The Coming Floods And Chickens

February 27th, 2015

Here in New England, all anyone can really talk about right now is the snow, or problems created by it, like ice dams, roads down to one lane, or a transit system that has completely stopped working. I think we’re all a little traumatized, and we never get a chance to recover, because it never seems to stop snowing. We get a day or two off, and then it starts anew. It hasn’t gotten above freezing at all either, so the snow doesn’t go anywhere. It just piles up on top of itself, and the landscape slowly disappears. My garden’s out there somewhere, but I won’t be seeing it until June. The chickens basically have a moat around the coop. I dig a path around it that’s just about shovel width, make sure the electric fence is free of obstructions, and that’s about all I can do. I only dug it out that much because I never expected it to snow this much. Now I can only maintain that width because in most places the snowbanks are too high for me to start expanding the trench. It’s not the worst problem, and it’s not as bad as we have with the house, where the snow from the roof has piled up so high that it is now higher than the roof itself. Now where do we put it? Please email me your ideas, and try to be polite about it.

roof snow

I wish I was making this up.

The thing not too many people seem to be talking about is what’s going to happen when this snow all melts. We’re so focused on the forecast and having our souls crushed by impending snow amounts that usually are nothing to worry about. 1-3 inches is normally just a dusting. I’m concerned no one is looking far enough ahead. I expect big problems on many fronts. The trains run erratically, if at all, these days. While melting clears the tracks, it also floods them. I was on a train that was delayed by a mudslide back in the late Fall, which was just caused by a lot of rain. I don’t want to be Mr. Gloom and Doom, but I see both gloom and doom in the future of my rides to work.

crystal ball

I have to stop borrowing Sir Topham Hatt’s crystal ball. It’s a total downer.

On the level of things I can actually do stuff about, I’m worried about the chicken run flooding once everything starts to melt. The way rain tends to flow is away from our house, and down close to, but past, the chicken coop. If it’s windy and raining, the run can get wet sometimes, but the roof I’ve put over it helps keep it pretty dry. But we’re not talking about rain, we’re talking about melt. So stuff in the yard will melt, run down towards the coop, and then hit the giant piles of snow down there. Will it be able to pass through if there is snow in the way? I suspect no. Does that mean it will flow into the run? I’m concerned it means yes. And that’s not even considering how my paths hold up. When they start to melt, will they collapse towards the coop? Will my paths to the coop remain passable? Will everything just float away? Am I thinking too far in advance? Should I be more in the present?

in the present

I didn’t mean this sort of present. However, I should also be more in this one so you can tie the bow.

Well, the problem there is that in the present, it’s the first day over freezing since January. This is why I’m in paranoia mode, but at least it didn’t also rain like they had predicted. There’s so much snow it’s not all going away today (though that would be awesome), but there’s also so much snow that all it takes is a little bit to melt and when it’s got nowhere to go, it makes for some big ol’ puddles. I’ve seen this in Cambridge, which has been a little warmer than where I live. You hit 33 degrees, and suddenly every intersection is a lake. I see open space (but not much of it, just my dear, dear paths that I’ve dug over and over and over) and I see water filling them up.

snowbank

Who am I kidding? We’re going to have giant snowbanks until June.

Granted, a winter like this one makes you pretty fatalistic. I have this idea that once we’re done with this, everyone will level up somehow. Like when Gandalf the Grey fought the Balrog, and upon his victory became Gandalf the White. I’m not sure what superpowers I’ll be granted in the Spring, but my hope is that they aren’t related to digging trenches to redirect large amounts of water. That’s not an very exciting power, and you don’t even get a cool white cloak or anything. What I think is really going to happen is that I’ll just be given the ability to think positively about things again. You know what? I’ll take it.

shall not pass

You shall not pass! (Because the plow guy filled my path again.)

