Friday, May 31, 2013

Introductions: the Rounders meet the rest of the family

Last year when the second batch of chickens met the first, it took a little over a week before things finally settled down and were nice and quiet in Chickenland.  We were braced and ready for feathers to fly when the Rounders were introduced.

The Rounders have been growing up happy and healthy.  In no time it seems, they have outgrown their nursery.  It was finally time to transfer them to their chickbox and introduce them to the rest of the family.  So late last night, just before the girls turned in for the evening, we moved the chickbox into the hen house.  The Rounders were very excited about their new digs, as was the rest of the family about the new bit of 'furniture' that had been added to their living room.  We left the front door of the chickbox closed for the night, deciding that perhaps it would be best to keep the peace at least for the evening.

In the morning, just after dawn, Chickenland was openned for business.  Soon after, the chickbox door was openned.  I sat quietly by, watching how everyone interacted.  Amy was the first to move toward the doorway, then out to explore the floor of the henhouse.  Interesting enough, the adult hens all clustered under Sandy while Junior approached and watched the chicks.  She was soon followed by Robin and Jet.

One by one, the chicks tucked out until all that was left was Dingy and Pip.  About five minutes passed before Lil Miss tentitively moved toward the chicks.  With her curiousity satisfied, she went back to scratching for some fallen crumbles.
The adults milled around a little, then seemed to lose interest and decided to go outside.  I'm still keeping a weather eye out but so far so good. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flowering Pines

While out walking early one morning, I noticed that the pine trees were blooming.  Yes, you heard me right.  What I saw was not some vine winding it's showy way along the branches but rather tiny pinky-red buttons decorating the tips of the boughs.

The blossoms are about the size and color of a new pencil erasure.  These were found at the tip of the bright green new growth with the pollen tendrils below the needle cluster.  Once fertilized, it can take up to three years for the pine cone to develop and mature although most trees take less than six months.

To read more:

*****Note to my readers: don't forget to visit some of the other pages on our Blog!  Chickenland and Birds and Beasts is periodically updated with little bits you may find worthwhile.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Rounders, Naming part 2

 Ada, Ida, and Pip (who's quite small) are the Buff Oringtons.  They are a busy group.  If there is some kind of tussle going on, you can bet one of these guys will be in the middle of it.

 Buster is still the biggest boy.  He's developing the same calm approach to life that his father has.  When the other boys wanted to strut and crow, Sandy cuddled and cooed with the girls.  Buster was a bit pushy as a little guy.  As he gets older, he has been seen snuggling and preening his siblings.
 Dusty looks a great deal like her sister, Robin.  The major difference is that Dusty doesn't have the bright orange shoulders or breast that her sister does.
One of the unfortunate issues that crop up in Americaunas from time-to-time, is the condition called crossbilling.  This is where an otherwise normal chick's bill starts to grow crooked.  Unfortunately nothing reasonable can be done to treat the chick.  One just has to watch to see that he's getting enough to eat and is otherwise OK.
FredThat leaves little Fred.  He's not as big as his brother and is perhaps a little shy.  He reminds me of Junior.  Perhaps Junior is his daddy (when Sandy was looking the other way)?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Rounders, naming

We're naming the children and hope to be posting throughout the day today:
The girls from left to right: Amy (Missy's daughter), Domino then Jet (Inky's children), and Robin (complete with an orangy-red shoulder and breast).

the weather has been very chilly here, however the plan is to introduce the new kids to their family out in Chickenland later this week.  Wish us well!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Something pretty I wanted to share, Part 2

The Virbenium is starting bloom.  Sprays of flowers flow down its branches.  Found deep in woods where the soils are moist and rich, these bushes were introduced as ornamental and now grow wild where ever they find the right place to grow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Home and Garden

Got a little ahead of myself this year.  In my enthusiasm, three weeks ago I planted my tomatoes and peppers.  Live and learn.  Although these were covered, the late freeze hit the garden hard and wiped out the seedlings.  Oh well.  Like many gardeners, I find it hard to wait on mother nature.  The 'Safe date' for planting in our area, at least at this time, is Memorial day.  Meanwhile, the cool weather seeds such as Kohlrabi and carrots have all been planted.
Presently the plan is to plant three beds of tomatoes, one bed of peppers, a bed of carrots and kohlrabi, a medium bed of green and yellow beans, a medium bed of swiss chard and rutabega, two beds of cucumbers, and one large bed of squash.  All the beds are ready except for the bean bed however I expect that it will ready by end of day tomorrow.  Pray for rain.

For those who save their seeds: we left some of the kohlrabi to over winter.  That which we didn't eat (yummy!) is now flowering and will soon be making seeds for next year.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chick Update, meet the Rounders

The babies are all growing up happy and healthy.  As the weather warms, we're all looking forward to going outside to play.

