Tuesday, March 30, 2010

About bonding and salad bars

Ruby & Clara have gotten so they come over to me whenever I come out to the pen to see them. Petunia has been a little standoff-ish lately, but is starting to warm up again. Ruby loves tomatoes and anything colorful. And they all love green stuff, so I pick weeds from the yard and hang them in pen for them to eat. They all gather around like it's a salad bar!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We have roosters!

No, not the ones that crow, the ones who roost on a perch at night to sleep. When I went out to check on the hens tonight, Ingrid was perched on the edge of the tomato pot with her head tucked in her wing asleep. That's the first time any of them have done that. She slept right through me sneaking out there and taking a picture of her. I guess having your head tucked under your wing is a good shield from unexpected flashes of light.

Unfortunately, the others did not have their heads tucked under their wings and promptly woke her up after the flash event. When I went out later that night, I found 3 of them roosting! I guess it's chicken-see chicken-do.

Clara harvested the carrots

Well, when we got back from church today, Clara had flown the coop. She was very patiently sitting next to the pen waiting for me to come back home and put her back in. I don't know why she didn't just go back in the same way she got out!

But while she was out, she did a little premature harvesting. Take a look at my lovely pot of carrots. No more carrot forest! Fortunately, she only polished off one entire pot. There are still 2 others that are doing quite well.

Clara is still the biggest in the bunch (even before the entire pot of carrots). It seems like she changes every day. The white on her head is almost entirely gone. At first I thought she would be brown, but now she's mostly black with spots of brown throughout. Take a look at her just a couple of weeks ago. She's still very sweet and likes to try to sit in your hand, even though she's really bigger than a handful. When you hold her she very contently just clucks away.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Quail season

Not hunting season... baby making season. We have quail that live on the hill in the back. Every year we see them. This was the 2nd time I've seen them this year and they got close enough on the back porch for me to zoom in and get a photo. When they have their babies, they remind me of the Partridge Family with all the little chicks following along in a trail behind mom and dad. We usually get several families each season and they all travel together with their little ones. Very cute!

The word of the day is "covey". A covey is a group of quail.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We have another clucker!

There was a huge commotion in the pen so I went out to see what was going on. Ingrid (the black & white one) was standing there by herslef looking pretty bewildered. So I picked her up to see if she was ok. The fact that she didn't put up a fight when I picked her up was a shocker. While I was holding her, she clucked! I suspect the cause of the commotion was her scaring herself when she clucked for the first time!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Expanded pen for hens

Today I expanded the pen for the hens. They really are getting so big and it seemed like they needed more space to move around. So I took the fencing and encircled 3 of the tomato pots in one area. I moved the heat lamp to be on one end of the pen and let them sleep there as well. They love having all the space to move around. And I think they all like being together too. The tomato plants are leggy and pretty well spent. But the hens are enjoying the leaves and picking them clean one by one.

Monday, March 22, 2010

More Spring Blooms

Our next door neighbor has a few fruit trees and right now they are BEAUTIFUL to see over the wall. The pink one is a peach tree. The white one is a plum tree.

The lovely purple flowers below are covering our entire rosemary "hedge" right now. It's probably the only flowers in the backyard. They smell wonderful! I guess the bees think so too...

A Day in the Life of a Baby Hen

So... you want to know what do chickens do all day?? Who doesn't!! Well, here's the low down... from a chicken's perspective...

We wake up at the crack of dawn in our brooder. We can't go outside by ourselves yet, we still don't have enough feathers to protect us from the 37 degree weather. Our brooder keeps us pretty warm at about 50 degrees. So we just mill around the brooding box until the Big One we've bonded to gets up (she likes to sleep in until at least 7:30am!) We like to scratch and kick the shavings everywhere. The Big One sprinkles Starter Crumbles along one side of the box at night so that we have something to eat first thing in the morning (isn't she sweet?)

After the sun starts to warm things up to about 50 degrees in the room our brooder is in (usually ~9:30am), the Big One moves us from the box to the tomato pots. Today, the Big One expanded our area from one pot for 2 of us to include 3 pots for all 4 of us. We're getting pretty big and needed more room to run around.

