Posts Tagged ‘cats’

Like boxes of poop in your house? Get a cat!

January 11, 2010

Yesterday there were 12 cats living in our garage where they were safe and warm. Now they will be sleeping in the shed, hopefully, so they will stay somewhat warm. The garage was OK but they pooped everywhere. And I mean everywhere! They pooped on top of Tim’s tools, under the mower, in any box that was halfway open, on any cloth or container that looked interesting. Tim is finally sick of it since they are his tools, and he does live right above the garage. So he threw them out today and cleaned up a bunch of poop. Anyway, here are the cats that are currently outdoor only cats:

  • Mama Cat*
  • Scotchy and Little Gray* from Mama Cat’s first litter
  • Stinky* from Mama Cat’s second litter
  • Toby, Butch, Hannah Montana*, and Big Eyes* from Mama Cat’s third litter
  • Swirly Junior from Little Gray’s first litter
  • Goose, Oscar, and Gunny* from Little Gray’s second litter

The following cats are indoor/outdoor cats. They are mostly indoors at the moment because it is so cold.

  • Vicious from Mama Cat’s second litter (obviously he’s turned out to be a sweetie or he would not be in the house!)
  • Tubby Boat* and Captain Gray from Little Gray’s first litter
  • A picture of a cat named Miss Tubby Boat

    Miss Tubby Boat

The following cats are indoor only cats, including the two we brought with us from Phoenix.

  • Riley
  • Cleo*
  • Booter from Little Gray’s second litter

The asterisks indicate the female cats. Only Cleo is fixed. It is possible that Goose and/or Oscar are female, but I can’t remember as the last time I checked they were tiny and I wasn’t really sure if they were female or not. We should get some fixed, I know. I’d like to get Mama Cat fixed as she’s already had 3 litters (that we know of) and she is not the nicest cat. She can be sweet to us, but she is a bitch to the other cats. She is a pretty good mama cat, at least until her kittens reach a certain age and then she is mean to them. Her kittens are not the friendliest either. Some of them are OK and some of them are mean like she is. Little Gray’s kittens have been really nice so far, but her second litter hasn’t been around us much so I have a feeling they will not be quite as friendly. So I think if I had to choose, I would get Mama Cat and all of her female kittens fixed. I might leave Little Gray and Tubby Boat unfixed as they are both pretty sweet cats. And then, if we need more cats someday I will just take all the cats offered on Freecycle. 🙂

What do I love?

August 25, 2009
Aidan giving Mo a ride in the wagon last autumn

Aidan giving Mo a ride in the wagon last autumn

I found this article via Deborah at Antiquity Oaks. The main point is that people should focus and write about what is important to them, what makes them happy. Deborah posted her own list of what’s important and I thought I’d share mine. Incidentally, I also read another article that it’s better to have a loyal audience than to post everday. I’ll add a link if I can find it again!

First, I admit I check my stats. I find it interesting to see how people get to my blog, what search terms they use, what other blogs they read, etc. I have noticed that if I write a bunch of posts about cats and kittens, I don’t get as many hits. But you know what? That’s OK with me! And that starts my list:

  • I love cats and kittens. (As I type this, I have big old Riley on my lap and Swirly, Junior curled up by my legs!) I feel such an affinity for cats. I love their soft fur, especially the softest fur behind their ears, their little meows, their whiskers, their fastidiousness, their independent nature. I love the way they play with things and the way they wiggle their butts when they are about to pounce. I love that they have such a great sense of hearing and smell. I love their rough, sandpapery tongues. I just love them and I will write about them even if I know no one will read except my grandpa, who will roll his eyes the whole time since he hates cats as much as I love them.
  • I love my children. Love isn’t really the right word because it doesn’t even come close to the whole body and soul experience of being a mother. I don’t write about them as much because, for me, parenting is so personal and also political. My parenting style is outside the mainstream, but I love the way we do things. I just don’t feel like explaining or justifying that aspect of our lives. I do love that we are not sending them to school and that their education takes place on our farm and in nature. They have learned so much about animals and the circle of life since we moved.
  • I love watching the chickens. They aren’t playful and cuddly like cats, but they are fun. Sometime they are silly because they take themselves so seriously. And I love telling Chicken Joe he is a handsome rooster. I think I tell him every day. I also love the sound of a young rooster learning to crow. It’s not a pretty sound by any means, but it still makes me happy.
  • I like to sit outside on a beautiful day on a blanket with the kids, watching the animals, working in the garden, and just relaxing.
  • I care about the planet and the food I put into my body and into the bodies of my children. While there are certainly improvements I could make, I am at least aware of what we are eating and try to avoid horrible chemicals that shouldn’t be in food in the first place.
  • I love thinking about the way these things are all connected. Homebirthing, breastfeeding, eating and buying local food, gardening, raising our own meat, unschooling, homesteading. It’s all connected and it’s all good for us and for the planet.
  • I love to read, love books and libraries. I used to read just about anything and stick with it once I started, but now I am picky. There just isn’t enough time to read a crappy book. Yet, if I am bored or tired, the back of a cereal box will do nicely for reading material.
  • I care about animals and how they are treated, how they live, how they die. I do not want to eat eggs from a hen that shares a tiny cage with 6 or 7 other hens, can’t even spread her wings, and has a horrible quality of life.
  • I like planting and working in the dirt.
  • I like repetitive motions, such as sweeping, crocheting, rocking. They are very soothing.
  • I care about my friends and family (though at the moment they wouldn’t know it because I’ve been horribly out of touch since we got back from Phoenix). I want them to be happy and joyful and loved.

Cats and kittens

August 14, 2009

OK, today you get pictures of cats and kittens. (Tomorrow might be snakes. I know you are all very excited!)  These were taken almost two weeks ago, so the kittens have grown a bit since then. They are still cute and playful, though.

Here is one of Little Gray nursing two of the kittens. The kittens are about 3 months old in this picture. They eat plenty of hard food so are obviously in the process of weaning (and have been for a while!). I find this interesting because I know that when people sell kittens, they sell them when they are around 6-8 weeks old. Clearly, they will nurse much longer when given the chance.

Little Gray nursing Captain Gray and Tubby Boat

Little Gray nursing Captain Gray and Tubby Boat

This is Tubby Boat. She has some beautiful markings and is pretty friendly.

Tubby Boat

Tubby Boat

This is Swirly, Jr. He is the only kitten who has the privilege of going both indoors and outdoors. We bring him in at night so he is safe. He sleeps on our bed and plays with our toes and snuggles and purrs. We are all totally smitten with this kitten! 🙂

The cutest, sweetest kitten in the world.

The cutest, sweetest kitten in the world.

This is Swirly. You can see why the kitten is named Swirly, Jr. as they have almost identical markings. The biggest differences are that Swirly’s eyes are a beautiful amber color, whereas Swirly, Jr.’s are a little more brown. Also, Swirly, Jr. has a thin white stripe on his head. Of course, at the moment Swirly is much bigger than Swirly, Jr. We have other names for Swirly, such as Big Swirly or Uncle Swirly. Sometimes we call Swirly, Jr. Little Swirly or SJ or

Swirly rolling around on the sidewalk

Swirly rolling around on the sidewalk

This is Vicious, one of Mama Cat’s second litter. I thought Vicious was a girl, but now there is no doubt Vicious is a boy. He has turned out to be pretty friendly, considering our rough introduction

Much less vicious these days

Vicious, who is much less vicious these days

Here are Little Gray’s kittens playing.

Kittens playing. From left, Captain Gray, Swirly, Jr., and Tubby Boat

Kittens playing. From left, Captain Gray, Swirly, Jr., and Tubby Boat

A closer view of Captain Gray. He’s the least friendly, but I am sure that he will get friendlier as he gets older.

Captain Gray, one of Little Gray's kittens

Captain Gray, one of Little Gray's kittens

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

Why I became a vegetarian

June 17, 2009

I have always loved animals and have always been concerned about their welfare. I remember my brother being not-so-nice to the neighbor’s cat, who later became our cat. And he was not always nice or gentle with our cat Pookie, who was supposed to be my cat, but ended up suffering from Stockholm syndrome and loving my brother more than me. But I digress. I also feel compelled to say that my brother outgrew that stage and now is an upstanding soldier, pet-owner, and dad.

