Turducken Without the Duck

Our neighbor has turkeys.  White ones.  Or rather, our neighborhood has turkeys.  White ones.

You see?  They free range everywhere, and don’t care whose farm they are on.  Not only that, but these are second generation turkeys.  The neighbor’s tom and most the first flock died, and the hen mated with wild turkeys… to produce this:

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Pretty, aren’t they?

They like our farm, and since the end of summer, they’ve been coming and visiting.  Checking out the garden.  Eating out of the bird feeders. I’ve even caught them checking out the chickens from the other side of the fence.

Dots and Pip usually meet them on our side, all bluster and bucks and warnings about whose pasture it is.

Today, the wandering white turkeys decided to check out the inside of the chicken pasture.

I was surprised, because they didn’t hurt my chickens. Just walked around doing their own thing. Pavel and several of the hens ran over to check it out. One of them puffed up his feathers at Pavel but did not attack or anything.  Given they’ve been running wild for months and months, I was a little worried when she ran right up to them!

 

It’s October, Already?

I’m honestly not sure where August and September when. One minute, I’m helping Little Dude with his 4-H projects and the next minute, school is starting, then both my children had their sport seasons start AND the garden started booming.

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These pictures are from last week.  The green beans are still flowering and still producing.   The carrots are doing well, too.  I’ve been slowly harvesting them, cutting into cubes and freezing for soups and stuff over the winter.

The cabbages did well.  I harvested, and discovered that if I left the plant in the ground rather than did the roots up, they will start growing a new head.  I don’t think any of them will be big enough to harvest before frost, but the chickens might enjoy them?

I had decent luck with the broccoli, too.  I need to check them again, but I suspect they will slow down eventually.

I’m waiting to harvest the potatoes and sweet potato. Also, the brussel sprouts, which I’m not sure what to do with.  I’ll probably Youtube “how to harvest brussells sprouts” soon.

Over all, I’m very proud of my experimental garden.  I’m already planning for next year.

Dad’s tomatoes, though… those things were the best.  So far, we’ve done over 30 quarts of whole tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, home made ketchup (first time ever), salsa, chili and home made tomato soup (also a first time ever).  The soup and ketchup were my idea and I can just say — yum!!!

 

And, of course, since this is my ‘chicken blog’ I have to talk about the chickens.  🙂

I have a lot of videos and kooky pics up on my Instagram.

The older ladies and Dots are all in various stages of molting.  Some of them look rougher than others.  Some of them (Abby, for example) barely looking like they’ve lost any feathers at all.  But the over abundance of feathers everywhere is a testament that they are molting.

When does this end?  Winter is fast approaching and I’m looking at my semi-balding birds and thinking “they will freeze!”  And “I can’t knit so so no chicken sweaters!”  Especially not for 30+ birds.

Actually, I am NOT an advocate of chicken sweaters.  They are bad for our birds.  Cute, but bad.  Just say no. Okay?

All the babies are getting bigger.

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Dani and Eugenie.

 

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Pavel or… Pavelle … or who, I have been assured by someone on Instagram is, in fact, a pretty little girl.  🙂  She’s sweet and intelligent and loves to ride on my shoulder and ‘talk’ to me.

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“Esther” who is NOT a girl, but a handsome little cockerel.  I’m torn between renaming him Eddie or simply shortening Esther to Es.

I’m in the process of negotiating with my DH to let me keep him, along with Dots and Pip.  We have enough hens to justify three roosters and Esther is the low boy on the totem pole.  He might fit in just fine.   Plus,I read somewhere that an Easter Egger + a brown-egg layer will produce Olive egg layers.  IF  Es were to mate and I were to hatch those babies, I could potential have olive green eggs some day?

DH is thinking about it.  He wants Easter Eggers.  Es is our only survivor.  It could happen.

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The Sulmtaler Brothers.  I call them Sumi and Taller.  I shouldn’t name them.  If I can’t sell them, they are off to Freezer Camp by the end of November.  But they’re so cute.  And Sumi crows better than Dani does!

The chocolate orps (whom I have no pictures of because they won’t hold still for me) are boy & girl.  The little roo, I call Snickers.  He’s cocky and I think he’s been trying to establish dominance over Sumi.  They’ve been squabbling.   He also tried to mate with an Australorp yesterday. I wish I’d gotten a video of that because she went off on him, claws up and everything.  All the rest of my hens are pretty docile so I’ve never seen that happen before.

