Meet the chickens

So for today, let’s meet the M.L.C. chickens, shall we?  It’s been long overdue.  Let’s start with the roosters, or perhaps more correctly,the cockerels.

My pure-bred Silkie cockerel, Mr. Pufflepants, to the mid right.   He was hatched last March and came from Ideal Poultry in Cameron, TX.  His color is called ‘partridge’.  Though I had several males in the group, he struck me as the best looking.  The things I look for are fully feathered feet, as little ‘hard’ feathering as possible (esp. in the tail and feet), and a small frame with upright stance.  As you can see, he really thinks he is HAWT, as they say.  Really a stud.  Never passes up an opportunity to do what roosters to best, besides crow, that is.

And now, we have Ernie the Wonder Chicken.  Ernie was a wonderful gift from our fellow animal lover, Heather. I’ve talked about him in past posts, but Ernie is a ‘Showgirl’ chicken.  He has the naked neck gene borrowed from a Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken with the silkie feathering of….a Silkie, of course.  He is the father of all of the Showgirls that I have hatched.  Funny, the older he gets, the more he looks like he has a mullet.  Oh well.

Now for the newest addition, thanks to another chicken addict such as myself!  I traded some Showgirls for a couple of little bantams.  This little guy (he is as small as a dove, almost) is named Moe Banty.  If you don’t know old country music, then you’re just on your own when it comes to figuring out where his name came from.  Anyway, he is 8 inches tall and bulletproof.  Classic ‘short man syndrome’.  He is just a pet and that’s all.  No baby bantams planned.  Still not certain if he is an Old English Game Bird or a Dutch, as there are very similar color phases in both, but it really doesn’t matter anyway.  He was only born this year, so he has a LOT of filling out to do still.  Ought to be a very pretty boy over the next year.

And now for some hens.  I do not name everyone; only the ones that strike me with their personalities for some reason or another.  Here is my current favorite Showgirl, Lolly Popp.  I’m sure you can figure out the name.  Looks like a licorice lollipop attached to her body.  I’m planning on hooking her up with Pufflepants for more lollipop looking babies.  She is still young and ‘feathering out’.  Ought to be a pretty stunning bird when it’s all said and done!

Now for my hen of choice #2.  This is Phyllis (after Phyllis Diller).  She is Lolly’s half sister. She is from a January 2012 hatch.

Ah!  almost forgot my #3 hen.  I haven’t named her, but she is out of Mr. Pufflepants and is Ernie’s favorite, too.  Her mother was unfortunately killed by a fox last year.  She is a bearded partridge Silkie.  She is almost a spitting image of her mother, but even better! Her tail and feet feathers are very full and silky textured.  Exactly what I’m looking for.

Now for some of the older hens in my old laying flock.  The youngest birds I have in that pen are 2 years old.  Here is my very oldest hen, a Plymouth Barred Rock called Doris.  There WERE 3 Dorises (Dorii?), but now we’re just down to the one.  She was rescued from a hoarding situation in July of 2009, and I believe that she is 4 years old, possibly 5.  She has the somewhat annoying habit of pecking your legs, but it’s only for attention.  In fact, all of the Dorises I rescued did that.  My new Barred Rocks do not.  She also has a very distinct call that differentiates her from my other Rocks.

Now, here is Buffy the Buff Orpington.  Buffy was the sole chick I kept from a group of B.O.’s that we raised for a friend back in ’09.  She has never, ever thought of herself as a chicken.  Or a human.  Or anything.  She is her own self, and NOT a group player.  It took me weeks to get her to finally hang with the flock and quit running off.  She still lays a nice brown egg.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT (I just wanted to say that)  Here is our pair of geese.  They also came from the hoarder’s house.  I believe that they are also 4 years old.  I thought for a very long time (years, actually) that I had a male and female.  Well, they certainly ACTED like one was a male and one was a female.  Now we just call them Ellen and Portia, and sometimes, Oprah and Gayle.  You know, whatever.  All I know is that this year both geese are laying, so it’s twice the eggs for me.  I do feel sorry for them, though…they want a baby soooo bad.  I did let them hatch out a tiny duck once which they promptly squished. 

And here’s one of our broiler chickens.  We butchered them at 8 weeks (a couple of weeks ago now), so they have now gone to that big coop in the sky.  Actually, the deep freezer in my barn.  Anyhoo, they are delicious, let me tell you. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like home-raised meat.

To finish, here is my little cutie pie, Abraham.  Abraham Lincoln, to be exact. The kids said it looked like Lincoln to them, so Lincoln it is.  I said I would never, ever get another Polish after the whole Wayward Jones saga (If you don’t know about Wayward, just do a search in my blog for her stories) I have no clue why I chose to torture myself with another Polish chicken.  I just couldn’t pass up that little face though, ya know?

