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’.

The Dynamic Duo

Finally, after almost a year, I have gotten around to uploading some of my photos to a web album and finding an online photo editing program.  I am really excited about it…then again, I get really excited over finding a penny in a parking lot.  Nevertheless, what this means for you, dear readers, is more photos!  I find it a little narcissistic on my part to assume that I can captivate you with only my written words and no photos.  BO-RING.  So here we go!

If you have read my old posts, you’ll remember Wayward Jones, the chicken who was infamous for running circles and otherwise getting herself in all sorts of hijinks.  She also, unfortunately, met her end when a neighborhood dog carried her off.

A few months ago, I got an email about someone wanting to relocate a couple of roosters.  One was a breed called a Showgirl.  Showgirl chickens are a cross between a Silkie and a Naked Neck breed.  The result, after several generations of re-crossing with Silkies, is a bird that looks primarily like a Silkie, but with a naked neck.  Thus, here is the result.  I am happy to introduce Ernie The Wonder Chicken, our new farm mascot:

As with Wayward, I knew from the beginning that Ernie was going to be different.  I’m not sure exactly what it was (besides the fact he looks like a turkey mated with a cotton ball), but something immediately struck me about his personality.  One day I decided to give ol’ Ernie a bath.  Yes, really.  His feathers were stained a little from some red clay at the former owner’s house.  No, he wasn’t sculpting, by the way…we just happen to have some seriously red dirt around here.  Anyway, I took Ernie to the tub and scrubbed him down with baby shampoo.  He seemed to be, well, enjoying it.  Either that, or he was in some serious shock.  The fact is, he didn’t move through the entire process.  Then came the blow dryer (well, I couldn’t very well leave him wet, could I?).  To those people who believe that chickens have no personalities, all I can tell you is that you just haven’t met the right ones yet.  Ernie is the first metrosexual rooster I’ve ever seen.  He clucked and strutted and fluffed himself through the entire drying process like a teenage girl primping for a date.  It became immediately apparent that this was going to be a funny bird.

Now that we’ve had him a while, Ernie’s personality has really come out.  He is not afraid of people, and though he doesn’t always want to be caught, when he is, he will just lay in your arms and crow, if he’s in the mood.  He doesn’t struggle, which is pretty unusual for most roosters.  He has also rode with us to town a few times, even going through the drive through at Chicken Express (and living to tell the tale).   Just recently, he has adopted a baby hen as his own.  Not as his mate, but more as his own chick, which is odd.  He will actually catch bugs for her and lay them at her feet, as a mother hen would.  They sleep together, eat together, and are rarely a few feet apart.  I was so impressed with Ernie’s attitude that I bought 17 baby Silkies, just so that he could have some ‘ladyfriends’…and hopefully make more little Ernies.

Now, on to another new member of the farm.  We were at the local Atwood’s several weeks back, when a baby chick caught my eye.  It was just like Ernie, only in miniature.  Please meet “Poindexter”:

Poindexter is a Transylvanian Naked Neck, also known as a Turken.  It was once believed that they were a cross between a turkey and a chicken.  (not true)  Here’s an interesting article on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of naked necks.  Poindexter exhibited extreme friendliness even from the beginning, when most chicks run away from you.  Now that I know more about the Naked Necks, I am seriously thinking about eventually switching my flock to them. They do better in hot weather (and good in cold, even), they lay about 180 brown eggs a year and are great foragers.  I noticed that as he (or she) grew older, Dexter could snap a gnat out of the air with ease.  Here is another glimpse:

See? Even chickens enjoy springtime flowers. Now for one final shot:

Enjoy!

The Old Grey Mare…

It’s true.  She AIN’T what she used to be.  I’m mad at myself for not getting my rear on here and blogging.  Irritated that I’m too lazy/tired to upload you some pics.  But it’s spring, and on the farm, that’s super busy time.  Please accept my apologies!

Well, life on the farm is back to its usual hectic pace.  We bought 15 broiler chickens after the junior livestock show, and butchered and processed nine of them.  Please be assured that it is the best tasting chicken EVER.  And, they probably lived out the best week of their life here.  If you are ever interested in processing your own birds, I highly suggest watching videos on Youtube by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.  I did a mini refresher course before this batch of birds just so I didn’t forget anything.

I bought eight Broad Breasted White turkeys for butchering later this year.  I plan to grind the breast and leg meat.  I just bought 3 Narragansett turkey poults for breeding purposes.  They are a ‘heritage’ breed of turkey, and can breed normally (broad breasted birds need AI to get the job done), and supposedly have a better flavor than the BB turkeys.  Earlier this year, I was given a Showgirl rooster whom we named Ernie.  Ernie is, without a doubt, the funniest chicken I have ever seen…he even ‘one ups’ the famed Wayward Jones.  I knew he was gonna be a really special one when I gave him a bath with no chicken complaints and….he loves the blow dryer.  Don’t ask me how these critters find me, but they do.  Now I have 17 baby Silkies, hopefully at least some of which are females, who are destined to be Ernie’s ‘lady friends’.  Yes, I want to make more of these odd looking chickens.  On purpose.

Then, the other day, I was at a feed store when I saw the ugliest chick I’d ever seen.     And so, ‘Poindexter’ came home with us for a whopping $1.79.  He/she is a Naked Neck, and bless it’s heart, it’s not even normal.  Its wings are deformed and it will never be able to fly.  See…they find me, I swear it.

A few weeks ago, we bought a 250 pound (or so) Hampshire pig and had him sent off to the processor’s.  We got back 145 pounds of meat.  Fifty seven pounds of breakfast sausage, a ton of chops, 2 racks of ribs, soup bones, 2 roasts, and about 8 ham steaks.  I can honestly tell you that the sausage is the best sausage EVER.  Also, I know that this pig was raised in a pasture and not in a cramped, filthy cage somewhere a la Smithfield! (Take that, Paula Deen) It makes it taste that much better.

In gardening news, I am trying a trellis method for my tomatoes this year.  Thus far, it looks great.  I am happy with it.  I hate tomato cages!  I also am experimenting with mulching right now.  I am using newspaper and cardboard over the ground, then covering it with mulch on my new beds/garden plots.  I HATE BERMUDA GRASS.  I hope every piece of it dies in my yard, seriously.  It is the bane of my existence!!! So, I am hoping that my lazy-man’s method of weed killing will work. So far, it seems to be doing well.  We added 3 new ‘gardens’ to the front yard this year.  I have planted a coupld of apple trees along our garden wire fence to try and create some espalier trees.  We shall see.  I noticed last week some huge inflorescence on my Champanel grape vine that I really whacked back in February.  I am trying to train it along the fence, as well.  I still have a ‘Carlos’ bronze muscadine to plant on the other side of the fence.

I ripped out the cabbages and (completely non-productive) Brussels sprouts today.  Amazing how every year I discover a new insect that’s trying to eat what I want to eat.  This year, the calico bugs were covering the cabbages and sprouts along with the dang cabbage worms.  Sigh.  Every year, I think: Are you freakin’ kidding meAnother cabbage pest???  I’ve already had it out with cabbage maggots, cabbage loopers, cabbage webworms, and now calico bugs?  I’m surprised that cabbage isn’t worth its weight in gold.  And, this year, for whatever reason, the cutworms were HORRIBLE.  I lost more onions and tater plants to cutworms than ever.  Ernie, however, was more than happy to provide the intruders with the famed “Death By Chicken” sentence handed down from me.

So, now to wrap up this boring update.  Out to the greenhouse I go to water the plants again.