Tag Archives: chickens

molting chicken

Originally posted on a private blog on 11-28-07. This is Jaizzy. For some reason, she always molted in November and was often caught nearly naked in snow or an ice storm.

Someone is starting to feel a little more chipper.  She hasn’t met me at the gate in a week.

Kinda raggedy.  The little black things on her wing are quills coming in.  She’s getting leftover stroganoff and green beans, polished the plate, good sign.  I was getting a little worried about her not eating.

Look real close where her legs bend, you can see more quills coming in.  They don’t look as gross in the picture to me as they do in 3D with her moving around.  For some reason I just want to gag when I see all those quills.

More coming in on her chest under her neck.

Getting a little more delicate with our photo shoot here.  Her entire underbelly is hundreds of new quills, hard to see the ones coming in around her tail.  I’m sure she can feel every little breeze, and it’s pretty nippy outside.  She keeps walking around hunkered down like she’s a little cold.  I’d love to ask her if they poke…  I bet it’s really uncomfortable when they first grow out.

Once she’s grown all back out, I’m going to clean the nests out.  They’re getting all dandruffy and gross.  I’m leaving the feathers in for now because I’m sure the straw is uncomfortable on her new quills, plus for more insulation.  We’ve been reaching nearly freezing on some nights.

She’s left thousands of feathers all over the place.  One chick on myspace who I mentioned the molting to was trying to tell me I should wash them up and make a pillow…  Yeah, right.  I don’t believe I’m that hard up for pillows.

That just looks so pitiful to me.  Too bad chickens don’t like hugs.

Gratuitous tree picture.

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Respect for Chickens Day

Chickens as a species remain iconic across borders and histories, not only capable of interacting with the human race, but responsible for feeding billions on a global scale that almost has no equal when marine animals are counted. More chickens are consumed than any other land animal in the world, according to Counting Animals.

Chickens are easier to raise and transport than all the rest. They adapt to climate and condition changes better than all the rest. They train easily to schedules and habits as long as a basic understanding of their temperament and instinct is adhered to. In spite of being a migrationless bird species, they’ve become the most extensively tucked into every nook and cranny the earth has to offer because their relationship with humans has become so codependent that neither one could live well without the other.

“Live well” is what Respect for Chickens Day is all about. Thanks to several years of growing awareness, chickens are slowly coming to live less like slaves and more like the energetic curious creatures they were born to be. Strict genetic reengineering may have somewhat solved some cost-benefit problems, but also reveal a disturbing darker side of human industrial development. While we hope to be advancing beyond our own racial and gender socioeconomic typecasting, large and small scale chicken keeping both reveal a dastardly willful ignorance as the science of suffering measures the limits of tolerance and growth rates down to the jots and tittles of personal space and nutrition. Raging debates continue regarding the definitions of cage free and free range, with the public being trained to look approvingly upon pastured flocks.

Chickens by nature are born into what I like to think of as small tribes. They become proficient athletes and have been known to free range for miles. They stringently guard their own and prevent new disease by driving off or killing tribeless wanderers, while thoroughly inspecting every inch of range along the way. Their diet is so varied that they are able to subsist on nearly anything they find, and their gut is healthiest when that is exactly what they do. Raising chickens on milled feed, grit rocks, oyster shells, inoculations, parasite purges, and vitamins in drinking water is a poor substitute for what we now know are vitally missing prebiotics and probiotics found everywhere in nature. Interestingly, chickens in captivity seem to mirror humans living in big cities, far removed from our original nature, subsisting on processed foods and enhancing our lives with toys and meds that help us psychologically tolerate our crowded conditions.

Chickens are one of the most studied animals in the world, along with humans. I daresay a good look at chickens side by side with humans is telling of a world where we have all become slaves to markets, housing, shipping, education, governments, and many more interacting world systems. It might sound cheesy, but I’m going to say it- We must look to the chicken to see the future of man.

 

in which I nearly saved Wil Wheaton’s life

Continued from SAVE FERRIS.

Originally posted on 8-16-12.

If you’ve never kept chickens, you can’t imagine how unbelievably soap opery your life can become. This guy is a problem for me.

