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Captain Beefcake greets the morning

Captain Beefcake greets the morning

Steve elbowed me. “Did you hear that?”

“Mpphhh,” I said, snuggling deeper under the covers and returning to my dreams in which a giant chicken was chasing the mass murderer H.H. Holmes, on whom we had watched (part of) a movie on the night before.

“It was your rooster.”

“No it wasn’t,” I said groggily.

And then, piercing the early morning stillness, came another crow.

“It must be another rooster,” I amended.

But this morning, after I let them out of the coop, and after they went hurtling up the small rise wings aflap (which always gives me a lift), my rooster lifted his beak to the sky and let out a bellow.

Well good morning Captain Beefcake. We salute you too.

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

“How many eggs do we have?” Steve asked yesterday.

“One.” I said. “From the buttercup.

“You have useless chickens,” he told me.

And now? Stubbs is molting too.

Stubbs’ Nubs

Stubbs’ Nubs

A while ago, I did something not very nice. Shocker, I know.

I was visiting my mom, and our cousin took us to dinner at his new Italian restaurant. He had invited another couple, to return a dinner invitation. Or rather, he asked the guy, who brought along his latest squeeze. The restaurant was so crowded that we had to sit in the bar, wait times for food were averaging about 45 minutes, and the waitstaff had that frenzied, “Oh my God” look in their eyes. The squeeze couldn’t just order off the menu–oh no, she had to ask for veal piccata, only made with chicken. “I hate animal cruelty,” she explained. “It makes me just sick to think about those poor little calves not being able to move.”

She was driving me a little bonkers anyway, so I went for it. “The chickens can’t move either,” I said, conversationally.

“What do you mean?” she asked, blinking her mascara at me.

“They stuff chickens in boxes so small they can’t move and breed them with breasts so big they couldn’t walk anyway even if they had room. Oh, and they shave off their beaks, too. So really, eating veal is just as humane.”

I know, I know. Not very nice. She was obnoxious, and it was STILL not very nice. But this is the kind of selective thinking that drives me crazy. I am the first to admit that my own meatball dish probably came from factory cows, and they’re not treated that much better–at least in the finishing stages. As a country, we spend five billion dollars a year on our pets, yet the way we treat ALL animals destined for our plates is appalling. It takes a lot of work–and a lot of money–to find sources or truly organic and truly free-range meat. And it’s true that we all make compromises of one sort or another in our quests. But to choose factory chickens over veal for reasons of animal cruelty is just, well, it’s just stupid.

And then, you encounter an example of senseless cruelty. Meet Stubbs, the toeless chicken. Someone just lopped them off. She’s a nice little chicken, and Carrie–who gave her to me–assures me that she lays an egg a day. (I haven’t found her nest yet–it’s time for a Stubbs stakeout.) And while she gets around just fine and her toelessness doesn’t seem to bother HER, I confess that it bothers ME.

Can you blame me?
Stubbs' nubs

From rooster to roaster, and back again

From rooster to roaster, and back again

I eat meat; therefore, I think it’s important to be honest about where meat comes from and slaughter a chicken if it’s called for.

Called for it was: I had three extra roosters. My plan for today was to kill and roast them up. But I just couldn’t do it. I had raised the Houdini twins and Madame Bovary (who ended up being Monsieur) from wee baby chickiepoos. They would come running over whenever they saw me, and peck at my hair, thinking it was something toothsome. I would have no problem killing the Welsummers (who, by the way, have now entered a fevered molt now that they are deloused) because I’m not attached. So I sold the three on Craig’s List instead.

And bought a barred rock.

I know WHERE the uncaged hen lays

I know WHERE the uncaged hen lays

I won’t bore you with the details of the stakeout, but it’s pretty exciting: I found two mother lodes–one from the buttercup (seven eggs) and one from Stubbs (only two eggs, so I think she has another stash).

They can free range again.

I know why the uncaged hen doesn’t lay

I know why the uncaged hen doesn’t lay

The welsummers haven’t laid a single egg. Now this could be normal because from everything I’ve read, it can take several weeks for them to get over the trauma of being moved. But again, you don’t know why they’ve been sold at auction. Perhaps they’re just old. “Check their vents,” one Web site urged. “If they are moist, they’re of egg bearing age. If dried and puckered, the hens have probably outlived their usefulness.”

(If the above grosses you out, read no further.)

So I checked their vents. This, for the unititated, basically means running around after chickens who don’t want to be caught, rounding them up and herding them into the coop, and lunging at their feet–at which point you dangle them upside down. The hens don’t like this, but at some point, they give up–and just kind of go stiff, like they’re dead. Which made life much easier.

And which made it much easier to see that they were crawling–CRAWLING–with lice. There were eggs crusted around their vents, creepy crawlies scurrying over their skin. It was gross, and those poor hens must have been miserable.

Now I had dusted them before they went into the coop in the first place, but obviously it didn’t work. So I dusted them again with diatomaceous earth (which, by the way, totally kills any chicken poo smell in the coop and I’ve started adding to their feed as a dewormer), and went down to Del’s to get a permethrin spray. I would like to be all natural and everything, but sometimes you just need to use chemicals. Came back, cleaned out the coop, sprayed it down. Caught ALL the chickens, sprayed them down too (though no one else seemed to have lice). This was Sunday; yesterday, they were clean and clear.

So what I think is that they just had a bad infestation and stopped producing–and that’s why they went at auction. Could be wrong, but it’s a working theory that allows me to the luxury of thinking that one day they will produce.

