Peacocks on the Farm

img_6921Four semi-wild peacocks have been spending time on our little farm lately.  Peacocks aren’t indigenous here, but they have lived in the area for decades.  They probably started as somebody’s released pets, but they have thrived here.  They aren’t owned by anyone, but are used to people.  We live in a funny country/city area with old farms still tucked among the cityscape.  Chickens and peacocks roam the neighborhood.  It’s an area people come to, to turn loose animals they can’t keep.  Obviously that’s not responsible animal keeping, I’m not endorsing that!  So far we’ve adopted bunnies, kittens, and our Silkie rooster, all found here.  Sometimes I wish someone would release their nice Lippizan horse, or good tractor, in our area.  I would totally adopt those!

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The males tried very hard to impress our chickens, but the girls weren’t quite sure what to make of their handsome visitors. I think our poor Silkie rooster, who enjoys being the center of attention, felt a bit upstaged!

I’m tempted to put out some feed to try to encourage them to stick around.  I don’t want to leave feed out – I fight rodents tooth and nail already!  And I do worry about bio-security.  We have to be so careful about spreading infections between flocks, it stands to reason that these wild birds could be carriers of harmful diseases to the chickens.  So, of course, there is reason to be careful.

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This one is a young male.  His tail feathers are just growing in, but his coloring is all male.

 

 

 

 

Some people object to peacock screams.  I’ve even heard them likened to the scream of a woman being murdered!  But somehow, I don’t mind it that much.  When I was in college, I lived in the Berkeley hills near a research colony of African hyenas.  The hyenas calls were so human – blood curdling, haunting, and terrifying.  Maybe that’s why the peacocks don’t sound so bad to me.  I actually kind of like the sound.  The kids say it sounds like the peacocks are practicing karate.

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A few years ago, one peahen spent about a year with us.  She would come into our garage when it was cold.  She liked to perch in a tree and watch us through the kitchen window.  She even tried to jump in the minivan when the hatch was open.  We named her Petunia.

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The peacocks are so majestic, and I love having them here.  I hope they’ll stick around!

Be In the Picture

When I asked for chicken selfies, a sweet reader replied that she is always the one taking the pictures, so didn’t have one of herself.

Dear sister, you must be a mama! Of humans, or other animals, or both! We mamas always put everyone else in front of the camera first, don’t we?

I spent at least a dozen years taking all the pictures, and never being in them. I didn’t love the way I looked. I was tired, either pregnant or nursing, with bags under my eyes, spots on my face, and usually wearing something wrinkled or stained. I focused on making sure the babies were beautifully dressed, not me.

Here’s the thing: over time, I’ve learned that, as moms, we really do need to take care of, and value, ourselves. I’d always heard this. But lately I’ve been trying it out more, in little ways. I started taking time to work out a couple years ago. (Ironically, the fact that it was selfish, made exercise feel more like a luxury, which made me actually enjoy working out, maybe for the first time ever!) I also started giving myself permission to have interests other than the kids. I started writing again. I got chickens. I started this page. Guess what?? It worked. I am happier, and healthier, and probably more interesting, (as long as you like chickens. 😂) I believe we are better mothers, and people, when we take care of, and value, ourselves.

In an unexpected result of my selfish changes, the kids started exercising more too. The whole family became healthier than they were a couple years ago. Plus, the older kids started working out WITH me, which has been a great bonding experience for us. For the younger kids, taking care of the animals, and learning about agriculture, has been such a happy activity, and again, something we have done together.

(But please know that taking care of yourself does not have to only equal exercise! I’m using that as an example, but it can be whatever makes you happy and fulfills you – fixing old cars, raising goats, or studying French cooking! I hated people who told me to work out more – that is not what I am telling you, unless you want to.)

As our kids get older, I hope our daughters will have learned to value themselves, and our sons will grow up to honor the women in their lives, by the example we moms have lived.

But also, we deserve to take care of ourselves, to feel pretty, to feel fulfilled. We deserve to be, and need to be, in the pictures.

I’m in my forties now, I have a few more smile lines than I used to. My hair is usually a mess. Most of the time I can’t be bothered with makeup. This blogging thing has been a huge adjustment for a mom who is used to focusing on everyone else. But I am finding a voice, which I love. And I am trying to force myself to get in the picture, at least sometimes. I want my daughters to grow up believing they should be in the picture too. And I want all the other chicken mamas to know that they are beautiful, and deserve to be in the picture!

Men, go tell your wife, or girlfriend, or daughter, or mother, that she is beautiful, and take her picture! Chicken mamas, take that selfie! Trust me, ten years from now you’ll look at it, and wonder why you didn’t appreciate how great you looked!

