29 March 2010

Three French Hens Again

Welcome Coco! She is a Black Rose Comb Bantam about 10 weeks old who will lay small white eggs. We made another trip today to Bageniece Farms planning to get another Buff Orpington but the only one we saw that wasn't full grown didn't take kindly to being held. Coco is little enough for Claire to cuddle and love. We saw some little month old Buff Orpington chicks that we will visit again when they are bigger. One of them may come home with us in April. Once home, Coco was introduced to the hen house while the others went out exploring, but is spending the night and tomorrow in the pet carrier until we can supervise all three together.

Coco explores the recently installed nesting barrel. This is an actual barrel from Crate and Barrel from their remodeling sale years ago. Does anyone else remember when they actually sold everything out of crates and barrels? Now the chickens have a crate and a barrel!

28 March 2010

Chicken Antics

We've started letting the chickens out of their house to explore the backyard in the evenings shortly before dusk. They have been enjoying their outings, gradually venturing further from homebase. They seem to appreciate last fall's leaves still on the ground. There is a veritable chicken buffet hidden under there. I wish they could spend all their time outside; they really love it, but it seems too risky to leave them out when we are away. So until we work out an enclosure attached to the hen house they will have to manage with supervised excursions. We must be ever on the lookout for vicious predators like this one trying to escape.

Tonight they discovered a pile of sand. After much scratching and pecking, Celine sat down and began fluffing her feathers and rolling in the sand. Sylvie stood watching for a bit, then joined in. They rolled side to side, under each others wings, flapped and fluffed and cooed. They looked so content; they seemed to be settling in to sleep. I suppose this was a bath. Someone who has chickens will explain this to me, right?

21 March 2010

A near miss and a sad ending

The weather the past week has been lovely, warm and sunny. A cold front was expected for early Saturday. I had heard that it would stay in the upper 40's Friday night so I tucked the chickens in with no worries. Saturday morning I went out check on them. I found little Colette in a limp and weak bundle of feathers. The temperature had gotten lower than expected. I scooped her up and brought her inside.

I had asked Dan who sold them to us about what to do in cold weather. I remembered he mentioned the hair dryer so I gave the little chicken a blow dry to warm her up while thinking of the next step. I dashed back outside to get the clip light from the hen house, found a 150 watt bulb and set up a chicken infirmary in our cooler in the bathroom.  At this point I called Dan to seek further advice. He said I should get a thermometer and make sure it was around 85 degrees. The first thermometer I thought of was in the fridge, but it only goes up to 60 degrees. I remembered the thermometer on the front porch, got it and put it in the cooler. The bathroom was quite warm with the gas wall heater and the cooler is insulating. The temperauture went up and Colette soon started to peep and ruffle her feathers. I was thankful for saving her from a close call.

Crisis seemingly averted, I had to leave to go pick up Claire from a friend's house where she had spent the night. I checked on Sylvie and Celine again before leaving and they were fine in the hen house. The whole time I was gone I fretted over leaving and visualized over and over a safe and warm chicken. When we got home, we cautiously entered the bathroom. All was well. We had a peeping, happy chicken.

It was beginning to snow and the wind was strong. I thought it best at this point to bring the other two inside as well. They are bigger than Colette but still not fully grown. With the addition to the bathroom of two larger chickens, I was worried about the open flame of the wall heater so I turned it off. Colette appearing fully recovered by this time, I turned the cooler on it's side to make a cozy bed. We spent quite a long time siting in there enjoying our feathered friends.  We finally decided we could leave them so we could eat dinner and do other things. All three were walking around, making noises, looking perfectly normal.

A few hours later, Claire went into the bathroom to find a lifeless Colette on the floor. I am so sorry that she was the one to make the discovery. I had been glad that she had not experienced the morning's adventures. I hooked up the heat lamp again, but this time it was too late. Our little Colette could not be revived. The thermometer in the bathroom read 65 degrees which I thought was okay since she had been outside this past week in the low 50's. I guess she was not as strong after what she had been through earlier. I have a small electric heater which I could have turned on in there or I could have left the heat lamp on longer. We could have checked on her sooner. So many things have been going through my mind. It is very sad.

This little bird had such an endearing personality. She came running to the hen house door when we came to visit. She came to us eagerly wanting to be held and petted. Being quite young, she still peeped constantly and made sweet little cooing noises. We became quite attached in a short amount of time, Claire especially.
Colette will be missed.

15 March 2010

Chez Poulet - Phase Three - The Arrival

Les Poulets Roulez! Today we are officially farmers. Three beautiful chickens have come to live in La Petite Maison des Poussins Urbaines. Please meet them:

Celine, the Ameraucana

Sylvie, the Barred Rock
Colette, the Buff Orpington,
the littlest one who will eventually be the biggest.

This afternoon we drove to Poetry TX (just north of Terrell) to Bageniece Farms where we met all sorts of great critters. Among them some very LOUD donkeys, a lovable Great Pyrenees who didn't want us to stop petting her, geese, turkeys, ducks, and of course chickens galore.

By far the most amazing were these:

And this one gets the award for most original nesting box:

The car ride home was uneventful with very little peeping and clucking from the back seat. Once home, Celine, Sylvie and Colette happily explored their new home.

Then they had dinner and tried out the roost.

Bonne nuit les poussins!

Wooly Morning

Wool is good. Wool is soft. Wool is cozy. Wool is in a big bag on my porch!
Friday morning we arrived to witness the shearing o' sheep at Jacob's Reward Farm  I was prepared for this to be an all day affair, but Danny the shearer is so fast that they were all shorn when we arrived! They look a little confused, but free and happy.

Determined to see some action, we hopped back in the car and headed to the next stop on the shearing tour,  Heritage Farmstead in Plano - a true piece of local history with the original farmhouse and barns still standing where they were built over a century ago. On April 3rd they are having their Spring Festival with more sheep shearing along with wool spinning and knitting demonstrations.

Watch this! 
Sheep Shearing from Jennifer Kate Stuart on Vimeo.
(If you are reading this on Facebook, you may have to click "view original post" to see the video). Amazing that a sheep can be liberated of it's fleece in about two and a half minutes (and all in one piece)!

After shearing, we helped a bit with skirting the fleeces. This is the initial cleaning up - removing any clumps of mud and poo along with fiber that is too short for spinning. We brought home a bag of the too short fiber (minus the mud and poo). It will be wonderful for felting projects and stuffing. I have a pet bed in mind to make for some lucky cats and dogs.

01 March 2010

Signs of Spring in the Garden

Two weeks ago there was six and a half inches of snow on the garden.
Today there are Daffodils blooming! The Crocuses have all ready done their thing and I missed them, I always forget how early they are. I found the beginning of the first Hyacinth just peaking its head out of its leaves. They are my favorite by far.  
Dormant Perennials are coming up in all the beds.
Over the weekend, I finally got the salad garden started (rather late). Next weekend I'd better get everything else put out. A trip to the feed store or garden center is on the agenda this week! I think I'll plant multiple  varieties of the things that we really enjoy eating the most. This way they'll mature at different times and give us a longer season.

The small farmer's markets should all be starting up again soon. I saw a notice for the McKinney Farmer's Market which resumes this Saturday!  Mmm, can't wait for seasonal homegrown and local food, I've missed it over the winter!