Somehow we ended up with four instead of three. Our flock has just increased by a factor of three.
Somehow we ended up with four instead of three. Our flock has just increased by a factor of three.
Score! I just responded to an add on Craigslist about free laying hens. I’ll be picking up two “Easter Eggers” and a single Australorp on Wednesday. Beautiful. They’re even quiet! I’ll update you later this week.
Here’s the text of the add:
Free laying hens about a year old. I have 2 easter eggers (greenish blue eggs),2 rhode island reds,1 buff orfington,1 black astralop and 2 mixed breeds.
Please call 8##-6##0 or 7##-4##3.
Tomorrow is the first day of the Fall semestre, and I’m both excited and wary. It’s going to be different having to take care of my herd and flock before and after class and work. I’m taking nineteen credits this semestre, and the majority of them are upper level engineering courses. I finished building two more cages today, and put my princess, Svetlana, in her own cage, and moved the young bucks over near her and then put one of the large bucks, Rasputin, that bastard, in their old one. Phew. That leaves just three more cages to build, one more 30″x30″ and two 36″x30″.
We’re looking at buying two more hens for the flock, most probably Australorps. The other two breeds on our list are Americaunas and Orpingtons. We really need them to be quiet, though. We think that Clever Girl may be a silent rooster. She hasn’t laid an egg since we got her, but if she is a rooster, as long as she doesn’t crow we’ll keep her. Also, we planted the fall garden yesterday. My lower back still is sore from all the hoeing we did. So far we have beets, turnips, radishes, carrots, onions, scallions, spinach, lettuce, kale, broccoli, and celery seeds planted. We still need to plant some more broccoli, the cauliflower, the cabbages, and when we obtain the seeds for oats and barley (and the starters for garlic) we’ll plant those.
I apologize for not updating sooner, since Monday we have had non-stop chaos. After finally getting all three girls in their roost for the night, the next day my husband came home and checked on them only to find that the Devil hen (also known as “Clever Girl” from Jurassic Park) had convinced the other two littler hens to peck out a hole in the plastic “chicken” fencing. Clearly, this fencing does not function as advertised. So, when Augustin went in to shoo them away from their newly created hole, the little grey hen jumped out through the barely opened door. Clever Girl watched the little grey hen leave through the front and initiate a chase of epic proportions by my Weimaraner, Finnegan. Clever Girl popped out the back hole with nary a “thank you for your sacrifice”, once again hiding in the thick brush behind our backyard. The poor little grey hen was not fast enough to outrun Finnegan, and was caught in his mouth. He didn’t crush her, but his bird-dog instincts had been triggered. Augustine had to break her neck to end her suffering. It was quick, and relatively painless.
I looked to my mother in askance, what should we do? After a moments deliberation the mutual decision to honor her death with a meal was agreed upon. Augustin went out to catch Clever Girl, and I started the butchering process. (Warning – from here on to the end of the paragraph is rather graphic.) I chopped off her head and hung her in a tree to bleed. It only takes about fifteen minutes to fully bleed a chicken for meat. Whilst she was being bled, my littlest sister, Laura, and I plucked her clean. She then helped me scald her to get the wing feathers out, and aided me in the entire butchering process. I followed this blog to go through the steps slowly, and I didn’t even break the intestines, cloaca, or the gall bladder. She was small, and dense compared to what we normally get from the store. After the butchering, my mum seasoned her and set her in the oven with some store-bought legs. Apparently, you are supposed to cook a fresh chicken much shorter than normal to prevent drying the meat out. We like to learn as we go. This little grey hen was delicious, but the slate grey skin colour bothered both my husband and my mother. I thought she was beautiful. Thank you, little grey hen, for your contribution to the family. I’m sorry that my dog got you so quickly.
My mother patched the hole and I caught the last hen, our golden girl, and placed her in the metal dog crate for the time being. We worked on cleaning the butchering area thoroughly, and then we heard a very laud “CAW!”. My eyes whipped up just in time to see C lever Girl half fly, half glide into the pool with my husband hot on her heels. She let out pitiful mewling clucks and bobbed up and down on the stairs. She couldn’t get out. Augustin pulled her soaking body out and held her close to his chest. He brought her up and placed her in with the golden girl. Then, we immediately looked up what to do if a hen falls in the pool. At least it’s happened to other people. Fortunately, the girls took it into their own hands and hid in a cardboard box we had put in with them and the golden girl had placed herself in the front to block out the air and warm Clever Girl up. What a day.
