Mothers Day… What It Really Means.

I remember the birth of my first son, Eric, like it was yesterday.  Actually, I don’t remember the actual birth at all.  What I do remember is screaming at the anesthesiologist to “KNOCK ME OUT!!!!!!!” to which she replied, “Are YOU an anesthesiologist? NO? Then let me decide when to knock you out, now QUIT SCREAMING.”  A few hours later I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a herd of wild boars.  They wheeled me to the nursery to see my new baby.  They handed him to me and I stopped breathing for a moment…Eric lowered his eyebrows at me like he was thinking “I’ve got a headache, I was stuck in some tunnel for 19 hours.  Who the hell are YOU?”  I looked back at him with astonishment and then an overwhelming wave of emotion that I didn’t understand.

My second son, Greg, chose to begin his arrival into the world during a “Mary Tyler Moore Marython”.  I still get cramps when I hear that theme song.  It was an average length labor, but at one point, I was feeling contractions more than I thought I should, so I asked my husband to get the nurse.  He looked at the contraction monitor and said “Oh, they aren’t bad yet.  You can wait a little longer…” and I didn’t let him even get a breath in before I screamed “GET THE DAMN NURSE!!!!!”.  Greg arrived safely without me being totally anesthetized and having to go through surgery.  The nurse put him on the warmer bed and dried him off and put a blue and pink striped cap on his head.  He ripped it off and simultaneously, peed all over her.  She  handed him off to me because she had to change her scrubs and I stopped breathing for just a moment.  Greg squinted at me through the eye ointment in his eyes.  I looked back at him with astonishment and the wave of emotion broke over me again.

My daughter arrived when I was older and had no idea I could even have any more children.  Her story was a series of constant trips to the hospital for false labor during which I was deemed “A Senior Pregnancy”.  Don’t think I wasn’t offended about THAT.  We finally made it to the day when I was having regular contractions that actually said “HEY, We mean it this time.  FOR REALS.”  So, off we went to the hospital which was 40 miles away because I was “A Senior Pregnancy” and had to deliver at a hospital that had a Level III NICU.  Emma was firmly ensconced in my uterus with a bag of chips and a 48″ TV.  She had no intention of coming out.  Why should she?  It’s warm, lots of food, not much room, but hey…no rent.  One of the obstetricians finally decided she needed to be evicted and after giving me an IV injection of something wonderful, suddenly there appeared to be crowds of cheering people in the hall and I waved like a princess on my way to the OR. Of course, they really weren’t there.   It turned out to be something called Fentanyl and it made me instantly unaware that I was even in labor.  I even talked about going home and coming back the next day.  That wasn’t going to work out apparently, as I learned when they wheeled me into the OR and moved me to the table.  There was Native American Flute music playing in the background.  I might have asked the anesthesiologist if he had Peyote.  Suddenly, I felt a rush of nausea and the anesthesiologist said “Here’s your friend!  Mr. Puke Pan!” and then just as suddenly, I could breathe more than I had been able to in 5 months.  I yelled “She’s OUT!  Oh she’s OUT!  Oh that’s so much better!”  About that time, a nurse from the side of the OR said “Mommy and Daddy!  Look at this!” and he held up our naked, squinchy eyed, squealing daughter.  The neonatologist check her over and the nurse brought her over to me.  Her eyes opened for a moment and I stared into them…knowing I was nothing but a blur to her. I wasn’t breathing.  She was so astonishingly perfect…and then the wave hit hard.

I recently had one of my hens hatch a clutch of eggs.  I knew that chickens protect their young strongly, but I’d never actually witnessed the relationship that occurs between a hen and a chick.  I waited the three long weeks and one day we discovered that the eggs were cheeping under their mama.  She clucked contentedly…unless we tried to touch her and then she tried to tear off our arm and attach it to our ear.  Touchy.  We figured it was just hormones.  The next day…a chick and later, another.  I watched with amazement as she checked her babies with obvious astonishment.  Clucking first with confusion and astonishment and then the wave must have taken her down as she began to cluck softly to comfort her new little ones.

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Time after time, I’ve witnessed that bond between mother and child that occurs in that first astonishing moment that’s filled with crashing waves of emotion.  Of course, it’s astonishing, because what miracle isn’t?  The wave of emotion carries eddies of fear and swirling vortexes of uncertainty, but then…there’s something else.  It’s overpowering and almost primal.  It lifts you higher than you ever thought you could go and you know in that fleeting moment that this is the most important thing in your life.  When another is born, you add another “most important thing in your life”, and so on.  You know you’d die for this creature, you’d sacrifice your very soul, that they are a piece of you and that they’ve lived INSIDE your body.  They know you and you know them better than anyone else ever will.  They carry your heart, and you, their’s.

On the day that every child is born, every creature for that matter, there comes the first moment when you’re alone with your baby. You examine them head to toe…checking every finger and noticing the shell-like perfect ears and finally, burying your face into their downy, baby hair and breathing deeply to fill your senses with their intoxicating scent.  Breathing it in again and again, because you can’t get enough.  You promise your baby that you’ll protect it always, support its every dream and be there like no one else.  People might say it’s love…but it’s more than that.  It’s something higher and more powerful than that.  It’s something that only mothers understand because that wave that crashes over them, hits no one else.  It’s a wave meant just for motherhood and it carries with it strength, resolve and a feeling like love…but so much more.

This Mothers Day, I want to honor my children.  They gave me the gift of being a mother.  They gave me the responsibility and the joy and the fear and the astonishingly strong love that only mothers feel.  It’s a gift. I may not have been the perfect mother, but I did what I thought was my best and learned along the way and have never ever stopped feeling the crest of that wave of emotion for my children.  Eric, Greg and Emma,  thank you for giving me the ultimate gift of motherhood.  Not all women are fortunate enough to have children and have missed this astonishingly beautiful love that I have for all three of you.  I want to tell you how lucky I feel, you all still astonish me every day, closely followed by that wave of emotion.  I love you.

Mom

Hatching Chicks or Confessions of a Incubation Addict.

Those of you who follow me on social media know that I got the brilliant idea this year that I would hatch some chicks.  TC (Tiny Chicken) conveniently had seemed to have gone “Broody”, so after about three days of her hunching around in the nest box looking crabby, I ordered some eggs from Ebay.  I really want more bantam Cochins.  Big fan of the bantam Cochin.  I ordered six eggs and the day after I ordered them, TC walked off the job.  Something about labor dispute (<—see what I did there?).  I had only ordered four eggs, but they were fertilized and we hated the thought of just not doing SOMETHING with them, so Tom told me to order an incubator.

