Thursday, March 29, 2007

Give the people what they want

And I quote;

But I want more! More close-ups! More plumage! How about some frolicking?

You want frolicking? Pot Pie will show you frolicking!

She's a crazy chicken that looks the camera in the eye. She thinks that fresh grass on her feet is far, far less exciting than perching like a parrot on a pirate (yes, she hopped up there unexpectedly, all by herself. I was sitting on the grass at the time, taking photos of Mrs. Tweedy).

Other chicks travel in small packs, darting around in the sunlight (left to right Biggie, Zippy, Mrs. Tweedy). Some of them venture out on their own into unknown areas (Biggie Rockette) while others investigate the camera a bit more nervously (Rosie). And then some are good friend and don't like to be alone (Zippy and Tweedy).

Note: The smaller Rockette was feeling shy and didn't want to come out of the cage, while the Polish chicks are too small to venture out into the 60 degree sunshine (they are still babies and need a constant 85 degree tropical paradise).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bird houses

The girls are getting bigger and bigger, so we've had to move them to a bigger indoor facility. Biggie the butch Rockette was lobbying for the birdhouse I got for Christmas '05 from my sister-in-law Pam, but then she realized that it was waaaaay too small.

Instead, we've moved them into Lucky's old puppy kennel. Placed on its side and propped on bricks, the kennel is a fantastic chick house for the next few weeks. The chicks romp around rambunctiously in their new big space and can practice flapping and jumping without knocking over their food and water dishes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Paranoia sets in

I'm becoming very paranoid that some of the chicks are roosters in disguise. The chance that one of my supposed female (called Pullet) chicks is actually a rooster is 1 in 10, and the chance that one of my polish chicks is a rooster is 1 in 2. This puts the reasonable laws of probability at; one polish rooster, and perhaps one rooster among the other girls.

I'm eyeing Rosie nervously these days. She has developed a little baby comb, which Wyandottes should not have at all. Does this mean she is a rooster? Does it mean she isn't purebred? I don't care if she is a "mutt," but I'll be sad if it turns out Rosie is actually a rooster. I can't eat her. No way.

And might I add- one of the Rockettes is distinctly more "butch" than the other. Biggie, as I call her, is plumper, taller, thicker through the legs and toes, more aggressive at grabbing treats, and a lot more curious. Does this mean she's a rooster? Eeeeek!!

As for the Polish- who knows? They are such weirdos. Pria is more curious, talkative and active while Beldar is a bit bigger, more shy, and maintains a more ridiculous hairdo. Beldar stubbed one of his little toes yesterday and it is all bruised up- so pitiful on a teeny weeny little punk chick.

Only time will tell. One thing we know, though. One of the chicks is gonna look like this;

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I now have a chicken-owning compatriot

A good friend of mine that has been watching the blog, and the actual chicks, with increasing excitement and interest has finally broken down and gotten her own tiny flock! She bought a Rhode Island Red (like Mrs. Tweedy), a Barred Rock (like the Rockettes), a Golden Sex Link (like the chicks we decided not to get for no real reason) and a "Mystery" Bantam that has feathery feet.

A Bantam is a 1/2 size chicken. Her bantam is a pale hay-beige color and has very feathery feet, making it probably a "Buff Cochin." Only time will tell if this is an accurate guess.

My friend and her husband might get two more chicks next week. Exciting!

Interestingly, aside from both owing chickens, we also both have pregnant sisters named Jennifer, both are from New York, and both got married this past summer. Coincidence?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Three out of four walls are complete

We made some serious headway on the coop today. First, though, we let Pot Pie survey her domain. None of the chicks have been outside yet, so it was a brief and scary adventure for Pot Pie.

The front wall of the coop us 95% done- all that remains is some mesh over the vents under the roofline. But you can see the pop-hole for chicken entering and exiting here- it is slightly ajar in both photos. Sadly, it is looking like we won't have a "ramp" for the chickens. I know, everyone wanted one, but it just wasn't feasible with our design.

In the second henhouse photo, you can clearly see how it will look from our deck, which is of course the most important part! So snazzy.

Last but not least, the final picture is of the egg-door. This is the direct access through the wall to collect daily eggs. It is accessible from the outside of the fencing, so we won't have to get chicken poo on our shoes or anything to collect daily eggs. You can see it faintly in the other photos, but Matt and I are very proud of this innovation so it gets a close-up, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Coop progress is made

I worked on the henhouse this weekend- roofed, put up a wall, and expanded the brick patio to the southwest. In this photo, you can see the new spiffy roof, our "Recycle-chic" siding, and the patio. The wall is done in recycled cedar boards from our old fencing, and the skirting is done in the same re-used corrugated tin as the roofing. I bought the tin from the local recycled building materials place for a very good price. What is funny is that the artistically rusty stuff was TWICE the price of the gently used stuff that I bought. I guess a good rusty patina is hard to find!

