Monday, October 3, 2011

The NPR correspondents start laying!

Got our first eggs from Nina Totenberg, Sylvia Pogiolli and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson today!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Polish Join the Flock

Schwinn and Smirnoff were in the holding zone for a week or so. At night, I'd find them roosting on the fencing. There was some hen pecking once they joined the flock, particularly from Blanche. But now, the flock seems to have achieved harmony. Even Jim noticed that they seem like a happy flock.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Which Chicken Are You?

If you are the kind of Mom who can make a kid stop what they're doing with just a look, you are Hedwig.

Hedwig is the leader of the flock. She leads with a quiet authority with Blanche and Squirt as her wingmen. (Winghen?)

Don't mess with Hedwig and she won't mess with you.

And again, I am using the Hipstamatic app to take these cool photos. I may have to name a hen after the Hipstamatic.

Smirnoff in Full Glory

I am addicted to the Hipstamatic app on my iPod Touch. It takes cool, square, retro photos. I took this one of Smirnoff, saturated the color and added a matte to it in iPhoto. I think it's as cool as the chicken herself.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Making a Choice

In The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, dogs are main characters in the plot of the book, particularly one named Almondine. Almondine may be a work of fiction, but one that is very dear to my heart, as is the entire story.

In the book, the author makes it clear that the dogs are able to make a choice at pivotal points in the book.

That's how I feel about introducing new chickens. When they feel ready to join the flock, I want them to be able to do so.

So today, Smirnoff decided she was ready. But she got hen pecked, literally. To the point that there was blood all over her tail area. So, I washed her up and put antibiotic lotion all over her and she is going to have to heal up in the holding area till I let her make a choice again. I have no choice. Once there's blood, the flock keeps pecking and as a middle child, I cannot stand for that injustice.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Introducing the Polish

We're thinking of naming the Polish hens Schwinn and Smirnoff, since we biked them home from the Fair in a vodka box.

They are gentle hens who are more like cats than chickens. We are chicken sitting for the neighbors and brought the Polish down with us. Walked all around the neighborhood with them and they just took it all in stride.

During the day, they're in the holding area. At night, after dark, I put them on a roost inside the coop.

The first morning, I found them in the exact same position as I left them, except that Hedwig was standing above them giving them a stern look.

The second morning, they were in the corner and Hedwig was standing above them giving them a stern look. Sometimes, Squirt and Blanche join in.

My Pet Chicken describes the Polish as gentle and friendly, which we've found to be true. But they can also be hen-pecked, so back out to the holding area they go. This will be a long introduction, I think.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Biking Home with Some Polish

(Yes, another State Fair post.) While officiating the Rooster Crowing contest, I spoke with Haaken, the owner of the winning frizzle bantam. Knowing that Huff and Fetuccini Alfredo were probably roosters, I wanted to get a few more "Poof Heads" into the flock before winter. He agreed to sell me two Buff and Golden-Laced Polish hens.

I had biked over and had brought a bungee cord. Haaken said he had a box. In fact, at the Fair, there were a ton of boxes and most of then were booze related. The Fair must be a 12-day party for some of these people!

I was going to surprise Jim but he decided at the last minute to come along. So, I had to come clean and tell Jim what I was up to, especially because he had the cash. As usual, Jim's reaction was 'no, no, no' but he went along with it once he saw the hens. At 3 pm, when the animal barns close, we packed the hens into the Smirnov box and headed out. No one asked, checked or questioned. We could have taken 10 hens, it was such chaos. Not that I am into stealing, especially not hens.

The hens got to see a little bit of the Fair and enjoy a strawberry from the Strawberries and Cream stand.

They are really cool hens.

Looking back at pictures of State Fair chickens from previous years, Polish are my most-photographed chicken. So I feel no buyer's remorse.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Still More on the Topic of the State Fair

The end of the Fair means one thing: Time for the rooster crowing contest. 11 am sharp the last few days of the Fair. We got to be Judges at the last day's competition, and there was some big money involved. The Judge must count how many times your assigned rooster crows in a 30 minute time period. The scores are cumulative. My rooster had no name, but was a Sumatra. He crowed 36 times. He came in third.
When we sat down to preside the contest, the woman running the show made sure to let us know that we had selected the Large Breed roosters. I told her we were up to the task.

Roosters in our Midst

The Fair also helped us confirm a suspicion: The Crested Top Hat and one of the Silkies are roosters. All three of us humans came to the same conclusion once we were able to compare them side by side in the Poultry Barn. Very disappointing, as I like both of them and will not be able to keep them.
So long, Huff and Puff and Fettucini Alfredo.

