In a bad brood

Poor Blondie has been brooding lately. I don’t like it.

Brooding is apparently cyclical behavior, and not really all that uncommon in chickens, but I’m still not a fan. The thought of staying put in that little box in 100-degree weather, day-after-day, for hours on end in the hopes of hatching an unhatchable egg is most definitely depressing (not to mention it keeps us from being able to collect the eggs from under her). Not only is her brooding behavior tragically hopeless, it’s also dangerous. We’ve already lost one chicken to heat, and I’m not keen to lose another.

I’ve heard when chickens brood in nature, roosters bring food to the nest, but seeing as how we have no roosters, this brooding businesses poses a problem.  To get the stubborn gal off the hot seat, we’ve taken to gently nudging her off the nest, locking her out of the coop and bribing her with mealworms. For now, the mealworms at least distract her long enough that we can collect the eggs from the nest and clean it up a bit before she starts circling the coop, searching for a way back in.  I’m just hoping our bribery efforts will continue to work as she goes through this little hormonal phase.

Oh sweet Blondie, I hope you perk up soon.


It’s too damn hot

Brenda died yesterday from heat stroke. What kind of planet is this where animals, animals who have lived millions of years outdoors, suddenly die in the heat? Texas summers, I am getting really tired of you.

The saddest part is, we aren’t the only folk in these parts to have lost our fowl this summer. We know of at least two other chickens in our area who have succumbed to the heat. This is outrageous. Brenda was our barred rock hen, one of the youngest and the largest in the brood. According to a few sites on chicken raising, sometimes it’s the largest, darkest hens that suffer the most from the heat. The others seem to be doing relatively OK, but we don’t really want to take any chances. To prevent any more untimely deaths, we spent the morning pimping out the chicken coop with the latest in coop cooling technology.

While the coop does benefit from the shade of our mature backyard pecan tree, we went to extra lengths to make sure every square inch of the coop’s roof is now covered with a sun blocking fabric that lets in air for ventilation, but keeps the temp down to a bearable 90 degrees (versus the 107 you might find yourself frying in beneath the full sun). We also added a giant water trough in addition to the existing water containers and put in ice blocks (or the red neck version, frozen jugs of water)  for the surviving chickens to lie next to. The hope is that while the ice melts, the evaporation will help to cool the interior of the coop. Hopefully these measures will prevent us from having to bury any more hens.

Brenda was a fine lady, the prettiest chick of the bunch in my opinion, and one of the more social ones. And sadly, while we are no strangers to losing hens, it’s never a process that gets any easier. I hope this is the last post I will have to write like this for a long, long time. Stay cool.


Happy Blogiversary!

Today marks two years of blogging from the doodle house!

Documenting our lives and sharing the things that have entertained and inspired us has been tremendously rewarding. The blog has been a place where I can be creative and goofy and honest, and I’m so happy to have found such joy in this little hobby.

Some highlights of what we’ve done and seen in the last two years…

We added chickens to our family….

And we took some chickens away…

We got married!

And honeymooned…

We got our feet wet with gardening…

We bought a new house!

We traveled…

And traveled…

And traveled a little more…

It’s been a thoroughly eventful two years. There’s no telling what the next two will hold.


Ain’t nobody here but us chickens (and a creeper with a camera)

The chippies aren’t really chippies anymore. They are more like chicken teens….chikeens, if you will. No eggs or anything yet, but they are getting pretty close to rivaling Frannie Sue in size. They’re big enough now that we’ve taken out the barrier that separated the chippies’ side of the coop from Frannie Sue’s side, so now they can all live in chicken harmony. They also get to roam the yard for bugs and steal lettuce from the garden every afternoon. Yep, it’s a pretty good life for the chickens these days.

Chickens are sometimes cute, but sometimes they look like raptors on the prowl.


Taste =Tested

Question: Can the average Joe (or Bro) REALLY tell the difference between a fresh egg and an egg from the fridge?

As keepers of chickens, we get that question semi frequently. We always answered with a resounding “YES” because, well, we want to feel justified in our chicken raising. But can we really tell or is it just wishful thinking? Who better to test this theory than the one and only Bro? A manboy who exists solely on a diet of sloppy joes and ravioli and has practically no picky eating habits to speak of whatsoever is the perfect subject on which to test this theory.

Hypotheses: I predict, that even with the palate of a common man, fair Bro will be able to distinguish the fresh egg from the friged one.

The experiment: First things first…gather materials. One fresh egg and one from the fridge.

Both yolks side-by-side. Guesses as to which is which?

To test accurately and fairly, it had to be a truly blind taste test with both eggs prepared under identical conditions. Both eggs would be cooked over easy, on the same type of pan, cooked over the same heat for the same length of time. They would even be served on the same plate. No differentiation whatsoever.

And we couldn’t add any fixin’s like salsa or salt and pepper. Only egg in its purest form would do. 

Bro prepares.

Bro chooses his favorite.

Bro chose the fresh egg! We are vindicated!

The Result: In the end, Bro finished both eggs but said there was a clear difference, and the fresher egg was “more robust.” He said there was more flavor, thought it wasn’t over powering…just preferable.

So there you have it. Fresh eggs are finer. Another hypothesis tested and proven.

Special thanks to Frannie Sue, the Scientific Method and Bro for contributing to this post.


Out of the closet

Well, the chicks, or chippies as I have been calling them (think cheep + chickies), are officially out of the laundry room and enjoying life outside with Frannie Sue in the coop! It’s an exciting time to be a chick.

