Thanks for your interest and for indulging my quirky sense of humor!
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?
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.
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.
Who Needs a Cat?
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
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!”
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 backyardchicken.com. No, I am not kidding!
Check out our little Coop-er model atwww.BackYardChickens.com!
We are so proud!
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!”
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.
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 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”
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...
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
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!