Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring Chores, continued

You recall last year I told you to embrace your children and let them share in helping out in the garden.  Of course I was referring to the assistance that was provided by Wee Chick and the puppy.  As he has grown so has his exuberance for helping.
Like any child, one needs to help focus the enthusiasm or in this case, dig where necessary and not just randomly make holes.  Today we transplanted roses.  He happily dug a nice deep hole.  We happily put the rose into the hole.
Even the girls pitched in.  Buckets of weeds and tufts of grass were removed from around trees and from the planting areas.  These were brought to the girls for yummy salads and good snacks.

Update from Chickenland: We candled the eggs again this last week and found that  so far 17 out of the 26 eggs are showing signs of life. Five of the eggs are far enough along that the little peanut inside was seen to be wiggling about (as if to say, "turn out the light!  We're trying to sleep in here!").  It's hard to embrace the old adage to not count one's chickens before they hatch, but previous experiences have taught us now to be patient.

Out in the yard, some of the girls are gaily dressed in their little aprons.  These are called Chicken Saddles and are used to protect the hen while her feathers grow back after rough housing with the boys.  One of the local smartypants suggested that I give all the girls red capes with their initials emblazoned upon them (big "G" for Goldie, "LM" for Little Miss, etc).  Personally, I think they're much happier with what they have. 

chicken saddle
The chicken saddle was pretty easy to make.  It's about the size of a potholder.  Elastic bands snap in place underneath the hen's wings for a snug, yet comfortable fit.  I originally heard about these from a poultry rancher.  He had some champion birds that he kept special for shows and going to the fair.  In order to keep his girls nice and pretty, he used these little aprons.  When I noticed that our girls were looking a little rough around the edges, I looked up the pattern online and put these together.  Like any kid in a new outfit, there was a certain amount of tugging and pulling, but when they realized that it was on to stay until Mom took it off them, they settled right down.

Of course I suspect the ones that didn't get an apron are now wanting to know why they don't have one.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring chores

A small dent was made in the list of Spring To Do's.  When the rain isn't coming down is sheets and buckets, it's rather nice to get outside and take care of business.
The daffodils are springing up every where the soil is rich and moist.  Last year we found some growing along the Northwoods drainage ditch.  Although we left most of them to enjoy the next year, we did dig up a few large bulbs to replant along side our front walkway.  The walkway bulbs will probably be blooming around the time those in the woods start to fade.

The garden continues to expand.  We're doing our best to keep it from getting too large and unmanageable, remembering first that we other things that need our attention besides the garden.  Throughout the winter, we set aside the chicken leavings to mellow and compost.  This was periodically turned over until, finally, the day came that we could use it on our gardens.  Big fleshy worms tumbled out by the shovelfuls as we carted and dumped wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow out where the tomatoes and green beans will call home.  Composting may not be romantic but it is certainly gratifying to know that one's soil amendments are so rich and healthy.
 Side note:  when composting, if the pile has been turned regularly, and given enough water and air, it should not smell sour or stinky but rather loamy or like wet dirt.  According the Farmer's Almanac, It takes between 45 and 60 days for chicken manure to compost, depending on conditions and it's always a good idea to blend it with other amendments such as plant material and top soils. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

It must be Spring

The weather has been so particular lately.  Saturday morning started out reasonably pleasant, around 40 degrees (F).  For us, that's t-shirt weather so we were looking forward to a lovely day out working in the orchard and gardens. 

By 8am, the winds had picked up and rain quickly turned to snow.  Unbelievable.  By Sunday morning, the snow was completely gone as the grounds began to warm once again.  The crocus faded just as quickly, being rapidly replaced with bluebells and other lovelies.
Today is Earth Day.  Traditionally one celebrates this holiday by planting a tree.  I'm not expecting to pick up my next batch of trees until later this week (or maybe next week), so today will be celebrated by planting blueberry bushes and raspberries.

Please participate with friends and family in your local Earth Day events.  Plant trees, pick up litter, help reclaim an area for nature.  The future will thank you.

Hatching update: the third batch of eggs was candled yesterday.  16 out of 26 eggs show signs of veining and only a few have egg shells too dense to determine their status.  The temperature has been a pretty steady 102(f) at 60% humidity.  Dingy continues to grow and explore. Her wing feathers are coming in nicely.  It's only a matter of time before I'll need to put a screen over the top of the nursery box to discourage her flying about the mudroom.  When the weather warms, I hope to have a small gang of chicks out helping me in the garden.  Guess I need to build a small chicken tractor so they'll have a safe place to go at night.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chicks and more chicks

Hi!  My name is Dingy.  I hatched out a couple of weeks ago along with some of my brothers and sisters.  It's sad that they weren't as strong as I was and even though I was born with a little leg trouble.
Momma says that she was learning about how to hatch eggs and said that she had been advised to set the incubator temps at 99.5 and humidity at around 50 or 60%.  I don't know what that means.  All I know is a lot of my sibs seemed to have trouble hatching and I was born a little gimpy.  The condition is called splayed leg where the chick's legs are stretched out so that she can't stand up quite right.  Momma splinted my legs with a bandaide for a few days.  Now I'm right as rain.
This is my brother, Toby.  He's a lot bigger that me.  I can't imagine how big the egg was that he came from.  He keeps an eye on things and when I get into trouble or need help, goes to get mom to look in on things.  I know I'm safe when he's on alert.

