Category Archives: chickens

Beginnings of the Bantam Coop

The weather here has been…unpredictable, to say the least. We’re past the snow and the below freezing temperatures, I’m happy to say…but literally we can have all four seasons within a two hour period. Last Sunday, it was cloudy with a couple of stray showers, and I was trying to build up enough enthusiasm to go outside and work anyway. But then the skies abruptly opened, and TORRENTIAL rain poured down…and out of nowhere it got windy, and the road outside my window turned into a lake, and the wind was blowing the water down the street and up into the air, and it was…kind of cool, actually. My mom asked, “Are you still thinking about going outside?” And I said, “I think that dream is over.”

And then. And THEN. Five minutes later, the wind went away, the rain went away, and the most glorious sunshine you ever saw came pouring out. Friends, I grabbed my chance, and went outside!

Over the next couple of days (none with such glorious sunshine, however) I did a few things that needed to be done. Including setting the foundation for the new bantam coop.

This area, back behind the pigeon coop, is definitely a work-in-progress at the moment. It’s looking pretty terrible. Actually, maybe you should just pay attention to the cute corgi! There used to be a compost pile back here, but I’ve decided my new method of composting will be to throw it all in the bantam run, and let the chickens do the work. So I moved the third guinea pig coop back here.

It is currently wrapped in plastic to keep out the winter wind. But eventually, the pigs will be bindweed patrol for the herb garden further behind it, and this area underneath and in front of it.

And this is the foundation for the bantam coop.

The chickens will be able to go underneath, but I primarily want it raised off the ground to keep rats from burrowing under it.

And here’s a view from the other side, looking down what will eventually become a covered bantam run.

No corgi in this picture. 😦

And I’m happy to say I will quite possibly be getting turkeys again this year! Last year’s turkeys were an accident (the breeder sent me turkey eggs instead of the chicken eggs I ordered) but this time I found a local breeder of White Midget turkeys. They are the smallest breed of turkey, the females are about as big as a large chicken hen, and when Mother Earth News did a turkey taste test these guys were rated the best tasting by far! I plan to get around 4-6 poults (baby turkeys) and keep one pair to breed, and harvest the rest. I love having sustainable, humane sources of meat on my urban farm. Did you know that those butterball turkeys you buy at the grocery store have been commercially bred to pack on the weight until they can barely stand on their own by butcher date? The female turkeys have to be artificially inseminated to be bred, as the turkeys themselves are incapable of breeding naturally due to their size? As Joel Salatin would say, “Folks, that ain’t normal.”

Forget Winter…Spring is Coming!

The snow is all gone now, and good riddance! I will never, ever be a winter person. There are really only two things I like about winter: getting to wear my Icelandic sweater, and watching the trumpeter swans migrate directly over my house. Sometimes they honk as they fly, and that is one of my favorite sounds in the world. Sometimes they are silent, but fly so low I can hear the soft flapping of their wings over my head. I love that, too. I am so grateful to live exactly where I am! While the snow was keeping me from working in my garden, I baked. Woman Scribbles is the ONLY recipe blogger I follow, and she’s amazing. I have tried several of her recipes and they are always super easy to make and turn out fantastic. All but one have been “I MUST make this again!” successes, and the one I tried last week…oh, my goodness. I am addicted to it. I made a loaf two different times during that week, and I’m making another tomorrow! It’s her Cinnamon Roll Bread Loaf and look how complicated it looks. Don’t believe it…it’s the simplest thing ever. Seriously.

And after it bakes? Gorgeous! I’m drooling just looking at it.

The other thing I did while I waited out the snow was get started on my seed planting. I have tomatoes, onions, and leeks started now, with brassicas to follow tomorrow. It is so satisfying this time of year to stand in my greenhouse, hands in the dirt, with that lovely warm smell of spring filling the air.

Especially when your view outside of the greenhouse is this:

I mentioned last time that I made a new strawberry bed as a trial, using a non-pallet version of Lovely Greens’ design. Here it is.

I will line the inside with landscape cloth, then punch holes for the strawberry plants as I fill it with compost. Like hers. She used straw in this particular photo, but I shy away from straw because so much of it is contaminated with herbicides these days. People of ruined their gardens, using straw (or even cow manure) from non-organic places.

