Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Indoor Chickens.... For Now.....

The PLAN was that the babies would be outside by now. But plans.. as the saying goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, right?

Back in October, a friend mentioned that she would like some Ameraucana bantams, but just couldn't find any. So being the enabling researcher that I am, I found some white one a couple of hours away. Yay! But wait... I also found some Wheaton and Blue Wheatons in Virginia. Let's get eggs! So we did, and long story short, those eggs cracked open on November 9 (my birthday actually, though that was completely unplanned) and ten babies tumbled out into my pottery studio.

Perhaps not much to look at in the beginning, but just look at the adorable-ness!

And yes, there may or may not have also been some chocolate seramas in there also. <GRIN> You know me. I have a problem. Anyway.... I also had a fever. For FIVE weeks. Crazy! The doctors think it might have been some form of mono. Anyway, I was worn out, and taking care of ten Ameraucana chicks and nine seramas was wearing me out. So I sold the seramas. And my wonderful friend came to get the Ameraucana babies. But there was this one chick.....

Every time I opened the brooder (a big rubbermaid container with a wire lid), the little one flew out into my hands. I insisted that I would keep NO chicks.... but then it flew into my hand again. And it looked at me.

And then to top it off, it snuggled down and went to sleep.

My daughter and my friend looked at me. "MOM, you HAVE to keep that chick. It loves you!" exclaimed my daughter. "I will take care of it until you get better, so don't worry." How could I say no? But it needed a buddy, so I put my hand into the remaining nine chicks and took the first one that approached. Just so you know, the friendliest chicks are dismayingly often roosters. And yet I did it anyway. What can I say? Perhaps I was delirious from the fever. Yeah, I'm gonna have to go with that.

So now I had two baby chicks in my pottery studio. Not too much. A bit awkward looking at the moment, but that would change. I was fairly certain.  And that first one was soooo sweet.

The second chick was a bit of a spaz, so socialization began in earnest.

It seemed to work well - that's the spaz nestled under my chin! Now it was time to wait and see what I had. I don't have a bantam rooster. I don't want one either, but hey, if that super friendly chick was a rooster, I'd consider keeping him. But it would be a couple of weeks until we knew. So we had fun visiting. They loved my computer, and they certainly made my studio a much more interesting place.

Who us? We never get into trouble!

They were becoming sweeter and  more social every day. And they got names. I was starting to think the second chick was perhaps a female, so I named them Tommy and Tuppence, after Agatha Christie characters.

Tommy is on the left, a blue wheaton. Tuppence is on the right, a wheaton. Tuppence is an interesting character - her beak has a gap in it, so she would not be a good breeder since she could pass that on. And she has odd feathers that stick out.

Tommy, on the other hand, is smooth and sleek. Tommy is also rather quiet, unless Tommy sees my earplugs. Both chicks are fascinated with earplugs - they tweet when they see them, running over and grabbing them, then running excitedly around with their prize. I'm not sure why I have ear plugs in my studio, but it's fun to watch.

Cherry is fascinated by the chicks, resigned to the fact that there are more babies.

She's a very patient puppy.

Tommy and Tuppence have grown more, feathering out in the chest area - a key area for figuring out if they are boys or girls. And what are they? Well, there is still a chance that I'm wrong, but at six weeks, it is starting to look like they are BOTH girls!!! Amazing!

They had a brief foray out into the outside brooder. But only for two days. The weather changed, turning bitterly cold (for NC anyway), and despite their heat shelf (aka computer shelf with a heating pad on it), they were shivering.

I think they enjoyed their time outside, but they were ready to come in and get warm.

They loved coming back to the studio. So much that they immediately flew up to my computer, closed the browser, changed the music station, and began to change the language to German before I grabbed the little troublemakers.

