Chicken Paradise

The chickens have moved into a heavenly new home at my relatives’ ranch a little over an hour’s drive away.

The soil is sandy, perfect for dust baths and scratching around, and there are 800 acres of greenery and insects for them to eat. They also have a talented builder on staff, so they are guaranteed a fancy new coop. And my relatives appreciate the eggs far more than we do.

I’m very excited for the chickens, because the ranch is a perfect place for them to live happy lives. I would like to have a place like that for them, myself, but we’re not ready to have a ranch just yet. We have to finish our house remodeling and buy some land first!

With the chickens safe in their new home, we are free to move forward with our remodeling without fear that the chickens will get into the debris or get out of the yard.

We are definitely going to have chickens in the future, when we’ve got a good setup for them. If the original crew are still alive when we finally move into our own piece of property, I’ll see about getting them back from my relatives. 🙂

But until then, I bid a fond farewell to my dear pet chickens–especially my Peepers, who will always be my baby boy–and close this chapter on chicken ownership. Of course, I can go visit them on the ranch any time!

–The End–

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Chickens in Snow and Spring

We had a day of snow in February. It is unusual for Texas, but the chickens didn’t care at all.

Miss Red (big red hen in the center) was very sick and lost a lot of weight over the last few months, and for a while, we thought she might kick the bucket. She was listless, spaced out, droopy, and didn’t eat a lot. It was similar to the last time she had to go to the vet (where the vet said she “might” have worms and deworming “might” help, and Miss Red did seem better after that, but I never got a conclusive answer from the vet), and I really didn’t want to spend another couple hundred bucks on another vague diagnosis.

Clockwise from far left: Cackle (Ameraucana), raggedy Bawk Bawk (black sex-link), Crooksie (Ameraucana w crooked beak and bum leg), Peepers (mutt rooster), Screamy (black feral hen), and Miss Red (red sex-link). Blondie (yellow feral hen) is at the bottom.

Turned out I didn’t need to take her to the vet. One day while cleaning the coop I saw a little poo pile with a GIANT WORM in it.  It didn’t take a genius to figure things out from there. After a round of deworming, she’s back to normal. Since I figured out the problem all by myself, there were no vet bills.

As always happens in March, usually after February has had its last big bang (the snow, in this case), spring has arrived in central Texas. We have buds on the wisteria, which is usually the first plant to get going when the weather turns nice.

The chickens have started laying more. I get three or four eggs a day. The feral hens are the best layers, and the hardiest overall. Their eggs are small, though. Bawk Bawk (the black sex-link that’s always missing feathers) and one of the Ameraucanas also deliver. I’m not sure which Ameraucana is responsible–Crooksie or Cackle–but I see Crooksie sitting in the nesting box from time to time.

Which means two of the hens are not laying: Miss Red and the other Ameraucana (Cackle?).

Peepers is still a totally awesome guy. I love his little guts to death.

"Hells yes I'm getting cuddled by my Daddy. What's it to you, punk??"

He’s significantly smaller than most of his ladies, leading to some comical “romance” in the backyard.

Peepers is very good at sharing. I buy mealworms for them from time to time, and though Peepers loves the bugs, he never eats any. He always passes his treats on to one of the ladies.

"Okay, Daddy, put me down. I have ladies to keep in line!"

Thing have been very peaceful here now that I’ve caught and relocated all of the feral chickens that were invading our yard (with the exception of two of the three hens, which as you see I kept). Peepers does a little crowing throughout the day and night, but there aren’t any more extended crowing contests between him and the rival roosters.

I have read general complaints about roosters and how noisy they are, but Peepers is actually a rather quiet crower, as I learned after listening to the feral roosters. From inside the house, I can barely hear him in the backyard, but the feral roosters could be heard from blocks away. I feel lucky! My rooster is small in size and voice.

Feral Roosters

A flock of feral roosters has invaded our yard. One of them even beat up Peepers yesterday. I found poor Peepers hiding in the shed, under the riding mower, with a bloody face. The hens were hanging out with the victor.

So last night I set up a trap made out of the spare dog kennel. It involved one corn cob placed on the ground inside the kennel, and a piece of string tied to the kennel door. The string, of course, leads into the house through a window.

This morning I heard plenty of crowing and I knew there were roosters afoot. From inside the house, holding the string, I watched two of the roosters wandering near the dog kennel. Peepers was livid but he was stuck in his own coop.

Then one of the roosters walked right into the kennel to eat the corn! I yanked on the string, which shut the kennel door, and the rooster is now trapped. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.

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One rooster down, two to go. And maybe the hen that laid these guys, too.

Cantaloupe

Woot. Finally!! Check it:

The reason I planted Dill: to lure Swallowtail caterpillars.
The reason I planted Dill: to lure Swallowtail caterpillars.

My first caterpillar. It’s about time, dude.

Also popular on the dill… aphids. And aphids lure ladybugs. Can you see the zillion ladybugs and ladybug larva cruising through the dill?

