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Motor City Homestead » Chickens

Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

Small Town Problems, Big City Solutions, Part 2

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Yesterday, I checked the glue traps and noticed that one of them had been moved close to a bag of bottle returns sitting in the corner of the garage.  The other trap was not where I had left it, so I assumed Amy had moved it to a better location as well.  When I asked her about it, however, she said, “No one was in the garage today.  We didn’t move the traps.”  So, it’s now safe to assume that Templeton did in fact make an appearance in our garage yesterday.  The second glue trap is nowhere to be found, and the previously rat-sized hole in the siding is now considerably bigger.  A more accurate descriptions would be that it is now a rat-with-a-glue-trap-stuck-to-his-back sized hole in the siding. 

Templeton

I imagine all of his friends are making fun of him - similar to a bad haircut in middle school.  They are probably coming up with corny one liners like

“Hey Templeton, are you sticking around after class?”

“Wow, that book must be pretty good.  Templeton has been glued to it all afternoon.”

Is it wrong that I’m taking such delight in the misfortune of a rodent?

The Circle of Life at the MCH

Friday, July 25th, 2008

So, big news at the Motor City Homestead.  We had another litter of bunnies on Sunday, but there were only 5, and one of them was stillborn.  I really think that Princess is just getting too old.  She was a couple years old when we got her, and we’ve had her for a year and a half . . . so that puts her at probably 5 or so, which is pretty much the limit for a rabbit to breed.  This will be her last litter, and we’ll save a female from the litter to start breeding in spring.  Not sure what to do with the mama.  That’s a conversation for another time.  For now, she has a couple of months to raise this litter, and then we’ll decide what to do.  Anyone looking for a gigantic, friendly rabbit for a pet?

 In other news, Runt, the flying chicken has passed on to the great chicken coop in the sky.  A few days ago I noticed her standing huddled in the corner of the run instead of running around scratching like a ’normal’ chicken.  She was still eating, just lethargic - so I figured I would just watch her for a day or two.  Well, on Tuesday I went out in the morning and noticed that her crop was GIGANTIC - like the size of a softball.  First thing in the morning, the crop should be empty.  A chicken’s crop is a sack where they store food.  From there, it moves to the gizzard, where it is ground up.

Crop

If the crop gets packed full of food, or obstructed in some way, the chicken’s food and water doesn’t get passed to their digestive system.  In addition, the food stuck in the crop starts to spoil, so that adds bacterial and viral complications as well.

When I squeezed Runt’s crop, it wasn’t hard like a compaction.  It felt like a water balloon.  And sure enough, when I squeezed a little bit more, she started to throw up copious amounts of foul smelling water with bits of food in it.  Not a good sign.  I squeezed everything out of the crop, and squirted vegetable oil down her throat, hoping that it was just simple obstruction and some lube would get everything moving again.  Honestly, I wasn’t too hopeful, because she was pretty weak at that point.  I also gave her water with a little bit of vinegar in it to counteract any bacterial build-up in her crop, and bread soaked in olive oil - again just hoping to get everything moving.

Yesterday morning showed now change.  Her crop was again full of food and water, meaning nothing had moved through in the night.  I repeated the above treatement, and called my dad for any additional ideas.  He said that if the crop wasn’t impacted, there’s the possibility that the obstruction was further down her digestive tract, which is big trouble.  And, big trouble it was.  When I got home from work yesterday, Runt was dead.  My only regret is that I didn’t catch it sooner.  The treatment might have worked if given another day or two - and if it didn’t work, I could have at least put her out of her misery sooner.  Bummer. 

My wife is a saint

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

We had a second litter of bunnies on Thursday, and here at day three they are doing great.  That brings our total rabbit count up to 12, along with 6 hens, 2 dogs, and 4 kids.  See title.

5 Eggs Yesterday

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Only one hen isn’t laying - our Buff Orpington.  And she eats the most, too.  I’ve been threatening her with the stewpot, but without much success.  Getting eggs every day is so much fun (I know, I’m a dork).  But peaking in the nest box and seeing eggs feels like a little bit of magic every morning.  And the kids beg to check for eggs in the morning.

The other thing I’ve noticed about eggs every morning, is that it changes they way I think about food.  Traditionally, we shop for groceries once a week.  On that day, the cupboards and fridge are bursting with food, and by the end of the week, all that’s left is a scrap of bread and some condiments.   So my typical thought is “If we’re getting low on food, we need to conserve / go shopping”  Eggs are totally different.  The number of eggs in the fridge has absolutely nothing to do with how many eggs we actually have.  They are just potential eggs instead of actual.  I still have a brief thought of “uh-oh, we’re almost out of eggs” every day.  Silly city boy.

Chickens and Rabbits

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Our Ameraucanas have started laying.  I’ll be honest, I gasped like a little girl when I saw the blue egg in the nest box on Sunday.  I may have even clasped my hands in front of my mouth.  Not my most macho moment.  But, you can see why.  They are stunning.

Blue eggs

In rabbit news, our first litter of spring is growing like gangbusters, and Mamacita is due next week.  I’m feeling pretty good about it this time around.  She has been desparate to make a nest for the past week or so.  Every time I put hay in her cage, she would carry it to the corner, and start scrabbling wildly in an attempt to make a nest.  I finally relented and put a nest box in, just so she would settle down.  And she has.

