Monday, August 8, 2016

The Fancy Chicken Duckumentory - Phase I


This week five new duck nests were discovered on the grounds of The Fancy Chicken Farm.  We will be following their progress as the momma ducks sit and hatch out some cute little baby chicks.  Please stay tuned for updates at the farm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Hiers Hens Version

Today we take a look back at our 2015 Christmas project, The Twelve Days of Chicken Christmas by Hiers Hens (and cat).  We hope everyone had as much fun seeing each of the days as we had creating them using our hens, some silly props and, in some cases, a
 lot of photoshop.
Kara, the Golden Cuckoo, as our Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lulu, a Golden Cuckoo attempts Two Turtle Doves.

Fran, (Buff Orp), Lois (Dominique) and Marie (Buff Orp)

Marie (Buff Orp) Lois (Dominique)
Elsie (Blue Laced Wyandotte) & Alma (Blue Laced Wyandotte)

Elsie (Blue Laced Wyandotte)

Queenie (Cream Legbar) Alma (Wyandotte) Marie (Buff Orp) Lulu (Golden Cuckoo) and Maxine (Black Tail Buff Maran)

Stunt doubles so the ladies wouldn't catch cold

 Nine Ladies Dancing

Click to watch the Nine Ladies Dancing GIF

Fran (Buff Orp)

Wish I could say all eleven ladies participated.  Most were not thrilled with standing near a fake flute.

All eleven of our chickens are represented, including a stand-in 12th chicken, Otis the cat.
We have a whole year to prepare for next year's production...I wonder what it will be...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Third Time Charm

Almost exactly one year ago I posted a blog about our broody hen, Elsie.  We had procured some fertile eggs from farmer friends and anxiously awaited the sound of tender young peeps.  At the time I asked folks to stay tuned for a blog update while Elsie sat vigil on those eggs.  That next post never came with an update.  The outcome, for me, was just too sad.  Elsie hadn't failed as a mother but I had failed completely as a caretaker.  Not one egg hatched successfully.  I failed my girl and I was too embarrassed to speak of it.

Here we are a year later.  Elsie (late in March) went broody yet again.  It would be the third time since we've had her.  Persistence seem is her strong suit. Turns out that is not her only strong suit.

The signs are obvious when my darling Elsie turns broody.  The growling.  The insistence on sitting on EVERYONE'S eggs.  The complete refusal to leave the nesting box.  Elsie means business and Elsie wanted her own babies.  I wanted her to have her own babies and this year, God willing, I would NOT fail her.  All I needed was a little help from my friends.  A call was placed to Solace Farms, home of The Fancy Chicken.  Even though I blew it last year with every bad call in the hatching book, Mark and Michael, owners of The Fancy Chicken, entrusted me with a dozen fertile eggs for Elsie.

A day before the fertile eggs arrive, Elsie is moved from the coop to her own "maternity" ward inside our home office.  An extra large dog crate became her make-shift coop with a comfy nesting box, temperature controlled environment, plenty of food, water and peace.  Peace and quiet.

The eggs arrive.  A crazy assortment of blue, light and dark brown eggs get placed in Elsie's nesting box.  Being the good mamma, she carefully arranges each and every egg under her feathered body and hunkers down for the long haul.  Mamma is content.


While mamma is content, I am not.  I am the pacing, worry-wart, over-thinker who blew it last year. I have 20 days to worry they may not hatch. I pray that if just one little peep hatches it will be a true miracle and a complete success.  I can't bare another failure.  Not for me or for Elsie.

The wait begins.  Elsie sits.  She sits A LOT.  She is still sitting.  I'm pacing.  I'm peeking.  She is sitting.  Will this bird ever get up and eat?  Take one lousy drink?  Stretch a leg?  How is she not cramping up?  Is there a chicken version of a charlie horse?  Apparently not since she continues to sit....days go by.  She sits.  And sits.  Roughly day five hits and I hear a rustling and a bit of commotion and smell a smell of the dead.  My heart sinks... have I blown it again?  I peek in to see my dear, sweet girl getting a quick drink and a much needed bite to eat.  And, my dear has left me the biggest, smelliest chicken pooh EVER.  And its back to sitting....


