New Friends

About a week and a half ago two new girls came to live with us.

They are Annabelle (left) and Hildy (right).

Annabelle has a bit of a reputation as a bossy girl. She’s been known to beat up some on Hildy (note the Blu-Kote on Hildy’s comb!).

Moments into their arrival here Annabelle took on Ducky – who currently sits at the top of the pecking order and it was only moments before blood was drawn.

Dang it all.

Ducky was NOT amused.

BB became pretty miffed that someone would go after her pal Ducky, and joined the show down. More blood was drawn.

It took about 3 minutes to get Annabelle cornered and captured, and sequestered in solitary confinement. We kept Hildy in a separate location until everyone had gone to sleep, and then put her on the roost next to her new flock mates later that night.

Hildy melded into the flock with hardly half a thought.

Annabelle stayed in solitary for several days. It was interesting that after the first night, Hildy would come and sleep near Annabelle – with the chicken wire wall between them. There must be some love between the two!

Things have gone swimmingly since Annabelle came out of solitary confinement. She has avoided further conflict with our existing flock, and has been getting along quite nicely with Hildy. We have noted that each night Hildy and Annabelle roost up on the roosting later next to each other. It’s also interesting that they seem much more attached to the coop than the rest of our girls are. They do free range some with the rest of the girls – but they come back to check out the coop pretty frequently throughout the day.

I will say they are likely the smartest two of the flock – when it’s raining, windy, and cold – they head straight for the cover of the coop. Smart girls! How come the other girls haven’t figure that out yet?

(The girls enjoying stir fry for morning snack – Annabelle waiting her turn.)

I am happy to report that Scarlet is finally over being broody. Hooray! If she goes broody when it’s warmer I plan to let her set eggs and see how it goes. I think she’ll be a good mom. To be honest, I’m hoping Shelly or one of the other girls will go broody, too. I’d like to hatch chicks this year, rather than buy from a hatchery. We’ll have to wait and see if the girls will cooperate with my scheming!

In real life news – I started my new job right before the end of the year. The other day I met one of the managers for the hospital and we got to talking. He asked where I lived, I told him, he mentioned he lived in the same vicinity. We got a little more specific as to location and then he said, “Oh! I totally know where you live – you have the chickens in your yard and a large garden!” Turns out he has chickens, too. Gosh, I’m starting to think about half of our neighborhood has them! Anyway, we had a lovely conversation, and he promised to stop by one day to meet the girls. πŸ™‚

Seems impossible that we’re 8 days into the New Year. Time has just flown. Jessica got an acceptance letter to another university – it’s about number three on her list of five faves. It will be late March or early April before she hears from her first choice. Jonathan continues on with the JV2 basketball team – he’s loving it, and continues to train several times a week to go on with developing his skills. William – after much nagging, potential bribing, etc. on his mother’s part – has finally decided that reading is pretty cool. He’s read two books in one week. That is quite possibly a miracle! All we have to do now is keep on with this trend!

There have been a number of developments in the family that I’ll write about later. Suffice it to say that we’re trusting God to guide and comfort us as we go forward.

My chickens are hilarious!

They think no one is looking… that no one knows they’re stealing cat food. Oh, but we know! So do the cats! Caleb (who could be a stunt double for Garfield ANY day) is particularly unamused. But – the truth of the matter is this: the cats are afraid of the chickens – so the chickens eat the cats food! Here’s sweet Henrietta. Poor baby! This morning I went out to let the girls out of the coop and give them a little treat. Everyone raced out of the coop and I opened the big door, and there’s Henrietta – perched up on the roost – pretty high up, to be honest. I talked to her for a minute, then got out of her way – it looked like she was getting ready to hop or fly down. And off I went… I had a doctor’s appointment this morning – a long one!

When I got home at noon I went out to let the girls out of the chicken yard so that they could free range. They went giddily running into the yard and I did a quick head count… “Where’s my Henrietta?” I asked Millie. She squawked at me and then ran off to find bugs. So, I thought – “I should check the coop.”

What should I find? Poor Henrietta! Stuck up on the roost – right where I’d left her – HOURS earlier! So I lifted her down and put her out into the yard.

