Monday, March 25, 2013

Farm Fresh Eggs

After nearly 5 years of raising chickens, we have finally convinced our boys to sell eggs.  We do, after all, have more eggs than we can possibly eat ourselves.  We hope they will learn a little about running a "business" while earning a little pocket change.  Send them an email and enjoy some great, farm fresh eggs!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hello Again!

So it has been a while since I have posted and hopefully I will get around to filling you all in on what has been going on around here.

Recently we decided to let one of our hens sit on a clutch of eggs and let them hatch naturally rather than purchasing baby chicks.  A hen will sit on a nest and on day 21 you can expect the eggs to begin hatching.  I had been out of town on one of my football camp trips with Davis.  As I usually do when I have been out of town, I began making my rounds to check on the farm.  Dogs - check, horses - check, new baby chick - check.  If the 7 eggs in the clutch only one had hatched and it is the cutest little thing!  I left the other eggs alone hoping that the hen would go back to the next but unfortunately that never happened.  From all I have read, if the eggs don't hatch within a day or so of each other, they are not viable.  Last night, Christian and I planned to launch the duds into the woods to return to them food chain.  As I gathered the eggs from the nest, he stood armed with his lacrosse stick, his preferred launching devise of choice.  Suddenly I heard a small faint "peep" coming from one of the soon to be projectiles.  Could it be?

After carefully checking the other eggs, Christian quickly went to work on his mission and we headed inside with a wiggling, peeping brown orb.  As I have done countless times since aquiring chickens I consulted my favorite resource:  There I posted a frantic message asking for help.  Christian and I took turns holding the egg in our hands to keep it warm while typing.  Before I even hit send I felt a "tap" and when I lifted my finger I saw a small hole in the egg.

Boil water!  Call a doctor STAT!  I don't know nuthin' about birthin' no chickens!  Help BYC!

The kind and experienced folks on this web forum immediately walked me through what to do.  They also included some what NOT to do's which we had already done.  A small container lined with paper towels sitting on a heating pad, wet paper towels on one side to provide humidity and the egg on the other.  Careful not to let the egg get wet but humid enough so the membrane does not dry out and shrink wrap the chick as it is trying to emerge.  Seriously - who would have known?!

The shoebox sized container sitting on my bedside stand, I finally dozed off around mid-night seeing no progress.  Lights on and off through the night, still hearing peeping but still seeing no progress, I was not very hopeful.

Around 7am this morning, I noticed more and more peeping and suddenly a crack.  Over the next hour the chick proceeded to tap away a perfect circle around the circumference of the egg.  Suddenly with little grace a wet black chick flopped half out of the egg.  After sitting there for a moment, it wiggled and writhed it's way free of the egg.  How cool is that!

David is out of town at a conference so I texted him photos and video along the way.  I think he was very impressed until the last picture to which he quickly replied "Who that's ugly!"  As a first time "hen" I take that personally!

A small "peep" or hole let me know it was time.

Delivery room

Chick cracks the shell in a perfect shell around the egg.

No pretty but it is ours!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

From Days Gone By

Below you will find, in reverse date order, some updates about what is happening here at Anathoth.  I have been very surprised at the numbers of you who seem to enjoy these updates so I will keep them coming.  

Thanks for your interest and for indulging my quirky sense of humor!

June 2009
The last few months have been full of end of the school year, beginning of summer happenings for everyone.  For me, Spring always conjures up my project juices.  So much so that the thought has even crossed my mind that my spring motivations often remind me of the nesting instinct so many expectant mothers feel, except instead of trying to beat the gestational clock, I am trying to beat the heat. 
This year’s spring project was a new chicken coop and not just any coop would do.  I am, and I am proud to be, a true Daddy’s girl.  I call myself that not just because I happen to have the best Dad in the world, but we also seem to share many of the same personality traits: focused, determined, independent and absolutely project driven.  There must be some gene we carry that drives us, even requires us to cross things off lists. It is just who we are.  Top that off with the fact that I have repeated many times, “My father can do anything” and you can see where this is heading.  Now prior to the much coveted title of “Papa” my father had other titles, CEO, President and successful entrepreneur and you would think that none of those would predispose him to being, well, handy, but there you would be wrong.
Dad and Christian get the walls up and David works on the roof.
When it became apparent that we would need a new coop, where else would I seek guidance?  Over the years, I have seen my father take apart, build and repair countless things and why should this be any different?  In addition to knowing that I would have the coop of all coops, just knowing that my father was the lead architect and builder was undoubtedly a big deal.  A couple of weeks later and we now have a coop that was built by three generations.  My dad and I, with the help of David and the boys finally completed the project and I must say it looks great.  We have already decided on a name but I will announce that in the next couple of weeks after we get it painted and post the final pictures.
Though Christian helped a bit less than David and Davis, he has been my go to guy when it comes to wrangling chickens and moving day was just the time to call him into duty.
David and Davis were returning from a mission trip to Guatemala the next day and I had had about all the chickens I could handle on the sun porch.  I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I am a women living with three men.  I can handle just about any odor, but this was way past Pine Sol.
For those of you who remember the post where I was plucking chickens from trees on a 10ft ladder, in my pj’s at 10 o’clock at night, let me point out that even that situation came with its life lessons.  Chickens roost at night.  When they roost, I mean they are almost catatonic.  Since they are also creatures of habit, I knew that no coaxing, bribing or engraved invitation was going to convince them that they should change their habits and take up residents in the new coop, but they had met their match in Christian the chicken wrangler.  We waited until dusk when all were snug in the old coop and one by one we scooped them up and transferred them to their nice new home. 
I couldn’t help but giggle when I thought about how they might react the next morning.  In fact it sort of reminded me of how someone would describe an alien abduction.  “I don’t know what happened.  One minute I was asleep, then I woke up in this strange new place!”  In fact one of them must have been really startled, because she laid a shell-less egg. They seem to be getting used to it now and in the next week or so we will be moving the last batch of babies (formerly residents of the sun porch, now in the old coop) in with the others and if you ask me it will be none to soon.