Honest to Pete…TC and I did NOT work together on making that whole incubator thing happen.

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The eggs arrived right on time and I had the incubator all heated up and ready to go.  I opened the eggs and gushed over them and then let them sit for a while before I stuck them in the incubator.  I had it set at 99.5, the water cup was filled per the directions, I put in the turning tray and carefully arranged the eggs inside.  Hm.  There were three open spots in turner.  I traipsed over to the counter where our bowl of fresh eggs sits and picked three different colors and put those in too.  Then Tom and I just sat there and stared at the incubator for a while…like we were expecting something to happen.  It whirred merrily on the kitchen breakfast bar.  The settings were all perfect (I know, because I checked 1431 times).  All I had to do was to add water to the center cup every day or so to keep the humidity right.  This didn’t seem too hard!  Besides, I felt like I was doing something important….I don’t know what, but it SEEMED important.

In about four days I got all jumpy and decided they were all dead.  Tom assured me they weren’t.  I said I knew they were.  We tried candling them in the bathroom with a bright flashlight with all the lights turned off.  It was fraught with potential disaster.  First of all, put two good-sized adults in a smallish bathroom and then turn off the lights…and one of them is holding an egg.  Second of all, he was trying to position the flashlight, I was trying to position the egg and there just ended up being a lot of screaming (me) AND we have the hottest bathroom on the planet.  Honestly, the SUN would think it’s too hot in there.  I HAD to know what was going on inside those EGGS.

So, I knew there were actual candlers you could find in stores and I wanted one called The Ovascope by Brinsea Products.  I looked all over in our area and couldn’t find one.  Most of the farm stores said “Why don’t y’all use a flashlight.”  I didn’t want to have to explain about screaming in the hot, dark bathroom.  It just takes too long.  I just thanked them for their advice and emailed Brinsea, who sent one for me to try out.  I could hardly wait to get it out of the box.  I scooted right up to the breakfast bar in the kitchen and carefully opened the incubator.  My son Greg insists on making like some sort of sci-fi whooshing sound when ever I opened it and of course he was there and was happy to supply the sound effects.

I carefully took out a warm, toasty egg and positioned it inside the Ovascope and replaced the sliding lid.  I clicked on the light at the base and looked into the viewer.  THERE WERE VEINS…and a big spot and I nearly slid off the chair with excitement.  We quickly candled the rest and found one bantam egg had a detached air cell which happens sometimes during shipping.  There was no growth.  I removed it from the incubator and had Tom take it to the tree line behind the house.  If it wouldn’t hatch, at least it might nourish another creature.   The rest of the eggs showed growth and in the base of the Ovascope, I turned the dial that allowed me to see all sides of the egg. It was AWESOME.

BABIES.

I became a candling addict.  I tried to do it only once a day and then something someone told me about a crockpot came to mind…”If you’re lookin’, it’s not cookin'”.   BAH!  So, I slowed down on the candling.  We had found that one of the eggs was a double yolk and I did candle it more often…it ended up not hatching as many double yolks seem to follow that path. Sad, but perhaps the babies were conjoined or deformed or in the wrong position.  Nature knows best.

The three weeks of incubation went by SLOWLY.  When we were a few days from the hatch date, I filled both sides of the water cup in the incubator and went on “LOCK DOWN”.   Which means, if anyone opens, touches, or looks funny at the incubator, I’m right there with a wooden spoon smacking their hands.  This is important stuff I’m doing!!!

Finally, it was day 20 and I saw the first tiny hole in an egg.  By this time, we’d purchased a web cam and had it trained on the incubator while it streamed live to anyone I could talk into logging in to it.  I went to work and pulled up the live feed while I did things in my office.  It seemed like nothing had changed in a while, so I refreshed the screen and as I did, a yellow chick was struggling out of an egg.  OPAL’S EGG WAS HATCHING!!!  (I knew who was who’s).  I had taken the afternoon off to prepare for Tom’s cardiac ablation the next day and when it was time to leave I SHOT out of the building and I don’t even remember driving home.

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The chick was lying in the incubator looking a little stunned and frankly…a little homely.  It’s a good thing that down dries off and puffs up to make them adorable, because….yeeesh.

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Meanwhile, Pippa, another bantam Cochin had become broody in her nest box.  I mean, serious, hard-core, I-will-peck-you-SO-HARD, broody.

So, I ordered her some eggs.  I half expected the same thing to happen where she decided that being broody was dumb and walk off the job, but she didn’t.  She sat on her eggs and stole everyone else’s too.  This was looking hopeful!

The eggs arrived on a freezing cold day when I was trying to get Tom home from the hospital after he had stayed an extra night because he was a little fluid overloaded…and not in a good way.  I snatched the eggs off the porch where the post office dude had left them and took them inside and allowed them to come up to room temperature while still packaged.  I finally opened them after several hours and there were six beautiful eggs plus three extras that the seller had included in case of breakage.  But none had broken…so, YAY!

I scooted out to Broodlandia and while Tom held Pippa, I did the big egg switch out.  She could have cared less…as long as there were eggs when he set her back down.  The nest box was dark and I thought a little depressing, so we got a big brooding cage and set it up on a table in the heated garage.  I arranged a nice deep nest with plenty of shavings underneath.  Then Tom grabbed Pippa and I grabbed the eggs and we made a quick move to the new nest.  Pippa looked around, found things acceptable and sat down on her eggs.   She was livin’ the dream in her new Broody Central.  She never even thought about leaving her eggs.  PHEW.

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The eggs in the house, of course, all hatched while Tom was in the hospital and the hospital has no BANDWIDTH on its internet so when I wasn’t obsessing about my husband’s health I was cursing at my computer and iPhone and shaking my fist at the sky because I couldn’t get to the live stream from the incubator.  We finally came home and ended up with four perfect chicks out of the six eggs.  One chick died shortly after hatching…very sad.  The double yolk didn’t hatch.  I was thrilled with the ones did hatch!

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We moved them to a brooder…on the kitchen table…my mother would DIE…and we’d ordered a height adjustable radiant heater from Brinsea that worked perfectly.  No heat lamp.  No strange red glow all over everything.  Just happy chicks scurrying under the warmer when they got cold and that came out to eat, drink and play.  They’ve now outgrown the brooder and are in a pack and play…next to the fish tank and the house is filled with contented chirping.  I’ve since incubated another batch and had 100% hatch rate of the eggs that I set.  Two very tiny eggs that were sent as freebies showed no growth and they were removed early on, but the other 5 eggs hatched perfectly.  If you’re interested in reading more about the products I used from Brinsea Products, take a look at my Amazon store in the right side bar of the blog.  I had such good luck with them and I could have saved the money and bought a different one, but I’d heard such good things and had seen other chicken keepers on the internet using them and basically…I’m a lemming.  I’m glad I was this time!

