Friday, June 26, 2009

Fetch finally notices

Though we've had the chicks for a few weeks, the dogs haven't noticed. The chicks peep constantly, and move around a lot, so why the dogs haven't noticed, I don't know. Today, Fetch finally discovers them. Daisy, our wheaten terrier, still hasn't - and actually never does. But she is 14.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Introducing Blanche

Blanche, whom we had been calling Peachy, is now Blanche - following along with the Southern ladies names. She loves having her picture taken and walks into as many shots as possible.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Legs gets her name

We name this one Legs, because while she is our smallest chick, she has the longest legs. She looks like she is wearing capri pants.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And more names

The floodgates have opened. One of my favorite things to do is to name pets. I think I get it from my Grandma, who had a black Scottie that she named Rastiss, a goat named ZoZo and a cat named Ipsy, because she found it in Ipswich, Connecticut. My favorite was the cat she named after the town bachelor: John Slater.

I grew up with lots of pets. My Mom was a Pharmacist at Snyder Bros. Drugs. They had a little pet aisle. It was her job to formaldehyde any pets that came in sick. Of course, she couldn't do it. So we gave a home to one-eyed cockatiels, lame hamsters and canaries that wouldn't sing.

My Mom continued the fun pet names tradition. We had a canary that would sing only when we vacuumed. She named it Hoover.

Names have to present themselves to me. I am reading The Poisonwood Bible and decide it would be funny to give them all southern lady names. I name the black one (above) Orleana.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Despite our best efforts, we can't help but name the chicks. But just starter names, like Stripey (left) and such. We are chicken novices, but we do know the chickens, when full grown, will not look anything like they did when they were chicks. In fact, each morning, it seems they've grown a full size bigger.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Community Ed

I signed us up for a 'Chickens In The City' class through Minneapolis Community Ed, and my husband attends on our behalf. He gets good information, but is still noodling his coop design.

One good tip they gave: Save your fall leaves. In the winter, the chickens want to be outside but do not like to step on snow. Putting leaves down for them lets them be outside even if it snows. I find later that this is actually really helpful, and I hadn't read it in any of the books. The books also don't talk about insulating a coop - mostly because the coops are all in states that don't have harsh winters like us.

I certainly don't want the chickens cooped up all winter.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coming in June (but happened May 20, 2008)

Well, it looks like we will be adopting the six hens I mentioned earlier. We are adopting them from Lori, a dynamic woman whose husband died and she now wants to join friends to go traveling. Though we don't have much to offer the hens, she says we can have them. My daughter is ecstatic. While squealing, she is jumping up and down and clapping her hands. Can we pick them up right now! How about tomorrow? How about this weekend?

We will have to be patient. Lori would like us to take them mid-June. This ups our coop-building deadline. (My August calculation was way off anyways. Hey, I'm an English major.)

I take notes about their names, which I just found today (June 14, 2009) in my 'chickens' file. I am reconstruting this story off bits and pieces I've saved; the printouts of various coops that my daughter found on the internet are the scratch paper I wrote these names down on. Luckily, it prints the date as well.

My husband, good at math but not so much at estimating, presents a coop plan that will cost $600, which I know means at least $800. No way! Chickens aren't picky, I tell him. We need to get it down to $200 at the most. Good naturedly, he starts a redesign.

Since we have chicks but have never had hens, we don't really know what we're doing. But like I said, chickens aren't picky.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coop plans

We need to start thinking about where we would locate a coop in our yard, and what kind of run to construct. We live on a field where a lot of the neighborhood people walk their dogs off leash. It seems that chicken wire ends up droopy and with gaping holes. So we need a strong run and an affordable coop. Do we want a chicken tractor, which we can move around the yard so that the chickens fertilize our lawn as they go? How would we heat that in the Minnesota winter? Do we want an arty coop or country style? How 'bout a Manattan Loft? I calculate the age and date when the chickens should move out, and it looks like mid August. My husband is an Architect, so he starts doodling.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Moving them outside

The books say that we should bring the chicks outside a little at a time - like seedlings in the spring. I bring a few out to the front lawn, and enclose them in my daughter's hamster fence. The grass is taller than they are.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rooster plans

Now that I know that some of these might be roosters, I really am trying not to name them. So far, my plans for any roosters include:
1. Bring them back to the farm store. The elderly guy there said he'd take them. He did not, however, say what he'd be doing with them.
2. Post them on craigslist.
3. Search for a hobby farm, hoping that 'hobby farm' is not a euphamism for 'dinner plate'.
4. See if Chicken Run Chicken Rescue can help me find a home for them.
5. Bring them to the butcher.

Number five would be hardest. I am a weenie. I can't imagine butchering something that I have made eye contact with.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Enter MacGyver

My husband fancies himself to be like MacGyver. His friends tease him about his love of doing temporary work. The Chicken Project is perfect for him, because, as the chicks grow, so do their housing needs. He realizes that the chicks are feathering in, and that they are going to need more space. He jury rigs together some mesh and some wire for Chicken Habitat Two - and the chicks are happy. They start not just wandering around, but running, and using the perch in the middle as a springboard of sorts.

Monday, June 8, 2009


The books say that the chicks have to practice perching. My husband rigs up a little balance beam-like device for them. They don't know what to make of it, so they walk around it. They also take more power naps.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Look at 'em!

