Fairy Egg

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We got quite the surprise the day after the most recent dog attack.  5 eggs!  We only have four chickens so I would have thought that was pretty much impossible.  The fifth egg as you can see is tiny, quite cute really!  I haven’t had the heart to crack it open yet, but I’m guessing it is yolkless.  I did some research and found out that when a chicken is a new layer, or is quite stressed they can lay a tiny egg like this.  Some people refer to them as fairy eggs.  I’m guessing it is probably Amelia’s since the color most closely resembles her big eggs (far right).  She also was the most stressed so she seems the likely culprit.  I wouldn’t have guessed though that she still wouldn’t have given us a large egg in the same day.  Being a chicken keeper can be quite interesting.

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The Horror of Neighborhood Dogs

I am not a fan of the neighborhood dogs.  In fact, that is an understatement.  I am quite upset with the canines that patrol around here.    We don’t have a lot of chicken predators living in the suburbs, but neighborhood dogs are a threat.   In fact a neighboring chicken owner lost his entire flock a few years back to a dog.  Yesterday I was grateful that I don’t free range my hens. I was enjoying my Sunday morning when I heard desperate cries from my chickens.  I ran out to discover a very large, wolf like dog circling my hens in their run.  The chickens, horribly panicked, squawked and screeched, frantically running around and around trying desperately to flee.  I wish they would have remembered to seek refuge in the coop, but they panicked and in the process they bumped and scraped an injured themselves.  I chased the dog and he watched through the fence next door, even though that wasn’t his home.  I opened the door of the run to assess the damage when to my horror all four chickens bolted.  They were still horribly afraid and the desire to run was strong.  I was petrified that the dog was going to run after my girls.  I told my 13-year-old daughter to keep an eye on the dog as I ran as quickly as I could to scoop up the hens which were quickly fleeing to the driveway which lead to the road.  I could only gather them two at a time, so by the time I got to the last two they were almost to the road.  After the hens were safe we were finally able to scare off the dog and I was able to check out the injuries.  Combs and beaks were scraped and bleeding.

Amelia was the worst.  She injured her beak and comb.  This wasn’t the first time she’d met this dog, and this is where she was hurt before.  He terrorized my hens last year before they were laying.  It is hard to see in this picture but her comb was bleeding right where it meets her beak.  I took time to calm Amelia, to clean the cut, and to apply some ointment.

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There was also a disturbing amount of feathers littered around.  I’m not sure if the dog swiped the hens or in the stress they lost their feathers.

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All four hens were very distressed, but thankfully they survived.  If we didn’t have them in a run I’m sure they would have met their end.

The chickens seemed to recognize that we had saved them and would frantically cluck when we would try to leave.  My two youngest daughters decided to stay nearby and soothe the hens.  After awhile they were okay to let us go.

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When we went to leave for church the hens began panicking again, and sure enough wolf dog was back.  I tried to catch him and ending up following him to his home, which ended up being just two homes to our west.  The owner yelled at his dog to get in the house.  I wasn’t sure what else to say at first.  I heard myself saying “Your dog keeps trying to get my chickens”.  He didn’t really respond, but since he had yelled at the dog to get in the house I just mumbled “Thanks”, and went on my way.  I probably should have let him have it, but I don’t think he even lives there.  It is complicated.  Thankfully we didn’t see the dog again, but something else happened tonight.

 As we were sitting down to dinner tonight one of my daughters suddenly said “Oh No!”.  A medium build, black dog was circling the run terrorizing my hens.  My oldest daughter ran out first and I ran out after her, even though I was only in my socks.  The dog kept running around the run and coop, almost oblivious to our presence.  There seemed to be nothing we could do to stop it.  My husband stepped in, yelling loudly at the dog, and he ran off.  To our dismay we found out that the dog lives two houses to our East where it ran home.  The hens are even more injured than they were yesterday.  Again it is just their beaks and combs, but the injuries are still there.  One by one I treated them with ointment.  Amelia seemed especially upset huddled in a nesting box.  I expect the hens will lay less these next couple of days.  It is so frustrating to spend so much time taking care of my chickens to have them terrorized by someone’s pet which has been allowed to roam.

