The Banshees

When Brad brought me that crate full of feral cats in exchange for my beautiful Amelia who laid blue eggs and whom Pearl ruthlessly beheaded, inwardly I scoffed at what was so obviously not a fair trade. They were beautiful cats. Absolutely beautiful. But wild. Completely wild. And then I got to work taming them down. I definitely had my doubts a time or two, especially when those blue-eyed banshees still weren’t even letting me see, much less touch, them a week later, and then more than a week. If I happened to catch one, they trembled pitifully and got all small and pathetic.

But then, finally, after many cans of cat food, Amelia (so named in honor of the deceased) actually approached my hand, and then – wonder of wonders! – she actually let me pet her. And purred. Once a cat purrs, you have her hooked. It was all clear sailing from there, and yesterday Amelia and Madeline had their first little taste of freedom when I let them outside. Today, it was hilarious watching them flit through the snow like delicate white wraiths, pouncing one another, climbing trees, scattering the snow under their tiny paws. Their clear blue stare is mesmerizing, even though Amelia is a little cross-eyed and it is hard to take her completely seriously.

I really expected these girls to tame down to no more than a passively amiable barn cat, one that wouldn’t run away but that wouldn’t be truly friendly. Well, they are two of the sweetest cats, and maybe the prettiest I’ve ever seen. So no, they won’t ever lay blue eggs but I’d say it was a more than fair trade.

First Snow

A wintry mix started blowing in yesterday, with freezing fog, beautiful frost, and the winter weather we’ve been anticipating for a month and a half. When I locked the chickens up last night, they had all put themselves to roost with their feather puffed out, covered with a sparkling crust of frost. They were entirely unbothered by the cold.

This morning, a beautiful dusting of snow had transformed our frosty landscape. We’ve had snowfall, but nothing that stuck. I bundled up and lugged my jugs of hot water down to the chickens. When I opened their door to the run, they eagerly piled out, but stopped short in a pileup on the ladder, starting disgustedly at the white stuff on the ground.

Not everyone is excited for that first snow!

Little Calf Faces

There is something so winsome in the faces of young animals that haven’t yet learned fear, and will stare boldly back, a little timidly, but overcome by their innocent curiosity.

As much as I love the Angus mamas and babies, I love the sweet little Char faces with their light lashes and dark eyes and noses. I could look at them for hours.

Spreading Little Wings

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know by now how much I love my critters. My teenage chicks got to taste their freedom for the first time a few evenings ago with some supervised time outside their run. It was so fun to watch them come bursting through their run door into the big wide world, and their explorations began. Curious little things.

I had been intending to start integrating them into the big girl flock for awhile, but this was prompted in particular by my rooster, Bernard, who is honestly just a jerk to all of his flock mates. He may end up in the soup pot if he isn’t careful. I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the big girls putting him in his place on a number of occasions…They came to inspect the proceedings and definitely aren’t impressed with Bernard.

The last few nights, they’ve gone out with the big girls, interacted pretty seamlessly with the hens, and managed to put themselves away successfully at sundown. How easy is that?

Chicken Math

My husband is a very patient man.

Somehow two chicken fatalities several weeks ago strongly suggested an immediate need for a whole new flock of chicks, so two weeks ago that exciting noisy box came to the post office and eighteen chicks took up residence in our spare bedroom. Much to my delight, and to Pearl’s, who was overwhelmedly thrilled to have baby chicks to stare at for hours at a time. We actually caught her perched on top of the brooders, absolutely fascinated by her chicks, and without any intent to injure them. My husband says she and I watch the chicks with the same expression on our faces.

I steered away from Buff Orpingtons due to their apparent lack of healthy fear (they were the two fatalities) and instead leaned heavily on Ameraucanas and Light Brahmas, and also added a few Delawares. McMurray Hatchery threw in three freebies for the total of eighteen chicks. What fun. I split the Brahmas and three Delawares off from the Ameraucanas after the first day or so, since the latter were all on the smaller size and I wanted to avoid picking. I used the same brooder setup as before, made from large Rubbermaid tubs with screen inserts in the lids, but was able to get by very easily with one heat lamp for the two brooders, rather than one lamp each.

The chicks have done really well over the last two weeks, without any losses. One chick, who has been named “Little Betsy,” or “Little Bee,” for short, one of the seven Ameraucanas, got some hand feeding for about five days due to her small size. She took readily to the egg yolk on a Q-tip and loved feeding time. She’s still petite and does have a slight cross beak, which doesn’t seem to be affecting her ability to eat, and gives her the funniest quizzical expression. She’s a gentle little bird.

Today was moving day and the chicks, just starting to reach their awkward adolescent stage with pin feathers and scruff, were graduated from the nursery brooders to their grade school brooder, made of an old Lumix feed tub, about 4×8 feet in size, with plenty of room for them to spread their little wing stubs. The two mini flocks had shown a little schoolyard hostility over the last few days, when one chick would manage to get into the other brooder, but they combined rather well this afternoon, without any issues. The warm summer weather will be to their advantage, only needing supplemental heat at night, and they will enjoy all the extra room. It really is amazing how fast chicks double and triple in size!

At least now Pearl can do her chicken chores without running back and forth from the house to the barn and back again. Maybe she’ll even take up her old hobby of bunny hunting. Meanwhile, I can try to figure out how it is that 18 chickens – 2 chickens = 34 chickens. Math never was my strength anyway.

Pearl’s Chickens

The chicken farming business has gone remarkably well, I’d say. The little chicks have very quickly turned into adult chickens and are an endless source of amusement.

It really is nice to have a patient husband who actually gets a kick out of me and my chickens, and who has generously facilitated the project. The last couple of weeks, our big afternoon and evening project has been getting a permanent chicken coop built, but for now, the chickens are in a “waste not, want not” sort of establishment. It has worked. Quite well. Brad thinks it is hideous. I think it is rather charming, in an eye-sore sort of way.

We pieced it together from an old coop that used to house a few guineas, back when my man was a kiddo, and which has definitely seen better days. We added a few roosting bars and a way to hang a feeder indoors, and scrapped together a run from some old panels of fencing. My sister in Illinois scavenged a few 3 gallon waterers from a client of hers, and some old bedsheets provided the needed shade in the heat we’ve been having. I will admit the bedsheets added an extra flair of hideousness. But they work.

Brad’s little cow dog, Pearl, has taken an intense liking to the chickens, and Brad says we get the same look on our face when we go down to “check the chickens,” which is Pearl’s cue for fun. Her bunny-hunting has taken a bit of a back seat to her new priority, which is chicken watching. They’ve been doing a little free-ranging and grasshopper management, when Pearl doesn’t obsessively round them up and put them away. I think she likes to have them all where she can see them, since on multiple occasions I’ve caught her flushing them out of the coop itself. She would sit and watch them for hours if she could. Actually, I think she really does sit and watch them for hours. I think she thinks they’re hers.

Yep, Pearl and I have a lot of fun with our chickens.