Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hen down!

A while back, it was finally warm enough outside to move the chickens out of the corner in the garage by the hot water heaters and into the driveway for an afternoon of sunshine.

One thing I've learned about chickens so far is that when confronted with something new, they completely freak out.

They started squawking fluttering all over the place - trying to hide in the corners.  Since I speak chicken now, I could totally hear them saying "The light! The light! Stay away from the light!"

But then, the brave one, Queenie, left the seething mass of squawking feathers and tenatively stepped into the center of the box.

And then she keeled over and died.

"Hen down! We have a hen down!" I yelled.  Ray came over to investigate.  Queenie's body deflated and she spread out one of her wings as if to display all her grown-up feathers.

Ray and I were perplexed.  Queenie and Bossie both started alternating between this strange behavior and running back to the mosh pit where the rest of the girls were continuing to freak out about the glowing orb in the sky.

Eventually, the other chickens started keeling over on the floor, deflating, and spreading out their wings.

As usual, my photography skills were lacking and I didn't realize the camera was focusing on the wire and not the chicken playing possum, but you get the idea.

We figured they must be sunbathing.  A quick internet search confirmed that for us.  Apparently this is "normal" chicken behavior.

What is NOT "normal" chicken behavior is trembling and weak legs.  We really do have a hen down, sadly, and it's Baby Ducky.  It started a few days ago, so I've isolated this one from the rest of the flock.  It continues to eat and drink, and seems pretty pissed off to be missing the party in the crate next door, but this is the way it has to be until I reach some sort of conclusion about what is wrong with this chicken.

Many less-than-quick internet searches have revealed not much.  So, I figure one of three things will happen.  It will get better, it will die, or it will be wobbly all it's life.  We shall see.  Sadly, this is the one chicken that everybody gravitates to.  It could be the crazy feathers, or the diminuitive size (it's the only bantam in our flock).  Or maybe it's the "pluck" (ha!  get it?  chicken humor!) that this little runt exhibits.  I will keep you posted. 

Meanwhile, work has started in earnest on the coop so that we can move the girls out to their own apartment now that they are old enough.  Ray and I have been doing our research, talking to other chicken owners, touring local coops and cobbling together a basic plan.  Which, of course, changes frequently in the course of construction based on materials available, new ideas, and the odd mistake.  It IS just a chicken coop, after all.

But it is a literary chicken coop.  Even though the girls can't read, visitors will be able to ponder a short piece of poetry called Home to Roost, by the current Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan.  We just won't dwell on the fact that the poem is really a metaphor for one's mistakes clouding one's mind.  It's just about chickens!

Bridget has really gotten into the decorative aspects of the coop.  She asked Ray to make a couple of rooster-shaped cutouts from wood and she painted them.  They will adorn the doors where we gather the eggs.

It's coming along!  I will be excited when the girls make their big move.  And like that big, bright, orb in the sky - the changes are sure to freak them out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming....

... of braggin' on my kids!

We hope you stick with us on this short break from the All Chicken All The Time Blog.

Yesterday was the Caveman Triathlon, and Boy Wonder did it again!  As with his previous two triathlons, this was a "sprint distance" race - 275 yard swim, 13 mile bike, 5k run.

Up at o'dark thirty to get to the race site.  Then it's time to line up for the swim.  Faster swimmers get to go first.  That would be Aidan, there near the front of the line in the black Speedo.

He had a great swim, and I'm pretty sure he took first in the swim, even beating a couple of high school swimmers that had also entered the event.

Next up is the bike.  We learned our lesson after the first triathlon and now we rent him a nice bike for these races.  Doing it on a mountain bike on a windy day is just sheer torture.

He did much better on the bike than in his previous two triathlons, I think.  See - being a swimmer, he gets done with the first leg first, and then gets out on the bike course and all the more experienced triathletes are behind him and start whizzing by him pretty quickly.  So, my measurement for this leg of the race is how many fewer people passed him.  He seemed to hold his own pretty well for a scrawny kid in a race of 600+ adults.

Next up is the bike-to-run transition.  Most triathletes say this is a real killer, as your legs don't want to work after biking for so long.  I believe it from the awkward way people are running as the exit the transition area.

Ray hollered to Aidan, "You OK?  Anything hurt?"  Aidan's answer was, "Everything hurts!" as he gamely strode out to the 5k run.

