Random Things

My dress came in, and it is better than I expected.

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The material is really heavy and just beautiful. It’s so pretty!

Poffins agrees it's quite nice for making a nest on.
Poffins agrees, it’s quite nice for making a nest on.

With Poffins sitting on my dress and me laying out on the floor, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to get this dress dry cleaned before I even wear it.

I’ve now dug in the arena for 20 hours. I would have done more, but there’s so much rain! I think Virginia is becoming a rainforest.

13 hours in
13 hours in
20 hours in
20 hours in

I brought the arena out by another 20 feet, so much so it was hard to get a picture of it, and I had to stand in a tree. Turns out this is the hardest spot to dig out because I have hit a stash of boulders. (So that’s where they’ve been hiding!! I was warned this might happen by others who have made arenas in my neighborhood!) Luckily, my bobcat can smash right through some of them, or at least reduce their size enough to tediously dig them out. My immediate neighbor had to use dynamite  to get ride of her boulders. But now I have huge potholes and giant hard mounds everywhere. It’s going to be tricky to get this area level.

Berry and Pony decided this was fascinating so last night they broke into the arena and ran around like a bunch of idiots. Berry, who recently became lame and I had to have the vet out, only to discover she did not break her leg, she just had a huge abscess that somehow manifested itself on a trail ride, was covered in mud, and (of course) has a swollen leg, no doubt from playing slip and slide all night. Now I get to see if it’s minor or if I’ll have to have the vet out AGAIN. With this kind of record, I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to show her this year.

THANKS FOR RUINING MY DREAMS BERRY!!
THANKS FOR RUINING MY DREAMS BERRY!!

A long time ago, I mentioned I bought chickens. Not my teenage mutant ninja chickens, but chickens from My Pet Chicken. I don’t think think I said anything, but they arrived several weeks ago, and have been growing up in a little dog crate.

Super babies, pictured with teenage chicken sensation, The Khaki's.
Little babies, pictured with teenage chicken sensation, The Khaki’s.

Going through my photos, it occurred to me that I have literally no photos of the little babies, just this one picture of them in a dog crate where you can’t even see them. Since I’ve been binge watching South Park recently, it reminded me of this episode:

I’m sorry, but these chickens are censored. No one can see them, NOT EVER.

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13 Hours in: The Arena Saga

It is time.

I decided to build my riding arena in July due to work obligations in June. On July 1st, my skid steer was delivered.

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It just wants to feel included!

Step one, which was by far the most annoying step because I hadn’t considered it prior, and it took the most physical labor, was removing all the random objects that accumulated in the arena over the past two years, things like jump standards, poles and a mounting block. It must have taken me at least 15 minutes to move it!

But it ended up working out, because since one of the horses had destroyed a portion of fencing months ago, I needed a way to lock the horses out of the work area.

My highly technical debris fence.
My highly technical debris fence. Pony mournfully watches me. Until now, I never knew how much they wanted to be in this pasture, as indicated by their constant staring at me over the fence.

I wasn’t able to start on July 1, because the skid steer had a password that they I didn’t get until later. July 2 and 3, I worked a total of 13 hours. It’s hard to work continuously on it, as the jerking motions and vibration of the handles make my body ache.

After one of my breaks, I headed back down and swarmed by chickens.

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The chicken swarm

Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself, “I wonder what has happened to the teenage chickens that Courtney has?” Well, wonder no longer! I collectively call their group, The Khakis, even though two of the members aren’t khaki, but they don’t seem to mind. They are super sweet little things that run to me when they see me, and follow me around the yard.

Even to dangerous areas for chickens, like a construction site.

Khaki's investigate the arena.
The khaki’s investigate the arena.

The area above is where I spend nearly all of July 3, building a drain. The ground is especially hard to dig through there, but it’s so important to have proper drainage, so I suffered through.

And now…The Reveal!

The Before
The Before
13 hours in
13 hours in

To explain the picture fully, here’s a quick list of what changed:

  1. Scrapped down the left side hill to make a smoother, even edge
  2. Brought the far end of the arena back another 15 feet, put in a drain there
  3. Moved at least a ton of dirt to the right side of the arena, bring it out 15 feet on the far end, and 3 feet closer
  4. Scraped the grass off the top.

