Monday, February 28, 2011

It MUST Be Spring...

...'cause it's raining baby birds again!

This time it's a baby pigeon, not quite off his hocks (standing on his own) but pretty well feathered out. He'd fallen out of his nest which was way too high up to return him to. I'd say he's about three weeks old, maybe a wee bit less. Thankfully, old enough to be past that 'Dear God what IS IT?!' butt-ugly stage that baby pigeons go through. He's got feathered feet but otherwise looks to be shaping up to be the color of your basic Rock Dove-type pigeon.

He's awfully cute...

DH found him as darkness was falling outside the local laundromat at the strip mall, lying on the concrete. Too young to fly, and a 42 degree night coming on, and possibly injured since he refused to walk. His mom was stuffing him full of Chinese take-out but really, we doubted if he would have survived the night. So now we have a pigeon in the living room.

He's very calm, and once he thawed out & warmed up on a heating pad, seems perky enough, though he still may have injuries that we cannot see since he doesn't want to move around much. The kid is ecstatic, she's been bugging me for over a year for a pet pigeon.

Hopefully tomorrow morning he's still with us, and condescends to eat something besides Chinese food!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yikes! OK, That's Creepy...

We just went out to check on the chickens and make sure that everyone was properly up on the roosts and keeping each other warm, when lying in the straw under the roosts we found this...

...which appears to be the Eye of Sauron! I didn't even know he was in town.

I can imagine what took place...it's late, the chickens are peacefully asleep, all unaware of the horror to come...

...and Sauron slooowly emerges from the straw strewn in the bottom of the coop. Up he rises, eye first, balefully glaring about..

"Lo, mortals, see me now and fear! Your miserable time on Earth is over, DEATH is at hand! It is I, Sauron, Lord of...wait, what--? Is this chicken shit?! Aw, DUDE! Gross!" *retching & spitting noises*

And defeated, Sauron sinks not-so-slowly back unto the Earth, in his haste to depart leaving behind his eyeball.

Seems my chickens have saved us all.

OK, what it really is, is an egg yolk surrounded by a bit of bloody membrane (Sauron pupil courtesy of a handy Sharpie). Hens have these little hiccups every so often, especially new pullets in Spring. Not all that common, but freakish and startling to find, for sure!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

And--They're Off!

Just got all the eggs started in both incubators!

Incubators work by surrounding the eggs in moist, warm air. There is a heat unit in the lid and you add water to wells in the base of the incubator. The eggs rest on a wire mesh tray.

My original Miller Little Giant Still Air incubator, the old school version that we got back in about 2003, still goin' strong! While the original thermometer is still in there just because, there is another, more accurate thermometer we added in the lid. The little hygrometer works just dandy.

The newer incubator, exact same model that we later added a forced air fan kit to so that is circulates the air better. Unfortunately this also makes holding humidity more difficult since it speeds evaporation. Fancier digital hygrometer/thermometer is JUST for reading humidity (thermometer isn't accurate enough). The blue thing is a child's toy called a Water Weasel--basically a plastic sleeve filled with liquid that is shaped like a doughnut. A digital thermometer is outside the incubator, it's probe goes in the doughnut hole of the Water Weasel. This slick arrangement gives you a MUCH more accurate reading of what the temperature is inside an egg, which is what you want--makes for a better hatch!

You need to maintain a temperature of 99.5 degrees and a humidity level of 50% for the first 18 days, and 65% the last three. I've split up the 56 eggs equally so that 28 are in each incubator, the various breeds equally divided to kinda hedge our bets a bit in case anything goes wrong during incubation...and there are only about 900 things that CAN go wrong during incubation!

The eggs will get turned, by hand, three times a day for the next 18 days. During that time we'll top off the water in the wells as needed, usually every three days or so. The eggs are marked with an 'X' on one side and an 'O' on the other so you can tell which ones have been turned at each turn. The eggs are marked for breed, we've also numbered them so people can choose their egg to cheer on during the Chickam web broadcast of the hatch. :) We'll candle the eggs (shine a bright light through each one in a darkened room) to check for development of the embryo at around 10-12 days into incubation and remove any eggs that haven't developed. On day 19 you top off the water in the wells, close up the incubators and wait for the next three days...this sends a signal to the chicks that it's time to hatch, and they rotate into hatching position.

