Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Time, and the Livin' is Easy

Harvesting Fresh Veggies from our Garden
Simply Chicks has been on hiatus pretty much for the whole summer. With camps, prepping son one for college, and busy-ness over at the Farm, there hasn't been much time for blogging.

After hearing complaints from some friends that we have been on way-too-long of a break, I thought I'd throw up some pics of our highlights this summer for your viewing pleasure.

Teaching the Junior Farmer Camp
with Carrie at Wakeman Town Farm

Above is a pic of our carrot harvest this spring, along with snow peas. The garden went a little wild this summer thanks to my neglect and Brie being away at camp, so now it looks more like a jungle. At least for the spring it looked good. And we do have an abundance of tomatoes, squash, peppers and herbs to reward us for our earlier efforts this year.

And here to the right is a nice photo of Carrie teaching our Junior Farmers how to construct a cucumber "teepee" for the plants to climb on. Very cool, indeed.

Guests at the Family Fun Day Get Friendly
with Nugget, a Silkie Bantam
Our Family Fun Day at Wakeman Town Farm was a huge hit, with over 500 guests strolling the grounds on that sunny summer day.

We had goats, face painting, pony rides, food trucks, you name it, we had it. Folks came from all around town to step back in time, get a taste of farm life and learn more about sustainable practices.

Visiting Goats at the Farm
We're hoping to have our own next year!
Betsy, a resident artist, really outdid herself
 as face painter extraordinaire!
Maranda & Buster
Struttin' their Stuff at Wakeman Town Farm
Believe it or not, that's all I have in the way of pics for Simply Chicks this summer.

Brie and I hope you've had as fun and relaxing a summer as we have, and good luck getting settled back in to the new school year over the next couple of weeks!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mission Accomplished

Darling Loola, Sitting Pretty
The deed is done, and if Loola and Lacey could smile (chickens cannot... they have fixed expressions), they would be grinning from one chicken ear to the other (yes, they do have flat, little ears on either side of their head... friends are always surprised by this, but it's true).

Yesterday was the big day... we waited nearly two weeks to return our resident bully, Madonna, to the coop, to rejoin her sisters.

Madonna had taken to picking on our tiny Cochin Bantams, and enough was enough. Brie and I took matters into our own hands and put her in the slammer for a while to cool off.

Reintroducing her was a simple process, and we anticipated three possible outcomes:
  • Outcome #1: Madonna would be hen pecked by the other girls a bit, since they wouldn't recognize her and perceive her to be a new member of the flock.
  • Outcome #2: All the girls would recognize Madonna and welcome her back with open wings.
  • Outcome #3: Madonna would remember how much fun she had picking on "Baby Girls," Loola and Lacey, and instantly resume her terrorist activities.

Dear Lacey, Looking Perky
We scattered some tasty meal worms in the run to distract the girls a bit, and a friend of the family unceremoniously tossed Madonna back into the fray.

Fortunately for our Buff Polish hen, Outcome Number One was the winner. Loola and Lacey stood secure in the chicken run, happily foraging for hidden treats under the pine chips, while Madonna was sent scuttling into the coop by the queen of our flock, Miss B (aka Beatrice, our Easter Egger).

Last night, Madonna sat, grumpily, on the lowest rung of the roosting bar... dejected, but no worse for the wear.

Madonna... Put in Her Place
By the Others
Peace and order have been restored to the Simply Chicks flock, I'm happy to report, and it was a pleasure to sit with my morning coffee, watching the girls quietly go about their business... no bullies allowed.

Clover & Marshmallow
Enjoy Playtime in the Yard

And Brie and I can go back to caring for our happy flock, harvesting those gorgeous eggs, and playing with our bunnies, Marshmallow and Clover, without having to worry for our "Baby Girls" safety.

Phew! Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jail Bird

Guilty as Charged: The Bully
What do you do when a chicken becomes a bully? Place it in chicken "jail," according to the experts.

Pecking order is serious business in the chicken world. Hens who start getting bossy, making the others miserable, need to be reigned in.

In larger flocks, it's a bird-eat-bird world, where everyone has to fight for their right to the roosting bar, but, in small backyard flock of pet birds, like ours, vigilant chicken keepers can step in and set things right.

The Victims: Loola & Lacey
In our case, we have Madonna, our Polish hen, who is the culprit. She chases around "Baby Girls," as Brie likes to call them, Loola and Lacey, and gives them no access to the outdoor run, holding them hostage inside the coop. What a miserable existence they have been leading, and it was high time for Brie and I to put a stop to this nonsense.

The great thing about birds is their limited memory when it comes to recognizing their own as members of the flock.

By separating out the naughty bird, you can reintroduce her at a later date and she will be perceived as "new" and treated as such.... back to the lowest rung on the roosting bar. Ha!

This we did with Madonna, on Memorial Day... yes, that is how we spent our time, not lounging on the beach with all the other Westporters, but rather tending to our chicken dilemmas.

