Farewell Mela, Our Silver-Laced Wyandotte

I confess; I didn't want to write this post today. Over the weekend, our beautiful silver laced wyandotte, Mela, died. As I said when we buried Mela, she was our flock leader and a wonderful chicken who will be greatly missed. She was one of our four original chickens and the sole survivor after four years. She came with the Easter bunny and we learned how to raise chicks with her. She survived the dog attack that killed most of our original flock. In that attack, she was pretty badly wounded. We treated her wounds with Vaseline and kept a close eye on her. When our original flock leader, another silver laced wyandotte named Chaser, died, Mela quietly and effectively took her place.

I'm not sure why Mela died. She had no signs of the illness that killed our our two white leghorns. In fact, the picture above was taken just ten days before her death when she was the first one to take a peek at the new chicks. She was active up until her death. So active that two days before she died, I called my husband from the coop so he could hear Mela crowing like a rooster. Then yesterday my husband went to let the flock out for the morning and found Mela dead on the floor of the coop.

Friends tell me that it's common to lose older chickens. And that chickens often die of an illness so quickly that you never catch it. I'm not sure what happened, I just hope Mela didn't suffer. I also hope the rest of the flock stays healthy! For now, they'll have to establish a new leader and look forward to seeing the chicks again since their tractor is ready and we're blessed with great weather for the week.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Eastern Black Swallowtail Emerges

Last October, my kids found a beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar, sometimes known as a Parsley caterpillar, in some weeds next to our driveway. I told them they could keep the caterpillar overnight, but we had to let it go the next day since it was late in the season. We found some Queen Anne's Lace and gave it to the caterpillar to eat. It immediately started munching on the plant and seemed comfortable in our butterfly carrier on the screened-in porch.

The next morning we checked on our caterpillar and found that overnight it had turned into a chrysalis. I was a little apprehensive about this. I knew the chrysalis would not emerge until spring. Would it overwinter on our screened-in porch? I wasn't sure, but I knew I had to give it a try. After all, I couldn't just throw the weed into the woods, that would surely mean death for the chrysalis.

So, all winter I checked on the chrysalis daily. I moved it into our unheated garage when the weather got bad (which wasn't much this winter). I worried when we had 80 degree weather in March. Would the butterfly emerge too soon?

Then, on Sunday, I checked on our chrysalis and was amazed to find a beautiful and healthy Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly.

The chrysalis was still intact, so I took some pictures because you can still see how it was anchored to the Queen Anne's Lace. And, it looked really cool.

We all enjoyed meeting our new butterfly friend, took some pictures and then let her go to start a new generation of butterflies for 2012. Oh, by the way, we know she's a girl by the generous amount of bright blue on her lower wings. A boy is mostly black with the yellow spots.

Baby Chick Faces

Who can resist these cuties? Not me!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Spring Blooms

Spring has been beautiful this year. Thought you'd enjoy these blooms...

Sugar Thyme Crabapple



Trip to Store Yields Baby Chicks

On Friday night, we trekked to our local tractor supply store to stock up on chicken supplies. There in the middle of the store were four well-stocked tubs with baby chicks. Now, to be fair, we had been talking about getting a few new chicks to keep up with the growing demand for our farm fresh eggs. We had even researched the best egg laying breeds. Then, fate intervened. As we stared at the chicks and my kids begged for them, the store clerk stopped by and asked if he could help. He then told us all the chicks were half price. How could we resist?

Our eight new companions are a mix of two buff orpingtons and assorted red pullets. The red pullets could be any of the following: rhode island red, dark rhode island red, new hamphsire or red sex links. It's kind of scary, but also kind of fun, to watch the chicks and wonder what they are. All four varieties are good egg layers and quite hardy, so no matter what, they'll fit the bill.

These chicks had been in the store for a few days, and it's interesting to see the difference between them and getting them directly from the hatchery. For one, they don't like it very warm in their brooder. If I get the temperature over 85 degrees, they pant. And two, they aren't overly noisy or skittish. In fact, they're downright friendly.

I figure they've got to be hardy considering they hung out in a tractor supply store with lots of people looking at them for a few days. So, I'm not too worried about them. I've just been enjoying their antics and can't wait to find out what varieties we picked!

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