Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yay, Recycling!

New discovery--used holiday ribbon makes really COOL puffy Origami stars!

It's so nice to be able to reuse something that normally just gets used once and--most of the time still looking great--gets tossed. The ribbon is strong enough to hold the star shape, is naturally sparkly-pretty and is by far the best thing I've found to fold stars with yet. I've only tried the wide stuff, not the narrow ribbon yet--it will likely work, I just don't know if my fingers are nimble enough to FOLD the narrow ribbon!

Of course, the kid found other uses for them...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Here's our tree this year, it's a shame it has to go in a couple of days, but will be recycled.

The kid is happy with her loot, and above all, the traditions that our family holds near and dear to their hearts have been preserved...

I LOVE the maniacal gleam in her eyes!

...all over her long-suffering father. Ya gotta love pointless family traditions!

You have to watch those traditions though, sometimes they come back to bite you in the butt!

Otherwise known as, 'Watch where you sit!'. And yes, we were calling her Bow Butt for the rest of the morning.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...Uh...

Today while driving home from the doctor's office, I spotted a small green pickup truck headed towards me...with what looked like three large penguin heads poking out over the top of the cab. I got a chuckle at the optical illusion...until it drove by and I could see that it was, indeed, three large, paper mache penguins riding serenely in the bed of the truck, regally facing forward. I gotta start carrying a camera with me for stuff like that, southern California is a lush weirdness habitat.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bad Habits & Racial Memory

Poof, our White Crested Black Polish hen, has managed to start a fad amongst her sisters.

She likes to perch each evening in the nectarine tree, in a spot where she can see the sun go down, and watch the sunset. Afterwards she jumps down and goes to roost in the coop, where she is SUPPOSED to. Soulful little thing, for a chicken...

Unfortunately, several of the OTHER hens have decided that this looks both keen and fun, and have taken to perching in the same tree, only HIGHER and they don't get down and go in like they are supposed to, little brats.

This results in me shaking nectarine tree branches each night until it rains angry hens and cussing Poof for starting such a dorky fad.

Also, somehow a few of the chickens, some of which were not hatched by us and came along AFTER we moved the coop door clear to the other end of the run, inevitably will go to the OLD coop door and frantically run back and forth, wanting to be let in there. It's like a racial memory and kinda spooky, seeing as how we closed that door more than a year ago and they have NEVER even seen it open. It's made of wood & hardware cloth, just like the rest of the coop so it is not obviously a door, either. And the NEW coop door is a steel mesh security door.


Saturday, November 7, 2009


11th wedding anniversary today, yay! The traditional anniversary gift list says that the 11th is 'Steel'. What the heck is up with that? Not 'Linens' or 'Glassware' or some other normal household thing. Steel? Is this the bottle cap anniversary or something? What's next year--coke for stoking the blast furnace?

Oh well, off to Magnolia Bird Farm for more dessicated bugs for Scout the mockingbird and Jake, the sparrow.

Also, the Euflexa injection I got on Thursday is marvelous for my right knee, two more injections to go with this round. Then on to more rehab and a new knee brace for the thing. My right knee is being entirely too needy right now...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodbye, Mary...

Mary Travers died today. Mary was part of the 60's singing group, 'Peter, Paul & Mary'. Their album was the first one I remember singing along with as a kid, it actually belonged to one of my older sisters. We played it over and over...

Their music heavily influenced my singing, although I knew I could never hope to have a voice as pure and soaring as Mary's. My favorite part of her modern performances of 'Puff The Magic Dragon' was when she changed the ending chorus up a bit, making sure to call out, 'Present tense!' and instead of singing, 'lived by the sea', made it 'lives by the sea'. Like Puff, Mary will never truly die.

Thanks Mary, you are much appreciated and missed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Finger That Wouldn't Die...

Despite all indications that it would really, REALLY like to.

The spider bite to my left index finger has provided, if nothing else, educational opportunities combined with mystery--what color will it turn next? What's that oozing from under my fingernail? Can it hurt MORE?

All these things have been mine this week, and more! Joy.