I’ll be able to grow around 40 strawberry plants in this. If it does well, I’ll build a second one next year. I’m also testing out a couple other methods, because you can never really have too many strawberries! I bought two of these garden grow bags. I’ve heard good things. We’ll see!

I also bought a Mr Stacky planter.

And lastly…to get ready for spring, I set up the brooder for the meat chicks.

I was hoping to get them this week, but the USPS has gone all villain-ish and put an embargo on all live animal shipping. This is a truly tragic thing, because the hatcheries have already put those hatching eggs into the incubators, and whether or not they are allowed to ship, those chicks WILL be hatched. Hundreds of them, across the USA. The hatcheries can’t delay this, and once the chicks hatch, they are either forced to find local homes for them, or kill them. The hatchery I got an email from said they were fortunately able to find local places to accept their chicks THIS week, but if the embargo doesn’t end by next week, it will quite possibly mean those chicks will be killed. And of course the hatchery will have lost a lot of money, and some of the hatcheries are small family businesses, and won’t be able to survive. This embargo is NOT about the weather. According the USPS, it is because they are behind in their deliveries and have decided to prioritize non-living packages over living ones. This is, of course, is the complete opposite to what they should prioritize! It makes me so sad. I’m really praying the embargo is lifted next week, and those chicks can be shipped. Every life is a precious thing, and shouldn’t be wasted.

So I don’t have to end there, on that note, I’ll tell you about one more favorite thing of mine. These seed sprouting jars. I love them. My mom got them for me for Christmas, and they are the easiest way of sprouting seeds I’ve tried.

This week, weather permitting, I plan to get started building something. Not sure what. The new greenhouse for the chicken yard that I’m going to plant with comfrey? Could be. Remodeling one of the old quail coops to hold two of my free-ranging herd of bindweed devouring guinea pigs? Needs to be done soon! Or maybe start work on the new bantam/pigeon coop? So much I want to build! Come on, sunshine! Or least…please don’t rain. Or snow.

Oh, yeah. And I also need to put my rabbits together for a play date, and get some new baby bunnies started! 😉

Snow Day!

Where I live in the PNW, snow is rare. We can go years without anything but the lightest dusting…if we get anything at all. Today I woke up to about five inches of the white stuff, which was enough to get me a paid snow day off at work! As I write this now, it’s still snowing, and we’re up to about eight inches. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to start melting, and the temperatures are supposed to stay above freezing even at night, so this is basically the perfect kind of snow. It comes, it looks gorgeous, then it goes quietly away within a couple of days, without turning into crusted ice.

Dexter, my corgi was extremely excited. He loves snow. We took him a long walk, and he enjoyed every second…even though the snow cmpletely buried his legs.

What was strange though, is I let the cat, Bundy, out into his catio, thinking he’d avoid the snow…but he loved it too!

Predictably, the ducks were ok with it, and they looked mighty pretty out roaming about the garden.

The chickens were less impressed. They HATE snow. Absolutely hate it. They took one look and refused to come out of the coop…even though they normally can’t wait to escape the coop every morning.

Goosie (who assumes she is a chicken because she was raised by a chicken mom with chicken sisters) thought she’d hate it too. But once I shooed her out into it, she couldn’t figure out why the chickens were being so weird about it.

I was going to show you the new raised strawberry planter I made, but now it’s covered in snow, so you’ll have to wait. Though it doesn’t look like it at the moment, spring will be here very, very soon, and I am rushing to get ready. I have my tomato seedlings growing in the kitchen window, and tomorrow I’m starting more seeds. I made a 3D paper mockup of the new bantam coop I’m building, and am so eager to get started building the actual thing…but first priority are some other projects. Update on those in my next post, once this white stuff goes away.

Oh, and if I needed anymore proof of spring on the way? Watch this:

New Additions to the Farm

I had a birthday last Sunday, and it was raining, so of course I went to the local nursery and picked up four new blueberry bushes: a Chandler, a Duke, a Kathren, and an Olympia. I have a row of blueberries in the front yard, and last year they did well enough that I actually got to freeze a nice sized bag of berries. So we decided to pull out the gooseberries that were nearby. Three of the gooseberries were replanted in the chicken run, and two others I gave to a friend for her chicken run. This left a nice place to plant more blueberries. Which I did. In the rain. On my birthday. This is how an urban farmer celebrates her birthday…playing in mud!

