25 July, 2009

We've been invaded!

You are wondering why we haven't posted recently. For one thing, our humans were gallivanting about in May and June. They also claimed to be working raaather too much, Jesse on yardery and Cecile on that blasted book. Our coop is cooler, and so we believe Jesse. But we haven't seen any stinkin' book, so we're dubious about Cecile's claims. (Danielle: Beware!) Also, one of our number went broody. And how! Our Buffy is only just now coming out of it, poor thing. She weighed mere ounces, but is thankfully gaining weight again.

Our most calamitous news is that Jesse and Cecile brought a box of 27 two-day-old chicks home at the end of June. We were shocked! (And Machu is fascinated.) They even put one in with Buffy, hoping that she would then believe that she had been effective. She's not that stupid. But these chicks -- whew! They had to be individually taught to drink water. It is somewhat amazing, given this ignorance, that any survived. Alas, they all have. So far! (Shakespeare pecks them when she thinks Jesse's not looking.) But there are only 12 with us now because other humans fell in love with the rest of them. These are mostly Coq Marans, Frenchified chickens. (Did you read French-fried? Hee hee ... It's a hen joke. You're lucky you got it.) 'Ours' of course came from Iowa, just like Jesse. In the most chaotic picture in this post, you see them as they are today. Big! Being perceptive, you will also have noticed that two are ringers. One is a Rhode Island Red who Jesse calls I. Unbelievably, each has a name. But there is a definite lack of imagination in the naming thereof. They go from A to J, and then the last one is called LMNOP. How, you ask, did I join this motley crew? Jesse proposed a chick-exchange at the post office. When she and Cecile picked their box up, a couple from Marana was there picking up an entire box of Rhode Island Reds. Can you even imagine that many birds of the same feather? Apparently, we are sure that I is a hen (color being sex-linked in her breed). But the folks from Marana may have gotten a rooster. It's still a mystery. We are hoping against hope that a number of the invaders are roosters. They will then be given to the Food Bank or the folks in Marana. Or ... who knows? We hear there are other possibilities. The other ringer is Murray McMurray's idea of a joke. We think she is another foreigner, probably a Houdan. All topknot, no brains.

You may wonder, as we do, why our humans got these chicks. The Marans that turn out to be hens are supposed to lay chocolate eggs. Harumph!

20 May, 2009

Helloooo Food Bank!

Our Silkie sisters left yesterday to live at the Food Bank's coop. Cecile got paranoid about their noise, and Jesse reluctantly agreed to give them away. They really were a bit over the top. They laid gorgeous pink eggs, but they went broody so often that it was hardly worth the effort. And really! Those eggs were not worth celebrating for quite so long every time one came out ... or might be about to come out ... or came out two days ago. But we never thought these hens were the smartest birds hatched on this planet. And we are glad The Committee rules again. Pictured here is Thing 1 or Thing 2. We could only tell them apart if one was broody. Good riddance, we say.

21 April, 2009

The chicken at the library

This is another of our favorite YouTube clips.

19 April, 2009

The joke du jour

The coop doesn't have a TV, so we watch YouTube on the desktop in the library instead. Even though this clip doesn't feature real chickens, it did make us chuckle and cluckle.

17 April, 2009

Book review

Watch this to the end when a five-week-old chick and her girl dance.

03 April, 2009

March egg report

We made 108 eggs last month! We're not sure what happened to them, but we suspect our featherless friends. Have they gone broody? Is there a giant nest inside their brick coop? We don't know why they live in such a horrible coop, or why they keep chicken-killers in there with them. Maybe the same pathology that explains these choices also accounts for their egg-stealing behavior. Being hens, we'll just keep at it. Thank goodness for the grubs and greens from the neighborhood gardeners!

26 March, 2009

Chicken head tracking

This is one of our favorite YouTube clips. It shows how good we are at using gyroscopes, or something like that.

13 March, 2009

Running on all cylinders

Today was our first five-egg day. That makes 183 eggs in 2009 so far, most of which were eaten right here on the ranch. Since we have five hens, this is exactly what we were hoping for. No one who's laying has to go into the stew pot. Hee hee!

23 February, 2009

Kim Fox

We went to a workshop at Kim Fox's urban farm yesterday. In addition to answering questions from the dozen or so chicken raisers there, she gave us a tour of her 23-hen set-up. Eventually, the chickens also got to tour us. Everyone so inclined held a hen while Kim showed us how to search for mites and feel the gullet and so on. She oiled their wattles and legs with shea butter and vaseline.