Tuesday was a day of much stress and frustration. We kept the girls in their crate whilst we built them a new, better run and a coop. I was called into work for a meeting with my boss, but that didn’t take too long. I ended up having to run a few calculations and then set up an Excel spreadsheet for comparisons. I arrived home around one, and found that not much had been set in regard to the run and coop. I grabbed Laura and put on my work outfit (a ratty pair of jean shorts and an old bikini top) to get started. My husband and his good friend Warren, came out to help us and did many manly things. After many hours of work, we still weren’t finished, but we had the run pretty much set and the coop had two walls, a frame, and a floor. We stopped once it started to really get dark out. The chickens were schedule to spend another night and day in the dog crate.
Today, Wednesday, I had made plans to pick up my breeding trio of American Chinchilla rabbits. My husband had work, so we arranged for Warren to come over again in the morning. My mother and I got started around eight-thirty, and used the jigsaw to cut out the nest box. My brother, Mark, was not pleased by the sound. He yelled and moaned and ordered us to move away from his window, or, barring that, stop making that racket. We, of course, ignored him and continued on our work until my mum reached a point of frustration and told him to quiet down or come out and help us. He quieted. Warren arrived around ten at which point we had some issues with our next box building. Laura and I had to head out, so we put together our things and grabbed three moving boxes and some towels and drove off to California. It was a very long drive, but we arrived in one piece. A new friend of mine via a Yahoo rabbit list has a farm out in California, and we were there to pick up our Chins. Her farm was amazing. She had a gorgeous slate blue tom with two young turkey-lings following him around. He was a very good mother. His last hen was eaten by something and left him with the babes, the one before that ran off for those manly wild turkeys. She had all sorts of chickens free ranging around her house, and three dairy goats, a barn full of many breeds of rabbits, and some sheep up the hill. It was splendid.
I ended up taking home a total of eight rabbits. Two were almost of breeding age female black New Zealand crosses, as the sex change fairy had visited and she only had a single young American Chinchilla doe. Three were almost of breeding age American Chinchilla bucks, and the last two were young Chin bucks, needing time to grow out. Wow. I thanked her profusely and we set out on our way home. A few hours later we introduced them to their new home, set them up in their cages (I need to build more), and feed, watered and let them relax. Finnegan was ecstatic. He loves rabbits. Mammals are his babies, birds his nemesis. This even we all relaxed, ate, and conversed for hours. Our work was done. Finnegan’s had just begun. He still is sitting guard out back watching over his new charges.
The giant, terrifying hen was finally caught this evening at 8:20 pm. It took five adults to corral her whilst she was roosting on top of the aviary. I went around back into the brush to flush it out, and my husband ended up coming back there as well. My two siblings came at it from either side, whilst my mum ended up catching it, albeit reluctantly. She was the only person not excited and willing to catch that silly hen. Mum saw that she was the only one in reach, and grabbed for the hen’s leg which caused the hen to fall over sideways and completely freak out. Her caws could be heard all around, which we did not want to continue. My husband jumped the fence, scrambled over about eight feet of bramble and scooped the hen up into his arms and covered her head to calm her. Then, walking back through the brush to the front of the aviary, he placed her inside. Of course, she immediately ran to the other side and hid behind their mini coop.
Thank goodness. It was a tough job and it took at least twenty minutes to accomplish. We used the cover of dusk to aid us, as chickens have very poor eyesight in the dark.
Earlier today, I picked up some grass hay to use around the house for various things. It’s currently by the cord of firewood we have here now, but I’ll be using it for mulch, the chicken coop, the chickens’ nesting box (which is a cleaned out covered litter box), and for the rabbits. I’ll be planting garlic this November! Perhaps I’ll even consider planting some sort of grain.
This is my first ever home grown egg. I’m so excited.
Also, the big scary chickens escaped. It’s currently roosting above the aviary. More on that later today.
A quick update before I head off to bed:
It looks like we’ll be getting three laying hens this weekend. They’re Silky crosses, and should be quiet and calm. They’re already of laying age, so it’ll be easier getting to know the way chickens work and such.
This weekend I gathered all the supplies for cage building and started on this fairly large project. I managed to finish one rabbit cage in its entirety (a whole 30x30x18 inches). It’s much larger than I anticipated, which reassures me that it will be large enough for comfortable and humane living quarters for my future rabbits.
I had a few helpers whilst building these cages: Finnegan, my Weimaraner liked to watch me work and offer me encouragement by asking me to rub his belly.
Dimitri, my pet Satin Angora rabbit showed me how much room I have given the future rabbits by trying out the semi-finished cage. He only weighs about 6 lbs. American Chinchilla rabbits weigh on average between 9-12 lbs. Nearly twice his size!
I will soon be the proud owner of a breeding trio of American Chinchilla rabbits, a rare breed of meat and fur rabbits which only have about 50 or so new rabbits registered per year.
The finished product: