… and then there were two…

Well… 

It was bound to happen eventually. Something got one of the chicks yesterday afternoon. We didn’t notice it yesterday, the birds went into the coop last night on their own accord, we came out and closed things up like normal – albeit a little later than normal as I didn’t realize Shannon had let the chickens out, so they didn’t get closed up until almost 9:00… This morning when she opened up the door – out comes mama, but only two chicks followed. Shannon looked all over the place… there’s no sign of feathers, or anything else that might indicate a struggle of some variety, it’s just gone. No peeping, no noise, no way anything could have gotten it last night while they were roosting…

We’re leaning in the direction of a hawk or something, yesterday sometime… just ‘pluck’ and gone… There were no peeps from random places in the yard, so it’s definitely gone… it’s a bummer though, and you can’t help but feel a smidgen of failure as their protector. Granted… I’m not their mother, I’m not even a chicken… but I still feel some responsibility for these little babies, yet in a broad stroke of irony, I am also ultimately responsible for putting them in the stew pot when their usefulness is past…

It’s interesting the dichotomy between caretaker and butcher… feelings on one hand, apathy and cold-heartedness on the other. I’m finding it’s a somewhat difficult line to walk…

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Our little scratch addicts…

It always makes me chuckle a little when I throw out the chicken’s scratch, and how they practically dive onto the ground and peck up as much as they can cram in their beaks. Kind of a “Mine, Mine, Mine! Get away! Mine!” It’s like chicken crack. 

I guess that makes me a scratch dealer… well, the first one’s always free.

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Look at them looking at me like, where’s some more? Where’s the rest?! They’re always comin’ back for dat Heisenberg.

 

Shut the Door!

An unusual thing happened this morning. I got out of bed before 6 am.

Thing 3 had just gone back to sleep in her crib, and Ben had the coffee on so I figured I might as well stay up and take a cup out back to enjoy a rare moment of peace and quiet.

The opossum peeking at me from the back corner of the garden, however, was enough to throw off that thought process.  Little pointy head. All teeth. Little waddling “run”.  Ugh.  So that’s what is chewing on my little pumpkins and pooping all over the garden. I had strongly suspected raccoon, but that little guy indicated otherwise.

Ben joined me and we got to talking about opossums and what strategies we might try to convince them to head elsewhere. I pointed out a gap in our bamboo “fencing” rigged up around the garden where it looked like something possibly climbed it and caused the cross-pieces to pull downward.  While we were looking at that, the girls started getting stirred up inside the coop and clucking. A rat came tearing out from the eave of the coop roof, scrambled down the siding and dove out of sight. So much for a quiet and relaxing morning in the garden.

I spent the rest off the morning inside researching how to identify opossum and raccoon poop and reading Internet horror stories of opossums getting inside people’s houses.

The neighbor kid came over later that to play with Thing 1 and Thing 2.  I promptly kicked the three boys outside and decided to try and throw together a batch of granola bars despite Thing 3’s insistence at attaching herself to both my legs and crying (brothers woke her from both nap attempts this morning–might seriously be time to get Project Third Bedroom started. . .).

Thing 3 finally contented herself emptying my cupboards, the granola bars were mixed and in process of  getting smoothed out into the pans when next thing I know, three boys come bursting through the kitchen door from outside, all yelling and hollering something that sounds like, “GET IT! IT’S IN THE HOUSE, GET IT!!”

Something big, sleek and black streaked past the corner of my eye, toenails scrabbling to keep traction as it hit the hardwood floor.  Three boot clad boys pounded the floor right behind it.  It rounded the corner and fled into my bedroom.

My first thought after the morning I had: “WHAT kind of rodent did THOSE BOYS just chase into my house?!?”

As the boys and I collided around the corner–Thing 3 scooting on her butt right behind us–the animal began to squawk and bock and flop and flap back and forth across my unmade bed, three sets of grubby little hands reaching and diving after it.  Chicken Nugget, you stupid chicken, don’t you dare poop on my bed!!  (And yes, of all the chickens, it would be Chicken Nugget to end up in the house.)

