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.
Advertisements

I was wrong!

Remember the mondo egg? The 2 and 7/8ths ounce one? Here’s a picture:

And remember how we thought it was BB who had laid it?

Well – I was wrong! It wasn’t BB at all – it was Millie! Here she is below – she’s the darkest of our Rhode Island Reds – and has the sweetest temperment. Not only has she laid that one mondo egg – she has followed it up a couple of times now with others of exact same size! She’s kind of coming into her stride egg-laying wise. She’s laying pretty much daily now and the majority of the time her eggs are right between the 2 oz and 2.25 oz range.

Remember my late planting of the Scarlet Runner Beans? Well, they worked hard and finally filled out – and produced the most beautiful peachy color blossoms… See?

Here’s a picture of the other planting on the other side of the trellis:

These ones (which I can never remember what they’re called) have a pretty little yellow flower.

And this is what they look like now – after the deer came to visit my garden:

I’m not feeling very warm or fuzzy toward the deer right now. Grrrr!

On Saturday late afternoon – with the skies and the weather forecast predicting rain, we realized we ought to pull the ripe tomatoes in. When all was said and done – we picked about 120 pounds of tomatoes of various varieties…

We love the stripey yellow/orange/red tomatoes that you can see below. They are so sweet and robust tasting.

We decided to try a yellow Roma this year. Wow – they’re gorgeous! And tasty!

We always plant cherry tomatoes, and grape tomatoes, and pear tomatoes, and… you get the idea. This year we planted a variety called sugar lump – here’s a good picture:

Here’s a couple of baskets full of the mini tomatoes. They’re amazing!

Thus far we’ve made pomodoro, diced tomatoes, tomato basil sauce, garlic tomato basil soup, and I’ve got about a gallon of peeleed and seeded tomatoes waiting to be processed.

This is the pomodoro, above; and the tomato basil tomato sauce below.

John’s Hungarian Wax peppers are nearly ready to harvest! Aren’t they pretty?

And just a few of his bell peppers… They’re nearly ready!

Henrietta – always willing to reassert her role as leader of the pack – loves to sit up on the lawn furniture. Here she is – on her throne – observing her minions!

And lest you think we’ve gotten all of the tomatoes that our garden will offer – THINK AGAIN!

These are from Wednesday evening.

That’s a BIG tomato, huh?

Guess I’ve got my work cut out for me! Our tomato plants are still pretty loaded and it’s supposed to be 90 on Monday – in the mid to high 80’s on days on either side of Monday. I’m thinking there’s gonna be lots more tomato processing!

Our Rooster Laid an EGG!!!

So we have this neighbor…

Well, I should back up a bit… If you remember Harlan the rooster, you’ll remember the neighbor – you can get the whole story here. Suffice it to say – our neighbor does not approve of roosters.

In the past week I’ve had several alarming mornings… picture this… me, in my nightgown, wearing my muckers (the world’s best shoes for running around a dew-wet yard), a cardigan, my hair all over the place… madly trying to coax my California White chickens out of the neighbor’s (yes THAT neighbor’s) newly seeded lawn. I nearly have a heart attack every time I glance out the bathroom window and see that they’re THERE – AGAIN!

About a week ago the neighbor’s wife came and knocked on the door to let me know our chickens were in her yard and I should come remove them… I, of course, quickly donned shoes and followed her to the sight of them scratching in her yard.

This neighbor and I have never spoken before. It was an interesting conversation. She mentioned casually that she used to raise chickens. She shared some tidbits on the best methods to raise chickens. And then she informed me that one of my California Whites was, in fact, a cockerel – not a pullet and that I should be cautious. I responded that I was pretty sure that it was, in fact, a pullet, not a rooster – we’d already gotten rid of our California White rooster – and that it wasn’t unusual for the pullets to develop more pronounced combs and wattles right before they started laying eggs – just about the age of these chicks. She made certain to let me know that she had no doubts we had a roo on our hands, and that she’d be keeping an eye out.

Today – our “rooster” laid an egg!

Here SHE is… she doesn’t have a name, but since she’s so easily identified visually from her peers now, I suppose we’re going to have to come up with a name for her! Any suggestions?

And here’s her egg. It’s our first white egg! Woo hoo! It was petite – only 1.375 oz – but perfectly beautiful!

How’s that for a display of variety?! The darkest eggs are Millie’s, the lightest of the brown eggs are Henrietta’s, and the medium brown ones are Hallie’s.


Oh – and Jake has found a new favorite place to nap during the day:

Yes, that’s him curled up right underneath the nest boxes. The girls don’t seem to mind him there – and he doesn’t seem to mind them, either. He’s such a goof!

It’ll be interesting to see if he’s allowed to continue to nap there as more and more of the chicks start laying… The middle girls are now of an age where that will begin. I’ll be sure to report!