State Fair, Two Days in a Row

The weather was so great, we ended up going to the Fair Sunday and Monday. Of course, we checked out the Poultry Barn, where I finally figured out what Blanche is. She is a Red Pyle Modern Game Hen. All along, I thought she was a seagull.
The fair hen:

More Geekiness to Come

This weekend, Saturday, September 10, is the Twin Cities Parade of Coops Tour. I'd like to be on it but cannot for two reasons: 1.) Jim has to work that day and 2.) I never did the spring clean up this spring. It was raining all the time, so I shifted it to fall.
When I mentioned that Marcy and I went on the Coop Tour instead of going to see Jim's Parade Home to some friends (Sam and Dean) who live in the country, they laughed a little and then the conversation turned to other things. About 20 minutes later, Dean says, "What a minute. So you guys actually have an event to go see coops?" It was only then I realized that it might be considered weird by some.
The Twin Cities Chickens google group puts it together and there will be over 40 coops to tour this Saturday. No ticket required!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Geeking Out at the State Fair

Egg / Plant in St. Paul was looking for volunteers to man a Backyard Chickens booth in the EcoExperience building at the State Fair. I signed up for a 9 to noon shift, biked over this Monday and had so much fun! Peoples' questions reminded me of mine when I first started: Do you need a rooster? (No.) Should the coop be heater? (Yes, unless you have winter hardy or a lot of them.) Their general response fell into three categories:
"Chickens." "Chickens?" "Chickens!"
The Poultry Barn was closed the day I was there, so the two chickens there were really the only ambassadors their species had that day. Audrey at Egg / Plant said we volunteers could bring our own chickens, too. Once I figure out how to transport them there via bike, I'll take a few of my favorites over.

Not So Savvy Blogger

Blogs have come a long way since I started this one. As a writer, I look at some of these Moms who blog, save-you-money blogs and other monetized blogs and wonder how they do it. For me, I just wanted to journal the adventure of chicken keeping. But to be forced to write about it every day? Makes my head hurt. So, I'm keeping it fun and posting when I have something to say. It's summer and the little chickens are growing and a few of the hens are laying. It's easy right now. I will get some current photos of some of the pullets. My goal was to get some rare breeds and I have a really good mix right now. A motley crew.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Where some hens went

I donated five of my hens to a local CSA farm a few months ago. They were looking for egg layers and these were all laying but definitely in their later years of doing so. The CSA farm wasn't planning to overwinter them, so I thought this was a win-win for all involved, especially since I went a little chick happy this spring.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a post on the google group called Twin Cities Chickens asking what breed these chickens were and I recognized three of them!

So Stretchy is now Laura, The Brown One is now Almond and Lulu is now Sophie. They went to a family new to keeping chickens and I can't think of a better way to start out than with these hens. They've been around the block and are now settled into a nice little flock.

It seems even Stretchy's dark side has gone away. Lulu is reported to be the sweetest one.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Huff and Puff

My husband has always wanted what he calls "Poof Heads" but what are really Crested Top Hats or Polish chickens. I finally got two chicks from Houle's Farm Store in Stillwater and surprised him for his birthday. So imagine our surprise when a crow came along and took Puff. I had no idea that a crow would/could do that. My daughter was upset because she saw it happen. Poor Puff was only 5 or 6 weeks old. At first, Huff was hiding and afraid. She would peek around the corner with - I swear - a confused and concerned expression. Who wouldn't? But she soon started to hang with Peach Freeze and Coconut.

So between Coco, Legs and Puff, we are down three chickens this spring.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

RIP Legs

Legs, our little Modern Game Hen bantam, died today. I found her in the run, eyes closed, with what seemed like a broken neck. She was one from our first year and came with Blanche. We used to bring her inside on really cold days, where she would spend the day in an aquarium, perfectly happy as long as we were near. She'd do a special little chirp when we'd come by. She was easy to catch if we let them out to freerange and was the one the neighbor kids liked to hold because she was small and didn't fly away.

Blanche and I are going to miss that wandering little hen. She had a free pass to stay as long as she wanted and she ended up not staying very long.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The NPR correspondents move outside

Today, Nina, Sylvia and Soraya moved outside. It is a little cold tonight but I had to move Gloria, Buckleberry, Welsummer and Betty White out to the stage two home in the garage. They were really loud this morning and I was afraid they'd wake up my daughter. Stage one housing clearly got crowded fast.