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Coaxing The Piano by Zez Confrey)

Snow and Flat Rooves*

February 20th, 2015
m4s0n501

Our house has a flat roof. In some parts of the world, this is not such a big deal. In New England, where we live, it’s not entirely a big deal either. In Boston, the flat-roofed “triple decker” is pretty standard. I lived on the top floor of a row house with a flat roof through many terrible winters (including Boston’s snowiest!) and nothing ever came of it. So when we found a house we could actually afford that wasn’t a shoebox, we jumped on it. “Sure,” I thought, “Maybe once a winter I’ll have to get up there and shovel, but that’s not such a huge deal.” Then that first winter in our house it snowed all the time, and it occurred to me that since our house was only one story, all that square footage that seemed so appealing was also roof area that needed shoveling. I’d come home, tuck my son into bed, strap a light to my head, and go shovel the roof until I collapsed from exhaustion. After that first year, it wasn’t so bad. Even last winter, which seemed to never end, doesn’t stand out in my memory as a horrible roof year the way the first one did. Maybe I’ve just completely blacked it out. I hope, given this current winter, that this blacking out of roof shoveling is going to happen again. Historic though it may be, I don’t think I want to remember this February, at the very least. More snow is always on the way, it seems. At least I’ll have gigantic arms and one weird huge muscle in my back by summer, if summer ever comes.

six pack

I’ve got a six-pack, it’s just on my back.

What does this have to do with chickens? Well, the thing is, my coop also has a flat roof, and so does the run. I have made sloped, but not that sloped, rooves out of corrugated plastic to direct the rain away from the run and the coop. The run has a clear one, so the sunlight can come through, and the coop has a white one, to match the overall color scheme. They’re held together by flimsy, but cheap, pieces of wood called “furring strips.” The angle the rooves are at comes from hunk of a pallet that I stuck on the top of the coop. Rain runs off just fine, and it’s great to not have a totally soaked run after storms, because boy does it stink when it gets wet. However, with the constant snow this winter, I find myself having yet another roof to shovel, and this is one I can’t climb up on. I have to reach over my head as best I can and get as much as I can hold at this weird angle, and then try to find a place to throw it that isn’t already taller than I am. It’s a delicate business. It also makes the chickens go mildly bananas. I don’t think they like the noise, or maybe they’re just annoyed that I have to do it too.

brick

My degree is not in engineering.

I haven’t fully tested how much snow the roof can hold, but my expectation is that the four feet that we’ve gotten is probably more than it could have taken. I have added various braces in several spots, by which I mean bricks or big pieces of wood underneath that will stop the roof from bending too much if it’s weighed down. The furring strips have a little bit of give, but I don’t think it would be that hard to snap one. It hasn’t happened yet. Whether or not this means that I made a brilliant design decision by wedging odd pieces of pallets and bricks under long portions of the roof remains to be seen, but it’s held up so far. It’s actually doing better than my sanity, which is currently in the rear view mirror. As I write this, it’s already on the way to being the snowiest February on record, and we’re not even halfway through the month. I’ll be out shoveling the coop roof again sometime tomorrow, and I get the feeling this isn’t the last time, either. They say New Englanders are tough for putting up with all this, but I think it’s really just that we can’t leave because we’re plowed in. Then, by the time we get out, that repressed memory reaction I’m hoping for kicks in, and we have no idea we should get out of here before it starts happening again.

coop roof

One flat roof, viewed from another.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: True Blue Sam by Zez Confrey And His Orchestra)

*Rooves as a plural form of roof is dated, but not incorrect. The Oxford English Dictionary lists “rooves” as an alternate to roofs, one of several outdated spellings used in the UK, and in New England as late as the 19th century. If you can’t handle my use of it, you may getteth thineself bent.