On Friday the skin on the end of my finger had formed a hard, plastic-like shell, so I soaked my finger in warm water for a bit and peeled it off. Vast improvement, and I was relieved to see pink healthy tissue beneath. Weird experience though. Now I just have to wait and see if this thing is going to let me keep my fingernail...so far the answer is leaning towards 'not on your life'.

It appears more mystery is still ahead.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Usually LIKE Spiders...

...they're cool dudes who chill in beautiful webs and keep my garden healthy and pest-free.

I'm currently making one exception--the one who bit me on the end of my left hand index finger yesterday. I never saw him, but I know he resided in my curly willow plant, which I had to duck under a bit to get to the chicken coop (it went nuts while I was away on vacation and needs a trim). As I did, I felt some leaves brush across the top of my head, leaving behind some dead leaves. I pulled them out of my hair--I think that's when he got me.

I now have a painful, swollen, red, ANGRY-looking fingertip, which requires draining every 30 minutes. While I don't THINK it'll get worse, it's gross enough as-is. I'm on a self-imposed regimen of Prednisone, ibuprofen and antibiotics, along with alternating hot-cold soaks. N. was at first intrigued, then disgusted as she was reminded how a spider bite works on flesh--basically dissolving it into liquid so the spider can easily suck it out for it's meal.

I'm...I'm not going to think about that aspect anymore tonight, myself.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Scout Update And Fun With Papercraft!

So now Scout is 4 weeks old! She is getting along nicely, only favors the healing leg a bit and is getting to be a stronger flier. She is growing flight feathers at a nice clip and eats like a horse.

What a difference a month makes! She actually has a tail now and is good & healthy. She instinctively does that mockingbird wing-spread thing to hunt for bugs on the ground. She enjoys things like mealworms (and any other bug), nectarines, grapes, lettuce and tiny bits of people food.

Recently I've been having some fun doing some little papercraft figures--different from origami.  These are models that you print out on heavy cardstock, then cut out and assemble. There is a wealth of fun, creative and often complex and elegant free papercraft model printouts on the web.
Here are some Nani birds, the three 'bots from Silent Running and other assorted fun things.

Scout, hanging out nearby, was NOT impressed.

One thing I did not know--mockingbirds have long, whisker-like 'feelers' at the corner of their beaks on each side, you can see them in these pictures. I think they are sensing equipment just like whiskers on a cat. Interesting!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Scout's On Bug Patrol!

And doing a damned fine job of it, too! Last night she spent a good hour zooming around the living room, expertly and delicately flying up to tiny bugs on the ceiling that only SHE could see and snatching them up. Then she would fly back down to me, chirp 'Breep!' and proudly show them to me before gobbling them up. Heh. We praised her, of course. Every so often she'd miss, which would be accompanied by a loud, irritated 'Peep!' and a disgruntled return to the top of her cage before reorienting and finally capturing the bug.

She's definitely getter stronger and better at flying, which is a good thing. She is still a baby though, insisting on being fed every so often. We had her cage out back the other day and N. caught a june bug, which was promptly slipped into her cage.

It was like Christmas for mockingbirds! She lit up and started to madly chase it around, looking to impale it on her pointy little rapier-like beak. Sadly, it got away with a lucky fumble through the bars. But there's always next time!

Watching her last night was better than TV!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Marek's Disease has struck our flock of chickens and devastated them. We've lost 7 hens since March, 5 of whom died in the last 4 weeks--one each week except this week, when we lost two, Bridgette and Loretta. All of the 7 were young, adult hens under the age of three who were perfectly healthy otherwise. Sadly, Bridgette was one of the ex-battery hens that we had adopted, hoping to give her a better life.

Loretta died in my arms about 5 hours ago.

Marek's is a horrible disease, viral in nature and ultra-common with no treatment or cure. It tends to strike chickens from the age of chicks up to about 4 years, and it's so prevalent that they say if you've got chickens, you've got Marek's in your flock. Birds go from 'fine' to dead in 3-4 days. Older birds are usually immune to it, having had time to build up an immunity. I figure it came in this year in the Spring crop of wild birds, which hang around the back yard. Nothing can be done to keep them out. There is a vaccine available online, but you have to order it timed to coincide with your hatch because it doesn't last for more than a few days and must be administered immediately. And the lack of avian vets around here, especially for chickens, means that no vets have it on hand, either.

