Friday, April 27, 2012

So you want to raise chickens, chapter 2, or Birds of a feather

As I went to put up the chickens tonight, the problem with the way we bought our chickens was very evident, too many groups!

The lady at Chickenville sent us home with so many cautions that if they were not closely followed would cause the chickens to die. The end result of any of our negligence would automatically result in death, which caused a bit of concern, that we were investing this much in something so fragile.

Thankfully my friend whom we bought the second group from convinced me they were pretty hardy creatures, that if basic needs are taken care of, will have no problems.

So to recap, these are the chickens we have -

Bought at Chickenville
Piper and Swanlea, Red Sex Links, hatched 2/29/12, bought at 2 weeks old and currently almost 9 weeks old. These two have required a heat lamp until they were old enough to go on top of the dryer in a dog crate and the nights got warmer. They are now in the chicken house in another cage that we bought. These are the babies.

Little Missy, an Ameraucana, is the oldest and consistently lays at least 5 weeks a week. She is about 25 weeks old. Her eggs are blue/green.
GoghGogh, Black Star, is named after Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, and was supposed to be 16 weeks old when we bought her and should be 23 weeks old.
Selena, a Blue Laced Red Wyandote, is also supposed to be 23 weeks old.
Either GoghGogh or Selena have started laying, so we are now getting 2 eggs most days. This group sticks together and have earned the reputation of being the old ladies and when they peck the others, the old biddies. They have lived in the chicken house/used to be shed, the whole time. No special needs or places to stay. Yea!

The last group were all bought when they were 5 weeks old and are currently 12 weeks.

Llama, who is a light Brahma
Dorothy, White Plymouth Rock
Pollo, a Buff Orpington
Stinky Pants, Gold Sex Link
As you can tell we had just about run out of names, I guess. This group started out in the largest dog crate. These are the "teenagers".

Which brings me to the point of this information:

DO NOT BUY CHICKENS OF DIFFERENT AGES WHEN YOU ARE FIRST STARTING!!!! Notice, I says when you are first starting. If you are a seasoned chicken farmer, then you probably have appropriate spaces for everyone and used to this.

The lady at Chickenville tried to explain that the cost difference between the 16 and 18 week olds, compared to the 2 week olds, would quickly be comparable after feeding them until that age.

BUT even more importantly, there are all sorts of phrases that truly originate in the bird world, such as "birds of a feather, flock together" and anything to do with pecking order. These birds do not welcome the young. They are mean and don't mind attacking anyone smaller than themselves.

So at the end of the first week I had chickens in 3 different places, two of which were cages with solid bottoms that had to be cleaned regularly. I won't go into details, but it was just about the nastiest thing I have done in a LONG time.

Thankfully we found someone selling a hamster/gerbil cage. I grabbed it. I needed something larger for the teenagers and when I saw it, realized I could turn it upside down and the wires would be on the bottom, allowing stuff to drop through, rather than accumulate and have to be pulled out. The teenagers were moved into the hamster/gerbil cage and moved to the chicken house/former shop.

The babies remained in the dog crate on the dryer.

After another week or so of that, I consulted all the text I could about introducing new chickens to the flock, because I needed the teenagers out of their cage and into the open area, so I could move the babies to the open bottom cage.

It went much better than I expected. No one felt too threatened and everyone had their own food, I guess. Each night the teenagers would go back into their cage to roost at night until one night I realized they were roosted on top of the cage. I grabbed them and after a lot of squawking, put them in their cage and shut the door.

Annabel and I conferred and agreed that if they wanted to sleep out of the cage, why not! That would free up the hamster/gerbil cage for the babies, which would get them off my dryer, and would move all the chickens out of the house, and would alleviate any more cleaning cages for me! I LOVED that!

So we made the big move and the babies were not convinced they could go without their night light (heat lamp) but I figured if our air conditioner was running at night, it was warm enough for them!

