But they’re so cute…

I’ve admitted openly here before that I have a bit of an… :ahem:… soft spot, shall we say, for baby chicks, right?

Good – so no illusions going on here, right?

And honestly – it wasn’t like it was just an impulse buy or anything.

It was thought out!

It was strategic!

And – well, 5 of the girls (the Speckled Sussex) were re-homed yesterday, so I HAD to get new chicks, right?

I needed new chicks.

Really.

I did.

And who can blame me?

If they’d been looking at you at the feed store, you would have caved, too.

I’m just saying.

Who could leave the place without – oh, say – sixteen of the cutest little chicks ever?

Five Buff Oprington chicks….

Six Sicilian Buttercup chicks… I was only going to get five, but that wouldn’t have been very nice to leave the one there all by herself, would it have been?

And five Black Sex Links.

The what used to be middle babies – and are now the big babies (the two that Jezebel hatched a couple of months ago), and what used to be the baby babies (and are now the middle babies) were so intrigued by the new arrivals. So much so that they hung out in the coop to watch them for a while!

I don’t know that I’d call them the Welcome Wagon or anything.

Honestly, I think maybe they were showing off or something – you know – how cool they are hanging out on the big girl roosts.

So – it’s not like I have to admit I have a problem or anything… Cause I don’t have one. I needed chicks.

Really – I did!

She’s so mean!

Yes – there are three open nest boxes.

So why are there two chickens in one nest box?

Because Jezebel wants to sit on the egg that the Delaware on the right is about to lay!

Jezebel is the Speckled Sussex on the left.

She’s mean.

REALLY mean.

Being broody has NOT improved her disposition one iota.

At all.

So – after some quick consultation, John and I decided to buy some fertilized eggs and let Jezebel set them and hatch out some chicks. We’re figuring she’s going to be one formidable Mamma Hen.

Here they are! There are:

2 Ameracaunas

6 Silver Laced Wyandottes

3 Rhode Island Reds

3 New Hampshire Reds

If everything goes according to plan we should have chicks right around the 20th of February.

The big thing to get this whole thing up and running – actually having to pick Jezebel up and move her to her babies. SCARY!

John was smart though, and put gloves on first. Boy, can this bird bite!

Very wise to move quickly with this bird!

She wasted NO time gathering the eggs into a pile she was happy with…

…and then went to work.

Is that a smile I see on her little chicky face?

It’s been a little crazy how peaceable she is now that she’s got eggs to keep warm!

I love this time of year…


I was laying down on the couch-y piece of lawn furniture in the yard this afternoon and looked up and saw this pretty cloud formation. It was about 85° F, there was a bit of a breeze, and it was lovely.

Here’s Crayon checking out the new digs. She – along with the rest of the girls – are trying to figure out the new set up. John built new roosts – so that everyone is at the same height when they sleep. It’s really throwing them for a loop – you should hear them squawk when it’s bed time.

See? It’s cool, huh?

Of course, at the end down there – right before the fan, you take a left into the old part of the coop, where the nest boxes are. There will be additional nest boxes soon – John’s working on them. They’ll be to the right – between the door frame closest to us in the picture and the beginning of that roost.

Are those not the cutest little feet? Isn’t it the cutest little butt? And look! Wing feathers! The chicks are going to be 2 weeks old on Monday. There seriously is nothing more precious than watching these three little adoptees follow their Mama Shelly all through the yard each and every day. She clucks when she finds something yummy for them to eat. She’s teaching them that I am the queen of the world because I bring fun snacks. I love it that they are excited to see me! We are SO doing the letting the broody hen set on fertilized eggs again thing!

There have been lots of visiting kids here the past couple of weeks. My neice and nephew have been visiting off and on over the summer thus far – although they’re returning home on Tuesday. I’m going to miss them so! And my best friend – who lives in Mexico with her husband and children – spends the summers here with her parents, who live right down the street from us and go to the same church that we do. So Pepper has been on recipient of oodles of love overload all week long. I think she’s had more kids throwing balls for her to chase the past two weeks than she has in the entirety of her life. She’s really been sleeping well at night!

