No, Not You… The Bow-Legged One

Advance warning: this entry is all about SEX. Chicken sex, to be exact. And by “chicken sex,” I really mean, “egg laying.”

Cue record scratching/music coming to a screeching halt. What do my scrambled eggs have to do with chicken sex, you may be wondering? And by “wondering,” I mean, “totally freaking out and rocking in the fetal position in the corner of your kitchen, as far from the cast iron skillet as you can get.”

Let’s back up. One thing we’ve learned in this first year of chicken rearing is that there are a few misconceptions regarding the magic of the chicken egg. People ask us all the time if you need a rooster to get eggs. This usually sparks an interesting, sometimes uncomfortable conversation likening egg laying in chickens to egg laying in humans, which is essentially what we females of child bearing age do every month. Chickens are just overachievers about the whole business (or, more specifically, our unfertilized eggs are worthless and we humans have never been bred to pop out a fresh egg daily).

In fact, if you want edible eggs (i.e. eggs that do not contain little baby chickies, waiting to be hatched), then you really DON’T want a rooster anywhere near your girls – just like we ladies should probably stay away from dudes if we absolutely don’t want a chubby, bald, eating, pooping mini-me of our own.

So when chickens start laying eggs, they are essentially saying that they are ready for sex. Really. What’s even creepier about it, though, is that their demeanor changes, too. About a week before Dino Puppy started laying, I went to pet her, and she did this weird hunkering down move, where she got low to the ground, centered herself, and spread her wings out a bit.

What was going on? To put it not delicately at all, Dino Puppy was ready to be mounted by some lucky rooster. And she apparently thought my hand was a rooster. See? I felt like a total creep. I just wanted to pet my sweet girl! Little did I know, my sweet girl was suddenly a grown-ass woman.

This all brings me to Beaker, our oldest chicken and the only one of the five not yet laying eggs. She’s also the only one of our day-old chicks to survive triple degree temperatures last summer.

20120329. Beaker.

Baby Beaker.

The other day we were chilling in the yard together (like we do). When I went to pet her – are you ready for this? because I don’t think I am – she did the weird chicken sex pose. My little girl’s all grown up!

20120822. Me and Beaker. Beaker and me.

Big girl Beaker.

Just you wait: the next time I go out there, she’ll be singing this song, word for word. Stay tuned – we’re hoping she lays blue eggs!

I’ve Become THAT Girl…

It’s official. I’m the girl who tips her hair stylist in eggs.

(Important end note #1: She had previously expressed interest in getting fresh eggs, so it wasn’t totally out of left field).

(Important end note #2: I also still gave her some cash – because a half dozen eggs from the backyard, as awesome as they may be, still aren’t QUITE an awesome enough tip on their own for the magic this lady does with my sad mop of hair. No more mullet!).

In other news, Birdie had her first road trip, hotel stay, and experience with a full length mirror. Success! Best travel buddy ever! (She also has her own Instagram account now: birdiferouspuppyopterus be her name, being awesome be her game).

Birdie's first mirror (and hotel room).

Boo, el Pollo de Muchos Huevos

In other news, it’s the 24th of January, and Boo has laid an egg EVERY SINGLE DAY this month. Still going strong.

Seriously, this is, like, unprecedented.

She’s tough as nails. Bring it, negative degree wind chills. Bring it, lack of sunlight. Boo, my feisty Mediterranean girl sporting her frostbitten comb, will always come out ahead.

20120706. Chris and the three wees.

Remember the three wees? Remember triple degree days? Yeah, me neither.


Bad Girls Do It Well

I have this problem with songs and song lyrics. Once I’ve learned the words, they never, ever leave my head. Sometimes, I even think in song lyrics, which is precisely what happened this morning.

Since our chickens all lay different colored eggs, we know exactly who is being the most productive (Boo) and who is falling asleep on the job (Beaker, I’m looking at you).

Which brings me to the whole point of this story: Boo, our shining star of a leghorn, has laid an egg every day this month. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I kid you not. So I started trying to make some half-baked analogy to Chris about her being like a comet, no, not a comet, like a shooting star of chicken, burning bright, hot, and fast.

And then the perfect song to describe Boo, my little shining star, popped into my head: live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.

The Boo version: “My chain hits my chest when I’m laying in the nesting box, my chain hits my chest when I’m scratching in the chicken run.” Sing it, Boo, sing it.

20130111. Our powerhouse, Boo.

BREAKING NEWS: Little Red = 1, Beaker = 0

Ever since we got our first tiny pink egg on the shortest day of the year, we assumed it came from Beaker. Beaker the brave. Beaker the fave. Beaker the chick who lived. And, most notably, Beaker the GRANDMA.

Seriously, the girl was born March 19. She’s ANCIENT in chicken terms.

20130111. The chickens get some winter rye. Winter rye = chicken crack.

Because of her age, we assumed Beaker was the layer, and we hadn’t caught the pink egg layer in the act, as it were. Whoever it was, she was getting her business done FAST. So imagine my surprise when yesterday I come out, do the mental headcount of the girls in the run, and see that both Dino Puppy and Little Red are missing from the run.