Things were going fine until the morning that I found a baby possum in the cage with the baby chicks.

Not wanting to deal with a baby possum while dressed, ready for work, I decided I would just introduce the babies to the teenagers and the old ladies.
The babies quickly decided they would prefer their chances with the possum rather than be pecked to death by their elders.

Thank goodness for Dad who rescued us by tearing the cage apart which allowed the possum to escape.

I still get chills from that. Oohh, I hate vermin looking creatures of all kinds.

So the babies still live in the hamster/gerbil cage and are hungry all the time, so much so that they don't mind biting the hand that feeds them.

The old ladies continue in their original roost, which used to be a shelf.

The teenagers have progressed from on top of the hamster/gerbil cage to a very precarious place above the old ladies - on the rungs of a metal ladder that is hanging horizontally. It does not look comfortable. Some had trouble maneuvering the flight up to the ladder, because if their feet barely touch the shelf where the old ladies are, they get pecked. So I moved the ladder from some bunk beds and they can now jump up the steps to their roost on the metal ladder.

All except Llama.

Bless her heart. I don't know if she is too heavy or what, but should could not seem to figure out how to get up with the other teenagers tonight. I finally tried picking her up and putting her up there, but she just panicked and flew back down. After watching for a while, she finally flew up on an old door and was eyeballing the shelf with the old ladies. This caught Little Missy's eye and when I shut the door, there seemed to be a stand off going as to who could stay awake longest, so Llama would not have to sleep alone.

Next... is it all chicken feed?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chicken farming, the beginning

I can't remember when I first thought about raising chickens but when new neighbors moved in with theirs, I guess it rekindled the thought.

Today I just wondering, what was I thinking?

I've been posting pictures of the chickens on facebook and if I can figure out how to on here, I will, but google has updated the blogger page and it looks completely different and not sure how to use it all yet.

For my birthday in February, my sister gave me a book on raising chickens and my niece painted a beautiful picture of a chicken, which got framed and hanging over my mantle.

In the meantime, my dad set about building himself a chicken coop.

This is no thrown together, recycled unit, this is the Cadillac of chicken coops, with different roosting stations, a front door, and sliding side door with ramp.

But the chicken coop set empty until spring break in March.

The plan was to go to my aunt's 90th birthday party in Paris, Texas, stop by the flea market, pick up some chickens and put them in Dad's coop.

Well the day of the party, the only way we could have brought home chickens was if the ark had been built because it rained so much, there was no flea market, and no where for chickens to ride. We didn't want to be accused of doing like Mitt Romney and tying them to the roof.

So on Monday, my sister calls and says be ready in 10 minutes. We are heading out to buy chickens.

So my dad, my sister, my daughters, my 2 nieces, and I climb into dad's truck and head for Terrell, Texas, actually to a place called Chickenville.

By now I was getting excited and considering the possibility of us adding chickens as well, even though I did not have a chicken coop ready.

At Chickenville, there is this big barn, sectioned into different "yards" full of chickens, scratching and pecking. Chickens of all colors and sizes but segregated by age, which has turned out to be a very important factor.

The pricing on the chickens was pretty simple - $1 per week of age. So a 14 week old chicken was $14. But to get a laying chicken, you need one that is at least 18 weeks old, as they will start laying between 18 - 24 weeks. So if you are trying to stick to a budget, then you think, hmmm, $28 will buy me 2 that are just 4 weeks shorts of laying, rather than $36 to get 2 that are. Only you get confused because there are so many chickens wandering around your feet and your kids love all of them and you are actually thinking days, not weeks, because 4 weeks is a long time of feeding and cleaning up poop before they ever earn their keep.

So Dad ends up buying 3 or 4 that are supposed to be laying and 3 or 4 younger ones.

We buy, 1 that is supposed to be laying and 2 that are supposed to be 14 weeks old, so I think I am getting a bargain at only $44 for 3 chickens. BUT then we went to see the babies, that were supposedly 4 - 6 weeks old, but somehow cost $6 each.