Our only course of action is to watch the chickens like a hawk, and immediately isolate any that look even REMOTELY ill. We have 13 young hens that are at risk from Marek's right now, all the rest are at least 5 years old and so should be safe. The younger they are, the more at risk they are. So far the babies from last year and the baby chicks that are now 7 weeks old are fine, but we are supposed to turn the 6 week olds out into the flock for good in one week. I don't know how that's going to go, we're going to have to play it by ear...

Things REALLY suck right now, I'm quite frustrated and depressed. I've spent days combing the Internet and my bird books for anything and everything I can read on Marek's, but it's no use.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mockingbird Is Go...

Scout, our injured baby mockingbird foundling, had her/his (who knows?) blue painter's tape splint removed today. She's using the leg fairly well, although it does stick out at a bit of an angle, at least it's not at 90 degrees like it was. She's even using the foot & leg to scratch her head and is flexing the toes a bit, something she was not doing days ago.

She also likes to sit quietly and look out the front window, singing little mockingbird songs under her breath to herself...like impersonating the peeping of the baby chicks and Jake, my sparrow.

Painter's tape works REALLY well for splints on birds, especially babies, since it will stick to itself quite well but not to tender skin or feathers. Cool!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hen Fight Outta Nowhere!

The other day Sugar, our Buff Laced Polish hen, suddenly became the target of Baby, our Kraienkoppe hen. Out of the blue, no reason that we could figure. Baby is broody and spends most of her time on the nest, but when she DID come off, she had a mission, it seems--to try and KILL Sugar.

We grabbed Sugar and brought her into the house to recover, but her face was so swollen that her eyes swelled shut and she was effectively blind for an entire day. She looked like a prize fighter, and the poor thing roamed around the house all day bumping into things. We gently sponged away the dirt and goop from around her eyes with a warm, wet cloth, then applied some cold compresses. Today she is improved, one eye is mostly open and she can see out of it, the other is about 1/3 open but the skin around it is still quite swollen. Her targeting is off though, she tends to peck to the left of whatever she's trying to eat.

Hopefully by tomorrow she'll be able to go back outside, at which time I'll have to isolate Baby and break her of her brood so she'll calm down. Doing that isn't easy or fun, she'll have to go into the 'hen pen'--an isolation cage--by herself for days.

Chicken jail, essentially.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Two Things I Never Expected, Both In The Same Day!

The first was when Millie, our 6 year, old diminutive Belgian d'Uccle MilleFleur hen, who is a great grandmother...started crowing yesterday. This heartily confused Phoenix and Scott, our two roosters, who wondered where the Hell the new guy was, and started crowing back. It confused me, too. I thought for sure that someone had dumped an unwanted rooster over our fence. Why she started this nonsense at her age is a mystery. I think just to mess with the roos.

The other thing was the little fledgling mockingbird baby that was sitting next to my back gate yesterday morning. Not only could it not fly, but it had a broken leg--thanks to the length of thread wrapped around it's leg. It is now safely esconced in a cage in my kitchen...the number of birds in the house right now was at 'LOL' level, then went to 'OMG' and is now officially at 'WTF'. It is eating well and has a blue painters tape splint on it's leg, which hopefully will help it heal at least pointed in the correct direction.

We are trying to settle on a name for this one, for however long we have it. Here it is:

Is that NOT the cutest little fuzzy head ever? I have no idea if it is a male or female, but it adapted to us pretty quickly and eats very well. I figured it is about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks old. We handfeed it every hour during the day up until about 9PM, it gets a mixture of all-purpose baby bird food, human baby food of strained meat, same with a vegetable, plain yogurt and a hard-boiled egg yolk. As soon as it's eating on it's own, it will get something similar but a bit chunkier, plus live mealworms.

Now we just need interesting sounds to teach it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ex- Bat Hen Update...

Sora and Bridgette are doing well out with the flock. The first day was full of much posturing and chest bumping with the established hens, and some downright neck grabbing by the top hens, who felt they needed to REALLY drive their point home. We intervened, gently...pushing them apart and petting and praising them for NOT fighting. This seemed to work for the most part and today all was peaceful.

