Chicken Confession

They say admittance is the first step toward recovery. In a previous blog, I spoke about how chickens were like potato chips, you can’t have just one. I felt that we were at a point where we had the perfect amount of chickens for us. We were handling them, they were all well taken care of, everyone was getting along, and in the back of my mind I was thinking, we probably have enough. I was kind of proud of myself, and I thought maybe I’m really not the crazy chicken lady. What I failed to notice is what was happening around me.

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You know how when you have a baby there are different stages of care, and as the baby grows and becomes a toddler, and then later is out of diapers, things start to seem easier and the thought of having another baby becomes less of a desire? Well that is kind of what was happening to me with the chickens. When we first started with all the chicks, we loved them and held and handled them a ton, and really enjoyed all of their sweet chirping. But as they grew, were able to go outside, and then began laying eggs, they were so much easier than the chicks, and I thought you know we are good, no more chicks for a while. It’s usually about that time when boom, life hands you a surprise.

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My phone rang one afternoon, the kids were visiting a friend, and found a chick (a sweet little fluffy chick) “Mom, we think it’s a silkie!” (Exactly what I did not want to hear) “Mom, we need your help, please.” They insisted that I needed to drive across town exactly at that moment, because its chicken mom had attacked it and was rejecting the chick. Now they know how to tug at my heartstrings poor little fluff ball needed help. So in the car I went, to pick up a very tiny little cotton ball chick, we got her home and all set up in the barn, hoping that she would do as well as all of the other chicks we had hand raised. To say within a couple of days she flourished would be an understatement, she knew this was her new home and she was happy.

Okay I know what you all are thinking, one more chicken. One more white fluffy chicken that hardly will make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Agreed! But do you really think it stopped at just little fluffy Agnes?

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This is where the tables turn. You see, I am not the crazy chicken lady; I am though married to the CRAZY CHICKEN MAN!

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While sitting in the classroom with Dylan, Kayton walks in and announces that the chicks were back at Tractor Supply. I told her I knew I had noticed them the last time I was there the week before getting feed… I paused for a moment, thought about her statement then dismissed it, no they wouldn’t have gotten any chicks. A few seconds passed and I asked Kayton where Daddy was, she replied, “In the barn…. Putting the chicks in the cage with Agnes.” WHAT! Wait, chicks? Chicks as in must buy a minimum of 6 chicks? Here we go again! What did he get? They call them Asian Blue’s…. whatever that is? Into the barn I go to see 6 little black chicks, hopping around with Agnes. I gave him the look (you wives know the look I am talking about), only this was the look of seriously Jody more chickens?! The plan for these 6 I am not exactly sure… so that’s it right?

 

WRONG!

I was getting ready to leave the farm for a few days for an out of state baby shower. Before leaving a BIG box is delivered (thank you Amazon Prime), I never really saw what was in the box, but we get lots of stuff delivered so I didn’t really think anything of it. We head down to Florida for 3 nights, and then return. It was at the airport that I was informed we were on day 4. Day 4? What does that mean? 17 days left… I thought I must have lost something in translation. They will hatch in 17 more days, my chicken loving man says. They will hatch? How will they hatch? Why will they hatch? HATCH?! “Yes I put some eggs in the incubator I bought off of Amazon.” It was at this point I realized I HAVE CREATED A MONSTER! Let me get this straight, you put them in the incubator the day I left? YEP! And in 17 days we will have another flock of chicks? YEP! There better be an olive egger in this bunch that is all I am going to say. He smiles and said, “oh there will be a few!” Redemption!

So hatching day should be coming up soon, I’m not going to tell him, but I’m pretty excited about it!

As for Agnes and the other 6 they are all doing quite well.  They have grown pretty quickly and will be moving into some bigger housing in another week or so, just in time for the little house to get the newly hatched flock.

Everybody Does IT!

Certain subjects can produce reactions in different types of people, like women, somehow when a group of women get together childbirth stories, or talks about hormones, at some point seems to come up. Some women have horrific stories of labor and delivery; others talk about hot flashes and menopause. Young or old, it’s a subject that somehow bonds the masses. Men though talk about much different topics, sports, beer, cars, how they got a particular scar,  hunting, or grilling. Kids both boys and girls, between the ages of about 4-8 seem to get an absolute kick out of talking about poop, their own, their siblings, an animal, it’s a topic that often embarrasses the mothers and cracks up the fathers. It’s such a fun topic for children that there is even books about it. Imagine a child’s reaction in this age group to the farm, where we have lots of well POOP!

