Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yertle or Myrtle?

When you have a farm pond you never know what type of visitors it will attract. This snapping turtle was in the windbreak heading toward the pond when Jim saw it and called me from the road. I took my camera out there in the rain to get some shots of it. It's the biggest one I've ever seen up close. The shell is a foot in diameter. I don't know if it's a male or female. How do you tell?

I'm not concerned about having a snapping turtle in the pond. In fact, I'm sure there are already some living in there. For all I know this one could be a resident turtle that's come out of the pond to forage for greens. I know they eat fish too but the pond has an abundance of fish in it. I'd be happy to provide a supportive habitat for a turtle of this age. There will be no talk of soup either, thank you.

So please join me in welcoming Myrtle...or Yertle.

***UPDATE*** About an hour after I took these photos I watched as big Myrtle lumbered into the pond, one step at a time. I wonder what she thinks of our pond?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Free Roto-Tilling and Fertilizer Service

After Jim made a few passes with the roto-tiller in the new garden area, the chickens came in and got all the worms and bugs they could get their little beaks on. They've been out there scratching around all day helping to break up the soil and deposit a little free fertilizer as they go. I can't complain, they work for scratch!

The chicks are two weeks old today. I put the peeps and broilers in a playpen made of chicken wire for the day. They are enjoying the warm sun, scratching in the dirt and seeing all the outdoor sights. They fall asleep in the sun and it's cute to watch them. The big chooks don't seem to pay them much attention so I'm hopeful that they won't think twice about it when the time comes to put them together.

Five more weeks and the broilers should be ready to butcher. We aren't letting ourselves get attached to them so it will be easier. I wish I had more of them, 9 is going to go fast.

Little Sophia, the speckled Sussex, is doing well. She is eating like a champ and seems to be coming along. She's the smallest bird and very sweet. The biggest chick of the layer group is by far Maude, the Welsummer. I put bands on the layers today which is always entertaining. They pick at the leg bands at first trying to get them off. Scarlet's is red and I put a bright pink one on Blanche. I think it fits her personality!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wood Ducks

For the past few days I've been seeing this pair of wood ducks in the pond. We have a fiberglass duck nest box at the far edge and they seem to be checking it out. Yesterday I even got to see the hen standing on top of it. I don't know if she's got a clutch of eggs inside or not but I would love to see her with a brood of ducklings in the pond! This is the first time I've ever seen wood ducks in my life so I'm excited.

At ten days old, the chicks have their wing and tail feathers. Next, the feathers on their backs and necks grow in followed by belly and head feathers. They're very active and energetic at this stage. It's supposed to warm up this weekend and I hope to have them out in the lawn in a temporary enclosure so they can forage and scratch in the dirt. It will also give them a chance to meet the big chooks in a protected environment. Integrating new birds into an established flock should take place over a period of weeks if at all possible.

I'm a bit concerned about the smallest Sussex. She isn't keeping pace with the others in growth. She seems to be very lethargic at times and she's not as vigorous as the others. She's now the smallest chick, even smaller than the Campine (a medium breed). I am keeping watch over her but that's about all I can do for her. Hopefully she'll perk up soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Chooks!

The chooks are officially one year old today. They were hatched on April 13, 2008. They're not pullets anymore, now they're hens.

So much happens in the first year of a chicken's life that it's hard to keep track of all the milestones. They start out as tiny little puffballs of fuzz.

Then they get all their feathers and start looking like big chickens instead of gangly teenagers.

And then come those first little pullet eggs.

Chickens are a fun family project that everyone can get involved in. I never realized how much fun chickens could be. And there's nothing like having your own fresh eggs every day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How Much For That Chook in the Window?

Lily (black) and Sweetheart (buff) came up on the back deck today. Lily comes up to the door regularly to beg for treats. Sweetheart just happened to join her. Then they noticed movement on the other side of the glass. What were those? They froze and just watched the peeps. The peeps saw the big girls and they froze too, just staring.