In high school I wrote a paper about animal rights. I even tried to talk my anatomy and physiology teacher into skipping the cat dissection. He wasn’t convinced, but at least he seemed to take my concerns seriously. I remember another girl in the class jumping on the animal rights bandwagon, but then when we did dissect the cats, she played with the intestines, putting them around her neck like a necklace. The teacher commented on how that didn’t seem to go along with her earlier argument against dissecting animals, and I had to agree with him.

After dissecting a cat, I could not eat lamb because cutting lamb reminded me of the connective tissue we had to look at on the cats. It totally grossed me out. I also didn’t care much for chicken when I was growing up. I finally did start eating more chicken in college, but it always had to be boneless and skinless. So I wouldn’t say I ever ate a lot of meat, but I wasn’t close to being a vegetarian. So, I don’t think I was ever a big meat eater. I was always picking, not caring much for seafood or fish (except tuna and swordfish), pork, or chicken. We didn’t eat lamb while growing up, but I did eat some when we lived in Philadelphia. It’s not that I didn’t eat meat, because I did. It’s just that I was picky and probably could have lived without it if I’d decided to.

I guess partly there was the slight aversion I had to some meats that contributed to becoming a vegetarian. It was also a huge moral issue for me, and still is. Sometimes it just feels wrong to kill animals for food. And then there are the health issues, which was somewhat of a motivator for me. Supposedly vegetarians have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower incidences of heart disease. I could give you links, but all you have to do is google that to find information and studies. I now question those studies, or at least question whether it is healthier for me to be a vegetarian, but that is for another post.

So what finally made me decide to do it? I met someone else who was a vegetarian. I’ve known other vegetarians and vegans, but for some reason this friend made the idea stick. She wasn’t pushy about it or anything. She just mentioned it and gave me information when I asked. That alone did not make me do it, though. What really happened is that shortly before Thanksgiving I had a horrible dream about little baby Aidan somehow being what we were roasting for Thanksgiving. He was on a little spit and everything. It was a vivid and horrible dream. I knew that I was not going to be able to eat turkey on Thanksgiving! I was a little sad because Tom makes a divine turkey, but I just could not eat it. I did eat some green beans with bacon in them for that meal, so becoming a vegetarian was a gradual process. Most meats I gave up cold turkey, but I did slip up a few times. I once ate jerky and totally did not think about it until the next morning when I woke up and had jerky stuck in my teeth. And I remember one time eating a pizza with chicken when my dad was visiting, but that was just after Christmas. After that, it was pretty easy and there were only a few slips that were mostly accidental.

For me, the hard part about being vegetarian was that I had to decide where to draw the line. Some people call themselves vegetarians but they still eat pork or fish or chicken. For me that was easy since I didn’t miss those foods much anyway. But then there are cheeses, and some of those are made with rennet, which comes from the lining of a calves stomach (though it can also be vegetable-based). So I tried to eat only vegetarian cheese for a while. Oh, and what about marshmallows or pudding or jello? Those have gelatin in them, which is an animal product. And then there are shoes and clothing made from animal products, not to mention the animal ingredients in beauty products and many other foods you would not think of as having animal ingredients in them. For a while I thought I’d someday be vegan and give up dairy and eggs and anything else containing animal ingredients. Now, here I am living in the country and questioning being a vegetarian at all. Sometimes it’s funny how things change.

Wanted: Weekend Farmer (in training)

June 15, 2009

Wanted: Weekend Farmer to take care of animals

When: Friday evening through Sunday morning

Where: West Central Illinois

What: Take care of farm animals, including 14 cats, 20 chicks, 6 chickens, and 2 cows.

Details: Animals need food and water in the morning and evening.

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens: The chickens really just need to be let out of their movable coop. Open the screened front flap and prop it up with the piece of wood that was screwed into the frame but came unscrewed. This helps keep the wood from coming unscrewed and helps keep the door from blowing down in the wind. The chickens will rush out and flap their wings and act silly for a few minutes. Make sure to enjoy this part as it’s quite a show. Lula Mae is always the last one out. She’s the pullet with black-tipped feathers near her shoulders (not the technical word, but you know what I’m talking about since you are a weekend farmer being trained by a farmer-in-training). The chickens will range all day long and will put themselves back in their coop. In the evening, you can check their feed and water before you lock them in. Their feed is currently in a Farm King bucket. I will try to put it in a garbage can and label it before we leave.

