Saturday, January 8, 2011

Catching up.

Wow, I just looked back and realized I have written virtually nothing about my girls in six months. Hmm, where to begin.

I mentioned Betty just quit laying on me. This summer was hot and I remember the day my daughter picked Betty up to show a friend and a soft egg squirted out of her in a burst on the ground. It was kinda cool, but that marked the last egg we've seen from her. She hadn't moltted, didn't seem sick, but a few months down the road when I was reading outside, Betty walked by and pooped, as she does often, and as I looked at it, I noticed a squiggly worm. Damn! I hate treating for worms.

Treatment means giving some dreadful chemical and a minimum of 14 days of egg laying and they all have to go in the trash. You can't treat one hen, it is assumed if one hen has worms, then they all do. So I began treatment and we waited.

Betty had been looking not herself, as I mentioned in my previous post. Her comb was floppy and not the red I had come to love in contrast with her black and white feathers. She then started to molt and feathers were everywhere.  We just waited.

Then, about three or four weeks after treatment for worms with Wazine-7, Lulu started to molt, which also meant the end of the eggs for her.  Zelda has laid steadily since we got her and we have been very grateful because her eggs are big and a beautiful blue.

Now that Lulu is back with fresh feathers, we still wait for Betty, but I am confident she'll start laying again.

Another adventure that has changed all their habits happened a few months ago.  One evening as my husband and I were outside talking, my dog went nuts at the hens pen. he was barking and scratching at the gate and finally managed to get the door open. He was circling the coop, sticking his nose in the cinder blocks that keep the coop off the ground and we went in to investigate.

It was really dark and the security light that flicked on as we entered proved useless.  We grabbed a flashlight and discovered a possum hiding underneath. Max must have scared the bejezus out of him. He played dead as we tried to force him out with a broom handle through the dark cinder block hole. He wouldn't budge, so we put the dog inside and came back out to give it another try, but her was gone.

Zelda decided she wasn't interested in her coop any more. Zelda is my skittish wild girl. An Ameracauna with crazy beautiful eyes and was the only of my girls I had never managed to catch and hold.

The next night, I peaked in the coop and Zelda wasn't there. I wasn't home as dusk led them to bed and I searched everywhere. Around the house, under the deck, in the bushes, at the neighbors house, behind our house in the bamboo forest. Nothing.

Then it occurred to me that she had some serious wings and could fly high, so I started looking up high around my house. Maybe she was roosting on the six-foot fence. Nope. I came back into the backyard with my flashlight and spotted her high up in our Cedar Elm tree. The silly girl had leaped from our picnic table up to a high safe branch almost completely out of my reach.

This posed a couple problems. I could reach some of the branch and pull it down, but this silly bird has never let me hold her. I haven't even touched her since she arrived.

Also, assuming I could pull the branch down to grab her, how could I hold the branch and secure her amongst all those limbs and leaves without hurting her or making her fly higher.

Well, I dropped my flashlight and just went for it. I gently pulled down the branch and she squawked quietly. I maneuvered through the spiky limbs and managed to get near her feet. I figured it was easier to get her feet than try to encircle her body. It took several tries and she protested mightily, but I managed to get her on my hand, lift her over the poky limbs and gently release the Elm.

She flapped and protested, but she didn't peck me. She seemed pretty disoriented and that's when I realized that hens are completely drunk after dark.  She gave me permission to carry her to the coop by not attacking me and I got her safely inside.

The next night I urged all three hens into their coop and closed them up at dusk, but the following night, we didn't get home until after dark and sure enough, Zelda was in her new favorite spot. Damn.

I pulled the same tricks, but not as easily this time and managed to get her to bed.

Fast forward a couple weeks and Zelda found a new spot to roost. She flew up roost on my husbands bicycle wheel, which was hanging about seven feet off the ground.  We continued the ritual of carrying her to bed every night, when Betty decided that was a great idea. She roosted on my bike, which was on the ground. Fast forward another few weeks and Lulu thought this was a grand idea. She was lonely in her coop and the rubber grips on the handle bars of my daughters bike were nice and comfy.

Every night, if we haven't ushered them into the pen before dark, we now find all three of them perched on my treadmill, which is much easier to roost on than a spinning bicycle wheel.

So much more to tell, but this is a long post. I love having these girls in my life. I want to build a bigger, more secure coop and get a few more hens, but who has time to build structures. Not me. So I will continue to dream of a larger hen family and of the perfect coop, while collecting and eating the eggs we get semi-regularly.

Finally, an Egg from Lulu!