Winter And Warping Wood

February 13th, 2015

I built my coop on my own, and while it’s not perfect, if viewed from a distance it looks pretty nice. If you get too close, you may be able to notice some areas where things may not line up exactly as they’re supposed to. It was never about perfection, so that doesn’t bother me. I needed a place to keep my chickens safe, and I needed to not spend what a store-bought coop for 6 chickens would cost. When I got my chickens, I chose to get six, because I had no idea what to expect. I feared they were fragile little things, and could possibly die if I looked at them sideways. Three seemed like too few, in case one or two did die. Having one chicken is a no-go, since they like company. Six seemed to leave me wiggle room for a couple dying, but then still having enough left over to make for a friendly social gathering. Of course, they were more rugged than I expected, and the cutoff for coop sizes seemed to be 5 chickens. To buy one big enough for 6 birds, prices doubled, and prices weren’t that cheap to begin with. So, for about what a small coop would have cost me, I was able to build both a coop and an enclosed run, using mostly reclaimed wood from various sources (including some bathroom stalls that had been in our house – it’s a long story). The hardware cloth to keep out varmints was the biggest expense, and there was no skimping on that. The rest was improvised.

coltrane of chickens

I’m like the Coltrane of chickens.

The original door into the run was a canvas stretcher I had pulled out of the trash at work. Working for the Art Department at a college has its perks. It was a pretty good sized rectangle of wood, and I figured it was probably more perfect in shape than anything I was going to be able to make myself. I reinforced the corners, added some hardware cloth and hinges, and affixed it to my creation. It was fine for the time being. I could get in and out to open the coop door and bring in food and water. However, I also had to squat down really low to enter. I knew it was going to be a temporary thing, but the length of that temporary period got shorter each time I had to do the Groucho walk to get inside.

groucho chicken

Oh, come on. You try drawing a moustache on a chicken.

Eventually I went out and bought some 1 x 6s, and cobbled them together into a door with whatever other scraps of wood I had handy, or could pilfer from the wood shop’s free scrap wood pile. (At some point, I started to grab anything that looked like it might be useful down the line, and became a bit of a wood hoarder in the process.) Now I had a door I could walk through like a normal person, and my chicken duties got easier. Or they at least involved less awkward bending and waddling.

 

bend and waddle

I can still bend and waddle in my spare time.

However, each winter I run into the same problem. At a certain point, the door will just not shut flush. It happens to various degrees, which in turn gives me various degrees of worry. I had always assumed it had to do with the cold temperatures making the wood warp. Last winter, I just needed to add a zip tie to one of the latches so I could get the door hooked shut without having to risk breaking anything (though I did end up ripping some screws out of the bottom of the door from pushing too hard to shut it – Hulk smash!). This winter, since it has not stopped snowing, I’ve realized the issue is that snow gets in the space between the bottom of the door and the run, and in doing so creates an icy barrier to closure that only a thaw (or maybe a heat gun) will overcome. This time around there is a good-sized gap between the door and the frame, even with the door latched. I’ve been stuffing whatever sticks I can find in there to plug the holes, figuring that an animal would have to touch the electric fence to get these out, and so wouldn’t get very far in their break-in attempt. This is really a flimsy fix even by my own slack workmanship standards. It doesn’t help that one gap has 3 sticks that I have to wedge in there in a specific order to make them stay. Luckily, my wood shop hoarding days have paid off. I found some pieces of wood that are a good thickness to cover the existing gaps, and leave extra room for if the gaps get larger, and I had already even painted them for some other abandoned and forgotten project. We currently have 4 feet of snow on the ground (and of course, more on the way, because winter is now an endurance sport) so running an extension cord out there to drill pilot holes may not happen, but I’ll find a way to get this done, and soon. This whole coop project has been about making things work, even if in an inelegant way. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this really just validates my hoarding, so I’ll have to make an extra effort to avoid the scrap wood box for a little while. I’m miles from campus right now, but I can hear its siren song already, telling me I never know what problem I’ll have next, so I’d better have weird pieces of wood at the ready. Can you hear it too? Shh. Listen.

bunch of sticks

Desperate times call for a bunch of sticks.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Untitled by Zeke Healy)

