Category Archives: chickens

Broken Beaks and Beauty

A broken beak can be a serious thing for a chicken. Beaks are their tools, their hands, their major way of interacting with the world.  Sometimes the bird needs to be euthanized, if the break is so bad that it can’t regrow. (I’ve seen some truly dreadful pictures of hens with their beaks broken entirely off. Shudder.)

Fortunately for Booty, her break, while serious, wasn’t quite that desperate.

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This picture was taken yesterday, after it had healed for almost a week. It is a lot less bloody and oozy. You can’t truly tell in the picture, but it looks like she snapped the entire top layer off, including the tip.  The below pic, for reference, is what a beak is supposed to look like.img_6826_zpsekzn5ajf

For a couple of days after it happened, poor Booty was clearly in a lot of pain, and although she clearly wanted to eat, she wouldn’t. Or couldn’t. The internet said that a snapped beak has nerves in it that makes the pain equivalent to a broken tooth. I kept dabbing some chicken-safe medicinal ointment on it, and kept offering her all her favorite soft foods. She wouldn’t eat. I seriously was considering putting her down, because I didn’t want her to starve to death, and I was afraid she must be in terrible pain. But then mom took her out some bread, and came back in with the wonderful news that she’d eaten some. It still took a few more days, but finally she is able to eat her regular food again, and is clearly going to be ok. Beaks can regrow if enough of the beak is left, and in her case I think it will. But that will be quite a few months down the road. Poor girl. I wish I knew how she did this to herself!

Except for Booty’s trauma, things have been great on the urban farm. The sunflowers are blooming.

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The skies are glorious.

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And I have a bunny barn FULL of bunnies. Two does, and their two litters, born one week apart. I think I have thirteen or fourteen baby rabbits in there. I’m not sure. I was busy, and put off getting an accurate count, and then…they were suddenly out of the nest and hopping everywhere…and getting an accurate count right now is impossible. I went out to the barn last night and watched them playing for awhile, and it is the cutest thing ever. At one point, they tired themselves out and just collapsed into this massive soft wiggly pile of sleepy bunnies! I did get a video of some of it – not the bunny pile, though, the light was too far gone at that point.

Colony rabbit raising is absolutely the best way to go. I feel so sorry for rabbits stuck in small wire cages, either all by themselves, or crowded in a bunch of babies, with no room to express their natural social behaviors. These two does are sisters, and have been together from birth. While they did get a little ornery and testy with each other (and me!) during their very first pregnancies, by this second litter, they have figured everything out, and are perfectly sweet with each other, and I can pet them without fearing a bite.

And the babies! They are so sweet with their babies – with all the babies. I am not sure if they nurse only their own, or if they just feed whichever babies are hungry. I know I have seen babies that belong to Thistle come up to Blackberry and attempt to nurse…but these does don’t believe in nursing when the human is watching, so I don’t know if they hop away because of me or because they are holding out for their own children. I suspect the former, though, by the way the babies are acting.

I should have gotten rabbits on the farm ten years ago!

 

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The Wisdom of Chickens

Hesitant…so hesitant to believe it’s real. They never imagined anything like this. Their whole lives, up until now, lived in darkness and pain and misery – not even truly aware of how miserable they were, because they couldn’t conceive of their being anything better.

And then someone loving lifts them up and away from all that evil, and brings them into a world of sunshine, green grass, soft nests, and treats.

Watching the above video, I couldn’t help but compare it to we humans. All of us were born into a dark, evil world – but because it is the only place we’re ever known, we don’t understand there is anything better. A lot of us don’t even realize how horrible this world is. We try to ‘look on the bright side’ and ‘think positive’ and ‘be the change we want to see in the world’, but all the time this world is wearing away at us, stripping us of our beauty until we are raw and naked.

But just like these chickens, we have someone who cares, someone who wants to rescue us and lift us away into a place of brilliant light and happiness – a place we can’t imagine because we have no frame of reference for anything so good.

God wants to save us. He wants to save you. But I wonder, when these people visited the factory farm to take these chickens home, how many other chickens ran away from their outstretched hands instead of running to them? How many chickens reacted in doubt and confusion and fear instead of joy? How many chickens flinched away back into the familiar darkness of their lives instead of accepting the gift of freedom that was being held out to them?