Betty, my sweet Barred Rock hen hasn't laid an egg since July. She went into molt in early-November and all the advice I have received said to give her time. One hen father said give her until February. Dude, that is a long time, but what's a hen mother to do except wait. Since she molted, her feathers are back in full fluff and her comb is getting more red and finally standing at attention after months of flop and sallow pinkness. She isn't laying yet, but I have hope for her.

Lulu began molting in mid-November and quit laying. I thought, "Great! Three hens and about five eggs a week." This is not what I was expecting when I dubbed my weekly dinner, "Fritatta Tuesdays."

Yesterday the hens were completely out of feed. I made the oatmeal with flax seed and scrambled eggs (store bought out of desperation), with some cut up green beans. They ate it so fast I made another batch, but added quinoa and left out the eggs.

After a new batch of feed was supplied late afternoon yesterday, I looked at Lulu his morning, and she was squawking awkwardly. I thought, "She's gonna lay an egg." Sure enough, an hour later I went outside to visit with my girls and survey my garden, and I noticed Lulu missing. I peaked quietly around the corner to see if she was in the run eating, but she wasn't there. A few minutes later, she came waddling out of the pen and joined her sisters as they scrapped and picked under the fallen Red Oak leaves around the compost bin.

I peaked inside the coop and lo and behold, a sweet little brown egg.  As I clutched it from the trap door in the back of the coop, I felt the eggs warmth spread through my very chilly hands. Lulu's back!

Maybe we can restart Fritatta Tuesdays, if not this week, then definitely next. Not sure what prompted the lay, but maybe it was my gourmet breakfast yesterday.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's all the racket? It's 6:20 a.m.!

My daughter comes scrambling in my bed this morning saying the chickens are cackling like crazy. I scramble out of bed, grab my husbands bathrobe, slip on some sandals and head for the back door without my glasses. I get the backdoor unlocked (with effort) and head around the corner to their pen where Betty is pacing the front of the run and cackling her heart out. It is LOUD, too. She was acting like she was locked up in her coop and a worm was just outside and out of reach.

She made some really funny sounds too, like she was announcing herself to the world. Lord, I feel sorry for my neighbors. College kids by day, restaurant servers by night. They are quiet and respectful and probably would appreciate sleeping past 6:30 am. I would be so pissed if I was them. Betty was obnoxious.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three a day!! Whoo hoo!

Zelda's, Lulu's and Betty's Eggs
Lulu finally laid an egg yesterday. What, has it been a month since I got her? She seems to be a sensitive girl, but yesterday and today there were two brown eggs and a pretty blue one in the nest. I think Lulu's are slightly more brown and Betty's are slightly more pink, but who the hell knows.  Just glad she is a contributing member of the family now, cause she sure eats a lot!

Finally bought them a 25 lb bag of feed. I bought 10 lbs and it lasted a week. I wish they wouldn't spill so much. All is well. It is getting hot, but I have a courtesy fan blowing on their favorite spot under the bushes. Probably need to get their water someplace with more shade.  Noon time is roasting in their pen, but by 2:30 or 3:00 they are in shade the rest of the day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Finally a Blue Eggs!

On June 24, 2010 I finally got a blue egg from Zelda!!!!   
It is a good sized egg compared to Betty's as you can see in the image, and I just love the color.  Lulu still hasn't laid and I'm beginning to wonder at what point do I worry. I'd say soon. She has no reason not to lay unless she is actually too young and hadn't started laying yet when I got her. I let them roam the yard now when I get home and that makes them happy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Free to Roam...Sometimes

Well, after keeping the girls under lock and key, I now let them roam the backyard from about 6pm until sundown. They dutifully go back to their coop and I shut them in sometime after swim team is over, around 9:00 p.m.

Betty is laying about every other day, which is nice. Zelda gives me nada. Lulu is seriously slacking as well. Their former hen mother said to give her a call if they aren't laying by two weeks, which is Friday. My God all the work to make them mine; I can't just swap them out. I have faith they will lay eggs, after all, that is their purpose and my home is as good a place as any to do it.  Still, kinda disappointing.

Betty runs to me at full speed when I come outside and I snuggle her regularly. She is an awesome hen and I'm glad that the Dominique was swapped out, because Betty Two rocks.  I can occasionally snag Lulu. She feigns the role of escape artist, but isn't in a huge hurry. She knows she is ok, even if I catch her and she doesn't squirm a bit once I have her in snuggle position.

Zelda is my wild girl. Never touched her, which means no clipped wings and no snuggles, and I bet she doesn't hang out long, if I ever catch her.

