Saturday, March 29, 2008

What happens if we all turn out the lights?

Have you heard about Earth Hour?

Well, if you haven't, you have now. And it's tonight, from 8:00pm to 9:00pm

The idea behind Earth Hour is that, by turning off all the electricity in our homes for one hour this evening, we will be joining millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change.

From the Earth Hour website:
"Earth Hour was created by the World Wildlife Fund in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships–Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. "

We invite everyone throughout North America and around the world to turn off the lights for an hour starting at 8 p.m. (your own local time)–whether at home or at work, with friends and family or solo, in a big city or a small town.

Join people all around the world in showing that you care about our planet and want to play a part in helping to fight climate change. Don’t forget to sign up and let us know you want to join Earth Hour.

One hour, America. Earth Hour. Turn out for Earth Hour!

Check out the Earth Hour website if you get a chance, it's pretty cool.

If you bring up Google, they've turned their normally bright,white screen dark for the day.

What will YOU be doing at 8:00pm tonight? :-)

( chicks are going to FREAK!)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Some call them chicks, I call them my girlfriends...

I love my girls. There are no two ways about it. Chickens ROCK.

My twelve little ladies entertain me in ways I never dreamed of and every day I grow more attached. I can't help it. I can sit for hours in my spare downstairs bedroom, leaning over their brooder box, observing them, whispering to them, and chuckling quietly to myself at their antics. Yes, I have become the crazy chicken lady.

Physically, these chicks are growing and changing every day. There is some weight to their bodies now and the most interesting markings on their feathers are developing. I noticed yesterday that the little combs on their foreheads are all beginning to grow and are no longer flush with their heads.

Another thing that has changed recently is how they interact with me. When I go into their room now and say "Hello, girls!", they will all start chirping, peeping and running around their box.

If I sit down in the chair and lower the side lid, within 10 seconds, there are four or five warm, little bodies perched on the edge, waiting to jump into my lap:

Another four are running back and forth below, eyeballing me, and I can see them "thinking" about how to get up to where their sisters are.

Hmmmm, you say....five plus four equals nine. What about the other three? two Rhode Island Reds are quite shy and stand-offish. They are not reaching out to me the way the others have. They will run to my outstretched hand in the box as long as it is holding a tempting treat, but they are showing no interest in sitting on me or getting to know me better.

And then there's Dot. She's my twelfth chick and one of the little puffball-headed chicks that, I think, may be a rooster. As near as I can tell, Dot, sadly, has absolutely no people skills. She's also a big chicken, as in easily frightened. Whenever there's a commotion in the box and a chicken pile-up results, Dot will consistently be the one cowering at the bottom of the pile. If I put my hand into the box holding, say, tasty cut-up grass or a juicy worm, all the chickens will run to me, except Dot, who will run to the nearest corner and face it. AWAY from me. Almost like she's been put into a time-out. What is up with that? See if you can you find Dot in the picture below:

Here is a better shot of both of my White-Crested Black Polish chicks. They've grown and changed so much:

Beautiful wings are developing:

If chickens do such a thing as imprinting, then many of these babes have definitely imprinted on me. The five that routinely come out to be with me make these funny, quiet little peeping sounds at me that are completely different from what they do in the box with their sisters. Once on me, they'll settle right down, sink onto their haunches, and peacefully observe what's going on around them.

On my leg below is my #1 girl, my Silver-Laced Wyandotte. I sure wish I had a name for her, but I've been yet to be inspired. You know how those things go, right? She was the very first chick to seek me out and jump out of the box to be with me. These days, she frequently insists on sitting on my head. She is also the largest and heaviest of all my chicks:

The little chick below is my Araucana, "Sparrow". Aptly named because, to me, she looks just like a little bird that would show up outside at one of my feeders. She is the SWEETEST chick in the bunch and she *really* loves to cuddle. She'll choose cuddling with me over a handful of oatmeal or cut grass. Isn't she beautiful?:

Do you remember the "devil chick" I posted about a couple weeks ago who kept pecking my Black Star chicks? C' remember...I drew all those big red circles and arrows around her head in the picture to point out the bad bird. This is her. She's a good girl now, and a really pretty little Barred Rock. She loves me (and all her sisters). Her name is Lacey:

Here are both the Barred Rock girls (one in mid-flight to my knee) and Sparrow. Check out Dot in the background, wall-staring again:

Below is the newest chick to join the jumping-out club. She's one of the Black Sex Link/Black Star chicks. She has the most beautiful reddish gold streaks running through the feathers on her back and wings. You can tell by the look on her face that she was pretty impressed with herself that she could perch on top of the feeder on her way out of the box:

The girls are quickly outgrowing their 2' wide by 2'high by 4' long brooder box and the dust and feathers are being redistributed throughout the house. I'm guessing within the next week or so, they'll be making a move to a bigger box or fenced pen in one of the garages. They'll still be secure and have access to their heatlamp, but they'll be in a spot more appropriate for young hens than my spare bedroom. My girls are growing up!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just a SNOWY spring day here in Oregon...


I thought maybe you'd enjoy seeing what I'm looking out the window at this morning.

(Please note the application of the black felt paper to the far right wall of the chicken coop...another step closer to completion!) :-)

So, fess up, which one of you jokers back East sent this stuff to the Pacific Northwest?? :-)

Robin? It was you, wasn't it?!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This and that...oh, and the coop.

This last weekend was really busy!

For those of you who asked, the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary event on Saturday night at the Chaos Cafe' went really well. Close to $500 was raised and it all went to the farm. We were nervous at first because the cafe' itself is an extremely small locale but it was packed to the gills, and people were very generous with their admission donations. My two biggest fans were there to meet me: my mom and step dad. Unfortunately, none of the pictures I took turned out. In case you don't believe me, here's one of the better ones I got (the black and white striped arm you see on the lower right side is my son Aidan):

6:00AM Sunday morning found us, Aidan and me, driving to the airport. Aidan is spending spring break this year in Port Arthur, Texas working with Habitat for Humanity on Hurricane Rita efforts. After saying goodbye to him (my baby!), I tearily strolled along the little alleyway of trendy shops at the PDX airport and something amazing caught my eye:

Yes, those are chicken purses!! Really big, rubbery plastic ones! I almost died laughing. Have you noticed all the farm-themed trinkets, and mugs, and clothing (Carhartt's is big time!) adorning city store shelves these days? For probably the first time in my life, I'm not devastatingly uncool! :-)

After leaving the airport, I made my two-hour drive south down to the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary for their annual Easter Egg Hunt. There was still a lot to be done prior to the 1:00PM start time. My first task was to wash 13 dozen (!) freshly laid, free-range eggs to offer later, for a small donation to the farm, to anyone who desired them:

Then it was time to prepare the "other eggs" for the hunt. Every year, colorful plastic eggs are filled, some with cut up veggies and apples, others with grain and oats, to be "hidden" then around the farm. Families with children come, make a ($10 suggested) donation to the farm, grab a small Easter basket, and set off to gather these eggs. With the contents of the eggs emptied into their hands, they then walk around and feed any of the animals they choose to feed.

Despite really crappy (cold, blustery, heavy rain, lots of mud) conditions, we probably had over 200 people turn out. And the smiles, again, despite the weather, I saw on the children's faces were wonderful:

See this little girl on the left?:

I zoomed in on her face - her expression of surprise is priceless:

I'd never seen so many people going in and out of the barn:

Luke, the pig, delighted in all the attention:

Everybody loved feeding Oyte the donkey:

Chewy wasn't shy about asking for more treats (can you see her tongue?):

It was a very good weekend for the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary!

