Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two week chick update

Y'all.  I'm so impressed with my restraint, not blogging the chicks every day.  But they're 2 weeks old now, so it's time for an update.

This week I introduced the horizontal nipple waterer and a dust bath.  I think the girls understand the concept behind the waterer, but they're not quite strong enough to get the water to come out (click here for a video showing the use of horizontal nipples).  I chose nipples for my girls to keep the water cleaner, and I chose horizontal over vertical so I'd be able to set the waterer down on the ground.

The girls definitely understand the dust bath, maybe a little too much--four of them were crowded into a 32 square inch area last night, trying to bathe (click here for a video of a chick dust bathing).  Dust bathing is how chickens stay clean, believe it or not.

Hubby also built the girls a bigger diameter perch, which the girls roost on from time to time.

Next week, I think I'm going to take the nipple waterer out, and reintroduce it when the chicks are a little older.  I'm also planning on giving the girls a bigger dust bath, and I'm going to take them on their first field trip outside.

Let's just pause here while we all visualize Scarlet herding five chicks around the yard...  Let us pray that all of the chicks make it back into the house.

One more thought before the cute chick pictures--I am still loving the mama hen heating pad, and I'm beginning to think the traditional heat lamp recommendations are a bunch of bologna.  These chicks, at 2 weeks of age, do not need temperatures between 80-85°F, in fact, them seem upset when the brooder gets up to that temperature.  They experienced a night time temperature under the heating pad of 74°F during their first week, and it's gotten that low a couple of other nights, and they obviously are none the worse for wear.  The heating pad uses less energy, doesn't put out light to mess up the chicks' sleep patterns, and more closely mimics the way chick mamas would keep their babies warm.  I highly recommend this method of keeping chicks warm.

And now for the pictures:

This is Esther (Easter Egger). She's just so darn fluffy.  Her feathers are coming in gray.  This one can fly from the floor to about 2/3 of the way to the top of the brooder--she just goes straight up, though, so I don't think she'll escape anytime soon.

Austro (Black Australorp), looking regal.  I love when she does her little ballet move--stretching one leg and wing back.  Her wings are gorgeous black and white.

Rocky (Barred Rock), planning her escape, as always.  The other day, she hopped to the top of the waterer, then to the top of the feeder, and then made a break for it, landing on top of the brooder.  Thankfully, I was right there to help her get back down.

Toasty Crunch (Cinnamon Queen).  I've noticed that the feathers are coming in darker on her shoulders.  Last night Toasty Crunch made it to a perch on the top edge of the brooder and spent some time surveying her kingdom.  I'm so proud, but also terrified that these silly birds will hurt themselves--the top of the brooder is about 4 feet off the floor.

This is Red (Rhode Island Red).  It's only a matter of time until she joins her sisters in flying the coop, so to speak.  I just love the coloration on her wings.  I have noticed comb formation on the less fluffy chicks (Red, Rocky, and Toasty Crunch), and you can see it, just above the beak, in this picture of Red.

Until next time...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Menu plan for the week of May 22

Hi everybody.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

This week supper:
  • Fend for yourself/leftovers
  • Meat sauce with angel hair or zucchini noodles, green beans, garlic toast
  • Shepherd's pie
  • Out to eat
  • Grilled pizza, salad
  • Grilled chicken, grilled potato packets, grilled green veggie
  • Hamburgers, buns, caramel apple salad, green beans

Next week supper (I'm losing steam on the whole planning two weeks ahead thing...):

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

One week old

The chicks have been home for a week today.  I can't believe how much they've grown in just one week!  I thought I should probably share some updated pics of the girls.  I'll start with the fluffies.  Austro and Esther/Edie (What should I call her? And why am I having such a difficult time with this?)  are just so darn fluffy.

Our Black Australorp, Austro, is super fluffy, and such a sweet bird.  She's very calm and not a lot bothers her.  She definitely tolerates being held the best.  I think she's my favorite, both due to her coloring--her wings are so pretty--and to her temperament.

Our Easter Egger is also very fluffy.  This bird reminds me of a gentle giant who doesn't quite know how to fit in.  She's always up in her sisters' faces, pecking at them, but not maliciously--more because she wants to interact with them but isn't sure how.  If someone is off by herself, doing her own thing, she's usually the one.  She also likes to look at herself in the mirror.

Next we have the not-quite-as-fluffies.  
This is our Rhode Island Red, Red.  She is the most curious of the birds, and probably the most impulsive as well.  When I put my hand down into the brooder, she's always the first one to run over and investigate.  Red sleeps a lot.  Quite often the rest of the birds will be out eating and drinking and doing chicken things, but Red will be nowhere to be seen, sleeping away under the mama-hen heating pad.  That first day, I thought she was dead at least 5 times because of the way she sprawled out while sleeping.  As you can see, Red's feathers are beginning to come in.  I wish she would keep this coloration as an adult--it's so pretty.