And what old lady doesn’t just fall in love with a beautiful gangly teenage boy? Well, he’s getting past the gangly part now, but ok, say he’s like 25 or something, and he’s going all drop dead gorgeous on me, kinda like Bradley James in Merlin. He’s suddenly starting to get his confidence and following the girls around, which you hear throughout the day as surprised and very angry squawks, because about all you get when someone twice your size hops on is one squawk. It kinda sounds like someone tripping over an old fashioned bicycle honk horn off and on through the day. *squawk* ~he’s at it again~

Living with stuff like that going on makes a person think about things, like how we all can’t do much more on this planet than practice on each other. We practice all kinds of stuff until we eventually sift out the important stuff and get it (hopefully) boiled down to kindness and consideration. In the meantime, we all take turns tolerating what others stumble around learning, in this case, impromptu sex without any kind of manual. Humans at least get all kinds of social guidance, but that poor rooster has to figure it all out by himself on a group of angry females.

The problem is that I live in a covenanted subdivision that doesn’t allow ‘farm animals’ (and that includes frowning on racing pigeons), but I’m getting away with a few chickens since 2005 because we house them in a very nice building tucked back behind the house (and it actually matches our house, right down to the siding and tiled roof) and I stubbornly have them documented with a psychologist that these particular pets are important to my psychological health. I grew up with chickens, but never had them here until my health took a nasty nosedive and I spent several years recovering from injury and illness impacting my nervous system, which totally sucked. Desperate for distraction and a reason to crawl out of my house and into my yard, I wobbled into the local feed store and came home with baby chicks. That works, by the way. If you can’t find a reason to keep living through anguish and pain, by all means, *create one*. I’m much better now, and I have no doubt it’s because I challenged myself to the caring for other beings on this planet that required more of me than I thought I was capable of giving.

Ok, got sidetracked. The problem is that a rooster crowing in this neighborhood is a dispute just waiting to happen, to put it nicely. Neighbors have taken each other to court over so little as a foot of lawn, and the whole covenant thing means some of my neighbors go to great pains to enforce little ‘laws’ that are so nidiotically stupid that you can’t believe they have nothing better to do with their lives than to write lengthy letters to offices in the county courthouse. What’s even more frustrating is that these same neighbors will own very expensive dogs that the state says is illegal for me to shoot at even with a pellet gun (but the state conversely strongly encourages us to shoot and kill ‘feral’ cats), and these dogs sometimes run around the whole neighborhood, leaving wakes of chaos and destruction.

Personally, if *I* owned a $900 dog, I’d be a little worried someone would kidnap it (Missouri has one of the highest dognapping rates in the U.S. for illegal pit bull fight training). One year got so bad that I put video on youtube of a neighbor’s dogs throwing themselves maniacally against my chicken pens (chickens will destroy themselves having panic attacks and stop laying for days, and I have rare breed chickens that have to be special ordered, so I get a little tense), and I was so ill that year that I could barely get across my lawn, and just trying to grab one of the dogs (I grew up with dogs, I can handle dogs) turned into a scary situation because I didn’t have the mobility or strength to negotiate its constantly lunging body weight. The only thing I can do about the dogs legally is call the police, but I can’t illegally detain the dogs, so by the time the police come, it’s just my word, unless I’ve got video of the uncontrollable violence. Chickens are like the playstation of the dog world, that’s total video gaming to them, and sooner or later, someone dies and the dog rolls happily in extra points and the easter egg prize, pun intended. Anyway, the point is, I have more leverage with the dog owners and whatever legal recourse they feel entitled to in the name of peace and quiet (which is a joke with their ATVs) if I keep comparatively quieter hens and no noisy rooster.

The simplistic answer to this problem by nearly everyone I know is just eat the rooster. And yes, I grew up doing that, that’s what you do, it’s practical, it’s logical, and it’s the circle of life on any farm. You eat your pets. Your babies. Your loved ones. And that’s where this soap opera goes all nutty, because, thanx to midlife and a major hormone crisis last spring that dredged up flashbacks of losing an unborn child in an awful way, I can’t touch this. You know why women anywhere near menopause either stay on birth control or wind up on head pills? Because people who *don’t* can wind up like ~moi~, melting down into disassociating on a highway in traffic. I don’t take ‘medicine’, like Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies, but a LOT of women I know drink their way through their midlife crises. I’m a firmly renounced alcoholic, I drank that stuff like koolaid in my mid 20′s and nearly destroyed myself. I’ve spent the last two years getting *off* handfuls of meds that got me through the worst of my debilitating pain, and I’m not going back on them because they screwed me up in the long run as much as anything could. So I’m just gritting my teeth and pushing forward through skating around the edge of what feels like mental illness, although my psychologist assures me I’m ok, take it slow, ‘small bites’, weather through the hormones readjusting themselves. It sounds like this is really common stuff, but you don’t just hear women confessing how ‘crazy’ they feel during big hormone changes because it’s so taboo, especially now with tv shows like Snapped (which I’ve actually never seen).

