Blogging for Laura's Lean Beef!

Just wanted to share my good news with my blog followers! (Please see the Facebook posting below.) I'm really excited about this opportunity to expand my "chicken" writings and share some of my other experiences. My blog posts for Laura's Lean Beef will start at the beginning of January. I hope you'll continue to follow this blog and you'll consider adding the blog for Laura's Lean Beef to your repertoire.



Congratulations to our newest bloggers, Pam Freeman (no relation to Laura), who will focus on being a mom and homemaking, and Judy Eggebeen, who will write about all things fitness! You'll get to learn all about them at their big debut in a few weeks ... stay tuned to our blog! Like this status if you're as excited as we are to welcome them to our team!

Cochin Calls for the Lost Dog

My Cochin, Hoppy, is by far the loudest hen in our flock. She talks constantly. And she has different vocalizations for her different moods. You can always tell if Hoppy is mad at you or if she's just trying to hold a conversation.

Everyone in the family knows this about Hoppy and we always joke about it. But, I have to say, Hoppy's vocalizations over the weekend provided comic relief to a stressful situation.

You see, our dog Sophie, accidentally got out of our yard and was running loose in the country. She also had no collar since my husband had taken it off that morning so her jingling tags didn't wake everyone up. (He didn't put the collar back on after everyone got out of bed!)


So, my husband was standing in the backyard yelling for Sophie and I was running around in the woods doing the same thing. This is where Hoppy comes in...I had to stop and laugh because there was my husband yelling Sophie's name and right at his feet was Hoppy. Every time my husband would yell "Sophie", then Hoppy would take her turn yelling. I have to say, it was the cutest thing! Hoppy was so earnest about it and her vocalizations almost mimicked my husband's.

Needless to say, Sophie was soon found and Hoppy was able to go back to scratching and pecking. Thank goodness!

Mosaic Egg Ornaments

No matter how many times I do it, I'm always amazed to look at the true beauty of the eggs I collect each day from the coop. They're not homogeneous like the eggs in the store. They've each got different colors and even textures. So, when visiting our local conservatory, I was amazed by the sheer beauty of their Christmas tree decorated with all natural handcrafted ornaments; a few of which were mosaic eggs. What a clever idea to show off the true beauty of natural eggs! And, it got me to thinking, why not improve on this idea by incorporating the different color eggs I'm lucky enough to have in my refrigerator.


So, I had my husband blow out six eggs; two white, two brown and two green. (He had to blow out the eggs for me, because for some reason, I always find that process gross!) I rinsed all the eggs and let them dry. I took one of each color and cracked them into medium-size pieces. (I found taking the inner membrane out first really helped keep the mess to a minimum.) Then I used craft glue and interchanged the colors as I glued them onto the host egg.


After I got the mosaic pieces in place, I let the egg dry completely, Then I took some red and natural-colored raffia and carefully threaded it through the holes at the top and bottom. I found it easiest to bend a wire coat hanger hook flat and tape the pieces to the end. Once the coat hanger with the taped pieces came through the other side, I took off the tape and removed the hanger. I then tied each a knot on each end, leaving one with streamers for the bottom and one with a loop for hanging.


Pretty soon we'll head out and cut our Christmas tree and I can't wait to put my new mosaic egg ornaments on the tree!

A Fond Farewell; Goodbye Rowena


A few weeks ago I noticed Rowena, our Black Australorp was laying away from the flock and reluctant to get up. She had no noticeable injuries or sickness, so I kept an eye on her. After two days, she rallied and started acting normally again. For my part I was relieved that a crisis was averted and Rowena was back in business. After all, she was in the prime of her life and a valuable member of the flock.

Then, on Sunday, my husband went to let the flock out in the morning and found Rowena on the floor of the coop with a bloody comb, some blood on her right eye and unable to stand for any period of time. I immediately put her in a spare plastic storage container with bedding and food and water. I put a towel halfway over the top of the container and then put her in our guest bathroom where it was warm and she could avoid going into shock.

My husband and I researched chicken diseases and could find none that fit Rowena. Our conclusion was that she had hurt her leg and then the others started to peck her. On Sunday and Monday I treated her wounds, made Rowena comfortable and hand-fed her. I also moved her to my office where she'd have natural light. She seemed to be getting better. She'd stand up when I came in the room and was eating and drinking quite a bit (that's always a good sign).