The chippies seem to enjoy their new abode and it has been super fun watching them explore the new digs. Their personalities are starting to shine a little more and we’re thrilled to just watch and get to know them.

We’ve not named them yet, as I have been satisfied just referring to them as “chippies” or “the black one” and “blondie” but I wouldn’t say it’s an indicator of indifference on our part.  Do allow me to share with you some of the fun facts about our new(ish) little friends.

-Pecking order is a real thing. We got lucky when we introduced Frannie Sue and Marion to one other, as Francis was small and spunky and Marion was just happy to have a companion, but that was pretty much a fluke according to tales we’ve heard. Sometimes when you introduce new fowl to one another, things can get ugly with the more established chicks attacking the newcomers, often pecking them to death. Not exactly a “welcome to the neighborhood” situation. I’ve read tips by many chicken farmers that say you can prevent this by placing the new hens into the coop at night while the rest of the brood sleeps. The idea is the chickens will wake up and have a “the gang’s all here” mentality without really counting heads (chickens are cute but not the brightest). But with Frannie Sue being the only lady of the house, we knew this tactic wouldn’t work. Fortunately Handyman Heath rigged up a chicken coop floor plan that allows the birds to see one another and interact without having to actually share sleeping space. The idea is that overtime Frannie Sue will take it easy on the whole territorial thing and embrace the company of the chippies overtime. So far, so good.
-You can train a chick to not be “chicken.” What I mean is, if you make the chicks feel safe, they will take on loving, social personalities. If you threaten their lives and set them up for scary situations, they’re apt to be a bit more timid. We were bad about this with Frannie Sue. We might have prematurely let her out into the real world, which resulted in some dangerous situations when she was younger (Stella got a little too “friendly” a time or two) and she did witness the brutal murder of her bff, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in nature or humanity. But the little chicks have had it pretty good thus far. We made a point to talk to them every day while they lived in the laundry room, and we made sure to handle them semi-regularly so they could get accustomed to people. Now, whenever they see us approaching the coop, they run to the gate and “cheep cheep” at us. It’s ridiculously cute.
-Different chicks, different style.  As I mentioned earlier, chickens have their own personalities, as well as looks. The barred rock hen is definitely the dominate one of the chick family, while blondie is by far the most curious. She’s always the first to greet us at the gate or pop her head out of the chicken house. The Ameraucana is timid and needs a little courting to come around. But frisky or fragile, they’re all a lot of fun.


The need for seed

Blast those nincompoops who told us, as children, that gardening is as simple as dropping a seed in a hole and splashing it with water. Maybe that’s the case in the Northwest, but here in Texas it’s just not that simple…especially when you’re talking about seed starting.

Heath’s been itching to start gardening from seeds (rather than transplanting) for quite some time now. For one, it’s a pretty stellar way to feel somewhat God-like. Taking a tiny pebble-like object and transforming it into leafy, nutrient providing green. It does wonders for the ego.

Secondly, if the seeds grow to maturity, it’s a much, much, much more economical way to garden. Think about it: a single 3-inch tall tomato plant usually costs around $3.50 and will probably yield around 15 pounds of fruit in a good (“good” being the operative word) season. Not too bad considering what you pay in a grocery store for organic ‘maters. But a package of seeds, which usually has a count around 100 or so, is less than $2. I’m no mathematician, but based on those numbers, if you can do it right, seed starting is the way to go.

No problem except that when you start getting into it, seed starting is tricky business. Conditions must be perfect.

  • The seeds need to have between 12 and 18 hours of light each day. In the winter, when daylight isn’t so ample, dropping them in a hole and letting nature do it’s thing isn’t so much of an option. You’ve got to rig up a complicated lighting system, preferably attached to a timer, to make sure they get the appropriate amount of artificial sunshine.
  • Not just any soil will do. In fact, when seed starting, the experts recommend “soilless” soil. Which seems a little paradoxical. Using top soil from an existing garden can actually kill the seeds and you don’t always know the exact compounds you’re dealing with, and it has a tendency to compact easily without air ventilation, the presence of earthworms and manual tilling.  Instead, it’s recommended that gardeners use a mixture of sphagnum peat moss, plus vermiculite and a little perlite. The soilless mixture is much lighter than top soil and ultimately helps the seeds grow stronger, faster.
  • Seeds like the temperature to be juuuuuust right. Like me, seeds do best in temps between 65 and 70 degrees. While the temp has been known to occasionally hover around that level for day or two during Austin winters, it’s not a done deal. So the seeds usually have to live inside, and not just inside, but in a place that is well ventilated with moisture control. I’m telling you, they get a better set up than me, Heath and the doodles combined.

The caring and handy individual he is, Heath spared no expense creating the perfect environment to start our seeds. Well, I guess he spared some expense, considering seed starting paraphernalia can retail in the hundred dollar range. We spent a grand total of about $30, but the top shelf of our laundry room is now Seed City. The spectacular shelf-top community features scenic views (of our washer and dryer), superfluous sunshine (16 hours of florescent lighting) and a cool and breezy climate (a circulating fan rigged to dangle from the ceiling in lieu of an actual ceiling fan). It might be a little makeshift, but dammit if it didn’t get the job done.

By summer, we should have a truck load of tomatoes, kale, chard, lettuce, peppers and broccoli to keep us satiated. What’s more, seedlings are not the only thing growing beneath the light of the laundry room. We have new chicks as well.

It’s going to be an exciting spring.


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