Hey – did you think I fell off the face of the earth? I kind of feel like I did. It’s been too tiring to decide whether something is “blog-worthy” or not or if I care enough about something to spend time editing photos and then writing about it. Sorry about that. I’m a terrible blogger, what can I say?
Ah, yes… here we are in that familiar blank spot where I had been posting with regularity for a good week or so and now we’re back to near-radio silence. Par for the course, I blame it on too much work, too much fun, and picking up some new volunteer work. Travis and I have coordinated our calendars and discovered that we’ve pretty much scheduled our weekends out through October. We’re not the only ones whose schedules fill up this quickly, are we?
Read on for bullets, bullets, and more bullets!
This may come as a no-brainer to most of you, but I find there’s a direct correlation between exercise time and blogging time. As in, when I slack off with exercise, I have more time to write. I suppose it helps when I have motivation, like things to give away and posts to declare winners. It does not help that I am terrible at remembering to take pictures of anything. So, I’ve been absent from posting lately, even though I’ve been doing a lot of cooking! Travis likes to pull things out of the pantry that are going to expire (he doesn’t believe canned foods have a really long shelf life!) and then I have to make something with them or throw it away – so I did (pasta with roasted pepper sauce, frozen chicken meatballs with peanut satay sauce, drumsticks braised in coconut milk) and was so successful he thinks he’s going to do it every week.
I don’t remember how much detail I’ve given on our chicken escapades (and I’m way too lazy to go look it all up), but it got me thinking about our chicken raising and wondering if I’d do it again, had I known then what I know now (and this is not even a year into it all!) I’m no chicken expert, but here’s what I would advise past-me before getting chickens:
- The first set of chicks will be your favorite and you’ll spend more time with them than any other batch. Along the lines of having Lexi well-trained and Sadie not-so-much. First-borns just get more attention, sorry to say.
- Just because you have a convenient spot to locate the coop doesn’t make it the best. But, other options will probably take too long to ever make chicken-ready, so that convenient spot will do okay.
- Everything you think will be easy, will not be. When Travis says it’ll take X amount of hours/days/weeks, he actually knows what’s he talking about and is more often than not right.
- Some people might be able to suppress their dogs’ prey drive, but your dogs are really fast. Really fast. Plus, they have the advantage of Lexi’s smarts. The chicken enclosure needs to be idiot-proof.
- Once you think all the gaps of the chicken coop are sealed, poke everything with your finger. If your fingers makes it through a space (like, between the top beam and the corrugated roof), a rat can get through. And it will. Worry about a rat scurrying off with a tiny chick is not fun.
- Two chickens do not actually give you enough eggs for eating AND baking. Sometimes, it’s not even enough for eating. Just a heads up.
- If you let Travis pick out the chicks, he’ll get attached to them and actually take responsibility for them, meaning less work for you.
- Buff Orpingtons are ridiculously broody. Crazy broody. But also easy to fool with a baby chick. Just know that they also become seriously protective. Like, if you pick up her chick and walk away, she will fly at your head. But, she’ll also be good at teaching her chick what to eat and how to get in and out of the coop during the day.
- The Backyard Chicken Forum is not really full of people who truly keep chickens in a backyard. There are a lot of people who have hundreds of chickens, which means 90% of their advice doesn’t apply to urban chicken-keeping.
- This is not an economical way to get happy-chicken eggs, but the eggs you will get are really, really good.
- It’s a lot more work than you thought it would be, but only when you have to repair/fix/move the coop.
For a while, off and on, I toyed with the idea of raising chickens to eat. I figured they’d be happy and healthy and I’d be stickin’ it to The Man by not buying Factory Farm chickens. I’ve come to realize that I wouldn’t have a problem eating chickens I’ve raised, but I don’t want to process them. If someone else could process them, I’d be all over that. Travis has no problem dealing with that, but he doesn’t want to have to do the work (it would be time consuming). Then I read a post from someone who routinely raises about 100 chickens every year and splits the birds between a couple of families. She determined that her costs saved her about $1/lb compared to market organic, free-range chickens. Her typical hens weighed in between 3-4 pounds. And that’s her cost dealing with things in bulk! I’m pretty sure I would end up spending way more. I figured, if I’m willing to spend that much money to raise my own chickens, why am I not willing to spend that much money to buy someone else’s happy chickens, especially when I don’t have to do the work? So, now we’re going to try that. I’m still experimenting with grass-fed beef to see if I like it. Small steps.
this is a broody chicken
whoa! what is that?
that's the tiny chick we smuggled under your chicken butt to trick you into not being broody!
But it didn’t really work. At least, I don’t think so. We swapped a grocery store egg (that Buffy had been sitting on) with this tiny Barred Rock chick so Buffy would think her egg hatched. Supposedly, she’s supposed to now take her chick on outings and teach her the chicken ways, but all she does is sit on her nest and get puffy. The little chick pops out now and then to eat (so at least she won’t starve) and then pop back under Buffy. Buffy hasn’t attacked her and she’s keeping the chick warm, so I guess that’s all we can really ask for. I have to admit, it’s really cute to watch this chick hop on Buffy’s back and slide down a wing.
Next up: partitioning the coop so it can house crazy broody mama and the chick, with Dusty and Ginger (Pearl is, sadly, no longer with us; hence the new chick as replacement/broody breaker attempt) in the hopes they all learn to get along at some point. The two chicks are just getting too big for their brooder!