Another batch of eggs is in the incubator.  We should know if I get to have more brothers and sisters in a few weeks.  I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New kids on the block

Two of the chicks continue to bounce around.  Hatching was difficult on many of them.  apparently the humidity wasn't quite right.  This caused the shell membranes to become tough, making it too hard for the babies to break free.  Live and learn.  Meanwhile the little fuzzyballs are quite entertaining on their own.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hatching Day Three

Round about 9pm last night, another chick popped out.  At times the hatching room sounds like someone's driving a squeeky shopping cart round and round.
new baby laying across her sibling's foot
12 pm - the latest fuzzyball is still drying out.  I've removed the partially hatched eggs where it appears that the chicks died in hatching.  It's sad but sometimes these things happen.  Meanwhile I'm leaving the other eggs to see what happens.  The babies will be moved to a separate nursery later this afternoon.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hatching Day two

Watching the eggs roll round and round, as soft peeping rises from them time-to-time.  The little fuzzball (A13) is still working on keep feet to earth.  Apparently it's a wobbly world.  We're setting up a nursery for the babies, starting inside the house and will gradually move them out as the weather warms.
6am -- the two eggs that had little windows in them last night are still rolling back and forth.  The holes are a little bigger and one can clearly see that the chicks are working to open a bigger door.

12pm -- One of the eggs that started hatching last night looks like the chick may have lost its fight.  Will continue to keep watch.  Meanwhile another egg has a new window in it.
Keeping Watch
2:30 pm -- Was looking at some of the other eggs and wondered when and if they too will hatch.  Back on the 28th, I had candled the eggs with the following results:

A - strong blood vessels otherwise too dark to tell
B - bloodline. infertile (removed)
C - same as A w/ large air sack
D - same as A, lots of whiggling
E - same as D
F - feet can be clearly distinguished
G - too dark to determine
H - same as G
I - can see outline of feet, some whiggling
J - Feet and dark blood vessels
K - light blood vesseling
L - strong blood vessels, prune size shadow (chick?)
M - strong blood vessels, lots of whiggling
N - same as M
O (11) - same as M
P (6) - same as M
Q (DD10) - same as M

A was the first to hatch.  The other three that I can clearly see, I can't see the ID on yet.  (have been told to fuss with the hatchlings while they work their way out.  which also means to keep the lid on and no peeking.)

5 pm - seems to be a lot of discussion taking place among the hatchlings in their shells but I get the sense that they are all having second thoughts.

I Won’t Hatch!
Shel Silverstein
Oh I am chickie who lives in an egg,
But I will not hatch.
The hens they cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplanes roar,
So I’m staying in here where it’s safe and it’s warm,
From Shel Silverstein. Where the Sidewak Ends. New York: Harper and Row, 1974. page 127.

Being patient.  It can take 48 hours for a chick to get out of its shell...

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Last night one of the babies announced herself from the incubator.  Peeking in, all the eggs seem to be sitting in the same spots where I had put them however one in particular has been especially noisy.  I find myself thinking back on one of our cockerels who constantly whined in his little chicky way.  This one however quiets down and cheeps more softly when I talk with it.

6:00 am -- no one has yet come out to play.  It's certainly noisy in there!
6:40 am -- the first little chick has come tumbling out of the egg.  Letting the baby rest while chatting away at the other eggs.  (shell marked A13)
12:00 PM -- two other eggs are making noises while baby (A13) sleeps and dries out

3:00 pm --  A13 is nearly all dry.  If you look over baby's back you'll see where one of the siblings is working its way out into the world.  It's funny to watch an egg suddenly burst into activity, rolling this way and that.
5:45 pm -- hatching is exhausting business. Two more eggs now have little peep holes and periodically have little bills protrude from them for the occupants to loudly announce their presence.  Watching baby has reminded me of when the others came home a little over a year ago.  Chicks have two settings: on & off.  They'll be scurrying around doing their little chicky business when suddenly they'll stop and fall over, sound asleep.  This goes on for about a week or two before they settle down into a reasonable routine.  But in the meantime. . .