She pretty much spent the entire day very quietly. Yesterday, honestly, she was far more active – and loud. Today she pretty much hung out close to the coop. Her closed eye does open just a teensy bit now – hooray! And her bald spots are sporting little bits of new feather growth.

Did I remember to announce to the world that Crayon is laying now? Here she is with Rooth. Crayon’s eggs are a slightly pink tinged very pale tan color. And they’re pretty darn big! Like 2.25 ounces. Wow! Some day, I suppose, we’ll name the Welsumers. I think that would have to be precipitated by our being able to tell them apart… So – since we’re not there – here’s one of the five Welsumers! LOL!

Ducky is a riot – she actually poses for pictures. She’s so cute!

Here’s another of the Welsumers… Isn’t her coloring lovely?

And here is super goofy Angel. Angel is the California White with blue eyes. At least I think they’re blue. She also has the distinction of being one VERY curious chicken! When I put the camera down to her eye level she comes charging closer – trying to figure out just what exactly that thing is!

Hence, I get some truly hilarious pictures of her!

Today is one of those days when being out in the yard with the girls was just the right thing to do. Especially after hearing that I need another surgery – one that will require me to put NO weight on my left foot for at least a month. Sigh. Thanks to the girls, though, I was able to end the day with more than one laugh!

I can’t believe it’s January!

December flew past in a bit of a white blur… At one point in time we actually had two feet of snow on the ground… Looking back and remembering how slow some of those days went by – with no ability to get out and about – there really was no true sense of cabin fever. We enjoyed having the chance to do some things slowly – to be honest. But here – at January 5th (how did THAT happen?!) – with the kids back in school today for the first time in weeks and weeks – it feels like it was just a blur.

I decided quite definitively this morning that I would not allow the girls to free range today – there’s a big rain storm moving in – they’re saying we may get up to an inch of rain this afternoon and evening. But as I went out to let them into the run I was greeted by their sunny little faces on the back porch!

“How did you get out?” I asked them. They squacked in return.

I eventually figured out the nest box door had not closed completely the day prior – apparently – and the girls had found a way of escape!

So they’re free ranging today. They love it so – it’s hard to deny them the freedom! (Well, except for when it requires me chasing them back home from the neighbor’s yard down the street!)

Isn’t BB getting pretty? She’s our Cuckoo Maran – I think I’d like to add a couple of more of her breed to the flock… We’re getting ready to put together an order of chicks. Lots of thinking to do on that!

Ducky – honestly – is the sweetest little chicken. She’s sweet natured and lays the coolest eggs. And she’s very pretty!

I just love Ducky’s stripes!

This might be Angel… there are a couple of the California Whites that I have a hard time telling apart. But this one – and Shelly – both have the super floppy comb and are kind of comical looking.

Pepper was a little jealous that I was taking pictures of the chickens, so she had to haver her picture taken as well. She’s getting so whiney lately! Lord! It’s about to drive us nuts!

Here’s Millie – official leader of the pack – telling me all of her woes and concerns about the goings on in the flock. She is SO vocal! Maybe that’s where Pepper is learning the whiney thing!

And here’s our newest arrival – Crayon! She’s adjusted so nicely to life in the coop with the girls. I feel pretty sure she’s younger than the others… I know so little about this breed. I’ve done some reading – but I come away feeling like I still don’t quite get it. I have noticed in the past few days that her little comb is redder than it’s been thus far. Maybe she’s just coming into lay. We’ll see!

There is just something so right about looking over the garden plot and seeing the girls hanging out and scratching. I honestly couldn’t imagine our lives without the chickens in them now. It’s kind of fun how the neighbors (well, most of them anyway) are just as thrilled with them as well.

I should also report on Shelly – our broody girl. She continues to spend the majority of her time on the nest. We did end up moving her back into the coop with the rest of the girls. It was the right thing to do. She’s such a grump! She will peck at anyone who attempts to take a peek under her to see if she’s hijacked anyone else’s eggs to sit on. We did our best to try and find fertilized eggs for her to sit on – but honestly, we’re just not ready for that yet. Plus the weather is so cold… maybe if she goes broody again in the Spring – we’ll see. In the meantime, we humor her.