Hope you enjoyed the pics.  This is certainly not all of my birds, but the select few.

Keep on cluckin’!

Getting fit on the farm

Since late last year, I had a serious case of the ‘blahs’.  Didn’t want to cook, didn’t want to clean, didn’t want to even go outside. (Quelle horreur!)  Unfortunately, it didn’t just stop at the blahs; I could no longer fit into about 90 percent of my clothes.  I had put away my summer clothes thinking that by the following spring, I’d have lost a bit of weight.


It was a miracle I managed to wrestle my shorts on at all (without Vaseline), and buttoning them was out of the question unless a bungee cord and a ratchet strap was involved.  I was really starting to sympathize with Dolly Parton when all of my shirts starting looking like crop tops.  (FYI, why men love those things I’ll never know, and DO NOT want to know, but I firmly believe that men should have breast implants…performed on themselves.  Moving on…)

My dress that was so cute last year made me look like I was smuggling a 12 pack of hot dogs over my ribs, and possibly 2 small hams beside my thighs.  I refused to leave the house in jeans unless I had a rubber band through the buttonhole, and I became a serious fan of knits.  Sadly, I outgrew the knits, and I knew it was time to do something.

Let me say that I have never been an athletic person. Ever.  I was in seventh grade Athletics for some odd reason, and didn’t choose it again willingly until about eleventh grade when I got booted off of drill team (uh, as the manager; no workouts involved) for being a ‘bad influence’.  So at that point in my life, I DID start running a bit if only to be able to get back to the locker room as quickly as possible. Then there was the tiny stint I attempted in college when I signed up for a 7:15am jogging class.  Surely had to be under the influence of something.  That was short-lived as I flipped my car about 2 months into it and finished the class by writing research papers on various sports.  Annnnd, that is the full extent of my athletic life or lack thereof.

But Mother Nature can be a cruel thing, and I’m not in my twenties anymore.  I can’t survive on the weird, random, and completely over-processed diet that I was used to.  Plus, my metabolism seemed to be coming to a screeching halt.  The formula that I had lived with for so long wasn’t adding up for me.  So one night I was in the shower, of all odd places, and decided right then and there that I would sign up the following Monday for the gym (Beyond Fitness in Rusk) that my friend, Monica AKA She-Who-Walks-With-Many-Goats had been telling me about.  And then I did something that no sane woman would ever do.

I got a mirror, stood in front of my full-length mirror, and looked at my unclothed backside.

My hand flew to my mouth and I damn near broke my mirror.

I came running out of the bedroom and found Jason.

“I have GILLS!” I wailed.


“Gills!  Oh my GOD, why didn’t you tell me?”

“What in the hell are you talking about?” he said.

“Oh, those God-awful rolls on the backside of my ribs…I can probably frickin’ breathe underwater!” I said breathlessly. “That’s it, I’m joining the gym Monday.”

“Are you serious?” He gave it a bit more contemplation. “Well, why don’t you run up and down those hills beside the house?”

I narrowed my eyes.

“Because those damn hills have been there for the entire four years we’ve lived here, and I haven’t run up and down them yet, now have I?”

Being an intelligent man, and seeing as I was probably looking like a snake about to strike, he relented.

“Okay, okay.  Well, when do you start?”

“I’m going Monday at 5:30am.”

He laughs out loud.  Then he notices the Stare of Death and Destruction that I’m giving him.

“Okay, well we’ll see.”

Well, I am happy to tell you that I DID manage to get up at 4:45am, drive 15 minutes to the gym (albeit in a dream-like trance), and I did do an hour-long spin class.  Spin isn’t for sissies.  No sir, it is most decidedly NOT.  My only goal was to keep pedaling, and I did do that, but not much else.  When class was over, I nearly fell into the bike beside me and had to quite literally waddle out to my car like a drunk penguin.  Luckily, when I did fall, it was into my car seat.

I did not work out again for 8 days, and when I did, I went to a Zumba class.  Funny, and I thought I might be getting off a little easy since I do like to dance.  After an hour of pumping, wobbling, and hip-shaking I was coated in sweat and smelled like an old discarded sneaker.  But I had done it!

Then I joined the gym’s weight-loss competition.  By now, Jason thought I’d really lost it.  But my thought was, if you’re gonna do it, do it all the way.  Why not?  The only thing I had to lose was some weight, and hopefully my gills, too.

I am very proud and happy to say that with the instructors’ help, the infectious exuberance of the other members, the admiration of my husband (who also joined the gym), and my own stubborn self, I have lost about 6.5 pounds.  It doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but trust me, carry around a sack with 6.5 pounds in it all day and see if you don’t get a little tired yourself.  My #1 goal was to break 130#, my #2 goal is to get to 124.5 pounds (my constant ‘old’ adult weight), and my #3 goal is to go beyond that.  And #4 is to actually add some muscle back to my frame.