Babies, More Babies, and Baking (not the babies!)

The critters around here think it’s Spring. I have eight (possibly more) bunnies born yesterday, with second doe due on Sunday. This, I will admit, is my doing, since I did enable the affair. They were certainly enthusiastic participants, however! I still have three from the previous litter – one of them I actually sold. This handsome little buck is going to be a pet – and possibly getting a girlfriend later on.

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The Snowflake Bobwhite quail have decided to try for a family too. I’m not overly optimistic about success, since Buckbeak (my male) suffered a leg injury as a chick and has never had perfect agility since. I’m not sure he’s able to properly balance on Bellatrix in order to fertilize those eggs. They are so sweet, though.

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Buckbeak has taken to sitting on the eggs with her, and when she leaves the nest to stretch and eat, he moves over to keep the eggs warm. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’d love to see them manage to hatch out at least a couple of chicks!

I’ve also had two different chickens decide to go broody on me, too – despite me explaining over and over again that we have already had our allotted chicks for the year, and we really can’t have any more.

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So they are taking turns in the broody prison. I just released the last one this morning…I hope she’s actually changed her mind about babies and isn’t just going to sneak back onto a nest when I’m not looking.

I FINALLY got the girls’ musical instrument mounted in their coop, right above the oyster shell and grit where I know they can’t miss it.

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They are pretending it isn’t there. Not a single hen will touch it. I guess my girls just don’t have dreams of going on America’s Got Talent or the Kimmy Kimmel Show.

The guinea pigs have moved out into the large outdoor coop, and are loving all the space.

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Of course, their favorite activity is still coming up the wire to beg for treats. Both are especially fond of cherry tomatoes.

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It’s been too smoky from all the wildfires to do much work outside, so I’ve been doing lots of cooking and baking. You know how you tend to pin things on Pinterest but never actually do them? Well, I’m making a point of making the recipes I’ve pinned, and most of them are turning out! A pretty good percentage are actually keepers, and I’ve transferred them over to a new board “Recipes I’ve Made and Liked”.  Just yesterday, I made the Bacon-Wrapped Cornish Hens, and they were fantastic…and super easy. Besides the Cornish hens, I also made two apple pies with apples from my backyard tree (these apples make the most extraordinary pies…but I didn’t plant the tree, and have no idea what variety it is). One pie to bake immediately,

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and one to freeze for later.

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As you see in the background, I saved all the cores and peels to make three gallons of apple scrap vinegar. It’s so easy, and tastes just like store-bought apple cider vinegar. I use it for everything but canning. (Canning requires at least 5% acidity for safety, and I haven’t tested the acidity of mine.) Some apple scrap vinegar recipes tell you to start with yeast, or add sugar, or do all sorts of extra things. I do nothing but throw my apple scraps in a jar and add filtered water. Put some 90 grade cheesecloth over the top to keep out the fruit flies, and stir it vigorously at least a couple of time per day. You’ll notice it starts to bubble, and smell like hooch. Once the bubbles stop, and the apple scraps sink to the bottom after a few weeks, strain the scraps out, replace the cheesecloth and store the jars in a cool, dim place for up to six months. You’ll know it’s done when it smells and tastes like vinegar, and then you can bottle it up and use it like you would apple cider vinegar. When you make future batches, add a little of the dregs from your previous batch to kick-start the process.

In the same day, I also made Lemon Poppyseed Yellow Summer Squash Bread – you’ll find the recipe in my pinterest recipe link above. It’s a super way to use up those overgrown yellow summer squash, and you’d never know it has squash in it! I recommend cutting down the sugar by at least half a cup, though. Most comments on the recipe say it’s too sweet as-is, and I’m glad I followed their suggestion.

Dexter was glued to my side during all this baking frenzy, and boy was he ever exhausted by the end of it!

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It is hard work cleaning up all the scraps that accidently (and on purpose) fall to the floor. He didn’t even wake up during his close up.

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Finally, Amazon sent Bundy another cat bed in the mail, and this one, sadly, was slightly undersized.

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He did his best to make it work, though!