You can barely see the blueberry plants in there…they are just bare twigs at this point. The area in front used to be the Shuksan strawberry bed, but there is too much bindweed here for that to work out well. Also too many wild rabbits, but another project this year was putting black chicken wire all along the bottom two feet of the perimeter fence to keep them out. I like cute little bunnies as much as the next girl, but there is a nasty disease they can carry and spread to my domestic rabbits, so I want to at least keep them off the property. So I still need 1 -2 more blueberry bushes for here, and I’m moving the strawberries to a version of Lovely Greens’ raised strawberry planter.

She uses reclaimed pallets, but I don’t have those (and I’ve heard many of them are contaminated with chemicals) so I’m using regular wood. Hopefully it works out well. It would be nice to get the berries off the ground – no rotting berries, and no slug damage! I also have an order in with Raintree Nursery for a few more Shuksan plants.

Looking slightly further ahead to Spring, I’m making plans for which eggs I’m hatching out this year. Since I lost my sweet little cochin bantam hens (who were supposed to be my broodies) I’m starting out from scratch. I want to hatch out some more cochin bantam eggs, as I’m building a new coop/run that will be safe from hawks. I also found an amazing guy on Ebay who sells serama hatching eggs. He lives in a place that gets really cold winters and really hot summers, so he’s bred his birds to be extremely hardy. My winter/summer conditions are not so extreme as his, but I do love the idea of seramas that don’t need special care. If you’re not familiar with seramas, they are the world’s smallest chicken. So freaking adorable!

I’ve always been interested in these, but resisted for two reasons: the lack of hardiness, and the fact that they are so small I worried about predators if I just mixed them in with my full-sized flock. They are just so so so CUTE though! (If you’re on instagram, follow mad4hens…she has a mini flock of the most adorable little snuggly serama birds.)

Also, because I’m down to just one hen left of my original four bobwhite quail (old age took the others away) So I’m hatching more. I won an ebay auction for 12+ Snowflake bobwhite eggs, and those are my favorite. They are so beautiful.

I had a Brinsea mini incubator that I was happy with, but the automatic egg turner on it stopped working, and it’s just a little small. So I decided to upgrade slightly to a Harris Farms Nurture Right Incubator. Unlike my old one that could hold 8 chicken eggs, this one holds up to 22. It also has an egg candler build right in!

As so many of my eggs are fancy breeds that need to be shipped, the usual hatch result is 50% of however many eggs you incubate. Eight eggs in means only four hatched…and two of those could be roosters! Not great odds! I’d like to have enough chicks so I can choose by temperament/color which ones to keep and which ones to sell. The new incubator is coming today in the mail, and I am excited! Wish I could pop some eggs in right away…but it’s still a bit too early for chicks.

I have so many projects this Spring – it feels a bit overwhelming, honestly! I already have a ‘honey do’ list as long as my arm…and the problem is, I’m the honey. Besides building the new bantam coop/run, I’m remodeling two of the guinea pigs coops, and a former rabbit hutch into a broody hen coop, building a new moveable pigeon tractor to put those birds to work, building a greenhouse in the chicken run, and building numerous raised strawberry/garden beds – oh, and building a small raised pond for my goldfish. Plus there’s all the ‘fun’ projects like birdhouses, guinea pig chalets, and yard furniture I’d like to make.

Lots of building. So much building. Strange to think that a few years back I hardly knew how to use a hammer!

Sad Times

I had a few sad animals deaths on the urban farm recently. First though, let me say that Ellie the miracle chicken is perfectly fine. She’s around eleven years, and still doing great. But my bobwhite quail were getting quite elderly for quail, so it wasn’t a great surprise when my last little female snowflake, Bellatrix, passed on in her sleep.

I’m already planning to hatch more in the spring, because bobwhite are a pure joy to have around. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some more of the snowflake eggs.

Then, a few weeks later, I found Ophelia dead in the chicken run. No sign of sickness, and a postmortem examination turned up nothing obviously wrong, so I think she just died of an age related heart attack or stroke. She was a heavy breed, and not young. She was a wonderful girl, though. Always a visual standout in the flock, and so sweet and willing to hatch anything kind of critter I gave her, even a goose.