The hen is Hershey.  She is sweet, but standoff-ish.  She likes her privacy.

 

 

As the instagram caption says, Stacey as has been acting weird.  She paces the coop ALL DAY.  Always.  It looks like she’s looking for a nest box, but she never gets in one.  I don’t know what’s actually going on and Google is not my friend.

This is Ashley. Aka Ashe… some of you may remember Ashe was the little Australorp who kept the injured Baby company when they were chicks.   She is going to be a momma in about 2 1/2 weeks.  🙂  It will probably be my last Broody of the year, as winter is approaching.

FENCE!!!!

It’s here!  The Fence is HERE!!!!!!

*Ahem*  Let me start again.

Since Fall, there’s been a lot of talk on this blog about the need for a means of keeping my free range chickens away from the road which runs through our property.  It’s a main road, though in a rural area, and people drive on it and they drive fast.  Since December, I’ve lost three hens to the road (and one to a predator) and it was heart-breaking.

Dad, DH and I began began tossing around ideas, which included chicken tractors, installing underground fencing and little ‘collars’ for the chickens (like invisible fencing for dogs) and … the fence I wanted the whole time but no one else thought the feasible until we lost three of our girls to the road.

Then it became feasible.  After it cost the lives of Ava, Madison and Dottie.

We started by discussing things like ‘how high’ and ‘how to build gates they can’t go through.’  Then DH started figuring up how much the materials would cost.  It would have to wait until 1) we got our income tax return and 2) the spring thaw came.

Both have come… and so has my long-awaited fence.  Would you care for a tour?

I’ll be honest, I will miss the free range.  It was nice to look out of the windows and see them all wandering about, but I refuse to lose any more of them to the road and their own disregard for it.  They might not know any better, but I do!  They will still have plenty of room to move around and a lot to explore, a water source, shelter (there is a bush, plus DH promised to make little lean-to’s so they can get shade and safety) and access to their run, coop and favorite dirt bathing areas.

They just won’t be able to cross the road.

The fence won’t protect them from most other predators.  Just the road, really, but I’m fine with that.  If I want them to wander and get the good bugs/grass/etc, then I have to make some exceptions.  I’m fine with that, too.

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So are they, really.  This fence means no more being locked into the run ‘for their own good’ and a vast expanse of new green stuff to nibble.

 

 

 

 

 

Pip in Winter, Sprouts and Other Things

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Well, Saturday Pip reached the 10 week mark.  Seriously looking more like a pretty little hen than the baby roo she/he looked like back in week 4.

The pics are from Saturday.  As you can tell, we had some snow in the a.m. but by the time afternoon rolled around it was gone.

This really has been a mild winter, which is somewhat disheartening because I was hoping the snow would be a deterrent strong enough to keep them from venturing near the road.   Since we can’t build the fence for the pasture until the spring thaw, they really needed the deterrent.

In the last 2 weeks, we’ve lost two more hens to the road.  One, Madison (aka Pip’s bio-mom, who laid the egg) was totally splattered by a man in a minivan.  He was so sorry, and came to the house to tell us and apologize.

Yesterday, Dottie (one of the ones my son liked) got clipped by a trucker, who stopped and came to the house to ask if we wanted him to help ‘finish her off’ because she was still alive, but clearly would not live.

That sounds odd, but his heart was in the right place.  His mother owns chickens and he was also very apologetic.

Since October, I’ve lost 4 hens now.  1 to a predator, and 3 to their own inability to be afraid of the road.

Spring, and my fence, cannot come soon enough.

Especially since we haven’t had enough snow to speak up in my part of the world.

Although, we did get some today, and supposedly its going to keep falling on and off all day.

Pip was not impressed.  He/she went outside the coop and run to explore and came running back freaking out.  I even got this video of him/her trying to find a safe place to roost, so his toes wouldn’t be cold.  Poor baby!

The last thing… has anyone tried growing sprouts for their chickens in the winter?

Winter is almost over for us now, but I’m wondering if little beds of sprouts wouldn’t be a good encouragement to stay on the safe side of the road?  It’s the ‘greener grass’ on our side (not that there is actually green grass right now, but you know what I mean) that is attracting them.  Something new and different.

 

Happy Day, Pip, you are 4 Weeks old!

