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!

Mommy Material

About a month ago a pair of my Cuckoo Maran hens went broody.

Some broody hens just stay out of the way, are relatively docile, and are over it all in a few days.

Some broody hens are persistent. They just won’t give up – no matter what – unless they get babies.

Occasionally, I’ll have a broody who is not just not nice – but who is downright mean.

This particular pair of Cuckoo Maran hens that went broody last month are of the persistent AND mean variety.

I tried kicking them off of the nest.

I tried keeping them outside of the fenced run so they couldn’t get back in to the coop and the nests they were so committed to.

I pretty much tried it all.

But to no avail.

What’s worse – these two particular girls have a propensity to take eggs that the other girls are laying and somehow transport them from one nest box to the other to collect a nice sized clutch of eggs.

There was – of course – more than one broken egg in the process!

About two weeks into this persistent broody behavior I decided maybe I should look for some fertile eggs to let them hatch. The problem being – I usually only put one broody in the broody mama section of the coop at a time – and these two were determined to be broody together. What a pain! So I started reading up – and what do you know – sometimes that will work out, so I was willing to consider giving it a whirl.

I just couldn’t decide what breed of egg to find.

And then when I decided – I couldn’t find fertile of that breed!

Recently I talked to a couple of chicken owners who had had success with switching out non-fertile eggs from under a persistently broody hen with store-bought day-old chicks – effectively tricking the broody hen into believing she’d just hatched out a clutch of eggs.

We tried this once before.

It didn’t work well.

But after more research, we decided we know better how to pursue this and that conditions were right. We were gonna give it a whirl.

So yesterday we moved our two broody hens into the broody mama section of the coop, gave them each a nest with 5 eggs on it, and left them to settle in.

We also picked up a dozen day-ish old chicks from Burns Feed. My goal in breed this time? The youngest chicks I could find.

Fran, the amazing chicken lady at Burns Feed recommended the Light Brahmas and the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes – they were both the youngest good layers she had on hand.

As it turned out, there were 11 of the Light Brahmas, and I couldn’t bring myself to just leave a few of them behind, so I got them all and added in one of the BLR Wyandotte – I’m gonna call her Lucy because she’s going to have a red head.

So – late last night – after it was good and dark, after all of the girls had settled in for the night, John, Jessica, and I and the box full of chicks made our way out to the coop.

I started by reaching under the more settled of the two hens (Bertha) and replacing one egg for one chick – she seemed perfectly fine with it. Then I tried the same for the other hen (Mable) – she wasn’t so sure about this!

By the time I got to the 3rd chick for Mable it became clear that Mable was NOT mommy material. We grabbed her up and sent her packing to the other part of the coop!

So – wow – that meant Bertha would have to mother TWELVE chicks. I wondered if she could even FIT 12 chicks underneath her! But I managed to trade out all of the eggs under her (she’d stolen some of Mabels) and replaced them all with chicks – and then added the balance.

All we could do was leave them for the night and check first thing in the morning to see if Bertha was mommy material or not.

John set the alarm for 5:30 am this morning.

Success!

Bertha is MAJOR mommy material!

Can you believe she’s got ELEVEN chicks under her with just this one out checking things out?

I’m so impressed!

She’s not even phased by the fact that she’s the mother to an even dozen!

Woo Hoo!

Now – all I gotta do is sell the Anconas…. Anyone want 3 laying hens?

More chick shots as I’m able.

Dear Jessica…

Just in case you don’t remember – Oregon is REALLY wet.

The thing is – when it’s not – it can be simply glorious.

Like when Spring comes to call…

Today the clouds were fluffy – with an occasional shower tucked in there – the sky was blue, the sun even shone some. And the green is coming back in force.

(I’m not gonna lie – I’m kinda in love with this beautiful little farm I drove past today.)

Ignore the power lines on this one – focus on the daffodils… tons and tons of daffodils. Hard to believe they’re nearly done blooming. The tulips in the front yard are just about ready to bloom!

Just in case you wondered – the traffic in Cedar Mill sucks just as bad as ever. Yeah – not much to miss in that department!

Oh – and look! The babies are getting big! They came home 6 weeks ago. Hard to believe they’ll start laying in just 3 more months! Not sure, but I think I got a roo in there… Wasn’t Mr. Darcy a Cuckoo Maran roo? I can’t remember!

Oh – and Pepper got a haircut. She seems quite happy with it. (As are we!) And look!

…the willow is getting leaves galore! (Yes, that does mean quite a few of the girls have decided it’s time to sleep in the willow at night again. Ugh!) Oh – and…

…the tulip tree across the street is in bloom. Sublime!

So – you should come home. I miss you. A lot.

Love,

Your dear, sweet, adoring Mother.

Gratuitous Baby Chick Shots…

They’ve been home for a week now.

Get a load of that feather development! Won’t be long until they’re testing out those wings!

And, I know this isn’t a gratuitous baby chick shot – but I thought it was lovely, nonetheless…

This is the moss on the trunk of the mammoth willow in the run. The colors, textures, and depth just make me pause. God’s handiwork is nothing short of breathtaking.

Happy Friday!

Lovely Day for a Drive

My day was all planned out.

I was going to can 10 pounds of navy beans 10 pounds of garbanzo beans. At some point in time toward the end of the processing time I was going to make some Sambica Apple Crisp for John – who has been craving it.

Then the phone rang.

And it was time to get in the car.

New plan!

Over the river…

I’m sure I went through some woods…

To Burns Feed Store I went.

The official plan was to NOT buy new chicks this year.

So much for the plan.

Six little Cuckoo Maran chicks.

:sigh:

They’re so cute.

They would arrive on the coldest day of the year! Oh well – got the heat lamps set up, the bricks right underneath them to soak up the heat and keep the babies warm out in the coop.

More baby reports as they are available.

…Hi, my name is Dina. I have a problem. I love baby chicks. Admitting it is the first step to getting help, right?… Wait. What if I don’t want help?…