Thing 3 thought the whole fiasco pretty entertaining until Chicken Nugget found the bedroom window and started flapping her wings in a desperate attempt to escape.  The flapping wings hitting the window freaked her out and she began shrieking.  The boys continued trying to corner the chicken which only resulted in more flapping against the window and more shrieking baby on the floor.

“EVERYBODY OUTSIDE–NOW!!” I yelled.

The boys vanished.  Three faces soon appeared at the outside of my bedroom window (though the  look on those faces when the chicken hit the window again gave me something to laugh about later).  Chicken Nugget tried to squeeze under a chair in the bedroom.  At that point I easily grabbed her and tucked her under my arm.  (“Yay!  My Mom got her!” I could hear through the window.)  Out went the chicken.  Baby got scooped up and snuggled until she had calmed enough to stop trembling.  Granola Bars went into the oven.

Lesson learned?  Don’t get up before 6 am. Oh, and when baking Granola Bars, shut the back door.  One simple step to keep life that much more sane.

Curious about the recipe?  Like most of the recipes I use, I originally found it on allrecipes.com. . . but have changed it a bit since.

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This is the version I used today:

4 ½ cups rolled oats

¼ cup wheat germ

¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup coconut oil

½ cup maple syrup

1 cup applesauce

2 cups assorted chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and unsweetened shredded coconut

First, make sure the back door if firmly shut.  Then go ahead and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease one 9 x 13-inch pan.  In a large mixing bowl combine oats, wheat germ, flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, and applesauce.  Stir in the chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and unsweetened coconut.  It takes a bit to mix and make sure all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the liquid ingredients.

Lightly press mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars.  Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

… well, because she was flung there when the tractor-trailer that was carrying her and hundreds of her sisters rolled over in the middle of downtown Salem.

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No, really. An entire semi-truck full of Foster Farms chickens tipped over in the middle of Salem today, and chickens (and chicken manure) were everywhere.

The driver was fine – but about half of the chickens on the trailer weren’t so fortunate. Other photos that were provided by the Statesman Journal (www.statesmanjournal.com) showed the aftermath and the cleanup effort which lasted well into the afternoon hours even though the crash occurred early this morning.

Apparently, speed may have been a factor in the accident and the load seems to have shifted, causing the truck to tip onto its side – sending the cages that the chickens were being carried in tumbling across the road – breaking open scattering live chickens and corpses everywhere.

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All photos credit Zach Urness (Statesman Journal)

Foster Farms issued the following statement:

TRUCK ACCIDENT IN SALEM, OREGON July 9, 2013

This morning, a Foster Farms contracted trailer truck transporting chickens was involved in an accident on Commercial Street in downtown Salem, Ore. The driver is in good condition but was transported to a local hospital as a precaution. No other people were involved in the accident. The driver works for a hauling company contracted by Foster Farms, she is not a Foster Farms employee. We are cooperating fully with local police as they investigate the accident. The birds are being hand-collected and per USDA regulation, any fatalities are disposed of and do not enter the food supply.

We are committed to the safety of live poultry during transport and have maintained an exemplary safety record. We regret that the accident occurred and promptly took steps to rectify the situation.

I don’t know this for certain, but it seems they were likely shipping chickens from their Canby, Oregon production plant and I can only assume that these birds were on their way to becoming Corn Dogs in the Corvallis, Oregon Corndog processing plant.

The people of Salem have been quick to jump on the “EWW!! LOOK AT THAT! How could you show pictures of dead chickens?!?” bandwagon on the Statesman Journal’s comments section, like they don’t have a clue that that small piece of Foster Farms chicken breast that they have with their health conscious lunch – once looked like one of those white birds in the streets of Salem. (Granted – likely less contorted and lying in the middle of the street…)

We have taught Thing 1 and Thing 2 from early on where their food comes from. I fish, I hunt, we keep chickens – and it’s important to me that they understand that when we have meat, in order for them to eat, something else had to die, and not to take that for granted, and not to be wasteful.

Sadly – this was horribly wasteful, and yet another reason why I would desperately like to see us utilize less large scale agriculture, and switch over to more numerous family farms, backyard flocks to sustain the family, or at least use sustainable agricultural practices such at those at Polyface Farms and the numerous echoes of their strategy to produce for these large scale operations.