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Oh and what ever happened with Pippa’s eggs?  I think she’s living happily ever after.

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Feral Cat Terrorist

For the last several nights, there have been unbelievably loud cat screams coming from the woods near the house.  We think it’s those darn feral cats.  I see the mother cat all the time during the day skulking around the neighborhood.  She’s a skulker-cat.  She’s pretty darn furry and fat too, so someone must be feeding her.  She had a couple of young ones with her for a while, but I’m not sure where they went…probably got apartments and are living like civilized cats instead of being skulker cats.

So, when the screams started again in the woods the other night, Greg yelled “CAT FIGHT!!!!!” and I said to Tom, “Pop some popcorn…I’m going to the cat fight.”  Greg and I stood on the deck and you could hear a cat just SCREAMING at the top of its lungs.  This cat has quite the set of pipes!!  We listened for  quite a while and never saw an actual fight and Tom never made us any popcorn.  We finally came in when the yowling stopped.

The next night, our cat that lives in the carriage house/wood shop, Pandora (she’s probably 20 years old) was still out prowling around the neighborhood.  She comes in every night, but she likes to give the yard one last check before she goes inside to recline in her luxurious cat bed that’s next to the bantam pen (shh. I know I should have moved them outside, but I can’t do it now so…you know…they just live in the garage with their little coop. The garage is heated, so they think they live in Florida).  Anyway…back to Panda and her night-time walk-about.

I was laying on the sofa, covered in dogs, (Lily and Fawn), trying to write more of the book.  I heard a blood-curdling scream outside near the deck, so I yelled “CAT FIGHT!!!!!”…only Tom and Greg were out in the shop, building something that genius that Greg had designed. So, I basically just yelled it for my own benefit.  The door was cracked a little and Greg must have heard it too because I saw Panda run for the garage and Greg was waiting with the door open.  I knew she was safe inside, but the screaming continued. I mean this cat can be heard from very long distances.  This isn’t loud meowing…this is angry, hateful, cat fury.  I stood outside and listened for a while and again, it died off.

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Yesterday, during the daytime, Panda was out inspecting blades of grass (she’s spayed…no worries about kittens…she’s a million years old, but definitely still pretty spry).  Tom said that suddenly, Panda appeared on the table on the deck…which is odd, because usually she just rolls around on the wood of the deck and does her cute cat act until you invite her inside the house.  Right after Panda appeared on the table, the feral cat appeared on the deck railing and they had themselves a little stare down.  Panda quickly got tired of that nonsense and hissed a few thousand times.  Tom said he looked back a few minutes later and they were gone.   No yowling, no screaming and Panda was sitting by the garage waiting to go inside.  He also noticed something else.

That rotten feral cat had POOPED on the deck railing!  What the hell is that all about?  I thought cats PEED to mark their territory!  Did Panda just SCARE the poop out of that cat?  What kind of cat poops on a deck railing???  I can understand the grass, maybe the garden, the woods, but a DECK RAILING?  Tom had very nicely left it in-situ so that I could see it, and after I had a small tirade about ISIS Terrorist Cats, I screeched “Well aren’t you going to get it OFF THAT RAILING???”

Again…last night with the cat screaming.  I don’t think it’s in heat…these sound like angry, vicious, I-want-to-kill-you kind of yowls.  So, listen Feral Cat…if you’re reading this, there is NO POOPING ON THE DECK.  I don’t even let Tom and Greg poop on the deck, so there’s no way I’m taking that crap (pun intended) from some Feral Cat that thinks it runs the neighborhood.

I think a live trap and a can of tuna fish might be in order…and then a nice little ride to the animal shelter where you can poop on THEIR stuff.  The program in this county is to neuter and release feral cats and thereby stop them from continuing to grow in numbers.  I think this is a female and if that’s the case, she’s going to get those girlie bits removed once I catch her…and after I firmly talk to her about appropriate and inappropriate places to poop if she ever wants to find a forever family.  There’s a Cat Manual.  READ IT.

TEN, Count ’em TEN, Reasons You Should Hatch Eggs.

Who doesn’t love a chicken.  I don’t mean fried, broasted, baked or grilled.  I mean one that’s eating all the bugs in your backyard not to mention your carefully planted annuals.  Last year, I bought chickens from the farm supply store, like many people do.  This year, I’m a bit of a chicken snob and think that I need specific sizes, shapes and colors of chickens.  You don’t get to really “pick” at the farm supply store.  It’s a teenager in a red vest, stuffing whatever he can catch into a chick carrier and although the sign says “Black Sex Link”, the kid who cleans the stock tanks just dumps them all together because all he can think of is when this hellish, chicken poop filled day will be over.  If you try to say to the kid who is catching chicks “oh…not that one…the other one…” that kid will turn and give you a look that will make you want to ask for the police to sit outside your house for a couple of nights.

So, this year…I’ma hatchin’ me some EGGS!”  If you follow my Facebook page (and SHAME on you if you don’t…we’re a very friendly bunch), you’ll know that last Friday, I set three of my own eggs and Saturday, I received 4 bantam Cochin eggs in the mail.  Who knew you could ship an egg from Texas?  When I was buying eggs at the store, I could barely get them home without a crack!  But anyway…I have them all warm and toasty in the incubator.

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Have you ever thought about hatching your own chicks with some fertile eggs?  Here’s ten reasons why you should.

1. I said so.

2. There is something tremendously gratifying about carefully putting the eggs in the incubator.   You feel like you’ve just done  something NOBLE, ADMIRABLE, COURAGEOUS.  Plus, it’s just damn exciting to think that in that dormant, fertilized egg is the potential for another BEING.  It just makes me shiver with delight.

3. Suddenly, your family who has thought that you’d tipped over the edge, is FASCINATED by  your hobby.  “Now, who laid that one?  How long till we have chicks?!  This is pretty COOL.”  That’s right…suddenly you aren’t quite so crazy anymore.  Hatching your own eggs makes you AWESOME.

4. Tending to the eggs and making sure they’re turned, the humidity is just right and the temperature is chicken-egg-approved makes you feel all maternal.  All of a sudden you remember to water your plants that you haven’t watered in two weeks.  You start picking out baby names (oops…lost an “AWESOME” point there…).  You obsess about the nursery (brooder) and you wonder if you should hang little curtains and put pictures of chickens up on the brooder walls.  Then your family takes you to the doctor.  Never share your plans.