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It never fails whenever anyone comes to the farm, within moments we can tell how the visit is going to go. If they immediately start high-stepping through the pasture like they are walking on hot coals, we know that they haven’t spent much time around horses, or the like. I always laugh when we have kids come to the farm, and we hear oh my are those your…. Before they can even say horses, either giggling or eeewww it’s pooping follows it.

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This is probably the point you all are like really? Is she really blogging about poop? The short answer I guess is yes.

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You see like with everything else here, there was a learning curve. We honestly didn’t know how to handle or what to do with it all. It’s something after the age of 8 stops becoming amusing, and there is no manure for dummies books out there. So we had to learn on the fly (literally). This is where things started to get really really interesting. After several months, of waiting for it to break down, moving it around, and using it as fertilizer we realized this was not working, there was WAY to much of it. So we decided to build an area where we moved it all, we got some composting worms, and allowed them to do their thing. Then came some discussions with people asking us if we were going to sell it? Sell it? Are you kidding me, who would? Wait people actually pay for poop? This made me laugh. So my husband the Craigslist King, decided he was going to check  out the market for manure sales. Well I grew impatient and wanted the stuff gone, so we opted to put an ad up for free manure. And I’m sure you all know what happened next.

The phone calls started coming through, and Jody and I both became 7 years old again, every single time the phone would ring and we would hear someone say, “we are calling about the manure you have on Craigslist” (insert obnoxious laughter).

'I'm collecting manure for my strawberries.' 'I always put cream and sugar on mine.'

Suddenly the pile started to dwindle, we had people come in trucks, we had people bring trailers, we had a woman in a mini van drive an hour to load her van full for her potato farm. I now know more about manure than I ever dreamed possible, and it started as one of the few things here I gave little to no thought. What I thought the animals did with everything I researched feeding them is completely beyond me. But just like anything else in life, the more you are around something and the more you do something the more you learn, the more it becomes second nature. You can choose to embrace it (let’s hope not literally), or fight it. If only we were as smart as a guy I just recently read about named Brett Reinford, who converted manure from his cattle into electricity, he went from spending $2,500 a month on electricity for his farm to absolutely nothing, that is amazing.

Since we don’t live on a Suessical Farm where everyone’s a pony that eats rainbows and poops butterflies, we will continue to have a plan for poop, because what goes in certainly does come out.

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What are they all looking at?

I’m sure everyone has seen those dinner bells on the front porches of homes, most of the time they are depicted on older television shows, or in a farm setting like we have here. The wife prepares dinner and calls everyone in using this dinner bell. Living here on the farm I have realized that the bell would be a waste and definitely not needed. In fact we have become almost secret service agents in an attempt to not alert anyone around to our whereabouts yet somehow they always seem to know.

A typical day here on the farm is coffee (because life without it would be scary) and then the morning check in. We make sure everyone is present and accounted for, and then the job of feeding the masses begins. Dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, donkeys and horses, are you out of breath? As the day progresses we personally check on everyone make sure they all have water, we listen for odd noises (like baby Kurt whose new budding horns got stuck in the fence so he screams until someone frees him). This week has been an interesting week for odd things. You see normally when the masses even here a peep they all start making themselves know, the squeaky wheel gets the oil they say how about the loudest screamer gets fed first. It seems that no matter where I turn there is a set of eyes staring at me.

It is a very common thing to walk towards my car, walk out on the porch, drive thru the front gate or even when I’m on the phone, someone will hear me and demand something from me. Since I think I have learned how to speak the foreign languages of Christina the donkey, Gretl the goat, Feather Locklear the chicken, Ellie Mae the duck, and whatever language Zuri and Zahara the sheep speak, I have been able to discern for the most part what exactly everyone is needing or wanting. For instance, if I go into the barn to put feed into the feed bins you will hear the sheep begin to baaaaa at a volume that is almost shocking for their size, which will get Christina and Shawnee braying so loudly that if you are inside not aware of what is happening you would assume they are in labor (one can dream at least), which will get Friedrich the goat bleating for food, attention or because he just wants to be louder than the ladies, which will get Beep Beep crowing so loud from the chicken coop that he could wake the neighbors down the road. I know this sounds like a bad soundtrack to a farm based horror movie, but you get so accustomed to the noises that if you don’t hear them you begin to get nervous. It’s exactly like when your children decide to play quietly, you immediately run to check on them because something has to be really wrong.

