Archive for May, 2008

Smokin’ Hot Chick Pictures!

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

OK, for those of you who have requested more pictures of my little beauties, I’m including several in this post. But you are going to have to put up with my narrative first. No scrolling down ahead of the class!

Last night Bernie set up his 12X12 pavilion-screened-in-tent-thingy for me so I could take my chicks outside to play in a protected area. It doesn’t have a floor, so the chicks could enjoy the ground and the grass. We secured the sides with bricks so they couldn’t slip underneath one of them and force us to flail around the yard trying to catch them.

So this afternoon after I logged off from work, I grabbed a box with a lid and captured 23 birds for transport to the great, wild outside. We won’t discuss the whole capturing portion of this. Suffice it to say I had to stand on my head to get chicks out of the far corners of the brooder, and I only had to chase one escaped bird around the spare room, but I emerged from the house, headed to the tent thingy, sweaty and out of breath, with 23 birds in a box in tow. Bernie awaited us on a lawn chair in the tent thingy.

When we first let them out, they were terrified and huddled around me and refused to venture. Eventually, they started pecking my toes and crawling on me. Here’s a picture of two of the girls that crawled into my hand:

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After a short while, they discovered Bernie’s boots and headed over to him:

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One of the White Faced Black Spanish chicks just couldn’t stand all of Bernie’s cuteness from afar and actually spread her little wings and flew up onto his lap:

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We decided to name this one Amelia – after Amelia Earhart.

The chicks really seemed to enjoy being outside. They ran around pecking at everything they saw, ate everything they could get their little beaks on, took a sun bath or two, and rolled around in the grass like they were trying to take dirt baths. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more – the chicks, or me and Bernie.

After about two hours, the chicks started collecting at the box they came out in. We quickly realized they were probably ready to go back inside. Look at the little chick peeking out of the hole on the side. I am certain that looks says “Hello? We’re loaded up and ready to go over here!”

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I honestly think they were tired and ready to go back to the brooder. It was pretty easy to gather them up and put them in the box.

I know everyone that has chickens thinks their chickens are the cutest things in the world. But can you honestly tell me, after looking at these pictures, that my little biddies don’t just surpass every definition of cuteness??? And you just don’t know sweet until you meet my girls. Lordy, if they don’t just make you want to kiss the feathers right off them…..

And if you didn’t get your full capacity of cuteness for the day, you can take a look at the additional pictures I put on the Back to Basic Living website.

I warned you when I ordered these chicks that I would be boring you to death with pictures of them. If nothing else, I am a woman of my word…..

Bee Free,
Penny

When Good Chicks Go Bad – and Bear Neccessities

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Several people have told me that their chicks just love banana as a special treat. Well, being the wonderful Mother Hen that I am, I decided to treat my little precious peeps to a few chunks of banana. I sliced them up very small, sprinkled a little grit on them, put them in a little container, and slid them into the coop. You would have thought I was trying to feed them arsenic. They took off in a flurry of fuzzness to the complete opposite end of the brooder, huddled together in the corner, and glared at me. I tried putting some in my hand and coaxing them to me, but they would have nothing to do with it. Even little Lucy was suspicious. She came over and pecked around my hand, but would get no where near that banana. I’m not sure if this is a sign that I’ll have picky eaters, or if I am not doing a very good job of teaching them to expand their horizons by trying new and different things.

One morning last week, I awoke to A LOT of noise coming from the spare room where the brooder is. When I opened the door to the room, I obviously surprised the peeps and they froze in place. I had caught them in the middle of a Wild Chick Party! It looked like a scene from “When Good Chicks Go Bad”. Both feeders were empty and feed was scattered all over the brooder. Their waterer was filled with poop and pine shavings, and the mirror had been knocked over. The place was a mess! As I cleaned it up I scolded them and explained that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. Any chicken under 6 months of age is not allowed to stay up all night and party in this house. It will not be tolerated! As I left the room, I swear I saw 3 of them roll their eyes at me. Honestly – chicks these days!