I Know Who Lays Which Eggs (A Too Many Chickens! Mystery)

February 6th, 2015

I’m no expert when it comes to a lot of things. In fact, I could probably do a very long-running podcast just on the things I am not an expert on. (Note to self: start long-running podcast on things you are not an expert on, amaze planet with breadth of non-expertise.) And while I feel like I’m still getting a handle on this whole chicken thing, even after several years of doing it, there are some things I do feel confident about. I know that anything new introduced into the coop will result in short-term freakouts leading to eventual acceptance. I know that if a treat is good enough, chicken society will break down as they pummel each other for the last morsel of something as unexciting as watermelon rinds. And, while this is not a complete list, I’ll end it by saying I know who lays which eggs.

chicken and watermelon

A whole slice to herself? Must be a dream.

“Now wait a minute!” you’re probably saying. “Just a few weeks ago you said you didn’t have any way of knowing who was laying which eggs!” Well, astute listener, thanks for picking up on that. I appreciate your ear for detail (or eye, if you don’t take in the audio portion, WHICH YOU SHOULD BE DOING). You probably also remember that I also clarified that I knew which breed of chicken laid which eggs. I don’t know for sure who lays which particular eggs, except for Boss Chicken, who lives alone, and therefore, if there’s an egg in her hutch, I’m going to bet it’s one of hers. In fact, her eggs are what helped me figure out the difference between Barred Rock and Buff Orpington eggs. Boss Chicken is a Barred Rock, and her eggs are smaller and browner than many of the ones in the main coop. Since Henny Penny is the only Barred Rock in the main coop now, I can then deduce that an egg that is smaller and browner than the others is hers. The Mandrell Sisters, being Buff Orpingtons, then would lay the slightly larger and paler eggs. I do on occasion get what I’ve heard referred to as “torpedo eggs,” which are quite pale, and about twice the length of regular eggs. Sometimes they’re even wider, and you can’t help but look at them and shudder about what it must have been like to push that one out. Due to the paleness, I’ve chalked these up to the Mandrells as well, though, since it’s an oddball egg, I suppose anyone could have done it, though Boss Chicken never has, which makes me think it’s an Orpington thing. So, I have a general idea of who is laying which egg.

tall egg

Damn the torpedo eggs (because they make it hard to close the egg carton.)

Or I did until I got the new chickens. And lately, tiny eggs of about the same brownness have been appearing in the bucket. Since they’re small, my powers of deduction told me they came from a smaller chicken. That leaves Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior as suspects. But unless I catch one in the act, I’m not going to be able to say for sure who it was. Steve and John are Wyandottes, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior is a Speckled Sussex. I don’t know what their eggs should look like to begin with, so I couldn’t match them up that way. In Flagrante De-lay-o was my only hope. But working all the time means the eggs get laid when I’m not around.

baby egg

A (smaller than usual) clue!

Until our recent brush with Snowmageddon. Trapped at home due to statewide travel restrictions, I decided to take care of some chicken duties during the daylight hours. I opened the coop, and there, in the bucket, sat Suzy Creamcheese Junior, looking at me like it ain’t no thing. Oh, it’s a thing, chicken. Even more of a thing if I come back later and there’s an egg there. And of course there was. So I got her number.

chicken in bucket

Stone cold busted.

Until a day or so later when there were two tiny eggs in the bucket. The chances of Suzy Creamcheese Junior laying two eggs in one day is pretty slim. And yet the eggs were almost identical. So did she lay two? Or are the two different breeds faking me out with nearly identical eggs? I don’t know. Like I said, I’m not an expert. And it seems any time an egg pops out of one of my chickens, my level of expertise drops a little. But expertise hardly tastes as good as fresh eggs, so keep it up ladies. Make me look like an idiot, as long as I’m well-fed.