And finally...
A quick coop update: We're still not done, but efforts are certainly not stalled:

No, despite all appearances below, those long branches to the left are NOT holding the coop up. I found these in the woods and plan to cut them down to use for big-girl roosts. I might even make a small ladder roost with them for the outside run:

And the windows are in! :-) (Thanks for the suggestions I received on where to look - I went to a place called the ReBuilding Center that specializes in used materials - it's a really cool place and I found two, beautiful, cheap, sorta-too-fancy-but-they-are-matching windows):

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 21, 2008

A night out for a good cause

If any of you in the Portland area are looking for something fun to do tomorrow (Saturday) night, with the added benefit of it being for an extremely good cause, come on down to the Chaos Cafe' on S.E. Powell. Starting around 8:00pm, you'll get to hear some great music, meet some fun people, and help the 160+ animals that currently call the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary their home.

This farm means the world to me. My son, Aidan, and I have spent countless hours volunteering here, mucking out chicken coops and collecting eggs:

...digging holes:

...wrestling with Luke the pig: the sheep and goat pens, patting donkeys, and feeding carrots to Roy the steer:

...and taking load after load of manure to the compost pile:

Being able to interact directly with all these gentle creatures soothes and nurtures us in a way that nothing else does.

This wonderful, non-profit sanctuary has had a pretty difficult winter, though. For the first time - whether it is due to a struggling economy or something else - the farm is at capacity. More people around Oregon are unable to care for their animals and are abandoning them in great numbers. In addition, because of people's limited funds, donations to the farm have dropped significantly. Fortunately, organizations and businesses like NW Veg and Chaos Cafe' are wanting to help and all of Saturday night's admission money will go directly to the farm.

If you're interested in reading more about the farm, here are links to two of my past posts as well as some other links:
You can read an overview of the farm and what it does here.
This is just a really cute donkey picture taken at the farm.
Stayton Daily Photo posted a short blurb (and some pictures that I took) on the Lighthouse Farm.
Here's the link to the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary website.

If you come by on Saturday night, please be sure to find me. I'll be greeting people at the door for a while and I'd love to meet you!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The scoop on the coop

I've received a number of kind inquiries asking how my chicken coop is coming along.'s coming along!

Since I'm relying on the great talent, yet limited time, of my sweet and busy husband, we have only after work and on weekends to get this baby built. Since there are quite a few other things going on, in addition to evening appointments and weekend visitors, we aren't nearly as far along as we'd like to be.

That's ok, though. The girls are only two weeks old. And even though another chick learned how to fly out of the brooder and perch onto the side of the box today (one of my Barred Rock girls) while I was sitting with them, they can't go outside until they're fully feathered anyway - which won't be until they're five or six weeks old. Looks like my top priority is going to be securing screening to the top of the brooder box!

But back to the chicken coop. We're also stuck on the windows. I'd like to have two, one on the north side and one on the south, for good cross ventilation. However, we haven't been able to find any used 2'x2' or 2'x3' windows anywhere. This is a problem. We have tried Craigslist, Freecycle, phoning an old contractor, and asking at our local hardware store - all with no luck. In desperation, we've even looked at Home Depot and Lowe's. While they do have windows in this size, they're too fancy and they're white. I don't want white. I also don't really want new. I had been hoping to find a couple of windows that somebody else wasn't using anymore, but it's just not going to be that easy, apparently.

We do have the entire framing of the walls finished. Here are the two sides and the rear wall all laid out and ready to be attached to the floor:

This picture makes me seasick (don't worry, we didn't nail it this way):

Here I am doing what I do best during our joint construction projects... standing still and holding something - in this case the front wall:

Jim was so pleased when all the walls fit together so beautifully!

So that's where we are...still a long way to go, but off to a wonderful start!

Hopefully I'll be able to find some windows tomorrow. We are hoping to make great progress on the coop this weekend, but without the windows, we won't be able to get far.

Anybody have any plans on how to build a chicken run? :-)

If you get a chance, pop over to the delightful new blog, Sunny Side Up. My new blogging friend, Eve, has a funny post today about her pup, Daisy Lu, watching one of my chick movies!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Field Trip to the Kiddy Pool

Today, the chicks got to escape their brooder box for a bit!

