On July 17th, my new babies arrived. There are four of them. These photos were taken three days later. Two of them are Cuckoo Maran (top left), the other two are Easter Eggers which are Ameraucanas crossed with just about any other breed which is why the chicks look different. Easter Eggers can produce eggs in a range of colors (one color per bird). The one thing these two chicks have in common is that it appears they’ll have cheek tufts. The chicks started out in the bathtub, but after two weeks, they were already showing some flight capabilities.
As planned at that point, we moved them out to the brooder in the garage. I had modified the brooder to give it a couple of windows so the chicks could see outside when the garage door was open. We were admiring the little girls when Sara (good friend and chicken fan) noticed a visitor outside the garage door.
The rat snake was moving by, so I attempted to encourage it. Unfortunately, instead of fleeing away, it turned and fled for the garage. Of course I couldn’t leave it in there with the baby chickens, so I put on my gloves and tried to pull it out from between two bags of concrete. You might be surprised at how much strength a constrictor can bring to bear if it doesn’t want to be moved. Sara had to move one of the concrete bags to break it’s hold. You’ll be happy to know that no snake, chicken or human was hurt in the incident. I released the snake a couple of hundred yards from the house, then proceeded to pile heavy weights on the lid of the brooder
So far, we’ve had no further snake sightings near the brooder and the chicks are getting more and more bold. Four more weeks, and they’ll be joining the big girls in the coop.
Although we’re still in moderate drought conditions, we’ve entered a rainy period, which has motivated me to get all the gardens refurbished and planted for the first time in three years. Now that the chickens are at work clearing out all the weeds and pest insects, I’ve got a clean slate to work with.
For the most part, the chickens are rather helpful. Some of the garden frames had been partially buried and were riddled with ants and termites. Once exposed, the girls went to town cleaning them up. In other instances, they can be trouble as they love freshly turned dirt. This garden in particular needed to have its weed barrier dug out and reinstalled. As soon as they saw me turn some dirt, the girls came to “help” doing their best to fill my trench back in before I was done.
Once the gardens are refurbished, I spread a fresh layer of compost then add the netting. The netting is crucial because the hens are so curious, and convinced that everything I do will yield food. One evening I tried to weed one of the gardens while the chickens were around and soon found myself accompanied by eight or nine of them who thought the soil needed some extra scratching. Trying to get them out again was like herding cats.
My other garden assistants, the bees are enjoying the first locust flowers. These trees, purchased from the State Forestry Department as tiny saplings, are finally suckering like crazy. This may sound like a bad thing, but Black Locust is a nitrogen fixing tree, and the perfect companion plant for my other fruit trees.
Speaking of fruit trees, this is the first year that my Saturn Peach has a sizable crop. I’m hoping I’ll finally get to taste one this year.
It’s hard to believe I’ve had the chickens a year now. They went from tiny balls of fluff to elegant (in some cases) egg-laying machines, with their own quirks and personalities.
They spend a lot of their time foraging in the fallen leaves, trimming the grass, eating what bugs, and even snakes, they find. They get a little cranky on days that I don’t let them out of the garden yard, but since dogs and chickens can’t mix, they have to take turns.
Sadly Osiris, the rooster, became a 4 pound roast around Halloween. He had attacked me a couple of times, sneak attacks when I was checking for eggs, but he was also favoring certain hens and keeping others from the feeder. That’s when I lost patience.
My sweet Willow also died very suddenly, we believe from a hepatic lesion due to her being really too fat. It was just as all the birds were starting to lay eggs, and the extra strain was too much for her. Now I’m down to 12 egg-laying birds which was my plan all along.
Speaking of eggs, the girls are now at full production, roughly 300 eggs a month. I’ve been selling my surplus, which covers their food costs. My grocery bills have gone down a little with this ready source of protein, and they’ve done a bang-up job clearing out the weeds and pest insects from the garden area. All in all they are more than paying their way.
This Cardinal has been annoying us for the past few days, fighting with our bedroom window. I finally took a close look at him and noticed just how beat up he is. It looks like, from the loss of breast and flank feathers, that he’s been on the losing end of numerous scrape-ups with rival males. I’m guessing that with the reflection in the window, he’s finally found an equal rival. He’ll sing for a little while from the pear tree or the new fence, then fly down and smack against the window a few times. I’ve attached some mylar tape (it flaps and sparkles in the wind) to three of the window panes, but that just forced him to concentrate on the two other panes of glass. The next time I have energy, or am annoyed enough, I’ll put the tape on the other panes as well. Hopefully that will curb his testosterone induced insanity, or at least scare him away.