Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Cacophony

April 1, 2010

From dictionary.com

ca·coph·o·ny   [kuh-kof-uh-nee]
–noun,plural-nies.
1. harsh discordance of sound; dissonance: a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails.
2. a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds: the cacophony produced by city traffic at midday.
3. Music. frequent use of discords of a harshness and relationship difficult to understand.

I’d like to add another definition:

4. The sound a flock of chickens make early in the morning when they sense a predator, whether real or perceived.

Spring has arrived

March 30, 2010

Spring has arrived. There are birds and other animals that return or that you start seeing again. There are the sound of frogs. There are lots of baby animals, like calves and piglets and kittens. The grass starts getting green and it’s warm out. Those are pretty obvious. I know it’s spring here when I see someone mowing, though. It seems early for mowing, but I saw someone in town mowing a small side yard (next to a business, I think). Soon the Farmer’s Market will start again.

A New Hampshire rooster and an Orpington hen free ranging

Free range birds

I don’t know if it is because it’s spring time, but we have a few hens who think that roosting outside on our big pile of branches is a good idea. I think these hens are the ones that the roosters gang up on, as evidenced by the lack of feathers on their backs and behind their combs. I can understand why they don’t really want to go into the coop. But the roosters are definitely better than whatever else might come around in the middle of the night. Tim is pretty good at getting them in because he will just pick them up. I’m not willing to do that, so I try to convince them. I touch them, pet them, shake the sticks they are stepping on, and basically annoy them until they decide to go in.

A flock of chickens in my backyard

Happy chickens

Moira is also growing. She seems to be going through a pretty good growth spurt. She is hungry, tired, moody, and clumsy. It’s not really a list that I can make and say for sure she is having a growth spurt. There are days that I feel that way or Aidan does and it doesn’t mean a thing. But I just have this intuition that she is going through something big, some big brain growth and physical growth, most likely. Either that or she’s been eating way too much Easter candy and sugar and that is making her moody. But that wouldn’t necessarily explain the clumsiness, would it?

Moira's bare feet

Moira is a barefoot country girl

I have worked on the garden, but just barely. But when I look at last year’s gardening journal, I see that I hadn’t done much by this time last year, so I guess I’m doing OK. I need to start some seeds soon, maybe order some heirloom seeds. I did weed a gardening bed that has carrots growing, but that’s really all I’ve done. I’ll do more soon and I’ll blog about it, of course.

Still here

January 9, 2010

I know it’s been a while since I posted. I don’t even want to know how long! Anyway we are still here. It’s cold and we have lots of snow, but that’s the nature of winter in Illinois. It’s time to start planning the garden, so I might write a post on that. It helps to figure out what to plant more of, what to not plant at all, etc. I have lots of cardboard in the garage just waiting to kill the newly sprouting grass that will be here in the spring. I have a few seed catalogs and they are fun to look at.

It feels like the middle of winter even though it isn’t. The days are getting longer, though, and that is nice. I like the sunshine (who doesn’t??). I keep thinking about how nice it will be to have the windows open, to hear the million frogs croaking and squeaking, and to see the chickens out doing their chicken things. They are all doing well. I don’t remember if I mentioned that Holly died, but she did. So that means that we’ve lost 3 chickens to predators and 1 to some unknown cause. I have no idea what happened to her. We got home one day and she was bleeding and that was that. There was no visible wound and no other chickens were hurt, so we have no idea. I suppose it could have been something internal as she often laid double yolkers.

OK well that’s all for now. I will try to post more often, but there really isn’t much going on. I do have a few posts I could finish up, like why I’m not a vegetarian anymore, posting pictures of Version 2.0 of our lego house, and a post I started about roosters. I have a lot of things in the works, but just haven’t finished them. I might find some time soon, or I might not. 🙂

Letter to a coyote

October 1, 2009

Dear Coyote,

Do not mess with a woman with PMS and a gun, even if it is a bb gun. Just some advice from a cranky mama who had a bad day. Please pass this on to any other predators of chickens and/or cats.

Thanks,
Cranky Mama

Critters

September 28, 2009

We heard coyotes Sunday morning. When I say we, I mean I heard them, Tim heard them, and so did my mom. They sounded quite close to the house. It was around 4:30 in the morning and that might be why Mo woke up, too. She thought she heard dogs and said she wondered where the owners were. I told her I didn’t think they were dogs. Anyway, the two of us finally went back to sleep, but I kept hearing some kind of scratching going on by the coops. When I looked for tracks today, I didn’t see any by the coop so maybe I was hearing things. I did, however, see something walking around on the sidewalk between the house and garage. I think that was a possum. I also heard something step on a snapper (not the fish, but the tiny bags of gunpowder that you throw on the sidewalk so they pop). I hope the noise scared it away!