So here’s the deal. I grew up killing things, on a Mennonite farm. I have strong values and core beliefs, but I grew up with a hatchet in one hand and a knife in the other. I grew up smelling blood, blood smeared all over me and other stuff, even worked on jobs later where lots of blood was involved, like cleaning in a hospital after births and surgeries and deaths. The LAST thing I want in my life while I’m feeling even vaguely crazy is a beautiful little guy dying by my hands and then having its blood on me and then *eating* it, because right now everything is triggering flashbacks of losing that baby.

This is a big thing. There are people I know who won’t understand this, they’ll think I’m making a bigger deal of it than it actually is, I’m being ridiculous. When you grow up around practical people, you get blown off a lot if you have a problem. Or if you are the rock solid one around other flighty people, they’re floored when you suddenly have the problem, they don’t know what to do with you. I’m in a weird situation. But people who didn’t grow up killing what they eat are probably shocked to read this. Any vegetarian, I’m sure, is doubly shocked that this is such a conundrum in the first place.

I had to break down and spell it out to Scott the other day, because he wasn’t getting it, either. He’s sweet, though, and asked around work if anyone would want a rooster, and guess what, tomorrow is the big day. A coworker has a brother who in years past was a principal or superintendent or something in one of the school districts, and he has chickens. *wow* Talk about luck. And after I hand my rooster off, this burden is gone, and I don’t have to know any more what happens. Dr. Isaac Parrish just might hit the jackpot and get thrown in with a whole flock of more experienced hens… I doubt his new owner will call him that, but for a short time in my little life, a chicken named Dr. Parrish was a real thing. And that’s where it’s a good thing I named him for a tv character, because otherwise I’d be able to say I saved Wil Wheaton’s life, and people really would think I was crazy.

SAVE FERRIS

Continued from I have this chicken thing.

Originally posted on 7-29-12.

We’re starting to call Abby ‘Prince Abner’ now… She/He is front and center there.

I go out of my way to order hens (for this flock I drove personally to another city) because my neighbors aren’t keen on the crowing. I’m not keen on their dogs, but we’ve agreed to declare my yard a demilitarized zone. They keep their dogs out of my yard, I don’t get roosters.

I have butchered a LOT of chickens in my life. When you grow up Mennonite on a farm, you see*. death*. everywhere*. It’s a way of life and I have no problem eating chicken, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten softer. It kills me to have to kill my chickens now, even if they’re miserably dying of illness and old age. I love them, wah!!!!

Abs is a beautiful bird, and either she’s going to be an Amazonian machine, or he’s going to be dinner. This is weighing more and more heavily on my mind every morning, with the crowing… It’s been so many years since I’ve eaten one of my own babies, I’m not sure I can do it anymore.

Roosters are funny thangs. They’re actually kind of effeminate the first three months, usually looking more and more like giant klutzes, and you wonder what the crap because you paid top dollar getting them sexed and surely this one isn’t having a growth hormone problem, you know? I’ve seen a lot of weird genetic stuff in chickens, anything is possible. But then the crowing starts… It’s like when a boy’s voice starts changing, it sounds really weird for awhile and you go, really?, and that’s what makes you think it might still be a hen, because hens crowing can sound a little ridiculous. Btw, that doesn’t mean they’re turning into roosters or going androgynous, it’s just a natural bird thing for a tribal leader to clearly state territory proclamations. If there is no rooster, a lead hen sometimes naturally takes over. It’s a very important job and must be done correctly, and you can go all Terry Pratchett-y if you dwell on that too long.

Anyway, I’ve been through this umpteen times, gangly awkward teenager goes giganto and starts irritating everyone, practicing foolishly on old hens who get miffed when an ideal opportunity pops up as they are getting a drink, and next thing you know, Jr. is on his back in the water bowl because he can’t keep his balance, and the old lady’s head is squashed under the kid ~in the water~, and, well, I’m pretty sure that’s where the saying “mad as a wet hen” originated from.