Then, the most sad death happened, just last week. One of my bantam cochin hens was missing at bedtime. A search of the chicken yard revealed that she’d been killed and eaten by the merlin hawk that lives in the field behind my property. This hawk primarily feeds on pigeons and other wild small birds, and is too small to take a full-sized chicken. It’s never bothered the banties, either…until now. I think the problem was a combination of its normal hunting ground being torn up by developers (who keep coming tearing up the field and destroying all the habitat and wild bird nests…but then never actually building anything – and they’ve been doing this for YEARS now and it frankly pisses me off) and also because the banties were all molting, and thus looked much smaller than they usually do.

And, of course, out of the three banties, the one killed was my favorite. Millie, who I called “Little Friend” because she followed me around and loved to snuggle on my lap. She was an absolute sweetheart.

I knew the other two banties weren’t going to be safe now that the hawk knew it could take them, so I made arrangements for a friend to take them both…and in the meantime, I put together a covered makeshift run to protect them.

I thought it was safe. It was completely wired in, with a tarp over the top. That hawk, though…. I went out mid-afternoon, and found the big chickens all hiding at the complete opposite end of their yard, as far away from this makeshift run as they could get. And they were looking up and acting jumpy and nervous. I thought they’d just seen the hawk fly over, so I wasn’t too worried, but I went to check on the banties anyway. And found one of the two remaining banties dead. The hawk had waited until she was scratching around close to the wire, then struck her through the wire and killed her. She had a couple of talon marks on her, but because she was still behind the wire, the hawk hadn’t been able to eat her, just pulled a few of her wing feathers out.

Because my friend has only standard-sized chickens, I wasn’t comfortable sending one banty all by herself to integrate with a new flock, so I thought of a different friend who has a flock of just banties. I asked her, and yesterday Keri came and adopted the sole survivor, Mollie, into her own flock. She says she thinks Mollie will end up being the alpha hen, and I believe it. Despite her size, Mollie was always a dominate girl. She had the goose completely terrorized of her!

This whole situation makes me very sad, both because it’s always difficult when animals die of anything other than natural old age – especially when you feel you should have been able to keep them safe, and you didn’t – and also because I really loved having banties in the flock. I loved how adorable they were, how sweet tempered and good at being mommas they were, and also their small eggs. Because it’s just the two of us, I often split recipes in half, and it’s always been an issue when a recipe calls for just one egg. I know you can whip the egg, then split it that way, but it feels like a waste. I discovered that banty eggs were perfectly sized to be “half an egg”, and I loved that.

So now I’m thinking I will get banties again, but they won’t be able to run with the regular flock. I have a section that I could fence off and cover (with smaller hawk-proof wire!) for a run that would be perfect for three little banties. It would also be a secure place for them to raise any chicks, since I’ve long been worried about the potential dangers of letting the mommas and babies run with the regular flock. Not because the other hens would hurt them – they never would – but because of all the various dangers involving water buckets, escaping through fence holes, or predators that can befall such tiny creatures.

I feel bad about my regular hens too, because they don’t understand why the banties were killed, they don’t realize their own size difference in comparison to the Merlin. All they know is they saw two of their own killed, and they are worried they’re going to be next. The morning after I found the first dead banty, two of my girls led me over to the sad little pile of feathers to show me what happened. One of them was Penelope, the dead banty’s particular friend. They both stretched out their necks, peered cautiously at the place where it happened, made the churr churr sound chickens make when they see something bad, then looked up at me. They had such worried, upset faces. Anyone who says birds don’t have feelings and emotions like humans do is absolutely wrong. Hopefully the hawk will move on now the last banty is rehomed, and they won’t keep getting re-traumatized by it flying over.

But to end this on a happier note, since it’s now winter and the outside garden is put to bed for the winter, I have been busy these past couple of months gardening inside. As of right this moment, I have eight tropical fish aquariums in my house, five of them in my bedroom. They range in size from 2.5 gallons to 45 gallons, and they are bringing me such joy. I’ve been following Father Fish on YouTube, along with a score of others, who believe that the way aquariums are commonly set up, with a inch or so of gravel, some plastic plants, and a smattering of chemicals to keep everything alive is a travesty. It’s possible to have a natural aquarium, one with a dirt substrate, real plants, and hardly any human tampering once it’s established and balanced. I love this so much.