In this one, you can see how the henhouse is positioned in relation to our house, the plum tree, and our deck. When I took this I was standing in my garden, where the tomatoes will be (come June).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

3... 2... 1... chicken

After a special request from one of my many visitors, I have taken a special photo just to compare the chicks. From left to right, it is Pot Pie, a Rockette, and Pria. Pria is the smaller of the two crested chicks. It is hard to catch and photograph three chicks at once- it ends of up being chick in right hand, chick in left hand, camera in right pocket, chick in left pocket. The ages of the chicks are 3 weeks and 1 day, 2 weeks and 1 day, and 1 week and 1 day, respectively.

Pria did not like having her picture taken.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

They are huge!

The chicks are getting really, really big. Especially Pot Pie- she is enormous! Unfortunately, Mrs. Tweedy has been suffering from some "intestinal distress" that is affecting her nutrient uptake and thus growth, so she is kinda runty right now. This is a photo of Pot Pie a few days ago- look at how big her wing is!

The Rockettes, Zippy and Rosie are all almost as big as Mrs. Tweedy, and they all have amazing little black and white spotty wings. Beldar and Pria are starting to hold their own, and they too are growing stubby little wings and getting nice and spunky.

I've plum run out of AA batteries for the digital camera- Damn! I worked on the henhouse this weekend and got it completely roofed. It looks awesome.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I found out, via checking Matt's email for him (yes, he wants me to do this while he's away for work), that he got accepted into the Social Work program today. YEAH!! To celebrate his victory and his ethnic heritage, I bought two Polish chickens.

Waaait... what? Polish chickens?

YES! White crested polish chickens. They look like aliens- complete with distinct coneheads. I wanted to just buy one, seriously, but they don't come in sex-separated bins at the feedstore, so I bought two to make fairly sure that at least one is a hen.

I have named them Beldar and Pria (my nickname for Prymaat). If you haven't figured out why yet, then... well, google "Beldar Prymaat" and see what happens.

When they grow up, they will be profoundly ridiculous looking birds. Something to look forward to!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lucky loves his squeaky little friends

Everyone wants to know how Lucky is dealing with the chicks, so I thought I'd post some proof that he is utterly fascinated by them. He likes to sniff them when we let him, and he whines when we are looking at them and not including him. If we put the chick bin on the ground, he stares into it and squeaks along with their little peeps and squawks. He is never allowed to be near the bin unsupervised because despite his good intentions, we fear he might try to "play" with them, or possibly snack on them. He is, after all, a dog.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring is for coop buildin'

Matt and I took advantage of some ridiculously nice springtime weather this weekend to start the run and henhouse. Just so you are down with the lingo; a run and a henhouse together constitute a chicken coop.

We started by researching the space requirements of chickens and visualizing how this would work in our yard. So you know; our henhouse is the correct size for 8 hens (we have 6) and the run we are building is the right size for about 20 hens. Wow. Hens are not real estate greedy, that is for sure.

Then we started building the fence and gateposts. The ground was a bit frozen in places but Matt is a fence post digging machine. I probably dug two vertical feet worth while he did about twelve feet of digging. Good man! Instead, I worked on digging the space for the brick footing of the henhouse. This was an idea I had to keep the hens clean and dry. Much easier then renting a cement mixer, and we already had all the materials leftover from older projects.

After the posts were set, brick patio built, and a quick visit to our friend's place who has a sweet dado blade on his table saw, we were ready to build us a henhouse. The house is 4W x 4L x 4tall in the front, dropping to 3 tall in the back to shed rain and snow. Matt and I have never built a structure like this, so it was a fun little challenge.

You can see me resting my arm on a recycled roof rafter- virtually all the lumber for this project we already had left over from other renovations or from friends that have gotten rid of stuff. We've spent less than $100 so far, including chicks, food, medicine, lumber, fencing, hardware, books, and tools. The blog, of course, is free.

Once the four walls were framed and joined, the roof was really easy to frame and nail into place. We have a whole roll of roofing paper donated to us from our nice neighbor Dave, so we set the paper on in preparation for the corregated tin that we'll purchase to truly roof it. Lastly, Matt and I built the nest boxes (in photo on the right) and perches (not in the photo) inside the framing with our scraps from the rest of the project. They only need two boxes, hens apparently share very nicely.