And then the spurs start nubbing out, and boy don’t they feel all sassy then, and oh look, legs walking across the yard, *stealthstealthcoolstealth* here he comes, dragging a wing and hopping sideways, then the LEAP, and *whamo*, I block the nidiot with a slick hip move and send him rolling, and he thinks that’s so awesome that he comes right back and keeps throwing his body all over me, and dang if he’s not trashing my good pants, what was I thinking wearing them in the back yard… My dad got specially bred fighting roosters one year because he thought they’d look pretty walking around the yard, boy was that a joke. You get one of those guys on your head and it’s exactly like a cartoon, but with real blood. Nowadays you could impress people saying a zombie nearly got you.

I’m kind of hoping we can wait this one out and see what happens, maybe break out the good camera and have some fun with it. And maybe rename the guy. I’m not crazy about just sliding it over to ‘Abner’, and I really wanna stick to my tv character theme. Abby was for two Abbies, the one on NCIS, and the one on Primeval. You know what? Today is Wil Wheaton‘s birthday, I could use one of his characters, like Dr. Isaac Parrish (who is, incidentally, a dick) from Eureka. Or I *could* just name him Wil Wheaton, because technically he played himself on The Big Bang Theory but I hate to do that because later on I’d be saying Yeah, Wil Wheaton got mangled in a dog attack, or Wil Wheaton got hit by a car, or we ate Wil Wheaton for supper last night, and a phrase like that could wind up throwing some kind of horrible cosmic irony at me if me saying that happened to coincide with something terrible actually happening to the guy. I mean, what if a raccoon found a way into the pen and ate Wil Wheaton’s brain? And the biggest Prairie Kingsnake Scott ever saw went slithering past the Quackerdome door while it was wide open last spring, easily 4 feet long. You just never know, so that’s why I don’t name chickens after anyone real, because it sounds bad when you tell someone they died, you know? Kinda bothers my sister to hear someone had a pig named her name but it died, can’t say I blame her. She has a cute name that winds up in songs, so I’m not saying it was disturbing to have a pig named after her, ok, this is getting out of hand, you know what I mean.  It sounds like a jinx.

Behold, Dr. Isaac Parrish.

This continues at in which I nearly save Wil Wheaton’s life.

I have this chicken thing

Originally posted on 7-23-12.

I grew up around chickens and started raising my own when I was about 18, I think. I live in an area that’s like a chicken mecca, big hatcheries in several directions, and big production barns a little further out. There are breeding farms within half a days’ drive that specialize in rare breeds of quail and partridge, turkeys and pheasants, geese and ducks, and even peacocks. It’s not unusual to see emu ranches, and I even had an emu fall out of a trailer in front of me on an exit ramp one year. Don’t worry, I didn’t run over it.

My dream since I was a child was to have peacocks, and there are so many cool ‘collector’ colors out there now that I positively drool, so that’s definitely on a bucket list. Problem with peacocks is they are *noisy* thangs, so I’m hoping we move to a bigger place for those. A rural subdivision full of fancy dogs is no place for peacocks.

When you grow up on farms and ranches and have to name a lot of animals, it becomes kind of a game, and sometimes you develop themes. When we were teenagers we had goats, and one set of twins was called called Bunny and Jack (put Rabbit after that), another set was Timex and Speidel (watches). My niece named a calf Tuna when she was little, and her sister had a cat named Amino. I try not to name pets after people I know, especially chickens, because chickens tend not to live that long, and you hate to go, oh, so and so died… I know my sister finds it frustrating when someone pops up that they have a dog or pig with the same name as her, and other people might find it disturbing, too, so I try to stick to themes. For instance, my last flock before this one was named after retailers, although Macy was technically named after the parade. I also had a Dooney (& Bourke), Bean (as in L.L.), and Spencer.

This year’s flock is named after tv characters. I started with 8, but Zelda (after Ocarina of Time) went into seizures her first week and didn’t make it, so I lost my first ever Cuckoo Maran, which would have laid ‘chocolate’ eggs. (I’m linking so you can see pictures if you want.) The names don’t always fit, but I had the names picked out before we ever got the chicks.

Myka (from Warehouse 13) is an Indian River, and I was under the assumption she would turn out red like her mom with the Delaware markings like her dad, but she’s a beautiful white. Supposed to be a super egg layer.

Mary Margaret turned out not to be as ‘Snow White’ as I thought she would be (from Once Upon a Time). She’s an Austra White, another mixed breed for vigorous laying. I’ve never had a pink faced white chicken with black legs before, so the joke is that she’s my naughty Catholic, a lady of the night in her stockings, as it were.