These chicks are just so cute. When we hold them, they fall asleep immediately. They are still in the Rubbermaid bin on a card table in our living room. For all their noise, the dogs haven't even noticed them yet.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Duck or a shoe store

When we went to get our replacement chicks yesterday, there was a lone baby duck running back and forth in a big bin, honking, honking, honking. Naturally, I assumed he was lonely and needed a good home, which I, of course, could provide. (Never mind that I know nothing about ducks. I can learn, right?) I ask about this duck, who stands straight up and down and looks like the kind of thing Smith & Hawken would make a garden statuary of. (See sampled yellow guy above.)

"No, he's fine. Somebody will be in here soon to get him."


I tell my friend Kim that I will have to cut down on my trips to the farm store: it's just too tempting to bring another animal home. She laughs and says that for some women it's the shoe store, for me, I guess, the farm store.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What we thought we had

You can order hatching eggs in what's called a straight run. That means there are both males and females in your order. I assumed that since the chicks we bought were hatched, they would all be female. At least that is what the pimply-faced young man with braces at the farm store told me. But it turns out he was more interested in closing the store than in actually answering my question. Because today, when we go to get a replacement chick for Yellow, I asked about gender again. The elderly gentleman working there dismissively said, "No, no - we have no idea what these are."

And it's true. My list of what the young man thought the chicks would be is above. No big deal what breed they are, they're still all chickens after all. But now, I had to calculate losing half my flock because, statistically, half would be roosters. So it seems that replacing Yellow with three of four chicks makes sense. Some could die, some could be male.

The chicken industry has an overrun of males. In fact, if you get hatched chicks mailed to you (you usually have to buy 25 though), they throw in a couple of males "to keep the rest of the chicks warm". Poor guys
I will have to come up with ideas for placing these males. It's an unwritten rule: no roosters in a city flock. Nothing will get neighbors complaining more quickly than a rooster crowing at all hours. I am not a morning person; I wouldn't like it either.

We bring four chicks home from our second trip to the farm store, including a bantam that is the size of a finch. It's the cutest little thing I have ever seen and seems to be a people person.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One of the seven dies

I read, read and read about chickens, trying to get ahead on the research that I should have done before getting the chicks. I feel like a new teacher, learning the lesson the day before you teach it. But it's OK; the chicks will be in the Rubbermaid home for a while so I have some time.

The little yellow chick is worrying me. Actually, I am worried about all of them. They are so dependent. They need just the right amount of heat. Special food. They even need a special waterer so that they don't drown in their water. They don't know from life.

I love the sounds of their little cheeps. The constant peeping subsides whenever I visit them (which is often) and they look up at me with expectation. I hold one at a time in a paper towel, and each almost immediately falls asleep. Not just a nap, either, but a full-out power sleep complete with fast breathing, head tilt and relaxed little body.

When they're in the Rubbermaid bin, and I quietly sneak up on them, I see that a few of them have simply tipped forward and fallen asleep. Wings out, eyes shut, they look as if they have passed away. Luckily, a book told me that this is just the way they look when they sleep.

But this morning when I check on them, the little yellow one doesn't get up. She had had a poopy butt which I cleaned about every hour. But this syndrome (I will look up the name of it) has gotten this one. All the books said to plan on a few chicks (10%) dying. I guess one of seven makes for good odds, but why the yellow one? It's the one who looks most like an Easter decoration or a craft project made out of pom poms. Her little black eyes are closed. We have a paper-lunch bag burial.

We deliberately do not name the chicks, as we are not certain of their futures. For now, TLC is all we can do.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


In the third grade classes at my daughter's elementary school, they were hatching chicks in a big Rubbermaid bin with a hot light on them. I found out it was a third grader's Mom, Sam, who had set up the project. I called her. Where do you get the eggs? Do you keep the chicks? If so, how do you house them? If not, where do they go?

Sam reports that eggs are from the Murray McMurray hatchery. Hatched chicks go to a guy. Would I like to meet a woman who has a flock here in the city? Oh, yes!

Went to meet Lori. Her coop is solid as a fallout shelter, and houses six hens. Sam is thinking of adopting the hens, as Lori, recently widowed, wants to travel. We meet the hens. Marcy falls in love with Ginger (above). I fall in love with Coco. A hen named Stretchie gives us the stink eye. I tell Lori we have seven chicks at home under hot lights in a city recycling bin. She wonders if we would like to adopt hers, as Sam isn't fully committed yet. Oh, yes!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Chicks, April 24, 2008

Fourteen years. Fourteen years my husband would ask me what I wanted for Christmas and I would say 'chickens'. Lots happened during those fourteen years: moving, job changes, growing a company, baby, heart attack and bypass surgery, meditation classes, sweeping diet changes, miscarriages and more.

It was nearing Mother's Day 2008 when my husband asked if I wanted to do anything special. You can guess my answer, but this time, I threw in, "And you know, Marcy is not getting any younger. Soon, she won't have any interest at all." Marcy is our then-ten-year-old daughter.

My husband's response? "Chickens would be fun."

That was all the go-ahead I needed.

It was Wednesday. On Thursday I checked every book about chickens out of the library. On Thursday night, during a downpour, I suggested we drive to Houle's farm store on Highway 36 "just to look".

We walked in 10 minutes before closing and were greeted by about a dozen peeping chicks in a cardboard box. A couple from St. Paul was there, picking out four. Our thought was three. We came home with seven. We ended up with sixteen. More about that to come.