Monday, November 28, 2005

Egg Cups

More 5x7 paintings for this Artists Challenge I'm doing. The poor girls are stuck indoors today; there's a ferocious storm outside. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 14, 2005

Everywhere There's Lots of Chickens, Leading Chicken Lives...

As if he hadn't already done enough to woo me, what with all those songs that changed the world and defined my life, now Paul McCartney has to go and show compassion for little chickens.

Thanks to Go Veg for this quote, and for this useful information about the intellectual capacity of a chicken:

"Chickens understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behavior and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, 'As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I’m talking about monkeys.'”

My girls worry about the future? What do they worry about? Supreme Court nominees? The inequitable tax structure? Peak oil and its implications on the future availability of chicken scratch?

The only thing that keeps me from bringing them in to roost along my bedpost at night is the belief that they don't worry about things--that they are chickens, and as such, they roost in the rafters and scratch in the dirt and live in the moment and don't feel the dark weight of the world upon them and don't need to be comforted by the sound of their loved ones breathing next to them in the night to get through it all.

And what's this about cultural knowledge that's passed from generation to generation? If Eleanor had a brood, would she teach her youngsters to fear the lids of cardboard boxes (we have no idea what this is about) and check my pockets for apple cores? Would the little peeps learn that they have nothing to fear from cats, but have every reason to duck for cover when the Fed Ex plane flies over at five in the afternoon?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Paintings of the Girls

These are all Eleanor except the one that's Abigail. Little 5 x 7 paintings I did all at once in one evening's session as part of a local artists' challenge. (I'm just a student, as you can see, but it was fun to participate...15 little paintings in 30 days...)

Someone asked how I know whose egg is whose. All four birds lay different eggs. Eleanor's (Rhode Island Red) are dark brown, a little reddish. Abigail's (Golden-Laced Wyandotte) are light brown and kind of skinny. Bess and Dolley are both Araucana mixes and their eggs are similar--Bess's are greenish and small and round (like her) and Dolley's are a little less round and a little more blue.

We know who lays which egg because they all started laying at different times, and we'd watch which hen was going in and out of the nesting box as if she was about to lay--so it was easy to tell, when an egg appeared there later, that it was hers.
I imagine that if we had four of the same breed it would be really hard to tell the eggs apart.

In other news: Dolley is losing some of the soft little feathers on her butt. It seemed to happen all at once. No sign of mites, so I suspect picking. They had to spend the day cooped up yesterday (literally) and I think it happened then, out of boredom. I hadn't noticed it before today.

Poor girls. I'll keep an eye on it. The feathers that Bess lost on her neck are growing back. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Running the Numbers

Comptroller's Report from Scott

It's been seven weeks since my last report. Total production is 235 eggs (19.58 dozen).
(Editor's note: If we've spent $750 on coop construction, feed and supplies--probably a low estimate--that works out to to $3.15 per egg. And worth every penny.)

ELEANOR - Rhode Island Red
Age: 223 days
Age at first egg: 138 days
Total eggs: 80
Lays eggs 93% of the time.

DOLLEY - Americauna mix
Age: 216 days
Age at first egg: 144 days
Total eggs: 61
Lays eggs 84% of the time

ABIGAIL - Golden-laced Wyandott
Age: 223 days
Age at first egg: 160
Total eggs: 55
Lays eggs 86% of the time

BESS - Americauna mix
Age: 216 days
Age at first egg: 168 days
Total eggs: 40
Lays eggs 82% of the time

First day with eggs from all four hens: September 21 (hens 168 - 175 days old)

Since then:
Days with 4 eggs: 27 (55%)
Days with 3 eggs: 16 (33%)
Days with 2 eggs: 4 (8%)
Days with 1 egg: 1 (2%)
Days with 0 eggs: 1 (2%)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


We don't get many holy-cow, knock-your-socks-off, honey-come-look-at-this sunsets in Humboldt County. What we usually get is increasingly dark fog. So imagine my excitement when this happened outside my attic window.

