Here kitty, kitty, kitty…

We’re pretty early risers here at our house. John is up and about by 4:00 am each morning. I’m not the morning person he is, and on work days I (with lots of help from my longsuffering husband) manage to drag myself out of bed typically between 4:30 and 5:00 am. By 5:30 am I usually have my first pot of tea brewing, most of the dishwasher unloaded, maybe a load of laundry on its way to started, and am figuring out what to take for my lunch at work.

John is typically off to catch the bus by the time it’s starting to get light nowadays, however today he had the day off because of an appointment.

He was sitting at the desk working on balancing the checkbook – I was in the bathroom starting to get serious about getting ready for work for the day – when I heard John yell, “Hey! Get out of here!”

By the time we caught up to one another he said, “A bobcat! Just off the back porch! It got one of the babies….”

We called Pepper and headed outside where, sadly, we found one of my baby (now 20 week old) Cuckoo Maran pullets, breathing her last, right where the bobcat had dropped it.

Sad!

Pepper went tearing off through the yard, following the scent, trying to find it, and John and I scouted, trying to determine if there were any other casualties.

The girls were HIGHLY agitated.

They stayed clustered in the corner of the run closest to the house. (For the better part of the day, actually.)

And when Pepper came running by they freaked out a little and went running for the coop.

Needless to say, they weren’t the only ones who were shook up.

When you raise urban chickens, you know there are predators. In our 8.5 years here we’ve seen hawks, owls, fox, coyote, raccoon, and who could forget the neighbor dogs! But bobcat? Really?

I likely might never have believed it if our friend – just down the way from us, maybe ½ a mile away – hadn’t had a similar experience with her own flock last year. All tolled, I believe she lost a dozen hens to a bobcat. Another friend, just down the street and around the corner mentioned a few months ago they’d spotted a bobcat in their yard, as well.

In the local news there have been quite a few cougar sightings, as well – not that far from where we live.

But to look up on your back porch and see a bobcat making one of your chicks its breakfast?

Crazy!

This evening when I was out in the garden bringing in ingredients for tonight’s salad, I could swear I could smell that distinctive smell that I smelled this morning when I cleaned up the remains of my little Cuckoo Maran. I looked around and thought, “It would never be out in broad daylight!”

Tonight, as we were getting the girls locked up for the night, John spotted a place in the portable fencing that was disrupted – one of the stakes had been pulled out. That’s when he saw it.

The bobcat had apparently – maybe first – maybe later –also grabbed one of my Rhode Island Reds and eaten her nearly down to the bone. It had found a nice cushy place under a big tree in the longer grasses along near the compost pile and made itself quite at home.

Wow.

Needless to say, we’re pretty hypervigilent around here right now. John has closed down the portable fencing and we will keep the girls in just the permanently fenced area of the yard for a few days at least. Now that the spinach has bolted, at least they’ll be getting some greens! That permanent fencing is 6 feet tall, so hopefully will be a deterrent. How much of a deterrent, who is to say? It had obviously been in the run at some point in time – the Rhode Island Reds just don’t get out, they’re so docile and tame and stay in the fencing!

And we’ll refrain from letting them out of the coop until it’s fully light.

And I completely intend to have Pepper have the run of the yard in the mornings before the girls go out. She takes guarding her girls seriously. (Honestly, when I tell her, “Pepper, go get the hawk!” She’ll chase that thing and run so fast, so hard, it nearly looks like she’d thinking she can take flight, too!)

So – here’s hoping that’s the end of the bobcat’s free breakfasts at our house!

Crazy Chicken!

Need I say anything else?

Should I have to explain to this chicken that she is NOT a house chicken?

Should I have to ask her to look around and see if she sees any other chickens inside the house?

NO.

The answer to both questions is a resounding NO.

I should not.

Yet, over the past few days we can add this chicken – I call her Ruby – to the list of those who love our very finicky, allergic to most dog foods, so we gotta buy her the stuff that’s SUPER DUPER expensive dog food.

Just to be clear…

Pepper eats said expensive dog food.