 

Here’s one of the Blue Andalusians. I think they’re just beautiful. They are great foragers – and so GREAT for a backyard flock that gets to free range. They’re quiet, polite, and are reputed to be excellent layers – of white eggs! Go figure!

Here’s one of the Delawares in the garden – eating weeds. I love it when they eat weeds – and remember to leave my cucumbers alone! Isn’t she pretty? She’s got black tips on her tail feathers, too. Interestingly enough, the Delawares lay brown eggs!

John and I were lamenting tonight about the sad state of affairs the garden is in this year. Well, I did have a major orthopedic surgery – so I’m almost no help. I can weed some – but as you can see here – not nearly enough! Here a couple of the Speckled Sussex are helping me with weeding. Those are lima and bush beans behind them.

But when it comes right down to it – we’re doing the best we can – and were just so thankful that we have a garden to grow things in!

Look – lots of cucumber flowers – woo hoo!

When this cucumber grows up – it’s going to be in my next batch of Creamy Cucumber Salad!

Here’s Caleb – without a nose. When I was out weeding in the garden tonight he HAD to get close – and as I was trying to take his picture he turned away! Stinker!

OH! And look what we have! I actually ate one tonight – and it was perfectly ripe, sweet, luscious, and perfect. It was the ONLY ONE that was ripe, though. That’s okay – I need the week that it will take them to ripen up to get some projects done before I jump in and start canning jams and jellies.

This is our first year to do corn in AGES. We just really hadn’t had success previously. But with the expanded garden plot we decided to try again. It’s actually about as tall as John – and has put tassels on. I love that! That means there will be corn!

The green beans are coming along nicely. Thus far – no deer have obliterated them. I’ve got a couple of tomato plants that have bites out of them – but so far, they’re leaving the green beans alone.

And if this isn’t cause for rejoicing, then I just don’t know what is!

 

I love these tomatoes – even with the couple of little chicken peck marks in them. They’re a green stripey tomato. I think they’re going to be similar to the ones I eat in Spain – I sure hope so. If so – then it’ll be tomato mush for me!

This really has been the weirdest tomato year we’ve had in a long time. Some of the plants are thriving. Some have set fruit literally at the GROUND – what’s with that? Others are just looking like late bloomers – big time. Virtually every plant has some fruit on it – but man, not the bounty we had last year. Of course, it’s still early…

One of the blogs I’ve read in the past – The Shibaguyz – have constructed potato condos. John decided to give the design a go this year. You build this frame, put the soil in the bottom, add your seed potatoes, and then when the potatoes have come up about a foot or so, you add the next row of boards all around, adding more soil. Again, you wait until more growth, and repeat the process. They say you can harvest 100 pounds of potatoes from one Condo. When it’s time to harvest, you unscrew the bottom row of boards, pull the soil out, and there will be your potatoes! Cool, huh?

Here’s a good peek at the expanded garden plot. See all of the blank space? Yep – it’s the stuff we just haven’t gotten around to planting this year. It’s so bizarre. But, oh well!

Here are my sunflowers (three different varieties, if memory serves), nasturtiums, and poppies that are coming up in the little bed along the street. Please ignore all of the weeds that are coming up along side of them. One day I’ll make it there – just not today, or likely this week.

William was so proud of himself – he caught one of the Delawares!

The hammock my sister sent from Mexico back with Jonathan last year has gotten a real workout the past couple of weeks. The kids swing each other about halfway up the pear tree that it’s tied to. I just don’t watch. They have a great time, though!

So – that’s pretty much what’s going on in the yard!

We’re loving summer – and the beautiful evenings that we can sit out and enjoy the cool breezes and the company of friends and family.

We are blessed.

My Husband, The Genius

If no one has told you yet, let me be the first.

Chicken keeping is addictive.

When you first start making your plans to add chickens to your world, you might start by saying something like this: “Three, yes. Three chicks would be the perfect place to start.”