5. EGG CANDLING.  I just should make this numbers 5 and 6. Egg candling is the most wondrous thing I’ve ever gotten to do. Get yourself a “Big ol’ Flashlight” or an Ovascope from Brinsea Products.  When I first set the eggs, I candled them and didn’t see anything but a yolk.  I waited a few days (LIE) and candled them again and I saw the delicate spiderweb of their forming veins along with a darker spot.  I found that beautiful spiderweb in every egg but one bantam egg…it had a detached air cell and never started to develop. I candled it one last time and had to throw it away before it exploded…which is what they do if you try to incubate an infertile egg.  They eventually get filled with bacteria that enter through the egg’s pores and then POW! I haven’t had it happen…but I’m smart enough to listen to the experts.

6. EGG CANDLING.  See…I told you I’d list it twice.  It’s a total miracle that you can watch with your own eyes.  Embryos move about in the shell, you see more of their features like a dark eye or a beating heart every single day.  It is THE most incredible thing EVER.  It reminds you of the glory and intricacy  and miracle of nature…and you will be AWED by it.

7. You learn SO MUCH.  Your family and children learn too. Not just that chicks come from eggs, but about their fragile journey from conception to hatch.  From the moment you begin to read about hatching your own eggs, to setting up and warming the incubator that will trigger the magic that will happen in the egg, you will learn.  You can’t help it.  There’s so much knowledge that people want to share who have done it before.  Whether it be on forums, Facebook pages, or YouTube, there is a wealth of experienced, smart and helpful chicken keepers out there to hold your hand (if needed) through this incredible journey.

8. It makes you feel hopeful.  The winter can really depress some folks.  I’m one of them.  I can honestly say that setting these eggs which include one each from Opal, Oprah, and Roseanna, my own chickens, I am filled with hope and optimism.  I get to show these babies the WORLD…well, least the backyard.  I can bond with them and show them love.  I’m so excited about loving them…even if they can’t love me back…because, you know…little brains.  But who knows what they feel?  I think they do form an attachment for the person that shows them compassion and care.  Who doesn’t want to cultivate a little compassion and care?  That’s something you can feel good about.

9. If you listen to the experts, you really can’t mess it up!  True, some chicks may not hatch and I’m prepared for that.  My little incubator is doing all of the work though.  I listen to experts, I read about what I should and shouldn’t do and I LISTEN to that.  It’s very gratifying for me to follow the instructions from someone who has crossed terrain where I’ve never ventured.  They know what works and what works for them, should work for me!  If it doesn’t, I find out what I did wrong and I try it again.  So far, I’ve done what I’m supposed to.  The second day, I was sure they were all dead.  Couldn’t see a thing on candling, but when I got to the fourth day?  HOLY MOLY!  Some sort of incubator/nature/chicken wizardry had occurred and they were developing! I’ll feel proud and successful no matter how many hatch and I’ll grieve for the ones that don’t…because it might not have been anything I’ve done wrong.  Sometimes, Mother Nature knows best…she’s the ultimate expert on hatching.

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10. At the end of 21 days…you get chickens.  Throw away those chicken math charts, ditch those chick catalogs, tell the kid at the farm store to lighten up or you’ll make sure he’s bucking straw bales into farmers’ trucks for the next three months.  You’re making your very own chickens!  On your COUNTER!  You’re growing your very own friends who will run to greet you, clamor for your attention and treats, provide you with HOURS of entertainment and they’ll lay you delicious, fresh eggs when they grow up.  None of my people friends lay eggs for me.  I think that’s a good reason to hatch some chicken friends.

I Don’t Want Your Chicken Poopy Bowl!

Tom and I went out to put the chickens away the other night.  “Put the chickens away” sounds like they are picked up and neatly put in cabinets.

Couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Prince always meets you at the door.  He’s kind of the unofficial “Doorman”  or I guess it would “Door Rooster”.  Prince always has a lot to say.  I think it’s because he doesn’t have much to do.  He scratches around all day in the straw and in his pen and then when company shows up, he talks their ear off.

Tom always screws Prince’s door shut.  Unless the owls have screw guns (or as they’re called at our house “SCROOguns!!!”…we try to use an Irish accent), that door isn’t opening.  I always go in to the big enclosure and move the oh-so-decorative rock that we use to hold the door to the big run open and shut the door.  If we don’t use The ROCK, then Vinnie gets behind the door and shuts it and half the flock is sitting outside wondering what happened.  Vinnie’s fascinated with what must be behind the door to the big run when it’s open.  He’ll make himself into a rooster wafer just trying to get back there and the more he wedges himself back there, the more he pushes the door shut.  He always gets in there and starts calling the hens who are NOT interested in whatever he’s pretend to have found this time.  I think Vinnie thinks it might be a great place to stash a nest.  He needs to let the hens do the thinking.

We often take the chickens out treats in paper bowls and then pick them up and throw them away. Relax…I know that’s bad stewardship of the Earth…I bought them stainless steel pans now, although Vinnie wanted a nice set of Pfaltzgraf. There was a flat paper bowl on the floor and I made a move to pick it up and Vinnie stepped forward and grabbed it with his beak and tossed it a short distance and glared at me.  The he went over to the flat and dirty, I might add, paper bowl and stood on it and crowed.  I just stood there.  I had no idea what he was doing.  He fussed around in the straw at the edge of the bowl and then grabbed it with his beak and gave it a shake.  He fussed around the edge of it some more and then stood on it again and looked at me.  He picked up a couple of pieces of straw and broke them with his beak on top of the flat paper bowl…and then resumed giving me what I interpreted as “The Stank Eye”.

I finally shooshed him away and picked up the bowl.  He went over and mumbled to Cluck, who mumbled back.  I was thinking, look…I know you guys live in a shack, but for pete’s sake, you don’t have to get protective over a poopy, paper BOWL.

The only thing that I could figure was that Vinnie associated the bowl with food.  I’m not sure if he was pointing out that it was flat and most definitely NOT treat filled, or if he just thought it was something good things came in and maybe it would have good things in it again…or maybe he’s some sort of weird hoarder.  I don’t know.  He seemed to act like I was taking a way a treasure…almost like a child that becomes attached to something in their environment like a television that eventually breaks and has to be replaced and the child looses his mind because they watched Sesame Street on that TV!  You can’t throw it away!!!

Well, I threw the bowl away.  Who wants a poopy, flat, paper bowl?  Obviously, Vinnie.  I think he’ll enjoy the stainless steel bowls though…because when he’s done eating, he can gaze at his handsome self in the reflective bottom of the bowl…it’ll be a little blurry, he may start thinking he looks like Bradley Cooper, but at least we’re not destroying the planet by using paper bowls.  Score: Environment: 1  Vinnie: 0.