Father Fish has a great rant on the subject of how the traditional methods of keeping tropical fish is destroying the hobby, and I agree with him.

I find it really difficult to take nice photos of aquariums, but here’s one that turned out fairly decent. It’s prettier in real life, though!

I absolutely love the idea of capturing a piece of actual nature, and it really is so simple.

Guinea Pigs Loose in the Garden?

There are people who claim that guinea pigs can’t be kept outside. That is absolutely incorrect. As long as they are acclimated to the environment, and have a dry, protected hutch, they will thrive. They are regularly kept outside in England. My pigs are loving their outdoor life…especially now, as they are officially useful, working homestead pigs!

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The worst problem in my garden (and it is a really, really severe problem!) is bindweed. This stuff is incredibly evil, and it will not die. None of the methods I normally use for unwanted weeds works at all on bindweed. The only thing that works is pinching every last bit of new growth off at the ground the moment it appears. But my garden is way too big and full of far too many plants for that to be possible.

In a few sections where I was trying to grown annual vegetables, I’m giving up and switching over to an above-ground-and-piggie system. Because the ONE THING bindweed has going for it is that it is edible for animals. My rabbits, ducks, goose, turkeys, and chickens will all eat it – although the chickens really aren’t fans, so they eat very little. My rabbits, on the other hand, LOVE it. But I can’t let the rabbits into the annual vegetable garden because they also LOVE all the other veggies. And rabbits jump. They will happily jump up into the above ground planters I’ve switched over to and eat the veggies.

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So no rabbits for bindweed control. I could pull it by hand, since it won’t become a threat to the veggies until it has grown knee high. But why do that, when you can work with an animal?

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Enter the piggies. Guinea pigs don’t jump, and love to scurry around planters and eat bindweed.

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Their new garden patrol is fenced off and safe, and they go in and out of their hutch at will…including putting themselves to bed well before dark. They only thing I have to do is shut and lock their door. So far, it’s working perfectly. If it continues to work, I will have to consider getting a second group of piggies to work the front veggie garden!

(And if you’re wondering why the strawberry plants look so terrible, it’s because I transplanted them in the middle of summer, and they are objecting. They are already growing fresh new leaves, though, so they will be gorgeous in Spring.)

I love giving the animals I love a natural life, filled with the things they enjoy!

In other news, the turkeys grew up to five weeks old, and were mostly independent. One of their two bantam chickens moms decided she had taught them everything necessary, and went off to live with the other chickens in the main chicken coop. The other mom was sticking with it…sorta. She still slept with them, but didn’t really spend any time with them during the day. So I decided it was time.

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Within 15 minutes of posting them on my local facebook poultry group, I was fielding questions from four interested people. And then about 5 minutes after that, one guy took them all. He has a little farm, and although he’s been raising a few modern breed turkeys for thanksgiving each year, he is now getting interesting in becoming more sustainable, and wants these guys to be his new breeding flock of heritage Red Bourbon turkeys! So brought all five to work with me at the library, and he picked them via our curbside pickup. I have the best boss, honestly. When I texted her the night before to warn her I was bringing my turkeys in with me, she just said she couldn’t wait to see them.

Next year, if these bantams volunteer again, I might see what other interesting eggs I might get them to hatch. My mom suggested peacocks! Hmmm…..

I thought the turkeys would be the last babies on the farm this year, but it turns out my Muscovy hens had other plans. I don’t remember if I blogged about it, but my drake had a thing happen to him very early this year. He had a prolapsed penis, which resulted in him losing his penis. This isn’t a problem for a male duck, as the only thing he uses his penis for is fertilizing the females…he can still go happily through the motions of mating (and does all the time!) but he can’t actually fertilize those eggs. Or so I thought.

About three months after the…hem…incident happened, one of my females, Tabitha, went broody. I let her sit on the (I thought) infertile eggs while I decided whether I was going to get some eggs for her from somewhere else. I ended up checking the eggs just to be sure…and wow. There were babies developing inside! After checking with someone who checked with her vet, it turned out ducks can hold sperm inside them for up to three months. Okay, I thought…they just barely made the deadline!

