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Auction in the a.m; egg in the p.m.

Auction in the a.m; egg in the p.m.

Went down to Julie’s this morning, had breakfast, and then we headed over to the chicken auction. My neighbor and fellow crazy chicken lady Carrie–who, by the way, steadfastly maintains that my rooster to hen ratio may not be as dire as I think-met us there.

The auction is a totally unique experience. The auctioneer is this wizened little man with a big voice. You don’t always understand what he’s saying–or how much you’re bidding–so it’s a good thing that there’s also a woman who unceremoniously yanks the animal or animals out of a cardboard box to show them to everyone. It’s amazing; she can hold three roosters by the crook of their wings in one hand with legs dangling and their bellies facing the crowd. Not terribly dignified, but hey, it gets the job done. The best moment was when she pulled out the two cutest baby bunnies you have ever seen. Every single woman in the audience took that deep breath that comes before “OOOOOHHHHH!” It was this great collective noise–and then we all burst into laughter.

So I ended up with five hens: four welsummers (welsumers, if you want to be proper, but let’s face it–no one spells it that way) and one buttercup. It’s a lot. The coop looks like a chicken tenement, though the outside run will be done tomorrow, and I’m probably not going to keep them all anyway.

In they went with the chickiepoos, who promptly scattered. The king roosterlet bravely went up to one hen, took one peck … and then went running for his life the moment she fixed a beady little eye on him and leaned over to take a peck of her own. Yep, she may be a girl, but she will kick your tailfeathers.

I should have gotten better pictures, but didn’t really get around to it until this evening. All the girls were chilling in the henhouse. Here are the welsummers:

And here’s the buttercup:

And then I noticed … could it be? Is it … really? Yes. An egg. Even though I wasn’t expecting any for a couple of weeks at least. Must be from the buttercup, because it’s small and white.

You CAN have roosters in Seattle

You CAN have roosters in Seattle

All these people were telling me that you can’t keep roosters in Seattle. I kept insisting you can because there’s nothing in Seattle Municipal Code for the keeping of animals (including domestic fowl) that prohibits it. It says you can’t have a farm animal if you have fewer than 10,000 square feet, and that you can’t have a miniature goat if it’s not neutered or dehorned — but at no point does it say you can’t keep roosters.

After the guy at McClendon’s who helped me get chicken wire and fence posts informed me that it’s against the law to keep roosters in Seattle, I broke down and called the city clerk’s office. The answer? Yes, you can keep roosters–but be aware that your neighbors may hate your guts and there are noise ordinances they can complain about.

Which is a good thing. Because I am positive at least five of mine are boys–and probably more like seven.

Out of nine.

Headed off to the chicken auction in enumclaw today to get some layers. Adios!

“So, can we eat them yet?”

“So, can we eat them yet?”

It’s not so much that Steve wanted to eat them as much as he wanted to get them out of the house. So we hooked up a light and put them in the coop yesterday. And that means it’s official: We are now empty nesters

Here they are, all snug last night.

Here’s the coop, which I painted today.

And here they are, cavorting around the lower section of the coop. These are some HAPPY little chickies.





Blue Chicken Genetics

Blue Chicken Genetics

Or, why I am becoming a crazy chicken lady.

Blue chicken genetics is fascinating. You may remember that I purchased four blue birchen marans chicks a few weeks ago, and also got four free crosses. Blue birchen marans are pretty rare, and it’s hard finding good pictures of them online. Just to describe what they are, here’s a quick rundown.

Marans (always with the “s,” even if there’s only one of them) is the breed of chicken. It’s a French breed that lays chocolate brown eggs. (This is fascinating in and of itself because the brown color isn’t in the shell as with most eggs; instead, it’s a pigment that the chicken overlays on the egg in the oviduct. Basically, it’s spray painted on. I have absolutely no idea what the genetic, survival of the fittest purpose of this extra step is.)

Birchen is a pattern of either gold or silver on the head that shows up as this kind of netted effect from the crown through the neck on the hens. Google birchen hens to see what it looks like.

And then there’s the blue. Blue in chickens is more of a gray with a blue tinge. It’s a lovely color. The blue gene is a recessive dominant, which basically means this: If a chicken has one blue gene, any black coloring is lightened to this blue color. If a chicken has two blue genes, any black coloring is lightened to white. Two-gened chickens are referred to as splash because they are predominantly white with some blue splashes.

Okay, this is where I get really obsessive. I have found a chicken calculator online.

Yes. A chicken calculator. You plug in the phenotype (or actual genes if you know them) of the parents, and get a punnet square of the resultant offspring. Then you can continue with the line.