This morning, Bernie came in to ask me if I had looked outside at my composter today. I immediately knew something was not right. We went outside and found that the composter had obviously been attacked by a bear. He ripped the lid open and busted the clasp that locked it shut. I think he was after the shrimp shells I put in there yesterday. Shrimp shells have no fat or grease, and they compost beautifully. I’ve added them many times in the past and never had any issues with the bears before. I guess this bear really had a hankering for sea food. Bernie is outside building me another composter right now.

For some reason, the bear also decided to remove the cover from the box that houses the control valve for our septic system. He didn’t do any damage – he just removed the cover. It weighs somewhere around 10 – 15 pounds, so he had to be fairly determined to get it off. Bernie thinks he may have found some bugs around it and was digging for them. I’m just glad he didn’t mess with anything inside the box. You can see pictures of the damage to the composter on the Back to Basic Living website. Scroll down to the bottom.

When I came back in from taking pictures of the bear damage, I paused to once again remind Elvis and Priscilla how darn lucky they are to be house cats, how good they have it inside, and that they should be grateful that they aren’t bear food. Elvis threw his arm in the air in a “Talk to the Paw” response:

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And then he went back to sleep:

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I’m at my wits end with these kids.

Bee Free,
Penny

Henny Penny – Week One

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Well, today is one week exactly since I received a box of chirping little fuzzy butts. I’ll be frank – it’s been a tough week. I lost a total of four chicks this week – and I assure you it was not from lack of effort or prayer on my part. I woke up all hours of the night to check on them, hand fed them (and in most cases, force fed them), cleaned more pasty butt than I care to remember, and cried over each and every chick that did not make it. It has been emotionally exhausting. The good news is that the remaining 23 are extremely active and happy right now.

Those little chicks are growing like little weeds! Just a few days ago they started scratching. Now THAT is way too cute to watch! Bernie built them a little roost out of sticks from the yard, and they have really enjoyed learning how to get up on a roost and perch until they fall off. Many are starting to get little tail feathers, and wings are starting to fill out. I just can’t get over how very quickly these little fuzz balls grow!

Many of you have asked about the little chick that is looking up in the first pictures I posted. I am happy to report that she is doing just fine. She is still my little baby and comes to my hand when I reach into the brooder. She holds a special place in my heart for sure. She ended up in the Chick Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at one point because she was looking just a little too sleepy for my comfort level. But she took a nap and perked right up. I marked her face with a green magic marker and returned her to the rest of the flock. She’s still the tiniest of the group, and she’s still so dad-gum cute you could just kiss her wings right off her. My girlfriend said she looks like a “Lucy”, so I named her Lucy. Here she is, green magic marker and all:

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And just look at her tiny little White Faced Black Spanish butt in this picture:

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Lordy, that’s a cute one there! Here’s a picture of another cutey. She also ended up in CICU for acting sleepy. I marked her head red, but you can barely see it now. She’s a Golden Penciled Hamburg and really small as well, but she’s really active:

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And here’s a picture of either a Phoenix, or a Silver Leghorn. All of the pictures I could find of both these breeds look very similar as chicks, so I can not yet tell which is which. But they are just adorable little chicks and cute as little buttons:

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If you compare the wings and tails of the last two, you can see that Lucy is developing a little slower. But what she lacks in development, she makes up for in spunk and personality. The other White Faced Black Spanish chicks are pretty friendly and curious as well. At this point, I am really impressed with the Spanish chicks. Every chick in the brooder is just adorable, but the Spanish chicks are a little more friendly at this point.

For those of you that have written me to say you are planning to order chicks, here are a couple of things I would have done differently and you may learn from:

1. I would have taken pasty butt a lot more seriously. Pasty butt is caused by poop that ends up hardening around and clogging the vent (anus) of the chick. I had read about it, but had no idea how serious or common it can be. It can kill your chick. I would have checked the vent of each chick as I removed them from the shipping box to put them in the brooder – and I would have inspected each chick for pasty butt every day for the first three or four days. Drop me a personal email if you would like to know how I dealt with pasty butt. It’s an “on request” answer as I’m fairly certain the general readership of this blog has no desire to hear those details.
2. I would have devised the CICU a little earlier and started putting chicks in it the minute they looked less active than the others so I could more closely monitor them.
3. I would have spent a lot more time making sure that each and every chick understood how to eat and drink. Believe it or not, knowing what to eat and drink is a learned behavior for chicks that is normally taught to them by Mama Hen. When you order chicks, YOU are Mama Hen!