We’re not the only ones in the neighborhood…

The funniest thing happened the other day. We were on our way back from the airport – having met our niece who was going to be staying with us for nearly a week – hooray! (She was in town interviewing for a medical residency program at OHSU – we’re so proud of her!)

Anyway… we were nearly home – just about four or five houses down the street from ours – I glance over at the newly cleared lot that someone has purchased and I would assume will build on before long – and lo and behold! What do I see?

“OH MY WORD!” I announce.

“What?!” Dawn, Jess, and William ask in unison.

“Look! It’s one of the girls!” I pointed to said cleared lot.

“OH MY GOSH!” the kids responded. Dawn wasn’t quite sure what we were talking about, I’d think.

There was a line of traffic behind me, so we formulated a plan as we headed home to turn around. “Okay, Jess, William – I’ll turn around, we’ll go back to the lot, and I’ll drop you and you’ll have to catch her. Do you think it’s Millie?” I asked, knowing it was a dark colored chicken I’d spied.

Both kids seemed sure it was either Ducky or BB. So turn around we did, headed down the street, and I let the kids out. Dawn and I watched for a moment, but again traffic was building so we headed home.

A few minutes later Jessica and William returned – panting and laughing.

“Did you catch her?” I asked.

“Nope!” They responded and laughed. “It wasn’t our chicken!”

How hilarious is that?

So… we aren’t alone in our chicken ways! Of course, we hear the rooster a couple of blocks over like clockwork… But I hadn’t realized there were other chickens so close!

And, speaking of chickens… I was gone for several hours this morning and when I came home and collected eggs – here’s what I came away with:
Yes! I have a LOT of eggs in my refrigerator!

While it’s a little sad that it’s not Spring or Summer and our garden filled to overflowing with potential – there’s something just – well, right about this season where the yard’s leaves are raked up and piled on… And the chickens may scratch about in without fear of what burgeoning plant they might decimate!
I wondered how they’d act during the wintertime… and you know what? Pretty much exactly the same as in the Spring and Summer. They still love the yard. They still love worms. They still come running whenever I step out the door.
They don’t get to free range as much as they did during the summer months, but the girls would still rather be out and in the yard than anywhere else – no matter what the weather.

Ever vigilent – Pepper, the wonder chicken dog – watches the girls carefully as they free range in the yard.

I once had a lovely, prepared flower bed…. then I got chickens. LOL!

And I know – it’s just fungi – but really – isn’t it pretty?

Okay – I’m willing to admit it now. Winter isn’t so bad. Especially the part where the seed catalogs start showing up again! πŸ™‚

Will she make it through the winter?

Speedy, as you may well recall, has not had an easy time of it. She is smaller, less coordinated, definitely lowest girl on the pecking order, and well – sad. That’s her on the left.

I think it’s so interesting that some of her pals – the girls who are the same age (aka the California Whites, Ducky, and BB) will take turns hanging out with her – typically making sure she’s not alone much. Here she is with one of the Whites and BB.

We’ve talked much about the fact that Speedy may not make it through the winter. We’ve really only had a few nights where the low has gotten close to freezing – but I have to wonder as the winter progresses, will she make it? She’s so light. She seems to have so many fewer feathers than her peers. And she struggles so to do things the other girls do routinely.

She definitely has not started laying – in fact, we’d be blown away if she did! Poor thing – she’s so peeked and pathetic. We’re worried.

This is Shelly. Doesn’t she look hilarious with that crazy comb?

Here’s one of the Welsumer babies. They’re old enough to start laying now, but haven’t begun quite yet. Their combs and wattles are becoming more pronounced and redder – shouldn’t be long now.
And here’s Ducky. Remember the big conclusion that Ducky was laying those gorgeous dark eggs with the freckles? Well – ummm… maybe not! I went back to my photo archives after some suspicions and found that sure enough – our Ducky does NOT, in fact, lay those gorgeous dark freckled eggs – BB does! Ducky lays a lighter egg with lighter freckles – much like it sounds Vonda’s chick does! Just when you think you’ve figured your chicks out! LOL!