Chicks: The chicks are pretty easy. They just need feed and water. They have two feeders in the brooder. They think they get special treats in the purple-bottomed one. Please do not let them in on the secret. You will have to check their water. Most likely it will be spilled or totally mucked up with bedding. Either way it will need to be dumped, cleaned out quickly with the hose on the well pump near the house, then filled and placed back in the brooder. Yes it is reddish inside from the iron in the well water. Don’t bother cleaning it as they don’t seem to mind. The silly chicks will most likely knock it over or muck it up before you leave, so you might want to check it again. Their feed is in the brown garbage can closest to the workbench in the garage. I will try to label it before we leave.

Cows: The cows do not need water as they have a big tub with an auto-leveler. Just make sure to leave the handle of the well pump UP so that it will continue to fill up. Their feed is in the garbage can closest to the garage door. There are two buckets in there, to be filled up about 1/4 to 1/2 way. The buckets and the fence tester are in the garbage can with the feed. PLEASE remember to put them back in there as the garage is too messy for me to find them if you put them somewhere else. Proceed to fence while calling cows. I’ve also started to say, “Come on, girls” to get them to come to me that way. If you get here late enough, they will be waiting for you at the fence. Just ignore their puppy dog sad eyes as they are just trying to make you feel guilty for sleeping in. Also feel free to remind them that you are just a weekend farmer filling in for a farmer-in-training. I’m sure they will understand. Repeat in the evening, making sure to check the fence again. If the fence charge seems low, you will need to walk the fence and check for problems. If there are problems, you will have to call Scott the Farmer as fixing the fence is dangerous and you are not getting paid enough to bother with it.

Indoor cats: There are two indoor cats. Only one, Riley, gets soft food. He only gets a half a can, maybe less if he didn’t eat all his food from the previous serving. This is because Cleo does not like soft food, not because we are mean to her. Riley will meow and meow until you feed him. You might want to do this first unless you can ignore his meows. He also is not starving, as will be evidenced by his youthful figure. The cats might need fresh water or more water. More importantly, they need  reassurance that we did not abandon them for the cute outdoor cats and that we will be back soon to worship them.

Outdoor cats: They will act like they are starving, too. Little Gray might actually be very hungry because she is still nursing her litter. Mama Cat will act as if she is starving, too, but she isn’t. She is mean to the other cats, so when you open the soft food cans you might have to push her away from the other cats so she will not attack them. That is, unless the chickens are around, in which case she is meek and humble and lets everyone else eat first. However, then you have to keep the chickens from eating the food so the cats can eat. This is not easy as they are very persistent little buggers. It might be easier to feed the cats before you let the chickens out, but then  you might have to listen to crowing. Maybe you can block it out. Anyway, the cats get between 3 and 4 cans of soft food. It depends on how many show up for breakfast and how hungry they look and how much food the chickens swipe. Use your best judgment. They also get hard food, which is in the pantry to the left as you enter the kitchen. I usually just fill up the empty soft food cans with hard food. Their water is in a ceramic dish near the well pump. This is the water for the chickens and the cats. Just make sure it is full when you fill up the chicks water for the second time.

All of this should only take about 15 minutes each time, depending on which order you do it. If you let the chickens out first, then you will have to stand guard so that the cats can eat. If you feed the cats first, you will still have to stand guard so that Mama Cat doesn’t eat all the food and then you will also have to listen to the roosters crowing to get out. Really, the cows are the easiest as long as you are mindful of the fence. It is electric and from what I hear, it does hurt. I am scared to death of the fence, so I have not gotten shocked as I am very, very careful.

No worries. My aunt and/or cousins are taking care of the cats and chickens. My aunt has way more experience with animals than I do, so she really should be training me. I have to talk to Scott the Farmer, but I am sure he will want to take care of the cows himself, assuming he has time. Boy, having animals makes vacations hard, doesn’t it?

Lots and lots of chickens

June 8, 2009

This chick apparently missed the memo about not roosting on top of the waterer.

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Not supposed to roost there, silly!

Here are a few more pictures of the 4 week old chicks that I took last week. They are doing well, despite the fact that the bulb in the heat lamp went out sometime last night or this morning. I was totally freaked out, but they are all ok and perked up as soon as I put the new bulb in the lamp. 