But poor Sora and Bridgette have NO idea how to roost on perches, and need to be placed there in the evening. They HAVE learned where the coop (and the food) is, so they can get in and out of it with ease. Today was sun and dust bath heaven. No eggs from either one yet, though they have peeked in the nest boxes.

Bridgette is growing new feathers at great speed, and is getting more talkative. Today she saw a cat on the fence and threw a cackling fit that several other hens took up. Sora is much more quiet and laid back, a true California girl. Both girls are very attached to each other and stick together constantly. They have learned that when we appear it means good things like food & pets, so they come running. Sora loves to be picked up and petted, but Bridgette not so much--she'll come running up to us, but due to her prickly state is NOT all that hot on being touched. We expected this, so we'll just give her time to get those new feathers out. She'll be a beauty once she does!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

So My Kid Has A Cause...

...and it's to rescue ex-battery hens.

This all happened quite suddenly the other day, when I came across a funny YouTube video to share with her about a rooster. She loves stuff like this, so we looked at a few others as well.

This one, 'A Battery Hen's Hope' is what got to all of us--it's heartbreaking and touching all at the same time, and represents just one bird out of thousands:

After N. saw it, and I had to explain to her the concept of battery cages in egg farms and how and why animals are housed that way, she was OUTRAGED, and rightly so.

Having to explain the worst parts of society and humankind as a whole is one of the worst things you will ever have to do as a parent, by the way. Forget about the 'birds & bees' talk. Watching her faith in humanity and 'doing the right thing' die in your childs' eyes as you explain corporate cruelty is heartrending. The fact that this type of 'animals are disposable' thinking is commonplace and accepted is even harder.

So OK, the kid now wants to stage a rescue and save ALL of the battery hens on Earth. I explain to her that unfortunately this just isn't possible, but people DO try...then she realizes that she has seen ex-battery hens at the feed store!

C'mon mom, off to the feed store! Never mind that it's 8:30 at night and the feed store is closed.

Well, we have to go to the feed store the next day anyway to get chicken feed, so I agree to look at the ex-battery hens then.

Ha. 'Look'. Right...

So here they are, our two adoptees:

Bridgette, a sweet, curious, talkative Red Star who has suffered the loss of most of her feathers and has been de-beaked:

and Sora, a camera-shy White Leghorn who has been at the feed store long enough to grow some of her feathers back:

Neither of them had ANY idea what table scraps were, but are quite docile and quiet. Bridgette has quite a bit of trouble eating with part of her beak gone, but I'm hoping it'll grow back eventually. Both of them spent last night and today in the house, we're medicating and worming them right away since I'm pretty sure that egg farms don't care a whole lot about keeping individual birds healthy long-term.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Names For Chicks!

It's been decided: The large reddish chick is Voodoo, the darker brown one is Moxie, the smaller one with the fluffier cheeks and downward-pointed tail is Bug, and the bantam is Flash.

Flash is pretty darned uppity and may be a roo, while Bug is very calm and sweet, she wants to be held a lot. Voodoo is all Bear, and Moxie fits her name perfectly--very daring!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Maggie Is Dead...

...thanks to my vet of 10 years. She had a straightforward oral fungus growth in her mouth, which his office seemingly deliberately undermedicated--we'd run out of the medication in 3 days (normal course of treatment for something like this is 7-14 days), they'd make us come BACK in for another office visit + more medication. Rinse, repeat, repeat... Five visits & charges in less than 10 days. The last bottle of medication he cut her dose by 3/4 and we STILL ran out in 6 days, so she never had a chance. It's all about money, I guess. They've succeeded in draining my bank account AND killing their patient.

Maggie suffered horribly with this crap and died of starvation, despite me handfeeding her night and day.

Good job, guys.

Enjoy your correspondence from the licensing board.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Three Is A Magic Number!

Because that's how many WILD catlings I just found out have been living under our house. Old enough to be weaned and mama long gone, but still kittens. All three are grey tabbies with white socks, very pretty. But skittish. I guess mama had managed to force her way through one of the vent screens at the bottom of the house. And quietly! All this time we never heard any mewing at all.