The other morning I went out to let the chickens out and there was a raccoon on the ground, dying. It was not dead, it was dying. I say this because I told Tom it was dying, but he didn’t seem to understand. He was in the office telling me what to do and I told him he had to come see it before he started telling me what to do with it. So then he comes down, looks at it, and says, “Oh, it’s not dead.” Yes, I said dying, not dead. So anyway Tim ended up taking care of it. I didn’t hear the whole story, but he used a shovel and moved it somewhere else to let it die, so it wouldn’t die near the house. Apparently he somehow put it out of its misery, which is not something I could easily have done.

About two weeks ago we lost a hen to a coyote. Or most likely to a coyote. Our electrician was working on some outlets in the office (did I ever describe Tom’s super cool office with a view?) and said he saw a wolf by the chickens. However, we don’t have wolves in this part of Illinois, but we have coyotes galore. So most likely it was a coyote, in the middle of the day, coming for a snack. So far they haven’t been back, but the chickens do make a lot of noise if they see something. It almost sounds like the noise they make when laying an egg except much louder and they are all making the noise at once. That was what they were doing when the electrician mentioned the “wolf.” They did it again one morning, but were safely in their coop so i did not go check anything out. And we’ve heard that noise a few other times and gone out and not seen anything. I’m sure they saw something, though. Perhaps their squawking scared off whatever it was.

We also seem to have wild turkeys nearby. We hear them around dusk and I can only assume they are making noises and roosting at that time of night. I wonder if that is what the chickens saw one morning? I can imagine they’d be scared of a wild turkey. Shoot, they are scared of my mother-in-law’s Yorkshire terrier. Speaking of critters I had best go see what the kids are up to. Plus, it is almost time to get the chickens in to keep them safe from critters.

Homemade food

September 11, 2009

We’ve gone to several carnivals and fairs this summer. The latest was in the small town closest to us. The kids love to get lemon shake-ups, which is basically lemonade that is shaken, I guess. I suspect these are made with corn syrup, but I am not sure. It’s some kind of sugary water with ice, squeezed lemons, and cut lemon. The vendors also sell lime and strawberry shake-ups. The kids love these so much that they’ve been asking us to make them at home. To my surprise and delight, Aidan said the ones that his dad makes are much better than the ones at the carnival. Tom usually makes them with stevia, water, and lemons. Sometimes we use honey or cane sugar. I really think that better ingredients make better food, and it seems that the kids agree most of the time.

The one exception seems to be Taco Bell. Aidan has commented that Taco Bell has the best taco meat. I just cannot make taco seasoning like Taco Bell. However, I saw a packet at the store and looked at it and figured out why I can’t compete: MSG. Using MSG is cheating. It’s saying that you can’t make your food flavorful, so you have to cheat by giving it an extra boost. Needless to say, we try to avoid MSG. So now it’s time to avoid Taco Bell (not that we go often, but they just built a new building in our town so it’s been a treat for the kids, though I’ve pointed out that the food is not new, just the building.

Yesterday I bought some tomatoes from the farmer’s market and combined them with the ones from our garden. The sauce is halfway done since I peeled and seeded the tomatoes yesterday. The last time I made the sauce I also used fresh basil and parsley from our garden and it was super yummy. Tom ended up using some of it with some ground beef, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, peas, and green beans. It was like Hamburger Helper from scratch and it was delicious, not to mention way more nutritious.

I also made my own honey mustard dressing yesterday. I had considered buying more honey mustard dressing at the grocery store yesterday, but then I looked at the ingredients again and saw high fructose corn syrup was listed second or third. I figured it would not be hard to make my own and that mine would be completely sweetened with honey rather than high-fructose corn syrup. It had three ingredients: plain yogurt, dijon mustard, and honey. That’s it! Easy and yummy.

The other foods I would like to cook today are chicken noodle soup and curried butternut squash soup. We have a defrosted chicken in the fridge and some chicken stock that Tom made from the last chicken we roasted. These chickens are from a lady that lives nearby. Eventually we will be eating chickens we’ve raised ourselves. I expect our flock of 23 will reproduce nicely come spring.

As far as the curried butternut squash soup goes, I will be using the following from our garden: butternut squash, celery, and chives. The onions will be either from our garden or the farmer’s market (it’s hard to keep track of where it’s from once it’s piled together on the table!). I’ll post the recipe later, once I test it out again. It’s a recipe I found online and modified. I haven’t made it in a while so I’d like to test it again before I post the recipe. I might have to make it in steps since we are heading out of town for the night. I’ve found it works well to do things in steps, like peeling and seeding the tomatoes and then putting them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to make sauce. I think I will probably cook the onion, celery, and garlic part up and put it in the fridge so I can finish the rest later. After all, the squash isn’t going to go bad any time soon!