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Crazy, isn’t it?  Pip is getting so big!

 

Today marked Pip’s 4-week-aversary.  He/she spent it trying to avoid me picing him up for pictures and wandering around the barn yard with Abby (momma) and the rest of the flock.

 

Right now, as I type this, Pip is exploring the side barnyard, out by the silos and wood pile… again, with the whole flock.  He still keeps close to Abby and she is still being the good Momma who shows him stuff, but I can see where she is encouraging Pip to be a little more independent.

He caught a slug by himself this morning for breakfast.  All by himself.

Our Pip is growing up!

And because yesterday was Christmas… I have Christmas morning chicken pics…

The chickens got plain spaghetti noodles and meal worms in their treat dish for Christmas… and a suet cake in the coop.  They still have the suet cake, or what’s left of it.

 

The Post I’ve Been Dreading

I’ve been putting off writing this post because the subject is one that I have been dreading ever since we first got our babies back in April, and increasingly since about the end of September.

One of my hens was struck in the road, by a car.

It was one of my two remaining Gold sexlinks.

Now the only sexlinks I have are Abigail, Dots (our rooster) and if you count Pip (sexlink-x-RiR cross).

My heart is all kinds of broken.  And also all kinds of angry.

But not at the car/person who struck my chicken.  At myself, for not pushing harder to make a fence happen… and at both Dad and my DH, who both (at at different times) refused me the right to have a fence.

Some background on our Great Fence Debate:

When we first started talking about chickens, I wanted to fence in the inner barnyard for them.  DH was for it, but when we mentioned it to my Dad, he said “NO!” because if it was fenced off, he wouldn’t be able to drive his truck, tractor, lawn mower back there.   So, we opted to build them the little run, with the option to let them free range as they got bigger.

I asked DH’s cousin, Holly, (who lives a couple miles away on the same stretch of road) if she’d ever lost any chickens to the road.  She said no, because hers were afraid of the cars and ran away if they were close and a car drove by.

So I assumed mine would, too.  The cars and trucks that drive by are bigger, louder and noisier than my chickens. They would be afraid and run.

Right?

It wasn’t much of a problem for most all the time we’ve had the chickens.  Until June/July, they mostly stayed in the run and coop.  After we started letting them out of the run, they all stayed in the inner barnyard.  Occasionally, little groups of them would walk around to the side of the barn or out front of the barn, but they all stuck close and away from the road.

Then we did the butchering, leaving Dots alone with his sixteen hens.  They were older by now.  The girls started laying eggs.  Abby went broody (September), and Rebecca and Ava started wandering closer to the road.  They crossed it a couple times, lead other girls and sometimes Dots to join them.

Since the first time, we’ve had an on-going debate over the absence of a fence and the need for one.

If we’re not at home, I lock them in the run.  We clipped wings to keep them from flying over the run (we have some girls who still do).

I’ve suggested a chicken tractor.  DH is against it because it would mean 1) they weren’t ‘truly free range’ and 2) they wouldn’t be using the coop he worked so hard on.

Then Rebecca got killed by the predator (we think cat).    Dad finally said to me, “you know, you should fence off an an area for them.”  We talked about it and both decided that IF we could get DH to build a fence with a gate for us to drive through, we could just clip the wings occasionally and the chickens should be fine.

DH still said no, giving the same reasons as above.

Then, this past Tuesday happened.

It wasn’t a good day all the way around.  Little Dude had been suffering from a toothache and I had to take him to the dentist (about a 45 min drive).  We were there ALL day.  As we were leaving, just getting on the Interstate to drive home, he says to me “Mom!  I left my glasses at the dentist!”  no place to pull over, and I suck at using my phone while driving so I couldn’t reprogram the GPS (I had never been to that dentist before, so I was using the gps on the phone to navigate).  I decided to go home, call the dentist, and go back the next day to get them.  Neither me or Little Dude had eaten since breakfast and it was almost 2pm then.

So we made it home, and as I’m pulling up to the house, I see this little pile of gold/red/white by the side of the road.

Ava.  Dead.  I screamed and cried and as soon as I was in the driveway and parked, I ran down to get her and just held her and cried.

Mom said she’d been watching and had shooed her across the road once.

Dad was in the barn.  The rest of the chickens were closer to the inner barnyard.