They fight over the big bugs and I was surprised to see Zelda win in a war over a tomato worm. They are happy, but I just wish they could eat mosquitoes!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tiny Eggs

After talking to the guys at Buck Moore, I think I got two Barren Rock hens eggs yesterday and today. They are tiny. No go on the two other hens, but tonight they put themselves to bed, which is a nice step in the right direction. 

Betty is a very Huang chicken. She eats non stop. She will jam her head through the fencing to get a blade of grass a foot away.  I put out a 20oz jar of food this afternoon and it was 3/4 gone in ten minutes. Working on getting some netting for the run. I bought some, but a friend offered a roll, so I'll gladly use that.

Anxious to let them roam, but I need help clipping their wings. That is not a one person job.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Morning! Day Two in Henville

So this morning is hot. Dang, I always forget how incredibly hot and sticky Austin can be and it is indeed this weekend. The girls were waiting at their coop door at 6:15 am.  I intended to sleep in, but woke at 5:00 am. Lord!

I got them fresh food, water and went on a snail hunt, which brings me great joy! Their nice sharp beaks have no trouble devouring these abundant, slimy suckers.

Off to the Blanco Lavender Festival today, so the girls are hanging alone. I have to admit it gets pretty hot for a few hours around noon on their side of the house, but they will be fine.

I forgot to mention that I am counting on some eggs today.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Meet the New Betty

Meet the new Betty.  She is a Barred Rock and pretty frisky. I liked the calmer Dominique, but this hen will be a nice addition to our family.  The hen lady who did the exchange also brought us a dozen eggs and some good feed to say thanks.

Bon Voyage Betty

It appears that the woman I purchased these birds from gave me the wrong bird. Meaning that the Dominique (black and grey) is a show bird that she breeds and accidentally scooped up yesterday in her rush to meet me. She offered to bring me an additional hen, but I simply don't have room for four. I don't need that many eggs either and I don't want to buy that much feed. 

She is coming today to swap her out for a eight month old Barred Rock, which is supposed to lay some 50 eggs more per year. Kinda sad though, we had pretty much settled on Betty for her name.

Hens Penned

On the advice of lots of folks at the forum, I decided to build a mini-pen and cover it with a tarp to 1) shade and protect from rain and 2) keep them from flying away.

They spent the majority of the morning happily in their coop and it is plain to see they don't know what the heck is going on or why they are here. So, strategy is to keep them in their smaller pen space for awhile, a week maybe, and give them time to adjust and keep them safe. 

Then, we'll clip one of their wings and give them space to roam in their larger pen. But free ranging may be sometime down the road. I still may need to get some kind of fruit tree netting to keep them out of the neighborhood airspace, but we'll cross that road later.

Next, serious coop repairs...

Friday, June 11, 2010

These hens are WILD!

So, this evening was trying. Here is my plea for advice from members of

New hens (6 months); totally lost!

I just brought home three new hens. My other two hens died after a nice long life and I thought getting new hens would be easy (please stop laughing).

First of all, my other hens were adopted at about age two or three, so they were calm, tame and very spoiled girls. These new girls are WILD. I have one Ameraucana, one Dominique and one Buff Orpington, all from the same flock. They are about 6 months old and I thought that I could just drop them in to my pen and they'd settle in nicely.
Catching them tonight to put in the coop was a bloody nightmare. Mainly because of the mosquitoes attacking my husband and I while were tried to catch them, so question #1 is: Will they get to know that this is their coop and go in nicely...ever?

Also, they FLY. My other birds never flew anywhere more than 2 feet. I saw some other posts about using netting for fruit trees and clipping one of their wings, but can you train them to behave? Question 2: Do they calm down? Can you train a chicken? Any advice to get them on the road to chiilin' chickens?

Really ANY kind words are appreciated and any advice to get us through this transition to their new urban home would be helpful. I'm not ready to cry yet, but I wasn't at all prepared for these crazy teenagers!

Thanks warmly,


We have a new family and I'm scared to death

So, we were really lucky to welcome extremely well behaved hens to our home when we adopted sweet Myrtle and Hazel, but I brought home our new girls just hours ago and things are a bit different.

The Ameraucana is beautiful, but so wild looking. We are going to work on names this weekend. The Dominique seems really timid and I think Betty might end up being her name. My daughter asked for the names from the Flintstone's, thinking they would be old fashioned and Betty seemed to just fit the Dominique. She is quite beautiful.