Abby (from either NCIS– Scott’s choice, or Primeval– my choice, take your pick) is a puzzle. I knew what a Columbian was supposed to be like, it’s a particular color pattern, and our Abby is spot on. But she’s turning into a monster. The hatchery guaranteed 93% accuracy on sexing, and out of 8 chicks, that means there is a fairly strong chance of one of them turning out to be a rooster, so we’re hoping Abby is just going to be a big gal. I’ve had heavy breeds before, but our Abby is only 3 months old and already bigger than all my old hens were, so I hope it’s not a growth hormone problem. Sometimes you see weird stuff.

T’Pol (from Star Trek: Enterprise) turned out to be my most aptly named chicken, very first one to investigate and do everything. She’s a Speckled Sussex, and already looking more petite than Bean from my last batch (who got pounced on by a hawk when she was 3). I’ve never seen a more curious breed than this, not sure if it’s common trait or I just got two flukes in a row.

Nadia G (from Bitchin’ Kitchen) is a Golden Laced Wyandotte. A Wyandotte trait across the board is a rose comb, which I’d never tried out before in all my years of raising chickens. Kinda reminds me of the little dress hats my mom used to wear to church. So far Nadia is our tamest, likes to come see what we’re doing and stand by us, lets me get pictures without freaking out.

Morgana (from Merlin on Syfy here in the States) is a Silver Laced Wyandotte, and my most drop dead gorgeous chicken, easily the most photogenic, so I think I matched the name up pretty good with her.

   

Amy Farrah Fowler (from The Big Bang Theory) is our wonky little oddball. She’s a ‘Blue Egger’, basically a mutt that is supposed to have the blue egg gene, which is dominant. She was the cutest chick because of her little muff around her face, but she’s grown into something so cartoony that we can’t help thinking that her front half looks like the chicken hawk from Looney Tunes. She grew funny and has an unusual gait, so her back half moved like a pigeon until she matured, and she still uses her legs like they were patched on by an Igor. She has never cried and eats like a pig, so I don’t think she was ever in any weird growing pain, but she’s always going to be tiny and weird. The coolest thing about her is she has awesome super fluffy ‘blue’ feathers underneath the funny light ginger color.

So I’m trying out Wyandottes this year. I’ve tried so many kinds of chickens, but never before Wyandottes, and I’m finding out there is a worldwide hobby devoted to new colors called feather lacing (scroll down that page for some truly beautiful birds). Might try it myself one day. Click on the icon for more about designing your own chickens.

Blue laced reds are on my bucket list, one of the rarest varieties in the world.

Personal note on Egyptian Fayoumi, one of the many breeds I’ve raised, you might wanna treat these like game birds for awhile, they tend to fly off into the trees and don’t necessarily come back. The ones I had were about as wild as any I’ve seen. Somewhere in Missouri is a flock of wild chickens…

This continues at SAVE FERRIS.

because eggs are so yummy

Part of the allure of keeping chickens is the mystery. So many odd things happen that require investigation, monitoring, and lots of hypothesizing that you almost can’t help dragging family and friends into making bets and taking sides, because some of the mysteries require action before things get too ugly in chickenland. Things like bullying and sometimes murder. Or, in this case, eggocide.

 photo egg1.jpg

It looks like someone didn’t make it up to a nest in time, but there was also a pile of damp eggy straw in the nest above that egg. Since we’ve been running into occasional broken eggs and soppy straw in that nest, we’ve been assuming someone has a weak shell problem, but this scenario with two eggs on the same day might mean more is going on.

We know some wild birds will roll eggs out of nests, and we know farm poultry will sometimes roll eggs over when they ‘set’ to distribute heat more evenly. We also know chickens will carry food around when they don’t want another chicken to eat it first, but chickens can’t carry eggs around.

All my chickens have been laying in mostly one nest out of four since we got this bunch, no idea why, but sometimes we catch two hens laying together side by side in one nest, and all the eggs are in one nest when we gather them. There was never a problem before with someone rolling someone else’s egg out of the way. Actually, some chickens prefer to lay in nests that already have eggs in them, which is why some people put fake eggs in the nests, to encourage or train the hens where to lay.

I’m guessing someone’s egg broke at some point in all this group laying and then someone got a taste for egg. Perhaps over time someone else noticed egg being eaten and jumped in to grab a bite and also developed a taste for egg. It’s so hard to tell when you only get an occasional broken egg and a pile of wet straw, because that’s not uncommon with aging hens. When that happens I mostly worry that part of the broken shell might have remained inside and will cause the hen a lot of pain and infection and possibly death, but all my girls seem to be fine.