The Almost Finished Coop
Here a Chick, There a Chick, 
Everywhere a Chick Chick
April 2009
I am over it. Refusing to be encumbered by the anger that you likely sensed in my last post (The Crazy Chicken Lady), warming temperatures seem to have brought a sunnier outlook. 
Since the neighbor’s dog made a snack of our last two hens (I think I am over it), we have come to the realization that our two remaining hens, hard working as they are, cannot sustain the breakfast habits of this family. 
Last year David only requested one type of chick from our order: a black Jersey Giant. Unfortunately, that was the pitiful little bird that had to meet the sharp end of the garden loppers.  We never got to see just how big a 13 pound chicken could be, so a few weeks ago we placed a new order through for not one, but three Jersey Giants and three other chicks to keep them company during shipping.  For those of you doing the math that would be 39 pounds of big black birds.  Eat that you mangy mutt – I am tryingto get over it!
Since Davis’ little Dixie chick was a victim as well, we took the boys to the feed store with the intentions of allowing Davis to pick out a new chick.  It seems that chicks are much like potato chips and “you can get just one”.  After negotiating, we compromised with four and we once again have chickens in our living room soon to be joined by the special order batch.
As I write this I can hear them chirping and scratching in their storage tub home.  Unless you have had the pleasure of experiencing chickens in your living room first hand, I doubt you can really appreciate it. For just a moment, allow your self to lay aside the comedic possibilities and picture this.

Since the horses are using the big water trough we used last year, we made due with an extra storage container from the attic.  At the time I did not consider my housing selection was anything other than conveni
ence, but in this clear container, I find myself appreciating the chicks much as you would an aquarium of fish. Of course, you will need to substitute the gentle bubbles for chirps, and the blue glow of aquarium lighting for the orange hue from a heat lamp and you might be able to appreciate the scene.    

With the addition of 10 new chicks, larger more permanent housing is required.  Much as I enjoy a week or two a year with chickens in the house, once they no longer fit in your hand it is time to move on. Our small outdoor chicken hutch has been great, but it must give way to progress. Fortunately my father has experience dabbling in this area by building a playhouse for grandchildren so he has promised his expertise for no more fee than the promise of fresh eggs in about 6 months.
In other areas of farm life, David is still lobbying for a cow, however I think I may have staved him off, at least for a time. Much of his argument has been in the vein of feeding two rapidly growing boys.  My personal rule around here is that we don’t eat anything we name.  Any animal that enters our gates will get a name so I have dug my heels in on the cow.  I don’t, however, have any trouble eating what someone else has named.  I just don’t want to know that name unless it is something along the lines of “Prime” or “Grade A”.
One day while researching information for our new garden, I stumbled on a website that promoted eating “local”, a concept that we support. There I found a local family that raises pasture fed, hormone and antibiotic free cattle. So just today I ordered ¼ of one of those cows ensuring his execution and our family’s full belly.  So, some time in the next few weeks we expect over 100pds of various cuts of beef.  Some time in the next few months we will have a very large cook-out. No neighbors dogs invited.
David grew up spending many summers at his grandparent’s house in Alabama.  His memories seem to be filled with time spent with his grandfather tending his garden and watching martins patrol the sky. Grandpaw passed away over ten years ago, but David has always wanted to follow in that tradition. 
He struggled to start a garden the last few years, but he really wanted to give it a go. Finally, we made a compromise that if I could make a few “suggestions” I would get involved.  God often seems to put together people who have complementary personalities and gifts.  Where David’s gifts of vision and muscle lack organization, my planning skills fit right in. Between the two of us, I must say we have made a really good start and we hope our enthusiasm with continue and reward us with at least a few veggies to show for it by the end of the summer.
As for the martins, they say the scouts who migrate early looking for nests have already been spotted in our area.  We have yet to see any here, but we have a really nice house vacant and ready.  If you see any, send them our way.  The rent is free and all we ask in return is that they eat the mosquitoes and dive bomb any canine intruders.  Okay, maybe I am NOT over it, but I am working on it!