Our Buff is skittish and so lovely. She completely freaked out when Max, the sweet retriever, stopped by the gate for a gander. He was oblivious to the girls, but I think they will take their time getting to know him.

I tried to build a new door for our coop yesterday, but the isosceles triangle measurements and angles for cuts got me re-questioning my spatial reasoning. I actually think I got it right, but am afraid to make the circular saw cuts without my husband's confirmation. I just require a second opinion about most things involving math, as hard lessons have taught me to seek them.  I remember a time I tried to cut some fabric to make a dress for my toddler without drawing a pattern, measuring or even ironing the fabric. What was I thinking? I totally just started cutting and ruined a beautiful piece of white linen.

Waiting for my hubby and daughter to get home. I am obsessed and petrified, but really looking forward to making the girls feel at home. Go egg layers!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Starting a new family

Friday I am picking up three new hens. An Ameraucana that lays blue eggs, a Dominique hen and a Buff Orpington. They are six to seven months old and laying regularly. I have some work to do on their coop; fixing the door, cutting the branch I want to use as a roost, add fluff to the nest. Also want to get some feed that is pellet vs. the crumble, which is a HUGE mess and attracts so many pigeons, I'm not sure the chickens ever get to eat. I hope they'll eat the pellet, along with the scratch I have on hand already.

I'm really excited. I've missed having hen fresh eggs and can't wait to use my yummy garden veggies to make some quiche and fritattas. Also looking forward to the different variety. Hope they get along and become one with our family unit. Nervous, but happy to pull the trigger and finally commit to getting birds.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

RIP Sweet Hazel and Loveable Myrtle

Miss Hazel died today only a short month after Myrtle. We think she died of a broken heart, although there was a mysterious illness that neither antibiotics nor de-wormer could cure.
I cried my heart out. I'll miss them badly and so will my family and friends.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My pets used to make breakfast...

Ok, so Hazel and Myrtle have been a bunch of freeloading, poop laying pains in the ass. They eat, a lot. They poop, a lot! And I am tired of their free range lifestyle with out some eggs.

They haven't laid in months. When they were laying a few months ago, the eggs were not so pretty inside. No details, but more often than not, I chucked them. Now, after a round of worms, they are eating, pooping lazy birds. Healthy, but lazy.

So today, I wrangled them and put them in their run. Tented the coop so I could shelter their food and water from the rain. I fluffed and added shavings to their nesting box. Found some nice green grass, scratch and oyster shells to toss at their feet and walked away.

Oh! I added a store bought egg to the coop for inspiration. I will give them some lentils for extra protein in a bit, but then I want to see some business. I miss my fresh eggs. My daughter now says, "neh!" to store-bought-egg omelets. "The eggs don't taste good," she says. I have a nine year-old egg snob. What have I done? The girls are just not earning their keep.

I know they are older, but they have a good life, big yard, green grass, bugs galore, organic feed and hugs whenever they need them. All I ask for is some EGGS.

Ok, I am done. I will get them some lentils and hope for the best, but I appreciate any egg-laying vibes that are sent my way...or my hens way, which would be better.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Ugly Underbelly: Heat, Molting and Snakes, Oh My!

Ok, 66 days of more than 100 degrees in Austin this summer. It is past ridiculous. Those 100+ degrees days aren't like a tepid 101 degrees; they are 104 to 106 degrees and let me tell you, that is really hot!

The girls are just plum tuckered out. Eggs only once or twice a week despite our best efforts to cool them, offer ice water, feed them the good stuff.

But I have to tell you, I completely freaked out this morning. Hazel began losing some feathers on her head a few months ago and it didn't get worse, nor did it get better. I dusted for mites and thought, "Oh well." But today I picked her up to give her a once over because her head looked raggedy and noticed something very wrong with her underside.

Familiar with molting? Well, according to my friends at, I think this is it:

Yuck. I have found many similar pictures of molting via google images. Not pretty, but normal. I had no idea those were new feathers. In fact, I didn't really want to look too hard.

Now for the snake. I think I know why my girls prefer not to go to their coop on their own anymore. I found a five foot Texas Rat Snake in my yard one evening walking from their coop.
Check this out!
I mentioned in an earlier post that my girls were laying all over the place, well my neighbors two year old discovered six eggs in the corner of my yard and I am certain that is where they moved after Mr. Snake came around. I don't mind the snake, in fact I think they are really cool, but I don't like my eggs being stolen.

I ate store eggs out of desperation and they were so bland.