We stay here until the sun starts to go down, usually ~6:30pm. Then we start screaming REALLY loudly so that the Big One will come and put us back in the brooder box so we can get ready to go to sleep.
Now, I know you want to know what we do all day in the tomato pots. It's really pretty simple. We scratch around. We eat anything interesting that we find. The Big One puts our waterer in there in case we get thirsty (which we do) and a pile of Crumbles in there for us in case we can't find anything to eat or just want a variety. We like to eat any weeds or plants that may be around. We eat the tomato leaves off the plant if we can reach them. They're yummy. We chirp and sing all day.  Sometimes we take a short nap. And we make ALOT of fertilizer!

Every 2-3 days we take a dirt bath. One of us will take the bath and one of the others will assist. Taking a dirt bath is very tiring work, so it's good to have an assistant to help pick you clean. But sometimes I think they're really just there to pick through the yummy stuff we uncover when we dig the little dirt bath hole in the ground! There's always lots of treats to be found.

After such a busy day, we all crowd together in the brooder and fall out face down into the pine shavings. We do make adjustments through the night, sometimes closer to the warmer, sometimes farther away, and sometimes to get up, stretch, and get a drink. The Big One gives us a snack right before bedtime so that we aren't hungry again until morning. But mostly, we just sleep so we can be ready for another fun-filled day tomorrow...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Joey & Hailey visit the hens

Joey met the girls once before, but Hailey was out of town so this was her first time meeting them. The funny thing is that Hailey is such an animal lover. She loves petting zoos and all animals in general. So I was surprised to see her hold a chicken with trepidation and at arm's length.
Joey is holding Ingrid. Clara was not doing anything to Hailey. I don't know why she seemed so nervous with Clara on her shoulder! Clara's always such a sweetie.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Ingrid (black & white) and Petunia (small brown) both dropped a feather the other day while they were flying the coop. Of course I kept them! It's like when your children lose their first tooth! They're each about 3 inches long.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Hens are a Month Old!

The girls have been with me now for 2 weeks and are now 1 month old. Looking back at the photos, it's hard to believe how quickly they've grown. I posted an updated picture of Ruby yesterday. As promised, I took more updated photos of the others today. So here they are with a link back to their earlier photos so you can see how much they've changed. Day 2 with the Hens 3/2/2010

Clara was very curious about the camera and kept trying to get a close up look! She's the biggest of all the hens. In the picture on the right, she's stretching tall to inspect the camera. In the picture on the left she's settled in on my hand ready for her photo shoot.

Petunia is brown like Clara but about 1/2 the size and twice the spunk! She has a black "bandit mask" over her eyes. She hops into my hand almost every day. She likes to practice roosting in the tomato pot. Here's she's all puffed up and relaxed.

Ingrid (formerly Singing Eagle) is quite elegant. She's tall and slender and still sings beautifully. She still doesn't care to be handled, but will tolerate me as evidenced by the photo.

Here's one last photo of the hens at feeding time and a link to the hens feeding on 3/2/10. Obviously, they like the food!

Singing Eagle has a name

Singing Eagle is now officially "Ingrid"!  Here she is showing off her wings... 

Monday, March 15, 2010


After looking back at the earlier pictures of the girls, I'm shocked at how much they've grown. Their feathers are filling in on top of their heads and I'm pretty sure I heard one of them cluck for the first time this morning... only once... the rest of the day there was still alot of cheeping going on.

I've included a link to a short video clip, just click on the title post to see the video, of Singing Eagle (I think she's really Ingrid, but I'm still not sure) taking a dirt bath and catches Ruby in the act of eating the tomato leaves. She's the only one that does this so far. But it's true, they will tear up and eat all the plants. I've seen them pulling up the roots of the tomato plants!

I'll try to get a few more pictures of the girls so you can see how much they've grown. Here's a recent one of Ruby and a link to one taken 2 weeks ago http://chickengarden.blogspot.com/2010/03/all-girls-photo-shoot.html

Coop progress...