(Insert “OMG” Rooster Noise Here)

It’s a gorgeous day today.  Tom and I have been spring cleaning, which sucks, but is necessary which doesn’t decrease the suck factor much at all.  Greg’s been downstairs in the in-law’s residence pulling wires for some sort of outlet and the last time he did electrical work half the town had a brown-out.  Okay…not really, but honest to pete there were SPARKS.

We all finally took a break, because there’s only so much fun you can tolerate in one sitting.  So, Greg got his drone out and flew it around the back yard a little bit.  He flew it down the path to the coop and then just hovered it over the door to the run.  They were all inside.  Nothing happened, so he flew it out a little ways and then back to hover it over the door of the run.

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Suddenly, Vinnie stuck his head out the door.  He saw the drone and made that ridiculous noise they make when they surprised and confused.  I’m not even sure how to spell it. (AUWWWWWGHHHHHHHHHHHH?)  I like to walk into the coop and make that noise…you know, because I’m surprised and confused and also, it makes Prince, Vinnie and Cluck make the same noise…which makes me giggle a lot. (If you’re from PETA and you’re reading this, please know that we aren’t abusing our roosters.  On the contrary, they’re usually torturing us.)

I got the incubator and my bantam eggs which were due to arrive yesterday, still aren’t here today.  So, I warmed the sucker up and thought I’d put one of Opal’s eggs in it…but it looked lonely…so I added one of Oprah’s…and then Tom brought one in from the coop from Roseanna…so I put that in there too.  Although, WHY I would want another hen like Roseanna is completely beyond me because there is no psych med on the planet that could help that chicken with whatever is wrong with her brain.  She’s NUTS.  There’s still plenty of room for the bantam eggs that are supposed to be coming but aren’t here yet (had I mentioned that already?  huh.).  The big ones might hatch a day early, but what the hell, let’s just keep the fun rolling for a few days.  There’s a chance they won’t hatch at all.  Maybe a few will hatch.  Who knows, it’s my first time running The Electric Hen and it has a lot of buttons on it that I haven’t completely figured out.  You can count on one thing though…

They’ll all be roosters.  You know they will.  Then I’ll get attached to them and I’ll have to make some sort of adoption form that’s 10 pages long and in triplicate in order to make sure that I find the very best adoptive parents with the least number of teeth at the local backwoods chicken swap.  Why the least amount of teeth?

At least they wouldn’t be able to eat them.

Vincent Mortimer Rooster for PRESIDENT

Many of you know of Vinnie’s disastrous run for congress.  He didn’t even make the ballot.  There were 5 write-ins for Cluck and he never even campaigned!  Anyway, Vinnie’s running for PRESIDENT due to the lack of qualified candidates…well, qualified by HIS standards anyway.

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So this is his official announcement.  The coop internet is down (that’s what I tell them…they don’t have internet) and he asked me to let you know.  We’re making campaign commercials this time.  He’s pretty sure that’s why he didn’t win the congressional race and what with Mitch McConnell and Allison Grimes taking all the commercial time on our local television stations, the commercials wouldn’t have seen the light of day anyway.  Vinnie says it was a terrorist plot.  I said “No…you’re a ROOSTER.”

I’m on the campaign committee (to be clear…I never asked to be).  I think it’s because I have the credit card.  This morning, I received an email from a guy I don’t know with the subject “Saturday delivery okay?” and it contained this picture and a message: “HEY DUDE!  Great to hear from ya!  Never did hear of a chicken running for president before! I’ll take 50 bones off the campaign bus if you promise to legalize pot, Dude! Let me know about the Saturday delivery.  I can just park it in front of the house, if that’s totally cool with you.  Namaste Bro!”

Vinnies presidential bus

 

I assume he bought another campaign bus….because I had the last one crushed into a tiny cube at the junkyard.  He wanted to send it to the winning congressional candidates as a representation of how his dreams were crushed.  I told him that there was already enough junk on Capitol Hill.

So, we’ll be working on the campaign.  Honestly, I’d love to get it trending around the country that a rooster is running for president.  I totally think Kathie Lee and Hoda will want me on the show…and then be my best friends and they’ll introduce me to my boyfriend, Brian Williams.

Vinnie’s a little delusional…thank goodness I’ve got my mind together on this campaign.

 

Lunchtime Barnyard Brawl

The weather broke a little bit today and the sun came out.  I went home for lunch and thought “I’ll just go out and see those DARLING chickens.”  I had my purse and a cup of coffee, but I was going to spend just a few minutes out there, you know…just to say “HI”.

As I walked up to the run, the usual frantic excitement ensued.  They have this thing that if they make a big of enough fuss, that I’ll open the gate to let them out.  I may have done that a couple of times in the past actually.  That was back during their “Everybody look sad!!” phase.  They’ve moved from that to “LET’S FREAK OUT UNTIL SHE LETS US OUT!”  Sorry, inmates…the Warden doesn’t have the time to chase you around the yard at the moment and besides…she’s holding a cup of coffee.

The Meatheads.

The Meatheads.

The roosters are funny, because for some strange reason, when they see me come out to the run, they both search the ground for a piece of straw or a twig and then they bring it over to the side of the fence and frantically tidbit it.  I’ve told them that I’m married and don’t date roosters.  I suggested ChickenMingle.com again.  Anyway, Vinnie was in the middle of showing me a simply fabulous piece of straw, honestly…cried when I saw it…then Cluck came over and took a random jab at him because after all, who the hell does Vinnie think he is?  The Head Rooster??? (at the moment…he still was)

Vinnie, who recently kicked Cluck’s butt in a separate fight and earned himself 24 hours in The Box of Doom (dog crate in the garage), took HUGE offense that Cluck would even THINK about interrupting his eloquent rooster maneuvers, let alone actually DO IT, took off after Cluck.

Cluck turned around and raised his hackle feathers at Vinnie.  Vinnie screeched to stop and raised his.  Then they lowered their heads and started bobbing them at each other.  The sure sign that someone is going to take a leap at someone.  Which is exactly what happened.  Vinnie jumped at Cluck who dodged him and then Cluck jumped at Vinnie.

This went on for a few seconds.

Oprah came meandering out into the run and trotted right by the squabbling meatheads and didn’t even break it up.  The rest of the hens were down by the dust bath looking very tall and skinny and considering their options if the fight came their way.

Cluck and Vinnie continued to jump at each other and then I saw drops of blood on their combs.  Ok, boneheads, enough is enough, and I went into the run to break it up.