A Completely Understandable Reason Not to Tame Your Chickens

I’ve talked about the reasons it’s a good idea to have tame chickens in your backyard flock. But, like most things in life, it’s not perfectly black and white.

I don’t raise meat chickens. I’m sort of interested in it, and I admire those if you who do. The amazing heritage breed chicken meat I get from Kristy, of Chowdown Farm, at the farmer’s market, is the most delicious I have ever tasted. (She even brought whole, dark-skinned, young roosters to my house, and taught me how to butcher them, for a coq au vin I was making a few years ago!) I can imagine that if you are raising meat chickens, you might prefer not to get to know them quite so well.

My grandparents raised a few cattle for beef, on their gold country ranch, when I was growing up. My grandfather’s barbecue skills were legendary. He sometimes jokingly named a cow “Steak”, and another “Hamburger”. And I will admit to having a few qualms as we ate dinner on the patio overlooking the cows grazing on the rolling golden hills.

But gosh those garlicky, red wine-marinated, steaks, with homemade pesto fettuccine, green beans from the garden, and wild blackberry pie for desert, were among the favorite meals of my life. And I think it would have been a little harder to enjoy the steaks if the cows had been named “Bessie”, and “Clarabelle”, and had come running when I called them!

Chicken Art

Look at this awesome barn art I got from local artist and fellow chicken keeper, Chris Temple. I love it!!!

Here’s a link in case you’d like something like it too: https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/293146914540231

Pink Eggs

I know I’ve talked a lot about blue egg layers, but we want ALL the colors in our egg basket, so let’s talk about pink eggs now! Do I have pink layers? Sort of 😊. In this picture of today’s eggs, you can see that some of the are pinkISH. It turns out that pink eggs are more difficult to achieve than blue ones. They are usually, technically, a cream egg, or the result of a whitish bloom over a brown egg. But they can certainly look pink in comparison to the other eggs in your basket!

If you are looking to add a pink layer to your flock, your best bet may be a cream egg layer, which often looks pink next to the brown and white eggs. Some Easter Eggers also lay pinkish eggs. The problem is that if you are scooping up chicks at the feed store from the bin of Easter Eggers, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a pink layer, as EE’s also lay blue and green eggs (not all from one chicken!!) Some people say you can predict egg color an EE will lay by the leg color – it’s worth a try!

I’m pretty sure my pinkish eggs come from my Speckled Sussex, and my Silver Laced Wyandotte. My Black Australorp also sometimes lays a pinkish egg. I’ve heard that Salmon Favorelles lay pinkish eggs, and they are such pretty birds. I’ve got my eye out for one,… and a Seabright because they are so pretty,… and a Deathlayer… and a Black Copper Marans……. except that I’ve already got a dozen chicks in my living room! 😂

Children and Chickens

Animals of all kinds tend to bring out the best in children. When I was a horseback riding instructor in college, I loved that the most surly, uncontrollable, teenaged boys would come up to the barn, and invariably become sensitive and careful with the horses. Chickens and children are a wonderful, happy, combination. But there are a few precautions to take, especially with young chicks.

Of course, chicks are tiny and fragile, so, especially with young children, it’s important to teach them to be gentle. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:

1.) Make sure that chicks’ wings are close against their body when being held, so that the wings don’t get twisted or injured.

2.) I keep a stack of old hand towels next to the chick brooder. When someone wants to hold a chick, they use it as a little play-mat for the chicken, so as not to spread chicken germs in the house. The hand cloth is also a cozy place for the chick to snuggle up and stay warm and protected. And the hand towel also saves the holder from getting pooped on.

3.) If you have very young children, put a couple chicks inside a shallow storage crate on the floor, like a playpen, for the children to watch, rather than holding them.

4.) When children are playing with chickens, pay attention to make sure that the chicks don’t get too cold.

5.) Give the chicks time to eat, drink, and warm up, before being held again.

6.) You’ll get favorites, but it’s good idea to rotate holding all the chicks. This way you won’t overtire any one chick, and they’ll all get socialized.

7.) ALWAYS make sure that anyone who was around the chicks washes their hands with soap afterwards. If children are very young, I usually put on a fresh change of clothes – just to be safe.

A sleepy chick, cuddled against your chest, is incredibly sweet. Take lots of pictures. They’ll grow out of the fluff in just a couple days. Like all our babies, they’re only little for such a short time, and it goes too fast. Enjoy your little chicks!

