Birthday lambs!

Since these are for eatin’, we’re not naming them. Sorta. I decided a while back we’d just continually call them Things 1 and 2.

Cuuuuute.

Cuuuuute.

Thing 1 is very photogenic.

Thing 1 is very photogenic.

Little brown lamb. (Thing 2.)

Little brown lamb. (Thing 2.)

 

Adorable little family.

Adorable little family.

Lamb!

At least one (couldn’t get close enough to see any more). On hubby’s birthday. Everything was apparently fine; the lamb is already standing. Pictures to come, promise.

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Chicken Butts

The silkies are of laying age, or at least one of them is. A couple of days ago, hubby brought in an egg. At least it was roughly the size of an egg (a bit smaller than my ladies lay), and

The robot chickens in WoW lay no eggs and are impervious to predators. I want steampunk chickens now.

The robot chickens in WoW lay no eggs and are impervious to predators. I want steampunk chickens now.

roughly the shape of an egg, but it felt like it was made out of thin leather instead of encased in a shell. This is a phenomenon that happens when a hen lays her first egg, maybe even her first couple. Their bodies are learning how to produce something they’ve never done before, so the reasonable explanation (from backyardchickens.com) is that it takes a while for their little egg producing selves to get with the program. First eggs have been known to come out without a shell (as this one did), encased only in the protein lining that is made between the egg itself and the shell. Some farmers have reported first eggs found in the nest in absolutely nothing–no pouch of any kind, no shell, they just looked like they were cracked right into the nest. Our egg was perfectly edible, just strange. (That said, I did toss it, albeit sadly, because I didn’t know how long it had been sitting out or how long it took hubby to find it, and I don’t know how porous that protein lining is). We have, just today, found our first solid silkie egg.

Chicken eggs (as do all bird eggs) come out of the hen coated in a substance (called bloom) that seals the egg, preventing its porous shell from allowing bacteria inside. If you have access to farm-fresh eggs, don’t wash them when you get them! Even if there’s a little poop on them. Set aside your sense of “ohgod, ick” while you store them. That substance in which they’re coated prevents spoilage (otherwise the egg would simply rot before a chick could hatch out of a fertilized egg). Farm-fresh, unwashed eggs can actually sit out on the counter for up to two weeks. I’ve heard. I don’t do that, because, well, at this point, it’s ingrained. I have a need to put the eggs in the fridge.

When you’re ready to eat them, that’s when you wash them (because even though chicken anatomy prevents waste from coming into contact with the egg as it’s laid, chickens really do let it out anywhere and everywhere, even in the nest, so don’t make me explain what you’re inadvertently doing with that bacteria when you crack the egg over your frying pan). Use hot water. Soap is optional; if you use soap, rinse thoroughly. Wash your hands after handling chicken eggs, because you just indirectly touched chicken butt. There. You can have your “ohgod, ick” back.

scarlett3

She looks like she could laserbeam that little dog right in half.

Completely unrelated: Kelsey came in the other day completely freaked out because she had to fight her grandma’s little shih tzu off of Scarlett. Okay, before my mother-in-law (or her friends, or anyone) sees this as a kind of indictment, it’s not. I’m not blaming Priscilla. I’m not even blaming the dog (though do not take that to mean I’m not very annoyed with him, and he is now banned from our yard for the foreseeable future). Dogs who have not spent their lives around chickens see them as prey. Chickens are small and fast, but not too fast. I mean, this little dog goes with us on our walks in the park, and you can see him thinking longingly about the pigeons there. What he saw the other day was a big, fat pigeon who was walking instead of flying. That’s the stuff dreams are made of in his little brain. The stuff of which dreams are made.

Luckily, Teebo is a small dog. Unluckily, he went straight for her head. She has a minuscule amount of blood that has come out of her eardrum and dried up, but she obviously did not bleed for very long–to be honest, he probably grazed her with a tooth by accident. These chickens are actually a little bigger than he is, so he got a mouthful of feathers from around the side of her neck and not much more. What she’s suffering from appears to be a flesh wound.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when chickens are attacked by a predator, they are very slow afterwards for a good while, and they tend to keep at least one eye closed if the predator got anywhere near their faces. I’m sure that’s a protective measure. When Ri-Ri was attacked, it took her days to even come up out of a crouch, and she was probably sore. Imagine if something as big as you  are (or many times bigger), something you knew wanted wanted to eat you, threw you to the ground and started pulling your hair out before going for your throat. At the very least, given your survival, you’d feel violated, exhausted, and achy. Scarlett is going through exactly that.  She’s been in the henhouse for two days, quiet and uninterested in frolicking with the other hens, and doesn’t want to come out. When I petted her, she didn’t freak out, but she isn’t exactly in a position to do a lot of flailing and yelling.

Chickens need time, gentleness and extra food to get over stress (which is why chicken factories are horrible, horrible places). Scarlett will be all right. She will get extra mash and extra scratch and lots of fresh water, lots of time in the cool of the henhouse and grass and bugs when she’s ready to come out. I will spoil her well again. Poor chickie.

I love those birds so much.

Oh! Rob said that the other day, the day he found the silkie egg, he heard a wee rooster crow! Somebody got laid, and it wasn’t an egg.

In other news, still no lambs. Stupid, stubborn, overly pregnant ewe.

Between Semesters

So…there hasn’t been much to report lately, kids. I finished finals and am in my week between old and new classes, but I’m working! The antisocial computer nerd chicken farmer is at the reception desk at TSTC. Go figure.

Hubby posted this image, which…well, all I have to say about it is I’m starting to think her pregnancy is a figment of our imagination. I’m waiting for Morpheus to step out and give me the red pill because the Agents have programmed my recent existence around this purportedly pregnant ewe, but have suddenly realized that they don’t know the code to make her give birth.