At the same time – we have to put our money where our wishes lie. This goes right back to what we talked about with Monsanto. We are getting what we pay for. Every time I give in and buy a corn dog – I’m voting with my dollars to continue this type of large scale agricultural practice… we as consumers have to be willing to stand up for what we believe in not just in words but in actions.

So why did the chicken cross the road – it seems that she didn’t really have much of a choice…

… Good thing we do.

“Pale Clucker”

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This is Arugula. She is an old bitty.

She’s always grumpy, pecking at the other chickens. Always whining about things. Constantly squinting. Seriously… she looks like Clint Eastwood.

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Today, Thing 1 came in from getting the eggs and said – “MOM! I can’t get any, Arugula is sitting in the box, and when I try to move her, she pecks me… she’s also barking at me or something.”

Those of you with chickens of your own are already nodding your head in recognition – but for us, we just came across our first broody hen. 

Chickens – like all women have an internal clock, and now and again – it gets the better of them and like ‘Loretta’ in the Life of Brian, they exclaim loudly and clearly to the world – “I WANT TO HAVE BABIES!”

So – the old bitty absconded all of the other chickens eggs, and laid on them as though she was going to hatch them. Blissfully unaware that they are unfertilized. In her mind, if she lays on them long enough – some sort of immaculate conception will occur, and the chicks will hatch out.

Silly Old Bitty.

The problem with broodiness in hens is it throws their system for a loop, slows down to feeding and watering, makes them susceptible to illness and mites, and basically takes them out of the laying chain for almost 9 weeks total.

It is therefore vitally important to break the broodiness as quickly as possible both for egg production, as well as ultimately the health of the bird and the other birds in the hen house, as broodiness begats broodiness. 

I read numerous methods of breaking a bird of broodiness, one of which involved dunking them in ice water. (no thanks) the science behind that is to cool off the bird since their body temperature increases while they incubate the eggs. Dunking them in ice water will reduce its overall body temperature as quickly as possible – however, this also sounded the most abrupt and unhealthy to me, and didn’t rank high on my list of fixes.

I needed however to get her off the nest, off of any of her eggs, and away from materials where should could stick herself down into and keep that temperature up. So the answer that seemed like it made the most sense to me was to get her up off the ground, on wire. 

I hit craigslist looking for free rabbit hutches. No deal. Posted a status on Facebook looking for rabbit hutches. No deal. Considered absconding a shopping cart from one of the many abandoned shopping carts in NE Salem for a moment – (fully intending on returning it… even though it might have been caked in manure…)

I finally settled on building a wire cage out of my 2×4 wire fence, and cable ties – kind of like how we built the hoophouse. Here’s the “Pale Clucker” in her new jail cell until she’s broken of her broodiness.

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She’s about 4 inches off the ground – gives her air circulation underneath as well as on top and all around. She’s got food and water – inside the coop so that she doesn’t get dismembered by raccoons… should be good to go. 

The judge was fairly lenient, her sentence is only a couple of days – we’ll let her out after that and monitor her behavior to see if she’s still acting up, and if so – back in solitary for a bit if not – back with the rest of the girls.

Maybe a little time in solitary will make her less like an old bitty. The odds aren’t good.

May 2013 Update

A quick Jaunt around the backyard as May draws to a close – garden is coming along nicely. Chickens are in, more projects on the horizon are keeping us very bzzzzy..

Things are good. 🙂

Got a really cool comment in the Guest Book of the Little Free Library today – a gentlemen from several streets over came by, and borrowed one of the books. On the Guestbook he wrote, “Borrowed Huck Finn. I’m 64 – never read it.”

That absolutely made my day! Made the whole project worth it right there. My wife told me, that a teenager came by today as well, dropped off one book, and took another with him… loving that it’s actually getting used!

The Garden is coming along nicely. Very excited to see it all finally coming together – Shannon has been busting it getting things planted and in and there’s still a little left to do after this sloppy Memorial Day. Will be getting some things planted this week and in before the beginning of June. But we’re in that stage where we get to sit back a bit and enjoy our labors as they grow.

Love that stage.

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Hope whatever stage you’re at – that all is well. 11 more days till summer break!!