We are waiting for a shipment of free plywood from a friend to move forward from here with the sheathing and siding. The chicks have about 5 to 6 more weeks before they can move to the outdoors so there is no rush.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Last two chicks get named

The other Silver Laced Wyandotte is now named "Zippy," and the big brown Araucana been awarded the funniest name of all, "Pot Pie." She just didn't seem like a Noodle Soup but Pot Pie fit her perfectly.

This makes the chicks- in size order; Mrs. Tweedy, Pot Pie, Zippy, Rosie, and the Rockettes. Mug shots to come soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The best name EVER

Matt just had an epiphany. We are naming the twin Barred Plymouth Rock chicks... drum roll... The Rockettes.

New chicks have arrived

Matt and I drove over to the feed store this morning to get the best picks of the chicks. We were so excited to see all the little girls- all sorts of colors and sizes were there.

Last night I mentioned I thought we should get two Barred Rocks and two Silver Laced Wyandottes, and just skip the Golden Sex Links. Matt was a little surprised that we would get a total of six, but he agreed the traditional breeds could be more fun.

The chicks are hard to tell apart, but this one we've named Rosie. She is a Silver Laced Wyandotte. Her sister (yet unnamed) looks pretty much identical except Rosie has a little reddish stripe on her head, hence the name.

The other two new chicks are Barred Plymouth Rocks. These two are always moving, except when they are sleeping, and they are very delicate and dainty. I tried to get a good photo of one of the little Rocks but the one I picked completely thwarted me- she managed to poop, scream, fidget and run away all in the course of about thirty seconds. One of the Rocks has a single white blotch on her head, and the other one has two. Other than that, I can't tell them apart yet.


We have named the big bad Rhode Island Red, Chick one, "Mrs. Tweedy." That is the name of the villianous woman in the movie Chicken Run. In the movie, Mrs. Tweedy is trying to make all her chickens into chicken pies so that she can become wealthy. I think it is funny and ironic to name an actual chicken that name. Mrs. Tweedy the chicken is about three times the size of the little Rock girls, but they are miraculously getting along really well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tomorrow's chick selection

Thursday morning Matt and I will be picking up three (possibly four) new chicks from the feed store! Yeah!

At least one will be a Barred Plymouth Rock , but there will also be Silver Laced Wyandottes available, and they are amazing looking hens. Isn't this one beautiful? Like living art!

Also available will be Golden Sex Links, a special crossbred chicken that has one color chick for males, and another for females. Very handy if you only want one gender chick! This drawing is from a hatchery website- I'm not sure how I feel about this breed.

We might opt for two Barred Rocks or two Wyandottes instead, Matt and I will have to talk about it. I think I like the idea of getting traditional breeds, rather than new hybrids. We'll see!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Chicks fart


That is all.

Monday, March 5, 2007

They grow so fast!

I am amazed by the growth rate of these chicks. They sprouted little wings overnight, and I'm not exaggerating- they really did.

The chicks are very bonded to each other and I have to say, the way they sleep together is totally adorable. They like to squish themselves in between some towel and the waterer or feeder. I tried to get them while they were both sleeping but the sound of the camera inevitably wakes at least one chick up, everytime.

Like most babies, the chicks are completely lulled to sleep by the sound of the dryer. They, and the dryer, both live in the bathroom and it is really funny to watch them fall asleep standing up when I turn it on. "Dryer makes me sooooo... sleepy...."

Sunday, March 4, 2007

I added a FAQ for my visitors

I've added a Frequently Asked Questions section at the bottom of the blog. If you have a question, you can add it to this post as a "comment" and if it has broad appeal, I'll add it to the FAQ.

By the way, chick two's eye suffered no lasting effects from chick one's assault. In contrast, chick one seems to have had some residual bad karma that expressed itself as chick diarrhea for much of the day Saturday. Eeeeeewww... I've been struggling to keep her fluffy little butt and the bin very clean and this morning she seems to be getting over it. Probably just stress.

Both chicks have abruptly starting growing little wing feathers- they are stubby and awkward and the chicks are incessantly preening at the feather's bases. It looks like an itchy process. Perhaps tomorrow I will post a photo of their budding wings.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Chick one was a naughty girl

Chick one decided to get mean last night. I was in the shower (the chick-bin is now in the bathroom to keep it above dog snout height as a pre-emptive safety measure) and I heard this high pitched peeping. The kind of peeping that even a new "mother hen" can recognize as panicky. So I finished up very quickly and hopped out of the shower to stare in the bin. Lucky was staring at the side of the bin with his head cocked sideways. All appeared happy in the bin until- WHAM- chick one (the redhead) pecked chick two right in the eye! AAAAhhh!!