If all goes well, on day 21 you see eggs rocking back and forth and hear the chicks peeping just before they begin to hatch!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eggs Are Ready!

The final egg shipment arrived today, Giant Cochins!

So all the eggs are now unpacked, clean, marked and ready to go into the incubators, which are also ready to go. I'll start the eggs tomorrow morning!

The eggs I got online are: 18 Gray Giant Cochin, 16 Light Brahma and 6 Buff Brahma. We were also supposed to get 5 black Americaunas eggs, but therin lies a tale...

Fate took a hand, it seems. When I go the shipment fro the breeder and opened the box, what I did NOT see was the familiar blue-green of Americaunas eggs. Instead, the eggs inside were a deep, rich, chocolate brown.

Ummm...Americaunas don't lay those, but Marans do.

I check out the paperwork, which indeed lists the eggs as 10 Birchen Marans. A few emails later, the seller and I discover that the shipping lables for another shipment and mine had gotten switched, so I ended up with Birchen Maran eggs instead of black Americaunas. Seeing as how time was short, and by this evening my Americaunas eggs still had not turned up at the other customer's house, we decided to stick with the Marans eggs. Marans are lovely birds that are much prized for the startling deep brown of their eggs.

We're also adding a few of our own eggs. The white ones have three possible moms: Poof (White Crested Black Polish), Sugar (Buff Laced Polish) or Sora (White Leghorn). The brown eggs have several possible moms as well, although one we KNOW is from Rugger, our Salmon Faverolle. The other possible brown egg moms are: Yoya (Gray Giant Cochin), Sonic (Golden Laced Cochin) and Gloria (Brinkotter). Three possible dads have all been very dutiful with their hens: Phoenix (red/blue Wheaten Americaunas/Barred Rock mix), Scott (Frizzle/MilleFleur Belgian d'Uccle mix) and Smokey (Porcelain Belgian d'Uccle).

So, we have a total of 56 eggs to start tomorrow morning! All the shipped eggs were beautifully and securely packed, with only one Cochin egg suffering a crack in transit. We will candle (shine a bright light through the shell in a darkened room) them at around 10-12 days and eliminate any that are clear--that is, haven't started to develop a chick.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the coldest rainstorm for our area since the 70's, with snow possible right down to the Hollywood hills--so I'm very glad all the eggs arrived safe before the cold snap hit!


The postman delivered two boxes of happiness today!

Both boxes were securely and beautifully packed by the sellers. Here are the light & dark Brahma eggs partway through unpacking.

Some of those eggs are HUGE. Looking forward to getting some lovely, big, fluffy chickens out of those! So now they have been unpacked and set, small end down, to settle out after shipping. The Cochin eggs have yet to arrive, but I'm hoping they arrive tomorrow.

I must admit, I cooed 'Hello babies!' at them as I gently unwrapped them. Just a wee bit. Then I stopped.

For now.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Find THE Weirdest Things Sometimes...

...in old comic books.

These are some gems from the recent batch of old late 60's-early 70's comic books I've been cutting up for origami paper.

First up is an ad for an odd little idea: The Inferior Five.

Featuring Dumb Bunny, a dumb blonde, White Feather, presumably a coward, The Blimp, a fat guy, Awkwardman and a character called Merryman...who bears an uncomfortable resemblence to Woody Allen, of all people.

Hell, even Wikipedia thinks so:

But what would Woody Allen be doing in a comic book? Isn't that a little stra--wait.

Oh. Well, never mind, then. This is getting weirder and weirder.

Then a little later I found this lil' slice o' time.

Dirty Hippie? Check.
Cringingly fad slang? Check.
Obligatory 'Peace' and 'Love'? Check.
Pretty girl tossed in? Check.

I think this is the work of MAD Magazine artist Bob Clarke, it has that look. My favorite is the way they have to distinguish THEIR 'full color, 12 cent Now-Mag'. Like there are scads of black-and-white, more expensive imposters out there. Don't be fooled, kids!

Also, note the price of comic books then: 12 cents. Seems a pittance now, but remember that back then candy bars were a nickel, a can of Coke was 25 cents. Publishers were smart enough to remember that their target demographic had precious little pocket change and loads of competition for it. Not like today, where graphic novels are mostly aimed at the 20-something and up collector crowd.

