Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A new green gate for the girls

I have another new and fun (for me, anyway) milestone to report. We were finally able to find someone capable of installing a new gate within our existing electric fencing. And I now have a beautiful, new, green gate right outside my new chicken coop. Yay, hooray! Apparently, it is quickly becoming a lost art to know how to work on New Zealand-style seven strand electric fencing and we were having a very challenging time trying to locate someone with that experience.

Fortunately, I now know Kelly. Kelly, who manages one of the local farm and feed stores in our area, has done this type of work for years:

He arrived early on Sunday (!) morning, towing two sullen 14-year-olds behind him. (Aren't they fun at this age?) I think he was hoping to impart some of his knowledge to them, but they weren't really interested for more than about 5 minutes:

We had a bit of a challenge lining up the posts:

But it worked out and Kelly did an awesome job:

The girls are pretty impressed, too:

Monday, April 28, 2008

A visit from the donkey people

We had visitors over the weekend. Cindy and Duane, along with their daughter, Holly, drove 4 1/2 hours from their Southern Oregon home, on behalf of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, to view our property. Peaceful Valley is the largest donkey rescue in the U.S. and is the leader in efforts to rescue abused and neglected domestic donkeys, as well as wild burros who are losing their habitat. Cindy and Duane run a Satellite Adoption Center (SAC) for PVDR and had been asked by the SAC coordinator in California to come and meet with me and make an assessment on our suitability to establish a Satellite Adoption Center here on our little farm. I have been corresponding with PVDR for over six months now, and with Cindy for about two months, so this visit was extremely exciting for me. Long before we ever moved to our 7 acres, I was plotting and planning how to we could use some of our land as an animal rescue or sanctuary.

And so, Saturday morning found the five of us - Cindy, Duane, Holly, my husband Jim, and I - walking the property, viewing our barn, discussing grass hay varieties and hay storage, talking about donkey care and personalities, and laughing a lot. Roxy, my pup, entertained, as usual, charming everyone with her energy, enthusiasm, and very best doggy grin. It was really fun.

Of course, we had to take a tour of the newly finished chicken coop, too:

Cindy wants to start having chickens of her own next year and was very pleased to see that I have two chicks of her favorite breed, the White-Crested Black Polish. So, my gal Dot has yet another fan!

Of course, I'm already fantasizing about how cool it would be to have one of these on the outside of my truck:

Thanks again, Duane, Holly and Cindy. It was so much fun spending time with you!:

Cindy said I passed with flying colors, which makes me one wonderful step closer to becoming a donkey foster mama!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Morning coffee with the girls

It was a very exciting weekend for me. Not only was it sunny and warm, I also got to have coffee for the first time outside with my gals:

They were happy to see me, which made me smile:

I don't have a chair out in the coop yet, so I use an old dairy crate for my seat:

I got a fright when I first opened the door to the coop, though. Worried about the open top to their galvanized feeder, I had covered it with aluminum foil the night before. This is all that remained the next morning:

Fortunately, nobody perished from my stupid mistake. I won't do that again. I still haven't found the rest of the foil yet.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Coop is DONE and the girls are OUT!

Guess what? We finished the coop. Really, we did.

My poor husband spent hours and hours, after work, in the dark, in the rain, in the hail, and in the cold finishing this damn thing and now it's done.

Here's a quick time-lapse recap of the last week...
My last coop post showed the walls up, but getting the roof slats on was a major milestone, too:

Next came the doors and the felt paper on top of the roof slats. Peter, Jim's son, helped put the protective hardware cloth over the vents under the eves:

19 gauge, 1/2" hardware cloth: hopefully, this will keep the bad guys and nasty pests out:

My youngest son, Aidan, helped cut the plywood floor to cover the 2x4's, as well as the litter board to keep the shavings from falling out the door:

Oh, this was a big moment...putting the hardware on the doors. Two handles and a lockable, swivel latch. Lovely!!!:

Ta Daaaa...the grand opening! Modeling hands and body courtesy of my mother:

The temporary roosts (lower for younger chickens) are in place and the feeder and waterer will be hung at a later time. The nest boxes will go in to the right rear of the coop when they are a bit older (right now I think they'd just poop on and/or sleep in them):

The right hand corner is where the feed and bedding are being stored. Hopefully, at some point, I will separate a small storage area from the rest of the coop that will be inaccessible to the girls:

The big moment: the girls in their Rubbermaid Transport Vehicle (RTV):

On our way to the coop (waaaay in the distance because we don't have a gate close to the coop at this time):

Teagan, my oldest son, did the introduction-to-the-new-coop honors:

The girls were very serious about scoping out the new place:

Sparrow was in my face, as usual:

Then came the important job of covering my mom's boots with pine shavings:

They took this task very seriously:

Then it became vital to test one of the new perches:

Roxy, in the meantime, decided to take our distraction as an opportunity to rub her face in something so foul in one of the pastures that I almost lost my dinner when I smelled her:

I kid you not, the stench was unbelievable. We still don't know what it was, but the poor girl had to be lathered up, from head-to-toe, twice to make it go away:

Goodnight girls!:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Potatoes and Noodles

Doesn't this just look delicious? In our house, this makes twelve 7-week-old chicks extremely happy.

