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Entries in chickens in the city (8)


It's about time.

 Seven months, one tragedy and two roosters later we finally have three healthy layers.

We were never really sure that Hermione had been laying. The only one remaining of the original bunch of three, her hawkish looks and goof ball demeanor didn't make us question why we were spending whatever ridiculous amount it was on organic feed, the occasional organic tomato, bunch of organic spinach or tasty chokecherry from our front tree for a seemingly sterile bird.  Well, somehow, againt nature's way (laying decreases dramatically during the short winter days), she finally started popping out some lovely blue eggs and hasn't stopped since.  After a few (many) insanely cold days and nights we finally got out to checking our laying box to find three frozen, cracked and otherwise wasted blue eggs.  Today is the only day since she started that she hasn't produced, leading me to believe she is on a six days on, one day off schedule.  I'm going to need a vintage metal egg basket to sate my inner photographic needs this coming summer.  Aren't all three gorgeous together?  Brown with spots come from Peggy Olson, pink fom Nina Totenberg and the blue from everyone's favorite Hermionie Granger.  I'll begin taking your pre-dyed easter egg orders starting next week*.


*USDA sidenote: I promise I won't sell anyone my eggs. Unless they offer me big bucks or trade for delicious meals, in which case, feel free to come raid my three hen establishment.  Cheers.


Cock-a-doodle do (Part 2)

After we got rid of Jack, we found ourselves with two VERY pleasant little chickens on our hands. Jack was pretty mean and always got to eat treats before everyone else, so with him out of the picture I found myself growing quite fond of the two gals. I grew quite attached to them both, Ingrid with her cute curly cue of a feather and wonky toe, Hermionie with her puffy face; The coop was a happy place to be. 



About two weeks after we got rid of Jack, I remember waking up and hearing a familiar crow, and thought to myself "someone else in the neighborhood has a rooster!" Not only was I happy because we had gotten rid of our icky rooster, but I was pleased to know that someone else in the neighborhood was in the chicken rearing business. It wasn't long before a good dose of reality set in and the feeling of dread rushed over me: what if it was one of ours? I quickly ran out back to see our sweet Ingrid raise her head to the sky and yell in that pathetic voice "I'm a boy chicken!". No, I shook my head. It couldn't be true. What person could have such terrible chicken luck? She was so sweet, so tame! She let me pick her up, and always came over when I put my hand in the run. She couldn't be a rooster...


Then, in a moment of doubt, I resorted to the best resource I know: the Internet.  Thank the Lord for google. I ran to my computer and typed in "crowing buff orpington hen" and found lots of hits about Buffs (her breed) being noisy girls, especially if they had come to be at the top of the pecking order. I blamed her call of masculinity on gender identification issues and called it a day.  We continued on with a few weeks of afternoon crowing, but that one telltale morning, moments after the sky began to lighten, I heard a crow and began to realize that I was living a lie. My sweet, adorable Ingrid was really an Ingmar.


I considered dropping her off at the front door of Egg|Plant, the lovely shop that gifted the bird to us, but decided it would be worth my while to try and find him a nice home. A post to the Twin Cities Chickens Google Group and a few anxiety filled mornings later, Ingmar had found himself a new home on a farm with 12 lovely hens to keep him plenty busy. It was a sad departure, but going to a loving person who wanted to breed Buffs, it was a match made in heaven.  And then there was one; Sweet, goofy, poofy-faced Hermionie. 

I actually think the solitude did her some good. She became much more excited when I came out to feed her tomatoes, and has since become as sweet at Ingrid once was. But we couldn't leave her alone. Chickens are social birds and need a flock to be happy (not unlike geese... or velociraptors {which are SORT OF birds, according to lots of conventional scientific thought [from what I remember about Jurassic Park]}). So it was back to Craigslist we went. Less than a week after emptying our nest of our final (fingers crossed) rooster, we introduced two new honest-to-goodness hens to the flock. 


The large lady is known as Peggy Olson and is a White Rock, a large gal as white as snow, known for friendly demeanor and large brown eggs. 

The smaller black gal has been named Nina Totenberg, an Australorpe (Aussie for Orpington!) with stark, coal colored eyes and a very timid personality. 

They were said to have hatched just a week before Hermione and after a few days of figuring out who was in charge (it's Peggy, but the way) we once again had a happy, healthy coop, this time filled with all girls. And as of today, our lives as urban farmers is forever changed, as our two new girls presented us with a couple of morning presents. 


Not just one, but TWO eggs were pictured in the text message I received from Kyle today. Knowing this day was coming was one thing, but to hold a tiny li'l chicken egg in your hand changes everything.


Cock-a-doodle do (part 1)

Sometimes things do not go as planned.


Recap: I was dreaming of a kitchen counter covered in these


So we got some chicks


Then that cute fluffy yellow one died. 


Panic!  Terror!


Okay, fine, we moved on. Then we got this one, you voted and her name became Ingrid.  And life was good.



Our backyard had become one of my favorite places.  We would sit outside, watch the chickens and admire our partially done fence.  We even got a pool!