I really had not intended on keeping any chicks in my studio for the winter, but it's just too cold outside at the moment. Their heads are not fully feathered, and they are just not winterized. So instead, they get to run around the studio twice a day. I do shut them up when I turn on the wheel. Waaaay too much of a chance for tragedy or terrifying comedy. They jump up to my computer every day - but now I keep a towel on the keyboard.... just in case. I'm not sure how easy it would be to remove poop from the keys and I do not wish to find out. This morning they managed to open an incognito window in my browser with their toes. I don't even know how to do that! They bring so much joy with their little songs, their ear plug hunting pride, their inquisitive adventuring. I think I may enjoy this winter in the studio. And I will miss them come spring - but I'm sure they will love the new adventures awaiting them outside with the warm weather.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Magnificent Hei Hei

Our Hei Hei.... I believe that because of this girl I will always have a cream brabanter in my flock. What do I love about this special lady? Oh gosh... it's everything from her blue feet and polka dotted body, her beard and crest, her call (something, I'd imagine, like the call a bird would make if you crossed a loon with an eagle. Piercing. But unforgettable). She's a funny girl, always poking her beak in to see what's going on, always yelling "CONGRATULATIONS!!!" to anyone who lays an egg. At the top of her little lungs.

Hei Hei is a very fine boned hen, a small large fowl. You can see how petite she is compared to our black Australorp, Raven (a dual purpose hen) and an English Heritage Orpington (Betsy).

Yesterday I got a special treat, courtesy of my spotted lady. While sitting in the grow out pen, I noticed Hei Hei creeping around the goat pen. Well, creeping for a chicken - that mostly means walking carefully without bobbing her head. She paused at the corner, and then RAN as fast as possible, and as stealthily as possible, to an old grow out pen that anchors the corner of a fence. She crept inside, peeping at the forest. I peered into the woods, but saw nothing. Just some trees and a small flock of birds - tiny birds, maybe sparrows or juncos. Hei Hei scooted out of the pen and sidled up to a tree, still focused on the woods. Suddenly she sprang out from behind her tree, sounded a mighty "BACK GWAAAAAK!!!!" and raced out into the middle of the wild birds, trumpeting and ferociously flapping her wings. Needless to say, the birds scattered, scared off by the mighty Hei Hei, who then proceeded to walk around in circles, bawking and flapping. Quill (our  rooster), came racing out, looking for danger, and stood in a confused bundle of hormones and testosterone, ready to defend against..... nothing? Hei Hei proudly strutted over to her man and escorted him back, content with her own magnificence. I love Hei Hei.

Yes, I know I had this photo in the last post. But I just love that they eat together still!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Quill, Master of His Domain

Quill has settled into quite a lovely rooster. At just seven months old, he has blended right in with our crew, fathering 18 chicks so far! Quill has some wonderful traits for a rooster. Many times people get a roo and simply tolerate (or don't) their quirks - like being too rough with the hens, pushing around chicks, hurting chicks, flogging or chasing people, etc. Many think that's just what a rooster does. But a good roo - now that's a different matter. A good roo like Quill. Here are a few reasons we love him (besides the fact that he dances for his ladies, dropping a wing as he approaches and doing a little soft shoe performance to get them in the mood).

1. Quill loves babies. We have a dominant hen (Mooka the Wyandotte - Wyandottes have big personalities) who pushes babies off food. Quill saw her do this the other day, ran over, pushed her away, then stood there and guarded the chicks while they ate. Notice the baby at his feet in the photo:

2. Quill loves his ladies. Especially Amber and Hei Hei. And he's not too hard on his favorites (often favorites end up with bare backs from too much rooster attention). Instead, he dates them. He goes on a bathing date every morning with Amber:

And then he has his breakfast date with Hei Hei. Seriously, every morning.

3. He is gentle with growing chicks and mamas. He courts the ladies who are of age, but leaves the mamas and under-aged girls alone. That makes for a very calm flock that likes to hang out with their main man.

4. Quill leaves the molting girls alone. Once a year the chickens lose many of their feathers, growing out new soft clean feathers to keep them warm in winter. But that means they have sore pointy pin feathers growing out. An amorous rooster could do some real damage to those new baby feathers. But molting girls are safe - Quill leaves them alone so they feel safe with him. In this photo Hawk is in the back , feathers sprinkled around. She is willing to hang out with Quill despite her discomfort because, though he loves her dearly, he has left her strictly alone since her molt started.

5. Quill is producing beautiful babies of all colors. Quill is red, orange, and blue (grey). With his easter egger background, he could easily produce lots of chipmonks - brown striped chicks that are typically a pretty brown partridge pattern. But instead, he is really mixing it up. We've gotten red, chipmonk, blue, and black chicks!