It doesn’t seem like a whole lot of progress, but to put it in perspective, I spent 50 hours (as measured by my tractor) building the arena in the first place. So we will see just how long it takes to build this.

Additionally, if you are thinking about doing this yourself, you should know that my terrain is terrible to work with. I literally cut into a hill to make this. If you are starting with flatter land, it really doesn’t take long. I’ll explain this further when I get to the stage where I’ll level out the arena.

Happy 4th everyone!!

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Teenage Chickens

I haven’t finished talking about horses this week, but I’m taking a break from horses to talk about chickens.

My little baby chickens are growing up. Luckily my neighbor took some of the chicks so I only have 6 of them now, but that is actually more than I expected. I certainly didn’t hope for their untimely deaths, but usually one or two of them don’t make it, for whatever reason. But these chicks are survivors, and there was not a single death. They are now in their teenager years, rebelling against authority, hiding themselves in their little room, and having parties when they think they adults aren’t looking.

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Also pigging out on food.

Sadly, being a teenager isn’t all fun and games. These poor chicks are plagued by an issue that effects many teenagers – Bullying. They are pecked, and chased away from food, water, and the door to the coop. And this is done by someone who should be protecting them, an adult. This adult to be exact:

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Twank, a hen, hardly bigger than the babies she is picking on.

Twank has abandoned all normal chicken activity to stand guard over the various resources, for the sole purpose of chasing the kids off her lawn. Prior to this, she has shown no hostility towards any other chicken, and has been one of our favorite little hens. I think I may have triggered her anger though – A few days ago I found her sitting on a single egg. I moved to collect the egg and she started hissing and snapping at me, defending her one egg. I was intrigued by her sudden maternal instinct, but I can’t be shown up by a chicken, so I moved her and took her egg. Noticing the anger in her beady little eyes, I wondered if she was going to dwell on this long, or move on with her chicken life.

Apparently, she took the former option, and decided to express her anger at being denied her chance at being a mommy by harassing baby chickens. Seems the logical thing to do.

Now any time spent outdoors is punctuated by the shrill cries of chicks as Twank attacks them for daring to show their tiny faces. The only positive outcome of this is that the babies have decided I am their savior from this evil hen, and now they all run to me when they see me. They even let me pick them up, despite spending next to no time taming them during their young life. Since I really like friendly chickens, I’m not sure if I should be mad at Twank or not. But then I feel like that insane mother in Carrie, trying to convince my children that I am the only one in the world they can trust. Yes, little babies, come to me and see how I protect you. The world is much too big and scary out there, you should just stay with me for-ev-er.

And now, just for an excuse to show another chicken picture, Fluffers is a good mother hen. I think she is strict, but fair. She allows the babies to eat with her, but if they get too loud or get in her space, she pecks them. Seems like a reasonable response, I would do the same thing to my children.

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She is a just and fair overlord chicken.

She even puts Twank in her place, pecking her when she goes after the chickens. But Fluffers is a busy hen, and doesn’t hang around the coop. She will supervise when she’s in the area, but with her busy social calendar, grooming obligations, and personal hobby of investigating what is under the mulch in the garden, she just doesn’t have the time.

Watching the chicken interaction, I noticed one of my rosebushes has a single rose. But it is the most perfect rose ever.

pink rose
Really had nothing to do with chickens, just wanted to show my perfect rose. Please ignore the chewed up leaves. That’s um… photoshopped… and should not distract from the most perfect rose.

Since my teenager chicks seem to be surviving, despite Twank’s attempts to destroy their personal self worth, I need names for these little things. Every one of my chickens is named, and these ones will be no exception. There are four buff silkies (that I cannot currently tell apart), and two others of unknown breeding, a gray, and a rusty brown one.

Any suggestions for names? I’m running out of name ideas here!

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Gardening with Chickens

I wish I meant using them like tools, or perhaps assigning them tasks and they could scurry off to follow my command. But what actually happens is I spent lots of time planting and laying mulch, and then they come over to investigate. And they investigate with their feet, by scratching around in the mulch.