I was really curious about the crosses I got, and what they would look like.

This is their father, a splash marans (well, a picture of what the father looks like–not the actual father:

And this is what their mother looks like, a silver laced wyandotte bantam:

According to the chicken calculator, all the offspring should be unicolor. Which bummed me out because I was hoping for some lacing, which I think is beautiful. But, keep in mind that there are lots of genes that can achieve the same effect–and these genes don’t necessarily all show up in the phenotypes you’re describing.

And lookee here. This little percher appears to have blue lacing.

Concrete countertops here we come

Concrete countertops here we come

I believe the rest of the song goes, “Right back where we started from.” And really, that’s quite appropriate because way back when we first started talking countertops lo these many years ago, I was really pushing concrete. I like it. I don’t like granite. Most of it is way too shiny and busy, and my own theory is that in about five years people will scoff, “Oh that’s SO oughties.” (Or rather it would if that tripped off the tongue the way 70s or 80s does.)

Speaking of scoffing, that’s EXACTLY what Steve did. To be fair, it wasn’t so much about the material as much as it was about the sheer cost. The material itself is cheap, but it’s incredibly labor-intensive. So we told ourselves it would be slate. ‘Cause really, slate looks kinda like concrete. And after two years or so of discussion, we still have the plywood substrate as our surface. Lovely, really.

Anyway, now that Steve is out of work, he has time. Two weeks ago, he looked at me with that maniacal gleam I know so well–the one that presages a new obsession. “You know what?” he said “I think we’re going to do concrete countertops.”

Like this was an original idea.

So we got books from the library, and now he’s practicing.

He doesn’t want to start with the countertops, so he’s building a side table for the Kamado:

Here’s a cardboard cutout of the shape, complete with holes for grilling implements (and yes, the base is the stump):

And here’s the mold:

Let the adventures in concrete begin …

Welcome to the South Seattle Home for Wayward Hens

Welcome to the South Seattle Home for Wayward Hens

Still a couple of tweaks needed here and there (mainly the chicken door to the outside area that will have electric netting) and I have yet to give the place a good coat of paint. But for the most part, the Home for Wayward Hens is done and ready for occupancy.

Of course, I strongly suspect I have something like seven roosters. But anyway.

I know some might scoff at this chicken coop, given the gorgeous plans that abound online. So I feel compelled to add that this coop–not including our labor obviously–cost a total of $47 to build: $32 for the chicken wire and and additional $15 for a piece of board that Steve needed for right below the roof. The rest of the material was scrap. I believe the hip word is “reclaimed.” The frame is all from the old decking Steve replaced a couple years ago. The roof is made from metal panels he got free from a job. And the, what do you call them, little piling things at the base? Those we scavenged from the alley.

So here we go. Remember how Steve (who you note has lost his customary title of Mr. Demo) replaced all the doors and trim in the house? This is the old door from the kitchen along with its trim. That’s where the wainscot came from too.

The “egg door” here is from the old and decrepit built in from the kitchen that we replaced a month or two ago. Again, the trim is from inside the house, while the boards are sections of old fencing.Side

More fencing.

You know how you pass a construction site and there are all these huge panels blocking off access to the site and advertising the building it is about to become? That’s what the doors to the actual hen house are made of–Avenue One at First and Clay, which is the first job he worked on when we moved to Seattle. inside

And here’s inside the hen house. Six nesting boxes, made of the shelving from that cabinet at the end of the kitchen we ripped out. The actual roost is a little high, but that’s easily fixed.

And of course, the chickens need a way to get up into the house:

So there we have it.

Now, the only question is what color to paint it. I know I should continue with the whole reclaimed thing and just use the putty colored exterior paint we have in the garage. But it’s so boring …..

Chicken Update

Chicken Update

Steve and I went to Del’s on Friday afternoon to get chicken wire. There were tubs and tubs of chicks–chicken, ducks, and turkey. I clutched at Steve’s arm, cooing, “Remember when ours were that cute?”

Because the fact is that baby chicks are cute for about three minutes. Then they become gawky pre-teen pooping machines. They eat, they drink, they poop. They eat their poop. They poop in their water. They drink their poopy water. Poop monsters, pure and simple.

I can’t wait to get them into the coop–which is actually not that far from being done. I know I keep promising, but pix coming soon …

Oh yes, and Anita, I never responded to your comment–Harry pretty much ignores them because he can’t see them now that I’ve put them in a super large carboard box. When I change the bedding, he sees them and barks his silly little head off.