The run looks like sheer torture.  At this point, most of the athletes have been going hard for about an hour and some of them are running out of gas.  Aidan looked pretty strong, but said he DID take a short break to do a little stretching during the run.

And finally, the "big finish" through the archway where a volunteer places a medal around  your neck.  Aidan's time was about 1:27 which is about a few minutes faster than the last one - always improving!

Stay tuned for a special upcoming report from the All Chicken All The Time Blog about Chicken Sunbathing!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Awkward Teenagers

Remember when your babies were small?  So cute, so tiny, so cuddly.

Before you know it, they are in that awkward no-man's-land between infancy and adulthood.  They are teenagers.  All angles and elbows and attitude.  All grooming problems and social problems.  Harder to control, harder to contain.  Needing their own space, experimenting with adult adornments.

Not nearly as pleasant as when they were fluffy little chicks.  Wait....  who did you think I was talking about?  My kids?  Nah.....  this is now the All Chicken All The Time Blog, haven't you figured that out yet?

So, we have entered that awkward teenage phase.  I recycled an old dog crate into roomier quarters.  I've given them little roosts to try out.  And fight over.  I'm putting their food in to dishes with higher sides so they'll quit spreading it all over the floor and pooping in it.  I probably threw out about 1/2 their food each time I cleaned the cage.  Live and learn.

Their new home.  Thanks, Reba, for the crate!

Up until now, when I would photograph the chickens, I would take them out of their box and set them on an egg crate to snap their photos.  First up during this photo shoot was one of the Cuckoo Marans.  Who immediately spread her wings and tried to fly away.  If it weren't for my lightening fast reflexes, she'd still be hiding behind something in the garage.  

Having learned my lesson, I now photograph them in their box. 

This one is "Aidan's chicken," the Polish, who will develop a big crest on it's head.  You can already see it forming.  In true teenager style, it didn't want to have it's photo taken and it looks like a chicken mug shot. 

Queenie, the Silver Kraienkoppe is turning into an attractive little chicken.

The Cuckoo Marans are not the most attractive of teenagers.

Baby Ducky always looks angry.  I would too if my adult feathers turned out like that.  Maybe I should have gotten two Frizzles - I think the other chickens make fun of Baby Ducky's wardrobe.

The Ameraucaunas are still the nicest-looking of the bunch.  Bossy is still very bossy.

Just two more weeks and they should be fully-feathered and ready to move full-time into their coop.  Hear that Ray?  Time to move the coop project to the top of your Honey-Do list!  Genius that he is, Ray decided to enclose part of the space under the clubhouse.  It'll be a nice, roomy enclosure for them.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

They Grow Up So Fast!

I took these shots when the chickens were one week old.  That was just a few days ago, and already they look different again!

Some of their personalities are starting to emerge, and a few have names.  They graduated to a bigger box, and today I will work on yet another bigger box for them until they are ready to live outside.

Ray has started designing their home which is basically a coop within an aviary that will be constructed underneath the clubhouse.  Can't wait!

The biggest change, other than size, is that they are growing their mature wing feathers.  Check them out!

This is the pair of Ameraucaunas.  The one on the right is HUGE!  I call her Bossy, because she IS!

These are the Cuckoo Marans. 

This is the bantam frizzle.  For a variety of reasons to convoluted to go into, we have started calling it Baby Ducky.  It's pretty feisty, but likes to hide under the larger chicks when it is scared.

This one is "Aidan's chicken" but still yet unnamed.  It is the "Polish" style and will have a large crest of feathers on it's head.  It already has some rougher feathers up there.  This is the calmest and sweetest of the chickens so far.  I hope that means it's a girl - I would hate for Aidan to have to kill his own chicken.

This is the Silver Krainkoppe.  One of the least remarkable chicks, but she will probably grow up into the prettiest.  I've taken to calling her Queenie.

This one is "Bridget's Chicken" and she has named her Lacy, in honor of her breed, the Silver Laced Wyandotte.

And finally, Flat Stanley is visiting us this week from Long Island, and we are supposed to show him the sights of our neighborhood, then send him back home.  I thought a photo with the chickens would be good, but, it turns out, chickens are terrified of Flat Stanley.  You learn something new every day.