 

 

 

Rabbits and Other Critters

Let’s talk about the rabbits first. I wish I would have gotten meat rabbits years ago – they are fantastic! Such easy care, especially in a colony system, and I am discovering more uses for them besides meat. Sorrel, my buck, is such a tame sweetie, and his favorite food in the world is hedge bindweed…luckily enough, hedge bindweed is the greatest evil in my garden. I’ve taken to penning him outside in a bindweed-infested area, and letting him take care of the problem. This is pre-bunny:

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This is post-bunny (I removed the chair, once it was freed from its chains):

 

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In this pic, I’ve actually enlarged the area over to the left, so he can start cleaning the bindweed out of the compost/bucket storage area. He loves it! It’s amazing how quickly one bunny can make bindweed disappear! And for those of you who might have seen bindweed on the list of plants poisonous to rabbits, never fear. After turning the internet upside down and hearing from a vet with knowledge of bindweed, it turns out that there are two different varieties of bindweed: hedge and field. Field bindweed is the poisonous one. I have hedge bindweed, and it’s supposedly edible even to humans. I tasted a leaf, and while I was expecting it to be bitter, it was actually good. I’m still a little leery of eating it myself, however! It just seems…wrong.

We’ve had about five rabbit meals now, and each was terrific. I’m super impressed with how tender and good it is, and from six 5lb rabbits, I’ll be able to get around 19 meals for the two of us, counting things like liver and broth from the bones. I’ve heard you can even make rabbit bacon…I really want to try that!

In other critter news, the snowflake bobwhite quail pair has moved from one coop into another. They used to be in the ‘display coop’ in the center of my garden, but it’s really not a great cage for a flighty bird like bobwhites – too difficult to clean when I have to worry about them spooking and flying out. I put them into a slightly larger coop in the chicken garden.

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I’ve noticed that quail and chicken like to be in company with other; the chickens hang out around the cage and the quail like to watch them. Plus, the quail like to eat the fermented grain I feed the chickens, and in two days they’ve already learned what it means when I call the chickens to dinner, and they’ve started demanding their own share. Since they are so close, it’s easy to throw a little into their cage! They’ve also started building a nest. It would be nice if they decided to start a family – but they did try last year, with no success. The male has a slight leg deformity, and I wonder if perhaps he’s unable to mate her properly.

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The other reason I wanted to move the quail out of the display coop is because it’s difficult to wrap in plastic during the winter to keep out the wind and rain. The new plan is to keep part-time critters inside it, ones who will occupy it only during the summer, and in the winter will be moved inside. Specifically, a pair of guinea pigs!

I was not intending to immediately get the pigs, but I sort of accidentally-on-purpose wandered by the rodent section of a pet store, and they had this little girl.

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Meet Winnifred (also known as Piggo). I’ve had a number of guinea pigs during my life, and while most of them were nice, I’ve NEVER met a pig like this one. From the first instant she met us, she loved us. She snuggles under our chins and purrs and chatters happily the whole time we’re holding her. When she’s tired, she falls over on her side on my chest with her little legs stretched out and takes a nap. She likes Bundy, our cat, and isn’t frightened by our extremely excited corgi – even when he can’t contain himself and jumps or scratches at her cage.

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Now I’m keeping a look-out for a friend for her. I’d like one of the wire-haired ‘teddy bear’ type, but we’ll have to see what shows up.

Lastly, I tried the old cucumber trick on my cat. If you’re not aware of this, go to YouTube, and search for cats and cucumbers. It is hysterical.  Unfortunately, Bundy did not have quite the same reaction:

And I’ll end this blog with a couple of cat-in-a-box photos, because if there is one thing on earth Bundy is obsessed with, it’s boxes. When a package comes, he’s often trying to force his way into the box at one end, while I’m cutting open the other. This particular box…well, it was a bit of a tight fit.

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I’m not even sure where all of his body is!

Garden Things

Just a few quick things…and a chicken video at the end.

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I was reading the Art of Doing Stuff (highly, HIGHLY recommend her blog…and not just because I was the reader who told her about Grow a Little Fruit Tree!) and she mentions she puts zip lock bags around her baby apples to protect them from pests. I don’t really have much trouble with bug pests, but I do have crazy squirrels. I’m wondering if bagging the apples will be enough to throw them off?  It’s worth a try!