Off to the "Slammer" She Goes
Here she is being "escorted" to her new domicile.

And here she shall stay until we deem her ready to be re-introduced to her flock.

No worries, our marvelous Madonna is being well cared for with food, water and her very own nesting box, until said date when we release her from solitary confinement.

Madonna: Jail Bird

We'll update everyone on how this works out. Stay tuned for Part II of "Jail Bird."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Simply Chicks Take a (little) Walk on the Wild Side

Feeding Albert from a Syringe
Life got a little bit more interesting for us yesterday evening. My darling daughter, along with six of her closest friends, paraded into the backyard with a box. In the box was a bird, a baby bird... a robin, to be exact.

The tiny critter looked terrified, cowering in his nest, fully feathered, a fledgling.

"He was abandoned by his mom!" Brie proclaimed. The others nodded earnestly.

"We must save him!" The kids were adamant.

"Oy," I sighed. "He probably shouldn't have been moved," I scolded.

Too late. The bird was now on the other side of town, thanks to my better half, who transported the diminutive rescue, along with said caregivers, who mistakenly assumed that since I am a chicken keeper, naturally, I know all things "bird," and would know exactly what to do with a non-domesticated member of the same species.

So, on to the internet I went, searching for sites that would provide me with some clue as to how to care for this wild creature, now that the box had landed in my lap and the children were busy setting up a make shift brooder in the garage.

Thankfully, one of the kids' dads is a doctor.

"Give it sugar water in a syringe, to start. That will keep it going until you figure out what to do next."

Good idea... off to Walgreens I raced to buy a syringe, and returned post haste to administer nourishment to the little guy.

"Albert," I cooed.... yes, I named him. He opened his tiny orange beak and gulped down the sugar water with gusto.

We settled Albert in for the night with a chick waterer, his nest, and a soft towel.  This morning, he was looking rather spritely, so I was encouraged.

"Time for breakfast, Albert!" I researched... looks like the organic baby chick feed, plus warm water, plus a hard boiled egg, all mashed together, would do the trick.

Albert was only happy when I was feeding him.
Albert gobbled this down with delight. He now sat on the patio chirping at me. Wanting more. Each time I approached him, his mouth opened wide.

Uh oh. I'm Mom. Oh noooo...

Rushing to the phone, I call Wildlife in Crisis, our local wildlife rehabilitation center, located in Weston. And I sent them an email. It's Sunday. Yikes. I needed help....  right away. I left messages.

Thankfully, someone called me back, within 10 minutes. In less than an hour, Brie and I chugged down the road to the center, Albert safely nestled in a small towel inside his box. At the center, Brie recounted the rescue effort in detail.

"The bird was knocked out of the nest and the nest was on the ground. We think it was the neighbor's dog that did it. We waited a while for the mother to return to the nest, and she didn't," Brie described.

Peter, the wildlife rehabilitator on duty, put Brie at ease. "The nest was no longer viable, and the bird might not have lived if you hadn't stepped in to help... that bird is nowhere near ready to fly."

Peter shared that the bird would be hand fed in an incubator for a couple of weeks, then placed in a flight cage with other fledglings, and finally, released into the wild. He said the whole process would take about 6 weeks.

Offering my apology to Brie for initially scolding her about the rescue... we gave a donation to the center and looked about at the rescued wildlife admiringly.

In the corner on a bed lay a deer, whose quality of life was compromised due to a severe birth defect, but made comfortable and looked quite healthy. I gave him a neck rub which he seemed to appreciate. A wood duck sat on top of the microwave, a falcon perched in a corner. Peter busied himself with hawk release preparations.

Do you see the other raccoon peering out from under the shed?
Outside, a whiskery raccoon munched on some kibble, gazing up at us inquisitively.

Awww. Cute fellow. Hard to think this guy is Public Enemy #1 for chicken keepers. Best to leave him right where he sat.

We ventured back home to our flock of girls, reassured that baby Albert was in good hands, and might visit us some day... a free and happy member of the feathered, chirping community we share our lives with.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Springtime Ramblings

What a spring we've had here at Sundance Hill Farm! Last weekend we were one of the hosts for the Wakeman Town Farm Chicken Coop Tour.

Hundreds of folks from around town came to have a peek at their neighbors' backyard coops, and, we hope, were inspired to return home to start their own flocks of feathered friends.

A tiny visitor bonds with Marshmallow.
Brie and I enjoyed showing off our gardens, chickens and bunnies.

Marshmallow and Clover stole the spotlight.... being the center of attention by hippity hopping to and fro before an adoring audience.
Leslie Yager, a local reporter for the Patch,
took this wonderful pic of our girls.
This little guy was fascinated by the porch,
and peeking inside the coop.
Kids checked out our chickens and our coop, loving the front porch and mini barn door to peer into the goings ons that happen inside a small chicken house.