The red dots are ladybugs. The black dots are ladybug larva.

The red dots are ladybugs. The black dots are ladybug larva.

Then there’s the cantaloupe. We spotted the first fruit the other day:

A baby cantaloupe!

A baby cantaloupe!

And today I spotted a bunch more in various stages.

A babier cantaloupe!

A babier cantaloupe!

The babiest cantaloupe!

The babiest cantaloupe!

It’s no wonder… the cantaloupe vine has gone nutso. It’s swamping the whole garden.

It's climbed fences on two sides, too.

It's climbed fences on two sides, too.

We also have one remaining squash plant. Squash borers got to the other two (the patty pans) and then there was the one that Dozer crushed. But the one squash plant is doing great.

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Still growing:

Carrots

Carrots

Green beans

Green beans

Corn

Corn

Pumpkins

Pumpkins

Watermelon

Watermelon

Every time I go outside, I get hungry.

Peepers is doing much better. His pox are pretty much gone. He’s still got a bit of a respiratory problem, but the antibiotics are taking care of it.

Yummm! A caterpillar! (Not the swallowtail caterpillar!)

Yummm! A caterpillar! (Not the swallowtail caterpillar!)

Ladies? Hello?

Ladies? Hello?

Field Trip

Since Peeps has some pals to hang out with now, I feel a lot safer letting them roam the backyard for a few hours each afternoon without supervision.

Here are some pics. We named the light brown female “Squawkers” and the dark brown is named “Cackle.” Squawkers is the only one laying eggs right now for some reason.

Squawkers is the one on the left, Cackle is the one on the right.

Squawkers is the one on the left, Cackle is the one on the right.

Come along, ladies. There are bugs by the shed.

Come along, ladies. There are bugs by the shed.

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Peepers Shuts Up

The two hens have been here for a week, and things couldn’t be better. I need to get some photos!

The difference between these two hens and Cluckers is noticeable. We get normal-looking pale blue eggs on a regular schedule–once per day–and the hens are shy but not completely unapproachable. They run around a lot. And they make chicken noises, something Cluckers never did.

The best part is that Peepers has stopped crowing. Even the neighbors commented on how quiet he’s been. I guess his ladies are keeping him too busy to crow! He is one happy rooster.

Pictures of Peepers

I’m still trying to find some hens for the Peeps without much luck.

In the meantime, here are a few pics of Peepers, taken yesterday. It’s funny, he’s got just a few brown feathers mixed in with the black and white ones.

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Hangin’ With My Peeps

Today Byrd and I decided to try and take Peepers’s mind off the recent loss of his lady (though it’s unclear what’s on his mind in the first place) by letting him cruise around the front yard while we gardened. He seemed to have a nice time, cackling and squawking and picking at things. I got some nice shots of him in the pansies before he started eating them and I had to relocate him into an unweeded bed, much to his disgust.

I’ve heard a new rooster crowing in our neighborhood, coming from a backyard about five or six houses down the street. This rooster and Peepers have been having crow-a-thons for the last few days. Either the roosters in the feral flocks are quieter, or else they are just farther away and harder to hear, because I really don’t hear any of them crowing to the extent that Peepers and this newcomer go at it.

Second Egg

The first egg ended up in a batch of peanut butter cookies. Delicious!

Cluckers laid a second egg today. I know she did it today because it was not there in the morning when I cleaned the pen, but it was there in the afternoon when my husband went in to play with Peepers. I thought something might be up because Cluckers was in the nesting box when I went in for the morning cleaning, even though there was no egg in there at the time.

This one is larger than the first, and has a perfectly smooth light green-blue shell. It’s a high quality egg!

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Meanwhile, our precious baby chick Peepers has turned into a real man. He spends all his time crowing, keeping an eye on his lady (Cluckers), and challenging me to duels. He puffs up and charges me with one wing dragging the ground. I think normal roosters are supposed to do this head-on with both wings, but since Peepers can’t see out of one eye, he always challenges me with a sort of sideways hop. It’s too silly-looking to be intimidating. When he does this, I pick him up like a baby and scratch his tummy, and he lays there and grumbles like a teenager being kissed by his mom in public.

We are still having no luck handling Cluckers. She can be caught when cornered or sleeping, and will tolerate being held, but it’s tough to catch her! Plus, she squawks and shrieks, and this makes Peepers really upset.

Come to Bed Already, Dear!

Peepers and Cluckers are in love. It’s so sweet.

Today Peepers jumped up on the PVC perch, looked down and saw Cluckers, and scooted delicately to the side to make space so she could jump up and sit next to him. They sat there on the perch together all day.

Then in the evening, Peepers started crowing. I think he was a little confused. He and the neighborhood roosters all generally crow in the morning. Cluckers also seemed confused. She was headed to bed in the hen house, but Peepers kept crowing, so she didn’t seem to know whether to go to bed or keep walking around.

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