Also ran across a full page posterized pic of David Cassidy, teen heartthrob of the era!

Groovy, baby.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Incubators Are A 'Go'!

Plugged them in this afternoon to get 'em warmed up and ready for eggs this weekend. They are obediently purring right along, maintaining perfect temperature as always!

Of course, this means they have taken over my kitchen island for the next three weeks, but what the hey. My egg suppliers report that they all shipped their eggs yesterday, so hopefully they should arrive by Saturday. They'll need a day or so to sit and settle out, then they can be placed in the incubators!

Which have adequate warning labels in place.

You really can get anything on ebay! I plan on placing more of these stickers on the coop nest boxes, because as anyone who has ever had to trepidatiously sneak a frightened hand under a broody hen can tell you, this sentiment is no joke.

My faithful Viva La Peep coffee cup, featuring a proud and haughty Yoya from last year's hatch in a iconic pose, is ready!

Created by a fellow Goon, Pokute, on the SA forums. I got my husband and daughter Viva La Peep Tshirts as well. Oh, you want one too, do you? Fine, go here:


Finally, the basket of eggs from OUR hens, of which some will be added to the incubators. One we are sure came from Rugger (our Salmon Faverolle hen) is labeled on top.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Got these pics today from my mom and they actually made me whimper...you will permit me, as a southern Californian who rarely sees this stuff and/or actual weather, to say that these pictures made me long to go play in the white stuff!

Look at how gorgeous that is. Perfect for snowball fights, man! And here I sit in lousy muddy southern California...My kid saw these pictures and instantly started bugging me to go there now (the drive to play in snow is a cruel mistress, imperative to a child and rules them with an iron fist).

Hmmm...how much gas is in the car...?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Necro'ing Another Old Project!

Another crochet project risen from the dead!

This is a ripple baby afghan I started no less than 11 years ago for my own daughter, that got stashed away due to my injuring both hands in a fall down a flight of stairs when I was 9 months pregnant. The subsequent surgeries and physical therapy that followed made things like crochet impossible for a long, LONG time, but I decided just recently to try again and I can do it for really limited amounts of time. All that origami folding has paid off & helped!

So time to break out the mothballed projects, yay!

It's made from Hayfield Pretty Baby 'Changes' yarn from the UK, which in 1999 went for $4.45 a skein at my local boutique-y yarn store, long since gone. Sheesh...

It sure is pretty yarn! The color changes very nicely from shade to shade and makes for a really nice finished product. I only have 1 1/4 skeins of the stuff left...I wasn't following a pattern when I made the blanket and just kinda winged it. So it may work out to be a decent size or be a bit small. I was wondering why I hadn't gotten more of it at the time, until I realized how expensive it was when I bought it.

Also, I dunno what I'll do with it, although my daughter has taken a fancy to it!

I broke out my 'Future Projects' binder (doesn't everyone have one of these?) yesterday and was amused by the pink freebie flyers I picked up years ago from Super Yarn Mart, long since gone. I'd forgotten about those and it was fun to see them again and have memories of the place come back...I used to love going there and looking at all that wonderful yarn. It's a real pity that sewing/notion/needlework stores are disappearing here in southern California because no one does things by hand any more (even with the advent of Etsy & Ravelry!)...you'd think with all our modern conveniences we'd have MORE leisure time, not less. Oh, you can buy things online, I know, but that doesn't compare to being able to run out and lay your hands on the yarn RIGHT when the mood strikes and take it home that day, and being able to see & touch the various fibers. That's how I used to pick out what I wanted to work with--by seeing it in person and being able to handle it.

I have at LEAST two more half-done crochet projects lurking out in the garage, too. One is a regular-sized afghan in blue & green tones, the other a throw in brilliant scarlet chenille--gorgeous yarn!

Edit: I just noticed the sticky note I'd left myself in the project bag for this afghan, which reads 'USE SIZE 'F' HOOK!' I'd apparantly taken the hook out before storing the project...

I had re-started this the other day using a size 'G' hook. AHA HA, that's a good joke on me, how funny! *whimper*

*Rip, rip, rip, rip...*



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Origami Paper From Comic Books & Manga Phonebooks!

