Yes, yes, I'm a terrible blogger; yes, I've kept you all waiting; yes, OK, you want pictures of chickens. Have we covered all the bases now? I apologize for the wait; we had some camera issues, and some work issues, and some (let's be honest here) laziness issues. But I'm back!
Shortly after my last post, the Chicken Man called me and told me I could pick up my birds! Amy F and her daughter Caroline accompanied me to the farm, which was jam-packed with birds, sheep, dogs, rabbits, and the ugliest freaking ducks I ever seen. (Seriously, they looked like they had leprosy, which is apparently exactly what Muscovy ducks
are supposed to look like.) Chicken Man had six lovely little pullets corralled for me, so I could pick the five I wanted. I grabbed one, which freaked out, flapped at me, and ran away. My first act as a chicken rancher, and I failed miserably. I am so ashamed.
So while Chicken Man caught the pullet (it involved using a very long rod with a hook on the end that he snagged around the chicken leg) and loaded the rest into a box for me (because if I had to do it, he would spend the entire day chasing chickens), we checked out all the other animals. We fed baby goats (far cuter than pushy adult goats) and cuddled rabbits. Then we stopped at Tractor Supply for some extra bedding, and at Dunkin' Donuts to fortify ourselves.
Back at the farmstead, Caroline helped me unload the chickens from the cardboard box. They were just fine, even though they had made some pathetic noises while in the car. It turns out that freaked out chickens in a box = a lot of smelly liquid poop. The girls checked out their new digs, but we had to lure them out into the run with food trailed down the gangplank. Once they discovered the feeder hanging out there, though, nature took over.
The girls were about ten weeks old when I got them. Today, they're about 26 weeks and considerably fatter than in this picture (taken by Mr. Roy). Rhode Island Reds are a large breed.
And also, tough to tell apart. Their names are Nettie, Belva, Esther Mae, Pearl, and Bernice, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you which is which. My mom suggested I paint each bird's toenails a different color so I could tell them apart. I told her I'd be happy to, if she was up for holding frightened, flapping chickens while I gave them a manicure.
Mostly I just call them "the girls" or "the ladies," as in, "Good morning, ladies; what is that god-awful racket you're making?"
Once the girls arrived, the daily question of "Do you have the chickens yet?" was replaced by "Are they laying eggs yet?" RIReds don't start laying until about 22 to 24 weeks of age. In the meantime, they mostly eat. A lot. I give them pelleted food, with weeds (we call pulled weeds "chicken salad") and sometimes overripe tomatoes from the garden. So far I haven't let them out to peck in the yard; they're still too excitable. I'm hoping that by next summer they'll calm down enough to be allowed out to forage when I'm gardening.
I'm happy to report that today all the girls are laying beautiful, brown eggs. They're pretty small; young chickens lay little eggs, while older hens lay bigger ones. But I'm getting on average four eggs a day, which translates to a lot of French toast and some happy friends and neighbors. The girls don't make a whole lot of noise, but when they're pissed off, they are very vocal–especially when I've opened the nest box door to collect eggs while one of them is in there. Then they give me a very "Do you mind?" look and scamper outside to squawk about the nerve of that girl.
Our other addition here at the farmstead comes in the form of a black kitten. I did not need another cat. I did not want another cat. But Amy F and I were at Greencycle, where we dump all the organic matter from gardening to be turned into compost and mulch. Amy, duplicitous wench that she is, stuck her head out the office door and told me to come in. She was holding this tiny, tiny all-black cat. The kitten had come in when she was three or four weeks old on a semi full of pallets destined to be shredded for mulch; no one has any idea how she got on the truck. The lady in the office had been taking care of her, but she needed a home.
I held this little ten-week-old cat, who looked at me so seriously, and I knew I had to take her home. I named her Fiona. I later learned that Fiona means "fair" or "white," so let's just pretend that I meant to do that.
The other cats, not so thrilled. This sweet, quiet little kitten has become full-on ornery. She loves chasing Ace and Miss Kitty and climbing into places she's not supposed to be. She currently approaches everything with all her claws extended and fangs out. Ginny and I call her Ferocious Fee. But she's learning. She and Ace have come to a sort of agreement; they chase each other and wrestle all the time. Miss Kitty mostly does the cat equivalent of rolling her eyes. She will also whap Fi in the face repeatedly, as if dribbling a basketball, to remind her who is top cat. Miss Kitty and Ace are enjoying snacking on the kitten food, though.
So that brings you up-to-date on additions to farmstead. Updates as they occur. Or, you know, as I get around to them.
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