Thursday, November 7, 2013

The New Waiting Game...

It was just over a year ago I was writing about the excitement of our first egg and the unexpected behaviors that come before the first egg is laid.

To begin, there is the first time you hear a real, authentic "clucking" sound.  Not the cute little peeping purring cooing sounds the chicken makes when wandering about, but a real cluck.  The sound was not just surprising for us but seemingly for the chicken as well.

Then there is the squatting and confusion of where to be.(The chickens, by the way, were squatting and confused.  Not me.  Well, I was a bit confused...)  Once the ladies begin to squat when approached you know they are maturing and eggs will be on their agenda. I like to call it "pancaking".

In 2012, at 21 weeks our Buff Orpingtons produced their first cluck.  At week 23, the squat, aka pancake. And then the EGG.  At our coop, the chicken clearly came BEFORE the egg.
Alma and Elsie April 2013

Lets fast forward to 2013...where we are today...and our New waiting game.  In April we brought home two adorable Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chicks.  It is now November and week 32.  Scarcely have we heard a cluck (and it came during distress) and not one remote sign of a squat.

These little ladies are hold outs.  Maybe they know we have a workshop in three weeks and they want to wait and show off.  Maybe they think the other ladies have it under control.  All I know is we are back to the waiting game...
Elsie & Alma today

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

When I was a kid someone sent me a birthday card that said:
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To meet his friend, Gregory Peck.

Silly but I've never forgotten that.

Now I have and have had chickens and the ladies live exclusively in my back yard.  Unless, of course, I leave the gate open.  In the event of an accidentally ajar gate, the ladies high-tail it through the side yard and head for the neighbor across the street.

Why always the neighbor across the street?  Why not the neighbor to the left or right?  Always its across the street.  So, can someone please tell me...

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Helicopter Mom

On occasion I wonder.  Was it a mistake to not have children?  Should I have been a mother?  Did I miss out on something?

Over the years I have envisioned the type of mother I saw myself.  The cool mom who was strict but still fun. The mom who had clearly defined rules but a heart.  The mom who shot hoops in her work attire, sans shoes, if the kid wanted to play when I drove in the drive.

I never did have a child of my own and I do not regret that decision.  It was the right one for me.

What does all this have to do with chickens, you ask?

Recently, I have discovered my chickens do not get (what I feel) is enough free range time.  The more they free range, the healthier they will be.  The more eggs they will lay.  The less feed I need to buy. The happier they will be.  The more content the flock.  And who doesn't want a happy family?

Why do they not get enough free range time?  It appears I am not the cool mom.  I am the helicopter mom.

My chickens, up until recently, could not free range with out supervision.  If I was not out with them then my husband was on duty. We tag-teamed when necessary. Our Belgian Shepard was used as a very temporary chicken sitter.  Big dog was in charge during bathroom breaks.  If I was "On Duty" or my husband or big dog, nothing could happen. No hawks, no snakes, no possum.  The ladies were safe.

Its time to let go.  Its time to park the helicopter on the pad and go in the house.  Time to go on about my day.  The ladies are fine on their own in their fenced back yard with their Mack-daddy coup and run.

Today they have been out since dawn.  I have peeked out the window.  I have ran errands.  I have thrown them a snack and watched them run for cover during a big rain.  The helicopter is in park.  The girls are one their own and doing fine.

But the big dog does still get to play chicken sitter...

Friday, May 31, 2013

And Then The Clumsy Ninja Came To Town

Recently I spotted a cute meme on Facebook and it really got me thinking...
When I was single I had a cat and two dogs.  Having the cat was like not having a cat. The dogs were work.  The dogs required attention. The cat seemed to require nothing. Since the cat was free-fed I only had to check her food bowl periodically. Since the cat was an only cat I only had to check the liter box periodically. She kept to herself up high. Having a cat was like not having a cat.
High Cat napping outside and out of sight

Fast forward six years.  I meet and marry the man of my dreams and, in turn, marry his cat.  Oliver is old, very old.  Oliver is low cat, living under the beds, slinking under tables. The only sight of him is when he sneaks into the dirty laundry and makes off with one of my shirts.  For two years we live with two essentially non-existent cats.