So you gotta see the new bigger run that my brilliant husband has put together!

It gives the girls a much larger area to hang out – while still being confined somewhat.

You see – they’ve developed a bit of wanderlust, these girls. I keep finding them going DOWN THE STREET toward the various neighbors yards. That had to change!

So John added this additional fenced yard. Part of it is under the big old willow, part gets sun.

Thus far, the girls seem quite happy with the new digs!

Gosh, my husband is the coolest!

I love Ducky

When I first started looking seriously for breeds of chickens I found an article about heritage breeds of animals… i.e., animal breeds that have been nearly forgotten and some nearly lost, due to the fact that they aren’t has hardy in large scale production. I’m a history girl… I love it. I read about it – all the time. So when found some information about Dominiques, particularly, I thought, “I want those!”

So when it came time to order, I placed an order for five Dominiques. There was a little boo boo at the feed store – my order got mixed in with a bunch of other black-ish looking chicks – and I was sent on my way with what was HOPED to be five Dominiques – plus one, just in case.

As it turns out – three of our “Dominiques” were boys. They had to go away – and they did, to a very nice farm. The other three are Ducky, BB, and Speedy. Of the three, I’m convinced that Ducky is the lone Dominique. 😦 The jury is still out on what BB is, and Speedy – well she’s a sad story all unto herself!

But Ducky… She’s so sweet! She’s so lovable. When you go outside and speak – she comes running! If you reach to pet her – she holds still so you can. She looks at you when you talk to her – and acts like she really gets what you’re saying! She’s adorable.

And… she lays the coolest looking eggs!

Aren’t they pretty? How’s that second to the left one for huge-o!?

Can you see the speckles on them? They’re very, very dark brown. Kinda freckled.
Here’s that big one – 2 and 3/8ths ounces. Wow!
I’m so glad we ended up with Ducky – she’s a wonderful chicken!

Should we? Or shouldn’t we?

We’ve always just pretty much assumed we’d never own a home. We will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in November – and – for us – it has never seemed an automatic that we should or would join the ranks of homeowners. We decided long ago that it was far more important – for our family anyway – for me to be home with the kids (where I want to be) than to be out in the work force. Yes, that means we have much less income coming in. Yes, that means we must be very intentional with every little penny.

We’ve been so blessed to be renting an older home – in NW Portland – on half an acre. It’s not a fancy house at all. In fact, it has original a bunch of stuff – not good stuff to have original just to be clear – you know, wiring, plumbing, etc. It’s not insulated. It has issues. Big issues. But it’s affordable – AND – it’s HALF AN ACRE IN NW PORTLAND! The reality being – our landlords are pretty committed to not improving the place. So, we must do with what we have.

For years now we’ve been working diligently to pay off debt – including mountains of school loans – we’re exceptionally well educated but of course, in fields that neither of us ended up working in. We’ve put our extra pennies into savings, and done without as much as possible.

As a result, we find ourselves in a place we didn’t think we’d be… contemplating purchasing our first home.

If the truth were told, we’d confess to longing for…

A home with enough room for all of us – the human contingent of our little world – two adults, the three kids, with an additional nephew thrown in for good measure at the moment.

Enough land to grow what we want to grow – lots and lots of organic stuff.

Enough land to have our chickens – and maybe even a small flock of turkeys.

Enough land for a goat or two.

Enough land for a couple of cows.

That doesn’t exist in the area where we live right now – at least not in our price range. Speaking of price range – ours is pretty modest – compared to the values of the places that we can see in a five mile radius of where we live. VERY modest. It’s a given that if we end up buying a house it won’t be nearby.

We figure we’re gonna need a place to be within an hour drive for John’s commute to work. We know we won’t move to a place that has schools that don’t meet certain criteria. We know it’s going to be a big deal – moving our kids from one set of schools to another, as well. And we know that it will be a big adjustment – going from suburbia to a more rural lifestyle. When we lived in Kentucky we lived about 20 miles from the nearest town. The places we’re looking at now are nowhere near that far out.