We're still thinking about names.  Some have come easy, like Buster, others: not so much.  So here's my guess: the top row (1-5) are all girls.  In the second row (6-11), the first three are boys (Buster is #7), then a girl, then a boy, then Missy's girl.  The last row (12 & 13) is a girl and Dingy.  Although they all hatched within a few days of each other (except Dingy), you'll note that there are some, like #4, who are a bit smaller than her siblings.  This little chick reminds me of Molly who grew a little more slowly than her sisters.  She's now the same size as everyone else just a little more svelte.  Missy's girl and Inky's girl (#1) are a bit larger than the others and considerably more calm.

Chicks # 2, #4, #9, and #10 came from eggs donated by my neighbor.  #2 has all the markings of a Black Australorp.  Very nice bird although I get the sense that all she wants to be in the middle of all the action.  She's not very excited about flying however is very good at jumping up & down to see what's going on.  Her nickname is Pogo (you can guess why).
#4, #9, and #10 may be Buff Orpington cross.  Orpingtons are known to be calm, friendly birds.  The hens are also known to be very good mothers.
All the other kids are Ameraucanas or Ameraucana cross.  Although Inky was labeled an Ameraucana chick by the company we purchased her from, she has grown up with all the earmarks of a Barred Rock and lays pinkish brown eggs.  Since their father was an Ameraucana we could expect her girls (#1 & #3) to lay greenish colored eggs when the time comes.  Of course, theory and reality are frequently two different things.  I'll be happy that they grow up to be calm happy girls like their mother.
Perhaps the new kids will all be named by the end of the month.  Do you have any suggestions?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chick update, two weeks old

When I came out into the mudroom this morning, I was surprised to see Buster roosted up on the corner of the nursery box looking about.  The Rounders (chicks) are only two weeks old yet their wings and, in some cases, their tail feathers are already coming in.
Several of the chicks like to perch atop either their waterer or feeder, which unforturnately means each of those need to be cleaned multiple times per day (messy!).  Although these roosts are far enough away from the edge to keep the babies from using it regularly as a step, we thought perhaps it was time to put a little safety netting across the top.  Images of the mudroom becoming a party loft keep coming to mind.  They'll be teenagers soon enough.  Before then, when the weather warms, they'll move out to Chickenland to meet their moms and aunties.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Just something pretty that I wanted to share with you

Virbenium.  This will be very pretty in another few days
Ever go walking and come upon something that made you stop and go 'oh my!'?  I think it's important to slow down from time-to-time, to embrace those moments.  For it is those moments that in the end enrich our lives beyond measure.
I never get tired of ferns.  There are many areas in the forest, where ferns and orchids carpet the floors
I have no idea what this little flower is called, but it is so tiny and delicate.
Honeysuckle.  I know it's an invasive but I love its fragance.
Moma bumble bee on a dandelion (she's a BIG girl)
mushroom growing on a fallen log can be quite pretty too!  Their color and shape remind me of chocolate chip cookies.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A time to plant

Although many people seem to believe that managing an orchard begins and ends with picking the fruit, there is more to it than that.  Farming, as with all projects that are worth doing, is a job that requires planning for the future.  Some plans are short term such as weeding, watering, cleaning, and mowing.  Others are longer term such as laying out the garden (three to four months), building and preparing the animal barn for its occupants (six to eight months), and planting and caring for the trees (two to ten years).
Every day we walk the orchard and examine the trees.  Other than deer and other varmints looking for snacks, we watch for signs of disease or other issues so that they can be taken care of promptly.  Think of it this way: when do you take care of a cold?  If you take care of yourself when you only have the sniffles, you'll recover faster.  If you wait until it has turned into pneumonia, you may be in store for a much longer recovery (not to mention all the folks you've now spread the germs to). 

Crab Apple blossoms
At My Happy Acres, we offer a  wide variety of apples and cherries.  As we plant we consider when each of these varieties will be at their best when picked.  We also think about which varieties may need a little help to pollinate.  Not all fruit trees are self pollinating but need another variety to help them along in the process.  Some orchards take the extra step and plant crab apple trees to aide in pollination.  We're fortunate that we have enough flowering varieties at this time that crab apple trees are not necessary.  That said, I still feel that crab apple trees can be quite pretty.  I also have fond childhood memories of candied crab apples on the Thanksgiving table.

News from Chickenland: As the weather warms, we've been thinking about the best way to put the girls out to graze and at the same time, keep them safe from preditors.  Rat snakes are good to keep the rodent population in check, however wouldn't hesitate if a tasty chick blundered into them.  A passing hawk may be on the watch for rabbit, but a hen will do if spotted. 
The girls in the yard are safe for now, but stay tuned!  A chicken adventure is on the horizon.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring planting

For those of us who are fortunate enough to live in an area that is well drained and enjoying moderate temperatures, this is the time of year where we can be found out in our fields and orchards, preparing for another season.
Cherry blossoms
The fruit trees are all coming to blossom.  As one walks along the lane, the air is full of its delicate fragrance.  The cherry trees are a-buzz with all sorts of different types of bees.  I'm going to keep my eyes open this summer and see how many different varieties I can identify.

Apple blossom
The new apple trees fared pretty well this last winter with only a minor amount of deer damage.  In order to deter them from nibbling the new buds, we've found that hanging bars of perfumed soap or suspending fresh dryer sheets from the limbs works remarkably well.  To discourage the rabbits and voles from eating the bark around the trunks of the trees, spiral plastic shields wrap and protect each sapling.