Rowena on July 18th when she got caught out after dark
and perched in the redbud tree next to our deck.
This morning, however, I went in to change Rowena's bedding and knew something was wrong. She didn't want to stand up at all. She had no interest in the treats I had brought her and she didn't want to drink. Once back in her clean home, she just laid there and closed her eyes. I checked on her every few minutes but she never responded to my presence again. Eventually, she stopped breathing. And I was forced to say goodbye to a friend.

Luckily, it's a cool day here, so I've put her in our garage until the kids and my husband come home. Then we'll bury Rowena and hope all remains well with the rest of our flock.

Breed Profile - Brown Leghorns

As promised, I wanted to introduce you to our now "grown up" girls that were day-old-hatchlings this spring. I waited to do this until these ladies were integrated into the existing flock and started laying eggs. This way, I've got a complete idea of their breed characteristics.

First up, we've got two brown leghorns, Minerva and Hermione. Since we already had two white leghorns in our flock, it's been interesting to see the differences between the two breeds. For one, the brown leghorns are much bigger than the white leghorns. As an example, I can hold the white leghorns upside-down in one hand (they are definitely amiable chickens). I can't do this with the brown leghorns; they're too big. The white leghorns started laying early and often. The brown leghorns started laying a little later and are not as prolific. Both lay white eggs.

It's also interesting to see the similarities between the two breeds. (The white leghorns are a commercial breed, and the brown leghorns are a heritage breed. They are related.) They've both got huge, floppy combs that make them look comical. Both breeds are known for being active and skittish. Ours are no different. But, I would also add inquisitive and friendly. Both breeds love to fly if you don't clip their wings. Ours can often be found grazing somewhere outside of their fenced yard.

Overall, I love leghorns and will not hesitate to get more in the future. I think they are a terrific addition to any home flock. Our brown leghorns are beautiful!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Hawk Moth Pupae

I was digging in my garden and found a Hawk Moth Pupae. Since it's late in the season, this one was definitely settled in for the winter. So, after some picture-taking, my kids and I reburied the pupae where we found it.


This pupae belongs to a species of moth called Sphingidae which are commonly known as Hawk Moths, Sphinx Moths and Hornworms. They usually pupate off the host plant in an underground chamber. My guess is this belongs to a Hummingbird Moth since we typically find them around the area of our house where I was digging.

Pretty cool!

Meet the New Flock

A few of our new girls foraging.
Since you got to see our chicks grow up this spring, I thought it would be nice to show you the finished product. Over the next few weeks, I'll be introducing you to each of the breeds in our new flock. FYI - I'm calling them "the new flock" for lack of a better term. At this point, our new chickens have fully integrated with the older girls. During the days and nights, they're all foraging and roosting together. In fact, if you didn't know better, you'd think they all grew up together. So, be sure to check back to get to know a little bit more about our new flock and the breeds they represent!

Dinosaur Chickens?

My daughter and I couldn't resist this display during a recent museum visit. The display shows the similarities between modern chickens and ancient dinosaurs. I hope you find it as fascinating as we did!


The large dinosaur above is a Dromeosaurus and is described below.
 






Wildlife Wednesdays: Still Blooming

Although Fall is on its way, my garden's still blooming and providing valuable food for local butterflies.


I know you're supposed to weed your garden, but I always leave a few Queen Anne's Lace plants for caterpillars.


Ameracauna Takes a Peek

Little Muff, our Ameracauna, taking a peek through the leaves of my spiderworts.



Wildlife Wednesdays: Raising a Spicebush Swallowtail Part V

Just a day after turning yellow, our caterpillar formed into her chrysalis. During this phase, the caterpillar liquefies inside the chrysalis, reorganizes and transforms into a butterfly. This is truly a magnificent process that scientists, to this day, do not fully understand.


A little over two weeks after our caterpillar turned into a chrysalis, we noticed the chrysalis had changed into a very dark brown, almost black, color.


Then, a few hours later, as I was standing at the kitchen sink getting some water after a morning of weeding my garden, I happened to notice something huge and black in our butterfly container. Our butterfly had hatched and she was beautiful! We knew she was a girl because of the iridescent blue on her wings; a boy would have been green.


We kept her in our butterfly container until her wings were fully dry and working. Then we released her into the butterfly garden with great hopes that she would find a mate and lay her own eggs to continue this incredible life cycle.

Pals.....

Our dog, Sophie and our Buff Orpington enjoying the day together.