A rare photo of high cat and low cat sharing the same plane
One sad day we lost our low cat.  Then suddenly, without warning or forethought, a tiny, tiny motherless stray came into our life.  Such a wee thing that at first clings to me like glue.  I can't say no and for weeks my husband refuses to acknowledge her presence because we don't NEED another cat.  (Of course he comes around.  Who can resist a kitten?)

While tiny, tiny Lily is very young she is an old soul. She becomes the new mid-level cat. The new non-existent cat.  We are only aware of her presence when entering the house and calling her name.  We get a couple quick chirps letting us know her whereabouts, then silence.  High cat is somewhere being high cat.  Lily is somewhere being mid cat.  It remains as such for a year.
Lily and Poods during the calm before the Otis Storm
Eight or nine months ago I'm asked to help start a FaceBook page for some stray kittens. Regular posts are made, photos are updated and everyday one little face wont stop staring back. One little face has me in his clutches and there is no escape. Enter one little, tiny, clumsy Otis.

Right about now I'm thinking this would be a very good place to insert the JAWS shark theme music.

While we still have high cat.  And we will have mid-level cat.  We have now added:
Otis, The Instigator.

No longer is anyone non-existent.  There is now complete awareness.
There is scratching on closed doors.  Day AND night. Paws under doors. Cats springing from every piece of furniture at any given moment. Cats lapping up breakfast shakes when a head is turned. Cats ALWAYS under foot. Otis has taken our peaceful existence and turned it on its ear.

Oh, how I long for a morning of sleeping in without an early paw in the nostril wake up. That said, I wouldn't trade it for the fun that is Otis. Oh-Ty. Oatey Oats. Oh Ty Taeo.  Otis, who brought to life a family of non-existent cats.

Otis keeping a paw on Miss Lily

Otis preparing a sneak attack on the Poods

Tiny Otis snugging with his best pal, Lily

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Patio Dust Bath

Our little three week old Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chicks (Alma & Elsie) have discovered the joys of a dust bath at a very early age.

Here they are in a little patch of sand by the back patio having a good old time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Renovations to Peck N Paw Resort & Spa

In the course of my life I have owned several homes and over the years I have learned one thing about home ownership:  after you've lived in it you will want to change it.

Last year (at about this time) we decided to start planning the building of our chicken coop.  We googled plans.  We You Tubed plans.  We drew out our own plans.  We had a plan and we built it.
We built it and they came.  The chickens moved in.

Peck N Paw 2012
The chickens have lived in and thrived and survived the hot, Florida summer.  They have survived hurricane "feeder-bands".  They have huddled together at night in the cold, coop windows closed for warmth.  Everyday they wake up happy and glad to be in their run.

In the course of the last year I have watched.  I know where they sit when its hot.  I know where they huddle when its cold.  I know they don't have the sense to get back in the coop when it rains, so they get wet.  I know its time for an expansion.

.....HONEY!  I HAVE AN IDEA!!!!...

We have begun our coop/run expansion.
While the coop itself if sufficient, the ladies need more space in the run.  Below are the progress shots...
Footings and Flooring


Painted Framing with back wall

View from the Front
This coming weekend we will be getting the sand flooring and blowing out the back wall.  I'm so excited to provide the ladies with a new, better protected run.

And now....the YouTube video...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chicken Chat Success!

On February 24 we hosted, along with SowShare, our first ever Backyard Hen Workshop. (Or, as I like to call it, Chicken Chat.)

The event was kept low key with only around 15 participants.  This bein my first "chicken lecture" I appreciated the intimate size of the crowd and it gave SowShare a comfort level in getting to know me and my workshop style.
Sarah discussing the pros and cons on baby chicks vs full grown hens.

