Chickens



Of the 98 garlic cloves planted last fall, 42 survived, and they are small. I think it is because we had a fairly dry Spring. They’ve been pulled, braided, and are drying as we speak. It is time to admit that the Patch is slowly going away. We have 2 plum tomatoes, 2 broccoli, 1 yellow squash, 2 zucchini, 1 hot pepper, 3 cukes and some herbs. That’s it.

We love our fresh vegetables, and I hate to admit this, but we aren’t getting any younger and don’t enjoy the labor as much as we used to. The string of surgeries every summer that I’ve experienced the last few years and then the stupid knee injury (“Thanks Woodrow! Dumb dog) last year has basically given the weeds and scrub the opportunity to take hold. Now that I’ve gotten a little break health-wise (knock on wood!), I’m completely driven to take back some of our property and bring it to its former glory. Actually, the plans are way better than former glory. But they’re back-breaking. And they don’t involve vegetables.

So, keeping that in mind, we went rock shopping last weekend. You read that right. Rocks. Oh there are so many types of rocks, from stone dust (technically still rocks, just tiny), all the way up to Stone Henge. We’re moving from bark mulch to rocks in all our gardens. Why? Because bark mulch is just a poisonous tick playground. “Yes, Jenn, but you guys have chickens. Don’t they eat ticks?” Yes, we do, dearest reader, we now have 14 with the new babies. However, chickens scratch to get at the ticks and kick the bark mulch into the lawn and driveway and make an absolute mess. So, no more bark mulch. ROCKS. Pebbles and rocks, rocks and pebbles. Besides, it’s all chemicals. Ugh. Anyway. Rocks. That is what our Summer of ’17 is all about.

  • Reshape garden beds by digging up the grass along the edges
  • Toss grass chunks into garden cart
  • Drive tractor with said garden cart to side of property (new garden bed)
  • Gently place sod with grass-side down so it composts into a new garden bed
  • Rinse and repeat until garden beds are in desired shape
  • Show Keith
  • Reshape it some more
  • Show Keith
  • Dig up plants
  • Place in pots
  • Lay down garden fabric
  • Re-plant the plants
  • Continue for 4 more garden beds

I have given us until Labor Day to turn our home into a rock garden oasis! Yes, I am taking before and after pictures! I promise there will be visuals.

 

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No one prepared me for the coop phenomenon that is, “Soft eggs.” Basically, the egg was laid before the shell hardened. The first time I found one, I was extremely grossed out. The second time, I found one, I was extremely grossed out. Actually, each time I found one, I was extremely grossed out.

Let me explain. It is like a little breast implant.

Let me explain that too. It is like a little breast implant, if I were to imagine what a breast implant would feel like. Kind of squishy but with a soft casing…Ok, you know what? Let’s stop there. Anyway, where were we before going to Dirty Town? Oh right. Soft eggs and grossed out.

Apparently, this phenomena can occur when the chicken is ill, doesn’t get enough calcium, or if you scare it.

Yes, you read that right. If you scare the shit out of the chicken, you might just scare the egg out of the chicken. That happened to me twice. I would open the nesting box after coming home later than expected and the chickens have gone to roost. I would see a movement. That would be the egg dropping from the roosted hen onto the coop floor. I put enough shavings down that both times, it has landed without breaking. Both times, in the light of the flashlight, I didn’t realize what happened. I just would see an egg and grab it to bring inside. And both times I was extremely grossed out. The first time, I put my fingers right through the shell. Cuz it is soft. Like a b…Nevermind. Anyway, ewww. The second time I picked it up intact and then had to make a decision about what to do with it.

I had done some research when I found the first one. Apparently, you can still eat it. So, I stood there, outside the coop holding the second munchkin implant, and had a small debate with myself.

Me: “Would I really eat this?”
Me: “It’s pretty skeevy.”
Me: “But it’s just an egg.”
Me: “I know, but, how? How would I eat it?”
Me: “I don’t know, I guess scramble it or something.”
Me: “Ok. Give it a try.”