One of the eggs we brought in this last week looks like someone gave it a light peck. Eggs very rarely hit just right to crack like this, as if it had bounced off the point of a little rock or something. I’m wondering now if someone was checking it to see if it would go ahead and pop open, and when it didn’t, left it alone.

 photo egg2.jpg

This soggy eggy straw problem has been going on for at least a month, and quite suddenly over the last couple of weeks our daily egg harvest has dropped from 3-4 eggs a day to one a day, and often none. At first I thought it was the weather changing, the equinox shortening the days again, maybe a molt starting (I once had a chicken who molted every November like clockwork for some reason), or even simply just getting older. They’ve been stuffing themselves full of autumn bugs like grasshoppers and big spiders and crickets, so we even thought maybe they were getting too lazy to come back to the henhouse to lay.

Today is solid enough evidence to change all our casual guesswork to hard decision making. If we had a flat yard it would be easier to separate the hens, and then I’d be able to observe who is doing what fairly quickly. As it is, just owning chickens has resulted in a couple of injuries carrying things down the steep yard, one requiring some pretty impressive staples and another coming close to a concussion, so putting the extra work it would take into separating the hens would only increase my fall risk, and we’ve got other needs to consider that take priority over chickens.

I’m afraid our action at this point is to make our best guess about which chicken might be the main culprit and cull her out. Which makes me sad. My chickens are pets, and even though I grew up butchering, I haven’t eaten my own pet chickens in many years. It’s a very big deal when it comes down to having to banish someone from the group. Sometimes we manage to find other homes for them, but that’s not always the best answer, either.

In years past on a previous blog, I know a few readers found it very upsetting for me to talk about killing my pets. We got lucky with one crazy chicken that we had to keep separated all the time and didn’t have to cull her ourselves because a hawk finally got her, and we could tell she didn’t go easily and probably put that hawk off chicken the rest of its life beating the crap back out of it, but that was better than her killing the other chickens, which after several weeks we finally realized would eventually happen. Some chickens just go crazy.

I can’t keep a chicken around that’s going to purposely break and eat eggs. My chickens already get top of the line feed, thanks to cheap feed breaking my arms out (vegetable protein could include peanut plants after the peanuts are processed out), and free range nearly every day for several hours, so this eggocide has nothing to do with being hungry or nutrient deficient. It’s also a behavior you really can’t train back out of a chicken, and once the behavior is learned by other chickens, there it all goes. You either wind up checking nests every hour or so to beat them to it or you put chicken in the pot and start with a new bunch, because I really don’t have the time to devote to watching them this closely. (And what do you think causes ‘crazy chicken lady‘ syndrome? lol)

I’m suspecting either Nadia, the golden laced, or Mary Margaret, the smallest white one.

I doubt this happens quickly, and when it ever does, it’ll still take a little while to see if we made the right call. Would you believe this is my first time dealing with eggocide in all the years and flocks I’ve had? I can’t believe people thinking this is a common problem in their flocks and actually sitting by nests waiting to grab eggs. Guess it was my turn this time.

killing time in between thunderstorms

Originally posted 10-13-12.

Killing a little time before the next crazy thunderstorm hits. The last lightning storm lasted nearly 5 hours. We’re under a tornado watch, so I’m watching the weather maps.

This is the kind of pictures I think would make good 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles.

I like how driving through the Ozarks feels like the bones of the earth are showing. Don’t drive with a camera in your hand just because I do sometimes.

This is only one set of towers within 5 miles of my house. You’d think I’d get way better broadband, but I don’t, despite having the best. We live in a weird pocket, my street is like the Bermuda Triangle.

I’m not terribly fond of driving through junky little towns, but this one feels like there is something special about it. I think it’s all the trees hiding the town…

I love the shockingly brilliant red maples standing out before all the others turn orange and yellow. In a few more days half the county will seem like it’s bright red.

I feel like I’m on the top of the world at this point because you can see so much horizon all around. That’s one thing about living in woods that I miss, I grew up with lots of horizon in a desert.

My street feels magical because of all the trees. When the leaves fall it’s like driving through a movie, and when it snows you feel like you’re way far away in a magical wood, in a different world.

I love the way the world looks from my yard.

Looking out the window in between thunderstorms.

Kinda having a little trouble trying to keep up with a half dozen eggs every day. Those girls are machines.

 

mmm, rocks

Originally posted on 9-29-12.