I spent the entire Sunday weeding and mulching the garden. It’s shocking something so simple can end up taking hours.

After the chickens kicked up all the mulch I laid, they stared at my tulips for a bit. I think they were impressed with my tulips. I’m kind of impressed with them myself. I just dropped some bulbs in the ground in fall, and I have lots and lots of pretty flowers now.

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They were very impressed with my tulip that is somehow producing four flower heads.

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Then, of course, they just spent some general time staring at me.

Head hen Fluffers, and the gorgeous Y'grette. She's so pretty!
Head hen Fluffers, and the gorgeous Y’grette. She’s so pretty!

My favorite hen, Lil’ Cochin, is spending time trying to hatch eggs. While this is very time consuming, she graciously obliged to taking a picture with me.

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She’s an expert at selfies.

Afterward, I promptly threw out all the eggs she was sitting on, because I don’t want any babies around here. She was not happy about this, but did not seem to connect the missing eggs with me, as she then spent time searching the coop for the missing eggs. The perfect crime. Muwahaha.

Even after hours spent weeding, I still have more weeding to do. I gave up after attempting to weed around the thorniest rose bush, and I decided the danger just wasn’t worth it. All the weeding left to do is around the rose bushes, so I might need some armor before attempting.

Now I just need another day off to recover from Sunday. 🙁

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I Have Chicks!

I could not resist the temptation any longer. I bought chicks from Tractor Supply.

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I think I went a little overboard. I bought 6 silkies, and 5 others that I am not sure of their breeds. 11 chicks!!

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and they’ll all be named Bender, Jr.

I am planning on giving about half of them to my neighbor. We usually split a purchase of chicks every year, although this year she is currently in the hospital, so was unable to accompany me to select chicks. I’m hoping some silkies will cheer her up, but I feel like I cannot hold her to taking in these chicks if she wasn’t there initially, so hopefully she still will take some!

And I have an order of chicks shipping to me in June… It’s a good thing I have a chicken mansion to house them. I would say this is way too many chickens for me, but I don’t think such a thing is possible.

settled into the brooder
settled into the brooder
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More on Chickens

Even though Chick Days is approaching, I ordered chicks online. They will be arriving on June 8th. The wait is agony!

I order my chicks from mypetchicken.com. It is the only place I have ever ordered from, and I’ve been very happy with them, so I don’t see a reason to try anyplace new. Although I definitely feel like they are pricey, but that could be any mail order chicken place.

Here are the chicks I am getting this year:

1. Buff Orphington

That’s one fine looking chicken.

A standard, friendly egg layer. I had three of these before, but one was killed by a raccoon, one by a fox, and the third, a silver-gray one, was somehow scooped up by a hawk during a snow day. She should have been camouflaged so I don’t understand how that happened. But anyway, I really liked them, so this was an obvious choice.

2. Easter Egger

On a previous order, I had two of these sent to me. One of them became a lovely hen, with a head the size of a pea. She’s shy, but apparently very attractive to other chickens, as her entire back was ripped of all its feathers by the rooster. The other was the aforementioned rooster, a mistake order, as I had wanted two hens. The rooster was a cranky, a-hole of a rooster, that liked to attack people. It got to the point where I need a broom or a stick – he’d need a pretty solid whack to fend him off, or he’d just keep coming. My farrier offered to ring his neck for me, but I couldn’t give the order. One time, I decided to capture him at night and throw him out in the woods, but when I left the woods and hesitated, feeling bad about the near murder, the little jerk came running out on his long gangly legs. He took off at a sprint towards the coop, and I raced after him, not sure what I was going to do, but I had to catch him. Alas, I did not, and he made it safely back to the coop. Eventually I just put an ad on craigslist and (shockingly) someone actually wanted him.

I'm sure I sound like a horrible person, with the murder attempts on this rooster, but getting attacked by this beast every time I left my house got old.
I’m sure I sound like a horrible person, with the murder attempts on this rooster, but getting attacked by this beast every time I left my house got old… not to mention his cruelty to the hens.

Now I need a replacement hen, to replace the hen that I never received.