Right now I'm plying them with food and sweet words, trying to get them to trust me long enough to get them over to the pound. I'm sure all they need is a little TLC, someone will adopt them, they're cute. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009


My father-in-law is in the hospital, again. This time he's in ICU, unresponsive, after having been taken in because of high ammonia levels in his blood. So his kidneys/liver are failing...also, they suspect he suffered a stroke.

He was prepared after last month's hospital stay, and his living will, DNR and other papers are all set up and signed. I'm hoping I can sneak N. in to see him, as I think her talking to him may do him some good...you never know.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So Far...

Four chicks! I'm actually kinda surprised at this, since I had candled the Polish eggs and they were universally duds. I'm going to have to convince my roos boys that those are GIRLS. Same with the Silkie hens though, poor babies.

So far we have 2 Bear/Phoenix chicks, 1 Skitters/Phoenix chick, and 1 blonde Baby(?)/Scott chick. The Bear and Skitters babies show the Americaunas chipmunk stripe markings, and the Skitters baby also has nice feathered feet. Both of the Bear chicks had to be helped from their eggs a bit, a combination of HUGE chick and tough egg membrane--Bear lays VERY strong eggs! Come to think of it, we had to assist Bear during HER hatching, as well, she was so big.

They are all quite cute and fluffy, of course. :)

Also, it is 3:30AM and I am quite, quite, quite tired after midwifing baby chicks all day.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Wow, two days early! So far we have one egg pipping and peeping, another is peeping and rocking back and forth. There are 12 eggs in the incubators, links to the cam are here, click and scroll to the bottom of the page for the links:


The webcam is giving us some trouble and isn't up yet, but it will be soon!

The Countdown...

...is on! I gave the eggs in the incubator their final turn last night, topped off the water, culled the undeveloped eggs and shifted the remaining 12 eggs to one incubator--the one with the forced air fan. All of the eggs are dark green and too dark to candle except two--a light shelled egg and a light brown egg, both with definitely a chick inside.

Meanwhile, the 5 remaining eggs out under the hens are too dark to candle--except one, which looks to have a chick inside but is also horribly cracked. I chose to leave it be under the hens to give it a chance. Two eggs are under Moet, a buff Frizzle Cochin who has raised chicks before and three are under Bear, our Easter Egger Head Hen. Moet got the cracked one since she is smaller, lighter and more gentle than Bear. When hatch day comes, we'll either put all of the eggs under one hen or leave them be with Moet & Bear--but the mama(s) & eggs will be transferred to a brooder box in the house for the hatching. I'm hoping the hen's eggs hatch, as Moet REALLY screeched at me and pecked me HARD (which she never does) when I checked under her tonight. Hopefully that's a good sign that she knows they are viable.

If any of the incubator eggs hatch, they will be added to the mama hen's chicks, since hens can't count. The way to do it safely is to slip them under her at night, while removing the unhatched eggs at the same time.

Hatch day is in two days, on Sunday. By tomorrow afternoon we should be seeing eggs rock and hearing chicks peep if anything is going to happen. When that occurs, the webcam will start!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Three weeks ago, the shower drain backed up and apparently the house wanted nothing more than for J. to have to crawl under it and ram a pipe snake through it's innards. Which he did.

So the following weekend, the garbage disposer failed in a really stinky, gross way. OK, J. changed it out...

LAST weekend, the hot water heater failed and started barfing water all over the kitchen floor (yay for interior hot water heaters!). OK, J. changed IT out.

The expense is growing exponentially. It seems the house is waging a watery apocalyptic appliance Jihad against us.

I shudder to think what THIS weekend holds...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mission San Diego de Alcala--The Lego Version!

So here is N.'s big California mission project, which she decided to build entirely of LEGOs.

The front and one side. The pigs have gotten into the garden, again!

The back & side, showing the courtyard...

Close up of the courtyard...

This was a fun project--with the added bonus of being able to take it apart and have LEGOs to play with afterward.

Originally she wanted to place dinosaurs, robots and skeletons amongst the peaceful mission folk and their animals. But I told her that for school it has to be authentic--but once we bring it home, she can engage in all the dino-robo-skeletor epic mission-demolishing battles she wants.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wow, What A Ride!