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more things along the way – and I’m certain most of these will be the hard way. I’ll be sure to share these with you. While it’s impossible to know everything you need to know about everything concerning chicks before you get them, it’s sure nice to at least learn a little from people who’ve made mistakes along the way so you don’t end up making the same ones.

Baby chicks are a little stressful, but they are worth every minute of it. They are so much fun to watch and it’s amazing to see how they change daily. Soon my chicks will be headed out to the coop. I’m just dreading that. Bernie suspects I’ll sleep in the coop with them the first night. He distinctly remembers waking up a few years ago with a baby goat in our bed that I couldn’t stop worrying about. But that’s another story for another time…..

Bee Free,
Penny

Chick Update

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Thanks for all the kind comments and emails of congratulations on the new chicks. They are still adorable and I am still loving them.

The chicks woke me up around 2AM, chirping pretty loudly. I went in to check on them, and they were all huddled together under the heat lamp. I have a thermometer in there with them, but they like to stand on it, so I can never get a good reading. It’s supposed to stay around 95 degrees for the first few days. I tested it several times in the past couple of weeks to make sure it was at the right height and it stayed at a steady 95 degrees. None the less, the weather got a bit cool last night, and I suspect the brooder got cooler too. I turned up the heat in the house, and went back to bed. They settled down.

When I got up at 5:30AM, they were completely silent. It scared me to death. I figured they had all roasted to death over night. I ran into the room, and they were sleeping very soundly. Whew. I did find one baby that didn’t make it though. I guess the stress of the long trip here was just too much for her. I cried and cried about it, but I finally decided I could not have done anything to prevent it. Bernie and I buried her outside by the cat we lost last year (Reba).

Two more of the biddies are acting very weak and I noticed the other chicks would knock them over regularly as they zoomed by them. I put those two in a little box by themselves so they can hopefully get some rest and get a little stronger. I also put another healthy biddy in there with them, in the hopes that she would be company for them and help keep them warm. That didn’t last long though. I walked out of the room for about 5 minutes, and when I came back in, the healthy biddy had hopped right out of that box and joined the others. I was fairly impressed as the height of the box is at least twice as tall as she is! So the two weak chicks are in Chick Intensive Care right now by themselves, and I really hope they pull through. I’ll keep you posted.

Amazingly, the one little chick I posted the picture of yesterday that acted so weak, is doing quite well. She’s a White Faced Black Spanish. The one that died was a Golden Penciled Hamburg. The two that are sickly are a Golden Penciled Hamburg and either a Phoenix or a Silver Leghorn – those two look so similar as biddies that I can’t tell them apart yet.

I’ll tell you one thing, biddies are little poop machines. I can’t get over how much they poop. I’ll be looking forward to some great compost as they get older! Until then, I guess I’ll be cleaning a brooder on a very regular basis – and continue fussing at them for pooping in their food.

So that’s the chick update for today. Even though I knew that I would likely lose one or two, it still makes me really sad. I hope the two little weaklings perk up soon. It’s all I can do not to sit in a chair and hold them all night.

Bee Free,
Penny

Chillin’ With My Peeps

Monday, May 19th, 2008

We spent a wonderful week with my parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We had perfect weather and Bernie went fishing with Daddy every day. Mama and I hung out together and visited and enjoyed our time together, and we took care of a couple of things she wanted to get accomplished, like re-upholstering her dining room chairs. The whole family got together on Saturday for a party for my parents, and then Bernie and I headed home yesterday. I really enjoyed seeing my parents, and it was hard to leave them, but I was excited to get home. My chicks were due in today, and I could hardly contain myself.

