Saturday, January 15, 2011

Think Spring and Baby Chicks

It's been a crazy year for weather here in the Midwest.  I have had enough of the snow already.  Seriously, I think we've averaged two snowfalls a week since the beginning of November.  I'm so over the snow!!!!!  Spring is just around the corner.  I can tell because I am starting to get seed catalogs in the mail and today my Murray McMurray catalog came.  This is where I order all of my chickens from.  I can already hear my husband..."What do you need more chickens for?????"  He says the whole farm thing is just a giant cover-up for my animal hoarding disease.  I honestly never really thought he caught on to that.  I should really give him more credit.  Anyways, I managed to convince him that I was just ordering the Rhode Island Red roosters he wanted to get for butchering.  I'm just going to throw in a couple of extra chicks.  Chances are he won't even notice.  I discovered early in our marriage that my husband is not very attentive.  I once bought a large piece of furniture and I am sure had he not caught me still assembling it when he got home he would never have noticed.  I've managed to slip several small tables and other furnishings into the house over the years and he remains oblivious. Sometimes, we (the kids included) like to play a little game called "Guess what's new in the room".  The last time was a framed picture of George Washington on the wall.  How on earth could he possibly overlook a gigantic picture of our first Pres that wasn't there before?  After about a half an hour we finally pointed it out to him and all he said was, "Oh yeah, that's cool!"  Okay, back to the chickens...

I have a very diverse flock of birds.  They are all heritage breeds but the most I have of any one breed is four.  I have three Auracanas, these are the ones who provide the beautiful blue eggs, four Buff Orpingtons and two White Orpingtons, One Cuckoo Maran, three Light Brahmas, two Rhode Island Reds, three Silver Laced Wyandottes, four Black Australorps, one each of Black Minorca, Brown Leghorn, Blue Andalusian  The last three are white egg layers and all of the others lay varying shades of brown.  The Maran lays a beautiful dark brown egg.  I'm sure you're wondering (just like Gary) why on earth I would want more chickens.  Well who knew I would fall head over heals in love with those feather footed beauties the Brahmas.  Luck would have it that they also come in a Buff variety.  They have all the same marking of my light birds only the white is a beautiful buff color.  Who could pass that up I ask?  Initially I was very afraid of the heavily feathered and feather footed breeds.  The Cochin really seemed intimidating even though every where I read says their temperaments make them an ideal bird for a beginner.  I was worried that their abundance of feathers would make them tricky to care for.  They are considered massively feathered.  I couldn't think of a better way to describe them.  The egg laying ability has, unfortunately, been bred out of them but they do make excellent "broodies" and mothers.  There are two varieties that I am going to order.  One is Blue and the other Partridge  The thought of having those beautiful hens roaming around my garden is endearing enough in itself but their value will be in setting.  Being "broody" is to be inclined to sit on eggs.  Believe it or not some varieties, most Malaysian breeds, in fact, do not make good setters.  All of the white egg layers I have are Malaysian and most likely would never sit on a nest.  They are flighty and don't have the patience to sit on their eggs.  I also have one Orpington who I will absolutely let hatch some chicks when the weather gets warmer.  She has already spent the majority of the winter sitting in a nest box.  The poor little thing is itching to hatch her own little brood.  I can't seem to get it  through her little feathered head that it's just too cold out right now.  She quite a hoot.  At least once a day I will remove her from her box and sit her in front of the feeder.  It is not unusual for a Broody to forgo eating and drinking to keep her little ones warm.  She has plucked all the feathers from her belly to keep the eggs eggstra (couldn't resist) warm.  After she chokes down a little grain she throws her wings out and runs across the barn to the waterer while screeching.  I'm sure she yelling, "GET OUT OF MY WAY!" to the other chickens.  If anyone dares cross her path she will run them right over.  She then guzzles a bit of water and runs like a maniac back to her nest.  It's really funny to watch.  Madeline and I get a kick out of her!  In addition to my beautiful flock of hens I have four roosters.  Farmer Brown is a Buff Orpington, Rodeo is a Rhode Island Red, Sam is an Auracana and what we initially thought was a Dark Brahma hen actually turned out to be a rooster and he is yet unnamed.  They are definitely a frisky group of boys!

So, I'm really trying to prepare myself for the goats having their kids.  I've been re-reading all of the "kidding" sections in my goat books and reading blogs and watching videos of difficult births so I know what to be looking for.  I scared myself by reading a post on a goat site about a woman who's first goat delivered a dead kid after a very difficult delivery and then her second doe delivered a dead kid and was still in labor for the next two days.  She thought there was another kid stuck in her uterus but it turned out she had a gigantic tear in her uterus and she wasn't feeling another kid in there but it was actually her internal organs she was feeling through the tear.  Her vet was horribly unreliable and she didn't have anyone else to help her.  I at least am armed with two really good vets and a handful of people I know I can call to help.  It is really exciting and terrifying all in one.  Every day I go out to the barn and I can feel babies kicking in a couple of the girls.  It is so amazing.  Just like a human pregnancy you can feel the baby rolling around and kicking.  The videos I've been watching are a little torturous.  It's like when I was pregnant with Madeline and used to watch "A Baby Story" on TLC.  If I keep doing this to myself it will make the next eight weeks drag on forever.  I'll try and get some pictures tomorrow of the girls.  Freezing cold or not we have to get their kidding stalls ready and get them separated from the donkeys.  Those donkeys are so squirrelly without being able to run outside.  They run all over the barn and trample everything in their path.  The goats are too big to all fit under the feeder now so we really need to give them a safe haven where they are out of harms way.  Then we'll move the hayfeeder in with the goats too and give the donks room to wrestle!   It's not that they aren't able to go outside.  It's just that Dexter doesn't seem to understand that he's not a goat.  He has bonded so well with them that he won't leave the barn without them.  Occasionally he will go outside with Millie but never far from the door.  Millie doesn't really seem to get it.  I often look out of the kitchen window to see her head poking out the barn door.  She'll stand outside a lot by herself too but she won't go far from the door without Dex.  We had hoped to be able to separate them in the spring and put a donkey in each pasture with a group of goats but I don't think either one will put up with that.  Millie has attempted to jump the fence when I've taken Dex on a walk without her.  Dex loves her just as much but he seems more torn between the goat world and donkey world.  Hopefully we can get everything done in the barn tomorrow that needs to get done and then we just sit and wait!

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