The event covered a range of chicken topics:
  • Breed Selection - What breed will work best for a particular situation.
    • Noise
    • Temperament
    • Size
    • Egg production vs meat
  • Baby Chicks vs Full grown hens
  • Where to purchase your flock
  • Caring for Baby Chicks
  • Caring for Adult Hens
  • Coop Selection
    • Home-made vs store bought
    • Requirements
      • Size
      • Easy to clean
      • Ventilation
  • Free Ranging
    • Benefits
    • Dangers
  • Egg production
  • Bio Security.
Participants checking out the coop and meeting the ladies.

We were very please with the success of the event and more workshops will follow.  Our next event is scheduled for April 7th.

Come and see our next batch of Easter Peeps!
Felicia joining the after party.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Madder than a Wet Hen

My Wet Hen Marie
As a youngster growing up, I distinctly remember my mother using the phrase "madder than a wet hen".  In the back of my mind, she was referring to one of her sisters but I'm sure she used it to describe other women as well.

For most of my life I have assumed if you get a chicken wet it will, in turn, get mad.  Why would my mother have reason to lie about wet hens?  She grew up on a farm for gosh sakes.  Clearly she knows her farm animals and their propensities toward rain or water.

Last night the weather was looking a bit stormy.  The ladies had not had much time to free-range this week and I really wanted them to get out in the yard for a good stretch of their wings.  Out they came from their run, happy as clams to be roaming about gathering bugs.  (Great, now I have find out if clams are really happy...Guess I'll be 'googling' after this post)

Then it came.  The winds and the rain. I was out gathering eggs and ran for the back porch to take cover.  I assumed the ladies would head for the cover of their run. Since they saw me running to the house, they came a flapping behind me.  I thought it was to take cover.  They thought I was running for the meal worm treats kept on the porch.  With no treats to be seen, off the ladies went back into the yard and into the rain.  Hunting.  Pecking.  Gathering bugs.  Not one seemed the least bit mad.

As the rains came in heavier, the ladies opted to take a break in the covered run but that only lasted a short time.  Back out they went into the rain.  Crazy ladies.
Felicia shaking off the rain

Dolores unphased by a light shower

So what am I to surmize?  Are my chickens different?  Are they happier?  Do they know they not know what my mother knows?  I am certainly not going to tell them.  They looked too cute frolicking out in the rain.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Backyard Chicken Workshop Update

Its official!  A date has been set for the first Backyard Chicken Workshop!

On Sunday, February 24, the Hiers Hen House will be hosting a workshop to raise awareness and provide insight in to raising happy, healthy, productive backyard hens.

The worshop is sponsored by Sow Share, a collective self-reliance program for South Florida Residence.  If you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact  SowShare for more details or visit SowShare on their Facebook page.

We would LOVE to see you there!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Back to Basics

While I love the holidays and truly love the time spent with my adorable mother, fabulous sister and scads of comical and charming cousins, I am glad to be back to routine.  For the last several weeks it has been a frenzy of packing, traveling, un-packing, more travel, hugs, kisses, goodbyes, hellos and work sprinkled in.

During the time I was away, I know the ladies were well cared for by my adoring husband.  He loves to free range the ladies as much (if not more) than I.  And while I know they were out and about on a regular basis, is was not with me.  Their routine may have not changed but mine did and I was ready to have it back.

Today, for the first time in weeks, the ladies and I had an entire afternoon to free range and I had the opportunity to really get back into routine.  The run was cleaned and raked.  The water and food cleaned and changed.  The coop scrubbed and cleaned, all with the help of Lois (the watch chicken).  Lois is the supreme supervisor when it comes to my cleaning abilities.  Rarely does a coop clean go by without Lois on the high roost keeping a watchful eye.

There is just something about walking about the yard with hens under foot, cooing and pecking and making us smile and laugh.