I got up at 5:30 to log into work – and to wait on my call from the post office to come get my chicks. By 8AM, I still had not heard from them, so I gave them a quick call. No chicks. I felt like crying. I called the hatchery, and they assured me they shipped the chicks on Saturday. About an hour later, I got a call from the post office in Fairfax, Virginia. My chicks had arrived there on Sunday, but for some reason, did not ship out. They were still in Fairfax this morning, so the lady that called me said she had them sent special delivery – but she sent them to the main post office in Charlottesville! About an hour later, I got a call from Charlottesville – and when I answered the phone I heard chirping in the background. A man told me the Charlottesville post office had received my chicks, and would be shipping them to Harrisonburg to arrive by 1:30PM. I called the Harrisonburg post office and told them to hold my chicks there – I was on my way.

I got to Harrisonburg a little early, and by 1:45 I was heading home with a box of chirping chicks. Wow. For such tiny little two day old birds, they sure can chirp!

Bernie and I unpacked them when I got home and stuck each little beak in the water so they would know where to get a drink. And drink they did! They were really thirsty. Immediately afterward, they found the food. I had spread some around the brooder, and they pecked at it – but they found the food dishes on their own and went to town with them.

We ended up with 27 birds. I ordered 25, but they sent a free “exotic” bird and an extra Phoenix rooster for some reason. They are all so dad-gum cute I could just kiss the feathers right off of every one of them. They all appear healthy and very active with the exception of one. I just checked them and even the sluggish one seems to be coming around a bit.

Here’s a picture of most of them – they run around so much I couldn’t get all of them in one shot. The red tint is from the heat lamp:

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Here’s a picture of the little sluggish one. She is really cute – and although she seems a little less active than the others, she is the only one that consistently looks up when I talk to them. I really hope she makes it.

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So my little peeps are home. I am so incredibly relieved. I worried about those little peeps all weekend. They’re mighty loud. I’m really hoping they’ve already learned to sleep through the night……

Bee Free,
Penny

The Chick Pad

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

The first part of this week was spent finishing up the chicken coop and preparing the brooder, among other things. We got some pine chipped up and layered the coop with about 2 inches of it. We also got the nest boxes in place (old kitty litter buckets), and the waterer and feeder in place.

I made the brooder out of an old tool chest that came out of the bed of a pickup truck. I used an angle grinder and removed the lid, sanded off all sharp objects, and removed all rust.I washed it in some bleach water and let it dry in the sun. Bernie made me a super cool lid for it out of 2 X 4s and some screen. He hinged about half of it so I can easily lift it and get inside to clean or tend to (you can read play with) the chicks. It’s in a tiny, crowded spare bedroom, but I don’t think they’ll mind.

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Our method for adjusting the heat from the heat lamp is very high tech. It involves being clamped on a dresser drawer and the drawer is determined by it’s height from the brooder and the desired temperature. I’ve tested it on various drawers and have pretty much figured out where it needs to be positioned over the period of the first two weeks the babies will be inside.

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So there you have it – the Chick Pad. They’ll be here in a little over a week. I went to the post office and chatted with them about the expected arrival. The lady I spoke with wrote everything down on a piece of card board she tore off of a box and posted it on a bulletin board. She assured me they would give me a call the minute the little chicks arrived. She said if they make it in on the morning shipment, they’ll call me about 6:30AM to come get the chicks. If they make it in on the evening shipment, they’ll call me around 2:00PM. Either way, I’ll be “on ready” to go pick up my babies.

We’re heading down to spend a week with my parents for their 50th anniversary. We have someone coming in to look after the cats. I broke the news to Elvis and Priscilla tonight. They took it pretty hard.

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Within a day or two of our return home, the chicks should be here. Yay! And you’ll be the first to know about it!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas!

Bee Free,
Penny

Painting the Town Red

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Busy day on the homestead today. I may have mentioned that the tin roof blew mostly off on the old cabin at the front of our property a couple of months ago. Bernie got it back together as best he could, but it was leaking pretty badly during rain – and we’ve had plenty of rain lately. By 8:00 this morning, Bernie was on the roof of the cabin applying roof tar to the leaking seams, and I was inside the cabin, yelling out directions to each spot in the roof I could see daylight through. He got all of them.