On a more chicken-related note: Don't you people worry that your chickens are cold? I mean, I know they're supposed to be OK in winter, especially since we don't get hard freezes ever, but still--aren't they cold out there? Wouldn't they rather come in here and sleep by the heater? Last night our cat woke us up by puking up a hairball on our bed (under the covers, in fact)--so how much worse could the chickens be? Posted by Picasa

...and it keeps changing...

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...minute by minute...

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chickens in the Rain

The poor dears are not very happy about all the rain we've been getting. They can't get outside much, so we go visit them instead. They take short dashes out into the rain, then rush for cover and shake their feathers off. Sigh. It's going to be a long winter. Posted by Picasa

Fortunately, the rest of the shed (the part not screened in as their chicken coop) has a dirt floor, so they have this one small dry space where they can take a dust bath. The dust baths are supposed to prevent mites, and mites are more of a concern in the winter, so it's more important than ever that they get to do this.

Speaking of mites, if you look closely you can see that Bess is still missing some feathers on her neck. I was worried that she had mites, but there are no signs of them. Someone suggested that maybe the other birds are picking at the feathers on her face when she's in the nesting box and they want her to get out so they can use it. (There are two boxes, but one of them is, for some reason, better than the other and they all want to use that one.)

Anyway, a few of the feathers are growing back in, but we're keeping an eye on it... Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Lucy is my life."

I love this story from the Humane Society of a chicken that was evacuated to the Astrodome:

"We do know of at least one hen who rests safely. Her guardian was evidently bused to the Houston Astrodome evacuee shelter holding the animal under his arm. The beleaguered shelter staff may have thought it strange that a man walked in with a chicken. But if they did, we have no report that they gave him any trouble. To their credit, the shelter staff simply took the chicken to be processed along with the other animals.

A staff member later approached the man, asking, 'Are you the owner of the chicken?' He replied indignantly, 'That's not a chicken. That's my Lucy! Lucy is my life.' He had been with her all her life, 'from a peep,' he said.

Lucy, meanwhile, heard her guardian's voice from way in the back and started clucking happily as they were reunited, the two finding solace in a welter of broken families."

I Love Lucy: One Chicken's Story of Rescue

Thursday, November 03, 2005

So yeah, about that...

So about this thing I haven't been talking about. I do have a couple of things to say about it after all. I'll say what it is very quietly so no one will overhear: avian flu. Yeah, that. Is this thing a threat to our backyard chickens? Could men in white biohazard suits pull up in an unmarked van someday and demand to see our birds? I hope not. What else can I do? Obsess over it and fan the flames of fear? That's won't do any good. What if, like those WMDs, we get all worked up for nothing and end up wasting a lot of lives and resources for no good reason? Perhaps this will turn out like Y2K: a few problems, all of them solveable and not terrible expensive, so that the whole thing ends up being a non-event. Good deal.

Well anyway, here's what I have to say on the subject:

1. There sure are a lot of interesting chicken photos out there, such as this one from the New York Times.

2. Sacramento Gardening has posted a very helpful list of reminders for owners of backyard flocks, including the suggestion that you keep food and water under cover, and keep the chicken's run covered, to protect your flock from the droppings of migratory birds.

3. Our government is developing a national system for tracking livestock "from birth to slaughter" so they can be identified quickly if there's an outbreak of disease. Right now, according to the USDA's website, animals like backyard chickens are exempt: "Animals that never leave a premises do not need to be identified. However, animal owners are encouraged to identify their animals and their premises, regardless of the number of animals present, since many animal diseases may be spread whether an animal leaves its home premises or not." But if you take your horse on a trail, or take your cow or pig or turkey to a county fair to show them, you're covered under these new rules. Check it out, read the draft plan, and submit your comments here:

National Animal Identification System

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Eleanor and Abigail

Another chicken painting. There will be many more to come, I'm sure... Posted by Picasa