And then, something went wrong late in the game, and the eggs didn’t hatch.

So that was it. No ducklings on the farm this year….or so I thought.

About a month ago, my second hen, Tilda, went broody. This was a good FIVE months after the…hem…incident happened. No way this girl’s been holding sperm this long. It’s scientifically impossible…isn’t it?

I let her sit, while I considered my options, and finally decided I’d just take the eggs away because it’s getting late in the season, and I really prefer having babies earlier. But just to be 100% safe…I checked the eggs.

And…there are babies inside! What. In. The. World. How is this happening? I’m thrilled to have a miracle drake who can apparently father children without a penis, because I really wanted to have a sustainable little trio of muscovies, and I love Tiberius and don’t want to replace him with another drake.

But really….what is going on here?

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And then, after Tilda went broody, Tabitha also decided to go for a second attempt at being a mother.

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Tilda has somewhere around ten eggs underneath her, and Tabitha has four. Tabitha’s eggs are also developing. Tilda’s eggs are due to hatch sometime next week? Maybe? I didn’t mark down the exact date, because I was so sure they weren’t fertile. Tabitha is due maybe a week after that. I’m pretty excited, guys.

And extremely puzzled.

In the garden, the grapes have wrapped themselves decoratively under the eaves of the chicken coop.

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The bees are buzzing around their favorite flowers, which are leeks. I don’t grow leeks for the leeks, ya’ll. I grow them strictly for the bees!

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And the artichoke is getting closer to flowering as well. This is also for the bees. And for the drama! If you’ve never seen an artichoke flower, you’re missing out.

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But the real star is Goosie. She is turning out to be the most perfect addition. She’s extremely chatty, but she only gives the loud and obnoxious alarm call when she really feels there’s a problem…like when she first saw the guinea pigs roaming around! Those piggies are clearly chicken-eating monsters. But after giving the alarm, she settles right down. And she’s so sweet and affectionate.

I’m loving having a goose in the flock.

Duck, Duck, Goose…Turkey?

Lots of babies and flowers happening on the urban farm. First off all, Sophie the goose (or Goosie, as she is commonly called) is growing up SO FAST. This is a video from a few weeks back:

Even though she was fostered by a chicken, along with two chicken “sisters”, she is very friendly to me, and will happily leave her chicken family to follow me around. I should have kept this video going, because right after I turned it off, she walked through a patch of calendula, and came out with a flower on her back!

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I let her take it back to the chicken yard as a present for her chicken-mama. She is super sweet with her adopted family.

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If you can’t quite see what’s going on in the above photo, Goosie is snuggled in against her mama, and her two sisters are snuggled in on her back. They treat her almost like a second mother.

Today, I took the picture below. Goosie is easily larger than her mama now, but she still snuggles with her sisters, and they follow her around the yard. The two little chickens now have names. The soft grey one is Elsa, and the brown one is Anna.

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The three male pekin ducks I had shipped with the goose are also much larger. And today, they found a muddy place in the yard to play in! Duck joy!

 

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And in the biggest baby news…the accidental baby turkeys have hatched! Out the six eggs that were mistakenly shipped to me, five are now official turkey poults. They are super cute. I’ve always had a fondness for turkeys.

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These five turkeys were hatched by two sisters, a pair of bantam cochins. They sat together on the eggs in the same nest, but I wasn’t sure how it work once the eggs hatched. Would they divide the poults up? Would one hen steal all of them?

As it turns out, they are excellent at co-parenting. The poults treat the two hens equally as their mother, and both hens work together to feed them and keep them warm. It really is the sweetest thing.

I’ve been allowing the muscovies free-range status in the back garden, even though they are squashing down some plants. They are just so happy! And they like to follow me around while I’m weeding and chat to me.

In the garden, things are growing.

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Including pears. It’s going to be a good year for pears.

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And calendula. I love this new variety I found. Notice that the back of each petal is striped!

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THIS isn’t what I ordered….

So I mentioned in a previous post that my two little bantam cochins have gone broody, and are sitting together in a nest post waiting to be mamas.

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I really don’t need any more chickens this year, but I feel like all my critters deserve the chance to fulfill their natural desires, whenever possible. Plus, I do love having babies around.

