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Filtering by Category: Chickens

FOX IN THE HEN HOUSE

Cindy Maddera

Saturday evening late, I was out back with Josephine when all of a sudden I heard a loud thunk from the chicken coop. The next thing I saw was Foghorn, rolling down the ramp like she'd been shot out of a cannon and then landing with a flop at the bottom of the ramp. Then she just laid there all limp. I ran over to the coop while yelling "Foghorn! Foghorn! Are you OK?" because I think my chickens can talk. When I got to the coop, Foghorn popped her head up so I knew she was still alive. I opened the nesting box door to check on the others, but all the commotion had them making their way outside to see what was going on. The whole time, I'm talking to the chickens and asking them if they're all OK. Meanwhile, Josephine is barking her head off at something in the back corner of the yard. 

The chickens never did answer me, but they all looked OK. Even Foghorn was now up and walking around. I grabbed the three eggs that where in the nesting box and closed the lid being sure to secure the latch. I got inside and told Michael everything. Josephine was still barking in the backyard. Michael grabbed the flashlight and went to investigate. He ended up moving the chicken coop so now it faces the opposite way and there are zero gaps under the frame. He found evidence that something had been digging, trying to get under the coop. It could very well be Josephine, but I want to think it is not her. We never saw what it was that had Josephine so riled up. It could have been a possum or a raccoon. We've seen those around. I've seen a few stray cats too. Yesterday I noticed that Albus is sporting a scratch across the top of his nose, but I don't suspect him of trying to dig under the coop. 

I am sure that Josephine desperately wants to play with the chickens. She is usually hanging out in the shade of their nesting box or sitting on top of their run. I don't think she's the one trying to get to them though because her stance and demeanor when she's around the coop are more protective than predatory. I think Josephine really is trying to protect those birds. But something is trying to get them. I told Katrina this story and she said we might have to put an electric fence around the coop and then remember to turn it off when we went out to feed and collect eggs. I replied "or not and let the Cabbage feed them." (I would never) Katrina laughed and said that sounded like something J would do. It is totally something J would have done. I can see him now, holding a beer and standing next to Spencer. He would nudge Spencer with his elbow and say "hey, watch this." Then he'd tell Jr to go check for eggs and he and Spencer would laugh and laugh. 

I miss that. 

EGG HUNT

Cindy Maddera

The most common question that we  have been asked in the last two months has been "Are the chickens laying eggs yet?" and every time we shake our heads with a frown and reply "no." Michael goes out there almost every day and tells the chickens to lay some damn eggs. The girls just look at him and move to the other end of the coop. We figured that we'd start seeing eggs in late July or early August. When July ended and there was zero sign of eggs, I started to think that they needed a better nesting area. The whole reason they were not laying eggs is because they didn't have a sleep number mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets to lay them on. This was my way of thinking. Of course, I am thinking all of this right in the middle of me travelling and Michael starting school, right when we are at our busiest. I might also add that ever since Josephine brought me a piece of our kitchen floor, we've been discussing a kitchen remodel and we bought a bunch of picture frames that need to be hung. 

Michael suggested that maybe Randy would have some idea on how to modify the coop with proper nesting boxes. So Randy and Katrina loaded up their little two-seater convertible and the small trailer they pull behind it and came up here over the weekend to help us do all of that. They were bribed with visits to the Farmers' Market and IKEA. Well...Katrina was bribed with those things to drag Randy up here. Also, Katrina and I made the most delicious pesto that was used to make pizzas and those pizzas were the yummiest pizzas. Randy and Michael went out to work on the coop while Katrina and I harvested basil for pesto. Then Michael decided we should clean the coop before doing anything. He turned the whole thing over so that it was partially on it's side and the chickens could get out. Then he walked into the run area to get the water jugs and there was an egg. Then we noticed another egg right behind Michael's foot and we all started screaming "DON'T MOVE!" Two eggs were discovered in the chicken run that day. 

The next morning, I went out to put a golf ball in the nesting boxes and check for any eggs. There was one egg sitting at the bottom of their ramp into the coop. I checked the coop and nesting box about five more times through out the day, but there were no more eggs. This leads me to believe that only one of the chickens is laying eggs so far. We have an idea of who is doing the egg laying, but for the most part, the chickens are pulling a page from Danielle Steel's Lace. The eggs are brown, so it's either Matilda or Dorothy. My money's on Dorothy. She's very interested in the new nesting area. This morning I found her scratching around in the nesting box. Dorothy has also gotten a little bit more docile. She's let me pet her twice now. The only time I get to hug and pet the chickens is when we've let them out in the yard and we have to catch them to put them back in the coop. But twice now, Dorothy has not moved away from my hand reaching into the coop or pecked me. I don't know why, but I just think that maybe the act of laying eggs makes a chicken more relaxed and loving. 