The Crazy Chicken Lady
 February 28, 2009
Last Saturday the boys and I planned to spend the unusually warm February afternoon doing odd jobs around the farm, fishing and generally enjoying the day.  After arriving home from Christian’s last basketball game of the season, I quickly jumped into my comfy work clothes and headed outside. 
As soon as I stepped out the door, I knew something was wrong as one of our hens, Nugget, screeched and squawked across the yard.  As recently as one year ago, I would have brushed off the suggestion that one could know something was amiss by observing the demeanor of a chicken.  Mothers can tell if her child is feverish or has had a bad day at school with just a quick glance, and I knew something was amiss with one glance at this bird. 
I quickly scanned the property noticing the dogs in a dither, then I saw it:  a large, black lab standing over a small, grey lump.
“Davis, get out here! That black lab is back,” I yelled to the house while screaming, waving arms in the air, running in the direction of the dog.
Davis came running out of the house, hopping and bending to put his boots on at a full jog.
“Let’s try to catch him," I said.  "Be nice.”
Likely concerned by my crazed impersonation of a rabid housewife, the dog would not come within 50 yards of us and ran away. This was not the first time I had seen this particular dog on our property, and he was not interested in being captured.
We gave up on the capture, and I made my way to the scene of the crime: too late.  I have always had an aversion to touching anything dead, but blame it on the adrenaline, or an unusual sentimentality toward for poultry, I stooped to pick up our last remaining Barred Rock hen, Mary Kate.  Still warm, I carried her back to the house to assess the damage to Nugget and search for other survivors. 
In the meantime and unbeknownst to me, Davis had called his Dad.  David was at a coaching clinic and could not answer the phone but began texting Davis.
David: “Whats up?”
Davis: “down to 1 chkn blk lab”
David: “get the 22 - shot it”
Davis: “ok”
About this time I walk toward the barn to find Davis where, having found Kate unharmed, he enlisted Christian to stand guard over the hen house as he set off  to get the .22. 
There are three things alarming about this: first and most importantly, a 13 ½ year old with a gun, regardless of how well trained and mature (which he is) is disturbing; second my 13 ½ year old with a gun setting out to shoot a dog is unthinkable and I still maintain he could NEVER do such a thing.  Finally, and yes there was discussion later, the fact that David told him to get the gun!  What is this? The wild-west? 
“No!” I said.  “You are coming with me,” and we set off to find the owner of the dog.
As we reached the barn where I heard the hammering,  I politely called, “Excuse me!  Excuse me!”
Just as he took one step outside the barn I began to ask if he had seen a black lab when out the perpetrator walked without a care in the world.
“Is that your dog?”
“Yeah,” he said in a barely perceptible, but obviously defensive tone.
“Well he has been over there killing my chickens!”  I said while my hands quickly found their place firmly on my hips unconsciously bracing myself for what I knew was about to come.
“This dog?!”
“He was only gone a minute.  How do you know it was my dog?” he said in a tone that was both sarcastic and confrontational.
“Because I SAW him!” I said.
“Do you have dogs?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes,” I said not knowing where he was going with this line of questioning.
“Well how do you know it wasn’t one of YOUR dogs?”
“Because I SAW him standing over the still warm, dead body of my chicken!” I said.  I immediately recognized that my selection of words and quiver in my voice would likely place me in a category similar to a “cat lady” or “bird man”, but too late.  At this point I was committed to my mission and frankly his response was far more concerning to me than being labeled "that crazy chicken lady".
“I have a 10 year old over there,” I said pointing in the direction of our property, “having a meltdown and we STILL can’t find two more chickens!”  I was beginning to loose my cool (read: choke up and cry).
Sometime during this discourse, another man had appeared who kindly apologized and offered to pay for them, but it was difficult to focus on his kind demeanor so all I could manage to say was, “Thank you, but they were only a couple of dollars each.  They are our pets, we hand raised them,” I said hoping to convey that their value was far more than monetary.
“Well I guess I will have to lock him up,” interrupted the dog owner with a huff as he turned and walked back into the barn calling for the dog to follow.
“That would be a good idea.”  I said, swallowed hard and turned toward home.
We returned home to find Christian still diligently standing guard over Kate.  We gathered a still shaken Nugget and set off to find Dr. Pepper.  Wandering through the woods, I finally spotted a white clump of feathers and not far from them a bald backed, injured, but still alive Dr. Pepper.  We locked all three in the hen house to recuperate for the night. 
Sadly the next day Dr. Pepper, apparently still in shock, wandered off and did not return that night.  The next morning I found her dead next to her hiding place where she must have tried to recuperate and sometime in the night another animal took advantage of her weakened state.
Davis get the .22!

Davis and Christian work on the garden then one week later......
My walk to the barn on a snowy morning
Chicken coop...the "girls" slept-in this morning
Christian relaxes after a full morning of 4-wheeler sledding.

Catching Up
It has been sometime since my last post, however I feel certain that many of you have also felt the strain of the holiday season and will forgive my delay.
Finding the Bright Side:
In addition to the usual hustle and bustle the abysmal economy has made many of us  take a very different look at how they spend money this Christmas.  At first this kind of adjustment is uncomfortable, but I think it can also have its blessings. When we moved here to Anathoth, we intended to tear down the original 1500 square foot house to build our dream home.  The original plan was to begin within six months, and here we sit three years later in the same house.  Though I would love for our boys to have their own rooms and a bit more space, I must admit that even the cramped quarters comes with it’s own blessings.  For better or worse we spend all of our time at home in very close quarters.  With two boys at 10 and 13, it is becoming more and more apparent that our years together, in one home, are growing short.  In the coming years I know I will long for the days that I had them “underfoot”.
So I have purposed to try to follow each passing thought that includes a complaint about what I don’t have and take the opportunity to thank God for the blessings he has heaped upon me and my family.  We may brush against each other in the hall or have to take turns in the bathroom, but we are all here together.  Given where we have been, what better gift could I be given this Christmas?  I am blessed!
Another one Bites the Dust:
As for happenings around the farm, sadly we are down to four chickens. One morning a few weeks ago I got up, started breakfast for the boys and walked out to the barnyard to gather eggs and let the chickens out for the day.  By now you likely know my head counting routine: one, two, three, four…..four…..uh oh!  One of our barred rocks was missing.  Where is Lazrus? 
It is funny how we so quickly become desensitized. I can’t remember if it was raining, cold or I was in a hurry, but I did not go running across the back pasture on a search and rescue mission.  I was fairly certain that we could not expect another “resurrection”, I went back to the house wondering how to break the bad news. 
The first chicken we lost, “Dumplin”, was a tragedy.  Tears were shed and a memorial if a note, a stone and an arrow was erected.  The second chicken, Dixie, brought about a search and rescue crew consisting of me and our loyal Labrador and evoked distress not to mention a little anger at the beast who had claimed her.  Now as I strode into the kitchen to ready the boys for school I solemnly told them that Lazrus was gone.  I told them that I feared that she must have been captured by the same predator that got Dixie. 
“Oh,” Davis said.
“Hum,”  said Christian. 
Expecting a profound comment in memorial or a promise to eradicate the vermin I stood there mentally formulating the perfect words of condolence and calculating if I had enough time to fein a rescue attempt before heading out to carpool.
“Is there any more bacon?”
“No honey, but do you want some more eggs?”  Irony.