So we’ve been looking. A bit passively, actually. Not many places come up that fit our criteria! But of the ones that do – it’s kind of funny how many places look amazing on ads – but not so much in real life. Seen a bunch of those. But what do you expect given our price range?!

Today we did a drive-by on a place that at first blush is beautiful. See?

We were happy to learn from our real estate agent that it is vacant, so we could peek in the windows. Bottom line… from the outside it’s REALLY cute. Come Monday we’ll actually peek inside to see more.

But the real question is this, I guess: Just because the lender says you can afford to buy this house – can you really? Or more specifically – can we? Or should we?

There is a great yearning in our hearts to own some land… Usable land. Land that we can do something with, and that will sustain – well – not just us but our animals.

But at what cost?

I’m guessing we’re not the only ones asking that kind of question right now – given the current state of financial affairs in our country.

Owning, of course, has it’s advantages. Not owning does as well.

Oh – if only we knew what it was we really ought to do.

It may well be we’re not the first ones to ponder that very question while standing a ways off gazing at the potential of this being our home – it was built in 1890, after all.

Hmmm…. we’ll see.

On a completely different note…

We get the magazine Backyard Poultry and this month’s issue arrived today. There’s an article on Barred Rock chickens. Know what? I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that our BB and Speedy just might be Barred Rocks! But after reading this article today – I’m convinced that Ducky (below) is a Dominique. (Our only Dominique pullet – out of the six chicks we started out with!)

Wasn’t it nice of her to stop and pose for me?

And here’s Rooth – not to be outdone by Ducky – she wanted her picture taken, as well. Isn’t she growing up?

Sigh… it really would be nice to have a place of our own…

Pictures of the Girls (Finally!)

Today’s Post Courtesy of Jessica Here are a couple of pictures of Henrietta. She’s so cute!
Here’s one of the little girls (that aren’t so little anymore)
hiding in the trees by our house
Here’s Millie, her comb is finally coming in.
She’s roosting on the lawn furniture.

The little girls love wander all over the yard.
There’s speedy, running like always…
Hallie and one of the white chickens searching for

snacks by our neighbor’s garage
Here’s my mom with Henrietta. She is such a cutie!

Here’s me and speedy. Speedy is still the runt
and she is super clumsy.

Hallie has the biggest comb of all. But weirdly enough

she doesn’t lay as regularly as Henrietta and Millie

Henrietta and Millie just hanging out
All of the girls love to eat blackberries out of your
hand. Ducky, BB, and Speedy all want this one.

Finishing Touches

Today was a busy day! John got to work on the nest boxes. Below, a couple of inspectors checking out the progress…

Ducky had to get in on the action, too… Literally in!
Henrietta was actually inspector general – she stayed up on the table while John was hammering, sawing, etc. She’d squack at him pretty regularly, just like she had something really important to say. She’s such a riot!
Ta daaaa…. Four nest boxes – installed in the coop. Woo Hoo!
Here’s the view from outside – the egg collection hatch.
And today, John got the solar fan installed, too. We were really surprised at how little sunlight it takes for the fan to turn itself on. Wild!
And here’s the inside view of the new solar fan.

That, folks is one finished chicken coop! Yay!!! It was a good day.

Construction and Little Peep Update

Finally I have the chicken yard framed! With transporting teenagers hither and yon, septic tank issues, etc. it has taken much longer than I planned. I thought I would have it finished by now.

This is “Mr. Darcy” He is our Dominique rooster. We also have a California White that appears to be a rooster as well, but we haven’t named him yet. He might not be a permanent resident.

This is “Shelley” She’s sporting the latest in bent comb fashion.

This is “Ducky”. She’s the “extra” chicken we were given. The man at the farm supply thought she might be a Maran, instead of a Dominique. We think this may be the case as her markings are different as she matures and she has “black-ish” feet. For more info on Marans – check out the following website:

Just the chicks hanging out.

Scary Space Alien Chicken that dropped by. Actually it is a clay creation of our 11-year old son.