Only it didn’t break up.  They just moved the fight further down where the bird netting is lower where they also know that I don’t usually venture.  I went down and chased them back to the “TALL SECTION” of the run (the bird netting is higher and I don’t have to walk like I’ve got a hunch back).  They continued jumping at it each other and I TRIED to get in the middle of it but ended up just sticking my foot out and Vinnie tripped over it and fell beak first into the ground.  Cluck took that opportunity to beat feet for the coop where he flew up to the roost.  Vinnie came skittering into the coop and was scolded loudly by Cluck from his high vantage point on the roost.

I looked out at the run where the hens were contentedly scratching in the dirt and noticed that the neighbor was outside.  So, this is what they must have heard while I was trying to break up the fight…

“YOU GUYS.  VINNIE.  VINNNNNNNNNNNNNNIE!   CLUCK….KNOCK. IT. OFF.  (expletive)  VINNIE.  VIN-NIE!!!!  IF YOU DON”T KILL EACH OTHER, I”M GOING TO STRANGLE BOTH OF YOU!  VINNIE!!!!!!!”

The neighbor guy already thinks I lost my mind sometime around….ohhhhh….say…April of last year.

It’s okay.  I didn’t even spill my coffee and coffee is MUCH better than neighbors.

When I left to come back to work, I went and looked at the run and Vinnie was giving Cluck the “I DON’T WANT TO FIGHT WIT YOU BRO” wing wave and Cluck returned the wing wave.  I don’t think there will be any more fighting this afternoon.

I am scheduling some “Anger Management 101” classes for the next semester of Rooster School though.  They might find themselves sitting next to each other on the roost so that they can talk about their feelings.

The Winter Fields

I pulled my scarf up higher on my face to protect my nose from the biting cold.  My friend Janis had taken off on the snowmobile and I could see her tiny figure on the  powerful machine getting smaller and smaller as she whizzed across the frozen soybean field.  Riding on the soybean fields was SO much smoother than trying to ride in the cornfields where stubble from combining the field corn, still jutted from the ground.  I watched as Janis disappeared behind a rise in the field.  I longed to be riding behind her, but my parents thought that snowmobiles were far too dangerous and I was forbidden to ride them on Janis’ family’s farm.  No one had ever gotten hurt, but my dad was convinced they were dangerous and unsupervised riding was VERY dangerous.  So I watched instead.

Photo by Greg Hartford

Photo by Greg Hartford

I sighed and turned my back to the wind.  Although I was wearing layers of clothing, and a pair of “snow boots”, I was still freezing.  I tugged at the snow pants that didn’t quite fit and were always hanging way too low with the crotch near my knees.  I took off a mitten and pulled the zipper all the way to the top of the neck of the bright yellow Northrup King seed corn coat I was wearing.  My uncle was a seed corn salesman and he’d given me a puffy, quilted yellow jacket from one of his sales events.  It was my go-to coat when it was extremely cold outside…like today. I replaced my mitten, which was slightly damp from snow and somehow from sweat.

I could see my friend zipping around in the field with her brother and sisters, all on snowmobiles.  I had promised I wouldn’t ride one.  I hated being so obedient.  It totally ruined any kind of fun I could have had.  I plopped down in the snow at the edge of the field and rested my face in my damp mittens.  I had my crocheted yellow scarf pulled up to my eyes which stung from the bitter cold and biting wind.  I twirled the end of my scarf in the air and sighed again.  This wasn’t any fun at all.  I could go back to the house, but then I’d have to deal with the giant German Shepherd that thought I’d make a good lunch.   They always told me that their dog was friendly, but as she stood at the doorway and brayed hateful barks in my face, I just couldn’t seem to believe that.  She was all teeth.  Just teeth with feet and a tail…and a loud bark, that despite my love of dogs, terrified me.

I was about 11 years old, which I felt was old enough to drive a snowmobile myself.  I was pouting a little.  I can’t lie.  However, I’d promised I wouldn’t ride the snowmobiles, or go around farm equipment on the farm.  I loved going to the farm…but my dad’s terror of something happening to me kept me from enjoying it like the other kids did.  It was a drag.  I wrote my name in the snow with the finger of one mitten and shivered a little.  I wondered when the snowmobilers would return.

I looked up when I heard the cawing of a crow, and for the first time noticed the dark grey of the sky.  Probably more snow.  The fields stretched out in front of me, seemingly extending for miles before they met the horizon.  I couldn’t hear the snowmobiles anymore which probably meant they’d stopped at the creek…another place that was forbidden to me.

The wind gusted and sent sprays of snow swirling into the air in the field before me.  I watched it dance across the field, only to become entangled in the cattails and dried weeds that were in the near by water way that drained the fields in the spring.  The snow gathered in drifts around the weeds, as the wind was stopped from its merry dance across the field.  The cattails swayed and bobbed, accompanied by the sound of soybean pods rattling against the stems of a few dried plants that hadn’t been pulled into the gaping maw of the combine.  A single snowflake landed on my mitten and I brought it closer to my face so that I could peer at its beauty over the top of the crochet yellow scarf.  As I breathed through the moist yarn of the scarf, the tiny, perfect, crystalized water disappeared from the warmth of my breath.

I looked up at the fields again.  No returning snowmobiles. I sighed heavily, wishing I’d stayed home where it was warm.  The wind blew again and I pulled my legs up close to my body and wrapped my arms around my knees.  White terns floated lazily on the wind calling to each other.  They usually lived near Lake Michigan, a mere 50 miles away.  When the lake was cold and rough, they came inland to scrounge for food and to seek shelter from the cold and wind.  When they landed on the white snow, they all but disappeared.   I could feel the cold of the snow through my snow pants and stood up.  A small flock of field sparrows that had settled in the long grasses of the waterway, suddenly took flight, startled by me standing up.  They flew toward the farm behind me.  I hoped that they weren’t hungry because there wasn’t much food around for little birds on freezing days.

Still no snowmobiles.   A ray of sunlight filtered through the clouds for a moment and the world sparkled briefly.  In that moment of light, I saw that the weeds were covered in crystalline frost that reflected the watery winter sunlight.  I watched, transfixed, hoping to see the magical sparkle again, but the sun was gone, again replaced by thick winter clouds.

I walked around the area just a bit to try to generate some warmth.  It wasn’t working very well.  Now my butt, my toes, and my fingers were freezing.  My eyes watered from the wind.  I found a place out of the wind behind a small building at the edge of the farm, right before the edge of the field.  It was slightly less windy, but not less cold.  I sat down on a cinderblock to wait some more.  The bitter wind howled around the edge of the outbuilding creating jetties and swirls in the drifts.  Kids usually love smashing a good drift, but I just watched as the wind and the snow worked in concert to sculpt the drifts, trying to understand the physics of how it all worked to create something so artistic.