You see where this is going, right? I open the nesting box and find both girls settled quite happily in their respective boxes. Twenty minutes later, I find a little pink egg right where our Little Red was nestled.

So, people, the moral of the story: Beaker the brave, the fave, the OLDEST of all, and the one who will never be destined for the stew pot since she’s also the chick who lived is also our one remaining non-egg-laying deadbeat.

20130111. My Littlest Red.

My Littlest Red, thanks for giving us your darling, tasty pink eggies! I will never accuse you of being a deadbeat again.

In other, non-chicken-related news, Birdie is still adorable…

20130105. Snow day snuggles with Birdie. Again.

Albeit a tad on the destructive side.

20130111. Birdie's toys looking a little worse for wear.

Resolutions 101, or How 2013 Will Be the Year of Juice

I used to be one of those lofty resolution makers. Every year, I’d wax poetic about how I was going to lose 10 pounds, do 50 situps a day, ride my bike every day, eat nothing but green things for the entire month of January, etc.

Having a new puppy, though, I’m learning a lot about positive training. Basically, you want to set your puppy up to succeed, encourage her profusely when she does… and when she doesn’t do what you want, you ignore it and move on.

It’s like this bolt of stupid came shooting down from the heavens and illuminated my whole lofty resolutions bullcrap I’ve been pulling for the last decade. Shouldn’t we all be setting ourselves up to succeed? Shouldn’t we be using positive training on ourselves, making baby steps towards the things we want and the people we want to be? And why do we feel the need to default to extremes (“You WILL do this, you WON’T do this”), only to feel utterly crappy about it when we (of course) can’t possibly live up to these insane shifts in behavior we’ve tried to demand of ourselves? I say “bolt of stupid,” though, because none of this should have been an epiphany at all.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, getting back to resolutions, in the interest of setting myself up for success, I decided I will only make resolutions I know I can keep. Drum roll please… My resolutions for 2013:

      • Drink more juice. No, really. I got a juicer for Christmas, and carrot/ginger/pear is my jam.
      • Apply for an apprenticeship this summer with Growing Places Indy (and figure out a way to be able to participate in said apprenticeship if accepted).
      • Take a trip with my honey (like, a real vacation, not just down the road for a day or a long weekend), maybe to the Rogue farm out in Oregon.

There are a couple of others, too, but they aren’t really for public consumption. I’ll let you know when I achieve at least one of them, though!

In other news, we had a lovely New Year’s Eve at our neighbors’ house, and today we had our first four-egg day!

20130103. Happy New Year! Our first 4-egg day!

Pink, green, brown, and white! All four girls laid an egg today.

20121231. We're the creeps who bring eggs and bubbly for the NYE party hosts.

What? Doesn’t everyone bring a six-pack of eggs along with a couple of bottles of bubbly for their NYE hosts?

An Intimate Familiarity with Where Your Food Comes From… or TMI?

We sold our first half-dozen eggs yesterday! Not only can people come visit our backyard and meet the chickens from which their eggs came, but they can even use the handy dandy little chicken egg decoder to learn who laid which egg. Snazz, AMIRIGHT?!

20121223. First egg sale - know where your food comes from.

And then I was thinking, is that too much information? Do people WANT to know which specific chicken laid their breakfast? *I* think it’s awesome… but then again, I’m a little weird.

Anyway, of course, as Chris said, “It will only take us NEVER” to actually turn a profit on these five little chicks, but that was never really the point.

20121223. First egg sale - know where your food comes from.

The next chickens, though? Bring it. No darling freeloaders allowed!

Also, Christmas Eve = up early to tend to chickens and play with puppy. Feed chickens pumpkin and juicer pulp, purchase hay bale for the chickens in preparation for what may be a good winter storm Christmas night. Put together Christmas stocking for Chris. Sand and prime office walls (which we are in the midst of demolishing and making pretty again). Put turkey chili in the crock pot. Make Christmas playlist for tomorrow, then head to the liquor store and grocery store for very important stock replenishment. Block print more chicken egg cartons. Wait for boyfriend to get home to skim coat the office walls, eat chili, watch a Christmas movie, and share a fine bottle of Three Floyd’s Alpha Klaus.

This is my first year EVER not visiting family for Christmas, and I’m keen to start our own traditions. We will continue my family’s tradition of BAILEY’S IN THE COFFEE Christmas morning (a fine, fine tradition), and I think chili is a great addition, particularly since we may be snowbound soon enough. Tomorrow, I’ll make cinnamon rolls from scratch, and we’ve saved a number of our favorite Christmas movies to watch. I miss my family, but I’m also thankful to be relaxing with my honey, not worrying about the menagerie, and getting some big projects done.

“Walking ‘Round in Women’s Underwear,” Happy Solstice, and the Latest of the Duh Vignettes

Ever since I was a little kid, whenever it really starts looking seasonal out, the following song goes through my head. As a kid it was just funny – walking ’round in women’s underwear? how silly! – but I love it now that I’m older because, essentially, it’s about proudly and unabashedly cross-dressing (with your co-workers, even!) to a favorite Christmas tune. What’s not to love, am I right?