The other night I walked outside and looked over towards the pasture, at the chicken coop, and I see all of the chickens and ducks jammed up in the smaller section of the oversized enclosure.  Now this was a very odd sight because there has never been a time when the chickens see me that they all don’t run towards me and towards the area they know I am going to enter, this time though they all just stood huddle together and not making a peep. This was concerning, so I decided it was time to investigate, which made everyone come alive, wanting attention, food or to just be heard, so much so that for a moment I was distracted and almost lost sight of what I was really doing out there. As I entered the enclosure a couple of the ladies came towards me, but the majority stayed huddled all together, and I got a sinking feeling like maybe something is in the coop trying to attack them, as I threw down some treats for them, I noticed Heidi Plume (one of my Columbian Wyandotte’s) hanging out in the nesting box, but where was Cruella DeHen her Wyandotte sister? And then I saw her, almost completely flat like a little pancake stuck between the big main enclosure and the small coop where we put the smaller chickens that we raise. She was bleeding, and it didn’t appear she was even blinking. I yelled for Jody, because getting her out was going to be no easy task, we had to pick up the small coop, and move it so we could free her.

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At this exact moment our vet Dr. Jessica was driving in to check the still very pregnant Christina, so Cruella immediately got checked out, she was going to be okay but she did have a broken tail, her neck was missing most of her gorgeous feathers, and her skin was severely bruised. We still have no idea how she got in there, or how long she was in there, but she lived to tell about it, and is now separate from her girlfriends because chickens will bully or peck at the one they feel is injured or weak, so at night she sleeps in her own secure area and during the day we allow her to hang out with the goats and Heidi, until two days later, when she apparently convinced Heidi to squeeze into the very same spot we rescued her from before…..apparently chickens do not have memories like elephants.

What I have learned from being a mother to human and non-humans is noise signifies life, the louder sometimes the more alive. Although we can often bask in the quiet and feel that silence is golden, if it lasts too long, and it’s an animal or a child investigate. Cruella is improving although her tail is crooked, and her feathers don’t look like they will come back around her neck, she is alive and we are hoping she doesn’t continue to try to make herself into a chicken patty. And tonight just like the night before, all of the farm sang their song as soon as they heard me coming in their direction, and as usual all eyes were on me, all of them rudely staring so unapologetically.

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As the saying goes people (animals) are going to stare, make it worth their while.

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Cats, Lambs,and Goats OH MY!

Do you ever have those moments in your life where you think back on something you did, only you are kind of in disbelief you did it? Like trying something different, doing something heroic, making a difference in just one person’s life, or doing something completely out of character. Since moving here I think instead of us being in disbelief  other people are in disbelief.

If you have ever cleaned out a chicken coop, you know it isn’t the most glamorous of jobs, who am I really trying to kid here, cleaning out the chicken coop is hands down an awful horrid task (my least favorite), they should do a “dirtiest job” episode on it. If there were ever a time I have wanted to wear a gas mask it is every time I have to clean out the chicken coop. It isn’t for the weak stomached that is for sure. If you would have told me 2 years ago that I was going to be living on a farm, and doing these things like cleaning out an awful coop, I would have told you, you were nuts. Now some how this life is enjoyable, satisfying, and we all know I really love my chickens!

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The questions we get all the time are….. who takes care of all the animals? Who cleans up after all the animals? How many animals do you have? Why do you have that many? Have you always been in and around a farm? What do you do if you all go away? There are always questions, inquiring minds want to know.

So here is the long and short of it all. Who takes care of all the animals and cleans up after all the animals? We do, we do not have any hired farm hands, we do not have any one that comes and cares for the animals at all except for us. We do have an amazing mobile vet that when things have gone askew we call and she comes and takes care of whatever we need. But otherwise, we are it. We physically see, talk to, feed, clean up after, and love every animal on this farm every single day.