Taming Roosters

Do you have an aggressive rooster?
Believe it or not, this little fluffball rules the roost in our coop. He’s not exactly intimidating. But even he can get a little “roosterish” from time to time.
As soon as steps out of line with me or the kids, I scoop him up and carry around with me while I do my barn chores. I actually think he likes to be carried. He gets very relaxed, (plus it’s as close to flying, or being tall, as this little Silkie will ever get! 😂)
More importantly, it reminds him who’s the boss here. You’ve gotta maintain your position at the top of the pecking order. After a little quality one-on-one time, he goes back to being a perfect gentleman around humans. This is even more effective if you carry your rooster belly side up. (Although I’m actually just trimming his toe feathers in this photo. 😊) To really modify his behavior, you may need to hold your roo for a few days in a row, to start, and once a week after that.

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Some roosters will always be aggressive. But carrying your rooster is an easy “domination” method. If you have an ornery rooster, it’s worth a try before banishment!

Rooster Spurs

Crystal R. Bender asked about removing roosters spurs. You may want to remove a rooster’s spurs if he is being too rough with your girls. But generally, most people remove a rooster’s spurs is if he is being too rough with his human handlers. For me, if a rooster has enough behavior issues that his spurs are a problem, then that’s not the rooster I want around my kids – spurs or no. I guess I think of it like a cat with claws – our pet cat could do lots of damage with her claws, but never would, (except to my furniture!!), so it’s not a problem. I’ll keep one, friendly, rooster around, and that’s pretty much my limit. But I have a small, urban, flock. For other flocks, roosters are a necessity, for breeding, flock protection, and flock management. There are lots of different “right” ways to keep chickens. I’ve read about the “baked potato method” to remove spurs, but never tried it. So I’m including a link to a good article, by people who clearly have more experience with the process than I do!

https://sites.google.com/a/poultrypedia.com/poultrypedia/home/rooster-spurs-trimming-and-removing

And yes, this is my rooster. I’m not kidding about only keeping a completely un-intimidating rooster! Although having his own cavalry helps. 😁

Barn Decor

New decorations for the coop and gate. We may be a muddy mess, but we’re a cute muddy mess! 😂

A few of you have asked about where I found my gate roosters. It was one of those 3am finds on eBay. I was quite sure I had discovered a rare treasure! Luckily for all of you, it turns out, it is also available on Amazon for $19.99. 😂

Here’s the link: 😊

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B078B941LV/ref=sxbs_sxwds-stvp_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1521479118&sr=2&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3524794262&pd_rd_wg=7Kuv6&pf_rd_r=WKPFD1Z1SPZSB82A2B4D&pf_rd_s=mobile-sx-bottom-slot&pf_rd_t=9701&pd_rd_i=B078B941LV&pd_rd_w=BPsjp&pf_rd_i=metal+rooster+wall+decor&pd_rd_r=32de05f5-c7c6-4bc5-ad47-c1521509a4c8&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65

Why You Want to Tame Your Chickens

The more you handle you baby chicks, the more tame they will be. It’s great to have tame chickens for lots of reasons!

First, it’s more fun to have tame chickens. If you haven’t kept chickens before, it may be difficult to believe, but you really will get to know their personalities. They can be so funny and entertaining!

Even if you plan on them being barnyard chickens, not pets, the more tame chickens become, the easier it will be to treat them when they are injured or sick.

It makes it easier to round them up into the coop at dusk, or to negotiate nesting box politics.

Finally, there is nothing funnier, not more joy-inducing, than watching your flock of baby dinosaurs come running to you when you call!

#mylittlechickens

Happy Saturday!

Fence project – done!!!

It’s not perfect because I don’t weld, but it’s pretty gosh darn close, and certainly $1500 worth of close! 😁

Now on to the next project. I’m gonna use this 95 gallon galvanized water tank from the barn, and the damaged pieces of fence, and make a bigger baby chick brooder.

The littles have gotten SO big! They need more space. (Wait ’till I tell you the story which proves it!!! 😯 I’ll write it as soon as I finish this project. Let’s just say Madeleine proved she is truly a benevolent chick-sitter!) But it’s too soon, and too cold, to put them in the puppy play pen yet.

I’m gonna whip this up, then the bride and groom are coming over to make plans for wedding we’re having here next month. Yay!!! And then I really need to make lemon bars!

#mylittlechickens

Mending Fences

My first project of the day: this broken fence.

Seven old cypress trees blew over in the last storm. Luckily, there wasn’t much damage, except for a section of this fence. I’ve already got a roll of this fencing, from some chicken projects I was working on, so I don’t even need a trip to the hardware store!

I may be a city girl, but I know my way around horse fencing and hog ties, and I’m not afraid of a little mud! (Take THAT, fence company who wanted thousands of dollars for the job!) 😁

#mylittlechickens