Farm Life Interlude: And then there were five

Remember for a chunk of time how this became barely a parenting blog and more a blog about very tame backyard farming? If not, here are a few samplings from that time:

Well, because I generally have the brain power for just one post a week, and because I’m pregnant again and therefore have a pretty easy framework for new material, I have neglected to talk much about our little menagerie for awhile. But I wanted to take a moment to memorialize a sad milestone in our farming adventure.

Last week, on a dark and stormy night, we lost a chicken.

Hera was a good chicken. She was about 17 weeks old, the only Buff Orpington in our little half-dozen flock. She was timid and sweet, she didn’t like to be pet but would eat out of my hand. She was getting big and nearing the time she’d start laying eggs. She had recently lost a bunch of tail feathers, making her look (to me, at least) the most dinosaur-like of all our chickens whenever she broke into a run.

Hera
Rest in peace, chickie.

I promised him I wouldn’t invoke the wrath of the Internet when telling this story, and I hope not to because he doesn’t deserve it: The Husband took a break from working on his laptop last Monday to lock the chickens in their coop for the night. (They free range all day and put themselves to bed at about 8:30.) He went out to check on them before the storm rolled in — even counted them all because they dogpile in their nesting boxes instead of roosting and are sometimes hard to see (need to figure that one out…) and then, unfortunately, went inside without remembering to close and latch the door to the chicken run.

In the night, something (fox? raccoon? coyote?) crept in and snatched up Hera. Whatever it was left behind a trail of bloody feathers and a rattled remaining flock. I think the thrashing, hours-long storm that struck was a stroke of luck because it probably kept away any later predators who would have taken advantage of the situation.

The Husband was beside himself with regret the next morning when I went to let the chickens out and found all but one emerging from under our porch. I felt sadder than I expected to, but not angry. For as absent-minded as I’ve been lately, it could have just as easily been me who forgot to latch the run.

Or, it could have been if I were ever awake late enough for it to be my job. The Husband has picked up so much slack since the pregnancy fatigue sunk in, including night chores for the animals, I feel bad that the responsibility has fallen almost solely on him.

Today, while walking around our pond with The Toddler before bedtime, I heard our dog crunch something (unusual, as she’s not a stick chewer) and found she had unearthed a chicken thigh bone with a few orange feathers stuck to it. Hera’s remains.

I can’t count how many chicken thigh bones I’ve discarded over the years without a second thought, but I picked up this one and brought it back to the porch.

Maybe it’s silly to bury a chicken, but that’s what we’re going to do.

She was a good egg.

 

Farm Life Interlude: And then there were five

Winter Interlude

If I hadn’t been up every few hours last night, the scene this morning would have shocked me.

winterinterlude
April in Northeast Ohio.

For some reason, everyone in the house was hungry all night long — the cats woke me up three times (the first time for food, the second time to get locked in the basement for waking me up again, and the third time loudly scratching at the basement door and me letting them up so they wouldn’t wake up The Toddler, whose room is next to the basement stairs. Then, The Toddler woke up at 4:30 a.m. deciding he was starving and desperately wanted to nurse. My refusal sent him into a rage, and I had to send The Husband in to comfort him until the leisurely hour of 5:06 when I decided it could be “morning” and he could nurse.

(My sleep training logic is that if he wants to nurse, he has to get up for the day so as not to backslide into night nursing. 5:06 is disgustingly early, but he went to bed at 6:30 last night, so unfortunately I see 5 a.m. almost every morning. That’s our next hurdle to overcome, once sleeping through the night becomes more routine. So far we’ve only achieved it twice since the night weaning week, but usually wake-ups are quick and easily squelched without nursing.)

I digress. My point is it snowed like crazy last night.

While The Husband ate breakfast, I ran out to the barn with food for the goats. They’ll be stuck inside today, as the portable electric fence we use is rendered useless under heavy snow.

By the way, we renamed them finally! They came with the names Sehnsucht and Saudade (twin brothers) and Bazyll. While foreign names for the feeling of profound and melancholic longing are certainly poetic, we tend toward a sillier flavor of pet names in our family. So now Bazyll is Grover (after our favorite blue monster), Sehnsucht is Regular sized Rudy (or just Rudy), now our second pet named after a Bob’s Burgers character, and finally, the most inspired pet name I have ever or will ever have… the leader of our herd, formerly known as Saudade, is now Kid Cudi.

3goats
Thick as thieves: (L to R) Kid Cudi, Regular Sized Rudy and Grover

Because he’s a kid. And he chews cud.  Also because he loves weed(s). Please don’t make me explain it to you.

The chicks are getting bigger and featherier and braver at an improbable rate. We had to upgrade them to one of these last week because they seemed crowded in the brooder I constructed, and moved them into the guest bedroom so we could put the cats in the basement at night as needed without worrying for the chicks’ safety.

dominique-chick-3-weeks
Lincoln’s feathers are coming in nicely!

So if you’re planning on spending the night at my house any time over the next month or so… you’re going to have roommates.

Well, I thought I had a cogent point to this post when I started it, but there just isn’t enough coffee in the world this morning to bring me to a neat conclusion. It’s still blustering outside like it’s February and the toddler is sitting next to me covered in yogurt and trying to get me to name all the parts of the house he can see (Door! Floor! Ceiling! Clock!) so I had better sign off here.

Winter Interlude

Bringing home baby (chicks)

Yesterday was the big day… chick day! My brother accompanied The Toddler and I to the farm supply store to retrieve our flock (he traded shifts with someone at work, explaining he was going “to pick up chicks with my sister,” heh, heh. So he was my wingman, wink, wink.)

Anyway, I would have posted yesterday but The Toddler decided to nap for only 20 minutes and I spent all that time trying to convince the chicks to love me.

I promised lots of baby chick photos, so here you go:

baby chicks in a box
Our chicks came home in a donut box! There are two Golden Buffs, two Dominiques, one Buff Orpington and one Wyandotte.
Chicks on the ride home
Chicks snuggled up on the ride home – that sock you see in these photos is filled with rice and black beans (a combo I sorely regretted as it smelled like The Toddler had taken a giant stinky dump for the entire ride there and the entire ride back… pro tip, use just rice). Anyway, I microwaved it a few minutes before we left and put it in the cake box so they had a temporary heat source for the ride.
Chicks in the brood box
Water, scrambled eggs, grass and dirt for a welcome home feast. (The chick feed is in the other “room,” accessible through the “chunnel” you see on the upper right.)
New chicks
Temperature regulation has been the toughest part of all this. I’ve learned chick behavior is way more important to watch than a thermometer. Two of the chicks are a week old and want it a little cooler (were panting a bit), but the group as a whole doesn’t dig the recommended 90 degrees and stuck to the perimeter when it was that warm. I’ve been keeping it closer to 80-85 and they seem happier. The chick in my hand is the Buff Orpington. She’s currently the smallest but will outpace everyone eventually!
Cat watching chicks
Bills, our mellow-AF former tomcat, is enamored with the chicks. They’re pretty secure in the box, and he seems to just watch them like TV, but I don’t super trust him. (Note, that chick is fine. Just sleeping. Sweet baby!)
Cat sitter
This is what I discovered at 4 a.m. when my cat (who usually sleeps on me) disappeared for awhile. He’s babysitting the chicks IN HELL!!!! (J/k, infrared heat lamp for nighttime.) I’m researching alternative night heat sources that better mimic a mother hen because I’m a mom and they’re motherless and that makes me weepy… there’s a feather duster in my Amazon cart that will likely end up in here soon.

There you have it! Day one of the chicken adventure. I hope they like me!

Bringing home baby (chicks)