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How many animals do we have? Well isn’t that a loaded question….. we currently have two dogs and two cats inside, we have a barn cat (the final member to the Rat Pack) Dean Martin….. who is actually Deena Martin (or Deani Martini… and her two kittens, Harry and Cali) I guess I should continue that story, we have 40 or so chickens, 4 ducks, 2 sheep, 2 donkeys, 4 horses, and now thanks to the birth of our new kids we have 7 goats.

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This question always makes me laugh…. Why do we have so many animals? Because we love them… is there really any other reason? And no we probably are not done, in fact I know for a fact we are not done. And yes we are aware we basically have a petting zoo, we are okay with that too!

Have we always been in and around a farm? NO! My father was born and raised on a farm in upstate New York, my love for animals could very well be in the blood. But neither Jody nor myself have ever owned a farm, or large animals or had acreage until we moved to North Carolina.

What do we do when we go away? Well it depends on the circumstances, since my parents built a house on the property, they will watch and care for things here on the farm if we go away on vacation and they don’t go with us.  If they go somewhere with us we have to ask someone to stay and keep everyone in line.

I will say this, if given a choice, now that we have been doing this for a year, I would choose this life. I/we know it isn’t for everyone. We know some people don’t understand it, and others are completely perplexed by it or maybe even grossed out, but we get it and we are really loving it. IT’S A LOT OF WORK! But the work is satisfying!

Our story is interesting, and often times humorous, it’s not everyday people drive with a lamb in the front seat of their BMW, through the Walgreens drive thru…. “Yes ma’am it is a lamb.” Or hold a billy-goat in the backseat of a car because it was the best way to get him home. Or transport two sheep in a dog crate in the third row of an SUV for 2 hours. I also don’t think most people would be nervous about the fence in the larger pasture not being secure, and think the solution to keeping Friedrich the goat safe and sound is to walk him around the pasture on a leash. But at the end of the day we have taken this new venture and we have adjusted, and we have made it HOME!

Now back to the cat with three names and 9 lives. A few months after moving here we had another cat dropped off here. Since Sammy was a barn cat fail, everyone kept telling me we needed a ‘mouser’ to leave in the barn and chase away or catch any and all mice. So when someone mentioned dropping one to me for my barn, I agreed. Before the cat arrived, I was really hoping that it was aloof and ugly. That would help ensure us not to have another fail!  When the cat arrived I was told it was a boy cat. Perfect I thought, ‘I don’t have to worry about kittens, I will get him neutered and we will be good to go!’ Well upon arrival I thought we might be in trouble, because this stray cat, was really cute, and really friendly. But I just can’t have another barn cat fail. Kids look at me, husband looks at me, cat looks at me. NOPE! BARN CAT! Dean Martin became the third member of the Rat Pack, and was living a good and happy life in the barn, he became fast friends with our horse Scarlett and all seemed okay. We called our vet and said we need to get him neutered….. fast forward a couple of months,  Jody and I went to California for our 15th wedding anniversary. Upon returning, the kids mentioned they had seen Dean while we were gone, but that he hadn’t been hanging out in the barn as much, immediately we thought he might have found himself a lady friend. That evening while I was in the barn, I realized two male parts (you all know what I am talking about) seemed to have vanished. We were almost positive that they were there before we left. So in a panic I called Jody to inform him about the lack of parts, and he recommended I call Dr. Jessica to see if she had come over and neutered him. After some conversation and being told she hadn’t yet, I look a little closer and realize that Dean Martin has as Dylan calls them nursers. Wait just a minute I thought, first this cat has missing parts, now it has a bunch of extra parts. Something is not right.

That evening Jody decides to do a little kitty spying, and after feeding Dean he follows him under the cloak of darkness wearing his trusty headlamp, to see where Dean had been going. (This seemed like a better idea, than Dylan’s idea of putting the GOPro on the cat). He followed him from the barn, up the side pasture, through the fence, over to the house, and then underneath the house. Jody then proceeded to squeeze himself into the crawl space under the house, where he found three kittens. So Dean was Deena, a girl cat, and when she went out one night got herself into some trouble and became Deani Martini….. These were very cute, pudgy, fluffy and well cared for kittens. She was an excellent little mom, and it all seemed to make complete sense. One of the kittens was homed, and the other two are kind of aloof, and really good little barn cats, so they have stayed here on the farm with Dean. All have now been spayed and neutered, and we hope we won’t be surprised with any more cats.

