Well, Spring officially sprung this past Friday (March 20th was the vernal equinox this year) but whoever is in charge of the weather didn’t get the memo. After a lovely Wednesday it has all been downhill. Thursday was gray and in the 50s, but not so bad, just not as nice as Wednesday. I let the chickies out to free range in the morning and they were having such fun even though it wasn’t sunny, I couldn’t manage to get them all back inside. I tried and tried but as soon as I’d get most of them back in, a couple more would pop out. So, finally, I left them alone and came inside to work. Trust me, I wasn’t happy about this, but I had to go in sometime. And besides, I face out a big window when I’m at my desk and I can see the whole coop and the grassy area where they free-range, so it’s not so bad. I kept an eye on them and whenever it looked like they were all back in, I’d run outside to close them in. I did this four or five times before I actually got them closed back in the run.
Yesterday we were back to temps in the 40s with wind and hard rain all day. With that much wind, if I open the chicken doors, it blows right into the coop and they end up hiding behind the walls for shelter from the wind. They are no longer satisfied with being closed in the coop during the day, but as a concerned chicken mommy, sometimes I have to do it for their own good. “All cooped up” has a whole new meaning for me now :) Finally in the waning hours of the day (sometime after 5pm), it suddenly cleared up and we got a bit of sunshine and I let the birdies come out to play for a bit.
They all took advantage at first. They all hopped out the door and immediately started roaming around, eating grass and bugs, scratching, flying, playing, etc.
But then, as fast as they came out, they suddenly all went back in. They didn’t act like they were afraid of something, and the sun was warm and nice. They all just got up and causally walked back in the run. Why couldn’t they have done that on Thursday morning? Anyway, it was funny – they all went in the run and laid down on the doors or near them and have a collective sunbathing session.
And that was how they stayed. None of them wanted to come back out for who knows why. So I closed the door to the run and that’s how I left them, and they stayed that way until the sun went down and then they all went inside for the night. I don’t get it, but maybe someday they’ll let me in on the secret world of chicken thoughts.
That brings us to today. Today was even worse. Less rain, true, but more wind and colder. I don’t think it got over 41 degrees here at our house today and with the wind, it just feels ICY.
Anyway, about an hour ago, around 3pm, the wind had died down some and it didn’t feel quite so cold to me, so I thought I’d let the chickies out for a bit. Like I said – they REALLY don’t like staying in the coop with the doors closed now that they’ve had a taste of freedom. While we were out there (and I was freezing my butt off), I got a few decent pictures. Right now, the most noticeable change that’s happening is that most everyone’s combs are starting to take on a pink-ish hue and earlobes are starting to show up.
I will be honest and say that until very recently, I wasn’t even aware that chickens had earlobes. If you are also new to chicken anatomy, this is a handy chart from Backyard Chickens. You can also see that she has the first hints of wattles (boys and girls both have them, but boys’ are usually bigger and redder) and that her general face/comb/wattle/ear lobe area has a pinkish/redish hue.
None of the Ameraucanas seem to have ear lobes yet, but most of their combs are starting to look red-ish.
The chick in the two pictures above is one of “the twins” and is the one that concerned me with the pink comb the other day. I was hoping it didn’t mean “boy.” Well, since then, the others’ have started turning pink as well, so it doesn’t seem to be a cause for concern unless the hatchery ROYALLY screwed things up with the sexing. However, I will say that this chick still concerns me a bit, but for another reason. She is doing a lot of standing up really tall, with an outstretched neck, looking around. I believe this is rooster behavior…. but I don’t really have a clue. I really REALLY hope it’s not. Let’s hope that I’m being paranoid and guessing incorrectly.
A note on Ameraucana’s combs: they have what I believe are called “pea combs,” which means they have very small, compact combs that don’t stick up much. This is why none of them really have any noticeable comb growth. It is normal for both boys and girls to have small combs as maturity in thie breed. The Orpingtons and Marans both have single crested combs, which are the kind you are used to seeing in pictures and drawing of chickens – larger, sticks up like a sail, with a sawtooth edging.
And I wish the difference between the sexes were this clear with all of them at this point. Please compare the above picture of JB to this one of one of the Marans girls.
At this point, there are two pretty defininte girls and JB and Scruffy are definitely boys. I think the other two are males as well, but it’s still not particuarly clear.
Getting So Big!
On a last chicken note, I have officially upgraded them to the grown-up 5 gallon waterer because they were knocking over, messing up, and finishing off the baby waterers too fast too often. Of course, Lady B has immediately taken to perching on this new waterer, as she is inclined to do, so things are only marginally better. When they are all grown up, they are going to have automatic cup waterers and it will be SOOOOO nice.
Meet Our New Neighbor
What better sign of spring than a newborn lamb? As I believe I’ve mentioned, our next door neighbors keep a small flock of sheep, about five ewes, one ram, and a couple of growing babies (twins) born this past Fall. A week or two ago, I saw my neighbor and I said to him, “looks like you’re going to have some new lambs pretty soon!” To which he replied, “baby sheep? No! No, no, not for maybe, two, three months.” I didn’t pursue the topic with him, but I felt pretty sure. I can see the sheep out my window from my computer and I work here all day everyday. I could tell he had a couple of pregnant ewes (in fact, I watched them GET pregnant a few months ago), and at least one looked like she was getting ready to pop to me. So, I was quite satisfied when yesterday, Brian suddenly said, “Hey, Lis! There’s a new lamb! It’s so tiny and it can barely walk… it must have been born like yesterday or today!” And I looked up and sure enough, in the far sheep paddock, there was a teeny baby lamb, struggling to its feet. For all I know, it had JUST been born while we were standing there. It was far enough away that I couldn’t tell if it was wet from being born or not. I am not particularly familiar with sheep, but I do know horses and cows pretty well (I owned hoses growing up, and was there for the births of foals, including one of my own. I also lived with a herd of cattle on the property at my family’s ranch from 2004-2007), and I’ve read enough James Herriott to know that the lamb was brand, spanking new. When it finally got up and stumbled around a bit, we could see the umbilical cord that was hanging from its tummy.
I tried yesterday and today to get some good shots but it was tough because the baby is shy and the other sheep come over and beg for treats when I go to the fence and they block my shot. Here’s the best I could do.
I know its leg looks funny but that was yesterday and it seems fine and stright now, so all is well. And here is the baby daddy…
Confused about nursing, I caught a shot of the baby’s nuzzling mom’s butt.
After that, she promptly pooped directly on his head and he moved out of the way. Hey, it’s a learning process.
And here’s a couple of the whole herd, just for kicks:
As you can see, the ewe closest to the foreground behind the ram is about ready to pop too. I think we’ll have another baby on our hands soon. I will post pics when I can.
More Signs of Spring
So, like I said – spring is here whether the weather gods like it or not. Daffodils are blooming, trees are suddenly in bloom (in the area, not in our yard yet), tulips are pushing up…
baby lambs are being born, robins are everywhere, pulling fat worms out of the grass, our peonies are starting to push up…
our peach trees are getting ever closer to blooming…
tiny green leaves are peeking out of leaf buds on some of our apple, plum, and cherry trees…
my potted Mara Des Bois strawberries are starting to awaken (though they never fully went dormant)…
and Lisa has baby plants to plant…
Charlie and Tilly say, “Lisa, that’s crazy! You have WAY too many projects!” and Lisa says, “No, you’re crazy! You guys can’t even sleep in your own beds!”