Chickens on Vacation

We recently visited Mackinac Island, Michigan and found this beautiful sign during a stroll along the docks. While I can't vouch for the accomodations since we didn't stay there, I couldn't resist snapping a picture!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Raising a Spicebush Swallowtail Part IV

Fifteen days after first finding our spicebush swallowtail caterpillar, we noticed him beginning to enter another phase; he started to turn yellow.



Just a few hours after taking the pictures above, our caterpillar was totally yellow, he had abandoned his sassafras branch and was hanging around the top of the butterfly container. These are the caterpillar's final preparations before becoming a chrysalis!


Ameracauna Chicken Claims Her Territory

Little Muff, one of our new Ameracauna chickens, has always been a friendly chicken. But, she's easily scared and a little skittish. So, over the last few days, I have been highly entertained by her unexpected domineering behavior; not toward the other chickens, instead toward our outside cats.

I first noticed this behavior while I was sitting on the patio petting our cat, Beth. Little Muff was across the yard grazing. She came running right over to Beth and stared her in the face. I didn't know what was going to come of this so I let the scenario play out. What happened actually shocked me; Little Muff pecked Beth right on the head. I think Beth was shocked too, since she got up and walked to my other side. Little Muff followed and pecked Beth again. This happened again and again until Beth finally left the area.

Luckily I had my camera with me as I sat on the porch a few days later petting our other cat, Cleo. Muff, who's figured out how to squeeze through the deck railings, hopped up and marched right up to Cleo, looked her in the face and pecked her. Cleo automatically jumped onto the table to escape the wrath of Little Muff. Meanwhile Little Muff patrolled the area by marching around the table and keeping an eye on Cleo. After Little Muff considered the situation under control, she hopped off the deck and joined her flock.

Little Muff mercilously drives Cleo from her relaxing place on the deck.

Cleo takes refuge on the table while Little Muff keeps an eye on her.
I guess this is one chicken with a lot of guts!

Chickens Beating the Heat

My chickens have been lucky this summer. Their luck actually started this spring when my husband and I put in a great new shade garden right next to our deck. I don't really mind the chickens in that garden since there's not much damage they can do. So, when the heat hit this summer, my chickens flocked to that area. They spend their days cooling themselves in the shade and drinking from the dog bowl that I refill with cool water constantly.

Take a look at my cool and happy chickens getting a drink....


Wildlife Wednesdays: Raising a Spicebush Swallowtail Part III

Seven days after finding our spicebush swallowtail, he has turned into a plump and fully green caterpillar. 
Our caterpillar is enjoying a new sassafras leaf.
Each day after our caterpillar is given his new sassafras branch, he spins a mat of silk on his leaf of choice. This mat shrinks as it dries and curls the leaf's edges, giving him a place to hide. FYI - When you're near a host tree, you can look for folded leaves and you'll locate sleeping caterpillars inside. They come out at night to eat.

In the pictures below, our caterpillar is moving his head back and forth, spinning his mat. You can also see how much more plump he has gotten thirteen days after being found. Notice the pink beginning to show up around his legs on his bottom half.

A curled leaf offers protection from daytime predators and heat.
Wrens often bite through the center of folded spicebush leaves
to eat the caterpillar inside.
Be sure to check back next week, the changes will be dramatic!

Our First Egg!

It came a little sooner than expected and we're thrilled. Our first egg from our new flock arrived on Friday. The best part is that it is a green egg from one of our Ameracaunas!

Take a look.....

Bantam Chickens

When I first started raising chickens, I had no idea there were such things as bantams. Since then, I've learned a lot, but those bantams never cease to amaze me.

If you're not familiar with the chicken world, you may ask, what are bantam chickens? They are simply miniature chickens; about one-fourth to one-fifth the size of a standard chicken. Murray McMurray Hatchery calls them the "flower garden of the poultry world." I like that analogy and have to agree. Because of their small size, many urban chicken keepers are turning to banties. So, many that their popularity is rapidly increasing. FYI - Bantam eggs are significantly smaller than normal eggs so you often have to have 2 to 3 to equal the normal size.

No one's exactly sure where bantams originated; most believe the orient. But is important to remember that some bantams are "true" meaning there is no full-size counterpart. Others are simply smaller versions of their larger counterparts.

Here are some bantams, both true and others not, from the 4-H Community Fair I attended. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


Old English Blue pair

Bantam Barred Rocks

Old English Black Cockerel


Bearded bantam cockerel

Black Rosecomb pair
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