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.

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I’m Not Ready

A week ago it was nearly 100° in Portland following a week of temperatures in the 90’s – finally!

Today – showers and a high of 67°.

There is every indication that Fall will be here – soon.

I’m not ready.

The garden is showing signs of slowing down. (Even though there are just shy of about bazillion green tomatoes yet on the vine.)

The babies are only a month from coming into lay!

Oh – you need to meet Cleo (she’s an Egyptian Fayoumi) – isn’t she pretty?

She’s the most unusual chicken! She sings like no other chick we’ve had – really quite melodious – but – she’s FAST – and fairly anti-social. She loves her adopted sisters, though, and wherever they go – she goes!

The big girls are starting their fall moult. There are quite a few nearly naked chickens running around here!

To be honest – I had hoped we’d get another month of summer. I mean, it only seems fair given how late it started and how cool it’s been. Right?

:sigh:

Not ready.

See?

My tomatoes agree with me!

OUCH!

There comes a time in (nearly) every girl’s life when she just has to drop everything and blog.

This is one of those moments.

That, people, is a BIG egg.

How big, ask you? (I knew you would, so I hauled out the kitchen scale.)

THAT big:

Yes, that says 4 ounces.

FOUR stinking ounces.

Poor little hen. Hope she’s okay… Didn’t see anyone having keeled over or limping along or anything….

Owie mama!

Okay – back to the many other things I ought to be doing…

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!

Urban homesteading is in my blood…

My Grammy had a green thumb.


[Victory Garden circa 1943.]

She grew up in the garden, really. As did my Grampa – he was the son of a dairyman and a professional cook – both of whom believed in having a large garden out the kitchen door.

I love the old pictures of Grammy as a little girl, playing in the garden. So much of life revolved around the garden of their Booneville, Arkansas home. They lived in town – in a house that my great-grandfather built (he lost his right arm in a cotton gin when he was 11 years old – but it didn’t stop him from doing pretty much anything!) – that had a small barn, a chicken coop, and lots and lots of garden. There were fruit vines and trees, vegetables galore, and lots of “sustainable” living going on in that city lot!


[Tom Thumb wedding circa 1919.]

My Mom spoke of her love of the time spent in her Grandmother’s garden when she was a girl. For her, the love she felt related to her time spent with her Grandmother had very close ties to the amazing food grown, prepared, served, and enjoyed as a family in their lovely Southern California garden.


[My Great-Grandmother and my Mommy circa 1947.]

Growing up we always had a garden in the back yard. Mom and Dad always grew tomatoes, squash, corn, beans, peas, lettuce. Mom always had a patch of strawberries going and there were the plum trees that put out all kinds of crazy quantity of succulent Italian prunes. (Little did we know we loved prunes!)

If something important happened when we were growing up – we’d snap a picture in the garden!


[Grammy holding baby sister, my brother Joel, and I circa 1968.]

In the summers – nothing better than sharing a meal out-of-doors – featuring the very foods we’d grown just feet from our table.

When John and I married it was a no-brainer that no matter where we lived a garden would be involved. Better yet – a garden that could yield enough produce that we could preserve for future use! (I married a man with amazing skills. He’s the one who taught me how to can!)

Some of the sweetest memories I have are of my Grammy out in the garden with my own children – showing them just how it’s done!

[Grammy – age 82, and Jessica – age 2, watering circa 1994.]

When we came across this house that we live in – listed for rent – on HALF AN ACRE just a stone’s throw from downtown Portland, well – our pulses quickened a bit. Could we afford it? Could we even possibly be in line early enough to be in the running to luck out to rent it? We nearly fainted when we got the word that we could indeed afford it (barely), and that we were the first in line with a completed rental application and application fee attached.

:sigh:

A house with a garden. A REAL garden – the kind you can live off of. Just what we’d longed for.

What a gift!

What a blessing!

What an amazing God!

Yes. There is great responsibility. But oh – the benefits far outweigh any sense of burden.

But here’s the thing…

It scares me a bit how little people of my own generation, much less those of my children, understand where food comes from. It scares me significantly more that if you stood on a street corner and surveyed the folks walking by – asking if they could grow a garden given the resources – that the vast majority would look at you with a blank stare.

There are so many deep philosophies at play here – this beautiful thing called urban homesteading represents.

Accountability.

Appreciation.

Availability.

Historicity.

Patriotism.

Stewardship.

Sustainability.

…the list could get very, very long.

For me – bottom line – it goes back to WHO I am accountable to in my life. I believe with every fiber of my being that there is a God and He is Creator and that He has gifted us with this very precious resource. I consider it nothing short of Worship to be able to steward this little corner of the world. We consider it our privilege and honor to take the yield from His blessings and our labors, preserve them, and to gift excesses to those in need in our community.

NOTHING about any of this is new.

It is the way it was done in my Mother’s day.

It is the way it was done in my Grandmother’s day.

It is the way it was done in my Great-Grandmother’s day.

…and for generations prior.