Caleb eats said expensive dog food.

Jake eats said expensive dog food.

And now Ruby thinks she eats said expensive dog food.

I draw the line at chickens!

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.

The boys have gotta go…

It’s official. We just can’t have roosters here. We’ve tried various methods of keeping things quiet in the mornings – but it’s just not working.

Its interesting, the past couple of weeks we’ve had quite a few of the neighbors stop by and mention how much they enjoy the fact that we have chickens now. A couple even stopped by to say how much they enjoyed having Harlan nearby (must be morning people! LOL!). But there is one neighbor particularly who is not amused – much more than not amused – by our chicken keeping. Suffice it to say that as renters – not home owners – we must tread lightly.

Our intial hope was that we’d find a place to move to (maybe even buy someday?!) with some more elbow room than we currently have where roosters are do what roosters do – including crow. We hoped our little roos would hold out on the crowing arena until then. My, we were naiive.

Of course, the boys have been practicing crowing for a little more than a week now. Amazing how far they progress in perfecting their technique each day! Equally amazing – how each morning seems to be a little bit earlier that the crowing begins than the one preceding.

We tried Danni’s wonderful crate them and keep it dark enough to prolong the “nighttime” effect so that they don’t start crowing quite so early protocol. It actually worked fairly well the first morning. But I think the fact that we have a neighbor rooster who starts “singing” pretty early in the day is working against us!

We came to a consensus yesterday that all of the boys must go. It only makes sense – and honestly, it’s much better for the roos, too. We were fortunate to find three homes to send the five roos to. The little Welsumer rooster will go to a wonderful home with Victoria next week – thankfully, he’s young enough that he hasn’t found his voice yet! Sami has a more rural home and came yesterday to take our California White to be king of the coop at his place. And a young man who is wanting to raise chickens came today and adopted the three Dominique roos. All five roos will now live pretty posh – on a chicken standard, anyway! – lives on at the very least mini farms. Hooray!

So… we’re left with a redefined flock. The three big girls (RIR’s). The four California Whites. The three Dominiques. And the five Welsumers. If our calculations are correct – the big girls will start laying sometime 2 or 3 weeks from now. THAT will be exciting!

Now to head back to my online real estate browsing! There must be a home out there for us somewhere!

Little Bit must go!

Why the other chicks got totally feminine names and Little Bit didn’t is a mystery. It just seemed like Little Bit was the most appropriate name for *ahem* “her.” Seems, however that Little Bit is very much NOT a her at all, but a HE! I’ve thought long and hard about breeds and the like, and knew that sexing chicks is a BIG deal – with about a 90 to 95% success rate. I’ve heard from quite a few folks lately who ended up with 2 cockerels out of their five chicks, or 1 out of 3, or the like. I guess our odds aren’t that bad – one out of four.

[You can see in this picture that his comb is becoming much more pronounced, and he’s developed wattles, as well.]
At first I thought I might keep him. But the more I’ve read and learned and observed, the more convinced that I don’t want a Rhode Island Red rooster. If I ended up with a Dominique or California White rooster, I’d be okay with it. But not a RIR.
So Little bit must go!

I’ve found a very nice lady via Craigslist who has 15 RIR girls looking for a beau. Little Bit will be in Rooster heaven! He will be re-homed on Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime I’ve actually quarentined him. He’s gotten QUITE unruly and aggressive. He keeps the girls in a dither whenever he’s around them, and I’m tired of it! His spurs have begun to show and I can only imagine what it will be like when they’re available to him.

I was sad at first at the thought of having to say goodbye to him. The longer he’s around and the more developed his male personality becomes – the less sad I am! I am absolutely ASTOUNDED at how rapidly he’s gone from being seemingly asexual (which of course he wasn’t, it was just very difficult to discern the difference) to VERY male. He’s quite a cranky boy!

Honestly, I think all of us (the girls included!) will breathe a sigh of relief when he’s gone.

Well, it’s official…

We’ve got the starts of a backyard flock.