I threw it as far in the woods as I could, gathered the rest of the eggs and went inside. (Yes. I called my own bluff.)

Side note:

We have been baking the scrap egg shells that are left over after cooking and grinding them into tiny bits with a mortar and pestle and putting them in a dish outside for the chickens. The calcium is supposed to help the chickens create stronger shells. They devour it ( which I think is totally weird) and we haven’t seen a soft egg recently, which is good, however, I do find myself pointing out women to Keith on a more frequent basis and asking, “Think those are real?”


We love that show-as much as you can love a reality show about murders. We just get hooked every time we see that it’s on.

So, if you are a fan of the show, here is The First 48-DaisyPatch version.

North Hampton, NH

For homestead detectives, the clock starts ticking the moment they are called. Their chance of solving the crime is cut in half if they don’t get a lead within the first 48 hours. It is North Hampton, NH. The owner of DaisyPatch farm returns home late at night and is shocked to discover one chicken hasn’t returned home. He had heard a noise earlier, but couldn’t figure out the sound. The chicken is presumed dead.

Time remaining: 48:00

The owner calls the chicken. There is no reply. He calls again, but still there is no reply.

Time remaining: 46:28

He goes into the house and texts his wife to break the news. She is out of town.

He calls the chicken again. Still, there is no reply. The other chickens in the gang are called in for questioning. He has no suspects.

Time remaining: 46:27

The rest of the chicken gang refuse to to answer any questions. The leads have all run dry. The owner will have to wait until morning to see if there are any clues.

Time remaining: 36:44

It’s the next morning. The chicken gang leave the coop and roam the neighborhood. The owner follows at a safe distance, hoping for clues. He isn’t able to find anything. Investigating the location he thought was the source of the noise, he does not uncover any leads.

Time remaining: 36:21

His wife just received the message and texts him back to see if there is any news. She wants to know which chicken has died. He texts her back that he doesn’t know. She will have to come home to identify the missing chicken.

Time remaining: 00:32

The owner’s wife has come home and has identified which chicken is missing. It was a no-name chicken with distinguishing white marks. They are most likely gang symbols.

Time remaining: 00:04

The clock winds down on the first 48. The chicken still has not returned. With no body or leads, he may never know what happened. The chicken gang now has 8 members. None of them will talk.

All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a coop of law.


Many people have asked us if our chickens are for eggs or meat or both. Ah, the dilemma that has plagued us is not easy to put into a simple, “Yes or No.” You see, we have an injured Doodle. 3 weeks ago, during my morning trip to the coop, I opened the nesting box and found one hunkered inside. No you don’t. No getting broody here. I picked her up and placed her forward, inside the coop. She limped, staggered and sat down. Uh oh. I went around to the side door and gently picked her up and brought her outside, placing her on the ground as carefully as I could. She wouldn’t walk on her right leg. Shit.

I tucked her under my arm and with that, it was fully obvious something was wrong as NONE of our chickens let me pick them up let alone carry them around. I brought her inside and Keith and I proceeded to feel her leg, thigh, foot, etc., as if we knew what we were doing, but we couldn’t feel that anything was wrong with it. Keith helped me find the big storage bin he had outfitted for the chickens when they were still in the house under heat lamps as chicks. With her tucked under my arm the entire time and talking to her like she completely understood me, I filled it with wood shavings, got the little waterer and food dish from her chickhood (like, baby’s first silver spoon and cup, yet, not) and set her up in her recovery unit. He and I both hit the internet on our respective computers and came up with very different diagnoses. Keith discovered she probably had a sprained leg and would recover in a few weeks of R&R. My research yielded that she had either parasites that were affecting her nerves and would kill her OR a chicken disease that was affecting her brain and was soon going to kill her and my entire flock within a few days. The chicken equivalent of the black plague. I insisted we go to Agway right away and purchase every medicine and vitamin listed on the internet. Despite Keith’s protests that she just sprained her leg and the reassurance from the Agway clerk that, she probably just sprained her leg, I purchased $45 worth of deworming meds. (They didn’t have a smaller package! This was basically enough to take care of the entire Purdue flock of chickens…we only have 9.)

By then I had imagined all the doomsday scenes involving either hoards of worms oozing from every chicken orifice in the entire flock, or all the Doodles getting paralyzed, then being unable to walk and we would have to kill them all and bury them in a shallow grave. I would put a sign up for future generations to visit the site of the black chicken plague of 2013. Keith was still adamant she just sprained her leg.

When I was a kid, I had this little toy plastic picnic basket that came with plastic forks, knives, spoons and plates. It was red and yellow. I would break a low-hanging branch off a tree in our yard, one that had a “nest” of tent caterpillars. I thought they were cute and fuzzy. So, I would take the branch, use sticks and break open the “tent,” and leave it and a bunch of leaves in my picnic basket, intent on keeping my new, fuzzy pets in their makeshift home. Then, I would get called in for lunch, forget about them and read a book or play with my doll house. The next day, I would go back outside and, seeing my picnic basket, remember my “pets.” Does anyone want to guess what I found? Just a guess? You’re right, they were all dead. I had pretty much baked them in the little picnic box oven in the New Jersey Summer sun. So, I would go do it again, dumping out the picnic basket of dead, dried caterpillars and heading to the trees to rip off another branch. This time, I’d give them water too. Yeah, that’ll keep them alive. Rinse and repeat.

Don’t think this childhood memory didn’t come ROARING back, the irony NOT lost on me as I set up my Doodle in her plastic bin with a dish of water and a tray of food complete with some spinach leaves and raisins for snacking. Well, let me fast forward 3 weeks. Good news! I didn’t kill her. She is still in the box upstairs in the sunshine. The whole box, Doodle intact, gets put outside on nice days, carefully put in a shady area so that we don’t accidentally cook the little thing in my Chicken Buddy Burner (5 points if you were a Girl Scout and had to make your own Buddy Burner.). More good news! The whole flock didn’t die of a neurological brain disease or worm infestation! It is pretty obvious that she had broken or sprained her leg.

I have been keeping her bin clean, her water fresh. She gets treats, and lots of them – grapes, blueberries, raisins, cheese, some beef. We both talk to her when we walk past her bin. She hears us coming and just says, “Br Br Br” and so we talk back. I pick her up and she sits in my lap while Keith makes dinner. She seems to like getting her feathers stroked. I’m starting to like having her inside. Her dish will be within reach, but she seems to prefer to eat out of my hand. Not good. She is now my pet.

2 days ago, I brought her outside to walk in the grass. You know, a little chicken P.T.? I wanted to see how she did with more room to walk. The other chickens immediately tried to attack her. What!?! Keith saw the whole thing. I pushed them away and they kept coming after her. She couldn’t run to get away. My little Doodle! Keith went inside and I scooped her up and brought her back in. He got in the house before me and so when I walked in, he was waiting, holding a very big cleaver. I know he was joking, we both laughed, but…part of us knew he had a point.

It has been 3 weeks with really not much sign of improvement. She is obviously in pain when she tries to walk and can’t fare for herself. She certainly couldn’t run from a predator. So we are faced with a choice. Do we keep trying to rehabilitate her or do we stop prolonging what feels to be inevitable? The longer we wait to kill her, the more attached I will be. I named her Pinchy, after Homer Simpson’s pet lobster he accidentally boiled when he went to give Pinchy a hot bath. In between cries of anguish for poor Pinchy, Homer was cracking Pinchy’s claws and dipping them in butter, going ‘Mmmmm” “Waaah, Pinchy. Mmmmm.” We think we’ll have the same outcome.

We always did talk about these birds eventually becoming meat birds, but I knew I would name them and be unable to do it (not to mention the fact that I can’t even squish a bug with my shoe, I don’t want to feel or hear the crunch so I have to take a big rock or log to do it). I can’t imagine me being involved in killing and then de-feathering. I supposed I would do it if I had to. Gosh, I hope I don’t have to. She is so pretty and sweet. I think I’ll keep trying to heal her up in the house. Fingers crossed!

 

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doodke


I know I promised several posts, but this just happened…

 

Me: Babe, you look tired. Why don’t you go to bed and I’ll put the chickens away tonight.

Him (Already up and out of his chair): OK! Good night. (Kissing me good night). 

Here I sit. For the next and 1/2. By myself. Waiting to put chickens away. 

Me and my big mouth. 

 

 


What is the meaning of life?

Loaded question, I know. One that has been pondered upon, written about, studied in art and discussed for centuries by ones such as Plato, Aristotle, Gauguin, my Keene State College Business Ethics professor What’s-His-Name, religious devotees, Monty Python…oh, and me.

I don’t profess to think about it very much. I’m too busy thinking about paying mortgage, the price of good quality balsamic vinegar (because it would be a crime to use the cheap stuff on a Caprese Salad) and making it home safely from my commute. (Why don’t people yield anymore? There used to be YIELD signs on the on-ramps and I don’t see them now. Please, for the love of all that is holy, put your phone down and turn your ass around to see if there is ALREADY A CAR in the lane as you’re merging on to the highway. When you are picking up speed to get where you’re going, if you looked, you would see that I AM ALREADY THERE and do not feel it is safe to slam on my brakes to let your phone-talking-so-too-lazy-to-look-to-see-if-it-is-safe ass get in front of me. I can’t move to the left because there is a car there, so you’re forcing me to speed up and since I have my cruise control set at 71 mph which is a nice speed to get me where I’m going, make me feel like I’m hurrying, but still allow me to get passed by the cops instead of pulled over, I am now having to hit 80/85 mph in order to get out of your way. AND I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT, OK?!)

I was outside weeding on Memorial Day weekend (thank you for your service to all in active duty and all veterans and their families), the chickens were outside for their first days out of their basement brooder box. I watched them pick up their feet and walk funny as they experienced the new sensation of wet grass. I sat back and lost my concentration on chickweed (invasive stuff!) as I spied some of the chickens rounding a corner, leaving one behind. She picked up her head after just a few moments and didn’t see her sisters and brother. And started to cheep (chirp? Wasn’t quite a cluck. I’ll stick with cheep.) Loudly. Panicked. She’s been with her flock since minutes after she was born. And while looking down, hunting for food, she lost sight of them. Now she was alone, and didn’t like it.

Which got me to thinking. I left my job after 14 years and went to another company, to do the same job. I wanted to plant unique plants this year and try something new. I didn’t and only planted veggies that we know we like. Am I avoiding MY wet grass, that uncomfortable feeling of something foreign and outside my comfort zone? Do I have my head down, just trying to pay the bills, continuing to peck in the same place, hoping a bug will somehow magically appear? As I wrap my head around the fact that I have another surgery (my third in 2 years – this one will have me recovering at home for 6 weeks) I ask, “What is the meaning of MY life?” Friends and family are offering to come stay with us to help which warms my heart. Keith keeps telling me we should enjoy life now, not ONLY focus on saving for later. My new boss, responding to the news that, after 5 months of getting me ramped up, would now only have 1 week to prepare for my absence before I was gone for a month and 1/2, said something similar. We work to pay for life. Life is important.

My little lonely chicken (no name, I can’t tell her apart from the other yellow ones), must have heard a noise from her family because she basically flew-hopped around the corner and barreled into the others as if they were bowling pins. Then she proceeded to put her head down in the wet grass and hunt for bugs in this new spot. This made me smile then and it makes me smile as I think about it again now and realize that I am CONTENT. And that maybe THAT, gentle readers, is the answer to my question.

Worth watching…


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