Oh, and I battened down the hatches of the run yesterday. The buttercup and Stubbs both gave me an egg. So there’s a clutch of eggs somewhere out there in the yard ….

Are we boys or girls?

Are we boys or girls?

Chicken experts weigh in! At 9 weeks, I’m thinking all these guys are roosters; Carrie thinks there’s still a good possibility they might be hens.

The mysterious egg

The mysterious egg

Sunday morning, I reached into the coop and pulled out an egg. It wasn’t white, so it must have been laid by a Welsummer. Even though it was more of an ecru color than the terracotta Welsummers are supposed to produce, I rejoiced. “Look!” I crowed to Steve. “Another hen is laying!” And then I scrambled it up with an Old Faithful egg and two eggs from the grocery store, and we feasted at least partially on our own eggs.

About an hour later, our neighbor Adam from two houses up knocked on the door. “One of your chickens is in my backyard,” he said.

“Great,” Steve said. “Let me grab a wine cooler and a plastic lawn chair. There’s no better entertainment than watching Zia trying to catch her chickens.”

“Very funny,” I said, and we all trooped into the alley. There was a brown and white chicken standing confused right in the middle. She clucked. So did I.

“That’s not my chicken.”

“Well whose is it?” asked Adam.

“Oh my God,” I said remembering the chicken-trading conversation I had had with Carrie the day before. “Maybe it IS my chicken. Does she have no toes?”

At the point, I was next to the chicken. Sure enough, it was Stubbs, the chicken with no toes who lays an egg a day that Carrie no longer wanted. And sitting right next to her–also in the middle of the alley–was an egg so fresh that it steamed. She had obviously laid it right then and there. It looked identical to the one I had pulled out of the coop–but that would have meant laying two eggs in 12 hours. Which I don’t think is possible.

I managed to catch her despite the snide comments from the boys. Put her back by the coop, where she has been ever since. The question is about the first egg. Was it a Welsummer egg? Did Stubbs manage to squeeze out two in 24 hours? Sadly, that was the last egg I’ve gotten from anyone. Now that all the kids are official free-rangers, I have this suspicion that they’ve found a better place to lay than the coop. A place that I will never, ever find.

I want eggs!

“It’s been a long, hard day free ranging.”

“It’s been a long, hard day free ranging.”

Chicks!

Don't forget me!

Steve has been complaining that I don’t post any of his pictures, to which I say, “Get your own blog.” However, to be fair, I will say that he was right and I was wrong about the height of the roost. Okay, Steve, does that make you feel better?

Henopause

Henopause

Which is what I am hoping is NOT the reason that the four Welsummers I bought aren’t laying yet. It’s been two weeks; supposedly, this should be enough time for the little stewpots to get over the trauma of moving. And really, there is NOTHING traumatic about their existence. Trust me. They have a nice comfy place to sleep, lots of yummy organic mash and daily treats, fresh water, and a carefree existence. A very carefree existence: Geoff and I like the idea of everyone free-ranging. I mean really free ranging, not just hanging out in their 150 square foot run.

freerange-006

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that today is the first time I’ve just opened the gate; the Houdini twins–two of the chickiepoo crosses–have been squeezing out the gate for eons.)

But have the Stewpots given me a single egg? Nope. Nothing. Nada. The only eggs we’re getting are from the buttercup, who is coming to be known as Old Faithful. She lays eggs more often than what I’ve read about buttercups. I think she’s just so happy not to have a rooster coming after her all the time that she’s laying eggs doubletime in gratitude

So the question is whether they’re going through henopause. It’s either that, or they’re molting. Such is the risk of getting chickens at auctions: Who knows why they were given up?

Harry and Steve have bonded

Harry and Steve have bonded

So much for the never-ending “I hate that useless little freeloader.”

The boyfriend and the dog are now BFFs. It all started when I went to California a few weeks ago. Steve took Harry swimming every day. Now, he takes him everywhere he goes. Day before yesterday, Steve actually threw him in the Jeep to go to the bank. (When asked why, he said–rather defensively–“I’m trying to teach him fiscal responsibility.”)

Yesterday, Steve bought a canoe in preparation for his nephew coming to visit. He bought it off Craig’s List, so drove a pretty fair distance to get it, and then he went canoeing up by Deception Pass.
canoe

And yes, he took the dog. Apparently, Harry was so traumatized by being in a canoe that he kept jumping in the water. And he was tired. So tired, in fact, that he permitted this indignity upon his person:
indignity

Like clockwork

Like clockwork

Another egg from the buttercup this evening.

So … what should I name her? Please don’t suggest Buttercup …

Okay, I shaved Steve too

Okay, I shaved Steve too

Believe it or not, but he’s actually happy with the results–particularly as he now doesn’t have to get a haircut.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t get a job interview in the next week.

What’s going on outside today?

What’s going on outside today?

Well, for once there isn’t a cloud in the sky. So there’s lots going on — Steve’s building my chicken coop, we have the aforementioned bee condos, lots of plant starts, lots of cleaning. And what do you know? Apparently, there’s this new gallery feature in WordPress. Or was it a plug in? Anyway, let’s check it out …

Pug pix: Harry and Oliver

Pug pix: Harry and Oliver

Marie came over for dinner last night, and the boys chilled under the table.

“Hmmm, is there any food under here?”

“Um. That’s not food.”

“I’m feeling very uncomfortable.”

“WHOA!”

“Perv.”

Bye now.