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that we woke up to a winter wonderland this morning (and I also happen to be walking ’round in women’s underwear, but that’s a different story).

20121221. Snow banks and chicken wagons.

Snow banks and chicken wagons – the wind was brutal last night and today, and I had to refresh the frozen chicken waterer four times today.

20121221. I have a remarkably steady hand. The chickens' first snow.

Notice there are no chickens out yet. Smart girls stayed inside and cozy for quite a while this morning.

20121221. With all the wind, I blocked off one side of the coop's ventilation with a towel.

This is our first cold weather with the chickens, and I was really glad I covered one side of their ventilated roof with a towel. It has been SO windy, the entire coop would have been snowed under!

I also keep hearing that chickens are supposed to slow down or stop producing as daylight hours wane. We assumed we wouldn’t see an egg until the spring thaw, our girls were so… REMEDIAL about the whole thing. Our first chicken laid her first egg one month ago today; Boo followed soon after, then Edgar waited until two days ago. Beaker apparently felt like a total loser for not having laid anything yet, so, on the shortest day of the year, she defied all wisdom and gave me her first little pink egg. I am pretty sure this is proof-positive that our chickens are weirdos. Lovely, endearing weirdos.

20121221. Beaker's little pink egg.

12/21/12 – the world didn’t end, and Beaker’s egg laying began.

20121221. Shortest day of the year, and Beaker decides to lay her first egg.

Go, Beaker, go! They finally braved the cold to scratch around in the straw.

Finally, the latest in the ‘Duh Vignettes’ series relates to selling eggs. We bought a bunch of blank cardboard egg six-packs so we can start selling to friends on a small scale. Since they are blank, I want to spruce the cartons up a bit, and I was lamenting to Chris how ridiculously expensive it is to have your own stamp made via the place I bought the cartons from (really? $45 for my own stamp? that’s cray).

Cue “duh” moment: I Google “custom stamp making,” and come across the following Pinterest board in, like, one of the first links: HELLO! I took two block printing classes last year. I have block printing supplies, including corkboard. Block printing is basically creating a giant stamp, for goodness sakes!

Hell, WE TALKED ABOUT MAKING STAMPS IN THE DANG CLASS. What is wrong with me?! So tonight I plan on drawing out a nice little stamp of a chicken silhouette in a space helmet for the tops of our cartons (and maybe a few others). Lovely, right?

20121221. Oh, right. This is what cold feels like.

So finally, on this last day of work, this first day of winter, and this first blast of cold weather and beautiful snow, I think I’m in the Christmas spirit. Who’s with me?

And Then There Were Three…

Egg layers, that is! Edgar, our fluffy-legged, super flighty, very photogenic Australorp laid her first egg today.

20121219. Edgar lays her first egg!

Now among our three girls who are laying, we have brown, green, and white eggs.

Three cheers for Edgar!

20121103. Edgar and her waddles.By the way, Boo, the leghorn, has laid an egg every day for the last eight days. She shoots eggs out her bum like laser beams! Or rainbows!

The “Duh” Vignettes, Edition One: The Grass Is Always Greener

A friend recently asked me if our girls’ eggs taste immensely different from store-bought eggs. To be honest, they don’t.

Wait, what? No, really. Don’t get me wrong – they taste fantastic, and they are about as fresh as you can get. They are also a lot stronger-shelled than store-bought eggs, and we often have to use a butter knife to break through the inner layer once we’ve cracked the shell.

Maybe it’s the fact that we have typically bought “higher end” eggs and not the 69 cent/dozen ones in the white Styrofoam containers. Maybe it’s because the chickens haven’t really been free ranging as much since the weather got colder. Who knows.

Anyway, this conversation got me thinking about fresh food for the chickens during the winter. I’ve been feeding them the pulp from my juicer, which they love, but how could I get them free range goodness without having to freeze my ass off supervising them in the open air?

Then it hit me, my greatest “duh” moment of late: open your eyes, girlfriend, and look at what’s right in front of you!

20121214. Cover crops as chicken snacks.

DUH! Green stuff everywhere!

We planted winter rye this year as a cover crop in a couple of beds, just for kicks. A local farmer was telling me that, in the spring, I’ll likely need to cut it back before turning it under, it grows so voraciously. Or, instead, I could use it as a tasty green thing to supplement the chickens’ diet all winter long.

20121214. Cover crops as chicken snacks.

Say it with me: DUH.

20121214. Cover crops as chicken snacks.

The chickens are not complaining about my recent discovery, although they did seem a little ruffled it took me so long.

In other news, we are trying to get into the holiday spirit over here at Space-Farms. For a variety of reasons, this season has been fairly stressful and a tad devoid of holiday cheer.

However, we both get over a week of much-needed time off work starting December 24, and I think the break alone will give us time to think, enjoy life, and maybe start considering some plans for the future.

20121208. Boombox hates everyone when we put the antlers on him.

Boombox is in the spirit!

20121215. We had an extra card and couldn't figure out who to send it to.

What should one do when one has an extra Christmas card and no more people to send it to in his/her address book? Why, Google “White House address,” of course! I hear Michelle has a thing for chickens.