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.

The thrill…

Will I always feel that thrill when I open the door to the nest boxes and see this? Will I ever be able (willing?) to go to the coop and check for eggs without camera in tow? I’m sure that at some future point in time it will change from a feeling of utter delight to drudgery perhaps… maybe in the dead of winter? Nah… I don’t think so!

I actually have a spreadsheet that I’m keeping that includes which hen laid which egg, what time of the day, how much said egg weighed, and the age of the hen. I’m sure some additional fields will eventually make their way in there, but thus far, these fields seem to be sufficient. I’m such a wierdo sometimes! LOL!

Suffice it to say that the egg watch has retained it’s high level of importance at our house – from the youngest kid on up – we’re all still thrilled with the discovery of a new egg.

Today Millie joined the egg-laying ranks! Woo Hoo! Her first egg was 1.5 ounces – just like Henrietta’s first real egg. But note the difference in color! Millie’s egg is on the left, Henrietta’s is on the right. Interestingly enough, Henrietta is the lightest in color of our three Rhode Island Reds. Wild, huh?

Henrietta’s egg shown here was 2.25 oz – thus far two of hers have been 1.5 oz, and two have been 2.25 oz. We haven’t cracked the second 2.25 oz egg yet, but the first one was a double yolker. Jonathan has dibs on the second one, and I’m sure will be a part of his breakfast in the morning!

This is the first time I’ve raised eggplant. This is an Ichiban variety, and is supposed to be good eats. If lovliness of a plants flower has any weight for the flavor argument, this one is gonna be really good. Wow – isn’t it gorgeous?
John’s pepper plants seem to have gone bezerk all of a sudden. One day you can’t find a pepper, the next, this!
Tonight at dinner John actually took one of these Hungarian wax peppers and diced it to enjoy with the tacos. (Yes, he was the only one interested in consuming it!) He reported that it’s a very sweet pepper thus far, but he’s read it has the potential to kick some serious butt!

Aren’t they gorgeous?
And look! The new planting of green beans are doing their thing!

By the way… I know this is difficult to see, but if you’re good at deciphering clues, you’ll find as we did – HOOF PRINTS! That’s not all we’ve found… more plants uprooted, green tomatoes with bites out of the sides of them, etc. Darn deer!

Thankfully, we’ve got enough tomatoes that the few the deer have gone after thus far have been inconsequential. (I could get QUITE cranky, however, if they don’t watch it!)


Last year our cherry tomato offerings were a little bit paltry. That will not be the case this year!

I think one of the most astounding things in life is to find a tiny little zucchini one day, and the next come back to find a ready to pick and consume fruit!

Of course, there is no such thing as too much yellow crookneck squash, but WOW – we’re getting lots of it, and it’s only just begun! Isn’t it pretty?


I’m watching the berry bushes daily (and of course quality control testing) the fruit to determine if it’s time to start picking. I hope to harvest many, many times in the coming weeks so that we’ll have plenty of jam, jelly, syrup, pie filling, and frozen fruit. I’m sure I’ll find some other things to do with the berries, too – just give me a little time! 🙂

And our first green bean patch is growing like crazy – there are blossoms all over, and baby beans left and right – hooray! I can hardly wait to start canning these for the coming year!

We took a ride out to Ag West today to pick up a couple of things. My heart just yearns for a place that we can call our own… driving through the countryside just outside of the urban growth boundary was a call to my heart… oh, please Lord! Let there be a place for us one of these days!

Cucumbers!

Do you see that? just above the flower (and the pink construction tape that I use to tie plants with) – the little itty bitty cucumber?

Woo Hoo!

I admit it – I was worried. There are green tomatoes galore, even some peppers present, squash coming on like gangbusters – but no signs of cucumbers! I worried there weren’t enough pollinators. I worried that the ones that we’d seen weren’t getting their job done.

Okay – I admit it – I worried it would be another dismal result with our attempt to grow cucumbers. I thought, “Great – I’ve gotten cocky, now they’re gonna show me how much I don’t know!”


But – sigh of relief – the pollinators are doing their jobs… See? There’s a lovely bumble bee about his business – bless his little heart!

I honestly believe that the sight of a yellow crookneck squash plant in serious bloom is one of the loveliest sights there is… feast your eyes…


Hard to believe summer is halfway over. The kids go back to school in six short weeks. It feels like the summer isn’t just passing – but evaporating!
We are on serious egg watch here. Henrietta, Hallie, and Millie are now 18 weeks old – RIR’s typically start laying somewhere in the 18 to 22 week mark. So we’re keeping them in the coop/run area for the majority of the day, only letting them out to free range in the late afternoons – in hopes that when the day comes that they decide to join the ranks of laying chickens that they’ll decide to do so IN the nest boxes! Updates to come, of course!