After a couple of rainy weekends, I was able to make significant headway on the henhouse this weekend. Most of the outside is complete. It's mostly finish work that needs to be done... door closures, one more piece of hardware wire (my hand get's pretty sore after cutting 3-4 pieces of a 4 ft length), and cut the excess off the metal roof (more hand cutting with the tin snips).
This is the henhouse from the side.

On the left, Cutie is patiently posing next to it so you can get a size perspective. The front door (next to Cutie) is wide open. That's the door I'll be using to clean out the henhouse.

On the right, Cutie is inside looking out the side door that will connect to the run (tractor). There's actually a piece of wood that slides down into that door frame and can be lifted up or out.

Below right, Cutie is trying out the inside of the henhouse for size. I still need to install the nesting box, roost, watering can, and feedbox.

Left is the frame for the chicken tractor. It is 4x4x6 feet. I was able to build this in the garage last weekend while it was raining. But I ran out of time covering it with hardware wire. So that task remains until my hand is sufficiently rested to start cutting again. It usually only needs a day or 2. But I won't have time to work on it again until later this week.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coop door is installed

The chicken coop door is installed. Working on the roof next...

Fire peppers must die

I have 4 beautiful red bell pepper plants that are close to 5 feet tall and loaded with peppers. They've been producing all winter and I've been enjoying the peppers. But over time, the peppers have been getting hotter and hotter. At first I thought it was a fluke. But after roasting one this weekend and breaking into a severe case of hiccups after one tiny bite and a subsequent incident with a fresh pepper in my veggie wrap... these plants must go!

I don't do super hot food. I've never gotten hiccups from hot food before, but I can tell you, I wanted to rip my tongue out to make the burning stop.

The only thing we can figure is that one of the plants must have accidentally cross-pollinated with a hot pepper plant somewhere along the way. But since neither of us eat hot peppers, they are going to have to yield the valuable plant space to something we can actually enjoy eating...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Petunia takes flight

The girls are getting more used to their wings. Petunia is the most bold about it. Whenever I open their box, she runs right over and hops right up on my hand or the side of the box. Today when she was sitting on my hand, she looked up and the next thing I knew she was on my head... which I wouldn't have minded except for the high probability that my hair was about to be fertilized! Can't you just see the spunk in her little face?

They like to fly up to high spots, which I guess is good. I'm not discouraging the flying. Some suggest clipping their wings to prevent flight. But with all the predators around, I want them to have a flying chance if for some reason one gets out or a predator breaks in. If nothing else, they can beat them to death with their wings (I've seen ducks do this to dogs... they grab hold of their backs with their claws and flap like crazy!))

Just a little wind

Well, for 2 days now we've had wind advisories, which means wind gusts in excess of 35 mph, with gust expected to reach 60 mph. The first stress test for my garden structure. It passed with flying colors!

I watched it swaying gently in the breeze (read: hurrican force winds!) and, for a fleeting moment, I had visions of it taking off and sailing right into the mountainside behind our house! But it's still standing... Yeah!

You can see the pine shavings (mixed with chicken poo) from the brooder box spread out on top of the soil. It's almost time to plant!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Carrot killer

I always hate having to thin my seedlings. It makes me feel like a murderer. But it’s just part of playing the percentages. Survival of the fittest. If they couldn’t make it in the seed tray, they most likely wouldn’t have made it in the field, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t have been the best producers!

Now, it looks like every carrot and beet seed I planted has sprouted and I get to pick the strongest ones and thin out the weak ones. Fortunately, the chickens like the seedlings so they don't go to waste.

This is my tiny carrot forest...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chicken harvest

There are 2 things you can harvest from chickens on a regular basis... eggs and poo. Today, was the first poo harvest. It was time to clean the brooding box, so I took it out to the garden and tilled it into the topsoil. the poo and the pine shavings are excellent soil amendments and fertilizer. There are no pictures of this process... you can thank me later.

Their first outings

Yesterday and today I let them out of the brooder box to mill around in the large garden pots that we have tomato plants still growing in. They seemed to be getting a little fussy with each other in the box so I thought maybe they were feeling a little "cooped up"!