My girls (and boy) are now fully feathered, way too big for their brooder box, and still cheep and peep like newborn chicks. They are my sweethearts.

This new favorite treat is one that I just happened upon because I had some leftovers. How fun. I love not having things go to waste. Mashed potatoes and spaghetti delights them beyond anything else they've had so far, rivalling even the garden worm!

Watching them devour this combo is such a spectacle, it deserves the posting of a new chicken video:

I'm going to have to start wearing gloves when I feed them, their pecking HURTS! :-)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blogger's block

I feel like I'm normally a pretty optimistic person, but things have been sort of sucky lately. Hence my blogging silence.

Any of you ever feel the need to just talk about the happy things and then almost drown from holding all the sad, unpleasant and challenging stuff inside? Yeah, that's me. I need to work on this.

Meanwhile, I'm loving everyone else's blogs. Keep up the good work. :-)

April 20th hailstorm - 42 degrees

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A new kind of Spring for Oregon

We woke up to 1/4" of snow this morning. Here, in temperate, rainy Oregon, we are having freak snow storms in mid April.

My sweet husband is out, right now, hanging the doors on the chicken coop - we're almost finished. The plan was to move my twelve 6-week-old girls from the garage out to their new home this weekend. Unless we figure out a way to install a furnace out there in the next few hours, that's probably not going to happen.

Here's tonight's forecast:

I guess it's a good thing, for once, that I was kind of late getting my potatoes and peas and radishes into the ground. Otherwise, their tender little heads would be poking up out of the ground and be in danger of freezing.

Tomorrow, it's supposed to be snowy on and off throughout the day.

I just don't know what to make of this.

P.S. Did I mention that it was 81 degrees here last Saturday?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There's something about Dot

This is a post about my girl, Dot.
Dot. Dotty, The Dotster, she is my 6-week-old White-Crested Black Polish chick.

While my other eleven chicks have become tame, friendly and interact with me, Dot has remained aloof, and, well, seemingly a bit...challenged. Her best friend is the wall. Any wall. She can, and will, stand facing a wall for extended periods of time. If given a choice between my hand, holding tasty treats, or the wall, she will choose the wall every time. I try not to take it personally and choose, instead, to believe she is perhaps merely shy. But I do worry frequently that there's something not quite right about her.

Often, for no apparent reason, Dot will suddenly cease her wall-staring and run, in a rather twitchy fashion, all around the brooder box, jumping over, bumping into, and careening around her fellow box-mates, only to come to a halt...facing another wall.

I feel sorry for the poor thing - she's definitely the odd girl out, yet she is as capable as the rest of my chicks. If she wants to, she can fly to the edge of the brooder box and perch. If the urge strikes her, she can run over, shove her way in between the others, and peck -quite hard, I might add - at my hand holding some whole grain oatmeal. But mostly, she doesn't want to and the urge doesn't strike. I guess she isn't limited, she's just different.

If I put myself in Dot's feathers, I can only imagine the pressure a chick like her must feel. The poor dear is growing an head of feathers resembling Albert Einstein's hair on a bad day. And imagine being the chick that all the visitors to the chick room laugh and point at. Consider for a moment what it's like to have protrusions growing from your head that all the other, cooler chicks want to peck and poke at.

It's not easy being Dot. But I think she's an amazing chicken. Her quirky personality adds a great deal to the overall flock ambiance. I would miss her if she weren't here. I hope she learns to become more comfortable in her own skin. I really hope she'll consider liking me. We could have a lot of fun.

Poking around on the Internet, as I like to do, I've found positives and negatives about Dot's breed.
A positive spin:
"It's rumored that the Polish crest requires extra care and maintenance and can obscure this chicken’s ability to see, however Polish kept in backyard conditions with just a few other coopmates and a secure roosting house tend to do fine. In severely muddy conditions the crest may need washing or drying.

Polish are a friendly breed suitable as pets and bred mostly for their stunning ornamentation."

A negative spin:
"Their large crests are against them, hindering their vision and causing them to become listless, inactive, and suspicious in their natures. Extra care must be given them to be fairly successful in raising them, and their houses and coops must be kept absolutely dry - the least water in their crests is likely to result fatally to them."

I'll let you know how it works out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Hey, look at me, I've figured out how to post pictures again. Yea, Danni!

I also managed to get a few shots of my six-week-old Silver-Laced Wyandotte who crowed at me over the weekend. (See my earlier post for that whole story.)

Now, is he, or isn't he, a he?

Here's the little crower sitting on the window sill in the garage:

You can compare sizes in this next shot. In the middle, the accused rooster, who seems fuller and heavier to me. To the left, the sister Silver-Laced Wyandotte, to the right, a sweetie Barred Rock girl:

Note the profile differences between the two Wyandottes:

Observe the different stances. Po-Roo (for "potentially rooster") on the left has a much studier chest:

They both really liked standing on the garbage can, so this didn't help me determine a thing:

Here's a head shot of the Wyandottes. They're the same age, but note the greater comb and wattle development on Po-Roo to the left:

So what say you, the jury? Is the verdict still out?