Anyway, found a nice wine crate and put a decoy egg inside with some fluff and Myrtle has been laying there ever since. Hazel is busy molting. Can't wait for that to stop.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

That Screeching Sends Me Running for my Babies!

We've got Redtailed-Hawks, at least two and maybe a family of three, as one seems smaller than the other.
I hear them screeching and I can't stop myself from running into the backyard to make sure my hens are smart enough to be under the patio, a tree or their favorite hideout, the picnic table.
They usually are under cover with lots of big trees in the back yard, but when you see two hawks take flight out of one of them, you can't help but worry.
I am exquisitely interested in whether on not the hawks are watching my girls. Hunting them. Why else are they roosting in the trees behind my yard?
I wonder if they can maneuver through the branches of my rotting 65 year-old cottonwood tree to snatch up one of my girls. Is that a worthy risk? I would suspect that they would prefer prey in the open, which I why I run to the backyard and make sure my girls are hidden.
Perhaps it doesn't matter where my hens are. They'll get snatched if the hawk's deem the reward worth the risk.
They have been circling for months, maybe they nested in the Post Oaks in the neighborhood behind us early this spring.
I remember driving out of my neighborhood and I looked north to see one of them circling over what looked like my part of the block. I called home and asked my husband to check on the girls. He just laughed and said, "They're fine, honey."
We have raccoons, possums, rats, armadillos and probably a host of other critters that I am completely unconcerned about, but the screeching of the hawks makes my hair stand on end.

Mrytle is Fine. Best Advice was to Trust Your Instincts

Myrtle fractured her leg. I discovered that some bone was poking through, so I cleaned it, feed her water by dropped with aspirin and kept her in her coop for three days. We then kept her in her coop for most the morning, but opened the door mid-day and she would hope out on one leg.

It took about two weeks before she would put pressure on it, but she only has a slight limp now. She has a bump that has totally healed on her leg, but she is doing great.

Egg production has slowed. Both chickens are laying all over the place; under tables, under the oak tree, behind my treadmill. The have made a nest out the the plastic bag that holds the pine shavings for their coop and are laying there. I know Hazel is doing that, but I haven't witnessed Myrtle laying at all. I actually wondered if she is laying period. She must be, although our eggs have been markedly Hazelesque recently; browner with speckles.

I referenced the Backyard Chickens forum for help when she was injured and I got great advice. She nice and knowledgeable people who said to just trust your instinct on how to treat her. It was good to hear that because I couldn't do much else. I made sure she got plenty of water, aspirin for pain and cleaned her injury.

We are pretty sure that she fell or something fell on her, becuase if a racoon got her, he would have eaten her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Myrtle is Hurt

I'm not sure what happened, but I think a raccoon might have tried to get Myrtle. It may have been a freak fall or something, but she has a very hurt left leg. It isn't messy, just a small abrasion, but she will not put her foot down. She won't flex her toes and she has seemed to be in pain.

I fed her water with aspirin yesterday afternoon for the pain and kept her in her coop most of the day. The temp hit 95 degrees, so Marshall took her out and put her in the shade. She rested for awhile and then decided to hop around and look for bugs, but she won't let that foot touch the ground.

I'm considering a sling. Seems kinda silly, but her leg kinda dangles and if it hits the ground she pulls it up really quickly, so I thought giving her the option to just let it rest in the sling might be more comfortable. Still deciding about that.

Hazel is pretty distressed that she isn't feeling well; she stays close.

I'm going to put her to bed early tonight and hope for the best.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Still layin' and playin'

Been a long time and since the zillion 100 degree days of summer, but the chickens are happier, laying more eggs and pickin' the yard clean of bugs.

Today my family ate lunch outside and the chickens and dog wrestled over fallen french fries. Hazel is fast, Myrtle always misses out and Max is totally intimidated by both hens.
This is my lovely girl with my other lovely girls!
It has been just over a year since we adopted the hens and we love having them around.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Still Freakin Hot, but Hen's are Happy

Lord, another 100 + degree day in Austin and the hen's are resting in the shade of my red oak tree, near the compost bin. They burrow a spot in the cool dirt and just sit until the sun moves them to a fresh spot.

A couple months back I found a great feed store on North Lamar, Buck Moore Feed and Supply, that sells organic layer crumble produced in Elgin. Nice to buy local and the girls love the stuff.

The eggs are coming more frequently now that they have adjusted to the heat. Had fresh egg migas this morning with Hatch Green Chile sauce--Yum!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Chickens & a Hot Texas Summer--20 days of 100 + Degrees

Howdy and happy 4th of July!