For the record, I have since learned how to tell the difference between male and female cats, and no it isn’t as obvious as you would like to think it is. I read a quote that pretty much sums it all up. “Here in the South we don’t hide crazy. We parade it on the front porch and give it a Sweet Tea!”

Can’t Have Just One!

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s in the blood,” or “I opened my mouth today and my mother came out. “ Sometimes you go to do something and it just comes naturally. I feel like this is me with chickens. Now, I see the faces when I say the words, “I LOVE MY CHICKENS!” I also am asked often about how many chickens I have, let’s just be clear chickens are like potato chips you can’t have just one.

When I was a little girl I can remember my grandmother having chicken and rooster décor, as I grew older and had houses of my own I used roosters and chickens in several places throughout my house. I admired pictures that had chickens in them. I was always very intrigued by them. In fact for many years I would affectionately call my mother a chicken. But I never had my very own, until we moved to the farm. It was the purchase that I was the most excited about. I knew nothing about owning chickens. I did a bunch of research and read many articles, I couldn’t wait to walk outside to my very own coop and retrieve the eggs.

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I soon found out people have very strong opinions about chickens. Many people thought chickens were gross, mean and I hate to even say it but stupid. I was determined to find out as much as I could about how to make my hens happy, because happy hens lay more eggs or so I thought. Our first ladies we brought to the farm were already laying or about to start. Kayton who was also very excited about having chickens, used her own money and bought two Cream Legbar hens, that were only a couple of months old, she named them Pandora and Goldie. I chose a couple of “Easter Egger” hens, two Lavender Orphington’s and a gorgeous Easter Egger Rooster.

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Kayton  and Pandora
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Dylan & Kayton with Prince and Madonna the Lavender Orphington’s

Now this I think is where our chicken tale takes a sudden turn. You see Kayton’s two tiny hens became pocket chicks. Kayton would put them under her jacket and attempt to smuggle them into her bedroom. When we bought the “purple” or lavender orphington’s it was raining, what else should a purple rooster bought in the rain be named but “Prince” of course? We were kind of drawing a blank with the other rooster, until the night we brought him home he flew right out of the coop, and we couldn’t help but think of “One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s Nest”, so he became Jacko short for Jack Nicholson. One day on a break from school, Kayton decided to go check on Pandora, Goldie, and the others, when Jacko decided to venture out again. This time he really flew, as I was sitting in my home office on the phone with a client, I see my husband walking in slow motion calmly past my window calling Jacko, he attempted to toss his jacket over Jacko, and away he flew, right over the creek and straight into the woods, and was never seen again!

In a moment of weakness on a trip to my local feed store from the back of the store I heard the sweetest tweets and chirps. For a regular person baby chicks are very difficult to resist,  which made it near to impossible for someone like me, but who knew that there was a 6-chick minimum when buying them? After my husband rolled his eyes, and made comments about the 6 additions, on his next trip to the same feed store less than two weeks later, 6 more chicks came home. A few weeks later my daughter and husband were told that the last remaining duckling was about to go to wherever unpurchased ducks go, and because you guessed it a 6 chick or duckling minimum was required, a little Peking duckling and 5 chicks came home again. My husband became quite proud of himself, he had learned how to pick up “chicks.” In the meantime, I also discovered this amazing website that I could order any breed anyone could possibly want and they would ship it to your house, when I had placed my first order from this company, we were only one feed store purchase in, now we were multiplying at a much faster rate, because apparently we had OCD (Obsessive Chicken Disorder). People started labeling me “crazy chicken lady.”

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We were raising all of these amazing chicks, and I would tell people, you don’t understand these chickens all have names, they come when you call them, they run to us, they love to be held, and I could tell them apart. I already know you are thinking yeah right, unless of course you have chickens like this. But our ladies LOVE us, they run to me and flock around my feet, they love to be pet, many love to be held, and little Pandora who now lays beautiful blue eggs, will not leave us alone until we hold and cuddle her. Duck (yes that is his name) will hug us, he will talk when we talk to him, dances and thinks he is a chicken. I know what you are wondering so how many chickens did they end up with? I’ll plead the fifth, and Feather Locklear, Sophia Lahen, and Ginger aren’t talking either.

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Pandora
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Feather Lockler

Chickens for me were everything I had ever hoped they would be, and more! Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy chickens and that’s sort of the same thing.