Rooster Report and more!

This is El Pollo Loco – as the kids have named him. This is the guy – not even alpha roo – who is taking the lead in the crowing arena. He’s gone from being a morning crower to being a most of the day all day long crower. We are not amused. Okay – well, that’s not entirely true. He sounds hilarious – very much like a young pubescent boy in the throes of voice change. Loco is definitely dealing with some vocal challenges. Even so, he manages to communicate with the roo who lives a couple of blocks over. He’s an interesting little chicken this one – kind of a quirky personality. He does have good Roo qualities, though – he watches out for his ladies and he is quick to sound the alarm.

This is our little Welsumer rooster. He’s 5 weeks old now and boy – is he all boy! We’re so happy that he will be rehomed to a wonderful farm where he’ll be encouraged to crow for all he’s worth! I feel confident he will be a stunning grown up.

Our rooster crowing intervention of last evening had an interesting result. First – let me just interject here that letting the boys go into the coop and roost and get a little drowsy first is a real key toward success in this enterprise. Next key to success is having teenagers on hand who are quite skilled at the art of chicken handling. That being said, we went ahead and placed our four roos in the cage/kennel type dog crate on the back porch. They had a bed of pine shavings and the crate was draped for the most part to keep it dark – and protected. (Remembering that we have regular racoon visitors.) John typically is up and getting ready for the day at about 4:30 or 4:45 each morning. Once he’s gotten ready to leave for work he goes out to the coop and lets the chicks out of the coop and off he goes. So this morning he went out and let the girls out. The roos, up until that time, had remained perfectly silent! (This is all the way to 5:45 a.m.!) Once the girls were out and about they began to crow, however.

So, the modified experiment for the coming morning is to NOT let anyone out and about until the hour we feel is appropriate. (I’m thinking 8:00 a.m.) I’ll report how it goes. 🙂
I say this every year – but I just can’t help saying it again. I just can’t believe how much the green beans grow in each 24 hour period of time! WOW! I just found a great green bean salad recipe that I want to try out… I wish they’d hurry up and give me some beans! (At this rate, it shouldn’t be long!)

We have three different types of pear trees on the property. All of the trees are very loaded with fruit this year. We do next to nothing with the trees – other than to prune them. I think we’re supposed to thin the fruit out or something – but obviously, I’m no expert on it at all! A couple of years I made a pear jelly that had cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a hint of cloves in it. People loved it – so I’m thinking it will have to be on the list of things to can this year!

I realized today that it had been a while since I’d posted any photos of the big girls. They tend to forage a little further afield than the middle girls, so they are not often around for photos.Henrietta is on the left and Hallie is on the right. They’re so funny. Henrietta is definitely at the top of the pecking order. She is large and in charge! Well, actually Millie is the largest of the three girls – and the darkest now – she’s so pretty! The big girls are now 16 weeks old by all accounts that we can figure out anyway. Gosh, shouldn’t be long before they start laying!

We’ve got plenty of projects to keep us busy over the holiday weekend – building nest boxes will be high on the priority list. I’m dying to know what people think the best nest box medium is, too. Let me know if you have a favorite and why, okay? Thanks!

Pepper, the chicken dog…

I think pretty much most people are aware of the fact that Australian Shepherds are herding dogs. I remember thinking about the time Pepper was three or four months old – as I watched her herd the kids around the yard – that she’d be a happy girl if she could herd some sheep or goats or cows in our yard! Yesterday, it occured to me that Pepper is – in fact – thrilled to be a chicken herder.

After all of the tales of woe I’ve read from folks who’ve had tragic ends when chickens and dogs intersect, I’ve been very cautious about Pepper’s access to the girls.

But Pepper is a very maternal girl. When Jake and Caleb (our cats) came to stay as orphaned 7 week old kittens, she was positive she was their Mom and would lay down, grab one of them between her paws, and then commence with a thorough washing. Funny thing is – now – our nearly 15 pound cats still let her do it! LOL! John mentioned to me that one day he found her doing the same thing to one of the big girls. My worry, of course, being she would think, “YUM!”

Well todayI decided that I’d cautiously observe Pepper’s interactions with now about 12 week old Henrietta, Hallie, and Millie.

As I sat at close proximity I was amazed to observe her quietly follow the girls around the yard. If they were to wander further than she felt comfortable with – she’d gently round them up and head them back closer to me. At one juncture Joe (the young racoon that seems to have adopted our family – horrors) peeked out of the bushes the girls were not terribly distant from – and Pepper tore off after him, barking like crazy. Her hackles didn’t settle down for quite some time afterwards and her watch was extra vigilent.