By 10:00 this morning, I was painting the Chicken Coop DeVille, and Bernie was mowing around the cabin. When he finished that, he took down a few trees that were leaning precariously over the driveway. I guess he either took care of everything he felt he needed to care of today, or he simply took pity on me – but either way, he pitched in and helped me finish up the painting. And I didn’t even have to whine. Well, not very much, anyway. Bernie has always said the only thing he hates worse than painting, is watching me paint. I tend to be a little messy. By the end of the second coat of paint, Bernie had a small microscopic dot of paint on his jeans and I looked like I had bathed in paint. It was on my face, in my hair, and basically covering every square inch of my body. I still need to paint all the trim white, but here’s a picture of what it looks like right now:

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Bernie will nail up the last two pieces of fascia this week, and then I’ll paint all the trim white. After that we just need to fence in the chicken yard (that’s what the roll of fencing to the right of the coop is), shred some pine for litter to put on the floor, install the nest boxes, and get the little chickens!

While we were in Lowe’s to buy the last two pieces of lumber for the fascia, we saw a little peach tree that just cried out to us to come live on the homestead. We planned to get some fruit trees this fall, but this little peach tree was so darn cute, we just couldn’t pass her up.

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With every ounce of creativity and ingenuity that we possess, we decided to name her “Peachy”. The fence around her is our attempt to keep the deer from reaching her branches. We’ll see how that holds up.

Don’t you think she looks perfectly at home here?

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Bee Free,
Penny

We’ve got a Chicken Town on the Homestead!

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

We had a lot of rain on Monday and Bernie wasn’t able to get outside to do much. He spent the day taking care of stuff inside the house. Tuesday he had to go to Richmond for the Governor’s Motorcycle Advisory Board meeting. Wednesday he mowed the yard, weed whacked, and raked. Thursday he had to go into town to take care of the house there and mow the lawn. And Friday, he finally got to spend a little time working on the Chicken Coop DeVille. He’s almost finished with it! He just needs two more boards to put up fascia on the sides. And then I’ll get busy painting the coop. Once I finally get that finished, we’ll fence in the chicken yard and then sit back and wait on our chickens to get here! Yay! You can check out the work he’s done on the Back to Basic Living website. If you just want the bottom line of where we are with it, here’s a picture of how our little Chicken Town looks right now:

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I am really proud of the Chicken Coop DeVille. Bernie did such a nice job. He designed it and did most of the work. I was just labor for him when I had time to help. To answer a couple of email questions I’ve gotten over the past couple of weeks – we did not have any blueprints or plans. Bernie designed it in his head and then started building it. He’d be the first to tell you he’s made mistakes along the way, but nothing he couldn’t recover from – or cover up! When I tell him about the nice emails I get that complement his work and say they are not talented enough to build a coop like this, he always responds “If I can do it, anyone can do it!”. And while we did buy material to build this coop, we got a lot of it basically free from FreeCycle. If you’re looking to save some money by getting FREE stuff to build with, or free items for your home, sign up for FreeCycle. It’s also a great way to recycle stuff you no longer want or need! Through FreeCycle, we met someone that not only gave us a truck load of doors, windows, and more than I can remember, he sold us a bunch of lumber for $1 a piece that he had laying on a flatbed trailer we asked him about – and that includes the floor and roof sheeting we used on the coop! FreeCycle really rocks!

As Bernie finished up yesterday evening, and was sitting in a lawn chair, basking in his accomplishments, I went around the edge of the woods and snapped a couple of pictures of trees in bloom. I think this is a Hawthorn:

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Can anyone verify that for me? We have several of these in bloom right now. I just love them. It’s a really nice looking tree.

We have so many Dogwoods in bloom right now through out the woods. Here’s one that’s right on the edge of the woods in the backyard:

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I may get some painting in this weekend. I need to check the weather and see what it looks like for rain. I may even convince Bernie to help me with it. He often assigns me a task, and then I whine enough about it that he breaks down and helps me with it. I better get to whining real quick…..

Bee Free,
Penny