That is not us, and those are not our kids


Kyle and I were in the pool enjoying ourselves when we heard it.  I had heard it earlier in the day, and was worried but brushed it off.  When we heard it again, I did some quick internet research.  Jackie, who was supposed to look like this:

(this is a hen, FYI)

instead looked like this:

(and, of course, this is a rooster, also FYI)




From that day forth, the glamourous Jackie O was now referred to as Jack Kennedy.  To keep our neighbors happy, the next day he flew the coop to a nice couple in Brooklyn Park who told me they would be using him for breeding. (Fingers crossed for you Jack!)


And then there were two.


To be continued...



Chicken update

Well, the ladies are officially pullets (or teen-aged chickens). They're living outside in their coop, and have all of their big girl feathers.  Jackie O. is beginning to develop her waddle and comb, while Hermione continues to look like a hawk.  They love digging through the grass looking for bugs and I've been giving them plenty of scraps from the kitchen (so far eggplant skin has been the biggest winner in their book).  Hermionie was even coordinated enough to grab a fly out of mid-air yesterday.  We're waiting on a new fence to be built so we can let them roam around the backyard (with adult supervision of course) but they seem pretty happy in their run, and always return to the coop at dusk to get some shut eye.



The first few days they were outside (or even a full week) they were pretty hesitant to spend time out on the grass, but are now out there rooting around looking for things most hours of the day.


Last Friday, Kyle came home from Egg|Plant, an urban farming store in St Paul that has everything one could need to raise a backyard chicken, with a pretty decent sized box in his hand.  I had sent him there to pick upsome chick feed and what does he come home with? 


A baby chicken. 




Okay, she's not exactly a baby chicken, but a pullet... two weeks younger than our own, and a Buff Orpington by breed.  I was less than pleased about the prospect of a newbie as I've read horror stories about new, younger chicks being integrated and ultimately being pecked to death by their head master (in this case, that would be Jackie O). But the store owner had only the one little girl left and was about to be reduced to begging on Facebook, convincing Kyle to take one for the team.  

Not knowing what this little lady's fate would be, we didn't name her concerned we'd have another burial ahead of us.  The first few days we were on edge;  Jackie O. reared up, poofed her neck feathers and showed the new girl who was boss... but pecking never ensued.  Two nights ago I opened the coop to find all three girls nesting together in a little ball of chicken fluff, and all of my worries melted away.  Yesterday was the first day they all scratched around the run together in perfect harmony, and we're ready to give our little blondie a name.  We've come up with a short list, and would love you to help us out.


What should we name our new chicken?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Diana, Princess of Wales
Ingrid Bergman
Mary Kate Olsen
Marilyn Monroe





They grow up so fast (or) Tragedy Strikes the Coop

I wrote this blog entry last week before I left on a work trip to NYC.  A lot has changed, the most important of which is that we lost our little Judi.  Whether it was a prolonged issue regarding her pasting or just nature's course, Sunday was a challenging day for Kyle and I. Lesson learned: DON'T GET ATTACHED TO YOUR LIVESTOCK.  Much easier said than done, but a good idea none the less.  I just keep trying to remind myself that I am ethically okay eating chicken.  Hermione and Jackie are doing well and lets just say that the term should be growing like chicks, not growing like weeds.  It is becoming very clear to me that those little balls of puff are chickens, bred for egg laying and not as cuddly pets.



Monday, May 17, 2010

First things first: I've started a Formspring.  If you're not familiar, it's essentially an easy way to ask a person questions.  So if you're interested in raising chicks and have a question, ask away. Wondering what the inedible strands you have to get through before eating the heart of an artichoke is called?  Inquire here! (It's actually called the "choke" if you were curious).  Need help on your algebra homework?  I'll take a stab at it.  Let me be clear that even if I don't know the answer to your question, I probably have an opinion about it and will gladly share that with you and the rest of the world (you're welcome in advance). 



Our little ladies are a week old today, and they've grown QUITE a bit.  You can't really tell from the pictures how much they've progressed, but their body sizes are quite a bit larger and they are much more sturdy on their feet. They aren't particularly, you know, smart, but since their brains are about the size of a pin-head, I think they're doing pretty damn well. 

Hermione's feathers are really starting to form on her wings, and there are a few pin feathers forming on her butt.  Jackie's are forming well on her wings, but there are little tufts of down in between each one (or maybe that's a feature of her breed?  We'll find out) and Judi remains to be at the bottom of the totem pole in size, feather development... and then there is that whole pasty butt thing.  It is getting considerably better (only a little in the morning, no more butt soaking) and I'm hoping it will be gone entirely by the end of the week.  There really is nothing like looking at a multi-purpose vent first thing in the morning to really bring a romantic side to chicken rearing. 


That's as far as I got.  I'm still sad about Judi, and have kind of detached myself from the other two.  That being said, my anxiety dreams about the cats becoming locksmiths and entering the hen room over night have ceased: apparently I now know how to deal with the loss of a chick and my psyche rests. 


We cleverly (thanks Peter) raised up the waterers so the dummies can't poop in their water dishes any more, and we've changed their bedding twice.  I'm really excited to give them some spinach one of these days (and even give them a little time outside!)  and we bought some parakeet gravel for them to help aid in the digestion of real food.  


Hopefully I'll get over our minor hiccup soon and bring a little more substance to the table.  Until the, RIP Dame Judi Dench.  You were really cute.