Austin had 20 days in June with a high temperature of 100 degrees or higher and Hazel and Myrtle were not too happy about it. They spent a lot of time under bushes taking dust baths and I spent a lot of time looking up ways to keep them cool on the Internet.

Most of the websites that provide great chicken info are located in the UK or someplace that sees snow each year, which ain't Austin. After considerable research and conversations with local chicken parents I found that all we can do is provide plentiful and readily available cool water. So my babies had dishes of water placed all over the yard and I often filled them with ice as the sun hit its peek cooking temperature around 5:00 p.m.

Egg production has slowed a lot, I'd say they are averaging four a week right now. For a few days it looked like I had a Bantam living in my coop, finding these little baby spotted eggs, which were still delicious.

I learned that the hotter it gets the less likely the girls are to drink. Seems counter intuitive, but they don't like warm water, which is why the cool water is important.

I also took the mister on my hose and wet some of the yard they decimated, so they had cool moist dirt to sit in on the warmest days. Overall, they seem like very happy chickens and the last few days have only hit the mid-90s, so egg production is ticking like clock work.

Photo of Fireworks Over Lake Austin by Trey Ratcliff @

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my little family found a kennel for Max and we headed out camping. A friend has a HUGE piece of land in the Hill Country along Hondo Creek and invited 70 of her closest friends to camp out with the kids, swim and drink beer by the nightly bon fire that was large enough to see from space.

Hazel and Myrtle needed a babysitter and recruiting one only required the promise of fresh eggs each morning. My neighbor offered to come check on them twice per day and they were apparently happy little chickens, laying their usual two a day, while we were gone.

Upon our return, Hazel and Myrtle we so happy to see us. I sat out in the back yard and they hung at my feet pecking up the scratch I threw out for their afternoon treat.

I picked up Myrtle and put her in my lap for a snuggle, which caused Hazel to pace at my feet looking for a way up. Finally, she jumped up into my lap and let me give her some love.

She has never done this before. They usually do the whole squat and shake thing when I try to hold them, but Hazel obviously missed me.

Later I snagged Hazel and settled in my patio chair. She nuzzled me for five to seven minutes, which is unheard of with these girls; they usually try to fly within a minute of two.

Never underestimate the power of love; even from chickens.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Snuggley Chickens

Ok, maybe Hazel isn't so snuggley, she crouches down, flattens her back and shakes if she thinks I am going to pick her up, but Myrtle likes me.

Myrtle does the whole squish and shake thing, but not as fearfully and when I scoop her into my arms she coos and nuzzles her head against my chest.

I like this. She'll sit on my shoulders, but the previous mother and father told us they chickens have mistaken blinking eyes of moving bugs, so I avoid looking at them as they perch atop my 5' 10" frame.

I love their eggs. I couldn't be more happy when I find two a morning in their nest. I thank them for every single one.

My growing daughter eats a lot of eggs, but has never liked the yolks. I have taken to separating the eggs when I fry them up and this morning she had an egg white "egg in a hole." Hope the whites are good for you too. Seems like such a shame for her not to eat those gorgeous golden yolks, but some egg is better than no egg.

She never used to try anything new, but that has changed as she grew another inch making her more than 4' 6" (she is seven), but recently she had a bite of a ham and Swiss omelet and now she is in LOVE. Yolks are ok in the omelet.

I have begun using eggs for trade. I got to borrow a neighbors amazingly expensive camping gear for a weekend trip in exchange for three eggs. I used eggs as a peace offerings after yelling at my neighbor for letting their dog bark for hours on end one weekend morning. I apologized for yelling, but still made my point about torturing the entire neighborhood by casting their terror of a dog in the yard. I have given eggs as countless gifts, wrapped in a pretty little nest of hay. People LOVE to receive these eggs!

All the leaves have popped out, the grass is lush and green and our chicken sisters are happy and they make us happy!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chicken Papparazzi--Hazel & Myrtle in Action

I spent some time this week hanging out with the chickens and had my camera handy for spontaneous glamour shots. Myrtle spent a great deal of time taking a dust bath; it was pretty funny. She and Hazel dug a nice spot along the fence and I have never seen a dust bath in action. Myrtle flipped upside down, fluffed her feathers, got covered in dirt and generally had fun.

So here are some paparazzi shots of the girls:

Up close and personal with Hazel; Myrtle doing a dust bath turnover.

Drying off after a thunderstorm cloud burst; Hazel after a bug!

Hazel in contrast; Happy egg, yummy breakfast!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Max and the Chickens--Who's Your Buddy?