I am tempted to copy and past the previous paragraph over and over so you can read it over and over and over, just the way it happened in my office.  Sitting, sitting, rustle, quick drink, stinky poop, sitting.  I will save you that and skip forward to the night before her due date.  Clearly I am on edge. We are hovering over the due date and this time I've done better.  I've been hands off.  I'm hoping I've done it right.  Elsie has done all the important work.  I continue to pray for just one egg before going to sleep...And then I dream and in that dream we hatch two fried eggs, a sparrow and a Wiemaraner puppy.  (Don't ask, it was a dream.  A very bad dream where at least I hatched something. albeit a sparrow and a puppy )

Day 20.  My husband and I are sitting in our home office before work.  No doubt we are both on Facebook or checking bank balances when my husband says...did you hear that?  I clearly heard Elsie shifting about so yes, I heard that.  Again my husband says No, listen, did you hear that?  I stop.  I listen.  And there it is...the tiniest, sweetest little peep.  Its real.  It is the one egg  I  needed to not be failures.  I peek in at Elsie.  She is content, quiet, unaffected.  I can hear the peep but I can't see it. I'm in tears and Elsie is a mom.



Over the next 24 to 36 hours my dear sweet Elsie becomes a mom over and over.  I peek in later and there are three...then five, wait six.  Our final count comes in at EIGHT!  It is ridiculous that I have spent a good portion of that time near happy tears.  Elsie has conquered motherhood and done it very successfully without my help.   In the weeks to come I learn  far more from Mamma bird.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Eggs or How I got my baby chicks

Two years ago our adventure into raising chickens began.  Coincidentally, it began on Easter weekend.

Last year we decided to add to our flock and what better time than again on an Easter weekend.  Enter Elsie & Alma, the Wyandottes.

Our flock is at a comfortable six hens and this Easter approached.  While I secretly wanted another baby chick, it didn't seem like we were going to make it happen.  Was it even practical getting just one chick?  I wasn't going to press and it seems there wasn't a need.  Elsie had her own ideas of what needed to happen and she let us know, without question, it was time for her to be mom.

Elsie, this Easter weekend, went broody, AGAIN.  This time, she isn't fooling around.  The hen has set up residence in the left nesting box and she isn't going to budge.  Just ask her and you will get a very serious growl.  Elsie wants to be a mom and she means business.

After consulting some friends/experts at The Fancy Chicken in Loxahatchee and some friends on line at Backyardchicken.com, it was decided.  Elsie will be getting a clutch of fertilized eggs so she can hatch herself a little family.  The Fancy Chicken has been kind enough to provide us with the needed eggs and will even take back any babies that turn out to be roos.

Stay tuned for Elsie's adventure into motherhood!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Three days at Shawshank

Since there is a chicken currently residing in my home office, I must get this off my chest.  Either Elsie, our RED laced Wyandotte chicken, is channeling Ellis “Red” Boyd, or she has gone broody.  Hmmm, notice the similarities in name....Elsie....Ellis.  No wonder she was the one to go Shawshank on me.
Angry, Broody Elsie refusing to budge from the nesting box earlier this week.



Elsie, the chicken, has gone broody.  What that means:


  •  She doesn't want to eat.
  •  She refuses to leave the nesting box causing an actual "waiting line" of chickens trying to lay an egg this afternoon.
  • She is plucking her own feathers to keep her baby “plastic egg”  and her sister's real eggs warm
  •  And she is wreaking havoc with all the other chickens with her growly, moody antics.

All this because she really, really , really wants to have a baby.



Much as I would love to let Elsie nest away and hatch a clutch of cute, little, baby chicks, we had to take drastic measures.  You see, we don't have a rooster so no baby chicks can happen here.  And, from what I understand, if a chicken goes broody and can’t actually become a mom, bad things happen.

  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Aggressive behavior
  • And that really long waiting line at the nesting box
"Red" waiting her time in solitary.



Our only recourse….Solitary confinement in a cool, quiet area.  As I type this, Elsie is sitting in her cell, a dog crate in my home office, with only food and water and a short roost.  Seems a bit sad but this is the most calm she has been in three days.  From what I've read in various chicken blogs, she will be in the office for a few days before getting parole and then it might go something like this…

2014 Parole Hearings Woman: Elsie chicken, your files say you've served 3 days of a broody chicken sentence. Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?
Red: Rehabilitated? Well, now let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means.
2014 Parole Hearings Woman: Well, it means that you're ready to rejoin the chicken society...
Red: I know what you think it means, missy. To me, it's just a made up word. A politician's word, so young ladies like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?
Red: There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid chicken who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to her. I want to try to talk some sense to her, tell her the way things are. But I can't. That chicken’s long gone, and this old bird is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, missy, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a chicken shit….

