Monday, September 17, 2012

Back to School

Looks like Autumn is just around the corner. A bright pink sunrise greeted me this morning as I dropped my girls off at school. It was such a beautiful sight, and it improved my mood so much, that it made my husband ask what was wrong with me. 

Speaking of seasons, I'll throw in the obligatory "First Day of School" pictures... (minus the one kid who went off to school before I even got out of bed. Yes, I'm that bad) 

4th & 9th Grade

New High School!!

This one thinks school is "Epic"!

A 7th grader... growing up too fast for my taste :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Emergency Incubator

Long before I ever borrowed a real incubator from my wonderful friend over at Castle Delight Seramas, I had to come up with something to help hatch abandoned eggs. I'm beginning to realize that in a pinch, I do a fairly good job of just going with my gut. There are three major things an egg needs to hatch:
1. Heat
2. Humidity
3. Patience
Here is a method I've used to hatch eggs on more than on occasion that are already pipped or zipped. This means that the chick has already decided it's time to start hatching, but for whatever reason, the Momma hen abandons the nest. 

In tonight's episode of "Where's My Mom", it turns out that Momma hen had a chick hatch two days ago, and like all mothers of toddlers, she went running after it, got tired of running around like a chicken with its... (oh, nevermind), so she sat down on her chick until it fell asleep. And darn it to HECK if a mother of a toddler is going to wake up her sleeping baby to go do anything else! Like dishes. I still don't want to wake up my kids by doing the dishes. 
I got off track. 
So I'm going to show you the cast of characters. It's stuff I have in my home already - that just happened to do the trick. 

1. A nifty re-useable (or disposable, if you sin like that) food container. NOT your favorite Tupperware. Please make sure it's clean. 

2. A heating pad. This is what mine looks like. It has four settings. 1:Warm, 2:Oh that's just perfect, 3:Hey, that's burning, and 4:OUCH, what the heck?

 3. A Meat Thermometer. This sounds distasteful, but it's not to measure the temperature of the chicken, but just the temperature of the air. Now most people who hatch eggs regularly already have a thermometer and hygrometer to keep track of air temp and humidity levels. Well... I'm clearly not "most" people. 

 4. Bounty Paper Towels. They can be something else, I just put bounty because that's what I have a lot of. Matter of fact paper napkins work just fine. That's what I used today. 

Now here's where it gets tricky. You find an egg laying in a nest. It has a pip in it, or a hole where the chick has poked it's little tooth through, and there is no Mother in sight. (Or in the case of mine, she was in plain view, but she was sitting on top of a sleeping toddler and giving me the look of death) I touched the egg, and it was coooold. Now normally I would just slip the egg back under the Mom and wish them luck. But this egg was really cold, and I'm pretty sure that Mom-hen wasn't in any rush to just sit still for another day while her toddler ran laps around the coop. I carefully candled the egg, and saw absolutely no signs of life. I knew it was a wiggly bunch of feet and beak just the night before, so I headed for the house and got my well-organized emergency supplies out of the Poultry Emergency Cabinet. 
Yeah right, I don't even have a hygrometer, I certainly don't have an emergency cabinet. So I was warming the egg in my hands at the kitchen table while hollering to the kids: GET A CONTAINER!
Well, I didn't say that last part. Out loud anyway. 

So the kids fetched me a container, that I'm hoping wasn't previously used for chicken, and some paper napkins, because that's all they could find. I sent another for the heating pad, and told them to fire it up onto the "Hey, that's burning" level while I humidified the container. That's the easy part. Get a paper towel (or napkin) wet, and just stick it in there. Take a box knife and cut an X shape into the top of the lid and poke the meat thermometer into the container, taking care to not have it touching anything in particular, like the hole in the egg, for example. Also feel free to make the cut larger than you need, because it should NOT be completely air tight.  

Within five minutes this is what my emergency incubator looked like. I had no clue of what the humidity was, and just a general idea of the temp. Good enough for me. 

While I was waiting for the container to heat up inside, I did what many chicken people tell you NOT to do. I investigated further. I figured that since the chick was most likely already dead, that I didn't have much to lose. I used a toothpick to chip away a very small amount of shell so I could get a look inside. I poked the beak a few times, and after about six pokes (gentle ones, of course!) and a little sweet talking, the blessed thing moved. I gave it a little more breathing room, and moistened the membrane a bit (it was pretty dried out from sitting in the open air) and then tucked it into the make-shift mini incubator.  
I ended up placing a hot pad under the container to keep the bottom from getting too hot since I had to up it to "OUCH" level for the inside air to get high enough. Then I just kept the heating pad wrapped under and over the container and checked the temp like a maniac for the next couple hours to make sure it was around 100 degrees. If it got too hot, I'd just open the lid briefly. If it got too cold, I'd wrap it a bit tighter. 

This is what surprised us a few short hours later.
Very weak, and very quiet. 

And this! This is what its naughty sibling looks like - the one who hogs all the attention from their Mom 

I'm hoping they look a lot alike in the very near future... although the realist in me will simply be enjoying the minutes or hours that I have been gifted to be a part of this tiny life.

All in all, this emergency incubator kit would only run you about $31.00. Fifteen for the heating pad, ten for the spiffy meat thermometer, a dollar for some sort of paper products and then another five bucks for a container of lunch meat when it's on sale. 

Happy Hatching!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here a Chick, There a Chick

My chick likes chicks. 

It's the busy time of year around these parts. 
Just ask one of my broody hens. She's been really, really busy. Busy, just sitting there. Must be rough having food and drink delivered to you by a well-meaning 9 year old boy. Not sure why you have to be so mean to him, but whatever...