Men in Trees:
Davis has recently caught the deer hunting bug that has been fueled by the monster bucks that we have seen in our front pasture.  A few weeks ago I happened to have my camera handy and was able to catch a shot of one from the window.  My husband, David, has never deer hunted, except with a pair of binoculars from the house so we thought we would share our photos with some of the guys we know that spend lots of time in the trees hunting these ferocious beasts. 
The first e-mail below is the one I sent along with the photo.  You will also see a couple of the e-mails we got in return offering to "help".

To: Hunter Friends
Subject: Need your help

We found this horse in our pasture and we can't figure out what kind 
it is.  Can you help us?


A few of the responses:
To: Shannon
Subject: Re: Need your help

This horrible predator, that poses as whitetail, and they carry many diseases and prey on chickens, horses, and they have even been known to eat large children..... Since we are friends I will be glad to come out and see if I can exterminate him for you at no charge!  We need to do it quickly though before more show up. I can be there this afternoon or
first thing in the morning.  I would do it with a bow so it would be stealth like and no one would know.

Just let me know.


To: Shannon
Subject: Re: Need your help
That is just one of those large antlered armadillos.  They are rarely seen in these parts.  They can cause great destruction to your pasture as well as your livestock.  It needs to be terminated immediately.  Call me and I guess I can come take care of this nuisance for you.
 We have such wonderfully helpful friends!
I hope you all had a blessed Christmas and all the best in the New Year!

Davis and I in the Germantown Christmas Parade

Much Ado About Nothing
September 28, 2008
Macho, days after arriving at Anathoth
Ever since I began riding as a child, I always dreamed of raising a young horse to train myself.  Last summer I took the first step to fulfilling that dream and today I made another giant leap.
 I had searched for months to find just the right colt.  I wanted a TWH with a great disposition and honestly I just wanted something “different”.  I stumbled on a website that listed what I thought was the most beautiful stallion I had ever seen. “Splashed with Champagne” was a gorgeous, spotted, amber champagne stud at Swift Walkin’ Farm that was described as a “people lover”. The website never listed any of his colts for sale, so I continued my search, without knowing that circumstance would intervene.
 Our son, Davis, and I had taken a road trip to Nashville to purchase another horse I had been looking at (my sweet Ranger). We stopped by one of my favorite tack shops to look around and there in the parking lot was a large horse trailer with “Swift Walkin’ Farm” plastered across the side, and I saw a man get out of the truck and walk into the store.  I quickly swung my 16ft horse trailer into the parking lot and set off in almost a full run after him.  After spotting him in the store, I kept my eye on him for a few minutes to giving me a chance to get my pulse and accelerated breathing under control.  Finally, in a performance that probably could have earned me an academy award nomination, I strolled up and asked, “Are you from “Swift Walkin’ Farm?” After explaining that I had seen his trailer and that I had admired his stud (a line of conversation that would only be appropriate in a tack shop), I asked if he happened to have any similar stock.  When he answered that he had several, I nearly descided to follow him home, but made arrangements to go the next weekend.
 Since the boys were out of school, we loaded up with trailer in tow and headed to the TN/KY border where Swift Walkin’ Farm is located.  We arrived and soon after we loaded up in a multi-passenger ATV and headed to the stud colt pasture.  This area is close to “Land Between the Lakes” and his full of rolling hills and streams.  As we climbed to the top of a one of those hills we saw running toward us from a distance, a herd of bucking, romping youngsters.  As the herd got closer it seemed to part and there in the middle was the cutest little carbon copy of “Splashed”. My heart skipped a beat and I knew this was to be my “Macho”. 
 As excited as I was, I must admit that in the next hour I came to question my sanity.  You see, these stud colts had been born in the pasture and once weaned had spent the next several months eating and growing with very little human contact aside from those who dumped their hay or feed in the pasture.  The boys and I watched as Macho was herded into smaller and smaller areas each time being cut off from his herd mates until finally he was left alone in a small enclosure.  He was then squeezed into one horse trailer, which was eventually backed up to my horse trailer where he was secured for the four and a half hour ride home.
 Obviously scared and with a scratch on his face we began our drive home. “What an introduction,” I thought to myself and I wondered how this little horse, who would not even let anyone touch him would ever learn to trust me. 
 The drive gave me an opportunity to regain my courage and recharge my excitement, and we rolled into the driveway just as David was arriving home from work.  I had formulated a plan of how I was going to get a horse that wouldn’t let me touch him, out of a trailer and into a stall, but it was going to require the help of my non-horsey husband. 
 David was walking up to the truck and just as I opened the door Macho began kicking the steel walls of the trailer and squealing like he was being attacked.  In what I would consider another academy award winning performance I struggled to appeared to be unfazed, but the look on David’s face clearly said “What have you done?!”
 After herding Macho into a stall using some farm gates he was finally home and my work was to begin.
 In recent years the Horse Whisperer has become almost legend, but in my opinion it is really simple.  It is all about respect and that is where Macho and I began. 
 At first I was just there.  There to feed him, there to watch him, but not to ask anything of him. I decided that I would let our relationship progress as he was comfortable and it did not take him long to become comfortable.  A horse is, by nature, a herd animal and herd animals are most secure with the herd.  The very reason I am very adamant that they should never, never be kept alone.  Because I could not have him with my other horses until he had been quarantined for a while, I became his herd.  It took me less than twenty four hours to begin touching him and within two days I had a halter on him and could lead him in and out of the paddock where he spent the day.  By that time, every time I went out into the paddock he followed my like a puppy.  A puppy – that has become the way I describe him most often.  He would rather be with me than anywhere else.  He loves to be scratched and rubbed and in what I would describe as one of his “faults” he can be a bit pushy about it.  Macho is also not afraid of anything.  I like to think it is because he has never been mishandled, but he doesn’t flinch at most things, that would send many other horses high-tailing it to the next county.  No one has ever hurt him so he has never learned to fear humans.
 Macho is now nearly 2 ½ and the time has come to begin his training under saddle. From, day one, I have been working with him on the ground and he as passed each test with flying colors.  With our barn renovations nearly complete, I was finally able to clear the riding ring of the equipment we had temporarily stored there. The wait was over and the time had come to saddle up and ride him for the first time. 
Macho and I doing some ground work before our first ride
 Part of me would like to tell you that it was a rodeo, but the fact is it was less than dramatic. Having done all the work up to this point I was not surprised that Macho took it all in stride. We rode around the ring a couple of times in each direction and I got on and off a few times from each side and we called it a day.  No bucks, no broken bones, no big deal.  I may not be able to put our first ride on my rodeo resume, but we have both lived to ride again!
Our first ride.  Davis is helping to keep him moving.