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Trumpet: waldhorn33 – Paloseco Brazz Muted Trumpet Blues Samples)

Chickens And Personality Development

January 30th, 2015

One of the great things about having chickens is getting to watch their personalities develop. Well, not with Boss Chicken. She was running the show from day 1. Others take a little bit longer to come out of their shells, so to speak. When I entered the World of Chickens, I really knew very little about birds. My parents had had a couple of Cockatiels, but it was after I had gone off to college, so my exposure to them was pretty limited. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that chickens can have as much personality as a dog or a cat. Sometimes even more than some people I’ve worked with. They can grow and change, too. A shy chicken can become a bold one, and a mean one can become a nice one.

mean and nice

It comes from within, not without.

Boss Chicken is really the case study of this for me. We got her at a week old, and she was already terrorizing the other chicks. If they were on one side of the box, she would rush over there to be in the middle. If I put treats in, she’d knock the others out of the way to get the treats first. We really worried she might be a rooster, given how pushy she was. She also often escaped from the box, leading my wife to ask me the now famous (to us anyway) question, “Were all the chickens in the box when you got home? Because one was out when I left. AND I THINK YOU KNOW WHICH ONE IT WAS.” When Boss Chicken got bigger and the chickens all moved outside, she was even known to charge my son with a rooster-like malevolence. Then, she had whatever it was that triggered her legs to go all wobbly, and she became the sweetest chicken ever, who loves to sit on laps, or if no laps are available, on a foot.

footloose

Footloose
(must be Kevin Bacon’s foot)

Henny Penny was the opposite. She got her name because she was just constantly flipping out when she was young. Everything seemed to freak her out, and so I ended up giving her a name I felt was kind of an obvious name for a chicken, but it fit so well. However, with Boss Chicken unable to rule, and the untimely demise of Suzy Creamcheese, Henny Penny stepped up and has become the alpha chicken. It’s been really interesting to see her have to take a leadership position. I did not see this coming.

napoleon

Napoleon was about the same height as a chicken.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as the n00bs grow up and find their places in the flock. At first, they tried to hide from the grown-ups as much as they could. If a grown-up was on one end of the run, they’d all run to the other. It got hilarious when the grown-ups were spread out, and the n00bs had to just keep moving to try to avoid running afoul of the upperclassmen. If I let them out into the yard, they would split off from the others, and I would watch them try to sort out their own sub-pecking order. Obviously they were all beneath the adults, but who was lowest? They’d bump chests and chase each other around, and I think they’re still trying to work it all out.

science!

They can get pretty scientific about it.

Lately, though, one of them is getting over her fear of her elders. I started giving the chickens scratch once it started getting cold, but had to spread it all over the run because the little ones were too afraid to eat it next to the big ones. I’d make one pile at one end, and another far away from the first, sort of the kids’ table of the coop. The taste of sweet, sweet scratch has helped one of the n00bs find her courage. In the past week or so, when I’ve opened the coop door in the morning, who has been at the front of the line to get out? Suzy Creamcheese Junior. Who eats at the Big Chicken Scratch Pile? Suzy Creamcheese Junior. Who seemed least likely to be the tough one of the bunch? Suzy Creamcheese Junior. I’m not sure she really stands up for herself beyond scratch time, but I suppose this is a good start. Her forebear, Suzy Creamcheese, assumed power after the decline of Boss Chicken, so maybe she’s trying to live up to her name. This assumes that the chickens talk coop history at night before bed. Whatever the reason, I get a huge kick out of seeing this cute little chicken bust out the door before I’ve even gotten it all the way open. I need to start my day with something good, and this will do nicely.

chicken cereal

The breakfast of chicken champions.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Improvisation: Fast Blues In A by The Rev. Gary Davis)

Baby Eggs

January 23rd, 2015

If you’ve been paying any attention to me at all lately, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been a little concerned regarding my egg supply this winter. If you haven’t been paying attention to me, well, I suppose you missed that part. Take a moment and look over the last couple of posts, and then come back. It’s fine. I’ll wait.

hurry up

Hurry up, already!