Of course, then you go to the local feed store in Springtime and see the beyond adorable chicks. On the way home you find yourself thinking thoughts like, “Eight is probably a better number… Wouldn’t be that much more room to house…”

How you get from eight to twenty-two (including roosters that had to go away) is anyone’s guess!

Sufficeit to say that by the time you settle down to fifteen hens and NO roosters, things seem, well, comfortable.

Here’s the thing, though. When you’re into chicken keeping, you’re pretty much sure everyone else ought to join you in this wonderful pursuit! So, when a friend happens to mention that she’s been dreaming of starting her own flock one day – all she wants is some started pullets… You help!

Over the course of time things happen. Five go to friends. One dies from some mystery malady. Two get eaten by neighbor dogs. One goes broody.

Before you know it, you’re down to just four or five eggs a day.

That, my friends, is just not enough!

Especially not when you’ve got BiL’s Farm Fresh Eggs to supply!

So – you might start saying things like, “Well… if William is really going to do an egg business this coming year, just how many chicks should we order?”

You, of course, temper those statements with things like, “We probably shouldn’t get chicks – at least not this year. I mean I’m going to have major orthopedic surgery!” (This would be why you’re up to midnight the night before said orthopedic surgery placing your chick order!)

So… somewhere along the line an assumption is made that yes, some chicks should be ordered. Someone might have said ten chicks. Someone else might have said, maybe 12 chicks. And somewhere along the line the order gets morphed into – oh, thirty chicks!

Thirty adorable chicks.

Five Blue Andalusians (one was a rooster).

Five Speckled Sussex.

Five Delawares (two went missing, one came back).

Five Cuckoo Marans.

Five Amaracaunas (one was a rooster).

Five Minorcas – three buff (one’s a rooster, one died), and two black.

See? I NEEDED thirty chicks! J

And, accordingly, we needed a larger coop and run! (Particularly in light of our new neighbor dogs! UGH!)

This is not a job for the faint of heart! It might even require some blood, sweat, and tears! Or at least a blister or two!

John, my genius husband, has designed and drafted plans for the expansion.

Have I mentioned recently what a genius he is? Cause if not – let me just be sure to keep you in the know – he IS! Seriously!

The coop was the first structure he ever built.

It’s been nothing short of amazing and phenomenal. Many people have stopped to remark how nicely it’s built, and what a great design it is.

Yes, like I said – genius!

So, my genius husband has drafted – as in AutoCAD drafted – the plans for the addition. They’re pretty cool looking. But I’m thinking the built-out model will be EVEN cooler still!

This new addition will more than double the space of the coop! This wall will have six new nest boxes.

The new big door will open into the expanded, new, and improved chicken run.

And my brilliant husband even thought to build in a spot for a fan – for the hot days of summer. Last thing we need is a chicken with heat stroke!

I love this door! He built this all by himself! Isn’t it cool?

And here you can see that the cattle fencing has been stretched to it’s new anchor on the corner of the addition. The girls are going to like this so much!

And here’s a peek at the new chicken yard addition – an actual area with grass for them to hang out in! They’ve already tried it out and seem to think it’s a great idea!

So – now we wait. We’ve got 25 chicks who will begin laying sometime around mid-August. John’s got a schedule all worked out to make sure everything is finished up and all of the new nest boxes are in place in plenty of time for that!

In the meantime – we’re on chick hatch watch:

Shelly is on day 20 on Sunday. It takes 21 days of a hen setting consistently on her eggs for them to start hatching out. I’ll be sure to report any signs of progress!

So that’s it from Hip Chick Chronicles central!

Well, it’s official…

…well, at least we think so! We think we know what got our California White the other day! (Read about it here.)

Last evening John and I were sitting out in the yard enjoying the evening, watching the girls free range in the yard. All of a sudden there was a racket – and two of the chicks came flying past us at break-neck speed… being hotly pursued by the three neighbor dogs from two houses down.

We quickly stepped in the way of the dogs – got our dog to heel and stay (she’s such a smart, good, obedient dog!) – and aggressively confronted them and told them to go home, clapping and shouting all the way! We basically got them to back up – barking, snarling, nipping at us all the way – until they finally turned tail and ran home.