Who Needs a Cat?

September 22, 2008

As fall comes into full swing, we have begun to think of all the preparations for winter.  One of the nuisances that we have to deal with around the barn is mice, though we have a new secret weapon in our arsenal this year.  We recently discovered that one of our hens, Kate, has a fondness for mice.  She puts on quite a show and when Christian had some friends over to celebrate his birthday this weekend, I was able to catch them enjoying the game of hen and mouse.  You can view the video by clicking HERE. Please be aware that this video is not for the vegan, the squeamish or rodent lovers.

I was also able to catch some great video of our lab, Sugar, playing tether ball with one of the boys.  This is a don't miss video.  ClickHERE to view.

Our barn renovations are nearly complete and I hope to get some pictures added soon. 


A Farewell to Dixie

August 25. 2008

If you are a mother or have ever been responsible for more than a few children at one time, you undoubtedly know the routine of a head count.  You go to the store and every few isles you do a head count; get in the car – head count; get out of the car – head count; you chaperone a field trip and with the pressure of caring for someone else’s child the head count is repeated to the point of exhaustion.

Though our boys are much bigger now, one in fact being bigger than me, I still do a head count from time to time.  It seems one of those things that as a mother, has become difficult habit to break and has now spilled over to all the “critters”.

As I drive up our driveway, head count: one, two, three, four horses.  I make the turn into the garage, head count: one, two, three, four, dogs, and more recently I have taken on the bigger challenge of counting a busy flock of chickens: one, two, three, four, five, six chickens.

Last Friday the boys spent the night with their grandparents and David and I were looking forward to a night alone.  Now, for those of you who have been keeping up with this on going story you might remember a previous chapter that began in a similar fashion, but I warn you in advance the outcome this time is tragically different.

I arrived home before David and after counting the horses then counting the dogs I moved to the chicken coop to count the “girls”.  Because it was dusk they had already made their way toward the coop and were making their last pass for bugs before roosting for the night.  One, two, three, four, five….

“Where is Dixie?” I thought.

Dixie is our son Davis’ blue cochin hen.  A round ball of fluff and feathers that starts at her neck ends at her feet in garishly feathered bell bottoms.   I was not immediately concerned, because Dixie is a bit shy so it is not unusual for her to linger behind the others.

“Hereeeeee, chick, chick, chick!” “Hereeeeee, chick, chick, chick!” I sang with the other hens gathering at my feet waiting for a dropped seed or crumb.  “Hereeeee, chick!”  Nothing.

My first thought was actually a pleasant one.  Only three of the six have begun to lay; maybe she was too shy to lay her first egg in the coop and has found a quite spot under the tractor or a favorite tree.  I set off to search ignoring the small quite voice in my head whispering what I didn’t want to hear.

Once I had exhausted all the usual places I ventured past the barn into the back pasture scanning the fence line.  It wasn’t until I was right on top of it that I saw it.  A pile of blue-gray feathers.  Quickly looking from the left to the right I saw that it was, in fact not a single pile, but a trail.  Bending down to examine them closer I noticed that ants had already begun to congregate at the blunt tips that formerly secured them to their owner.  This did not just happen.  The annoying voice had grown louder and my hopes quieter.

The trail led to the deep ravine hidden in the woods beside the pasture.  Even though the light was fading quickly I began rehearsing the conversation I knew I would have with Davis knowing he would ask if I went to look for her.  I made my way back to the house to jump into my overalls and fashion be damned, I set off to find Dixie.  I enlisted the help of Sugar, our yellow lab and it didn’t take long for her to find the continuation of the feather trail through the ravine.  We searched for quite some time finding more feathers with each step.  I finally heard David return home and call to us from above.  It was clear from the amount of feathers scattered through the woods that we would not find Dixie alive so Sugar and I climbed out defeated.

The boys took it well.  Christian’s first concern was for his brother and Davis vowed revenge on whatever creature may have been responsible.  He has formulated plans to set traps, or build a hunting blind and unleash full fury of his thirteen year old arsenal including bb’s, paintballs or bottle rockets if allowed.  Though I tried to explain the circle of life, that some animal was perhaps able to feed her young, it was an explanation I would have to repeat to myself as well.

Things have changed here at Anathoth.  Our harmonious little oasis has given way to reality and though we love to see our hens busying themselves around the barnyard we are not willing to sacrifice any more of them to a fox or coyote.

Thus, we have begun an earnest search for old garden shed or playhouse that has lived out its usefulness elsewhere and build a larger area for them to stay during the times we are not able to be nearby to protect them.

And we will miss Dixie.  Though she was not one of our affectionate girls, she was definitely a show-stopper and the attention she drew will be missed as well.