It makes me even more determined to get them in a larger more permanent area which will make it easier for them to retreat from a predator.  It will have to be secure, that is sure.  I am grateful my hens are now safely tucked in their coop.  I hope the dog attacks stop, especially since the owners seem aware, but only time will tell.  Stupid dogs!

West Side Story, Chicken Style!

Last night after my post I thought I had come up with a wonderful solution for Charlotte.  I remarked to my husband “I should just offer to buy her from the neighbor”.  I thought my genius idea would work wonderfully.  Since Charlotte seems so fond of us anyway I thought I’d just incorporate her into my flock.  I knew I would probably need to separate her for a bit to make sure she isn’t sick and to make sure that the hens got used to her.

Sure enough this morning the first sight that greeted me this morning was Charlotte, pecking around the chicken run.  My fuzzy morning brain, thought “Hey, why not just catch her, throw her in with my girls, and then offer to buy her.  Why wait to acclimate her”.  I put some feed in my hand and held it out for Charlotte.  She slowly came over and then frantically began feeding.  I tried to grab her and she jumped back, startled.  I tried again and the second time I caught her.  Then what did I do?  I placed her straight into my chicken run.  My hens, busy with their feed kept eating.  I thought “Hey this is going great.  Maybe they are used to Charlotte because she comes by so often”.   I was horribly mistaken.  My hens started fluffing up, and even my docile Easter Egger hens turned into something I’d never seen before.  It was like West Side Story, chicken style. You could almost her the chickens snapping as they cornered Charlotte, and then they struck.  Peck!  Peck!  Squawk!  Charlotte frantically tried to run away, but found herself cornered again and again. 

I was horrified.  There is a real pecking order with chickens and poor Charlotte did not belong in this one.  She was a Shark and the Jets simply had no room for her in their turf.  I flung open the chicken door, grabbed Charlotte and quickly closed the door again.  My gangster hens pleased with their success went back to pecking at the grass and the order of laying, as if nothing had happened.  I said something motherly like “That wasn’t very nice girls”.  I should have said “Can’t we all just get along!”. 

Charlotte wandered back up the hill and away from our yard, her little fluffy bum slowly going out of sight.   She was a lost chicken soul in this sad little world.  I’m not sure if we’ll be seeing her again soon.

Chicken Visitor and Starting Over

DSCF5016For several weeks now we have had a chicken visitor.  Charlotte, as we have come to call her, first showed up one cold winter day.  My daughters were worried about her.  She had been pecked in spots and looked weak.  She ended up heading back home though which isn’t far from ours.  Our neighbor behind us and a few houses over has chickens, and not just a few chickens, LOTS of chickens.  They free range without any real coop.  They make their home under the porch, which is surrounded by hay bales.  Months went by before we saw Charlotte again, but one day she was in our back yard, looking healthier than before.  My three year old kept saying “Oh No” and babbling on about a chicken.  She thought one of our chickens had escaped, but nope, it was Charlotte.

Charlotte likes to peck where our chicken coop has previously been.  She finds bits of feed and loves circling our coop while our chickens puff up trying to look tough.  Charlotte will sometimes try to eat the feed right at the edge of the run door and my hens in return will try to peck at her.  I think as time goes by though they are all growing more comfortable with each other.  My hens are a pretty tight group though and they still will cluck and the uninvited visitor.

I’m not quite sure what to do with Charlotte.  I thought over time the neighbor’s other chickens would wander over as well, but Charlotte seems to be keeping the secret to herself, because day after day she is comes into the yard, all by her lonesome.  When I try to catch her she usually will head back to the fence and hop over.  I caught her tonight, but at a loss what to do with her I gently placed her at the top of her fence so she could fly back into her yard.  While Charlotte is quite cute, I’m worried as she continues to visit that she will find our garden a good source of food.  One of the reasons we keep our chickens in their run is so we can still garden.  We let them free range from time to time, but only with supervision, mostly for their safety.

So I’m at a bit of a conundrum.  Another neighbor suggested we put chicken wire around our garden, but that seems like a lot of work just to protect our garden from the neighbor’s wayward hen.  Do I catch her, knock on the neighbor’s door and tell him his chicken keeps getting loose?  If I do that though what is he going to do?  He hasn’t built any sort of home for his chickens besides placing hay bales.  Do I catch her, throw her in with my hens, and then let the neighbor know he can come get his chicken?  This would be a solution if the neighbor isn’t home, but brings up other concerns.  What if she is sick and gets my hens sick?  What if my hens attack her?  I don’t want to call animal services.  I’m in a bit of a conundrum.  What would you do?