4weekoldBO1

Four week old Buff Orpington chicks

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

4 week old Buff Orpingtons in their brooder

Here are some of the big chickens enjoying their favorite bush. It provides shade as well as a nice place for dust baths.

Chickens favorite bush

Chickens favorite bush

And finally here is a picture of Swirly. He is a sweety and is my buddy. He has the most beautiful amber colored eyes. He follows me when I feed the cows. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to kill me by tripping me since he weaves in and out of my legs and I really have to watch my step.

Swirly

Swirly

Garden covers

June 3, 2009

If you’ve looked at the pictures of my garden, you probably noticed the covers on the garden frames. These covers are necessary to keep out critters of all sorts, including rabbits and deer, raccoons and opossums, and cats and chickens. The cats and chickens seem to get in the beds the most: the cats to poop and the chickens to take dust baths or to peck at bugs and sometimes growing plants. This is not good, thus we have the frames. So far they seem to be working well to keep everyone out. A couple of weeks ago, Karen at ChickenSense commented on the garden covers. I figured it was worth a post to show how they are made. I can’t claim much credit as the idea is from All New Square Foot Gardening and the work was done by Tim, with a little bit of help from the kids and me.

Tim started with 2″ X 2″ pieces of lumber and cut them into 4′ sections. Then he used a screw to connect the corners. This part made a square and is the bottom of the cover. It is the part that rests on the the 2″ X 6″ pieces of wood that we used for the frames. Next, he took the chicken wire and stapled it onto the wood. This is the hard part since the chicken wire is in a roll and he had to hold the frame down while unrolling and stapling the chicken wire to it. Tim did this by himself more than once, but said it was easier when I helped him. 

Corner of garden cover

Corner of garden cover

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

After the sides of the cover are stapled on, it’s time to cut two or more pieces for the top, depending on what size chicken wire you are using. We used zip ties to connect the top pieces with the side pieces. The little white things are what is left of the zip ties after Tim clipped off the part hanging out. 

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Side and top of garden cover

Side and top of garden cover

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

The great thing about these covers is that they are fairly quick and easy to make, while also being inexpensive. You need wood, zip ties, a staple gun with lots of staples, a few screws, and some chicken wire. The covers are lightweight and the kids can lift them so they can get a little snack of lettuce while we are in the garden. I’m not sure the covers would keep out a determined raccoon, though. I say this because we did see Swirly try to climb one and it kind of caved in. The garden is pretty safe from deer, rabbits, cats, and chickens, though. 

Eventually we plan to fence in the garden, but these covers work well. The frames can also be used to provide shade for garden plants or, if covered with the sort of plastic used in greenhouses, could be used to extend the growing season. So even after our garden is fenced in, we will still use these frames.

Picture Friday – Cats and Chickens

May 29, 2009

This morning Tim let the chickens out before I even got outside. When I did finally make it outside, this is what I saw: 

Cats and Chickens eating cat food

Cats and Chickens eating cat food

Cats and Chickens

Cats and Chickens

When I was picking up the cat food cans last night, I couldn’t grab the bag of hard food, too. I thought I could make two trips, but naturally I forgot to go back out. So last night some critter came and ate a bunch of hard cat food and made a big mess. This morning the cats and chickens were working on cleaning it up. They are living quite peacefully together, which is good because I was was a bit worried to let the chickens free range because of the outdoor cats. I guess they are one “predator” I no longer have to worry about. The two cats are Swirly and Little Gray, by the way. 

Here are a couple of pictures of the chicks. They are doing well and are eating a ton! Scott the Farmer has been mixing up chick feed for me that is mostly natural. He’s trying to make it with out genetically modified (GMO) ingredients so that it is all natural. Some of the ingredients are natural and some are organic, but some are GMO foods. The Big Chickens also eat the feed he brings, but it has more wheat in it so that it is lower in protein since they are older than 6 weeks.  

3 week old Buff Orpingtons

3 week old Buff Orpingtons

One of the 3 week old chicks

One of the 3 week old chicks

And, finally, here is a picture of Little Gray’s kittens, who are now 4 weeks old. They still seem so tiny and helpless. I think Little Gray is doing an great job for being such a young cat herself.