Our dog Max is beginning to get used to the chickens living in his backyard. He tends to follow them around, trying to sniff their bottoms. I haven't told him yet that Hazel and Myrtle are not puppies.

They just stand on alert whenever he is near and they get a bit disturbed that they can't tend to the bugs beneath their feet when Max is hovering.
My only concern is that Max is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and I fear that he may remember that he is a birding dog and take a bite.

Mostly he just wants to play, and the chickens have no interest. Bugs; it's all they want.

Hazel has found her way under all the rudimentary blockades we have created to keep them inside our fence and also out from under the deck. Today, Hazel once again squeezed under the deck and for a few minutes of quiet, with only one chicken in sight, I thought the neighborhood hawk has swooped in for lunch.

Then I heard some leaves rustling under my feet, so I grabbed the cantaloupe seeds left over from lunch and lured her out in the sunshine. We need fencing to keep her out of there, but we also need it along one section of our perimeter fence, as they squeezed out between some feeble wire we placed along the uneven sections. Both girls were walking just outside our yard, nibbling on bugs--what else?

They laid two eggs today (up to eleven total); this morning one was sitting in the nest as they left the coop. Our first overnight egg. The photo shows the two from today and the decoy egg marked with nail polish. If that thing gets accidently cracked, the neighbors will kill us, if it doesn't wipe out everyone in a two miles radius first.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Eight Eggs and Counting...

We have happy chickens. Hazel and Myrtle are busy birds, pecking all over the yard for bugs, grubs, snakes and toads. They have laid pretty consistently since the day we got them, layone two the first day (yes, Myrtle was getting busy in the photo from the previous post), one the next two days, two the next and one yeaterday. Already there is an egg in the coop this morning.

The last few days have climbed into the mid 70s and we did some finalizing of their feed, coop area and watering arrangement. My daughter and I got busy painting the coop door (I added the grass at the bottom) and we got their coop up on cinder blocks thanks to my brut-like husband.

We went to Callahan's feed store Monday and their chicken expert helped us pick out a pellet mash, advising that scratch should only be given occasionally. We got a fine watering vessle (not pictured) that I keep inside their coop door. This encourages them to visit often and hey, while they are in there, they just might decide to lay an egg.
My daughter went to a birthday party Sunday and she decided to put Myrtle's fresh-laid egg inside a gift box where she had assembled a nest of hay. She wrapped it, colored a mandala for a card and wrote, "I hope you have an egg-celent birthday!" Stella didn't really know what to think of that gift, but she smiled after learning that the egg was freshly laid that morning. Compared to the mountains of pink and purple fluff, paint-your-own mirrors, piggy banks and boxes, the simple brown egg was a very nice gift and R loved giving it to her.

My husband has been bonding with the girls and I saw him pick one of them up for the first time yesterday. He wins their affection by flipping over rocks, letting them pillage the hundreds of rolly polly's underneath.

I've been watchful of the skies lately, as I saw a hawk circling the air space above our house. I think Max the dog will do nicely to discourage a swoop and steal, but I can't help but worry a little. We live just blocks off IH-35, but still have plenty of critters and chicken predators. I saw a photo of a Barred Owl that is living inthe neighborhood, so I make sure they are shut up tight in their coop at night.
Today is much cooler, temperatures in the 40s this morning, so the girls should be happy and happy to lay some more eggs.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Our First Egg!

Wow! We have our first egg! Yesterday Laura and Casey delivered the hens before they headed off to work. We put them in their new pen area (Private space away from the dog) and they foraged and picked through the leaves under the ligustrum shrubs along the house.

Around 6:00 p.m. They brought over the coop, hay, scratch and a heat light, which was important because it got down to 28 degrees over night.

Hazel and Myrtle snuggled in right away and we covered their coop and turned on the heat light. This morning R was up at 6:45 to go look for eggs and feed them, but there was no egg to be seen. The girls were excited to go look for snails, even before the sun was over the horizon.

This morning I spent WAY too much time researching how to feed these crazy birds. I am without a doubt completely confused and overwhelmed, but the girls are happy in the sunshine and loved the scraps of greens, nuts and cantaloupe I brought them.

When R was a little sad that there was no egg this morning, it occurred to me that we might need a decoy egg, especially since they are in a new environment, so we put a brown egg from the fridge in the nest and I took R to school.

Around 10:00 a.m. I went out to check on them (for the fourth time this morning) and Hazel came out of the coop with a grin (can chickens grin?). I peeked inside the nest and low and behold, an EGG!