3. Mottled Cochin

My favorite little chicken is a Mottled Cochin. Her name is simply “Little Cochin”. She’s the cutest little thing in the world. How many ways can I love this little chicken? Let me count the ways…

I love her little expressions
I love her little expressions
I love her fluffy little butt
I love her fluffy little butt
I love the way she stuffs food in her mouth
I love the way she stuffs food in her beak
I love the way she doubles as a parrot.
I love the way she doubles as a parrot.
I love that time she went ATVing with my husband
I love that time she went ATVing with my husband

And I love the way she waddles up to me when she sees me, a little poof moving smoothly across the ground. She makes me laugh, like the time she disappeared and I was very upset, trying to find her, and then I found her wedged in the rafters of the coop, which was not funny when it happened, and I had to dismantle the coop to get her out, but it’s funny to look back at.

I am not looking to replace her, but she’s such a good little chicken, I would love to have a second.

4. Salmon Faverolles

I have no experience with this breed. I think they look very cute, their description says they are sweet, so I’m very excited to see how I’ll like them.

I was inspired to get one of these after reading this thread on backyard chickens. A great story, and such a cute chicken! (Sadly, it looks like the pictures aren’t working… she had originally drawn cartoons to go with the story)

5. Silver Laced Cochin

I actually meant to buy a different bird, and bought this one on accident. I already have Little Cochin, and then Smog, the full sized cochin who is a grumpy creature, so I’m not sure what to expect from this full sized one. She sure is pretty though…

As I reach the end of this post, I was showing my husband the chicks, and he says “You’re planning to still get like 6 chicks from Tractor Supply though right?”

And then little hearts came into my eyes, and I swooned. Because a real man tells their wife to buy all the chickens she desires. (Not quite what he said, but close enough!)

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Almost Chick Days!

This bitter cold weather makes me think of one thing. It’s almost Chick Days!!

Chick Days is a period of time in late winter/early spring where Tractor Supply sells chicks. I love going there and checking them out. I wish I could take them all home because they are so darn cute.

Our oldest chicken is from our first tractor supply batch. Fluffers, the giant silkie.

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A noble hen.

We usually buy one batch of chicks every year… or usually say we’re going to buy a batch and then end up buying another batch later in the season. Here’s last year’s batch (part 1):

tractor supply chicks

That batch was two Sebrights, two d’Uccles, two game Bantams. I split them with my neighbor, right down the middle, so we got one of each.

Rupert, the game bantam rooster, Ygrette, the Sebright, and Poffins, the wanna-be chicken.
Rupert, the game bantam rooster, Y’grette, the Sebright, and Poffins, the wanna-be chicken. Not pictured is Twank, who’s way too independent to hang around with her childhood friends.

I’m actually surprised by Tractor Supply’s variety. In last year’s second batch, I picked a porcelain d’Uccle. To make it even better, it turned out to be a hen.

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It’s the slow motion run from Bay Watch, in hen form.

I do love chicks. They are so cuddly, and fluffy and super cute. But there’s a downside. They die easily, sometimes for no apparent reason. They require a lot more care than adult chickens. As they get older, they get out of their brooder and run around their room, pooping everywhere. And then it’s time to move them into the adult coop, which scares them, the other chickens pick on them, and sometimes they’ll run away from the coop and not know how to get back. And that’s the last I see of them. Except in the case of Dora the Explorer, the speckled sussex, who oddly recognized me and returned to me. I think I wrote about that here.

I even told my husband I was done with chicks this year. Too much of a hassle. I have 13 chickens now, do I possibly need more?

But the answer was obvious. The empty spots on the perches in the giant coop I built says yes. Pack them in!

Rather than even wait until Chick Days starts, I ended up ordering a bunch of chickens online, to be delivered in June. That will be after Chick Days ends. I’m asking myself now, can I actually go into Tractor Supply, see all those fluffy little chicks and not bring some home? I doubt it. Plus I want more silkies. They are so darn fluffy and cute.

Even if you don’t want to buy chicks, check out your local Tractor Supply to see the cuteness. They have ducks sometimes too!