After WEEKS of research, hours of searching the web, and numerous visits to the various feed and seed stores in our area, we finally decided on numbers and breeds.

I knew first and foremost I wanted good, reliable egg layers. At first I didn’t really care whether they would be white or brown eggs – but the more I talked to the kids and friends (who amazed me with their interest in purchasing eggs when the time was appropriate), the more convinced I was we would need both brown egg layers and white egg layers.

After hours of comparing one breed to the other – and going through what I *think* may well be the entire supply of any book even remotely associated with raising chickens from our local library – I decided we should get:

4 Rhode Island Red chicks

and

4 White Leghorn chicks

Availability is something that sometimes precludes these kinds of decisions, however!

Yesterday the boys and I went out and got all of the supplies we needed to set up a brooder – with the hope of coming home with chicks on the morrow. We visited many stores that one would assume would have supplies – whether or not they were originally designated as a potential brooder, would at least have options that would be converted into an acceptable brooder. I think I was maybe most surprised at the amazing amount of money one could lay out on such a pursuit. I’m thankful for all of the great web sites and brooder designs I was able to peruse online – the creativity and ingenuity that people have shown is great!

After considering many options – we decided on a pretty bare bones approach with as little cash outlay as possible. Here’s the link that helped us settle upon our design: http://www.poultryhelp.com/brooders.html We ended up going to Fred Meyer and finding the largest clear storage bin they had and purchasing it – grand total: $19.99. And sure enough, by the time we went to sleep last night, our brooder was in place.

As the night wore on, though, I decided I should take one more peek at the different breeds and decide on some options that I would be willing to substitute. I came up with:

Barred Plymouth Rock

and Dominique

Both are brown egg layers (I found it hard to find a lot of information about white egg layer alternatives), and the more I read, the more I thought that maybe it was Dominiques that I wanted – maybe even more than the Rhode Island Reds! I figured availability would play into that though.

So our big aim for the day was to make a circuit of all of the places that were advertising that they had chicks in stock, check them out, determine if we felt the chicks were healthy, thriving, and met the breed requirements that we were looking for. We also decided that if we had no luck, then we’d end up ordering online from one of the several hatcheries that make that service available.

I’m not 100% sure how many miles we put on the car today, but we did manage to take a pretty decent tour of a good chunk of the greater Portland metropolitan area. We learned a lot! And we found out that our favorite place was actually a place we went yesterday – Ag West in Hillsboro. After hours of getting a tour of all of the other places, we decided to go back to Ag West.


We spoke with the staff there and learned that they had Dark Red Island Red’s, but none of the other breeds that I’d decided on. The gentleman at the counter did mention that he was able to make a special order, however. That would preclude me ordering 5 of a particular breed, though. As the day had been progressing I’d been thinking how much I really wanted the Dominiques, though. So I asked about them. He confirmed they were an excellent choice. So I said, “Okay, order 5 of those for me.” It was then that I realized I didn’t have any white egg layers yet. I asked about White Leghorns. He said he doesn’t like to order them, and asked if there were another white egg layer I was interested in. I asked what he recommended, and he and the gentleman farmer at the counter next to me said nearly in unison, “California Whites.” So, I said, “Okay, give me 5 of those, too.”

The boys looked at me and said, “We should get some Rhode Island Reds.” And I told the man, “And I’ll take 4 of the Dark Rhode Island Reds.”

I just couldn’t imagine going home with NO chicks after all of the work we’d put in thus far!

So, we picked out our four chicks, put them in a cardboard box – which the boys “debated” should be the one to hold in the car on the way home, told the man I’d take a 50 pound bag of chick starter, and a 50 pound bag of rice hulls (for litter).

The trip home was uneventful. We got in the door, we got the flooring all put together, and gently introduced our babies to the waterer by dipping their beaks in, and set them in.

We’re pretty much already in love.

THEY’RE SO STINKING CUTE!

I can hardly wait until they’re a little bit bigger and we can get them out into the yard.

I’m wondering, however, how this will alter my coop building agenda!