Last night we had a 4.7 hit about 16 miles away from us...close and shallow enough for us to get some REALLY good action out of it.

I now know what it feels like to have your house BOUNCE. Three times. While you are standing in it. The quake was close enough for us to experience all of the subtleties of an earthquake: The sound of it approaching--something like wind rushing through tall grass, the initial rumbling and rolling, the sudden intensifying of the jolting that transforms it from 'oh hey, an earthquake' to 'HEY, an earthquake!', the undulation of walls, floors and furniture, and the Big Finish: BANG, BANG, BANG! Ungodly noisy, it was. All of my windows clattered on that one. And then the slow, continued rolling and shaking as it slowly abated, over at least 30 seconds long.

Anyway, it was good practice for us and the kid, who at first didn't notice it at all until we called her over into the doorway. Our house now sports a few new cracks, and a couple of the old ones have gotten bigger. Plus the phones are down, both landline and cell. Nadine the crow did NOT like it at all, and cawed at us like WE did it. Maggie, one of our hens who is indoors right now recovering from an illness, ran and hid under my desk.

We did feel two aftershocks soon afterwards, but nothing since. Turns out the strength of the quake radiated nicely in our direction and it was a shallow one, which also lends itself to being felt in every scrumptious detail.

At least the incubators didn't take a dive!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Fourth Grade California Mission Project!

...is to be Mission San Diego de Alcala, made from Legos!

Since we don't have enough white ones, we need to make a trip to the Lego store at Downtown Disney in Anaheim for supplies.

We still need to build the bell tower, the buttresses and the front facade, then it'll be done!


So we are now UP to 10 broody hens in the coop, and DOWN to 6 eggs under them. They cracked another egg this morning, I think due to fighting and shoving over who gets to set on them.

I'm thinking from now on of isolating a hen or two with all of the eggs, and letting them set in peace. I'm doubting that any of the current eggs under the hens will hatch due to all of this. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two Tidbits This Week...

...from the kid.

First was the other night while we were watching TV. I was lucky enough to be walking by J. and saw his reaction to N.'s sudden question: "Mom, what is 'flirting'?"

I think I actually saw the white of his eyes all the way around his eye! Priceless.

The second one was when she and I were watching the shuttle astronauts getting geared up for the launch. As their helpers were getting them dressed and equipped, one of them placed an orange-stick-like object in a small pocket on the outside of the astronaut's suit upper arm area.

Her: "What's that?"
I start to explain that it may be a glow-stick, shark repellent or dye marker for use if they go into the water. "Tha--"
I get no farther.
She suddenly turns to me, face all lit up as a thought occurs to her and the space program just gets 1,000 times more wonderful in her eyes.
"Is that an OTTER POP?!"

I laughed and said no, I doubted it. But damned if it didn't sound like a great idea. Otter Pops in space!

I See Baby Chicks Starting!

Some of the eggs are clear--the Polish ones--but others have embryos starting, hurrah! And in BOTH incubators! Can the real culprit be as simple as 'too many eggs in the incubators'? And if it really DOES end up being a '12-20 at the MOST' deal for the incubators, why does Miller Manufacturing say you can place 46 eggs per incubator? The humidity & temps feel MUCH better, too.

Hmmm.... Now if we can only keep the eggs going and get them to hatch--!

As for the broody hens outside...we now have EIGHT hens that have gone broody, including Bear, our Head Hen. I think they've realized that we are leaving eggs for them to hatch and they're all trying to horn in on the action. Bear has succeeded in taking over one nest with three of the eggs, while four other hens are setting two to a nest and have the remaining 4 eggs split up between them. At least the paired off ladies are being nice enough to share an egg apiece. I do think that when hatch time comes, we'll either choose one hen (likely Bear) for mama and give her all of the eggs, or just go with two of the ones who have paired up. I hate to deprive the others of their eggs, but they have already broken three of the initial eggs we set under them by fighting over them, and I don't want to shift things around again just yet and have it start up again.

Two weeks to go!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Once More Into The Breach!