“Mom, look, that chicken has on feathered pants!”


August 13, 2008

Hens on a Road Trip

This past Sunday my mother took my Grandma for a drive and came by the farm to let her see the horses and chickens.   Grandma got a real kick out of our colorful flock.

My mother has passed down some great traits to her three girls, but one that I sometimes wish I had not inherited is the one that causes your mouth to speak before your brain processes a full thought.  Sunday was an example of why I cannot say that I am ALL Daddy’s girl.

“I should take a couple of the chickens to Grandma’s nursing home,” I said.  What?  Did I just say that?

“That would be wonderful!  The residents would love it.  You could put them on the patio and let them run ar……….,”  Mom said as her voice was suddenly drowned out by the screaming in my own head.

What was I thinking?  Chickens in a nursing home!?  In addition to the foot in mouth disease, I must have inherited some form of insanity.  Too late now.

Later that afternoon I received a call from my mom.

“I got it all set up.  You can be there Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock.”

Wednesday, as in THIS Wednesday I thought.  I am sure I have to prepare in someway.  There must be some special avian training required before you are certified to be a therapy bird.  So far all I have been able to coax out of them is an egg or two.  This is going to be interesting.

Wednesday Morning 9AM

Davis and I are loading Kate and Dr. Pepper into the dog crate in the back of my tahoe while Christian spent 20 minutes chasing Dixie around the pasture.  Dixie is a Blue Cochin and very unusual.  She is also very shy and doesn’t like to be caught, but Mom was very vocal about wanting us to bring her along.

A few minutes later Christian rounded the corner, sweating, with an arm full of Lazarus.

“If Nonnie wants Dixie she is going to have to catch her herself!” he huffed.

I love that kid.

Safely loaded we set off for the home where we were very surprised to have about thirty residents waiting to see the chickens on the back patio.  All kidding aside, it was a really great experience for the boys.  The chickens were very well behaved and the residents enjoyed watching and holding them.  A few even told us stories of chickens they had in the past.

It has always been a desire of mine to share my horses with special needs children, and admittedly I never dreamed the chickens would be such great ambassadors.

I am still scratching my head at how I came to find myself transporting chickens to a nursing home in the back of my car.  I also hope that I get to hear my boys one day tell this story to their own children.

If you would like to see the video I created from our visit click the link below.


7/29/08 News Flash!

Lazarus the chicken has been chosen "Chicken Pic of the Week" on  No, I am not kidding!
Check out our little Coop-er model!
We are so proud!



Chicken Pickin’

The boys spent an evening last week with their grandmother.  After picking them up, we returned home refreshed having enjoyed a rare evening of one-on-one time. By the time we picked up the boys and drove into the driveway it was nearly 9:45pm.

One of the wonderful things about living on a small farm is the ample opportunity to entrust the boys with responsibility.  One of the wonderful things about having boys is the extra help with farm tasks.  Since we still needed to lock the chickens in safely for the evening and Christian was half asleep, Davis drew the short straw.  By the time I was comfortably in my jammies, Davis came in and said,

“ Four, I could only find four!”

Drats!  I kicked off my fuzzy slippers,  shoved my feet into my worn and aromatic muck boots and head our into the dark night to go hunting for chickens!

Apparently, the coop door was accidentally shut sometime this afternoon. Four of the girls were safely perched on the coop but Nugget and Lazarus were nowhere to be seen.

“Great’” I am thinking to myself.  “The other hens come running when I call them, but these are the two most timid of the group.  We will never find them, at least not without crawling through the underbrush in the woods picking ticks off my legs.  Not to mention these are my favorite pj’s!

After loudly complaining that someone misplaced MY flashlight and finding I a replacement, David, Davis and I began trekking through the back pasture where we know the chickens sometimes wander.

Ten minutes into the venture I begin to wonder, “If I were a chicken where would I be?”

Now, I am sure many of you have wondered the same thing, but to actually put it to use in a life and death situation adds an additional level of anxiety that for some less experienced chicken wranglers, could lead to disaster.

“If I were a chicken I would not leave my friends.  If I where a chicken I would also have wings and would get as high up as possible.  Ah ha, the trees over the coop!”

Apparently my significant thought power must have been so intense that I was somehow able to telepathically transmit the same thought to David (a skill I must be careful to use for good- not evil) because before I could raise my flash light David shouted,  “Here they are up in the tree.”  Then, “How are we going to get them down?”

He may be able to read my thoughts, but he is not engineer and certainly doesn’t possess my considerable experience in animal behavior.

“How about a ladder.” I suggested with an air of confidence that could likely get me a job as a foreman on any large construction project.

David went to get the 8 ft ladder while Davis and I discussed the improbability of actually being able to catch one of these two 12 feet up in a tree.  David decided it was his duty to make a fireman’s attempt and headed up the ladder.  He quickly rescued nugget but on his approach for Lazarus and about four rungs up he decided that he would not be able to reach her.

With some military blood in my veins, I was unwilling to leave any man or bird behind.

“I can get her,” I said forgetting my earlier conversation with Davis.

Up the ladder I climbed, to face (and I mean FACE) flapping wings and the business end of a nervous chicken. Thankfully I was quickly able to grab Lazarus without even a stain on my jammies.

As David locked the coop door I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Davis,” I said.  “I don’t think we could live in the Taj Mahal and have as rich a life as this.”

“No,” he laughed.  “I don’t think anyone else from my school was picking chickens out of the trees tonight!”



Fresh Eggs!

You know the old saying, “a watched pot never boils”?  Well apparently a watched hen never lays either.

Last week the boys and I accompanied David to Chicago to sight see while he attended a conference.  My wildly capable friend, Lynne, graciously offered to care for the animals while we were gone.