My fervent hope is that my children, my children’s children, and for generations to come – it will continue to be an important part of life. That they will never take for granted the beauty of this thing.

If you’re an urban homesteader, consider joining us in celebrating this beautiful thing we do – and make a stand for the unrestrained right to proudly declare so. There is a Facebook group to check out here. Other excellent posts to read here and here.

Spring Cleaning, 2011

Yep, it’s that time of year again. As in years past, we try to find a day when it’s not too wet to muck out the coop.

Amazing how much poo can accumulate in the course of a year.

This past year we actually layered the litter in the coop between wood shavings and straw. Between getting the coop mucked out too late (I was so sick when we ought to have done it – John was too busy going between the hospital, getting kids places, and handling work, etc.), the excessive rains of last year, and the wacky pH of the soil – we felt strongly we had to mix things up a bit. We just can’t handle another dismal garden year on the equivalent of Garden 2010!

It was interesting to note how much more it seemed that the litter had already started to compost down some!

We also decided to switch which garden plot the contents would be added to. This year, it’s to the new garden plot. (Well – it’s not so new any more, but that’s what we call it!)

Always exciting – yeah, not! – to find a surprise egg. Only two this year, thankfully!

The girls always love it when the nest boxes get spiffed up. They have to come right away and give them a spin to see how they feel.

Empty! At last!

The broody mama part of the coop all ready for new chicks.

Nice!

Funny how the girls are thrilled to have the contents of the coop to dig through out in the garden plot.

It’s always nice to get this chore done, and look forward to chicks, Spring, and the garden to come!

Stinking Hawk!

Can you see it there in the mist?

This hawk has taken to hanging out quite near to the girls.

It seems fairly young.

Rather lithe.

It’s definitely bold.

It will swoop right down into the chicken run – with me standing just feet away!

I wish I could get a picture of it in action like that! But I’d have to actually look out the window before walking out the door – hands full of egg basket, table scraps for the girls, etc. – and be prepared with camera ready at the go.

Makes me thankful for the crows that hang out – they take great delight in harassing this hawk! Go crows!

This morning, as I walked out and nearly came face to face with the hawk – all of the girls huddling under cover – I was surprised that once the hawk winged it up to the tree just beyond the willow that the girls seemed happy as can be to just resume normal activity.

Because I was there? I don’t offer all that much protection – although I can yell – well, except for right now – I’m losing my voice to this stupid cold. I gave the girls a stern talking to about using caution with the stinking hawk hanging out so close by.

See how concerned they were:

Huh? You talking to us?

Yeah – so – obviously – they seemed to feel the danger had passed.

Oh – hey – remember Lacey?

She was one of the chicks Jezebel hatched in February. You can see her a little older here, too.

She’s done some growing up

She’s the Silver Laced Wyandotte in the middle. Pretty, huh?

Dommy (the Dominque – original, huh?) – one of the chicks that Buffy hatched in May may well be going broody… She’s kind of half-hearted about it – part of the time on the nest, part of the time off… That’s her behind the Leghorns. After we muck out the coop this weekend, I’ll set up the Broody Mama portion of the coop and see if she really wants to set eggs or not… If so, we’ll be getting some fertile eggs to bring in for her to hatch.

I don’t think I’ve introduced Blanche yet, either.

This is she:

She’s a buff colored Easter Egger – re-homed to us this winter. Blanche, she’s such a different girl. Kind of a social “special needs” kinda hen. She just doesn’t play well with others and self-isolates quite a lot. She has gotten bolder of late with the warmer weather – venturing out amongst the other girls now and then. But definitely not the team player the other girls are. She lays a lovely nice-sized blue-ish green egg every few days – but always in the wackiest locations! She makes me laugh.

I took some pictures yesterday that I’ll try and post later today or tomorrow. Hard to believe kind of stuff – particularly for those of our loved ones and friends who are on the East Coast awaiting the latest snow storm to arrive…

Back to rest for me, with a fresh mug of hot tea and honey for my very sore throat. Always with an eye out the window for the stinking hawk!

Wowza!

When you first get chicks you think about how precious they are, and how fun it will be to take care of them, and how thrilling it will be to collect eggs from them.

All of that is absolutely spot on and valid.

But I’m not going to lie to you.

STINK!

It’s cold out there!

Like 30 degrees, with a wind chill of 20-something, and freezing rain just started when I was heading home after picking William up from play auditions at school. (I know – I’m a weather wimp compared to most of the rest of you people who live in much more frigid climes!)

Brrr!

But – doesn’t matter.

The girls gotta get tucked in and put to bed.

The rounds have to be made.

Gotta count heads, make sure there’s food, water, and that everyone is a-okay.

Thankfully, this is the time of year that the girls realize that sleeping up in the willow is a tad bit foolhardy.

But I still gotta go out and make sure everyone made it inside okay.

It’s always nice to get out there – step out of the icy wind into the protection of the coop and hear clucks of welcome.

Not gonna be sad when winter gives way to Spring, though! 🙂