Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chickens, chickens, chickens

All is well with the chickens.  They are growing, healthy, and I expect eggs in another month or so.

The Polish chicken has grown wattles, an attitude, and a crow.  Yes, he's a rooster.  What're the odds.  Well, 50/50, if you want to know.  We always said we wouldn't keep a rooster, so Aidan insists he wants to kill it and eat it.  He just wants to wait a few more months until he's fully grown.  Bridget and Ray want to keep him, thinking the coop is far enough away from the neighbors that the noise won't bother them.  I'm still undecided.  I don't want him terrorizing the girls, or being aggressive towards humans.  We shall see.  He is the most interesting bird in the flock, and it would be a shame to see him go.

The Ameraucanas are growing nicely and have these fluffy grey feathers on their cheeks that make me smile.  Bossy is still very bossy, and we named the other one Mrs. Flores after a favorite teacher at the middle school.  This is the 2nd Mrs. Flores chicken in our neighborhood, and you have to say the name in the high, Spanish-accented voice that the actual Mrs. Flores speaks with.  She seems confused as to why anyone would name their chicken after her.  She should be flattered.

 The Cuckoo Marans are enromous.

Lacey (on the left) is getting her lovely adult feathers from the chest working backwards.  Queenie continues to be a rather scrawney but dominant chicken.  She is one of my favorites.

Like the finches, these birds are better than TV and it's fun to sit and watch them.  Especially at bed time.  They will form a line and head up the ramp to the hen house.  Whoever is at the front of the line gets in first, and then settles down in the doorway, facing out.  The next chicken or two join them, until the doorway is completely blocked, with 4 or 5 chickens still waiting out on the ramp.  Impatient chickens at the back of the line try to walk over the top of the chickens in front of them.  Impatient chickens at the front of the line go into the coop and push out the ones already in there, usually having a disastrous domino effect on those still lined up on the ramp.

Much pushing and shoving continues until all the chickens are eventually in the henhouse, but it's comedy all the way.  Cocktail hour at our house is often spent sitting out at the chicken coop being entertained.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Swim Across America

Aidan recently had the opportunity to participate in a charity fundraiser by swimming.

There is a national organization that raises money for the fight against cancer, and it is called Swim Across America.  They hold open water swims in many locations and this was their first time in the Dallas area.

Aidan has always wanted to try open water swimming, and this was the perfect opportunity.  Not only would he get to do it with a bunch of his swimming friends, in a highly organized and safe environment, but he would be required to raise money in order to participate.  This would be Aidan's first time raising money for an organization he wasn't directly a member of.

As part of the kick-off ceremony, they let any of the participants come up on stage and talk about "why I swim."  While this could have been sappy or gut-wrenching, it was largely inspirational, hopeful and informative.  I really hope that Aidan paid enough attention to understand what his fundraising efforts did.

When you arrived, the swimmers were directed to a table where there were rocks and pens.  You could write why you were swimming on the rock.  Aidan swam for my dad, who survived a nasty form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Before the race began, they gathered all the swimmers on the docks and they all threw their rocks into the water.

Then, it was into the water!  Aidan is somewhere in this photo below, I think he's towards the front, on top.

A mile swim took Aidan about 20 or 30 minutes, I don't really know exactly.  He said it was hard to see anything, and he got kicked a couple of times until he was able to distance himself from other swimmers.

He exited the water 5th, right behind two team-mates, a collegiate swimmer and a former Olympian.  He was proud of his effort.

Happy swimmers after a great swim.  It was a lovely venue, a well-run event, and for a good cause.  Hopefully we'll be there again next year!

Monday, June 13, 2011

It isn't just chickens anymore!

Well, if I am the Crazy Chicken Lady of our neighborhood, my husband has become the Crazy Bird Man.

He's always wanted to keep birds, and so when he built me the coop for The Girls, he designed it like an aviary and used very fine mesh to enclose the whole thing.  We can stand up inside, and there is plenty of room for my seven hens and his six finches.

Yes,finches!  Three pairs (we hope to breed them - BABIES!), each of a different variety.  Gouldians (the really colorful ones), Stars (speckly with bright heads), and Owls (black, white & gray with owlish faces).

Just like with the chickens, there is Drama.  These guys are better than TV.  Turns out, Owl Finches are known escape artists, and within a few days, the female went missing.  While Ray spent time trying to find and repair any possible openings she could have used, the remaining male Owl began to set up housekeeping with the male Star.  Leaving the poor female Star alone in the corner drinking cosmopolitans and reading magazines about How to Keep Your Man.

Once Ray was sure the enclosure was secure, he went back to the breeder and got another Owl female.  She got used to the aviary right away, figured out who Her Man was, and went to work on wooing him.  The male Star became jealous and worried he would lose his drinking buddy, so he started pulling out her tail feathers.  He probably figured she wouldn't be attractive at last call if she had no tail feathers, and he could be assured of going home to the man cave with his buddy the male Owl.

Meanwhile, the male Star continues to be the most aggressive nest builder in the bunch, and his construction helper is the male Owl, not the female Star.  This is definitely a Man Cave they are working on and not a Nursery.

So, we will probably have to capture the Star pair, and isolate them from the rest of the charm (yes, that IS what a group of finches is called, isn't that charming?) so that the Stars can spend some quality time alone together, and the two boys can forget all about their college dorm years, beer pong, and whatever else has been going on in that man cave.