The pots are in the sunroom so it's safe and warm. I wrapped each pot with 1/2" vinyl harware cloth and put them in 2 to a pot. Talk about some happy chickens! They were singing so loud, digging, kicking up dirt, and taking dirt baths! Click on the title to this post to see the video of Ruby taking a dirt bath... Singing Eagle is helping?

Clara decided to try her wings out... again... this time she got out. My faithful and super sweet dog, Cutie Pie, (a 75 lbs German Shepherd mix) heard the commotion and found her sitting on the table next to the pot singing to high heaven. I'm not sure if she was saying "HA! I'm out." or "Hey, put me back in! What have I done?" She kept trying her wings out all day. I finally added a perch to the hardware wire which seemed to be exactly what she wanted. So today, Clara was the first to use a perch! Their legs are still a little wobbly when it comes to balancing on a hand, finger, or perch, so this is a milestone.

Another first, today I caught Clara and Ruby sleeping with their heads spun around and tucked into their wings (unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me). It must not have been too comfortable for them, because later I found them in the usually position... splayed out and face-planted in the pine shavings!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

All the girls -- The Photo Shoot

Here's a closeup of each of the girls taken the first day they arrived. They were very cooperative with their photo shoots. Each one very definitely has their own personality!

The one with the white head still does not have a name yet, but I affectionately refer to her as "Singing Eagle" for now. Why, you ask? Because all day long she sounds like a beautiful songbird and she's so scraggly looking she reminds me of a baby eaglet... and... because she screams like you're plucking all her feathers when you pick her up! I know you'd never know it from the peaceful look on her face in the photo. Once she gets over the initial shock of being picked up, she's fine.

The nearly all black one is now "Ruby". She's mostly sweet, but she will peck at you if you do something she doesn't like. She likes to hang out with "Singing Eagle".

It's hard to tell from this picture, but this little brown girl is the smallest of the bunch. She was initially the most skiddish but has come to be quite calm and friendly. She doesn't mind being held or photographed. It took a little longer to come up with a name that fit her sassy personality and cuteness all at the same time. Thank God for my dear friend Cari who helped me figure out that her name is "Petunia".

This beautiful brown girl is "Clara". She's the biggest of the bunch and appears to be the bossiest! She's also very sweet. Her and Petunia like to hang out together. Clara is very excited about her wings and is working on figuring out exactly how they work.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 2 with Chickens

It's still getting pretty cold at night here with temps dropping into the high 30's and low 40's. But daytime temps are getting up to the mid 70's. It's the high desert, or pretty close to it, so the temperature swings are wide. The girls are inside a fully enclosed sunroom, which keeps some of the cold out, but makes the highs inside closer to 90. Good temperature for baby chickens.

I have them in a homemade brooder box. Nothing fancy. Just a large plastic storage container, with pine shavings covering the newspaper lining the bottom. I bought a 5000 hour heat lamp which conveniently burnt out overnight in less than 18 hours. That'll be making a trip back to Lowes! But the girls did fine huddled together until the sun came out completely. Fortunately I had set the box on a drugstore variety heating pad which kept the temps from dropping too low. There are 2 lamps in the photo, one 100 watt heat lamp and a 60 watt regular bulb. I uncovered the right side of the box so you can see the inside, but usually covered... partially to keep the heat in and partially to keep the big brown girl from experimenting too much with her new wings!

Monday, March 1, 2010

4 New Babies!

I took the plunge today and adopted 4 baby chickens into our family. I am still working on the chicken coop in the backyard, but they won't need it for at least a month and it will be finished by then. The drive home with them was about 45 minutes. They cheeped loudly for about the first 20 minutes, but then it got really quiet. Great! I've only had them 20 minutes and I've already killed them... no relax, I'm sure they're fine!

I would have pulled over to check, but I was on the freeway with nowhere to stop. When I got home and looked in the box to check on them... they were all piled up in a corner sound asleep. I carried the box in the house... still asleep. I guess travelling must take alot out of chickens!

They sleep face down. They look dead, but they're really ok.

Today they are 2 weeks old. They fit in the palm of your hand. Their feathers have just started to come in and their trying to figure out what to do with their wings. They have not told me their names yet. I'll let you know when they do.