In the distance, I heard the whine of snowmobiles.  They were coming back!  I couldn’t see them yet, but I knew they were just behind the distant rise in the field.  I hoped this was the last ride they would take, because they HAD to be as cold or colder than I was.  A hawk screamed overhead and I looked up to see it riding the thermals above the waterway.  No sooner I had looked up, the hawk dropped like a brick from the sky, focusing on something in the  waterway.  I shuddered when I thought of the rabbit or mouse that it had probably fallen on.

The snowmobiles could be seen rocketing back toward where I was standing.  I stood up and waved both arms as the black dots got closer and closer.  They wouldn’t be able to miss me in this yellow coat and scarf and yellow pom-pom hat.  I looked out at the white fields, dotted here and there by a tree, or a grain bin, or another farm.  The sky arched overhead in a grey and white mottled dome.  Dried stalks rattled together in the waterway and the hawk, rose from the grasses carrying away a field mouse.  The wind blew again and my eyes stung from the cold.

Janis was waving to me now from her snowmobile and I waved back frantically.  She came sliding up in front of me on her machine and shouted through her scarf, over the noise of the engine, “HEY!  Hop on!  I don’t think your dad will mind if we go really slow and we’re right by the house!  You can ride back to the house!”

I paused for a moment.  I didn’t want to get in trouble…but…then I swung my leg over the snowmobile and sat down behind Janis.  She slowly pulled away and we rode up to the house and put the snowmobile in the crib.  She took off her helmet and said “WOW, it was really cold out there!!  I hope you weren’t too bored?”

I told her that I really hadn’t been too bored.  I’d had plenty of things to watch.  She squinted at me and shrugged her shoulders and said “Wanna go in?” and we trudged through the snow toward the house, giggling and talking the way 11-year-old girls do.

It really hadn’t been boring.  The fields had provided all kinds of entertainment.

A Letter To A Prospective Chicken Keeper

Dear Prospective Chicken Keeper,

I saw you in Rural King recently.  You were talking excitedly about the chicks that you were getting this spring while you looked over the poultry supplies.  I was the one buying chicken treats and mumbling about the high price of meal worms.  I don’t blame you for being excited.  Chickens are WONDERFUL.  I’ve had mine for almost a year now.

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Now that you mention it, maybe there are some things you should know.  I know you’ve got that wonderful, romantic, and misty picture in your mind…chickens pecking happily at the ground around you, you’re wearing a beautiful apron while you happily toss organic, non-GMO scratch to your adoring chickens.  Your hair is perfectly coiffed, there’s a soft breeze that ruffles your curls, the bees are buzzing languidly around the garden and your wonderful husband is working on your THIRD chicken coop!  A huge basket of eggs sits at  your feet which are adorned with perfectly polished muck boots that are, of course, completely stylish.

Nice picture. (Insert delicious sigh here)

Prospective Chicken Keeper, you will have moments like that and more.  You are going to have such wonderful times with your flock and they’ll create the most delicious eggs for you.  They’re hilarious to watch, they are endlessly entertaining, and they’ll be happy to debug your yard in return for some scratch.  You’ll find it gratifying to care for them because they’ll give you so much back in return.  Watching them grow and mature is endlessly satisfying.

Sounds great, huh? (Insert wild applause here)

Let’s talk about the other stuff.  You do know there’s other “stuff” right?  Oh, YES.  There’s quite a bit of other stuff actually…and I didn’t learn any of it until AFTER I got chickens.  Would I still get chickens?  OF COURSE!  Do I wish I’d had a reality check prior to getting them so that I was more prepared.

You bet your rooster.

Here’s the nitty-gritty of chickens that you must be prepared for:

They are dirty.  If you don’t like dust, dirt, dust, shavings, dust, straw, dust or dust…or worse yet, if you’re allergic to dust?  You may want to think about how you’ll handle that.  Chickens spend their days scratching around in the dirt and bedding of their coop.  The fine dust that’s created covers absolutely everything.  You won’t believe how fast 10 chickens can make 10 pounds of ultra fine dust.  You’ll also find that you’re covered with it after leaving the coop.  We call it “Chicken Shmutz”.  “Hey…you have a little chicken shmutz on your jeans from where you brushed up against the(insert anything in the coop here).”

POOPAPALOOZA.  That’s the only word that can describe the shear volume of feces that these birds can create.  I mean, they just poop non-stop.  I don’t know how they do it.  Their digestive tract must have an express lane.  They are also indiscriminate poopers.  They poop in the coop, in the run, in your yard, on your porch and on you if you give them half a chance.  Chicken poop (and there are TWO kinds…look that up) will become kind of a hobby for you.  You have to clean up the poop, you have to figure out what you’re going to do with said poop, you have to manage smell and flies because of the poop and in dealing with all that poop, you start to become a little obsessed with it.  You start examining it to make sure it’s “Nice Poop” and not “BAD POOP” which could mean that one of your chickens is SICK. You talk about it at the dinner table, you ask your family to “check out that poop…aren’t the urates perfect?”.

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WHAT?  They get sick?  Yes they get sick!  There are all kinds of crazy avian diseases that chickens like to pick up from worms to “The Bird Flu”.  Some illnesses will destroy an entire flock without warning.  Others make your chickens sick and slowly kill them one by one.  You’ll hate losing any of them…but you know what?  That’s part of “farm” life.  It’s sad because they’ve almost become like a weird, little family member.  The best thing you can do for them, is to assemble a chicken first aid kit when you get them as chicks.  Have everything that is suggested by the Internet Chicken Gurus (and there’s a whole raft of them) because you are GOING to need it…and you’re going to need it when the farm supply is closed.  DO IT.  You have to spend that money and get that kit together because these creatures are being entrusted to YOU.  If you aren’t able to afford to take care of them properly, that’s a bit of an issue…especially for them.  When you have a chicken issue and you don’t have the proper chicken supplies to treat the chicken issue…you are going to be very sad and frustrated.    Sometimes…you already have what you need, but you need to be aware of things that can happen to chickens that you have to help them with, if you’re intending for them to live very long.

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Story:  One of my hens was walking like a penguin.  She appeared distressed and uncomfortable.  I had been a diligent chicken keeper/reader of internet stuff and I knew that she could be egg bound!  The egg she was trying to lay had somehow become stuck like a cork…in a chicken.  Since chickens have intimately intertwined reproductive and intestinal tracts, that also means that their intestines are blocked by the egg and they are horribly uncomfortable because they also can’t poop.  It’s a bad thing. It will kill them if not treated.  Long story short, I had to stick a lubed finger in a chicken’s hoo-hoo.  You know what I mean.  And not just once…several times.  It wasn’t pleasant for me or the chicken.  Think you’re prepared to become that “close” to your chickens?   Read up on that “Egg Bound” thing.