Stay tuned to see just when Elsie gets parole and is allowed back in the yard with her sisters.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Alma's Science Fair Egg Experiment

Remember the Science Fair?  Remember watching or participating in events like Build a Boat Out of Ping Pong Balls or Grow Beans in Microwaved Water vs Plain Tap?  It seems I have a chicken who has entered herself in her own Science Fair.

First, in egg laying, all chickens are not created equal.  Some are big egg layers. Some are loud egg layers and some, like my two Wyandottes, are not "straight to the nesting box" kind of gals.  The first Wyandotte to lay, Elsie, would lay her eggs in the dog house.  It only took me about four days to figure that out and redirect her to a safer spot, the nesting box.  She took to it right away once it was pointed out.



Next, meet Alma.  Alma is one of our Blue Laced Red Wyandottes and she is almost a year old. Alma is a very special chicken.  Alma is a student of physics whose goal is to successfully lay and egg from the highest point in the coop without breaking.  It would be quite the feat and this little girl  is up for the challenge.

Over the course of two weeks we would periodically find an egg inside the coop, broken and outside the nesting box.  My first thought was an angry chicken kicked it out as part of a "pecking order" protest.  But it kept happening.  Day after day of broken egg.  Then a Saturday rolled around and I was able to observe who was laying and when.  One by one the ladies took their turns in the nesting boxes until Alma was ready to lay.  In to the coop she went.  Then back out.  Then back in. In and out for several rounds of confusion until in she went and stayed.  After a few moments I heard it.  The awkward flapping and stumble of a chicken going to bed.  Going to bed?  Its 2 in the afternoon!  I carefully peek in the coop and there she is, Alma on high.  


Alma, preparing to lay an egg from the highest roost in the coop.
Much to our amazement, Alma manages to not only lay her egg but she drops it from about three feet and it lands successfully in the crevice between the coop door and floor.  Please forgive the chicken pooh splotches.  It is life in the coop. 
Seriously?  How did she do this?

The ledge egg, unbroken.  Rather amazing
Who lays an egg, drops it three feet and has it land exactly in this two inch gap?  Alma really needs to play MouseTrap.  (Yeah, I'm dating myself here)

A few days later, she inches closer to the mark.  And, I get smart and line the coop floor with several inches of shavings to "break" the fall of our precious egg.
We seem to be getting closer to the mark.
Alma ended up proving her point.  She could lay an egg where ever and when ever she wanted.  We are very grateful that she decided the nesting box was good enough....for now.
Success!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Bird in the hand...falls asleep?

From the beginning it was important to me that I can handle my hens with ease.  In the event of an emergency where one of the ladies needed to be picked up and held (injury, illness, what ever) I wanted to know I could easily handle the bird.

As baby chicks they were picked up and held and coddled on a daily basis. (Who can resist a baby chick?)  As adult hens they no longer get picked up and held every day but it is still important to know the ladies will allow being held.  One thing I have discovered in this process, each lady has varying degrees of acceptance with my task.  All tolerate the event.  Big Fran, the Buff Orp, makes the most fuss.  When put down she always shakes and ruffles her feathers in disgust.  The look on her big, beaked face is "Quelle Horreur!"
The very angry bird, Fran.


This evening I was reminded which hen clearly makes the least fuss.  Each of the ladies had their turn and last in line was Lois, a Dominque.  One would think with a name like DOMinque there would be a bit of DOMinance but not the case with LoLo.  She is our low hen on the chicken totem pole.

I pick up little Lois and she quietly nestles in my arm.  No fuss with this chicken.  I give her a pat and start chatting with my husband about the yard.  After a few minutes I notice she has hunkered down nicely with no apparent desire to to leave.  Hubby and I continue to chat and walk about, all the while holding sweet Lois.  Again, I look down to check on my chick and this is what I see...

Little Lois taking a nap
As long as I'm walking (and not just moving but actual walking) Lois remains asleep.  Am I her chicken whisperer?  Perhaps, as low chicken in the pecking order, I am her safe zone.  No one can get to her.  No one can peck her.  No one can stop her from getting a little shut eye.