Here we go, finally starting to turn around here. Won’t be long till the really big spiders come out and make their insanely gigantic webs across the yard.

Hawk watch. I’m not sure bunching up and freezing into place is the right move when a big hawk drops down and soars right over (I’m pretty sure that wing span was nearly as wide as I am tall). Red-Tailed Hawk | Missouri Department of Conservation

They stayed in that tight little knot all the way up to the house, but did a very thorough bug genocide over a ten foot wide strip between their house and mine.  Chicken herding has never been easier than with this bunch.

 

chicken style pumpkin pie

My chickens love watermelon and cataloupe on hot summer days and equally like to slurp up oven roasted squashes as the season transitions into fall and winter. I accidentally found out they really like pumpkin one year when I tossed an old jackolantern towards the edge of the woods and it broke open- they cleaned it out in no time, right down to the rind. A year later I put one in the pen, same thing. This year I decided to cook one up like I would any other leftover squash, and it sure made a rainy week all better.

Roasting anything is so easy. Line a roasting pan with foil, spray with a little nonstick spray, place a cut open gourd, squash, or pumpkin open side down, and fill with about an inch of water.

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This goes into a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or so, mostly just to get it softened up. You can poke the skin with a knife or fork and see if it’s easy to pierce. I caught this one about five minutes before it would’ve been so soft that it would have fallen apart, about an hour. As soon as you can easily pierce the skin, remove it from the oven.

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This is the most important part for ease later- flip that onto its back as soon as you can. If you let it cool even for five minutes first, it will seal down to the pan like a lid on a hot jelly jar. Slide a fork under the rim and very carefully lift so steam won’t burn you or you don’t splash hot liquid on yourself, ease it up and over onto its back. Now walk off and leave it however long you want because it’s too hot to do anything else with. Also, this gives it time to steam out a little. All squash will continue to ‘melt’ and collect a syrupy liquid, so the more it can steam and air out, the better.

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After it has cooled enough to handle, carefully lift and slide it over onto a plate. In case it’s soft enough to fall apart, don’t lift very much or move too quickly. After it’s on the plate, I sometimes shred it a little with a fork so the chickens can start digging in when they get it. I think they have more fun when they have to work at it, though, because it’s so boring sometimes, and really, what else does a chicken have to do?

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Since my hens have been stuck in the pen during a rainy week instead of out chasing bugs, I tossed a can of tuna onto the pumpkin for a protein boost. Getting all of one’s protein from grain isn’t necessarily the healthiest diet, and a little extra protein from something else once or twice a week definitely perks them up. Today it was tuna. Sometimes it’s a little bit of leftover burger or old shredded cheese. Protein nibblies! Please keep in mind these are NOT daily meal supplements, just once in awhile snacks. Overfeeding chickens ‘people food’ can result in malnutrition and impacted crop, which can cause death. If you see a chicken gorging, remove the food. Gorging might also indicate an underlying problem such as parasites, illness, or stress. By the way, as I set that pumpkin down on the ground, I bore through the skin in several places with a fork so the liquid could drain instead of sitting there getting muddy and fermenting. Makes the pumpkin easier to slurp up over the next 24 hours.

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Chickens walk around while they eat, changing places and circling, darting in and out, keeping an eye on each other in case someone else has a better bite. It’s fun to watch chickens take turns checking out new snacks, tasting and nibbling, talking to each other comparing notes like foodies in a Cheesecake Factory.

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Healthy chickens that aren’t stressed out will do this until they get bored again, which is actually fairly quickly, and it’s not long until the circle widens back out and next thing you know they’re thinking about shopping and talking about maybe hitting the salon. They will come back to the pumpkin once in awhile for a few more bites here and there.

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Some of you wish really bad that you could have chickens so you could watch them. Here are some videos.

 

 

 

Notes for people new to raising chickens-

Chickens are connoisseurs of a large variety of foods by nature and aren’t made to live off leftover garden produce like herd animals that graze. They also need fairly large amounts of denser proteins in order to keep pumping large amounts of protein right back out into eggs and still be able to keep healthy feather growth, healthy tissues, and healthy immune systems. I know it’s trendy nowadays to demand that chickens be fed an all-vegetable and grain diet lacking in animal products, but consider that our demand on them for eggs and their genetic enhancements that allow them to do that for us more often than they would in the wild actually make it difficult for them to live well if they live on the edge of nutrition deficit. It’s ok to supplement with snacks, but make sure one food group isn’t edging another one out and causing a nutritional imbalance. The best supplement to regular feed is getting to run around eating bugs and greens, and maybe the occasional small reptile, which is full of calcium because it has a skeleton. Chickens are opportunistic and will also eat mice if they are hungry enough, which isn’t a good idea because wild mice carry disease. If you allow your chickens to free range, make sure you don’t spray pesticides or use chemical fertilizers where they roam, because it will wind up in your eggs.