Ok, now that you’re all caught up, things are getting slightly better. Boss Chicken, the Old Faithful of chickens, continues to chug along, producing an egg every other day, even though I had to move her back inside after winter remembered it was winter and got cold again. To make up for this inconvenience, I give her quite the feast every morning. A scoop of layer feed, a handful of scratch, a splash of apple cider vinegar, topped off with a blob of yogurt, and our girl is dining in style. It’s the least I can do. I’d be pretty bummed if I was inside all the time, but I think she’s much better off protected from the elements. If we ever get some days above freezing, I’ll bring her back out, pronto. The important thing is that she started laying again, and doesn’t seem to show any signs of stopping.

egg  laying

(Laying, frequent or otherwise, does not actually make a “pow” sound.)

Meanwhile, the other grownup chickens maintain their vow of eggless silence. Henny Penny had a really long molt this year, but I think the end may be in sight. The Mandrell Sisters look like they’ve finished molting, but are also holding out on me. It’s been pretty cold, and laying eggs is pretty energy intensive. I’d actually prefer they stay warm rather than lay eggs, so they’re off the hook for the time being. But sooner or later I’m going to suspect they’re staging a “job action.” Or you know, getting older.

chicken protest

They are quite active on some issues.

So that brings us to Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior. What’s their deal? They’re “of age,” so shouldn’t they be laying eggs? Probably. Could it be a case of nerves? No positive egg-laying role models? Just plain lazy? I’d been checking all the inappropriate spots for eggs to get laid by beginners, and I hadn’t found any. A popular place is always at the far end of the run, under the coop, in the furthest corner. A lot of the early eggs of the grownups ended up in there, and I had to keep a golf club handy to reach all the way under there and roll the eggs back, as gently as possible. Somehow I never broke one, and that’s the most use my golf clubs have gotten in years. But I looked every day, and the outside areas were eggless.

golfing chicken

The chickens use my golf clubs a lot.

I had dusted off my “decoy eggs” from the first generation and put them in the nesting buckets as soon as the n00bs were freely mixing with the old guard. These are plastic Easter eggs filled with dirt (for heft) and glued shut. It doesn’t matter that they’re the wrong color, it’s just supposed to give the chickens the idea of where eggs go. One night someone had knocked one out of one of the buckets, but hadn’t left anything in return. That seemed promising, but was still a false start. And come on, put things back where you found them, everyone.

signage

Signage is ineffective.

And then it happened. I opened the coop in the morning to pile chips on the previous evening’s poops, and there, under the roost, somehow un-pooped on, was a tiny egg. Not like, quail egg tiny, but smaller than what I’m used to. The n00bs are still little, so it makes sense their eggs might not be full-sized. While I didn’t entirely approve of the setting, at least it required little effort to get at the egg. Two days later, another egg appeared in the same spot. I considered taking it from under the roost and putting it in the nesting bucket to emphasize the point about where eggs are supposed to go, but I figured it would freeze there, since it was another cold day. I brought it inside and waited. Two days later, there was another egg, but this time, in the bucket! Someone (and I don’t know why, but I assume only one of them is laying right now) is getting the hang of it. She kicked almost all the chips and the decoy egg out of the bucket, but she’s still learning. Hopefully, when the others are ready, they’ll see what she’s been doing, and everything will end up in its proper place. If not, I’m used to it, and chickens do figure stuff out eventually. I’ve been this patient waiting for the eggs, think of how patient I can be when I’m actually getting them.

extra help

Sometimes they need a little extra help.

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: King Of The Air March by Charles Daab)

My Mother’s Eggs

January 16th, 2015

I don’t know, doc. When I first got my chickens a couple of years ago, I was very excited to get some eggs. I had gotten the chickens to eat the ticks in my yard, but egg laying was an extra bonus. Vermin control that comes with breakfast should be the standard. Mouse trap companies should be hiring me for this stuff, man. If they threw a bagel in the package, they could be throwing huge piles of money at me, right? The thing about chickens is that they are ready to eat ticks much sooner than they are ready to lay eggs. So while they were out there laying waste to the tick population in the yard, I was wondering when they were going to lay eggs for the human population of the house.

bagel mouse trap

You’re supposed to eat the bagel, but I guess this works too.