Watching this interaction filled my mind with questions that can't be answered because neither party can speak. I wonder what was going through their minds. Sweetheart has seen the peeps before through the front window. I wonder if she wants to take care of them or if she's just curious about what they are. I wonder if the peeps know that they're looking at a potential mama. But who knows what goes through the mind of a chicken?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Peeps TV Episode 2

Don't be fooled by this seemingly innocent appendage. In a few months this little foot will be capable of unrivaled damage. Chickens are great excavators. I was pulling my hair out last year trying to figure out how to keep them from damaging my landscaping and then I discovered bird netting. Now I don't have to deal with scattered mulch anymore.

The chicks are 4 days old now and their wing feathers are coming in and they are stretching their wings. I've named the bold little Barred Rock chick "Scarlet" after my favorite movie heroine who remained strong in the face of adversity.

The broiler chicks are bulking up pretty quickly. If you're thinking of getting some meat birds I highly recommend the red broilers available from Ideal Hatchery. The black broilers are nice too but they're not keeping up with the red broilers. Next time I'm ordering just the red ones. These chicks are active foragers too and don't just sit around on their rumps like Cornish X's do.

And now, without further ado, I present Episode 2 of Peeps TV. The little Delaware is fighting the urge to nap. Her name is "Blanche" after the character from "The Golden Girls". I'm trying to figure out who Dorothy and Sophia are going to be but I have a feeling it's going to be the two Speckled Sussex. In the video, the Delaware is on the left. Near the end you can see one of the red broilers standing in front of her.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Who's The Slacker?

From the Management:

It has come to our attention that some of you hens have been laying substandard sized eggs. We understand that spring is here and there is green grass to graze all day and bugs to chase, but ladies, let's keep our minds on our work. Pullet eggs are not acceptable from full grown hens. We appreciate your diligence and attention to detail in this matter. Thank you.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I had every intention of sleeping in this morning. Then Jim came into the bedroom and asked me if I was expecting the new chicks today. I said no, they were due to arrive next Wednesday. Then he informed me that the post office called and said there was a peeping package waiting for me.


I had planned to get the brooder cage ready on Monday, plenty of time to get things set up. I was completely unprepared for the arrival of baby chicks today! I had 7 new layers and 9 broilers waiting for me at the post office. Gack!

As I leapt out of bed, I barked orders at Jim to go get the brooder cage then run to town, pick up a bag of chick starter, then to the post office to get the chicks and hurry up about it! I got dressed and ran to get the feeder and water font prepped. I still hadn't cleaned them from when the ducks used them last July.

By the time Jim got back with the feed and chicks I had the brooder set up and ready for them. I ran out to meet him in the driveway and grabbed the box of chicks and ran inside with them. I quickly put them in the brooder and they all got a drink. In a few minutes they found the feeder and then they crashed. They'd had a long trip from Ideal Hatchery in Texas and they needed a good nap. Hatching day for chicks is very stressful.

I'm happy to report that the two Barred Rocks are full of personality. One is rather shy, the other is brave and bold. I got the bold one out for a while and let her explore the computer desk. She is fearless and I can tell she's going to rival Betty in personality. I'm going to have to think long and hard about an appropriate name for such a funny little chick.

I am pleased with all the chicks. They all seem to be full of character and there's only a few shy ones. It's been my experience that sometimes the shy ones turn around and become quite friendly when they reach maturity.

For those who will not be indulging in spring chicks this year I give you Peep TV. Enjoy!

Speckled Sussex, sleepy on hatching day

Welsummer chick

Red and black broilers


Sleepy little Delware

Nice variety of chicks

Cute little chipmunk stripes on the Welsummer (and she's wearing eyeliner!)

Spunky Barred Plymouth Rock explores the keyboard

Sweet little Delaware chick

"What's going on in there?" asks Fern. The big chooks lurked on the front porch today, listening to the peeping babies.