Cute, fluffy, and passed out

Cute, fluffy, and passed out

I was all worried about Barnie because he’s wobbly on his feet, and keeps getting bowled over by the older, more rambunctious chicks. He’s still a little wobbly, but getting better. Steve keeps telling me he’s a newborn and I shouldn’t worry. So keep your fingers crossed that he’ll make it.

He’s passed out cold here:

And here they all are. They grow hourly:
Wow, no poo on the floor.

My lone little Barnevelder

My lone little Barnevelder

It’s looking like my hatch was a bust, and I’m only going to get the one chick. There ARE three eggs in there that look like they still might be a go, and low temps COULD cause a late hatch–but when all is said and done, I still think my little chick is it.

She was crying so plaintively in the incubator all night that I found someone on Craig’s List selling blue birchen marans chicks (seriously, can I just ever get a NON rare breed?) and e-mailed her to ask if I could pick them up in the morning. So this morning, I settled Barnie in the brooder, gave her a tiny stuffed animal toy of Harry’s, and drove down to Enumclaw.

I don’t know WHY so many Seattlites are so dismissive of Enumclaw. Granted, it’s an ugly sounding name, but there are some of the most beautiful farms I’ve ever seen in my life down there. This place was no exception. The woman was lovely too. In addition to the four blue birchens I bought, she also gave me four silver laced wyandotte bantam / splash maran mixes. And she gave me a tour, showed me the parents (like I’d really know the difference, or even what to look for), and advised me that the wafer of the hovabator is most likely what caused my poor hatch rate.

So I came back, and put everyone in the brooder. Here’s Barnie, in the middle, still a little damp and sticky from the incubator:

Harry was pretty curious (which led to hoisting the incubator up on an end table):

And now Harry and Oliver (who was spending the weekend) are addicted to watching Chicken TV:

The rest of the day was spent building the coop. Pix of that to come …

I have a baby chicken!

I have a baby chicken!

Seriously, watching him get out of the shell was the most painful thing ever. People describe them as chirping, but it was more like crying. Oh well, he’s out. It was hard not just helping him along. I’m posting a picture, but am warning you that he’s not all that cute yet because his feathers are plastered to his little slimy body. But hey, people post pictures like these of their kids all the time. So with no further ado:


It pipped! It pipped!

It pipped! It pipped!

One pipped!

(Just in case you didn’t get the message.)

SO. For those of you who are NOT chicken experts, here’s the process, which I have learned from endless research over the past three weeks:

The chick pips, which means it breaks through the shell with its beak.
Then it zips, which means it opens the rest of the shell so that it can shuck it off.
Then it struggles mightily to be free of the shell.

The whole process can take hours because it’s exhausting. As one can imagine.

Be still my cheeping heart

Be still my cheeping heart

I know I shouldn’t have, but I was feeling so disconsolate at the thought of no baby chicks, so I opened the hovabator, gently picked one egg up and chirped at it.

It chirped back.

And made little scrabbling sounds.

So quick quick, I put it back where it was, closed the lid and ran to do this update. Now, back to press my ear against the vent hole. What me? Obsessed?

Bad chick feelings

Bad chick feelings

I think they’re dead.

It’s the end of day 21, and there’s nothing. Not a peep, not a pip, no shaking, no rocking. NOTHING. I am hoping that my temps were just a tad low–I’ve noticed that the temp is uneven throughout the incubator–and that they’ll hatch soon. But I have bad, bad feelings that they’ve all died….

From candling to chirping

From candling to chirping

I’m on day 20 and waiting for chicks to hatch is pure torture. I won’t tell you how much time I’ve spendt staring through the little plastic windows of the hovabator willing the eggs to pip. I could swear that I’ve seen a couple of eggs move a little, but then they stop and I attribute it to too much caffeine (which, incidentally, I’m back on. I missed it too much.)

I had read that if you chirp at the eggs, the little chicks will chirp back if they’ve pippped internally. So there I was chirping away at them through the vent hole of the incubator when Steve staggered into the kitchen to get coffee. “WHAT are you doing?”

“I’m chirping at the eggs,” I said.

“Oh my God.”

Which pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

No more candling. I promise.

No more candling. I promise.

Today is day 18, which means I took them out of the egg turner, increased the humidity, and am anxiously awaiting the end of this home stretch.

And I had to candle ONE LAST TIME. I did about four eggs, and started to put the last one back. And then I noticed some lint on one of them.

Only it wasn’t lint.

It was a feather.

A little plumey feather sticking out of the shell.

So one has pipped.