Ahem. Anyway, you can see how rounded her lower belly is, and Rob says her udders are swelling. That, in human terms, heralds impending doom birth. I guess that means that after months of thinking we’re days away, we’re actually days away?

aboutToPopStupid sheep.

The silkies grow every day. They are big and fluffy now, and in the evenings when they’re cuddled up in a corner of the henhouse, I reach down and pet them. They don’t like it yet, but I need them to know me as the big friendly thing with the food. Right now I’m the big scary thing with the food, and that’s not nearly close enough.

That’s really all I’ve got for now, unless you want to hear me geek out about my GPA or the fact that I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa. Naw, you don’t need that. This is a chicken blog.

Chicken Sociology

I need to start carrying my phone out there with me so I can take notes. Maybe I need a new tab.

The chickens are fascinating. I never thought I’d say that. The most to pass for chicken psychology when I was a kid was the little red and black banty rooster killing the big white (I think it was) leghorn. That wasn’t so much psychology as it was psycho, and I think a hawk got him, or my dad had to take care of him because we didn’t need a bird that killed other birds. Maybe we didn’t know enough about chicken sociology. Maybe we should have recognized that having two roosters isn’t a good idea. (Not to mention that the white one was so massive that when he’d hop up to get a little sump’m, he’d squash the hens flat. At the time, I thought it was funny, but, you know, maybe it was a little horrific, too.)

Look how big he is!

Clockwise from top: Goldie, Shadow, Rhiannon.

Hubby had told me when we bought the silkies that the woman from whom he’d purchased them would trade back once we determined gender. Apparently that can’t happen (he has no idea who she is–good job, slick!), so he said “Are you going to be able to eat one of them?”

“Sure,” I answered, and I mean it, “but then that means we’d be down a chicken.”

“He’s not a producing chicken,” Rob insisted, which is true, and if we have two roosters fighting, that’s not good. Hence my wanting to trade for a hen.

Anyway. Sociology.

Shadow is emerging as the blue-ribbon standard in chicken protection. Goldie started picking on Ri-Ri today, and Shadow manfully placed himself between them. There is very little that he does without absolute purpose. Once the little altercation was over, he went back to eating–and then, seemingly out of the blue, darted all the way across the hen yard to get a piece of grain or grass or a bug that forced him to stretch his neck out over #2 Dude’s head, effectively pinning Dude beak-down in the dirt for a few seconds. That was a bold play, Shadow. Way to exert your dominance.

I think I just named the second rooster. Because the Dude abides.

In another instance, Shadow spotted one of the cats just outside the fence. Her name is PITA, and yes, that stands for exactly what you think it does, and she really is a mostly-blameless cat since we threw her out for peeing on the laundry. Well, no cat is wholly innocent when there’s prey to be had, but I really think she was just waiting for me to come out and give her scritchins. So there she was, and very abruptly, there he was. He hunkered down and darted across to her, then immediately stretched his neck up tall and did a very macho teenage-rooster cluck. He didn’t, of course, scare the cat off, but once again, it’s a fine example of him being completely unafraid of something that could maim him horribly.

I managed to grab Ri-Ri and cuddle her for a minute. She trembled, then stopped, and I talked to her and petted her. She is, as these chickens go, kind of an ugly duckling. They are all sporting these gorgeous fluffy feathers, and here she is with her half-naked head and her skinny body and her footie feathers not coming in right. I wonder if it’s possible that the stress of the predator attack has stunted her growth. My intention is to get her used to me so I can give her treats and pamper her. She deserves a little favoritism, and I don’t care what Goldie thinks with her little blonde cheerleader self, Ri-Ri is a beautiful little chicken.

I…might be projecting my own psychology. Just a little.

Pregnant ewe is still pregnant, and that’s all the news that’s fit to print, kids.

Creepy sheep!

And chickens with laser eyes.

And chickens with laser eyes.

I’m going about my business: seeing that animals have fresh, cool water, feeding the chicks again, making sure I can get a head count on the hens. I rustle a bit through the row of food bins, close them up–and I turn and almost jump out of my skin.

There’s Sass’p, about ten feet away. Mere seconds ago, she’d been across the yard; abruptly she was standing there like one of those seemingly-innocent, but actually very creepy, Japanese ghosts.

Staring at me.

I almost expected her to phase through the air in a blur of television static and eat my face, moaning  “Graaaiiins.”

(Wish I could say I was clever enough to have made up that “grains” part, but I yoinked it from my friend Pat.)

In other, less creepy news: coming from my perpetual interest in reconciling computer nerd and reluctant farmgirl, I am working on building an app. It’s my final project in Android class (sorry, iPhone users, I don’t know that platform). If it’s anywhere near good, I’ll publish it just for giggles.

Also, some form of straight-to-chickens.com is coming soon!

Rhiannon it is, Shadow boxing, and other news

Ruby  gave some insight into Rhiannon, the bird and horse goddess of Celtic mythos.  She said that Rhiannon’s birds were known to possess healing powers. Good enough for me! Little Rhiannon is my birdie of the day.

Shadow and one of the other silkies (obviously a rooster as well) were doing the aggravated “come at me, bro!” dance this morning. They’d run at each other, wings flapping, and bumps chests. It’ll be interesting to see which one comes out on top. Also a little sad, because…well, chicken people understand that broods don’t do well with two roosters. He will have an honorable death. Or he might get traded back to the farm from whence he came in exchange for a hen.

Shadow is also emerging as the great protector. I reached down to pet him the other day, and he decided that my hand looked like too much of a threat and advanced on it. Never mind that it was attached to something roughly 20 times his size, he was going to GET me. I was amused and charmed (but not enough to leave my hand down there). Lil Dude has some serious bravery.

“Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night…” You’re welcome.