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Last year, my plum tree was eaten alive by aphids…until the ladybugs finally swooped in like batman in red spotted body armor and saved the day. This year, they learned where my plum is, and they didn’t wait until the entire tree was covered…only a few leaves.  Wait, don’t spray, and the beneficials WILL come!

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And finally, the chicken video, in which we all learn that Ellie HATES my camera. I don’t know why. It’s not as if she hasn’t had pictures taken of her since she was a day old…

 

A Garden Ramble

Sometimes I amuse myself in the garden. I like my garden moles. I like them even more when I move a hedgehog statue into one of their holes…

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I’ve been busy planting more things in the chicken yard. My mom read me an article that said the one thing that really improves a chicken’s wellbeing is not being able to see the entirety of their run at any given moment…they like having little nooks and corners to explore. My yard definitely fits that ideal!

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I should take you on a video tour sometime – would you like that? It’s basically a very long L shape along the east and south sides of my yard.  They sometimes spend weeks just in one particular end – and then they’ll spend a week at the opposite. It’s like they have vacation homes!

The Rex rabbit kits will be 10 weeks old this Saturday, and are such a lively bunch. I moved them out of the Bunny Barn colony at eight weeks because I bred one of the does (Thistle) and wanted to give them their own space to finish growing out.  Thistle has since had a litter of four very healthy kits! This colony system is really working out well.

Inside the house, I finally got my sourdough “mother” going so I can bake bread.

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I used Maryjane Butters’ book “Wild Bread” and I highly recommend it! Packed with info, cool pictures, and the easiest method of making a mother I’ve ever seen. One bit of warning, she does want you to buy $70 worth of brand-name bowls, etc, to get started, but you definitely don’t have to. I used what I had at hand, and it worked perfectly fine. So far I’ve made pancakes and waffles, and both were excellent. Sunday, my mother will be strong enough to try bread!

And I’ll end this with a few beauty shots of things growing in my garden. This is a water clover, growing in one of my pools.

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And these are calendula flowers. I love growing these intermingled with my vegetables because they attract bees, are so bright and colorful, and are edible themselves!

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Butterflies, Rainbows, and First Pears!

First of all…the pears! I planted this tree about four years ago, and this year, it not only bloomed for the first time, but it’s also setting quite a lot of fruit. It’s a Seckel, a miniature pear.

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Really happy to see this. I hope the squirrels don’t eat them all…the squirrels are becoming a major problem for my entire neighborhood. They are destroying everyone’s garden, eating everyone’s fuit, nesting in attics, and actually chewing off one neighbor’s house siding! They are literally just rats with fluffy tails, and one neighbor is going to try shooting them with a bb gun. I have my doubts he’ll manage to hit any, much less control the problem, and I suspect I’ll need to start treating this overpopulation of squirrels like I do when I have an overpopulation of rats. People….if you wouldn’t put food out for rats, don’t feed the squirrels, either. They are not “cute” when they start eating your house siding right off your walls!

What is cute is a mama hen, teaching her chicks to roost for the first time.

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Sansa has had it with nest boxes…she and her chicks now roost every night. They still snuggle underneath her, however!

We don’t have many butterflies in my area apparently – because I hardly ever see any, despite my garden being filled with flowers for them. One variety we do see occasionally is the Western Yellow Swallowtail. It normally flits through at top speed, and about the time I see it, it’s gone.

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Yesterday, it not only stuck around for several moments, it allowed me to get REALLY close with my camera! Such a gorgeous big one, too…it was fully four inches across.

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It felt like a gift from God.

Also a gift…when I got off work last night at 8pm, there was a rainbow waiting for me. It was so strange, because I’ve never seen a rainbow before when it wasn’t raining, and not only had it been sunny all day, but the skies looked like this:

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There was just one little patch of darker clouds over to the southeast, and a rainbow. By the time I got home, the skies surrounding the bow were darker still, there was only a little bit of the rainbow left:

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Thank you, Lord, for the promise of what’s past…and the warning of what’s to come.