6. Lastly, but certainly not least, Quill is not an excessive crower. He does not crow at 3 in the morning. We hear him a few times a day, and he will crow about 3 times when he crows. His crow is not obnoxiously loud either, so we are very pleased with our boy! And our flock seems quite taken with him too.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Peter Quill, Star-Lord

Today we got a rooster. Not just any rooster - Quill, aka Peter Quill, Star-Lord. I saw his photo on a facebook page. I see all kinds of roosters - no one wants roosters, everyone has extras. I've seen some stunning ones - free to a good home. But this one.... I kept returning to his photo. His owners typically process their roos (eat them), but this one was special. They hoped he might be a she, and noticed that this particular chicken was a sweetheart. By they time they realized she was a he, they had fallen in love. And how do you eat a chicken that you love? Answer.... you don't. You try to rehome him. It struck me that this was something out of the ordinary - a family who processes their roosters trying to help this one guy find a home. He must be extraordinary. We messaged back and forth a bit - I liked their answers and started feeling a bit excited. Then I got sick and totally dropped the ball, hoping he would find a home with someone soon.

Then they reposted that photo, along with a note that they still hoped to find him a home, but couldn't keep him much longer. A few more questions.... then I dragged my sick self out of bed and went off with the girls to go visit this unusual rooster. We prayed before we left - God please give us some sort of sign that we should take him. If not, give us the strength to leave him behind. Well. As soon as I picked him up I knew - he indeed was one of a kind. No struggling, he let me turn him on his back and rub his tummy! In fact, he fell asleep as I held him. Both girls fell in love at once.

And Quill came home.

At first we put him in a rubbermaid cage that we had made. He shrieked and let out a sad crow, so we moved him to a large grow out coop and run. And boy was he thrilled - he lay right down and took a dust bath. For 35 minutes. And I watched him for all 35 minutes.

I actually sat with him for 2 hours. He loves to be held, doesn't struggle when you pet him, and chuckles and clucks to himself nonstop. And when he eats - he eats a bit and calls out to the hens! They can't come in while he's in quarantine, but he calls them never the less. Quill is truly a wonder to behold. The colors - blue greys, brilliant oranges, rich reds - shine on his body. Stunningly beautiful creation.

We are going to love this guy well.
Welcome home Quill.

Friday, August 4, 2017

My Martha

June 1, 2015 - August 4, 2017

Fly high baby girl
and wait for me.

Martha was a character right from the first - for a while we even thought she was a rooster. She just looked and acted so differently from the other 24 chicks that had arrived in the mail to start our great chicken adventure. 
 Always looking right back atcha!
 Interactive and unafraid from day one!
 And always so trusting.
 We called these feathers "Martha's fairy wings."
 Such a personality.
 And always always Mama's baby.
Brave Martha was the first to explore the new coop.
And who could resist such a cute bum?
 One of my favorite photos of Martha really shows her intense personality.
 And another bum photo, because she just had a great one.
 One of my favorite things to do, sitting out in the chicken yard with Martha perched on my arm. She would sit on my lap, but also adored just perching. I loved to feel her feet holding on while she got her balance.
 Always cleaning those fluffy toes!
So  many wonderful mornings with my soft tweedle dee on my lap. Martha would follow me everywhere, making distinct high pitched "Tweedle deedle dee?" inquiries about everything I did. 
Always ready for a treat.
Martha followed me during all my chicken chores, checking everything over very carefully! 
 One of her favorite sunbathing spots - the goat stall!
 Hitching a ride on a warm back.
Martha even stayed in my pottery studio for a brief time as she recovered from an impacted crop. 
Always ready for a snuggle, especially on a cold day. 
A (thankfully) brief but memorable period of baldness, when a more aggressive chicken plucked poor Martha's head feathers. 
Ah, the five month saga of bandaging Martha's feet daily due to a case of bumblefoot that just wouldn't heal. Until finally, it did!
 Lap babies.
Martha discovered a new love - free ranging!
Who could resist this face?
 This girl really loved free ranging more than anything. I'm so glad she had so much happiness, and that we got to share in her life.
My all time favorite photobomber. 
I love you Martha.