Another problem I ran into this season is my seeds.  I have had very few sprouts come up in my greenhouse. I’m not sure if it has been the temperature fluctuations, but they just haven’t been happy enough to come up.  I did get two zucchini sprouts.  One is looking pretty good, but the other one died after a really cold night.    Feeling discouraged, but not giving up I decided to start some seeds inside this past Saturday.

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Thankfully I hadn’t used all of my seeds with the last planting and had enough to replant my entire summer crop and even planted some herbs.  I watered them thoroughly and covered them with the clear cover.  I think though the conditions at first were too humid and moist because I began to get white fuzz on some of the dirt, probably fungus.  I quickly uncovered them and placed them in the sun.  I also sprinkled them with cinnamon , a tip I picked up from Little House on the Beltline http://littlehouseonthebeltline.com/.  I am just praying I get healthy sprouts soon.  I just planted this last Saturday, so I know it is still early.   I do have one little oregano sprout, but what I’m really hoping for is my heirloom seeds.  I haven’t given up yet, and trust me I won’t, but sometimes I wish things went smoother on the garden front.  I am constantly learning and it can be hard.

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I’ve also run into a problem with the 3rd grade cabbage.  I opened up the green house today before heading into work.  I knew the day was going to warm up which would be devastating for the cabbage if left sweltering.  I flipped the clear plastic up and over the top of the greenhouse, but when I got home I noticed the cover had slid back down.  Sure enough the cabbage was a wilted mess.  I quickly brought in the poor plant and watered it thoroughly.  It is now resting comfortably on the kitchen windowsill.  Surprisingly it has perked up quite a bit, so it may just pull through.  My poor daughter felt horribly guilty, so hopefully she will take a more active role in its care.

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Despite many failures, we have had some success on the garden front.  Everything that has been planted directly outside is sprouting nicely.  The spinach, kale, peas, cilantro and even dill are coming up nicely.  The dill is an especially wonderful surprise.  The seeds were from a dried stalk of dill I had from last year, and I’m so pleased they are coming up.  I love fresh dill with my eggs.  The success with direct ground planting makes me want to skip sprouting indoors altogether.  I think it is probably unwise to go straight to the ground though with the summer crops.  If this next round of seeds fail me though I may just go that direction.  Wish me luck!

Reading with the Farm Chick

I usually work between 40-45 hours a week at my desk job.   Sometimes I’ll be at my desk for 11 hours.  To keep my sanity I really love to listen to audio books. Since I can’t be out working in the garden I often find myself gravitating towards books about farms, or interesting people. Here are some of my favorite finds recently.

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julie Child by Bob Spitz

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

I absolutely fell in love with this book.  Julie Child is an amazing woman and her life fascinates me.  The author does an excellent job immersing you right into her life.  I learned so much about her and in the end she felt like a dear friend.  I actually got teary at the end of the book.  I got so attached to Julia that I went and got her first two cookbooks.  I have yet to find the energy to try one of her elaborate recipes, but I continue to renew the books through my library system.  I haven’t entirely given up the idea.

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Micheal Pollan

Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

 Micheal Pollan is a pretty well-known author, but I stumbled across this book, which was written several years ago.  I really enjoyed learning about how our American style of landscaping, such as our suburban grass, came about.  I especially loved the little personal stories.  I found myself laughing out loud when Pollan tells about his father’s rebellion against the suburban rules of landscaping.  There is a wealth of information in this book, and I really found myself thinking about our relationship to nature. 

Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn by Catherine Friend

Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn

Hit by a Farm is the most comprehensive and personal book I’ve found that deals with what it would be like to just start a farm, without prior knowledge or experience.  Have you ever wanted to know what birthing season is like on a sheep farm?  What about raising chickens for meat?  How about planting a vineyard? Catherine goes into intimate details on these subjects and more.  She gets rid of all the glossy ideas of a farm and thrusts you right into reality.  She also discusses her relationship with her partner who is the driving force behind the farm.  Whatever your thoughts are on same-sex relationships I think this book is a great read.

I am always on the search for something new so what do you like to read?