Here is where it got crazy. I had let each daughter pick out a chicken. Then I worried that my nieces didn't have a chicken, so I let them pick out a baby each. The box the Chickenville lady put them in was from the hatchery and the label noted that the chickens had hatched the date on the shipping label, which was 2/29, which actually made them 2 weeks old.

On our way home, names were heatedly deliberated, only taking a break to stop at the local farm store to buy our first bag of feed, needing a separate one for the babies, feeders, and hay. Quickly my cheap investment went beyond chicken feed.

With dog carriers full of chickens, we got back home to let Dad's out to their Cadillac Ranch Estate, while we scrambled to figure a way to contain 3 chickens in a backyard that needs to be accessed by our dogs. I was just sure our old dogs would not care about those chickens, but even with Ollie being blind, they both would love just a little taste.

We rigged a door with old window screens across one of our shop's double doors. We tried to contain them within the shop with other doors and screens, but soon realized these birds can fly, so they got the whole shop instead.

The babies on the other hand, were placed in a plastic storage container, lined with paper, and put in my bathtub, with Annabel's reading lamp poised on them, their own water container and food bowl.

For the next day we all strategized, which evidently is not a word, but best describes what we were doing, the best and easiest way to structure a fence that would still allow the chickens plenty of room but safe from predators, like the dogs, and easy to access.

Dad, of course, came up with the best plan, and sent me to Home Depot with a list of supplies.

He built a gate while I dug a hole for a post, then everyone pitched in on mixing concrete and setting the post.

Of course, those who are into home improvement projects already know the post has to set overnight, so we could not complete it until the next day.

Evidently I don't like to do things easy.

In the meantime, a friend in the neighborhood, who raises chickens, answered by much earlier email about buying some chickens from her.

The girls and I went to chicken them out.

So just to recap, at home we have 2 babies in my bathtub and 3 "older" ones, corralled in our shop with window screens.

At her house, they had 5 week old chickens, so they were $5 each. Well, shoot, I did what anyone would do and bought one for each girl, since I was holding a $20.

She explained that these would need to be kept separate from the others though.

No problem, we have dog crates just for that.

Again, the naming of the chickens commenced and we returned home to finish our chicken yard.

So now to recap, we have 3 that can be together outside, in the chicken yard, 4 that need to be inside, until it is at least 80 degrees, and 2 that must be under a heat lamp, all needing their own food containers and water and being reminded again, it is critical to keep water for them at all times.

The teenagers were moved to the back porch in the largest dog carrier, but pretty quickly, I decided it was warm enough for them to stay outside on the deck, in their dog carrier.

Next chapter.... too much poo!

A lesson in what not to say

This was on a Facebook posted by a friend who has also adopted.

I wish I could say our experiences have been different, but they haven't. I realize that people, for the most part, are well intentioned and really don't know what to say, so I thought I would post this so my friends would know what you should not say -

-Sh*t People say to Adoptees

Wow, your adopted parents must be SO AMAZING!

So what happened to your real parents?

OMG, you and your brother could like totally date since you’re not really related!

... You must be really against abortion then, huh?

What was wrong with your real mom?

Did you see Sandra Bullock’s new kid!!?? squeeee!! he’s SO adorable!

Oh, wow, adoption is so beautiful - I love adopted people!

I totally want to adopt some day. I just don’t see the point in having your own kid when there are so many out there I could have.

oh wow, you are SO lucky!!

Yeah, I would totally adopt some day, but like only a baby, not one of those special needs or foster kids - i know this is fucked up, but they’re just so, you know…damaged.

so, do you know your real family?

Ugh, I SO wish i was adopted. My family is so f*cking annoying. It’d just be nice to know i didn’t actually come from them.

Wow, you’re like, really angry.

I mean, at least you weren’t thrown in a dumpster.