What? My mother? What does she have to do with this? We’ve already talked about her. No, you’re always trying to drag her into it. Fine, yes. My mother had taken a particular interest in my chicken project, and yes, when my mother takes an interest, my mother asks questions. And when my mother asks questions, she asks a lot of them. And she sometimes asks them all the time. And this is what she did when we were wondering when the eggs would come. Chickens generally start laying eggs when they are six months old, but everyone’s different. Some may start sooner, some may start later, but when you’re in the middle of the general time frame, and there are no eggs, the pressure’s on. I was excited for it, and my mom was excited for it, and it seemed like every day after month 6 she asked if I had eggs yet, and every day I had to disappoint her. Like I always do. Until that glorious day when I finally found an egg in the coop, and we could go back to living our lives like normal people. Yes, normal people who have chickens for eating ticks.

iconic

Iconic.

This year my mother got into the chicken lifestyle herself. We split an order of chicks, and so she looks after three little ones, Gladys Knight and the Peeps. We got them slightly later than I had gotten my original chickens, late June instead of early June, but I knew December was our six month line, and “eggcitement” was going to kick in. No, I was not wrong. This time around, though, there was less pressure on me, since she had her own chickens to worry about. She would occasionally ask if mine had laid any eggs yet, and then confirm that December should be the time, but I felt much less harassed this time around. I can’t say what her chickens went through, though. Are there therapists for chickens? They might need it. Do chickens get neurotic? “After all I’ve done for you! I bring you food, I clean your poop, I give you shelter, and I don’t even get any eggs for my troubles!” Whatever did go on, they didn’t seem to mind, since they follow her around wherever she goes in the yard, though, maybe that’s just out of guilt. But it sounds like she did something right. Mine regard me with vague suspicion, and really only stick around because I’m the guy with the treats.

eggscrement

Sometimes the eggcitement comes with added eggscrement.

Her first egg came right around Christmastime, which was probably one of the better presents she got. Since then, she’s gotten eight total, and she’s convinced it’s the littlest Peep who’s been laying them all. I’m not sure how she came to this conclusion, but I will admit that a lot of my chickening isn’t exactly scientific either. I can tell which egg came from which breed I have, but unless you catch them in the act, there aren’t really egg fingerprints, which I suppose technically would be cloacaprints, what? I told you, it’s their butt/egg hole. No, I don’t have cloaca envy, thank you very much. Anyway, until it’s clear they’re all laying, she can develop whatever theories she wants. She was a little nervous to take on this project at the start, but has since totally gone cuckoo for chickens, even before the eggs arrived. Now that they’re here, she’s even more into it. Meanwhile, I’ve only gotten one egg from one of my new chickens. I guess that also gives her something to feel good about. She’s leaving me in the dust, egg-wise, because I can never do enough. I had chickens first, I taught her everything she knows about chickens, and yet here I am with one lousy egg to her 8. She texts me every time she gets a new egg, and my chickens can hear when I get a text, and they know what that sound means. Yes, I know that this is not a competition, but why can’t I ever come out on top for once? What do I have to do to . . . oh, time’s up? See you next week, then. NO, I don’t know when I’ll have eggs for you.

chicken text

I ought to just put them on my family plan.

(The voice I use to imitate my mother is for comedy purposes only. My mother is a good sport (I hope). Hi mom!)

(Also, thanks to Wren Ross for her always helpful guidance, but particularly insightful suggestions on this one.)