Here are some of the 2 inch squares I've been cutting lately. This paper I'm hoping to get some nice kusudamas with, since kusudamas have more opportunities to create some interesting 'stories', especially with the comic book sheets. These are from comic books from the late 1960's (no rare ones, just old 'reader' quality copies) and some from a couple of late 1980's Japanese manga phonebooks called Tokyo Mew Mew.

First up, romance & horror comics! Thought I'd mix these two just for fun.

Loads of fun stuff in here--'Nobody wants to dance with a wallflower!' 'Miss Nobody 1969!' and killer period clothing, hair & makeup. Not to mention free use of the word 'groovy'.

And the horror comics! Any comic that so freely borrows from Edgar Allen Poe can't be all bad. Also, the 'Eat Us!' words are being formed by ants. Who, indeed, persuaded the main character to gobble them up by the freakin' mittfull, for dark purposes. And dig the crazy '60's slang in the lower right corner! Yeah, this was far less quaint when you actually grew up when people spoke like this. Every bit as cringeworthy as you'd think.

Now, the sci-fi! Love the rocket ships and bubble-head spacesuits. Also, 'Day of the Triffids' and something called a 'Vibe Gun', which I'll leave to your imagination--remembering that this was the 60's. Yeah. Not to mention the apparant unreasonable fear of...phosphorus?

And the action comics, a staple for practically every red-blooded American boy growing up. 'The Cupcake Caper' was part of a Hostess cakes ad and note the reference to the bicentennial! One of these stories featured a character who insisted on annoyingly referring to himself in the third person. It made me want to punch him in the head. Namor, you drip.

The covers from the comics are glorious!

Now the manga phone books!
These yielded some simply gorgeous papers in various colors, and the printing was such that it is engraved upon a heavy paper with a lot of tooth. Really awesome papers!

The covers plus some slick ad pages:

This is just a sample of what I've got to cut, since one kusudama typically takes about 30 sheets of paper I've got some cutting to do!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be Aggressive!

Courtesy of Jacque Davis on Flickr, I found this neato little guy to cut out & fold for my DH on Valentine's Day.

The kid got some little bugs to color, cut out & fold.

Tons more fun paper toys here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jacquedavis/sets/72157605609557222/

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

More artwork from the kid! Springtime = love in the poultry run...

It's so sweet, isn't it?

But...it's part of a larger picture of chickens enjoying a day at the fair, and this cute couple has their own personal smart ass it seems...

The 'Get a Room!' guy is always around, isn't he?


The kid has been doing some drawing again! I find these just sitting on her desk every few days, there is no such thing as blank scratch paper in our house. They are studing volcanos, continental plates and such in school so she drew this handy tip sheet for fun...

What happens when the lava flow reaches the sea, though? Why panicked humans AND whales! Hard to tell who is more distressed here, although the whale for different reasons. Hell, I'd be unhappy with a boat parked on my back, too. I love the guys in the little boat's expression as they see lava flowing down upon them.

Another little random drawing on another sheet was more along the lines of 'Everyday Life at School'.

Wish the guy at the end of the line would pay a little more attention and be careful with that pencil!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chickam Is Coming!

Time to go egg shopping!

This year we plan on hatching some of our own eggs, mostly from the Giant Cochin girls from last year's Chickam--Yoya and Sonic--plus eggs from Rugger the Salmon Faverolle, Sora, our White Leghorn and Gloria, our Brinkotter. If the Polish girls, Poof and Sugar, come into lay in time we'll also include them. Since Smokey, the Porcelain Belgian d'Uccle roo has been doing his roosterly duties along with Scott and Phoenix, who knows what we'll get!

I'm also going to get eggs online, I'd like to get more Giant Cochins and Salmon Faverolles as well as Brahmas and Quail Bantams.

If the weather cooperates and quits with this winter's ridiculous howling flooding rains, we'll place the cam out in the coop aimed at the nest boxes during daylight hours (Pacific Standard Time zone here) for a week or two so everyone can watch the hens lay eggs (and holler their heads off afterwards). Always entertaining!

We'll be aiming for early March as a hatch date, as usual the hatch will be broadcast on UStream just like last year, all the info is here: http://jackshenhouse.com/VSChickLinksChickam.htm