I don’t know what Ava was doing all by herself crossing the road.  I guess there’s no way of answering that question now.

I spent the rest of the day pretty upset. (I’m still pretty upset.  It’s like we’re not meant to have sexlinks.  If something happens to Dots, Abby and Pip, I will be broken.  Not to mention what it will do to Little Dude.)

I found pictures of Ava on my phone.  Some with her sisters.  They made me start crying.

DH asked what was wrong.  I told him nothing, I was just thinking.  He asked what?  I asked him. “what do I need to do, what do I need to sacrifice or give up or go without, to get you to fence off a safe place for my birds?  I don’t want to lose anymore.”

He joked about just buying more sexlinks.  I told him, it wouldn’t be the same.  They wouldn’t be the same birds.

He started to suggest the chicken tractor and then said no, too much work.  This was at bedtime on Tuesday night.  We were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed.  I could see ‘his gears turning’ and I knew he was thinking now.  He went up stairs, flopped up on the bed and said that he could build a fence, but how to do a gate?  Then he said, “no, I know how to do the gates.”

Then he asked me how big of an area I was talking about.  “Just the inner barnyard and a little bit of the pasture, maybe to the tree line, where Dad planted those trees.  Not the whole pasture.”

That’s what I told him.  It’s not too unreasonable.  The barnyard, some of the pasture where they play.

He said he’d need more money for material.  He has some of it, but not all.

It’s winter now and the ground is hard, so it might not get it built til spring.

But’s he’s going to build me the fence, like I wanted before.  It will be on me to keep wings clipped enough that they won’t fly over it.  Some of them will anyway, but I’m going to assume that given a bigger area that their run, they won’t be as tempted.  Especially if we give them to the tree line.

I just have to keep the rest of them safe til spring.

My heart is still broken for Ava, but at least her death has served some purpose.

I’ll be honest here, I love all my chickens, but the Golds were special.  They were our first, and they were special.  Also, they have a nicer temperament than the Rhode Island Reds, by a long shot.

 

I feel like a failure for not keeping them safer, or not pushing DH and Dad harder for the fence I knew was necessary. I may be getting one now, but at what cost? The life of a little girl I can’t just replace. 😦

Snow, Thanksgiving and Eggs that say ‘Peep’

We’re still reeling a little from last Saturday’s sad, sad events.  I miss poor little Becky a lot.  You would think I wouldn’t notice, given that there are 16 other birds to look after, but I know she’s gone.  There is an empty space where one little sexlink girl should be.  😦

It snowed the other day, more than a few flurries, and it covered the ground.

As you can see, they really weren’t too happy about it.  Luckily for them, the snow was gone by mid-afternoon.  Someday, it won’t just go away. What are they gong to do then?

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Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and because it was a holiday, Little Dude and I made the birds a special breakfast of oatmeal with craisins (dehdrated cranberries).

This, we took down to them in the morning and (like the scrambled eggs)poured it over a dish of their regular feed/scratch grain mix.

I don’t give them table foods like that every day, but I figured I owed them because we were intending to lock them in the run all day because we weren’t going to be home for Thanksgiving.  We were visiting family, and when we’re going for longer periods of them, I like to keep them closer to safety.

So they got oatmeal as a holiday/I’msorryI’mlockingyou up gift.

 

We also gave them two seed cakes in a mesh bag to occupy their minds.

They weren’t sure what to make of them at first, but by the time we got home from our holiday dinner, all the of it was gone.

For reference… this is what the suet cakes looked like:

Not very big.  About the size of my fist, and I have small hands, for an adult
Not very big. About the size of my fist, and I have small hands, for an adult

 

And.. finally… if anyone is keeping track… today is Day 20 in the Adventures of Broody Abby.  Not that there is anything too adventurous about sitting in a laying box for three weeks, quietly saying buck-buck-buck.  She’s missed… well, everything. I don’t even think she knows her sister is gone.  😦

As of this morning, one of her two eggs has a crack in it that wasn’t there last night and when I bent down to get a closer look (no handling them, I just lift Abby up about a half inch) I could hear the distinct peep-peep of a little one.

I don’t see anything one way or another with the other egg.  I am handling them as little as possible.  I didn’t even candle them, so there is no knowing what will happen in the next couple of days.  It’s all very exciting!

Maybe by the next time I post, there will be babies.  🙂