Sometimes, chickens need veterinary help.  Find an avian vet who will see chickens.  If you’re already thinking “I’m not paying for a CHICKEN to go to the vet.”, that’s fine…lots of people feel that way.  The best thing you can do, is try to prevent your chickens from getting sick.  Natural prevention.  Good food, good treats, lots of fresh clean water, and a clean environment all play in together to help you have a healthy flock.  However, there are some things you can’t avoid like worm larvae in the soil they’re pecking that they inevitably pick up (this is why you’re fascinated with their poop), viruses and other germs from wild birds, sometimes they eat dumb things, sometimes they beat each other up.  All of those things are things you’ll need to be prepared for.  You’ll also need to be prepared to humanely put them down if they are suffering and there is nothing that can help them.  You must not let them suffer.  EVER.  If you can’t humanely and quickly put a chicken down, before you get them you’d better make friends with someone who can or take them to a vet to be humanely euthanized if the situation arises.  Again.  You must NEVER allow these animals that are in your care, to suffer.  If you do,  you’re a bad person and you don’t deserve to care for such wondrous creatures.  Yes, yes…I did just make a judgment there.

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Chickens need a place to live.  Not just in the spring and summer, but they need a suitable place for all kinds of weather.  They like to roost and spend time together in their coop because it’s “home”.  Just like you feel safe and secure at home, so do they.  They like a familiar place to come home to.  That place must be ventilated yet draft free, it must be large enough for the number of chickens you have or larger if you think you’ll want MORE chickens (trust me….you will).   They’ll need a run that they can spend time in outside too.  They need fresh water every single day.  EVERY day.  Sometimes multiple times a day.  They can’t just run to the fridge and get a bottle of water on a hot day.  You’ll have to provide them with fresh, cool water frequently…or bad things happen…like chickens get stressed and pant because they can’t sweat and then pretty soon they’re all dying from heat stroke.  You’ll have to have an arsenal of ideas that you can keep them cool when the temperatures soar.

What about winter?  They still need that water when it’s cold and the temperatures are freezing.  Do you have a plan for that?  Chickens need water in order to lay those delicious eggs you’re dying to become accustomed to and they need water to just LIVE.  Is their coop going to be warm enough?  They’re much more cold hardy than they are heat tolerant. The most important thing for their comfort and safety is going to be a dry, ventilated but not drafty coop.  Can you provide that?  Don’t think “Oh I’ll figure that out later”…figure it out before you get them.  You’ll thank me later.

Look at her legs…she’s just the picture of “graceful”.

 

Chickens like to eat…a lot.  It’s like their favorite thing to do.  You can’t just throw them some scratch and expect them to be healthy and providing you with endless drifts of beautiful eggs.  They need a balanced diet of pellet, granules or mash.   Lots of great stuff out there, but you have to buy feed frequently because they will mow throw a 50 pound bag of mash in about two weeks depending on the number of chickens you have.  We all think that “grandma” just fed her chickens scraps and cracked corn.  Maybe she did, but I bet she had a feed mix that she either concocted herself or purchased from the grain elevator.  Where do you think she got all those feed sack  cloth towels she has?  Try to feed them the stuff without chemicals or added medications.  Trust me.  You want healthy eggs for you and your family.  That’s what grandma would do…you know she’s watching.

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SAFETY.  Chickens are delicious.  Just ask any fox, hawk, owl, mink, raccoon, coyote, fisher cat or any of the other animals that prey on poultry.  Since they’re high on the list of delicious and available dinners in your yard, predators will be stopping by for a bite to eat.  You’ve got to make sure they don’t get one.  Predators are SMART.  They can undo latches, climb through holes, scale fences, dig under fences, hide in your coop, come in through ventilation holes…etc. ad nauseum.  You’ll need a run and coop that can withstand all of the predators that you can throw at it.  You’ll think, “that’s ridiculous…I’ve never even seen any of those animals around my yard”.  As soon as they discover that you have chickens, you’ll see them.  I didn’t know we had an owl problem until I stupidly didn’t cover one of my runs and one of my beautiful hens was carried away without so much as a whisper.  All that was left was a few feathers.  All. My. Fault.  Learn from others with regard to predator proofing, listen to the Chicken Gurus.  They aren’t saying it to hear themselves speak.  If they’re telling you to do everything you can to keep predators away from your flock, then DO IT.  Otherwise you’re not going to have a flock for very long and it’s going to break your heart the way that you lose them.

Oh you thought about free-ranging?  Hey…chickens love it.  I love to take my flock out, but I’m taking a risk every time I take them from the safety of their run.  I stand around while they free-range and say that I’m supervising, but truthfully, if a predator wanted to, they could swipe one right in front of me and honestly, there’s little that I could do.

Sweet Gloria was very interested in the new nest box!

Sweet Gloria was very interested in the new nest box!

You know there are LAWS about keeping chickens?  Before you ask that beleaguered kid at the farm store to load up six tiny chicks into that cardboard chick carrier, you’d better find out what the laws are in your area.  Some don’t allow roosters.  What if one of those cute little buggers you buy is a boy?  What if there are two boys? Do you know how you’ll rehome them to a responsible owner?  What will you do if suddenly there’s a glut of roosters on Craigslist?  What if you have your adorable coop set up in your suburban yard and suddenly Code Enforcement shows up with a list of neighbor complaints and a copy of the local law prohibiting poultry keeping.  Check the laws before you get them and if you don’t want to deal with a mess and the heartache of losing the flock you love, don’t break the law.

greg chasing chickens

I’m not trying to talk you out of it.  I am a huge proponent of keeping chickens.  I’d love to teach everyone about the happiness and contentment I’ve found with having my chickens around.  I’d be irresponsible though, if I didn’t throw out these huge issues that are reality checks for many people. These things are just Chicken Basics that you need to know.  I don’t want chickens ending up in animal shelters…or turned loose to fend for themselves.  Prospective Chicken Keeper, I just want you to know what a huge responsibility this is.  It’s not a hobby.  It’s a commitment to giving other creatures everything they need while we keep them captive.  It’s being human and showing them compassion and humane care.  It’s what the backyard chicken movement embraces as a “Gold Standard”.  Sure, you can do it other ways, but you need to find the way that works best for THEM…not you.

Unless, Prospective Chicken Keeper, you really don’t want chickens?  You still do?  You’re up for all of that?

Welcome to the club, kid.