Quail, Chickens, and the Garden

The last week (whenever I wasn’t at work) I was outside.  Seriously – on my days off, I was outside gardening and chickening from when I got up in the morning until it got dark!  The weather has been utterly fantastic, and there’s been nothing I want to do more.  It’s my favorite time in the garden.  It’s too early for the roses to be blooming, but everything is so lush and green.

The small vegetable patches are coming along well.  I have peas, beans, lettuce, nasturtiums, kale, onions, and sunflowers in this little square.  Oh, and dandelions!  Did you know nurseries sell dandelions as salad greens now?  While we have plenty of American dandelions (and I would never dig them out of my lawn as they are fantastic culinary herbs – and beautiful as well!) I was eager to try the fancy Italian version Christenson’s was selling.  Very cool.  Hopefully this is the beginning of Americans appreciating and savoring this ‘weed’.

I also have started a new vegetable patch, this one situated in one of the chicken yards.  They are fenced off from it for now, but at the end of the season, they’ll be allowed in the clean up.

They had a brilliant time helping me dig it out and prepare it for planting.

I love gardening with chickens – they make everything so much more enjoyable.  And they are such decorative additions.  The hen in the picture below is of Josie, our Barnvelder.  A few days ago, Josie had the best day of her life.

It began with tragedy, though.  Our much beloved and loving hen Molly developed Sour Crop, and after a couple days of feeling poorly, she died while I was holding her.

Since we were suddenly down a hen, and since I knew a couple of people who had just successfully had their broody hen adopt chicks purchased at the feed store, we decided to give that a try.  Josie, you see, is a Broody Hen.  She spends most of every summer sitting in the nest box, doing a pretty spot-on imitation of a basilisk.  See?

The feed store lady said it wouldn’t work.  She said it never worked.

This is me, Skeptical Feed Store Lady, informing you it can.

Josie now has three adopted babies.  In keeping with our tradition of naming the chickens after Royalty, meet Isabella, Elizabeth, and Frederika.

Isabella is a Cream Brabanter.  This is what she’ll look like when she’s grown up.

Cream_brabanter_pullets_thumb-ShowMeSilkies

So unique!  But right now, she looks like this.

From certain angles, you can just see the ridge across her head where her mohawk will grow in.  She’s extremely adventurous, just like her famous namesake.

Elizabeth is a Blue Andalusian.  Or at least we hope she will be blue.  With blue chicks, you have only about a 50% chance she’ll end up actually blue.  She could be black, or splash.  But if she is blue, this is what she’ll look like, grown.

Right now, she is the most ethereally beautiful chick I’ve ever seen.

She’s nearly silver in the sunlight, and so tiny!

In contrast, Frederika is round, and fluffy, and looks rather owlish.  She also wears entirely too much eye liner for such a young chick!

Freddie is an Ameraucana.  She will lay blue eggs, and will have the most gorgeous bearded face.  There’s no telling right now what color she’ll be, but here’s one grown ameraucana hen to give you an example.

DSC04465

Josie can’t get over how marvelous her babies are.  After we gave them to her, she looked so astonished, and then she just began to purr and purr and purr.  Happiest day, ever.  And she’s so sweet.  Since she loves and trusts us, we can play with, handle, and cuddle the babies and she doesn’t mind.  The babies don’t mind, either – except when they’re rather be hunting worms in the yard.  (Yes, at just a few days old, they are already eating everything mom does!)

Yesterday, I went into their pen, and as soon as I sat down, Josie looked at me, then went off to have a dust bath, leaving me to baby sit.  The babies were a little freaked out by what their mother was doing, so they perched on my fingers and watched from a safe distance.  Best way of raising new chicks ever!

And what do the other hens think?  Although we keep them separate for right now, we’re carried them in and introduced them to their nieces.  Rather than being aggressive as I feared, they actually are quite skittish and freaked out by these tiny little cheeping invaders.  Their faces were quite something to behold when they first saw them – I wish I’d taken a video!

In other news, the quail coop is slowly coming along.  We laid wire in the bottom of the foundation as part of the predator-proofing.

And then we filled the dirt back in and planted various grasses for a natural quail habitat.  Now we’re working on the above ground parts.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be ordering the eggs!

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8 responses to “Quail, Chickens, and the Garden

  1. What a beautiful story! I’ve never seen a hen growl before. Josie is a treasure!

  2. Another awesome post!

  3. Your garden looks so green and luscious. Mine looks like a sand pit in comparison, but then the last of the snow only finished melting 2-3 weeks ago.

  4. I so wish I was going to Costume con – I don’t think we chatted about our parallel existences last year… Love your gardens. Right now mine have weird chicken wire art all over the place so the ladies will let the perennials sprout properly. We have 4 grown up hens, 5 -2 month old hens, 2 -2 month old Welsh Harlequin ducks (which both turned out to be drakes – booooo), and another brooder going with 5 more keeper chicks and 8 expendable red-shirt meat bird chicks… 25 chickens is probably too many, in case you’re wondering…

    • I wish I were going to Costume Con too, but this year I’m not. All the extra money is going into the garden/yard! That’s awesome that you’re a chicken-keeper too. Just a warning, as someone who has had three male ducks without any females (you’d think at least one of the three ducklings would have been a girl!) male ducks can get pretty sexually frustrated when they are grown. Not in a mean way, but they do tend to follow their human around and nip her legs! I had to find them another home where they could be happier.

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