My father was born a farmer. His mother was a farmer. I live on a half acre. I've got farmer blood in me. So, I grow green cherry tomatoes in the shade, baby carrots that taste like radishes sometimes and potatoes that I had no idea I planted.
Before I had chickens, I unearthed every plantain and dandelion to homogenize the soft green carpet I call my lawn. Now that I have chickens, I see how they enjoy picking the vast variety of weeds I cannot keep up with. Mow the lawn no longer, let the plantains go to seed so that there will be more to feast on, and dandelion greens for my flock.
I sit in my lawn chair and let them teach me about the enjoying life.
This is my dear sweet rooster, "Buff". He was the youngest, and the smallest of the flock. To this day he still holds his position at the bottom of the pecking order. He is recovering from a fight he won against botulism poisoning. My daughter can pick him up and carry him anywhere. I've stewed all my roosters except him. He holds a special place in my heart.
*Update* Buff was put down not much long after. He wasted away, and began stumbling around, blind. I question whether he had botulism poisoning, Marek's or something else.
This is Yolanda. She is my best hen. She carries that "sweet" EE gene. She's wise, and even tempered. She's mischievous too. She lays her eggs anywhere.... in the woods, on the coop floor..... on the ramp.... but she's so snuggly I can't stay angry long.
This is Whitey. She's my special needs hen. She's socially inept, a nervous nilly HATES to be handled, but is a faithful layer of a large dark spotted egg almost every day. She makes me laugh. When they free range, she will take flight (impressive heights too) and land nearby, but turned around. She ends up losing sight of the flock and wandering all over in search of the flock, when all she had to do was turn around and look behind her. That's when Yolanda usually comes to get her.
*Update* This last fall, she was carried away by a fox while free-ranging. I saw her fighting for her life. I figured she was lost, but I wouldn't just give up, so I started to come after the two to salvage what I could. She broke free somehow and I was able to chase away the fox, and find her hiding under a nearby log. She came away with just one broken pin feather. She's doing great today.
My Blue EE mix laid a pretty olive egg. She's a very independent girl. She's sassy, stubborn and impossible to get a good picture of.
Here's a more recent picture of her.
My new Barnevelder hen, at 6 months old, laid her first egg. It's so cute. Here it is next to my Red Sex-Link's egg.
This spring, we experimented with hatching, both with an incubator and with two broody hens. We started with eight eggs under the broodies then placed twenty-five (one too many) in an Octagon 20 Eco with the cradle by Brinsea. The broodies were wonderful. They did it all themselves. All eight eggs were fertile and developing well. After the second week, someone (no one's talking) ate one egg and ousted another onto the coop floor. I found it after work, cold and abandoned. In retrospect, I should have placed it back under them. It might have had a chance. Instead, I took it as an opportunity to show my daughter a developing chick. They hatched five of the remaining six eggs, but I found two mortally wounded in the coop soon after they hatched. Again, no one's talking. The final sixth egg was left behind. It had a chick in it, but the girls were done sitting.They re-directed their efforts towards the three chicks that were before them.
The incubator was a bit more involved. I planned to set it up in my daughter's fourth grade classroom. I never broke it out of the box to set it up and check the thermostat settings. The twenty hatching eggs I wanted became available a week earlier than I expected so I had to set it up impromptu. I threw in five of my own fertile mutt eggs to top it off. The temperature stayed at 102° for the first week. I adjusted it the second week and it stayed at 101° (very tabu to do after setting eggs). On day nineteen, lockdown, I adjusted it once more and it finally stuck at 99.5° to 100°. The humidity was bumped up to 70% (it remained a nice stable dry 20-40% until now) and the hatch began the next day! Three popped out on day twenty, but one died overnight. From the bloodshed I saw all over the other eggs, I suspect it impaled itself on a broken shell. Day twenty-one yielded seven more beautiful chicks. Unfortunately, on day 22, I noticed the humidity crept up to 86%. Good lord! How did that happen?!?!?!? I opened the vent back up, but it was too late. No more pips. The remaining dozen or so eggs remained unhatched - likely drowned. On top of that, the incubator had to be unplugged moved a day early, demolishing any chances of stragglers hatching. The school had unexpectedly, a week earlier, decided to close on Friday, (day twenty-four) to use up one of two un-used snow days. Of the unhatched eggs, two pipped. One pipped egg died in transit. The other was unable to get out of the shell on it's own. I've been told many times to NEVER help a chick out of an egg. It could either damage the chick, or the chick was too weak to survive anyway. Well, the latter was the case. My family grew concerned, the longer it sat in the egg, peeping, so I assisted the poor little bugger. It was obvious from that moment on that it would have to be culled. He lasted two days before succumbing to the complications.
In the end, I have nine healthy chicks. Six are with the broodies, and three are being fostered by my daughter. Two of the three were rejected by the one of hens because of color (my best guess). The third, was just too small and slow to keep up with it's siblings. Two chicks were killed in the run. No witnesses and no confessions. I learned a lot in this experience. I'm not quite sure I'd do it again. Right now, I have twenty-five chickens. Chicken math has really gotten me crazy. I cleaned up the incubator, tested it to make sure it still works. I almost put it away, until the the note. My daughter's classmate's mother is a special needs elementary school teacher. She wanted to know if she could borrow the incubator. Muhuhahaha...... I plugged it back in! Time to hatch more eggs!
This is Lemon Meringue, checking out my dog's eye goober. Nixie is a German Short-haired Pointer; a bird hunting dog. Luckily, she understands that the chicks, and chickens are not birds. They are part of our pack here.
*Update* Lemon Meringue turned out to be a rooster. He was a great pet, but as most roosters do, he grew up, and his hormones took over. We couldn't tolerate the abuse on the girls. Stormy endured a 2" gash on her side from over-mating. We ate him.
This is Banty, my Easter Egger. She had been broody for more than three weeks. She wouldn't give up, so I ordered 6 giant blue cochin eggs for her to hatch. I wanted to have her sit on the eggs in the dog house in the grow-out pen, but didn't know how to move her. So, I lured her in with 11 plastic eggs. She couldn't resist. When the eggs arrived in the mail, I gently switched them out. I must say, she has never looked more pleased with herself. The grow out pen is ideal, since she is locked in by herself, and no one can disturb her. The last time I let my broodies hatch eggs, I left them in the main coop nest boxes. There was so much chaos, 4 chicks were accidentally killed. This time we try private quarters.
All the cochin eggs were infertile. I had 18 eggs in my incubator at the same time. Of them, only 2 hatched, and 1 survived, a Blue Orpington. Banty was good enough to adopt it. A few weeks later, the fox, stole her and her adoptive chick. She was caught by the fox, because she refused to leave her chick behind to hide.
I'm planning on electrified poultry netting this summer. It hurts to lose my birds.