This post is part of Fight Back Friday.

imarenegade_350

It’s like Easter every day

August 26, 2009
Lula Mae's old nest

Lula Mae's old nest

We now have two pullets who are laying eggs. Holly laid her first egg Monday, though she spent at least a week getting ready. I have now learned how to tell when a pullet is getting ready to lay. First, they get noisy – lots of cackling and clucking. The wattles and combs will get bigger and redder when they are near laying. They also start nesting. That sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it? But they will make a nest (assuming you don’t have nest boxes, that is), usually somewhere dark and covered. Lula Mae, the first pullet to start laying, picked a spot in a raised bed that has a pine tree and bush growing out of it, as well as other plants. She made a little hole in the bark in an area that was quite secluded. She laid there for a cople of weeks, then switched spots. She made such a nice nesting spot that the cats thought they would lie there. I suspect that is why she moved her nest. It took us a while to find the new nest, though we had an idea of where it was. It turns out it was in the back of our shed, in a place that only the kids can get to since it has a little doorway leading to it.

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Holly decided the garage would be a good place to lay. She had beein going in there making a lot of noise for a few days. She even found a box that was perfect. The kids and I shredded some newspaper and put it in there, but then the kids (OK, Mo) decided to empty that box out and move it later that day. So we tried to make a different area for her and she seemed interested, but kept going back into the garage. Finally, Tim got that same box ready so that Holly could lay in there. That’s where she has laid her last (and first) two eggs.

Holly's nest box

Holly's nest box

The other 20 chickens, the Buff Orpingtons, have been out ranging for a week or so. There have been no major skirmishes between the two flocks. Anytime Chicken Joe goes near the other chickens, they scatter. Joe is very secure in his position as top rooster. I have noticed the Orpington roosters (3 so far, not sure about a couple of others) fighting a bit and doing the mating dance next to the pullets. The Orpingtons are now 16 weeks old.

So the question that keeps popping into my head is, “What are we going to do when we get 19 eggs a day?” It’s a question that gives me a slight panic. Not a real panic, more of a I-better-figure-this-out-soon kind of panic. Mo suggested we slaughter (her word, not mine!) some. But then the kids thought maybe we should sell them. We can do that, of course, but there are some restrictions about that. Maybe I can just sell them to family and friends? I told the kids it would be a family business. They think it’s fun to collect the eggs since the chickens are day-ranging and we do not have nest boxes. Aidan keeps saying it will be like Easter every day! And he is right.

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.

Rainy days and Mondays are still exciting

August 17, 2009

We’re having a lazy, rainy day today. And yet there are still exciting things that have happened. First, we decided to let the little chickens out of their coop. I let them out before I let out the big chickens. The big chickens were none too happy about this, of course. Eventually I went outside with a plastic garbage can lid in had to let out the big chickens. I wanted to be prepared in case the pecking got out of hand. To my surprise, I let the big chickens out and they went the opposite direction, totally ignoring the little chickens.

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Now, at some point there was a little pecking, mostly from Holly. Joe didn’t have to peck too much as I think he is secure in his place as top rooster and top chicken. So the little chickens were out ranging happily and peacefully. Last time I checked they were back in their coop roosting, probably to dry off since the ground is pretty soggy. I’m sure there will be more pecking as the two flocks reorganize into one or more flocks.

The other thing that happened is that Mama Cat went towards the creek. I followed her since I’ve been trying to get a look at her kittens, which were born around August 12. That’s the day she came back hungry and less round looking. I couldn’t find her kittens since they were somewhere near the creek and were hidden by the vegetation. A little while later, however, I spotted her moving one into the garage. I waited a bit to give her time to move them all, then went out to see where they were and try to get a look. I counted 3 kittens. Mama Cat was fine with me looking, but if I tried to reach in the box to move the kittens she would gently paw at me. I could tell she didn’t want me to put my hands in there, so I backed off. I’ll try to get pictures later, mayb when the sun decides to make a reappearance.

First egg pictures

August 12, 2009

OK, I managed to get the pictures off the card from my camera. Hooray! Tim insists that my camera is fine and that I just need to charge the battery now. I will try that and see how it goes.

Anyway, now I have a ton of pictures to post but I will just do a few for today and then some more for tomorrow. So here are some of the first egg we found. This was found in the accidental garden right near the house.

First egg laid near house

First egg laid near house

This is the egg after we put it in the refrigerator. The other eggs are from the store, but are also pasture-raised.

The egg on top is the first egg

The egg on top is the first egg

This is from when we cracked open the first two eggs. One of them had a double yolk. I know this isn’t a very good picture, but it’s the best of the ones I took.

First two eggs cracked

First two eggs cracked

And here is a picture of the roasted chicken we had. It was the first time we ate food we’ve raised and butchered ourselves.

LemonButt

Roasted chicken