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Chickens: The Ultimate Game of Hide and Seek

I don’t think I’ve talked about it very much, but I have a little flock of chickens. I love chickens. They are so adorable, and they have sweet little personalities, and they are just so darn funny to watch.

I still eat chicken though. They are delicious. Sadly though, the rest of the animal kingdom agrees, and nearly everything wants to eat my chickens. I’ve lost many chickens to predators, from hawks, to foxes, and one time to our greyhound. To be fair to the greyhound, she wasn’t trying to eat it, but thought she was some kind of toy. And after I screamed at her, she hasn’t done anything to them since, and will lay out in the sun with them pecking in the grass around her.

In an effort to protect my chickens, they’ve had a few upgrades. Their coop was upgraded from a simple A-frame to a mansion. Then, when I decided free ranging was too dangerous, I built them an enclosed run.

chicken coop and run
From a few months ago. I know it looks kind of ugly, and this bothers me. The chicken keeping essentials are there, but I’m going to work on aesthetics when it gets warmer. I want to repaint it (I have trouble deciding on colors), and do some landscaping around it.
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We Found a Chick

A few days ago, I was walking down to the barn when my husband started calling me over to the chicken coop, saying there was a chick in the coop. I didn’t believe him, as he frequently says things like that to mess with me.

I went to the coop, and sure enough, there was a little chick in there.

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Fluffers is finally a Mommy! She’s our oldest chicken, and the top of the pecking order, so I’m fairly confident in her ability to keep this little chick safe from the other chickens. Although she did promptly take her baby out of the coop and then leave her there. I could hear the shrill cries of the chick from the house and had to rush down to save the poor thing and return it to its mother. I’m going to call her a “Mother in-training”.

After the excitement the hen leaving it’s chick, I then discovered that my very favorite hen also had a little baby tucked under her wing! But I was unable to get a picture. “Little Cochin” is a sweet, kind gentle hen who I could easily pick up to see the baby. The baby however was a wily little thing, who was standing on its mother’s feet when I lifted her, something I did not know they could do.

So instead, here is my little darling of a chicken, Little Cochin, stuffing her little beak with bread.

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It’s hard to teach a chicken table manners, but I am trying.

I excitedly told my coworkers about our little chicks. It’s the first animals that have been born on our little farm, and I was very proud.

I got home from work today and hurried out to check on our little chicks. I heard cheeping, and I was lifting hens to find where the chicks were at. I could only find Little Cochin’s baby, tucked up in her wings.

I stepped back from the coop down and looked around the run. That’s where I found the little body of Fluffers’ chick. There was no apparent injury, she almost looked like she could have been sleeping. Fluffers herself was sitting on eggs, seemingly oblivious to her missing chick. Or maybe she did know, and had gone through her mourning already. It’s hard to guess what goes through chicken’s minds.

I sadly removed the deceased chick from the run, and buried her nearby. It had been so young, and full of spirit. I have a few theories, but I have no way of knowing what exactly had happened. The chick could have been left by Fluffers and died of cold, or it could have been run over by another chicken. I feel terrible that the chick likely died due to my ignorance of how to raise a hen with chicks.

I had an appointment so I had little time to dwell on the death. Afterward, I returned to the coop to check on the chicks again. While I had been gone, the hens had rearranged themselves on their nests. I raised Little Cochin to check on her baby. There was no baby. I would have freaked out, but I could distinctly hear cheeping. I searched through all the hens again, and found that Fluffers had stolen Little Cochin’s chick.

I chuckled at that, but then I pulled out the chick to take a look at it, the first real look I’ve taken at it. The little chick has a malformed leg. It’s little cheeping turned shrill as I examined it. It’s limp and shriveled up on itself.

Not I feel doubly awful. I don’t know what to do at this point. It’s clear to me that the little chick is not going to survive. It can’t even walk. The humane thing to do would be to destroy it… or would it? Is there some other option? And it’s just a tiny chick – their lives are so delicate and frail.

I either kill the little chick to put it out of its misery, or I watch it slowly die because it can’t move. One of the other chickens might even attack it and it wouldn’t be able to move away.

This is the part where I hate farm life.

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