Brie gives Angie some lovin.'
We also had a chance to visit Angie, the rescue chicken from Wakeman Farm, after the farm lay fallow whilst the controversy surrounding the Farm was in full swing.

Angie, we are happy to report, is thriving in her new home and lives with her BFF (Best Feathered Friend), "Queenie," in luxurious accommodations in our dear friend, Susan's, backyard. Her plumage is full, deeply colored and irridescent.

Dare I say, that poor, once homely chicken, is now beautiful. Angie is yet another example of resilience, and proof that loving care makes all the difference in any life.

Brie took this pretty pic of pansies.
Back at our little farm, our family is enjoying a bountiful spring, with flowers a-bloom and yummy treats growing in our garden, that our hens would just love to get their beaks on, but can't, thanks to our critter proof fence.

Spring lettuces. Yum!
We'll be sure to share our leftovers with them.... if there are any left!

Showing off our vegetable garden during the Chicken Coop Tour.
Happy Spring!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Here's the Poop...

Brie and Marshmallow
Rabbit poop, that is. Yes, it's that time of year again. Starting a garden, buying bunnies...

"Bunnies?" you say. "Why, bunnies?" Because they're 'cute and fluffy,' according to my daughter.

More importantly, they are God's gift to gardeners when it comes to free, nitrogen rich, organic fertilizer. Some gardeners insist that they are better fertilizers than anything you can buy in the store, because they are a "cold" fertilizer and come in self-contained time-release capsules.

By cold fertilizer, this means you don't have to let them age or compost the way you do using horse or chicken manure. Simply collect, scatter and let nature do the rest. Gardeners call rabbit manure "bunny gold" for a reason.

This is how I defend our decision (our, meaning, Brie and I) to keep these fuzzy fertilizers in our backyard farm. Plus, they keep the chickens company, and they're entertaining, at least to us girls.

And contrary to my husband's belief, they are lagomorphs, not rodents. So, no, you cannot say they are just cute, cotton-tailed "rats." Lagomorphs are a distinct species, of which there are many varieties.

Yesterday we brought home, "Clover," an English Spot. She came from Wakeman Town Farm, where the stewards, Mike and Carrie Aitkenhead, bred beautiful bunnies for families to adopt.

Marshmallow & Clover
Fast Friends
The surprise came when we drove to our local feed store on the same day to retrieve supplies, and Brie spotted a small, white bunny with bright blue eyes.

"Marshmallow!" she proclaimed, scooping the bunny up in her arms, clutching the wiggly fur ball to her chest, as if they were long, lost soulmates.

"Oh, no." I sighed. "Let me check.... yep, it's another girl."

"Pleeeeze, mom? Clover neeeeeds a friend."

A Bunny & Chicken Powered Organic Garden
The rest is history. Alas, I have no willpower when it comes to pleading children and adorable critters.

At least I can argue that they will be as useful as our chickens in providing us with ample fertilizer for our garden this spring.

Our feathered friends provide us with their "chicken gold" as well as egg shells.... we pulverize the shells in a blender and scatter them in our garden beds.

Voila! Calcium carbonate galore for our veggies and flowers. Happy Gardening, everyone!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cuckoo for Cochins

Chewy, Loola, and Lacey
Brie and I have lost it, truly. We've gone cuckoo for Cochins, Bantam Cochins. These little gems in the chicken world were originally from China, and we have fallen head over heels in love with this breed.

Diminutive in stature, but possessing giant personalities, Cochins have a unique way of wiggling into your heart.

Brie with Happy Feet
This all started with Happy Feet, remember her? Our broody girl was in the first batch of chicks we brought home. Happy Feet made it clear from the beginning that she was in charge.

Now, nearly two years later, we've started a separate flock of Cochin Bantams. Housed in their very own coop, the trio live large. Chewy, our roo, is a Lavender, and his best girl is Loola, also a Lavender. We tossed in a Birchen Cochin named Lacey, just to spice things up a bit.

Over Spring Break, the Cochin coop will be transformed into, appropriately enough, "The Love Shack." Painted a bright white, and adorned with flowers and hearts, the Love Shack will be home to the three musketeers. Since Brie is the resident artist, I respectfully pass the paint brush to her for this special project.

Check out those fluffy butts!
We hope to breed these fluffy-bottomed birds for families wanting to bring home kid-friendly chickens as pets. Pets with benefits: ones that make you a most delicious breakfast!

Brie with her BFF, Jules
And Chewy & Loola
Stay tuned as we embark on this new Simply Chicks adventure!

PS April 24, 2012
So, just a quick update from our earlier post: our little roo, Chewy, sadly enough, must be re-homed. He is waking up my husband at the wee hour of 5:30am. And a grumpy husband/dad on the weekends is something none of us need! Simply Chicks is going back to being, quite simply, all chicks. Fare thee well, Chewy. You will live a happy rooster's life on someone else's farm!