Into the incubators, actually. AND hens! Since we've got about 6 of the girls who have gone broody (the coop is a Terror Zone for the other chickens, who dash in, lay their eggs and LEAVE), I've set 5 eggs each under Moet, who has raised chicks before and is an excellent mama and Zevon/Splash--two sisters who are brooding together and get along well. Splash and Zevon have peacefully divided up their 5 eggs--Splash has three, Zevon has 2. Moet is a Frizzle buff Cochin, Zevon is a Frizzle Cochin mix and Splash is a nice large, plump bantam of mixed heritage. These eggs will be my test--if the hens can't hatch them either, I'll know it's not my incubators or me who is at fault. I know a lot of our girls are older, so it could be affecting the hatch--but then we've got a lot of young girls, too. It's a mystery...

In the two incubators, we've drastically cut the number of eggs and will have only 20 eggs in each one. Each set of eggs is numbered 1-20 and marked with an X on one side and an O on the other, in order to track which ones have been turned. They'll get turned at least three times a day. The new incubator has been upgraded with a forced-air fan to better circulate the air around the eggs, the old incubator has a new thermostat. I'm also going with leaving all the red ventilation plugs in on both incubators in hopes of raising the humidity, which has been a real bear to get and keep to where it is supposed to be.

We'll start the eggs at 6PM tonight, which should give us a hatch date of 5-23-09--the day before Memorial Day!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Duds Again...?

I think we're being skunked by both incubators. :( This morning at 9:30 is the official hatch time, but so far no movement or peeping out of ANY of the eggs in either incubator.

We'll leave the eggs in for three days beyond the hatch, just in case, but I doubt if any are going to hatch at this rate.

This is SO disappointing. I've now been turning eggs for the last 6 weeks, three times a day and I don't mind saying I'm sick of it. But we'll try again...once I've talked to Miller Manufacturing, the makers of the incubators, and installed both the forced air fan and electronic thermostat.

I'm also considering giving some of those broody girls out back some eggs to hatch, as a test.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Was That...?

Our local Mockingbird has added 'Bottle Rockets' to his vast repertoire of 'Silly Noises To Scream After Midnight'.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I just candled about 1/3 of the eggs in each of the incubators--they are at about 15 days. Some were clear, others showed developed but possibly dead embryos, others had mysterious dark masses that may/may not be chicks, while still others were too darned dark-shelled to see through!

And just because Mother Nature does LOVE her little jokes on me, I now have SIX broody banty hens out in the coop, all dying to hatch eggs and obviously MUCH better at it than me.

Bleah, I've been hand-turning eggs for nearly 6 weeks now non-stop. SOMETHING BETTER HATCH.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Milestone Has Been Reached...

...for the kid is now wearing her first training bra.

I've already warned her about how miserable little boys can be about snapping your goddamned bra strap, over and over again.

The first thing she did was run out and tell the chickens about her new bra. She also can't wait to tell daddy when he comes home.

I think his head just might explode. Either that or he'll start oiling up the guns.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Once More, With Feeling!

Or, just the correct temperature and humidity.

The incubators are once again full of eggs. I started them yesterday morning at 9AM, so they are due to hatch on Friday, April 24th.

I think I've solved the temperature and humidity issue, by dint of a two hour scouring of the Internet. I finally found someone who was having the same problem I was back in 2004, they had posted on some obscure forum and gotten a response--someone suggested leaving in BOTH of the red ventilation plugs throughout the incubation period, only removing one of them the last three days of the hatch if needed. I had foolishly been following the manufacturer's advice and removing one of the plugs at the beginning!

This time, I experimented by running the incubators for three days before I inserted the eggs. I left both plugs in and tested those suckers for 36 hours--absolutely, dead on, STABLE! Not even a hint of a flutter in that time, night or day! Yay, success!

So now the eggs are on their way, 31 in each of the two incubators. They are sitting, side by side, on my kitchen island. The new incubator:

And the old one:

Included inside are 13 Serama eggs, tiny little things about the size of a quarter. The chicks are the size of a 9 volt battery, the adults the size of a can of Coke. :) A very kind friend on a farming forum, who breeds Seramas sent them to me via mail. Chickam will be up and running as soon as we see eggs rocking or hear chicks peeping inside the eggs. They'd better hatch, as my daughter is using them for her Science Fair project--!

