to pay forward, and just have a hand in whatever passion you are sharing about. 

I just want to reiterate: don't give up on your ideals and your dreams.
UPDATED with first picture of first chick:

Finger's Crossed...

Well it's been a while since I posted about the Coop, so here's an update skipping all the various challenges with egg-eating hens and hens molting and hens not laying and Roo not doing a great job at fertilizing any eggs that were laid.
At this point to recap, I have 7 Blue Cochin hens that are now 3 years old. None are laying, except once in a while... maybe it's just too cold, but 2 were laying every other day LAST month, so that is all up in the air. (I decided not to let it make me crazy, lol).

I have one hen that's been broody since January, even setting on an empty nest at times, and I gave her 4 chances already with various fertile eggs but when candled NONE ever developed.

I have taken enough photos of my hens now to be able to tell them apart solely by the shape of their combs, but hers is different too, in that it looks like if her comb were made of play-dough you could imagine someone smashed it down in the front and it smooshed a bit to the left. LOL
You know, I want to keep track of my notorious egg-eater (just in case that starts up again once they start laying again, right?) and of course my new fav... the broody hen.

She is so devoted to the nesting, she absolutely deserves a chickie... so I determined that if I have to I will BUY her one. 

After reading a lot I thought I'd try turning the next batch for her, and yes! it's working!
I got 5 eggs from a neighbor and 4 of them are developing, now looking ready to hatch this Thursday (if I calculated right, from Thursday the 29th of March!)

Here are the 2 best shots taken last Friday - at least you can see the air sacs:

Gotta go and turn them 2x today --and then they are on their own!!
So, finger's crossed!