Chickens are addictive. Thank goodness we actually try to follow City ordinances (which limits us to 6) or I’d be in trouble.
Many apologies for the stop-and-go flow of posting… it’s just that sometimes I get a lot of free time and get motivated to download pictures off the camera and sometimes I just don’t. If I was a dedicated “blogger”, I guess I would be disciplined enough to set aside the time to write posts and take pretty pictures for you on a regular basis. But, I have a day job and I just try to get dinner done on time for some couch-sitting, time on the treadmill or with Jillian Michaels, and occasionally a little face time with Travis. Plus, there are these dogs, a chicken, and new chicks that like attention and care and whatnot. I suppose that’s why I don’t have a blogger book coming out. I let my regular life take precedent over the internet. It’s also why I rely on Joel McHale to watch all the garbage on tv for me and sum it up weekly on The Soup.
There are exciting things coming down the pipeline, though! We named two out of three chicks and I have plans to take better pictures of them. The third chick we are still debating whether to give her a real name, give her a food name (like Pot Pie or Dinner), or just call her Chicken. It’s sad, but we just don’t like her as much as the other chicks. She’s not tiny and cute, she’s not going to be a pretty redhead, and so far she just seems like trouble. I say this now, but I’m sure when she grows up she’ll be very nice and we’ll love her (of course we’ll love her, we’ll probably just tease her a lot).
Travis managed to take some pictures of our Momofuku-inspired dinner, when he was off judging beers and I was left with an entire day to play in the kitchen. It was really good and we’ve been enjoying the leftovers all week. I don’t know if I’d be as impressed or excited if we hadn’t eaten there, though. Hard to say.
There is the possibility of a grill pan review coming up, paired with another giveaway! So, definitely keep an eye out for that. I think that will be fun.
We’ve been invited to the grand opening shindig for the “new and improved” Bali Hai restaurant tonight. I brought a camera, but the battery may not be charged, so you may end up with iPhone pictures or none at all. Sorry. Yet another reason I’m not a good enough blogger to have my own book in the works.
So… my first thought when I thought we lost our chickens was that we had just gotten into the chicken groove and now we were down two chickens and it was kind of lame that we had this perfectly good coop and everything that wasn’t being used (especially since Buffy is inside recuperating). When it started to look like Buffy might make it, my next thought was that she was going to be lonely. Everyone knows chickens need other chickens (you can’t just have one) to keep them company, keep them warm, give them someone to talk to, etc. We could have just gotten another grown-up laying chicken, but 1) that’s not really the most fun way to go and 2) I didn’t want to get a chicken than would put Buffy on the bottom of the pecking order.
Luckily, it’s baby chick season and a lot of the feed stores are getting shipments regularly. They get different breeds at different times, but they usually have the “common” ones all the time. I made a few calls and a very patient Travis drove with me to the Country Feed Store in Vista to pick out our new chickens and Buffy’s new family. Two days after we buried Bunny, we brought fluffy peeps home with us.
The feed store didn’t have any Barred Rocks (we had discussed these as the next chickens for next year) but they had Delawares, New Hampshire Reds, Turkens, California Whites, and a couple random ones. We picked a New Hampshire Red and a Delaware (both supposed to be good layers AND friendly). Travis took a liking to a little Bantam, so we brought her home, too. I don’t know what she’ll end up looking like, but she’s got these huge feathers on her feet and she’s really pretty so far. She’s so tiny!
The really nice thing about the Country Feed Store is that if we end up with a rooster (their chicks are supposed to be pullets 95% of the time), they said we can bring it back to them.
New Hampshire Red
Update: Buffy seems to be doing okay. She’s eating and drinking and laid an egg! Her wound looks like it’s more of a surface wound, but it’s pretty big. She’ll be staying inside until we think she’s safe from infection – she thinks she’s ready to get out of her cage already! Thanks for the thoughts, everyone!
I came home today to find a chicken massacre in the backyard. Well, maybe not a massacre… but definitely a lot of feathers. Bunny didn’t make it. I though Buffy was a goner, too, but by the time Travis came home she was up and walking. There’s a huge wound on her upper back, but I’m not really sure what to do about it. I put her in a large dog crate with food and water and tried dripping some water into her beak with a straw. I have some sort of spray I used on Lexi when she had a hot spot and kind of sprayed it on her back. I guess all we can do now it wait. Because, honestly, I can’t justify a vet visit for a chicken.
I think the gate latch didn’t close all the way. Whether the wind opened the gate or what, I don’t know. I’m sad that we lost our pretty chicken, but I feel even worse that I let the chickens down. I was supposed to make sure they had a safe home and make sure the dogs wouldn’t hurt them and I failed. I can’t even be mad at the dogs because they were just doing what their little doggy instincts told them to do. I’m upset, but not mad.
Travis was very sweet and wrapped Bunny up in a paper bag and buried her inside the chicken pen. We threw in some scratch and said our goodbyes and then he covered it all up. He also said I could get new chicks if I’d like. I’m hoping Buffy will pull through, but I just don’t know.
We’ll most likely do some redesign on the chicken pen to make it more secure and maybe build in some sort of secondary containment. But we’re not giving up. We enjoy our chickens and I’d like to continue with the bawking. And the eggs were damn tasty, too!