I called Lynne on Saturday to check in.  She said everyone was doing fine.

“Any eggs yet?” I asked.

“No eggs yet, just the “dummy” eggs that you put in the nesting box,” she said.  She continued on with a detailed update on the rest of the critters when I interrupted.

“Lynne, did you say dummy eggs?”

“Yes,” she said with an empathetic tone.  “The fake eggs are the only ones in there.”

Eureka – I only have ONE dummy egg!

The boys (David included) and I were very excited though a bit disappointed that our first egg came while we were gone, but Lynne kept us posted and by the time we come home we had three eggs waiting for us.

David and the boys getting the first look at our first eggs

Our first eggs with the "dummy" egg

There has been another egg each day and the mystery was: Who dunnit?  We then set out to catch someone on the nest.

Monday we checked the nest around 9am…no egg.  We checked the nest around 3pm and one of our stealthy girls left us another cute little brown egg!

Tuesday we were on high alert.  We checked the nest at about 11am…no egg.Ran errands in the afternoon and by the time we got back home at 5pm, you guessed it, another egg.

Wednesday was grass cutting day (and by day I mean all DAY).  The perfect opportunity to keep watch.  The chickens were making their usual migration around the yard then I noticed Kate and Dr. Pepper lingering around the coop.  A few minutes later I heard a racket, Dr. Pepper ran cackling from the coop like she had been attacked, but no sign of Kate.  I tip-toed over and lifted the hinged roof and here is what I saw…

Busted!  Kate, caught in the act!

Another case closed and a really fresh egg.  If you would ever like a really fresh egg brunch in the country, 11am is “sitting” time.

It seems that many of you are anxiously awaiting the coming “I Broke Macho, but He Didn’t Break Me”.  I will assume that you are all just fascinated with horses and are not looking to rubber-neck at my expense, but in either case we will not be able to begin that rodeo for a few weeks.  We are about to start some work on the barn so our ring is full of equipment, and though I am confident that he will not be too much trouble I think it best to keep him in a contained area.  We really need to be able to give the EMT’s an exact address to come and pick me up.



Dead Chickens Don’t Run

One night last week both of the boys were invited to spend the night with friends.  With the rare opportunity to have an evening alone, David and I decided to grab a quick dinner then come home and watch a movie.  We arrived home around dusk so David went out to lock the chickens safely in for the night.  As is our custom, he raised the hinged roof and took a head count: 1…2…3…4…5…?

One of “the Olsen twins”, our barred Plymouth rocks, was missing!  We frantically looked all around the barnyard, the adjacent woods, and even did a thorough feather inspection of our dogs, but found no evidence of our missing hen.  Well after dark, we put away our flashlights and sadly gave up the search, certain that a wandering dog or another predator had carted her off to her demise.   David even went out after midnight hoping she may have somehow found her way home, and I repeated the same futile search early the next morning.

Because she disappeared in the middle of the afternoon and not knowing what vicious creature had snapped her up, we thought it best to keep the “girls” locked up even during the day while we reassessed their housing situation.   We tend to take the natural approach to caring for our animals whenever possible.  The horses are happier and healthier not locked in a stall and the chickens too enjoy foraging around for bugs and other treats.  In the chicken world it is known as “free ranging” and is widely agreed to be the best alternative when possible.  Each evening when the light becomes low, they instinctively go back to the coop where they roost for the night.  We lock the coop door to keep out any lurking predators that might be around in the night: raccoons, fox, coyote.

Later that afternoon we picked up the boys and broke the news to them.  They were upset and vowed to do some detective work when they got home.  Upon arriving home, I took the opportunity to jump on the treadmill while Davis went hunting for evidence.  Within minutes and before I could even break a sweat, Davis was banging (very loudly) on the window just outside screaming.

“I found her!”

Since the close proximity of the loud banging outside did in seconds to my heart rate, what 30 minutes on the treadmill was not likely to accomplish, I hopped off and ran outside.  Expecting to head to the barn for a shovel to give her a proper burial, Davis caught me as I came outside.

“Spice (the dog) found her!”

I immediately thought, “Great, we have a chicken eating dog!” I was mentally contriving my canine punishment plans when Davis interrupted my thoughts.

“Spice found her!  She just chased her out of the barn!”

Chased, I thought?   Dead chickens don’t run.

About that time I noticed our wayward hen running around the barnyard apparently wondering why her buddies were all locked up.  She has now earned the nickname “Lazarus” and if you want to find out why – check out the gospel of John 11:38-43.

It took us a few days to figure out where she was, but after she disappeared again we found her trapped on the opposite side of a fence she apparently didn’t think she could come back through.  The situation was easily remedied with a few snips of the wire cutters to make her a special escape route.

The case of Lazarus the chicken: CLOSED.

Stay tuned for coming updates to include:  “Our First Egg” and (optimistically) “I Broke Macho, But He Didn’t Break Me”



Summer, Summer...

We have had a busy start to the summer with family vacation, camp and general upkeep around here. We are looking forward to relaxing a bit before football cranks up again in July. As far as the animals go, everyone is coping well with the heat. The horses have taken their usual lazy summer attitude, grazing and napping the day away. Come to think of it that could also be used to describe the boys at this point.

It seems that many of you are intrigued by the chickens and to satisfy your curiosity they too are enjoying the long days. They spend the day patrolling the pastures and the edge of the woods for "goodies". At around 8pm each night they file into their coop where we lock them in - or lock out the critters of the night. They are a pampered flock!

Just last evening I looked into the paddock behind the house where the horses were grazing among the foraging flock when I noticed a bunny right in the middle. One of the horses was curious enough to give it a sniff, but quickly returned to a green clump of grass. As the bunny made its way across the yard he encountered the chickens who where scratching around in the gravel drive way. By then I brought the boys to the window to admire this harmonious group, when suddenly the chickens seemed to notice the rabbit. One of the "Olsen Twins" took off after that poor bunny followed by reinforcements. If you are familiar with the saying "took off like a scalded rabbit" I think you will get the picture. We couldn't believe what we were seeing! Attack chickens - who would have thought? I didn't get a picture of it unfortunately, but I do have witnesses and I included a picture of the "Enforcer" below.



I Think We are Becoming Chicken People!

Now that the chickens are outside (thank goodness) we are really beginning to enjoy their barnyard behavior. They will never, of course, replace my affections for my horses, but they do add another dimension to our collection of animals.

We are beginning to free-range them (for you city folks that is when you let them wander outside of their enclosure) with a watchful eye on the dogs who are learning that they are not to be snacked on. With that we find ourselves most evenings sitting on what we now call "the chicken bench". In fact, the last several days I have noticed Christian sitting on the bench, taking turns to hold different chickens in his lap. He doesn't know I am watching, but it is really a neat picture that brings a smile to my face.

As spring has sprung here we are enjoying warmer weather and looking forward to the boys being out of school. Davis has discovered a love of fishing and was really pleased to find that the fish in our new pond out front has are big enough to start harvesting. I seriously doubt that he will actually eat fish, but that remains to be seen.

We were in the living room the other night and suddenly I noticed Davis running down the driveway with something in his hand. At first I thought he was jogging, but then noticed what I thought was Roxie (our cairn terrier) running ahead of him. I screamed to David to hurry that Roxie was running to the road as I flew out the front door almost tripping on Roxie. About that time Davis came back up the driveway, and I asked him what he was doing. Apparently, while target shooting, he noticed a rather large raccoon and thought he would try to "bag" him.

It is going to be an interesting summer!

Below I have a couple of cute pictures from a week or so ago when Christian helped me fill the stock tank in one of the pastures. You may like to know that it was in the mid 70's that day, and the water was straight from the faucet.



And Then There Were Six...
RIP Dumplin'

Unfortunately, we are now down to six chicks. Dumplin' our chick with the messed up legs got progressively worse and was unable to walk at all. I hand fed her for a couple of weeks, but it was apparent that she was only getting worse and the most humane thing to do would be to put her out of her misery. Now, that is easier said than done, as the boys and I were adamant that we would not be doing the dirty work. We finally gave Dad, aka the "Grim Reaper", the word and he took care of her quickly and humanely.

Our sweet boys each dealt with it in their own way. Davis opted to "take a few minutes" to himself. Christian dug a grave and created a marker from a sign held down by a brick from the pile. What he lacks in creativity, he makes up for in compassion! Neither of the boys have gone vegan, so they must have recovered nicely and it has been an interesting lesson in "farm life" for all of us suburbanites.

Funny story: I drove for the 3rd grade trip to the zoo yesterday. We all sat around at our picnic lunch talking about the animals and Christian announced "We have lots of animals, horses, dogs and we used to have seven chickens. We only have six now. One couldn't walk very well, so Dad killed her yesterday by cutting off her head with the tree loppers!" Needless to say that was a conversation stopper.


Today I Burped a Chicken

It is not cocktail party banter, but it may come in useful if I ever make it to Jeopardy, the Farm Version.

I won't bore you with the gory details, but it seems that Davis' Dixie Chick had gotten herself a bit stopped up and after consulting with my chicken site, I realized that I had not given them sand to aid in digestion. In case you are wondering, when a chicken gets stopped up their chest begins to expand like a balloon - not pretty. After a bit of massage...well lets just say that Davis was a bit amazed and grossed out and I have added "chicken healer" to my quiver!

I am currently waiting to hear back from the experts on a leg issue with another chick. She sort of wobbles around like she has been on a bender. I have her in a splint right now to see if that helps based on suggestions from some chicken people, but we will see!

All in all the brood is doing nicely and they remain quite entertaining. We look forward to seeing them eating up all the bugs around the place this summer and providing us with the freshest eggs around.

By the way I do think that one of David's Jersey Giants may be a roo - thats chicken slang for rooster. He/she is growing very quickly and looks like its comb is a bit larger than everyone else's. We will keep you posted. I put some new pics on the Family/Friends page for those of you who have been asking about the flock. Don't you people have anything better to do? Just kidding, we love to share!


Anathoth has Gone
to the Birds...or...
Look Mom, Chickens in the Living Room!

There here! This week is spring break for the boys and we intentionally planned for the six new chicks to arrive this week so we could give them all the attention they needed.

As most mom's know, we get few opportunities to "sleep-in" so I was looking forward to slumbering away the mornings and rolling out of bed around 7:30am, instead of my usual 5:30-5:45am. This morning as I was beginning to wake the phone rang at 7:30am. It was the Post Office calling to inform me that our new chicks had arrived. We rushed around and set off to pick up our 6 new babies, though admittedly, we did have to make an all important stop at the donut shop along the way.
Donuts in hand we marched into the post office to claim our new clan. We heard them long before we saw the shoe box sized package complete with postage from Ohio.

After arriving home and a gentle reminder that not all of the chicks may have survived the journey we carefully opened the box. 1...2...3...4...5...6...???...7! A bonus chick! Though we are excited to have one extra, I have heard that many hatcheries will send you an extra chick in case of spoilage and for added warmth. It is my suspicion that they may not have been as concerned that our extra chick is a hen (we paid extra for all hens). In a few months and just in time for me to get to sleep in a bit for the summer we may have a rooster that will take up where the post office left off. Lets just hope he is a late sleeper!

Oh and by the way - the chicks really are in the living room. There seems to be a temperature control issue in the barn so for the next week or so the girls will out number the boys in this house! The added bonus is that I KNOW it freaks-out my sister, Kelly!