So I decided to order some fertile eggs for them, with the idea I’d probably sell the offspring later on as young pullets. I chose a breed of chicken I knew was perpetually popular in my area: marans. Specifically, these gorgeous French Marans in a mix of colors: blue, black, and splash.

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Marans have very dark brown eggs, like this:

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So…when a box showed up at my door (delivered by a very excited mail delivery woman, who is interested in getting a rooster for her hens–but that’s another story) and the eggs inside the box were not very dark brown, but were beige and speckled….

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….I knew a mistake had been made, somewhere. And they were also quite larger than I expected….

Turns out I’m hatching some turkeys this year!

Red Bourbon Turkeys, to be exact.

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I contacted the seller, both to inform him of the mistake, and let him know there was likely someone else out there expecting turkeys who had gotten my box of marans eggs. He was very apologetic, and offered to send me the marans eggs too, but as I only have two small broody hens, and these are quite large eggs, I said I was happy to just keep the turkeys.

I’ve always wanted to raise some turkeys, y’all. But I expected to get one of the small breeds of turkey, like the Midget White, not a full-on HUGE turkey breed like Bourbon Red. These guys are around 33 pounds when full grown! I may not keep them to full size. I probably won’t. Once they’re old enough to leave their mamas, I’ll sell them, and probably make a bit of a profit. Who knows. Maybe I’ll keep one, and raise my own Thanksgiving dinner!

And the seller – so nice – said to keep him posted, and if my broodies don’t accept these eggs, let him know, and he’ll send those Maran eggs out after all.

Life never fails to be interesting.

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Gosling, Also Penelope.

Goslings are too freaking cute. Also, so friendly!

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She and the lavender orpington chick have become besties. I’ve seen the chick running after the gosling as if she were her mother. And they also eat together, and nestle under the broody hen side by side. It’s extra cute, since they are the two with the largest size difference.

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No one minds having an oddly large, ungainly chick with a strange accent in the family!

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Sophie the gosling is so cute when she snuggles in her mother’s feathers.

In other chicken news, I raised a few meat birds, and this year it turned into quite the sweet and heart-warming story! I bought an automatic chicken plucker with part of my covid stimulus money, so wasn’t quite dreading the entire process as much as usual. Chicken plucking by hand is definitely doable, but it takes time, and is NOT particularly fun. I assembled the unit (the Sportsman brand, if anyone’s looking for an inexpensive, but quality machine) and got everything else ready.

And then the machine didn’t work. It wouldn’t even turn on. I checked all the instructions, then mom tried to call the help line, but of course it was Sunday, and they were closed.  The frustration was immense. I had nine birds – five of which were crowing roosters – and they needed to go. I was already overdue, because I’d been waiting for the plucker to arrive. I finally decided to just go ahead and do them by hand…and then mom saved the day by finding a review online which mentioned having been equally frustrated, by the same issue. It turned out that the instructions left out a critical detail, and two little stickers needed to be perfectly aligned when you put the drum on the base…or it doesn’t turn on! Seriously? Why would they not put that in the instructions! And the stickers just said ‘top’ and ‘bottom’, so it seemed like they were just informing me as to which way the base and drum were situated, not that those stickers needed to be matched together. Sigh.

But after that, everything went perfectly. Almost.

Two of the meat birds were not roosters, but hens. One of the hens was skittish and not friendly at all. The other…the other was a genuine little sweetheart. I don’t really spend much time with the meat birds, but this girl purposely sought me out, from the time she was a chick. When I would sit and hold one of the layer hens, she would come over and jump up on the arm of my chair and snuggle in against me. I tried not to fall in love. But I sort of was. I mentioned to mom how sweet she was, and that little meat bird played the same tricks on mom. It took mom about five seconds to decide we had to keep her.

So meet Penelope, once a meat bird, now a member of the layer flock.

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(She looks slightly horrified, because I’m holding my camera. I swear, I do not beat my chickens with my camera. I don’t know why they hate it so much!)

So I processed all the other meat birds, cleaned everything up, and put everything away. I took a relieved breath because all the noisy roosters were gone, and I didn’t have to fight them off every time I went in the chicken yard to feed the hens. Seven young roosters create a LOT of chaos.