Egad, was that crowing?!

My 12 chicks are almost 6 weeks old now. I have spent countless hours these last 35 days observing, noting and memorizing appearances, characteristics, behaviors, and personality traits.

Having never had chickens before, everything is new to me and I find myself, at times, very uncertain about how to proceed and with an unbelievable number of questions. This is one of the reasons I love this blogging thing so much. There are so many people out there who have already experienced exactly what I am experiencing, loved the experience, and want to share their tips and advice with me.

Now, as I'm sure all new chick owners do, I've watched my girls very closely for any and all "signs" of pending rooster behavior. When I picked out my girls, I chose pullets only (chicks having been ID'd with 95% certainty as female) for ten of them. The only two straight-run (unsexed chicks, 50/50 chance of either male or female) chicks I chose were my two "puffball-headed" chicks, the White-Crested Black Polish.

Theoretically, I wouldn't mind having a rooster. I love the sounds they make, how beautiful they become, and it just "feels like a farm" with all that crowing going on. But I easily admit to being a bit naive at times. I know that I won't like being attacked from behind or pecked unexpectedly by some cocky, little, two-foot devil, nor do I plan to allow my pullets to suffer from the feather-removing, skin-tearing, sexual assault I have heard can happen multiple times a day at the claws of some of these randier roosters. But not all roosters are like that, are they? Or, are they?

All this said, imagine my surprise when I went into the chick room the other morning, removed the screen from the top, watched the girls scramble and chirp for my attention, and observed one of my Silver-Laced Wyandottes jump up onto the perch, stretch her neck, flap her wings and make a strangled-sort of guttural crowing noise. Am I making this up or did my pullet just crow?! She's a HE!!!

I had been noticing lately that sHE has become the bully of the box... sHE will race around, pecking unsuspecting heads and jumping on the backs of otherwise engaged chicks, ultimately cornering every one of them into one section of the box, where they will stand, all crammed together and looking pitiful. Once this has been accomplished, sHE runs around maniacally for a bit and then jumps back on the perch looking mighty proud. But this crowing thing, well, that's a new one.

I'd love to post a picture of my new ROOSTER for you, but my ability to do this died, along with my laptop, on Friday night. (grumble, gripe, whine)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bad luck comes in threes, right?

Isn't there an old supersition that bad luck runs in threes? To me, this mean that three bad luck events will/must happen before a streak of bad luck can be considered "over".

I hope this is the case, as my three have definitely occurred.

In the last 36 hours:

1) I have drowned my laptop with an exploding bottle of mineral water. The laptop has ceased to function. It is a dead laptop. It is no more. It is an ex-laptop. (Any Monty Python fans out there?...)

2) I have set our barbecue on fire, forcing me to use a fairly large fire extinguisher to douse the conflagration. Visualize really big flames. I've always hated that barbecue. Turns out, it hates me, too.

3) I discovered a rather substantial water leak in the downstairs "chick" room by stepping on the carpet and finding myself standing in 2 inches of water. It has since seeped into my son's room and is starting to come up through the tile floor in the hallway.

Once I have addressed all these unusual challenges, I will definitely post some pictures. I don't know whether to laugh or cry right now. I just feel kind of tired.

On the bright side, though,(literally) - take look at the current weather conditions here:

"...Always look of the bright side of life...." (from Monty Python's Life of Brian)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chilly again and a new chicken field trip

Today I find myself again wearing long underwear under my jeans and a layering of shirts to keep the chill away. Why is it so damn cold?! As I sit here, more than a little grouchy, waiting and wishing for the springlike weather to return, I thought I'd post a few pictures from a softer, warmer, sunnier time: last week. Here, a few pictures of my girls enjoying their first journey into the grass...
Aerial shot (with mole hill):

Here I am being given "the eye". As in, why are you out there and we are in here:

Pretty much here, too:

But then they started to venture out a bit and explore:

I climbed in and sat down with them and they seemed to enjoy hanging out on my knees. This is Lacey the Barred Rock:

This is Pippi (short for Pip-Squeak (formerly Spot), named by my girlfriend's daughter, Sophia). Pippi is a White-Crested Black Polish:

And my girl, Sparrow, formerly an Araucana (per the feed store), now an Ameraucana (per me, as she has tail feathers):

Sparrow looks like she's about to do a somersault, but really she's just paying close attention to her personal hygiene:

This is one of the Rhode Island Red girls, Ruby. She's assuming the crouch position for a potential hawk attack. It turned out to be a bi-plane way up in the sky:

Please refrain from commenting on the red hat and purple tank combo I've got going on. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Let's focus, instead, on the cute little boids climbing on me:

Roxy, my pup, was very intent on watching the little ladies. I'm hoping she will become more of a "herder" as time goes on, and less of a "lunger". The chicks don't much care for the lunging:

This is our current transportation method to and from the brooder box. It's neither graceful nor pretty, but it works:

My girls turned 5 weeks old yesterday! Hopefully, by the end of this weekend, they will make the transition to their new coop outside.