I ran around the backside of the coop, opened the hatch and felt the eggs to see which egg was warm. I pulled out the most perfect, oval, brown egg. I am SO excited.

I thought for sure they would wait a few days because of the stress of moving. Now Myrtle is happily sitting on the decoy; perhaps she'll leave us a present as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kismet: The Story of Hazel & Myrtle

About mid December my husband said randomly, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to have chickens?" My seven year-old daughter, “R,” and I agreed. We fantasized about the delicious fresh eggs and that was the end of the discussion. Fast forward to the first week of January. R and I went to the local organic Boggy Creek Farm for some fresh winter greens, sweet potatoes and turnips. We were also looking for fresh eggs, but we arrived way too late in the morning to get our hands on those.

We spent about an hour at the farm with Ruby wandering the grounds, digging in the dirt and talking to their coop full of beautiful and charismatic hens. I spent time chatting with Larry the farmer and then we headed home to cook lunch.

That evening, the family was sitting around our patio table (yes, in January, Texans can still enjoy dining outside), when the subject of chickens came up again. We discussed it more fully and decided that it could be a fun project. We discussed the pros and cons of one, two or three chickens, where the coop could go and who would be in charge of cleaning up the poop.

Usually these discussions end with the same feeling you have after shopping in a great catalog. You circle all the items you want, go back through and covet the really special and more affordable options, and then you drop the catalog into the recycle bin, never to be thought of again.

The next morning, R and I were playing in the backyard when she stuck out her arm with a long pointed finger and said, "Oh! My God! Mom, look at that!" I turned to look through our fence into the neighbor’s yard and saw two red hens pecking along the ground in search of bugs. Well, this is NOT a normal sight in our neighborhood. I have lived four blocks off I-35 for 17 years and I've seen lots of things in our yards, but never chickens.

My daughter ran from house to neighbor’s house asking if they knew who had lost their girls. We had no luck, so I scooped them up one by one (I had never touched a chicken and was a little afraid of getting pecked to death, but I didn't want them hit by a car either) and put them in our backyard. So, I posted a note on our neighborhood yahoo group, but the only responses I got were folks that wanted to help clean up their coop in exchange for eggs in we ended up keeping them.

We played with them and watched them eat up bugs in our yard for hours when a neighbor, who saw my e-mail posting, said she knew the owners a block over. I knocked on their door and a 25ish year-old man with a long black beard answered the door. Country/Folk music blared outside as the door opened and I asked in a loud voice, "Do you have some chickens?" He said, "Yes." And I replied, "You don't right now; they're at my house."

He came over and saw they were safe and having fun with R and her playmate. He offered to let the girls play with them until sunset and then he'd come retrieve them.

Over the course of the day, before we knew where their home was, we names them with what only seemed fitting, the names a grandmother would have (maybe my mom's grandmother), so we decided on Hazel and Myrtle.

Casey came to the house shortly after dark, just after we figured out that they were looking for a coop to settle down in. The made the cutest little noises that I mistook for home sickness and R and I each picked up a bird and nestled them at the same time into a wine crate R had lovingly filled with hay. They loved it and snuggled in until Casey arrived (The photo to the right above the links is from that evening).

He carried off his hens with a thank you and the promise of eggs. We visited the chickens for a week or two at his house and even visited the feed store near the airport to see about getting some birds of our own. We bought a "How to make a Coop" book and that was the end of that. Again, the catalog was put in the recycle bin and we only occasionally thought about getting hens. It was one of those, "maybe someday" things at this point.

We really did want to get some, but I am no carpenter and frankly, neither is my husband. We certainly could build one, but who has the time?

Well, last Friday there was a knock at our door and I saw Casey's tall head through the window in the door. He came bearing six fresh brown eggs. We chatted a bit and I thanked him gratefully for the eggs, when he mentioned that he was headed out of state and wanted to see if we were interested in adopting the birds.

It seems their hen mother Laura found a new place to live, but the owners were not to happy about chickens in the yard. I was so surprised and delighted, but I had to check in with my hubby about this when he returned home from work.

He was thrilled with the idea and we had fried eggs for breakfast Saturday morning before we called and said yes.

Today, Laura and Casey brought the hens over to hang out and this evening they will bring us the coop and supplies. We built a fence using a gate and wire fencing a neighbor had in his yard and my daughter hung up a welcome sign on their area of the yard. They have pecked around there all day happily and I threw out some fruit and greens I had ready for the compost.

They seem happy and the dog seems anxious to get into their yard, but as of right now we have some happy chickens and I am a happy chicken mom.