Little Grays kittens - 4 weeks old

Little Grays kittens - 4 weeks old

If only I could get the kids to just pet the kittens and not move them around. I won’t even mention the things they have done while unsupervised with the kittens. They aren’t doing anything deliberately bad, they (mostly Moira) don’t understand that the kittens are babies. Moira also likes frogs and is very talented at spotting and catching them. We bought a small, plastic terrarium so that she can keep the frogs overnight. We have an agreement that they can only stay overnight and that she has to let them go in the morning. She isn’t always happy to let the frogs go in the morning, but so far, so good. I’m afraid that there is one in the house now, though, because it was in a different container last night and now it is gone. As long as it doesn’t jump on me, I’ll be fine. I tend to squeal when frogs or spiders or weird bugs land on me. I’m trying to be more like Mo and be less squeamish.

Chicken observations

May 20, 2009

I was out watching the chickens the week before last while taking a break from the garden. I watch the chickens a lot, but I am usually mulit-tasking This day, though, I was only laying on a blanket watching the chickens. This is really fun and relaxing and I should do it more often. Anyway, I noticed a few things. We definitely have two roosters (cockerel, really since that is what they are called until they are a year old), and one of them does not stay all that close to the pullets. I’ve noticed this more since then and am thinking this rooster is not a keeper. On this day that I was watching him, he also got freaked out by something and then suddenly attacked one of the hens by biting her near her ear. Not nice, Mr. Rooster! 

I also noticed that the hens really look different, but that you have to look closely to see the differences. I was laying there, watching them and writing down notes so that I could tell them apart. I noticed that one has a ring of black tail feathers. You can’t really see the black feathers from the top or the front, but if she is walking around, scratching at the ground, you can see the ring of feathers. Another hen has some black near her hackles. It’s hard to see from far away, but up close is easy to see. This hen is also a little darker than the others. One of the hens is a bit lighter and I think is the chick that was always a bit smaller and lighter in color. So anyway, now that I can sort of tell them apart it is time to give them names. We were planning on using the names of my grandpa’s sisters. I made sure this was OK with him since he reads my blog. He said it was fine and it actually worked out that we have 4 hens. He had five sisters, and four have already passed away, Aunt Hazel being the most recent. So I figured we would name the four hens after the four who have passed away: Lula Mae, Rosalie, Georgie, and Hazel. As soon as we figure out which is which, I will take pictures and post them with their names. 

While I was watching them that day, a hawk flew over head. I did not see it at first, but I did notice something was wrong as they were all peering at the sky with one eye and making a sound I have never heard them make before. I cannot describe the sound, but it must be the “hawk” sound that I’ve read about. I looked up in the sky and finally did see the hawk, but it was long after they saw it. They happened to be outside the movable coop (for some reason it seemed that they could not find their way in) in a huddle anyway. So they were not easy to spot and the hawk moved on.

In other news, the chickens are free ranging for large parts of the day. It just depends on what is going on. I don’t like to leave them unsupervised, so Sunday and Monday they didn’t get out much. Then on Tuesday I let them out and I ended up getting bonked on the head by something and wanted to go inside. So I left them out and they ranged all around the house and the garden areas. They seemed very happy about this situation. I wanted a breed that would do well free-ranging or in confinement and New Hampshires are supposed to do well in either condition. The thing that I didn’t read is that once you let them range, they will not be happy being confined. They are not happy being in the movable coop for long. Even if it were bigger, I just don’t think they would want to be in there for very long. They love ranging. The benefits of free ranging chickens are numerous. They are obviously happier, therefore they will be healthier. When they start laying eggs, their eggs will be healthier as well. They are eating lots of bugs and weeds, which in turn means they are eating less feed. This is exactly what I wanted to happen.

I do worry about hawks still, but now that it is spring I can easily see how much shade and cover the chickens have to hide from hawks. The bigger concern is the outdoor cats, but so far the chickens seem quite unconcerned about Swirly or Little Gray. The chickens did have to set their boundaries with the cats, but they did that and now don’t pay much attention to those two cats at all. Mama Cat seems fine as long as I keep her tummy full. I’m sure she will disappear again once her kittens are older, but hopefully not before we can get her fixed!.