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Childhood Memories by Beluga Ten, kitchen timer sound by maphill (with some looping on my part), and the ding sound effect by JohnsonBrandEditing)

Winter Eggs

January 9th, 2015

Winter is a pretty rough time for everyone. Where I live, we have to deal with cold and snow, and then get grief from people who live in colder, snowier places about how we don’t know from cold. If it’s so warm, perhaps you’d like to cover my heating bill, Minnesotans? Anyway, regional temperature disputes aside, winter can be rough because we also get less light. I might be able to handle the cold if it was at least not dark when I both leave for, and return from, work. Probably not, but it’s worth a shot. The issue with the light is that this is what also helps chickens lay eggs. They need a decent amount of it for eggs to happen, and in the winter, the amount we get is hardly decent.

light bulbs

Skip the one on the right.

Of course, I do have new chickens, and they sometimes start laying in the winter without realizing they don’t normally do this. At least in the first year. My original flock was dropping half a dozen eggs a day on us from December to around June their first year. Their second year, they didn’t lay any eggs from exactly one week before the Winter Solstice to exactly one week after the Winter Solstice, which really underscores the need for light. It also kind of freaks me out. I guess I’m intimidated by how in touch with nature they are.

singing chicken

From the “Songs For The Winter Solstice” record.

It’s been six months since I got my new chickens, so they should be starting to lay any day now. I actually picked breeds that are good winter layers, to try to help me through this dry period we get in the winter. But they have to start laying before they can be good layers. It could be solstice-based, or maybe they’re just not ready, but they have yet to get into the egg business. All things come in time, but it’s hard to be patient when you want a nice breakfast on the weekend. The time will come, and then I’ll be worrying about whether or not I need more egg cartons, or who at work has asked for eggs but not gotten them. But right now, there is little on the egg horizon.

on the lookout

On the lookout for eggs in the crow’s, er, chicken’s nest.

That is, except for our old friend Boss Chicken. I had brought her inside at the beginning of December, as I mentioned in a previous post. It got too cold at night, and I was worried about her being alone in the cold, with no one to clump with for extra warmth. Of course, in our storage room, I also worried about mice trying to get at her food, until the day I came home and there was a dead one in her cage. Leg problems or not, she is not to be trifled with, and my mice worries lessened. She might actually have a higher body count than our very lazy cats.

cat vs. chicken

Not that it’s a competition or anything.

Christmas Day was so warm (relatively, at least) that I figured I’d put her back outside to enjoy the weather. She hadn’t been out there for more than 10 minutes when she laid an egg. She has a window in the storage room, so she gets natural light, but either it wasn’t enough, or she was so happy to be back outside that she just egged herself. Either way, I’ll take it. She’s always been a pretty reliable layer, and seems to be easing back into her every-other-day routine, even if I bring her in at night and put her back out the next day. The other grownup chickens are either still molting, or at the tail end of a molt, so they’re not going to be laying just yet. That leaves Boss Chicken as head of egg production, at least for the time being.

egg manager

Egg Manager/Big Chicken On Campus

The days are getting lighter, and the new chickens are getting older, so it’s only a matter of time before we have an egg surplus. I hope Boss Chicken can keep up until then. She’s approaching henopause, so I actually wasn’t expecting many more eggs from her. But maybe my worries about aging chickens were unfounded. If so, the others need to step up their game. Then the youngsters can see how it’s done, and we’re back to a fine-tuned egg machine. Basically, I’m sick of oatmeal. Won’t these chickens think about my diet?

Oatmeal

Boredom really cleans out your colon.

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: My Isle Of Golden Dreams by Selvin’s Noevelty Orchestra)

Who Says Roosters Can’t Be Cuddly?

January 2nd, 2015

Video proof they can!

I’m not saying you should date one or anything, just that they aren’t always as mean as you may have heard.

(Remember, new full Too Many Chickens! posts start next Friday!)

 

Happy Boxing Day!

December 26th, 2014

My present to you is a video of a chicken sneezing.

(Click the speaker in the bottom right of the video if you’re not getting the sound. You want the sound, trust me.)

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