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.