One of them looked just like this:

A Pitt Bull!

The second one looked more like this:

A Bull Terrier

The third, maybe a mixture of the two. The Pitt Bull being the most aggressive of the three.

We got back to our own yard, were feeling uneasy, and decided to walk up the driveway a bit to make sure they were staying put in their own yard.

They weren’t.

We used our same prior tactics, but since we were closer to their home turf, backed them up to there. It was then that the new neighbor (whom we had yet to meet) came out. She basically told us that they got out fairly easily. She didn’t seem particularly concerned about it. She did tell us that the Pitt was not her own – but was living with her for the time being, and had been reported to the Humane Society for his aggression.

Great!

I told her we’d had a chicken killed in our yard this week. She said, “Oh.”

I guess what bothers me the most is the fact that they have a beautiful fenced front yard – easily appropriate to keep these three dogs in. Her completely casual attitude about the whole thing didn’t help, either.

She didn’t seem to mind at all, either, that the Pitt continued to act quite aggressively toward me.  I turned around for a moment to stabilize my footing – I was further from home on uneven ground than I should have been without a cane, and in a walking cast – and he came quite close to nipping my calf.

So – she put the dogs away. We walked home. And we started planning.

We’re going to have to fence.

Stink.

We really can’t afford it. But we’re going to have to.

Who wants to fence a rental?! Not us. But – is there any choice left?

No, there’s not.

So – poor girls! They’re going to have to stay in the run until we can get the at least even a temporary fenced area in the yard. Poor John – he has so much on his plate already!


(One of the babies thinking, “What are you talking about Willis?!” at the thought of not free ranging at will!)

But I’m so thankful to have such a wonderful husband – who stays calm. Who reacts appropriately. Who is so smart and within minutes has already got the preliminary engineering going on in his head. What a blessed woman am I!

First Field Trip

We decided this afternoon that we would let the babies out into the big back yard this afternoon for their first foray into life without fences…

We were surprised that for the most part, the big girls just ignored them. Rooth being the most aggressive of the big girls – but she for the most part stayed out of the way of the babies – letting them get their first taste of the wider world.
Aren’t they cute?
Five of the babies are supposed to be Delawares. Four of them look very much like Delawares. This one (below) is all white, with the puffier cheek feathers, and has black legs. Not so much like the other Delawares! Mystery chick!

Here’s the buff minorca rooster (William is attempting to name him Paco – we’ll see if the rest of the family will agree with this name or not!) – only two buff minorcas, and one of them is a rooster, darn it all! We started with three, one just didn’t recover from shipping – the other two have fared well. But this means I’ll have my work cut out for me in a few weeks, looking for a new home for the boys who seem to be emerging in the flock.

Here’s one of the speckled sussex. They’re so cute and inquisitive and one of them is the first one out the door and the first to scope out a new treat offered.

This one is a blue andalusian – also a roo. Great. I wish we could keep the roos. But the one set of difficult neighbors makes that impossible, unfortunately. Even just this morning I heard the neighbor down the street’s rooster greeting the morning… sniff… wish we could have one – or as many as show up! 🙂

This is another one of the Delawares. Jessica has named her Pecky. She is BIG. She is inquisitive. She loves to try and peck at my rings, nails, earrings – well, everything. She’s hilarious to watch jump high up and try to get leaves off of the willow tree. AND… she is perfectly happy to sit on a lap and be petted. She’s VERY personable, thrilled with the attention, and loves to follow people around.

William named this female buff minorca Princess. She’s sweet and mellow. She is petite, though – both of the buff minorcas are. It will be interesting to see if there’s any evening out compared to the rest of the flock.

Here’s one of the americaunas. They are so cute and happy to be handled.

This is the mystery chick. I think it was supposed to be one of the black minorcas. Yeah – not so much. This one DOES NOT like being handled – HATES being caught – and doesn’t ever quite settle down if you do catch it to hold and love on it a bit. It will be very interesting to see what she turns into!

It’s amazing how quickly they’re growing. The babies are now 5 and 1/2 weeks old. Dang – time flies!