I haven’t even begin to mention my energy level.  After the very first workout, I was high for a week.  Really.  Just so happy I did it.  Each successive workout gives me a very needed boost to keep me ‘up’ for days.  I do that and try to get some sun everyday to alleviate the ‘blahs’, and it DOES work.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t have done it and felt the difference.  Sure, I still have my hormonally-challenged ‘yucky’ days; I can’t change everything.  However, the good days now outnumber the ‘blah’ days.  Now I feel like I am giving my family the best of ‘me’, or at least trying to.

Oh, and no more breathing underwater for me…the gills are gone!

And the wind….cried….Ernie….

I’m not exactly sure when I became the Crazy Chicken Lady.  Probably about the same time that I began to decipher the chicken language.  I could tell what a chicken was doing just by the sound it made.  Found a bug?  Excited peeping noise.  Rooster found a bug?  Excited clucking to get the ladies to come around.  Frantic peeps?  Obviously a lost chick looking for mama.  Growling sound? Chicken unsure of what’s going on.  The list goes on.

But I knew I’d really lost it when I started getting telepathic chicken messages.  Allow me to explain….

Last year, we had a little bout of Arctic air blow through in late November.  The winds whipped at the pines mercilessly, and temps dropped rapidly when the sun disappeared.  As the night wore on, the lights flickered on and off frequently.

I had hatched out a late batch of chicks a few days prior.  Not really the best idea to hatch out anything so vulnerable that late in the year, but that’s what happened.

About 3am, after a very fitful attempt at sleep, my eyes flew open.  Our ceiling fan wasn’t moving.  It was pitch black. There was something…something…something pecking at my brain.  My mothering instinct was on overdrive, but it wasn’t something with the kids….I was forgetting something….what is it, what IS it……..OH MY GOD, THE BABY CHICKS!  No electricity meant no heat lamp, which meant no heat for 14 tiny 2 day old chicks in a barn.  I jumped out of the bed and ran to our barn, fully expecting to find 14 frozen bite-sized chicken nuggets in the brooder.  Miraculously, they were piled in a fuzzy little heap, all very much alive although pretty disgruntled.  I gathered them all into a plastic tote and hauled them into the house by our woodstove.  Putting a towel on my lap, I took the 14 little fuzzies and wrapped them up until I felt that they wouldn’t keel over from hypothermia and then put them back into the bin.  Listening to 14 peeping chicks for the remainder of the night wasn’t exactly what I’d describe as peaceful.  Fortunately, the wind ended with daybreak and electricity was turned back on.  No baby chicks were lost.

Was it just my mothering instinct?  Or did the chicks send out a “Hey moron, we’re freezing out here” psychic message?  Another example:

It was almost midnight, and I was in bed about to fall asleep.  Suddenly, I heard a tiny, muffled sound of a rooster crowing, or at least I thought I did. Not any rooster, but Ernie specifically (trust me, once you’ve been around chickens long enough, you can distinguish their voices).  How odd, I thought.  Ernie never, ever crows at night….

THE DOOR! I forgot to shut the stupid coop door!  I ran out to the coop as fast as a half-asleep person can and sure enough, the coop door was still very much wide-open with my very favorite hen sitting completely unprotected in front of it.  Naturally.  Did Ernie really crow? He’s certainly not revealing anything.  Or am I slowly turning into a chicken myself?

One thing that is sure to get my attention is the sound of a baby chick in trouble.  They tend to make an extremely annoying, loud pitched ‘PEEEEEP PEEP PEEEEEP’ to try and solicit some sympathy from Mama Hen.  One day, right at dusk, I kept hearing a noise.  A very familiar and annoying noise.

“Do you hear that?” I asked Jason.

“Yeah, just a bird,” he said, as he went back to reading.

I sat and listened for a few more seconds.  My chicken senses were awakening.

“No. No it’s not, either,” I said.

I walked out to the front yard to find (surprise, surprise) a newly hatched 1 day old baby chicken who was very much lost and twice as confused.  How it ended up all the way from the coop to the front yard, I’ll never really know.  Regardless, “Big Mama Hen” came to the rescue that day.  I swear, they seek me out, they really do.  Oh well.

There’s probably not much need for a chicken psychic.  Then again, maybe I could start the Psychic Chicken Network Hotline for chicken owners.  (“Mrs. Jones, the reason Doris is acting so depressed is that she’s really wanting some vegetable scraps. Wait, hold on….can you hold Doris up to the phone again, please?  Mmmhmmm….She is also telling me that you’re buying the cheap pellets again.  Is that true, Mrs. Jones?”)

Until next time, keep on cluckin’.