After the initial fearful paralysis that chicks seem to suffer from in any new situation:

they quickly recovered and began their thorough investigation of their new surroundings:

Roxy was very interested in the whole affair...almost disturbingly so. I would definitely not leave her alone with the chicks at this point:

Every time a bird flew past the window outside, the chicks' necks would get really long and they'd freeze for a moment, until they felt it safe to move again:

Below is one of the two videos I managed to get. The other actually had a chick flying out of the pool, right at my face, and me shrieking a bit - not pretty - so that one's now on the cutting room floor (or possibly filed away to make Jim laugh later).

This clip has a little bit of everything - flocking, pecking, danger, mystery, intrigue....

That big THUMP toward the end of the video is a bird from outside flying into one of our living room windows. Ouch. You can see it stopped the chicks cold for a second.

When I first thought to put them in the kiddy pool, I wanted to take advantage of today's (fleeting) beautiful sunshine and take the pool outside, but then I noticed the thermometer read only 49 degrees and thought otherwise. Now I'm really glad for another reason:

The little beasties kept flying out. I'm really dumb for not anticipating this - it could have been really bad. Initially, they would just perch on the edge of the pool but then, if either Roxy or I moved, they would flap down to the ground and start running around the outside of the pool. It was harder than I imagined, too, trying to catch them while also trying to keep the dog from "helping".

Here's the latest on Dot, one of my puffball-headed chicks:

Nice 'do, don't you think? It's growing very differently than her sister's (Spot's) is - you can see them both in this next picture:

...I'm worried that Dot might actually be a little roo. Anyone know how to sex a White-Crested Black Polish? (That sounds really odd, doesn't it? Fortunately, I know you know what I mean.) :-)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

That's right. The chick is not IN the box. And this is the latest exciting development in The World of Chicks going on in my spare bedroom downstairs.

So, I'll admit it. It's not easy for me, but I have to say it: I've got a favorite chick.

One of my Silver-Laced Wyandottes (you-know-who, pictured above) has taking a special liking to me and it just warms me to my toes. I am completely surprised by her interest in me. The first time I noticed that she and I maybe had something special was when I walked into my chick room -calling out to the girls like I always do- and she ran from the opposite side of the box over to where I was leaning down to look in. And then she just sat there, tilted her head to one side, and looked at me with her one bird eye, while the rest of her sisters were running amok and flapping around the box in a massive poultry panic because some predator (me, apparently) was hovering overhead about to eat them.

My biggest surprise, however, came yesterday. I was sitting on the floor in the chick room with a big towel laid out and taking each chick out individually to let them experience "outside-the-box-world". The Silver-Laced Wyandotte had already had her turn and I had put her back into the box and taken out Spongebob (appropriately named by my 8 year-old nephew) the Buff Orpington and one of my Black Stars. As I'm sitting there with them, I hear this loud fluttering and scraping on the side of the box and, lo and behold, here comes little Miss Wyandotte's face up and over the edge of the box. She even managed to perch, quite solidly, on the edge of the box itself, rather than falling over the other side. I couldn't believe it!

So...when I went to see them this morning, I decided to take my camera with me to see if she'd do it again. Guess what? She did. Twice, in fact. Here's the video of her first "fly-out" right after I sat down:

They're all so dang cute, I can hardly stand it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How to grade an egg

My brother-in-law brought me a very cool housewarming gift yesterday. This is an egg-grading scale from the 1920's:

Its purpose is to quickly grade eggs according to weight. A heavier egg will lift more of the horizontal tin strips. The weight is indicated by figures etched to the left of the tin strips. These figures represent the egg grades. The egg I placed on the scale measured 28 on the scale, this means that a dozen of those eggs weighs about 28 ounces.

This scale was used by small egg producers to grade their eggs. Based upon the grades, these eggs were then bartered for credit at the local store.

The close-up didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, but etched on the front of the scale is its original patent date of June 24, 1924. Very cool.

A bit more information and some additional photos can be found here.