If your chickens eat every scrap of food you give them and don’t look or act well, like missing feathers that never grow back and pecking on each other, they might not be getting enough to eat, or lacking a specific kind of nutrient. Some people find that feeding chickens a little bit of meat will help with this. If your chickens won’t eat food you put in the pen, they either can’t handle eating it or they are too full of food already and becoming fat, which will slow down egg laying. If they are leaving food laying around to mold, remove it because moldy food can make them very sick. Chickens like to alternate actively foraging and napping through the day, and the exercise they get foraging helps keep their stress levels down when they’re back in the pen. If they must stay in the pen, keep the snacks small so you can distract them with something fun and different more often. Sometimes a head of lettuce is the bomb when chickens are bored.

 

invisible garlic monster

Some people swear by dogs, others say there’s no finer watchdog than a guinea, but my girls do a pretty good job of alerting me to questionable scenes when they are out on patrol. This garlic/tomato bed, for instance- someone got in and dug up the whole garlic bed. You can see a few bulbs lying around in the dirt.

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I know what you’re thinking, because Scott thought it, too- the chickens obviously dug up the garlic while they were dusting. To which I reply How? Because the whole reason we put that mesh up was because they kept dusting there, and it wasn’t until after the fence was up that suddenly garlic bulbs are laying around on top of the dirt.

What got my attention in the first place was the sudden “I’ve just laid an egg” sounding cackle right under my kitchen window.  photo 10confazzled.gif How? Why? And they had never cackled in that little bed before, even before there was a fence and they could dust at their convenience. Had one really laid an egg? My chickens are prone to such habit that I’ve never found an egg outside of the Quackerdome, so either she couldn’t get back and therefore couldn’t help laying an egg in there, or something else must be going on. I never did find an egg, so maybe I translated wrong and it was a whole different cackle.

I asked the girls how they got past security, and we had to walk the little fence before we discovered a hole big enough for a chicken to squeeze through. They’d already lost where it was and were trying to get out by the time I got there. Took awhile to find the hole because it was so hidden by tomato bush, no wonder the girls couldn’t find their way back out. They were all on alert for some reason, though, and I think it’s because they could see all the changes in their old dusting spot that I couldn’t. Chickens are super detail freaks, in high gear noticing change because it can mean life or death. They don’t like something being different from the way they left it when they come back to it later.

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Something as big as a chicken forced its way underneath a part that wasn’t staked down, spent quality time digging up all the bulbs (probably found a load of grubworms), and then left before dawn. My chickens have dusted in there plenty of times and never once dug up garlic bulbs, so they found fresh holes very disturbing. Anything that can dig can also get into chicken pens. It would be like you coming home to find your stuff moved around- would you feel safe? Of course not. Scott wanted to blame the chickens for the garlic bed being all dug up, even though chickens aren’t very smart about muscling their way under fences (stuff like that is like math to them, iz hard), until he caught a big armadillo in a catch ’em live trap a couple of nights later. Armadillos love digging holes all over looking for grubs.

So I have a bunch of garlic on my hands now. I’ve already used a bunch, this is still on my counter.

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I’ve also got tomatoes showing up along the deck railing nearly every day like magic, so I bring them in and they pile up on the counter, as well. Other people I know can their own tomatoes and sauces, but that’s a lot of work and I’m busy and tired. I found another way to process that’s super easy.

I line a cookie sheet with foil, quarter a pile of tomatoes, and clean up a couple heads of garlic, like so.

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Then I drizzle a little canola oil over the pile and toss it up with my hands until it all looks oily. I used canola because it handles high heat really well.

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That goes into a 400 degree oven for 30-60 minutes. I can’t be more exact because I don’t really look at the clock. I go by smell and how it looks. When it starts looking like this, I pull the pan out to cool.

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After it’s cooled off, I spoon the mushy maters n garlics into little snack bags and put them into the freezer. They keep really well, and the flavor is fabulous when I add them later to other food I’m cooking.

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I don’t know anyone else who can say they get help harvesting and cooking from armadillos and chickens. I think we make a pretty good team.