Oh, you must be so grateful!

Isn’t it great that your parents wanted you SO much?? Oh, sorry, I mean your adopted parents wanted you.

You are so special!!

It’s so weird, but you almost actually look like your parents.

You must really love your birthmom for being so selfless and courageous.

I think it’s so great how celebrities these days are adopting all these unwanted kids, don’t you? I really admire them.

Oh…I’m sorry.

So, wait, I’m confused. Your step-parents? Wait, no your real parents? I mean your adopted parents. Wait, who are you talking about?

So was she like on drugs and stuff?

Oh really? My __________ is adopted. She’s so well adjusted. Not like you, I mean, sorry, I just mean she’s not all sad and angry and stuff. She really loves her parents.

Oh really? My _________ adopted a kid. He is SOOOOOOO cute and cuddly. They got him after that big disaster in ____________. Thank god they saved him!

But don’t you think you’re totally better off?

I always wished I was adopted.

Your parents are so nice though! You really shouldn’t be sad. If I were you, I’d be so grateful just to have a home.

OMG, you are SO fascinating - your life is just like an Oprah episode!

I know, I totally get it. I always felt like I didn’t belong in my family either.

So do you think you’ll adopt some day?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday

The only problem with Saturdays is that I do not sleep on Friday nights.

I know that is odd and most people have trouble with Sundays.

It's not that I am not tired. On the Fridays I pick the girls up from school I am amazed I don't fall asleep behind the wheel just trying to get us home! Of course Friday afternoon traffic is so bad it would be truly difficult to sleep through, unless you are Grace, who is the most relaxed in a car.

When I looked at the upcoming week on Sunday it was pretty full.

The class I took on chronic disease self management in August had provided a new opportunity, to train a group of lay leaders. I believe so much in this program that I jumped at the chance to train more trainers, especially since 5 were recruited from our program.

So I knew I would be out of the office for 2 full days which left only 3 to complete all arrangements for our big event in May, as well as begin June's planning. Of course never satisfied with my original plans I complicated it by planning 4 more events to occur simultaneously!

Got all that done and even squeezed in a few volunteer hours at the school and an ortho appointment.

But the week was not complete without a surprise and while it was not the birth of my next great niece, as expected, instead it was a first time in a long time visit by my niece and nephew from Austin.

I think the last time the two were here without parents their mother had bribed them with $1 to keep their shoes on for the whole trip to protect my sense of smell! That was a long time ago.

My nephew has just graduated from law enforcement school, following in the steps of his dad, who is a state trooper.

My niece is patiently counting off the days and weeks until she delivers only the 2nd grandson, actually he will be a great grandson, in our family!

So you see there was plenty to promote exhaustion but for us our Saturdays include a long to-do list. Today includes ukulele lessons for Annabel. Trip to post office. Cleaning chicken coops. Transplanting tomato plants. Trip to grocery store House cleaning.

Seems like I am forgetting something.

Maybe that's the problem with Friday night sleep!


Sent by Jerri

Monday, April 9, 2012

When I get old...

I'm afraid my children don't understand me. I know they don't get my humor. I find the funniest things and sit here giggling over it and when they ask me what's so funny, they just don't get it.

Take for instance what my friend Holly posted on facebook,

"When I get old, I'm gonna move in with my kids, make a lot of noise, trash the house, pay no bills, and when asked to clean, pitch a fit like it's killing me."

OK, I found that hysterical.

And really the best part was all the parents who chimed in with their own version of what they will do when they get old and move in with their children.

ALL of those were funny.

So I am sitting here giggling and the question is, "What's so funny?".

I start with explaining that my friend Holly, that I have never met, but we are friends on Facebook, well that made the conversation come to a screeching halt.

"Mom, you have friends on Facebook that you have never met?"

"Uh, yeah" a little timid because I am not sure where this is going, whether they will realize that I don't allow them to be friends on facebook with people they have never met, or what.