So far (we think) we have one chicken laying one egg a day. No eggs had been laid this morning before I left for work, though one of the chickens did make a very loud buhcawk sound that I thought for sure was chicken speak for "I HAVE LAID AN EGG!" It was not. I checked. I checked the coop twice before leaving for work and I'm sure I would have checked the coop four or five times by now if I were at home. I'm really hoping that when I get home today, I will find an egg in the actual nesting box area and not laying around in some random spot in the chicken run. 

It's all very exciting. I washed and placed our three eggs into a half empty carton of eggs purchased from the store in the fridge. They are small compared to the store bought eggs, but they are ours. They came from our backyard. Those eggs came from our chickens. 

MEET THE CHICKENS

Cindy Maddera

Michael called a few places on Friday about chickens and when we headed out Saturday morning we were not really sure we'd be coming home with any chickens. Apparently egg layers sell out fast. I suggested we try the Family Farm Center in Harrisonville first. Michael had forgotten about that place and hadn't called there. So we were really excited when we walked into the store and could hear chirping. We followed the sound of chirps and peeps to several water troughs converted into chick corals near the middle of the store.

Right away I noticed they were out of Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons, both breeds that I had been thinking about because I'd read good things about them. Both of these breeds also happen to be very popular for urban backyard chickens. It sounds a little negative to say that we picked from the breeds they had left, but that's what we ended up doing. I couldn't be more pleased with the breeds that we ended up with though. All of them are going to grow into beautiful birds with wonderful colorful eggs. In fact a couple of our chicks were breeds that I had read about and loved, but didn't think I'd have access to locally. I thought these were special order birds and I was really happy to see them at the Family Farm Center. 

This is Matilda. Matilda is a Gold Laced Wyandotte and will lay brown eggs.  I saw an adult Gold Laced when we took the Cabbage to the pumpkin patch in October last year and was entranced by the beautiful pattern of her feathers. I can't wait for Matilda to grow into a mature chicken. She is going to be dazzling. 

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Next up is Foghorn. Michael named her. He considered several names, but in the end said that Foghorn is the best name. She's an Austra White and will lay whitish colored eggs.  The description for the Austra White, which is a cross between a White Leghorn and Black Australorp, is said to be docile and less flighty than the Leghorn. Foghorn is pretty laid back and very sweet.

Marguerite is our Araucana. This breed is also called Easter Eggers because they lay green or blue eggs. I know I'm not supposed to have a favorite, but Marguerite is my favorite. I love her puffy little cheeks and her squinty eyes. She is so calm and reserved. I think she looks sophisticated, like she should be wearing a fancy hat or scarf or just knows very wise things about how to put on lipstick and eyeliner. 

Last  but not least, we have Dorothy (like the Wizard of Oz). Dorothy was no name for a few days because we thought we'd save this one for the Cabbage to name. Dorothy is a Black Sex Link and will lay brown eggs. She's a cross between a Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock. This cross makes them sexable by color. All black chicks are hens so that makes it a sure thing you're not getting a rooster. She's really very funny and lively. She's the only one in the bunch that I've seen flap her wings in distress. She did that when I picked her up to take her picture. She stands up tall and I think she may be thinking she's head chicken. We'll see how that plays out.

Several weeks ago Chad posted this picture on Instagram of a basket full of different colored eggs. Naturally colored, not died with Easter egg dyes. It was such a beautiful display of diversity. I am so excited that I am going to have egg cartons filled with a very similar selection of colors. We are all, with maybe the exception of Josephine, in love with the chickens. Josephine has seen them and know they exist. She has not had enough time with them to form an opinion. Right now she's a little leery. I'm sure they'll all be best friends by summer. 

Holy Goats you guys. There are chickens in our basement right now. Real live little baby chickens that go "chirp chirp chirp" and "peep peep peep". Michael and I go down and check on them and talk to them. I found out recently that if you sing gently to them, they all get quiet and when I hold Marguerite and sing to her, she sings back. At bedtime we go down and say goodnight to the chickens. I tell them how pretty they are and Michael tells them to hurry up and grow big and strong and lay some eggs.