A Year of Chickens!

Hello, everyone!  Welcome to the first post of the first day of my second year with chickens.  That’s right, exactly one year ago today, I got that fateful phone call from the Post Office before dawn, I freaked out, ran around like a chicken with her head cut off getting things ready, and then drove down to the main Post Office to pick up my box of babies.  I drove home in a panic, picturing babies’ dropping dead with each passing minute.  Of course, as my loyal followers know, we arrived home without a hitch and I found 27 living, breathing, peeping baby chicks in the box.  I got them settled in the brooder and a few hours later, Cori showed up to take her half of the order.  And the rest?  Well, that’s history.

In summary… we lost one baby on the second day and another a day later.  That left us with 15 babies.  We ended up with 4 Cuckoo Marans cockerels, 2 Cuckoo Marans pullets, 3 Buff Orpington pullets, and 6 Easter Egger pullets.  The biggest disappointment was that McMurray Hatchery sent us extras of the breeds we ordered instead of a “free rare breed chick,” as promised.  But, I can’t really complain.  The babies grew through the Spring and we got our first egg from Lady B, our resident starlet, on June 26th, one day shy of her 20-week birthday.  The others soon followed and we were swimming in eggs by mid-summer.  The end of July brought the Willamette Valley a heatwave with temps over 110!  Chickens do not deal well with the heat and we lost two of our ladies on July 28th to the heat.  They both had been showing signs of sickness/weakness before though, so it may have only been a matter of time.

The rest of the flock weathered the heat with fans and frozen water bottles and came out OK.  Egg production kept up until October, when we got married in Napa Valley, CA.  Upon our return, we found that we had been hit by early frost and the garden was done early.  The chickens had also taken that as a cue and slowed down their egg-laying.  Instead of 7-6-9 per day, we were getting 1-4 per day.  During this time, Blanche went broody and we struggled with that.  She finally snapped out of it, several weeks later, in time for a deep freeze in December (9 degrees was out low!), which broke our cup-waterer and led us to install the two red brooder heat lamps in the coop to keep the water defrosted.  This, in turn led to increased egg production.  Since then, we have been getting 5-8 eggs per day.

Most recently, Sofia went broody and I gave in to her whims and allowed her to sit on eggs.  She successfully hatched just one chick and she and baby are now living in the nursery coop in the garage until we get them moved outside.  That pretty much catches us up to now.  The year in review.  It’s been quite a ride.

Current News

Soup, Blanche, Pol PotBesides the baby, the most exciting things around here have been the weather, and the shift in power.  On and off for a week or more (my memory is bad), we have had warm, sunny weather.  Sure, cold-ish rain is still there half the time, but the rest of the time is bright blue skies, brilliant late-winter sun, and warm, mild temps.  We have been seeing temps in the 60s and even 70s during a few days lately!  And this is making Spring want to spring, for sure.

My roses are full of leaf buds on the verge of bursting, daffodil and tulip leaves are popping up all over the place, flower buds are forming on the fruit trees, my chives are sending up new greens, my garlic is up in the garden, the Pacific Chorus frogs have started their annual, amorous, deafening bid for the ladies, and even the garter snakes are getting in on the action.

breeding pair of garter snakes

As I have reported in this blog before, the larger, duller one is the female, and the smaller, brighter one is the male.  The are wrapped around each other and breeding.  It is early, and I hope this decision to go with the flow doesn’t come back to bite them with a late frost.  I hope Spring keeps springing… but you can never count on that.  This pair I found right at the edge of our house out the front door.  After her tryst in the sunshine, she decided to come to hang out in the sun in front of my front door, draped across the floral decoration from the back of my chair from my wedding (it’s been living on my front porch).

Anyway, like I said… Spring wants to spring around here (at the same time as all that snow on the East Coast!) and I’m truly enjoying it.

budding leaves on a hydrangea

green leaf bud on one of our pear trees

65 degrees in the shade!

beautiful sunshine

pink flower buds on our Puget Gold apricot tree

OK, you get the point.  I also mentioned a shift in power.  Well, I’m not sure when or how it happened, but Chicken Soup has taken over as number one rooster.  The constant fights that were driving me crazy have ceased and things are peaceful and orderly and I am greatly enjoying the new leadership.

Chicken Soup

Soup is our best-behaved rooster and the only one that has never tried to beat my leg into a bloody pulp.  He even lets me pet him a little and I think he enjoys my company.  He’s never once given me the evil eye or flared his umbrella neck at me.  He sings to me a little and hangs out near my feet sometimes.  We have an understanding.  And with him in charge, JB keeps his distance from me, which is very enjoyable.  He’s got JB scared for his life.  In fact, that was how I realized the power shift had taken place.  One day a week or two ago, I went to put the chickens back in the run and JB was last and when I encouraged him to go through the door, he turned tail and ran.  I was confused.  I went and herded him back toward the run and when he got to the doorway, he seemed hesitant, and when he tried to set foot inside, Soup jumped at him and chased him back out.  Yay for Soup, I say.  JB needs a taste of his own medicine!

And if you need photographic proof that Soup really is the High King, check this out:

Soup breeds Lady B while the other boys look on

That’s Luke watching and JB in the background.  I never thought I’d see the day!

Meet: Thirteen

The other night, I had a stroke of brilliance and came up with a name for the baby.  I waited for many weeks before we knew the genders for last year’s babies and I didn’t want to do that this time.  I have decided to call the baby Thirteen, since he/she brings our flock to 13 chickens and it is in keeping with my tv-themed names… as in Thirteen (Dr. Hadley) on House, M.D., one of my current favorite TV shows.

Anyway, Sunday was Mama Sofia’s one-year-old birthday and today is Thirteen’s one-week-old birthday, so we really had reason to celebrate!  It is amazing how much they change in a week.  His/Her wing and tail feathers are coming in nicely and I swear she/he has doubled in size already!

Thirteen, at one week old

Thirteen is also already much bolder and spends a lot more time out from under mama, so I had a few photo opts.  He/she also seems to really enjoy sitting on top of mom, which I think is the cutest thing in the whole world.  I don’t normally repeat pictures in posts, but…

Thirteen on mom


Ok, anyway… I am finishing up enclosing the run of the nursery with wire and then we will move it out of the garage and into the grass near the big coop.  That way Mama can show Thirteen how to graze on grass and bug in a safe environment when I’m not around, plus I’ll be able to let them out to free-range with the rest of the flock very soon so that integration won’t become an issue in the future.

p.s.  My original flock was hatched on February 7th, 2009.  So, Sunday was their first birthday.  That was the first day I could officially and correctly call them “hens” and “roosters” instead of “pullets” and “cockerels.”  I haven’t really been following that rule but that’s the truth!


3 thoughts on “A Year of Chickens!

  1. Wow! That baby sure is cute. But aren’t they all?

    Congrats on your first year with chickens! Mine Reds will be a year old soon too. :)

  2. Great update Lisa –

    I learn something from you almost every update. Pacific Chorus frogs. My back pasture gets boggy in the winter and the frogs LOVE it. Sounds like there’s millions of them out there and they do think it’s spring.

    Bulbs are up 3-4″ and the flowering cherry tree is opening it’s pink blossoms.

    Loving the mid 50’s temps and sunshine for afternoon brisk walks at work.

  3. Lisa, these are great photos and details! I am thrilled about the eagles. . .how exciting!

    Wish I were there to see the baby chicks. . . and the roosters and hens. Sounds so fun!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s