We're continuing to plant more trees.  Over the next few days we're expecting to plant 40 more saplings.  It's remarkably satisfying to help things grow.  Whether we're talking about fruit trees, the garden, or the little chicks each has its own needs to grow big and strong.  With a little care and attention, everyone grows happy and healthy.

Speaking of chicks, everyone was transferred out to the nursery box in the mudroom yesterday afternoon.  Dingy has taken on the big sister role and seems to appreciate the company.  Soon after the little chicks arrived, I peaked in on them to see how everyone was getting along.  I was happy to see that Dingy had gathered up the chicks under her wings, pulling them close and safe as they turned in for the night.

Moma Dingy and one of the fuzzyballs

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Meet the new kids

Missy's girl
When it was all said and done, thirteen chicks hatched and twelve survived.   Remember: we started out with 26 eggs.  Seven proved infurtile.  Five failed to hatch.  There are all sorts of reasons for why things happen but what I believe is that those that survived were the strongest of the lot. 

So I got an email from one of you asking to see pictures where I actually separated the boys from the girls.  Mind you, this is very unscientific and, no, I didn't peak under their skirts to actually sex them.  This is just a best guess.

Among Americanas and other Easter Egger chickens, I have been told that by observing how stripey the down is, one can guess that these may be our boys. Buster is the stripe-est of the boys.  He's also larger than the other although in this picture, he's down for a short nap.

Similarly, the girls are all dressed in a solid colored soft down.  In this picture on can clearly see how much lighter colored Missy's girl is.  I'm not quite experienced enough to glance at their colorations and tell what they will look like as adults.  What we strive for are productive hens that are calm and good natured.  A happy chickenland depends on everyone getting along with little squabbling.

For those that are counting, you're right.  That's not twelve.  I also have two little golden wheat chicks, that will be my surprise chicks.

Now all I need are names. Your suggestions are welcom

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hatching Day (Round 3) part 3

Things started to finally quiet down last night and it looked like the last of the chicks were out the door.  I opened the incubator and quickly moved each one out and into the brooding box.  They settled in quickly.  Chicks sometimes need to be shown their food and water.  Each one was carefully taken to the water bowl to have his/her bill ceremoniously dipped into the font for the first drink.  Once this baptism was completed they proceeded to drink on their own.
The heat lamp is set to keep them nice and cozy for a few days.  Over time it will be turned on less and less until they can keep themselves warm without too much additional assistance.  Since the majority of the chicks hatched between 3 and 4 am.  So I don't really know which egg they came out of.  There are a few however that I did see.

The solid fuzzy chick in the lower left hand corner of the above picture, is actually very silvery grey like her mom, Missy.  The little lightly stripey chick standing near her, is Molly's little boy.

Inky's little girls
Speaking of stripey, a couple of the boys are very stripey indeed.  I suspect they may end up looking like their father, Sandy. One of them is already making it known that he's the big chick in town.  Fortunately, the majority are pretty laid back and just let him squawk.  He was the first to be named: Buster.
Big Buster

***Side note: Have you ever heard the expression 'as rare as hen's teeth'?  It's true!  Before the chick hatches, she develops a hardened cap on the tip of her bill.  This cap allows her to peck and break free of the shell.   She starts out by pecking into the airsack at the tip of the egg, then pecking a breathing hole in the shell.  After resting a bit, she gradually pecks around the inside end of the egg forming perforations which allows her to break free.  This is an exhausting process.  Some of our chicks took nearly 24 hours to completely break free.  If  you look at the tip of this baby's bill you can still see her hen's tooth.

Now a little humor: after getting everyone tucked in for the night, I still had seven or eight unhatched eggs in the incubator.  This morning another little boy hatched out and another egg had a breathing hole pecked open.  Makes me wonder if any of the others may hold surprises as well...stay tuned!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hatching day (round 3) part 2

Things got really busy here early this morning around 3am.  As I turned in last night around 10pm, we had three chicks drying in the incubator and the other eggs looked pretty still.  Around 3am, the party started.  One chick after another, came tumbling out.  Currently there are nine with a few eggs pecked with little bills protruding.

Let me once again apologize for the quality of the photo.  After learning my harsh lesson about opening the incubator too soon, these pictures were taken through the viewing portal.  I'll post better ones in another day or two once the babies are moved into their brooding box.  Happy Birthday!

**By noon, we have eleven chicks and two more eggs have portals poked out.  I wish I knew how to correctly sex chicks.  The only sure fire way I know to sex chicks is to separate the chicks into two groups.   Within each group, the ones that grow up to be roosters are boys.  The ones that don't are most likely girls.  Among Americanas, I have been told that the stronger the 'stripey-ness' is of their down, the more likely they are to be boys.  If this is true, I may have three boys on team chicky.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hatching Day (round 3)

I'm happy to announce that starting this morning around 6am, another batch of chicks began hatching.  By noon, six of the eggs had little windows pecked out of them with tiny little bills protruding.