Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baby it's cold outside!

With daytime temperatures in the teens and twenties (it is 16° right now, at 11 am) chores at the Flat have increased. Water needs to be changed several times throughout the day, and warm food treats are appreciated by chickens and pigs alike. The piggies' fave seems to be spaghetti, although they also appreciated the string bean casserole that we received from friends Jane and Mac. (They know we gave it to the pigs, they didn't want it either!)

So far, the chickens' favorite winter treat is warm oatmeal with milk and honey. I read about it on one of my chicken forums where I went to seek advice about my injured black hen. Backyard Chickens and Community Chickens have both been very helpful to the "Just Hatched" newbie chicken owners.

Update: The black hen is improving, but she won't be completely improved until her feathers grow back and she can fly up to the roost again at night. At least the other hens do not seem to be picking on her, and she has maintained her authority over the new girls...a good sign.

Now that we have a bit of snow on the ground, there is a map of the day- and night-time activity around the Chicken Shack. It is easier to see how many critters are out there wandering around (or should I say stalking?) the girls. These poor chickens are going to be "cooped up" for the rest of the winter, if not longer. They do have a fenced area behind the shack, but they don't even go outside when it is this cold. Yesterday I left the doors on the coop closed all day and they seemed fine with that.

The Husband is headed back to NJ tomorrow to visit with some family members including Josh, Lisa, and their new baby Colin, who are up from Florida. I will try to get some pics of Colin up on the blog, but for now, here is one of Josh and Lisa from their wedding. This is the time of year when we envy your warm weather and your suntans! Don't look at that nasty picture above your heads!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holidays and hens

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday, or whichever holiday you celebrate. We had a nice quiet Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner, home alone. It was a very nice change from the usual running around, but still strange to not be spending it with family and friends. We did manage to visit friends Jane and Mac on Christmas Eve, and Don on the Hill just yesterday. What a spectacular view Don has from up on that hill! Some day I'll sneak up there and take some photos.

Hen update: Last week, I wandered out with the dogs to close up the chickens, our usual routine. The chickens magically all go back into the coop just as it is beginning to get dark, so I tuck in the girls and Roo while the dogs are outside getting into trouble wherever they can.

As I was coming down the driveway, I saw a black pile in the grass. I had to divert the dogs from investigating, and went over myself to find one of my black hens, on her back, feathers all around. She lifted her head up to look at me, but didn't move otherwise.

I closed up the rest of them, got the dogs back to the house, and came back to see her. She looked pretty awful, but when I put her in the crate in the coop, she at least was able to stand up and walk around. I couldn't really see how badly she was hurt because it was getting dark, but by the next day she was still wandering around and eating and drinking, so I am just going to have to assume she will be OK.

You can see in the photo that she is missing almost all of her tailfeathers, and is somehow injured on her back where her wings attach. Her wings are hanging down almost to the ground. Compare this the the photo of her healthy sister on the tree stump. The black hens have never allowed me to pick them up, much less inspect, and I'm really not sure how to look for wounds when there are feathers covering them up. I tried, but she was too stressed out to let me see anything up close. The best I can do is to keep an eye on her to see if she starts to get worse.

The large photo is of the 3 new girls, with their unusual blue-grey and coppery red feathers. The one closest to the wall is the one who has her own bad hairdo. It is tough being a chicken mom, and trying not to worry about all the little wars they have when they are working out a pecking order. I have read too many things about chickens being cannibals if one of them is suffering or bleeding, and now that we are keeping them all closed up to be safe from the mystery predator, they have to work things out in a tight space.

Not exactly what I want to be worrying about for the holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A bow for Lester for Christmas

I changed the masthead to a more seasonal photo for the first day of winter, and I added a bow for the big Lester for the holidays. Sophie was kind enough to allow me to change her photo on the side as well, although she is not quite as fond of the white stuff.

I was finally able to get the tree decorated, only to discover that the usually well-behaved Will has returned to his mischievous kitten days of wreaking havoc on the tree. Dave, the usual misbehaved one, looks like an angel in this photo, that's why he gets top billing today.

The 3 new hens were easily introduced, and act as though they have been part of the group forever. I am waiting for a sunny day to get a better photo of them. That, and one of them was apparently abused by a rooster, and she is looking a little shaggy. When her feathers grow back she will be much more photogenic.

The only bad thing about the new hens is that they have slowed egg production even more. I guess the stress of 3 new girlfriends, plus the 2 girls gone broody (sitting on their eggs even though we steal them every day) has put everyone in a tizzy. In their first few days we got only 1 or 2 eggs, today we are back up to 5. Let's hope they keep increasing the numbers, or I'll have to take down the sign in the window at Anna's store. So far, folks have been loving those "local free-range brown eggs"—they're buying them as fast as I can cart them up there.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Been busy and been to the Boro

Took a quick jaunt to the South Country on Saturday for a Christmas/birthday party for my little friend Maddie. Happy Birthday Maddie! I had an excellent turkey dinner with lots of goodies, and lots of good friends. The Husband had to stay home to care for the critters.

I also made a stop in the Boro to visit with Little Sis. Put the lights up on her tree, delivered some gifts, sat and chatted the day away, and then high-tailed it out of there to make my way back home on Monday. I did manage a stop in Lansdale to visit with The Boys (2 of my O'Brien uncles) and then jumped right back on the turnpike.

My missing Red Sweetie is still gone. There is a very slim chance that she went off to hatch her eggs somewhere, but I do not expect to see her again. She may be only a chicken, but I do miss her!

And, speaking of hatching eggs, now one of the black hens, I think it's Big Mama, is living up to her name and trying to hatch some of her eggs. Not good timing, Mama! We just started selling our eggs at Anna's store in Richfield Springs, and then we lose a hen, and a nesting box. With only one nest box remaining for the remaining 5 laying girls, egg production has slowed dramatically.

Mama is sitting on 4 eggs, but I don't know that she has figured out that she has to sit on them all day, every day, or they won't hatch. I would hate to see her sit on them for weeks and have no chicks to show for it. With cold weather getting colder, we will have to make arrangements to keep the chicks in the basement once they do hatch. Our coop is unheated, which is fine for the big girls and boy, but not healthy for the babies.

To solve the egg production issues, and to help me get over the loss of my Sweetie, we are picking up 3 more already-laying hens on Saturday. They are a New Hampshire/Blue Copper Maran cross. Two of them are in the photo above, one on the left, other on the right. The Husband haunts Craig's List and found these pretty girls on there last night.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Silly girls!

The nieces who visited with us in August, have made a little movie. I am sure (not!) that they wanted me to post it on the blog so that they could be famous. I have at least a dozen readers, I think that counts as going viral.

Since I am all caught up in Christmas shopping, Christmas shipping, and Christmas card writing, here is some silliness to keep you entertained until I get back to taking pictures of my own.

BTW, LOVE that shirt, Ella! Do you wear that every day?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sophie on the sunny sofa, still no Sweetie

Sophie had a nice sunny morning nap on the sofa today, but now the weather has turned nasty, somewhere between rain and snow, not that cold but it feels like winter.

Every day I go out and search for my Sweetie, but there are no places left that I can think of searching. The Husband still thinks she will come back, and I have read about hens that "go broody" and go off to hatch their chicks, but I don't think there are any safe places for her to hide herself or her chicks, so that would be a stretch of the imagination. I hope she died quickly if she is indeed gone.