I've also been really busy trying to keep the chickens out of the humongous garden. I'm glad I don't have to weed it. Every few days a crew of guys come out with their wide brimmed hats and their hoes (the garden implement, people!) and they get to work. In case you're a new reader to this blog - we lease out a big chunk of our property to an Organic Farmer who lives just across the river. He plants, he weeds, we help eat. And apparently so do our chickens. Which is why we're are about to take drastic measures in the form of bright orange safety fencing to keep them out.

But I'd never keep my girl out. She looks pretty standing there by the spinach, don't ya think?

I've also spent plenty of time trying to keep this naughty goat behind that there fence. She mocks me. See that face? She's laughing. I hate that.

hahahahaha! - you think you can keep me in?

Took a little road trip to pick up some Lavender Orpington Hatching eggs yesterday. Something funny happened... I came home with some hatching eggs that already had feathers and legs! Sometimes that just happens, I can't explain it. Thankfully some of the eggs are still in shells, so I'll be incubating those in the very near future. I am excited to help out some of my friends who have been wanting to add Lavenders to their breeding flock. Lavenders are sometimes confused with Blue Orpingtons, which are an entirely. different story. 

The difference between Lavender and Blue, is that Lavender breed true to color. They don't throw splash, or black or anything else that you would get from a Blue Orpington. I'm excited to watch them grow up and since Orpingtons are some of my favorites, I'm thrilled to have more than one color in my yard.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where am I?

I'll tell ya where I am. All over the place! I've been doing a whole lotta stuff with a whole lotta people! And I really like the word "lotta", a lotta. 
Here it is folks, short and sweet:

Went to a Band Festival with some 7th and 8th Graders 

Attended a lot of baseball games for my youngest. 

Celebrated 10 years of wedded bliss

I went to my cousin's gorgeous wedding. 

Where he married a gorgeous girl

Visited one of my favorite
places on Earth for my birthday

Took my boys to a civil war reenactment

It was part of my work for my
Civil War History Class

Watched a dozen chicks hatch
(while I did lots of homework)

Attended the GRAMMY awards concert
for our High School Music Program

So proud of my daughter and how
hard she works with the band and choir 

Jordan, Kristine, my girl Alyssa

I went to another wedding
for friends of the family. 

It had very pretty decorations

Took pics of my daughter and 3 other
kids that she's known since before birth.

Attended an 8th Grade dance,
their last dance of Middle School

And took pics of my younger daughter,
and her tall red-haired friend. 

And then one more wedding
for one of my girls from camp... 

Her bridesmaids were a
couple more girls I love (from camp)

Then took some pics of some really cute people(who I ALSO know from camp)

Took pics of my kids at our church picnic

Now I'm done with school, and just sitting around waiting for my kids to be done so we can get this summer going.
We all need a BREAK! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our First Hatch Day

We set our first eggs on May 9, and today (May 30) we are getting results! Our first two eggs pipped last night, and by morning the first Serama chick had made its way into the world. How FUN! And how distracting!! We haven't got anything done all day while we've been "tuned" to the incubator and watching the eggs wiggle, and pip, and zip and then finally out comes a soggy, wet, pathetic looking thing that eventually fluffs up and looks cute! (More pics our Facebook page)

Our 28 hatching eggs, going in for 21 days
"Clear" egg... either not fertile or just didn't develop

The first Serama to hatch 
Supervising me while I did my homework

Still spying on me!

Waiting for the others to hatch

Monday, May 7, 2012

Exchequer is a fancy name for "Pretty"


Opal checking out a potential nesting spot
Leghorns originated in Italy, and are some of the most prolific layers in all of the poultry-dom. I used to categorize leghorns into the "boring" category, because really, just how fun can a plain white chicken get? I preferred the more colorful, the more rare, and the kind with obvious personality.

It wasn't until we got an Exchequer Leghorn in an order of chicks from Ideal Poultry that I discovered that Leghorns can indeed, have personality. This little missy, named "Opal" by my son who is her primary caretaker, has surpassed all expectations of what a BWL should be in my mind. (BWL: Boring White Leghorn - got that acronym from another friend who had similar thoughts). 

The Exchequer variety originated spontaneously from a flock of White Leghorns in Scotland. (No wonder they have personality!) This variety doesn't lay nearly as many eggs as their pure white counterparts, but it's a fair trade in my mind for something that doesn't look so dull. 

Opal is sort of a loner. She keeps to herself, and is clearly nowhere near the top of the pecking order. When she was young, she preferred being toted around under my son's arm rather than actually walking the length of the yard herself. She's just over a year old now, and has been giving us medium sized white eggs for several weeks. The kids say that when they go outside for school in the mornings, she is usually hanging out in the carport. I'm beginning to wonder if she's coming for the company, or the cat food. 

Opal is on the far left, she's a bit smaller than my large fowl breeds
Opal did great at the County Fair. She was the only one of her kind, and although people kept calling her a rooster, she held her own, and walked off got carried off with a blue ribbon for her efforts and her pretty face. 

I will no longer call her breed boring, because she has proven that to be completely false, but I will continue to stand my ground on ordering boring white chickens. I hope I don't have any haters for that, but if you're gonna hate me for that then you can have the white ones. Deal? 

If you have interest in ordering your own Exchequer Leghorns, you may have to do a little looking around. From what I know, the hatchery I order from won't have any for another year. Guess that's ok though, because we can't let TOO many people in on our secret Exchequer fan club. 

Opal, the most spoiled Leghorn ever
What's your least favorite breed of chicken?