I can't wait to see what happens in 21 days!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


So the hatch was a 100% failure, boo. :( We are going to try again, after conferring with other chicken people. The incubator will be outfitted with a new electronic thermostat and a forced-air fan unit, and relocated back in the kitchen. I find it hard to believe that moving the thing about 8 feet would make such a total difference, but...well...we DID get some chicks hatch last year when we did that!

Still time to hatch chicks for the kids' Science Fair project, so all is good, still.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Two Days To Go...

...with no movement or sounds from the eggs yet. We're uncertain if all will hatch, some will, or none will. Candling the dark-shelled eggs is impossible, we can't see through the shells even using our brightest light. With the hatch due Monday morning, seeing the eggs rocking and hearing the chicks inside peeping tomorrow will be our only clue as to if we have any viable eggs or not.

Chickam is pointed at the nest boxes out in the coop for now, and will stay there until we have movement and peeping from the eggs. So if you see the eggs on camera, it means the hatch is a 'go'. The thermostat on the incubator proved VERY unreliable this time around, fluctuating wildly between 102 and 98 degrees...with the optimum temp of 99.5 degrees being very hard to maintain. Even with checking it often, we can't be sure if hours passed during the day when we were gone, or night while we were sleeping with the temp at a chick-killing too high or too low.

At any rate, the eggs will remain in the incubator until Thursday the 26th, in order to catch any late bloomers. If none hatch, we'll try again. J. says he wants to take the old incubator and try to install a better, more reliable thermostat in it so we'll try with that one.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hens On The Hoof!

Chickam is up and running, now showing our flock! Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page:


We'll be using UStream and Justintv. Justintv will have chat, UStream will not.

The cam will change to the incubator on March 22nd, 24 hours before the scheduled hatch on March 23rd.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Annnnnd...They're Off!

Twenty-one days and counting till Chickam2009!

Here are this years' 50 contenders for 'Who Will Hatch First'!

The blue thing is a Water Weasel, which holds the probe for the digital thermometer--it acts as an artificial egg and is a way for us to gauge the temp INSIDE the eggs, which makes for a much more accurate reading. The thing with the digital readout on the right is a hygrometer, which measures humidity--it has to be at a certain levels at various times during the hatch. It has a thermometer, too, but it isn't as accurate as the digital one with the probe. The eggs are numbered so that you can cheer on your favorite!

The eggs are due to hatch on March 23rd, but Chickam will start the day before, on March 22nd in order to catch any early hatches. You can see and hear it live soon here--two spots in case one or the other goes down:

No chat, kid-safe:

With moderated chat but we advise adult supervision since we can't control what other people say, but we will be answering questions here:

How do hens manage this without all these gadgets?!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hi Tech Meets Old School!

It's Nest Boxes 2.0!

Old style wooden boxes on the bottom, recycled computer monitor cases on top.

Seems the hens approve!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chickam Is Coming!

Run for your lives! Ha...

The chickens are getting right properly twitterpated and are in high barnyard dramaqueen overdrive, running around this way and that, having little chicken-y romances. It's cute. :)

So this week we'll start up Chickam (with sound!) again, beginning with the cam pointed at the nest boxes, so ya might catch eggs being laid. Also, check out the new, high-tech nest boxes. :) The hens lay mostly in the morning, about 8AM to 2PM, peaking around 10AM PST. Some of it might be like watching paint dry, but seeing a hen lay an egg is interesting. The youngsters from last year's Chickam (Honkey, Scrambles and Potato) are adults now, and are laying eggs too.

I plan on setting up the incubators later this week, and starting the eggs on February 27--hatch date should be 21 days later, on March 20th--the first day of Spring! The incubator cam will be turned on the day before hatch, March 20th. At that point you should be able to see the eggs wobble and hear the chicks inside peeping. After the hatch, the cam will be moved to the brooder box so y'all can see and hear baby chicks running around like ninnyhammers. It's cool, watching eggs hatch is fascinating! :)

I'll post links to the cams when they are up and running!

Fun Fact: While a hen goes and SITS on a nest in order to lay an egg, while she is actually LAYING the egg she stands up!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Aww, How Sweet!

Heh, I think one of the teachers at school is feeling a little cynical this year...