They were actually more confused by how I knew we were friends if we have never met, how did we meet, etc.

So by the time I explained all that another parent had posted a funny response and I giggled again.

This time I read them the original quote.

"I don't get it."

"Me neither."

Both turned back to whatever they were working on and just shook their heads.

OK, I can't wait until I get old...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A weekend off

I did something this weekend that I have not done in a LONG time, I took the weekend off!

Last week as way too full including our first two major events at our new hospital in Richardson, an evening program, then ending with 2 days where I was the trainer of my peers, along with the usual work that needed to be done.

By the time I got home on Friday all I really wanted to do was sit and vegetate. BUT the girls had the day off and I knew they needed a change of scenery almost as much as they needed a new dress for church. So instead of taking a break, we waited out the worst of the traffic, then started with dinner at Grace's favorite, Chik Fil A, followed by shopping at JCP and Kohls.

God knew what he was doing when he blessed me with my daughters. I don't think either has complained or demanded to go shopping. In fact, it is one of their least favorite things to do, but when we go, they are conscious of price and even more importantly, a sense of modesty. And it is really difficult to find teen clothes that are neither cut too low or too high, so it takes a while.

Saturday started with a music lesson, this week for Grace, followed by my attempt to somewhat fill them up before we went to eat dim sum.

Dim Sum means small bowls, but can also mean, big price when taking Grace and Annabel to have it! We invited 2 ladies from church who love Chinese food but weren't sure where to find it and I invited my friend from work who helps in translating. We were celebrating Grace and our friend, Billie's birthdays but it was also my work friend's birthday, so we had plenty of reasons to celebrate!

My daughters LOVE Chinese food and a big benefit of dim sum is the variety of items served. I think we especially enjoyed sharing the experience with our older friends. I know I especially appreciated my friend providing translation services.

We finished off Saturday with some repairs/clean up for our chickens, then a great meal with mom and dad before watching our favorite show, Doc Martin.

Church seemed especially uplifting with so many visitors and guests, and realizing how blessed we truly are.

For the third time in three days we ate out, which is a HUGE record for us! Dad took us all out for Souper Salad, which was an especially good contrast to all the Chinese food from the day before.

So the weekend has been great and I am really trying to get over the guilt of not doing more, but instead relishing the great times we had. I think the whole thing was put into perspective by watching Soul Surfer tonight. What a fantastic movie to serve as a reminder of what truly is important.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Google for robot

This is one of those weeks, that when it started, did not have that much stuff in it. Then before I knew it, it was overloaded.

On top of everything that sneaked onto my calendar, we also had extreme weather yesterday. I think this is the first time that we have had weather like this since I have been a mom and I learned a whole new level of stress!

I do love the school my daughters go to and they do a great job of communicating and in this situation, they did not fail. We received updates, regularly, notifying us that due to the weather, the school was on "lock down" and no students would be released, so don't come trying to pick them up and put yourself in danger by driving through weather that included tornadoes and hail! Much less rain and thunderstorms.

I liked that.

We also had the TV on with the weather and the minute they showed tornadoes in the area of the school, even though I knew they were safe, I could not help but worry. My daughters are two of the few that believe the teachers when they tell them they are not allowed to text or call while at school, so no matter how hard to tried to get in touch with them, there was no answer. So it took a while until I knew they were home safe and could finally breath a sigh of relief, even after learning that a school was hit by a tornado fairly close to theirs.

I was thankful for them to be home, but for me, my day was only half over and because of a late program at work, I did not get home until 9:30.

All of this leading up to my bemoaning this afternoon that I had done in 3 days what I normally do in 5 and wishing my next 2 days did not involve me training a very large group of my peers on a program that I have not been the trainer for, when Annabel came up with a very simple solution.

Make a robot of myself and have it do my work.

Brilliance, right?

OK, got to go and google plans for building a robot. More later.