And then I looked out across the chicken run. And I saw…a rooster. A meat bird. Just standing there, looking back at me.

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No. No no no no no! I couldn’t have miscounted. I couldn’t still have one meat bird left.

I had. I did. Bloody freaking roosters!

I couldn’t face dealing with another bird right then. He got a temporary extension. I have a friend who will be asking me to process her extra rooster a little later, so I guess I’ll do this one along with that one. And I must say, it’s like he KNOWS. I have never seen such a quiet, unobtrusive rooster. I rarely even catch sight of him. Smart little buzzard.

And lastly, two of my three bantam cochins, the little mini flock known as the Fluffernutters, have gone broody. I’m considering my options. I would really like to see these adorable tiny birds raise some adorable tiny babies. So maybe. Meanwhile, they are sitting on non-existent eggs together and look so cute.

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I feel kind of sorry for the fluffernutter who isn’t broody, though. Suddenly, she’s all by herself, among the Big Girls…and she doesn’t even have the flock of meat bird roosters to chase anymore. (The bantam gang had those big ol’ roosters terrified! This little fluffy girl would come strutting out, and the roosters would scream and run for the hills.)

Broody Hen Adopts Gosling

The last few weeks have gone by so fast! I was furloughed from my work because of covid-19, so I’ve just been avoiding public places and enjoying life on my little farm. I’ve actually been doing a lot more cooking/baking and crafting lately, but I have done a few things outside.

I have a few places in my yard that are basically a no-man’s-land, as far as planting in the ground goes. So this year, I decided to reclaim one section by using above ground planters. It’s out of the way, behind the chicken coop, so rather than investing in something expensive, I just went with large storage totes. So far, it’s been brilliant.

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If you notice that some of the leaves are a bit…nibbled on, that’s the fault of my chicken, Ellie. She likes to help out in the garden, and takes her pay by taste-testing my veggies for me.

One of my Muscovy hens has gone broody, and has staked claim to a corner of the overflow coop.

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She’s super sweet, not aggressive at all, and completely unflappable. My corgi managed to get in the coop with her yesterday, and stood there, barking in her face, and she just sat there and waited for him to go away. I did not think the eggs were fertile, because my one drake suffered a penile prolapse early this Spring, and ended up losing his…ahem…male equipment. This isn’t a problem for him, but it should mean no fertile eggs for me. I ordered three pekin ducklings to foster with her, but the day before they arrived, I double-checked her eggs by candling them, and miracle of miracles–about five have babies inside them! I don’t know if they’ll manage to hatch, but since they should be due any day now, I’m holding onto the pekins, and hopefully if she hatches some muscovies in the next few days, I’ll be able to slip the pekins in with them. I can’t give them to her now, because she’d abandon the eggs. You don’t know how hard it is to avoid snuggling three perfect little fluffy yellow ducklings! But I don’t dare give them much attention, because then they would imprint on me, and not accept her.

And speaking of perfect little fluffy creatures…along with the pekins, I got my future chicken guard goose! Meet Sophie.

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She’s a tufted Roman goose, and is currently being fostered by my best broody hen, Ophelia. Ophelia didn’t even bat an eye at this strange new baby. Along with Sophie, I gave Ophelia two chicken chicks too, because I wanted Sophie to have ‘sisters’. Chickens are mean girls, and it really helps if you’re brand new, to have a few brand new friends.

I still need to figure out names for these two. The silvery grey one is a Lavender Orpington, and the brown one is a new hybrid called a Colorpack. It’s part Cream Legbar, so I will have colored eggs, either blue, green, or pink.

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And just to show the size difference between a chick and a gosling…here’s Sophie and her sisters:

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And here’s a video of Ophelia and Sophie:

It is so so so so HARD not to snuggle this gosling! Goslings are possibly my favorite baby animal, and Sophie is so calm and sweet. She keeps walking over to me and looking up at me with this adorable expression.

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I’m hoping that once she’s safely imprinted on Ophelia, that I’ll be able to snuggle her. Ophelia won’t mind. This is the hen who, when I pick up one of her babies and the baby yells, runs over and pecks the baby to tell her to stop acting like an idiot. Humans are friends! They bring us food!

It’s going to be so much fun to watch Ophelia and her three mismatched children explore the chicken yard.