What was she thinking! Chick two ran off screeching. I was horrified. How do you discipline a one ounce baby bird? I told her she was being bad. I watched for a while longer. Was peace restored? Then chick one crept up to chick two and WHAM again she pecked her in the eye and chick two ran off screaming. Horrible! Pecking order doesn't mean in the eye!

So I lifted chick two out of the bin. She immediately relaxed into my hand and closed her wounded little right eye. There was no damage visible, but it had to hurt. Chick two is almost half the size of chick one, so it wasn't a fair fight. Chick one started screaming because she does that when you separate the two chicks. I was in a quandry- put them back together and risk permanent eye damage, or separate them and listen to chick one scream?

Separate them.

I got a small cardboard box, put a hand towel, water bowl, and food dish in it all while carrying a much relieved chick two in my breast pocket. I think she was sleeping (playing dead). Then, I placed chick one in the naughty chick quarters and put chick two in the regular bin. Both were safe, warm, and well provisioned.

Chick one would have none of this. She hates being away from chick two, so she started peeping so loudly I considered ear plugs. This ungodly peeping went on for a few minutes. Then, she starting to plot. She paced her little box, not screaming so much as whining, while chick two calmly ate pellets and drank water in peace. Chick one eyed me. She eyed the rim of the box. Then, to my utter dismay, she launched her tiny fluffy self eight vertical inches to the rim of the box, and perched wobbly while fluttering her pre-wing stubby arms. Then, she plunged another eight inches back down into the bin.

Then she pretended like nothing was wrong. She happily nibbled pellets along side chick two, drank water along side chick two, and they scampered around like they always do. It was too good to be true- but I had no other ideas, so I let them be.

About an hour later they were snuggled together asleep, safe and sound. It is hard to imagine that in about two months from now, chick one will look like this;

Friday, March 2, 2007

The chicks have settled in nicely

Chicks one and two have settled in since last night. They are no longer peeping incessantly (peeping is a sign of distress) and they've carved out little spots to sleep on their towel.

Last night I discovered that chicks do sleep through the night, which is great. Their brooder is in the living room so that I can keep an eye on them. It would have been a long night of peeping and chick-wrestling if they had been up all night, but at around 11pm they started to look drowsy and then they settled in for the night.

Chick two has a very uniquely striped and speckled outfit she parades around in. When she grows up she'll have exuberant sideburns, which should be adorable. This is her drinking water while chick one eyes me warily. "You aren't gonna mess with my little sister, are you?" They like to play chase around the food dish and they snuggle together to sleep. Very sweet. I need to get them some chick toys to play with. Hmmm...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The first two chicks are here

Yesterday I went to the feed store here in town and they kindly informed me that their chick delivery was going be to two days late, and thus I had another day of waiting ahead of me. Two days! Good god- those poor little chicks in their tiny cardboard shipping carton! And I'll never survive the wait!

So I dutifully set up my brooder (warm and safe chick living quarters) last night and tried not to loose sleep over my impending mother-hen-hood. After I got done with work today, I went to the feed store. OH MY.

There were about 200 little chicks, of four different breeds, running around in heater water troughs in the store. It was pandemonium of the chick kind. I spent a long time looking at the two breeds that were to my liking, and then I kidnapped one of each type. I tried to pick spunky, healthy little chicks but honestly- it was chaos.

Chick One; a Rhode Island Red. One of the oldest American chicken breeds- known for good egg laying, nice temperment, and the ability to withstand very cold weather. This chick is outrageously spunky. She can jump over six inches in the air already and peeps in a disgruntled fashion when you take her awkward little stripey 'sister' away. She likes to stand on my fingers like a little perch and isn't afraid to walk up into my hand for a nibble of chick pellets.

Chick Two; an Araucana. A relatively new chicken breed that originates in South America. They typically lay pale blue or pale green eggs- pretty nifty. This chick is shyer, and smaller. She likes to fall asleep in awkward positions that make me think she is dead. She is super cute with little chipmunk stripes.

They have settled into their brooder and aren't being nearly as loud as they were in the car or for the first hour or two. Both are drinking, eating, and pooping constantly. I have read that the life of a baby chicken is happiest when they can do those three things frequently and without interruption. Excellent.