Still in stage one: Stevie Nicks, Emmy Lou Harris, Fettucini Alfredo and Dandelion. I first moved Emmy Lou out and Stevie Nicks got really upset, peeping more loudly than the big crowd had when I was afraid they'd wake up my daughter. Chick management. Not easy!


A Wyandotte.

Spring chickens, 2011

Includes Betty White (pictured), Stevie Nicks and Emmy Lou Harris, Fettucini Alfredo and Dandelion, Buckleberry and Welsummer and Gloria.

Betty White

A Light Brahma, another new breed for us. She's a busybody but she is beautiful.

Stevie Nicks

A beautiful Salmon Favorelle.

Buckleberry and Welsummer

Two Welsummers, also a new breed for us. The hatchery had shipped an extra 50 hens to Houle's Farm store, so I took one more.

Emmy Lou Harris

A sweet partridge rock.

Fettucini Alfredo

Our other silkie. She may turn out to be a rooster.


Our first silkie chick. She is so very sweet.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My favorite Coco dies

I found Coco dead today in the coop. She was one of our original chickens, adopted from Lori, and by far, our friendliest. I thought about getting her a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart, she was that outgoing. I will miss her.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In the spotlight

Nina Totenberg takes center stage.

Gluten Free

We found out that we're going gluten free. My daughter has celiac and I got tested today. Should know more next week.

So, any open boxes of cereal containing gluten (most) were brought out to the chickens.

They are snubbing it big time. Fiber One and Shredded Wheat are just not their thing, I guess. They're naturally gluten free.

The squirrels seem to be, too. This photo was taken today; the cereal was brought out two days ago.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The chicks are here, reporting live from Roseville, MN

This just in: The chicks have arrived in Roseville, MN, greeted by much fanfare. They are settling in nicely.

Left to right: Nina Totenberg, Sylvia Pogiolli and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Three chicks, arriving Thursday

Three chicks will be arriving Thursday at Egg Plant. One will be a buff orpington, one silver laced wyandotte and one araucana. I'm thinking of naming this batch after NPR correspondents -- Nina Totenberg, Sylvia Pogiolli and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. But of course, I have to meet them in person to see if the names fit.

I've put together flash cards for my husband so that he knows which chicken is which. He never refers to them. If I give them these full names, he might just check out all together.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What do the neighbors think?

Jim noticed that whenever he tells people that we have a small flock of chickens in the city, the first question they ask is: "What do your neighbors think?"

We are lucky that in Roseville we do not need a permit. The city did, however, suggest we let our neighbors know. When I told our neighbor to the west, she said, "If you're getting chickens, I'm going to get a goat!"

And on the east side, our neighbors were kind enough to be our guest bloggers, even doing research:

What the Cluck?

While that’s not the response from everyone who discovers my neighbors raise chickens – a number of folks are surprised to learn we live next door to chickens – and like it!

Most of those surprised by the news have read about urban farmers in local newspapers. They assume incorrectly that urban chicken farmers are confined to “The City” where all those crazy urban trends flourish. These folks are surprised to learn you can raise chickens in Roseville.

I enjoy having chickens next door for a number of reasons. You usually don’t hear them as the noise of everyday life tends to overpower their quite clucking, but it’s always a treat to step out on the deck in the early morning with the dog and hear the chickens clucking away. It’s a quiet sort of noise, peaceful like a babbling brook.

Chickens are also fun to watch – kind of like a spectator sport. When they are let out of the pen to run around the yard they eat bugs, and pick around in the dirt taking dust baths. They seldom stray far, and are (usually) rounded-up easily.

Of course, the chickens are not always quiet. They squawk some, usually when a possible intruder is nearby. Sometimes squirrels set them off, other times it’s a raptor sitting in a nearby tree. (Watching penned-in chickens must drive raptors crazy – so close, but so far.) But when they squawk, it’s not nearly as loud as barking dogs, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, or other hazards of suburban living.

And of course – there are the eggs. These eggs come from truly free range chickens. On occasion, I’ve cooked with eggs still warm from the hen. We once cracked two eggs in a bowl – one from the co-op (no slouch for producing good eggs) and one from McNeal chickens. The yolk of the McNeal egg was a much deeper yellow – almost orange – and huge. I’m told that’s because of the high protein content. These chickens really like their bugs.

We also enjoy showing off the chickens to visiting friends and relatives. They are a big hit with the under age 5 crowd.

Living next to chickens is a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll finish with this fun historical fact: According to the 1931 Farm Holdings map of Roseville our homes are located on the site of an old 30 acre poultry (turkey) farm – plot 206. It’s destiny that the McNeals raise chickens!