During this wonderfully hands-on workshop, we also learned about her composting and worm-growing system. We've been wanting to raise worms for awhile, but Cecile is reluctant to keep them in the house and it's too hot during the summer to keep them outside. Kim's 'worm bin' is dug straight into the ground. Surrounded by a rock wall and covered by blankets under their own ramada, the bin is moistened by greywater. Kim harvests worms every once in awhile to feed her chickens.

When seated under another ramada, we were surrounded by her gardens. Like the worm bin, they were sunken into the ground. This is an interesting solution to gardening in the desert, and the contrast to raised beds has us thinking along new lines. It makes sense if you have any concerns about how much water your garden uses. Cecile just bought a couple of ollas from Mesquite Valley Growers and is on a search for other such desert-gardening solutions.

After checking to see if anyone wanted to leave, Kim killed and then prepared for frying a Wyandotte who had been languishing in Tucson's heat for a couple of years. Although this was not as 'fun' as picking up eggs, we're glad we had the chance to watch and learn. She calmed the chicken, used an ax for a quick death, and bled the chicken into a bucket of water that will go into the compost. While slicing the chicken up, Kim showed us all kinds of interesting innards. For example, we got to see what could have become eggs. They were a clump of yellow balls of different sizes (not organized along two tubes like in people). Opening the gizzard to empty it and peel off its inner cover was fascinating. One of the most interesting things we learned about feeding chickens is how much they like meat (and apparently need the oil in it here in the desert). Every time Kim sliced off a piece of fat, she tossed it into the coop where it was received with great joy.

This was super interesting, and we are hoping to stay plugged in to the various groups represented there. For example, someone from the Food Coop is going to organize a tour of chicken coops, and we'd like to sign up. It probably won't get written up in Tucson Lifestyle, but it'll be fun. Cecile is thinking that the Slow Food movement needs a partner in the Grow Food movement. What better way to address our sad economy, our generally poor food, and our need for exercise and sunlight!? Good for Kim Fox, food activist extraordinaire!

15 February, 2009

On a good day ...

we get four eggs out of these hens, plus of course the same two golf balls.

And here we finally share a photo of a bantam. This is Thing One worrying over a golf ball as she prepares to lay something similar.

10 February, 2009

85 eggs in 2009

Isn't this amazing? We (and some friends) have eaten almost all of these plus a dozen store-bought here and there. There are also odd golf balls around. Yes, she's still broody: going on five weeks.

25 January, 2009

She must read the blog!

This morning, La Chilena was squatting for back rubs and busily nesting. Just before laying an egg, this includes tossing bits of hay over her back. Does anyone know why? Anyway, less than 24 hours after I complained about the eggless wonder, she produced a beautiful blue-green egg. And for a first egg, it's huge.

24 January, 2009

Come on, Chilena!

Our other four hens are laying eggs or sitting on golf balls. Only this bird is still not paying for her keep. Fortunately, she's gorgeous. And, when her eggs finally come, they'll be blue-green. Will they be worth the wait?

15 January, 2009


One of our bantams has turned broody. She gets up from her nest once/day to do all her various tasks (input/output, etc.). At that point, she's quite lively. But when she goes back to her nest, she becomes a zombie -- eyes closed or close to closed, frozen position (so much that if we lift her and put her back down with some body part in a new position, it stays there). Since we're still learning about hens, this is fascinating! Of course, without a rooster, our broody hen would just rot her eggs. And since we wanted to eat them, we took the whole clutch and left her a couple of golf balls. Apparently, anything'll do if you're broody.

For those of you who are dying to learn more, Silkies and Cochins are particularly stubborn about sitting on eggs. Our bantams are 7/8s Silkie and 1/8 Cochin. Oy! Many chicken raisers, according to the web, try to 'break up' the broody. Some experts suggest keeping her from food and water, but that seems cruel. Others say that a wire nest allowing air to come up through it or a clutch of ice cubes will move her out of this awful phase. We're not worried about this. Everyone has their little idiosyncrasy. If this is our hen's, so be it. We can't wait to see what hatches out of those golf balls!

02 January, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Layer

Here she is when she was a puppy. But we think she's now on-line in the micro-chick processing department.