Three eggs a day, and some tylenol for the Rhode Island Red

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Today we got three eggs!!  One of the Rhode Island Reds has been spending a lot of time in the nest box, and today she finally produced an egg.  It was a whopper!!  Here are standard egg sizes, by ounce, for comparison:

Small:  1.5 ounces

Medium:  1.75 ounces

Large:  2 ounces

Extra Large:  2.25 ounces

Jumbo:  2.5 ounces.

Ergo, when a recipe calls for one large egg, it’s asking for 2 ounces of egg.  In the following picture, the first egg is 2.25 ounces (extra large), the middle is 2.7 ounces (jumbo), and

3 eggs

Egg number three is 3.25 ounces!  That’s like extra large jumbo or something.  Off the charts, baby.

Two Eggs a Day

Friday, April 4th, 2008

2 down, 4 to go.

It’s not metaphorical

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I honestly thought everyone who said “chickens can fly” was speaking metaphorically - sure they flap their wings and make big jumps, but the don’t really fly.  Like penguins.  They move their bodies the right way, but don’t achieve lift.  Well, yesterday was a rude awakening to the very literal flight of our chickens.  I’ve taken to calling the hen in the following picture “Runt”.  She’s smaller than the other chickens, and spends a great deal of her time hiding in the corner, and then dashing out squawking to grab a bite of food.  Seems like runt-ish behavior to me.  Here’s a picture of her sitting in the rafters of our garage - which should have been foreshadowing for me.

Runt in rafters

Yesterday, the kids were visiting the hens, I turned my back for an instant and I heard, “A chicken is loose!! A chicken is loose!!”  I turned around to see Runt running (not yet flying) like a bat out of hell for the door of the garage.   I chased her to the side of the house, where she flapped over the fence into our backyard, and promptly ran into the crawlspace under our home.  Thankfully, Gabe felt like climbing in there, so he chased her back out.  From there, it was into the neighbors back yard, into the neighbors front yard, back into the neighbors backyard, and finally she flew to the top of the neighbors garage.  I’ve never been more surprised in my life.  She just took a leap and flapped 10 feet into the air.  Didn’t know they could do that.

She sat there proudly while Gabe and I hucked snowballs at her for 10 minutes, trying to scare her down.  We did manage to scare her, but we scared her up, not down, and she flapped ungracefully into a nearby tree.  The tree was only 15 feet tall, so I jumped on a nearby fence and scaled the tree.  Just as I was about to grab her, she took off and flew - again up, not down - into a tree in our yard.  Here she is, sitting pretty. 

Runt in tree - closeup 

Funny, right?  Not really, because here a better perspective of where she ended up. 

 Runt in tree - full

She’s that little bump on the fork furthest to the right.  At this point, I looked at Amy and said, “Sorry, babe, we only have 5 chickens now.  There’s no way I can get her down.”  Amy looked very sad, so Gabe and I threw snowballs for another 10 minutes, trying to knock her out of the tree, and somehow catch her before she hit the ground.

We did manage to hit her a couple of times, and finally, probably super annoyed at our barage, she took off again.  Thankfully, this time she flew downwards, onto the roof of our house a solid 30 or 40 feet across the yard.  Once again, we threw snowballs (not that it had worked very well so far) and once again, Runt flew down.  This time she ended up in our side yard, and I herded her back into the garage, and back into her pen, where she settled on her roost as if nothing was out of the ordinary.  So friends, chickens CAN fly.  Close the coop door on your way out, please.

Egg a day, and rabbit news

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Not sure who it is, but one of our chickens is laying an egg a day so far.  For those interested, we have 2 Ameraucanas (they lay blue-green eggs) 2 Rhode Island Reds (classic brown farm hen) a Buff Orpington and a Black Star.  Normally a move to new digs will freeze them up for a week or two - plus with the cold and shorter days, I wasn’t really expecting any eggs at all.  Hopefully they hit their stride by the end of March.

In rabbit news, we had our first litter of the spring born 3 days ago.  It was a litter of 6, but two didn’t make it.  It was bitterly cold the first day, and two of the babies had scrambled out from under mama’s nest.  Still, 4 healthy babies for sure - there might be more, it’s hard to count them in the pile.  Hooray for spring.

It’s been a long, cold winter

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

We’ve spent the past several months just recovering from our remodeling marathon.  But, spring is in the air.  The last few nights in front of the fire, Amy and I started planning our summer garden.  I’ll lay out some plans in future posts.  But, even more exciting, is an idea that’s been brewing for a couple of years in the back of my head.  Chickens, baby.  If you don’t have a rooster, they are pretty quiet.  They eat anything and everything (seriously - my brother chad has stories that would turn your stomach) and they turn it all into eggs and meat.

 I finally got the all clear from Amy, so yesterday we made the 2 hour trek out to Bellevue to buy some hens.  It’s weird how fast chickens get snapped up once they are posted in a classified ad.  For a two weeks, every time I called on local chicks or hens, they were already gone.  Who knew they were in such high demand.  But a family in Bellevue had several for sale, and I jumped on them.  Now the shoes on the other foot, and some other indecisive chump will have to keep looking.  Eat my dust, homesteader wannabees!!

We had considered purchasing chicks, but they are a lot of work and don’t start laying for 4 - 6 months.  We decided on grown hens because they are usually cheap, can start laying immediately, and don’t require transitional housing or heat lamps.  So we boxed them up, brought them home, and I scrambled (no pun intended) all afternoon to put together some housing.  When I finally pulled them out of their box, what do you know . . . .

1st egg of the year