I have thus concluded: we have ourselves a chicken dog. And a darned good one, too. After a very successful several hours with the big girls, I had her babysit the little chicks (now nearly 5 weeks old) while I was transferring them from the baby pen back to the coop. I originally was going to take them straight from the baby pen to the coop, when one of the chicks that I was carrying managed to escape and start running around willy nilly. I then decided to put the other chick I was carrying into the finished side of the chicken yard, and Pepper then very obligingly plopped herself down on the unfinished side to keep an eye on the youngsters.

She was pretty torn (as you can see from the photo above) by the fact that one chick was out running around by itself, but her duty clearly lay in the growing flock of chicks to her side! She whined a lot! It actually took me quite a while to get that one escapee corralled and back to the coop – much to Pepper’s relief!

The big girls are always looking for duty to bathe in. I’ve put out DE, which they do to a certain extent, use to bathe in. But I could just about heir their sighs of joy when they discovered the dusty driveway! First they dusted, then they basked. They were nearly deliriously happy!

I found it really interesting that they felt no sense of danger from Jake and Caleb today. Both cats are pretty successful hunters – something that I really like about them. We have only seen DEAD rodents since they’ve come to live with us – just the way I like things! And though it pains me to admit it, they catch an occasional bird, too – I could just weep when they do – I love the birds so! So I’ve been quite concerned about interactions between the chicks and the cats.

Jake and Caleb were up on their elevated feeder munching away when the three big girls came their way. They watched the girls, but didn’t seem too interested, to be honest. Eventually Caleb jumped down and quietly went and sat to observe the girls more closely. Pepper sat and watched carefully – and I was prepared to intervene. Henrietta actually got nearly nose to beak with Caleb, and it was then that I realized, “The girls are taller than the cats now!” Henrietta – nearly simultaneous to that thought – reached out to peck at Caleb, who in turn made a bit of an injured pride squack, and hightailed it out of there! Wild! While I won’t relax my vigilence with them, I’m a little bit pleased that the girls – thus far – can hold their own with the cats.

I have to say, though, that today was tonic to my soul. Spring has definitely sprung – now if only it will warm up enough to actually stay! The lovely iris are beginning to bloom, and my peas are as well.

Sigh.

I love this time of year!

They’re getting bolder!

It’s absolutely amazing to me how much these chicks change – nearly hourly! When they first came home I thought we’d have enough chick starter to last a lifetime! Of course, that was back in the day that it took them slightly more than 24 hours to go through a quart of the stuff. Now – they go through at least two quarts in 24 hours – sometimes more!

[Henrietta and Hallie perched.]

It’s fascinating to watch their feather development. It’s so interesting how one area will start to feather out, and then over the course of a day or two flush out to full blown feathers – not just little nubbins with fuzz at the end! Henrietta seems to be the leader of the pack in terms of development – and boldness! Hallie is next, I think. Although Millie seems to be the first with feathers on the back of her head thinking about coming out. Little Bit is still the smallest – but probably the spunkiest. All but Millie – until just this morning – had made the journey of flying up to the edge of the brooder. I was actually typing this post when I heard – clear from the other end of the house! – a chick squaking for all she was worth. I was convinced a cat had made it indoors without my knowing about it and tore off for the other end of the house. What should I find? Millie perched on the side of the brooder – squaking off about her accoplishment. I hadn’t realized before just this morning that a small chicken was capable of palpable pride – but apparently they are!

I continue to go out to the garden or compost pile and bring in worms every few days. It’s – admittedly – SO entertaining watching the girls carry on about them. Little Bit – for being a small little chick – can gobble down a herking huge worm!

We’ve had a couple of pretty funny incidents in the past couple of days with Henrietta convinced she should fly further afield than we thought she was capable of. One day Jessica was out in the pantry watching the chicks – Jake (one of the cats) was lazing around – watching for his opportunity to get a tasty chick snack, and Pepper (the dog) was looking on. Henrietta was perched on the side of the brooder and decided to fly down and land on Jake! Jake – my mouser! Luckily Jessica was at hand and quickly retrieved Henrietta before Jake could even react. Phew! We have gone to great lengths to make certain that the cats ARE NOT given access to the pantry unless someone is in there to observe and possibly intervene!

John has drawn up the preliminary plan for the coop. It looks amazing. He’s so gifted! We will try and begin construction this week. The weather doesn’t look too promising, but the girls are growing so big it is blaringly apparent that time is of the essence!

Update photos…

Here are some shots of the girls from this morning:
Left: Hallie and Little Bit chowing down.

Right: Henrietta in the corner, Millie right behind her.

Below: Henrietta who has now managed the feat of flying from the floor of the brooder past the brooder edge, and directly up to the chair that supports the pole that we hang the heating lamp on! What will she think of next?!