Here's Rocky, our Barred Rock.  She's the instigator.  She's trying to mount an escape attempt, and I do believe she's smart enough to succeed, given enough time.  She keeps digging at the edges of the brooder (and getting everybody else to join in), and pecking the walls, like she's testing to see how sound they are.  She was also the first one to fly a little (at first they would take a running leap off the top of the mama-hen heating pad, furiously flapping their little wings, but now they're genuinely flying a bit), the first to perch, and the first to take a "dust bath."  Sorry she's a little blurry--she's fast--but you can make out the beginnings of the bar pattern on her wings, and you can also really see the tail feathers starting to take shape.

And this is our Cinnamon Queen, Toasty-Crunch.  She's Hubby's favorite, I think because she looks the most like what he thinks a chick should look like: yellow and fluffy.  She's Rocky's right-hand bird--she follows Rocky everywhere.  She's also the most nervous of the chicks.  She runs away peeping loudly whenever I put a hand down into the brooder.  And, she's the messiest.  This girl can single-beakedly empty a quart of chick food onto the floor of the brooder in less than an hour.

The co-conspirators.  I wonder what new plan Rocky is whispering in Toasty-Crunch's ear.

The mama-hen is working out really well.  I'm glad I decided to go that way.  The girls like to sleep under or hang out on top--last night Bubby called me in to show me that they were all snuggled up together on top.  So sweet.

(yes, I got a picture, but it's hard to see because the brooder is kind of dark and using a flash makes the girls lose their minds, so I don't use my flash anymore, and especially not while they're snuggled up sleeping)
One of the advantages of using a heating pad instead of a light for heat is that I can turn out the light and then it's bedtime.  We don't hear from the girls all night, and they've learned early about wake and sleep cycles.  From what I've read, the light from a heat lamp can disrupt the natural sleep pattern.

I guess that's all for now--everyone is doing well...if I could only decide what to call that Easter Egger...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Menu plan for the week of May 15

Well, well, well, lookie here, a menu post.  And on time, even.  I guess the fact that I planned two weeks last week really helped when I wanted to think about planning this week.  Know what also helped?  Menu plan break-down.  It's just that time of year y'all.  I don't have time to cook and I don't feel like cooking.  Which means some of last week's meals didn't get made and I pushed them to this week.

This week I'm making ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning, because I'm almost out of both.  I make them in batches and store them in empty peanut butter jars.  I wrote out the recipes and taped them to the jars so when I'm running low and want to make more I don't have to look up the recipe.  Seconds count when one is running out of taco seasoning.

I'm also making brownies and cookies this week.  Because Bubby is playing on a traveling soccer team this year, we are required to work a certain number of volunteer hours during the season.  There's a tournament this weekend, and I found out that they would give me credit for one volunteer hour for every dozen individually wrapped baked goods I brought to the tournament to be sold.  This is sooo in my wheelhouse, so I immediately grabbed enough cookie and brownie spots to fulfill our volunteer requirement.  Eight dozen brownies and chocolate chip cookies, coming right up.

Supper this week:
  • Fend for yourself/leftovers
  • Tacos, tortillas, taco toppings
  • Cracked out chicken noodle casserole, green beans, peaches
  • Easy beef stroganoff, corn, applesauce
  • Hamburgers, buns, green stuff, chips, carrots
  • Grad party (fingers crossed they have supper-type food there!)
  • Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled veggie


Supper next week (with less detail):

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chicken anxiety

Every day since the chicks arrived, I have woken up with a headache, today included.  It's a physical manifestation of a mental and emotional issue: anxiety.

I'm experiencing chicken anxiety, my friends.

It began when I realized how emotionally attached my 9 year old boy had become to the chickens--you know, the ones we didn't even have yet?  With only 5 chickens, all of different breeds, if one died, it would be really easy to tell which one it was.  I suddenly realized, like flipping a switch, that they couldn't die, because my baby would be devastated.

It intensified when Hubby came home the evening before we were to pick the girls up, and asked, with a strangely pained expression, "what's the survival rate for chicks, anyway?  Because I heard it's not very good."  This means either he was talking to someone at work (which is possible, but probably would have come up before then) or his uncle's chicks experienced a huge die-off (which wouldn't surprise me at all, since Hubby's uncle is impulsive and most likely acquired his chicks on a whim, not bothering to do any research on how to care for them).

What put me over the top was not one, but two of my good girlfriends exclaiming with incredulity, "they did?!?" when I reported that all of the chicks survived their first night.  Seriously?  Is it that rare that newly acquired chicks would survive the first night in their new home?

Most chicks, if they're going to die, die because they were handled roughly during transport or they get too cold.  If they're going to die, they will die within 48 hours or so of coming home.  We are past that point, and our girls are fine.  I think it definitely helped that my chicks were sorted at the feed store after being shipped.  The feed store has a vested interest in the chicks they sell living, so they probably don't give the sickly ones to customers.

After that, the next most likely reason for chick death is "pasting up," which is when poop sticks to their bodies and dries, blocking their vents.  It's extreme chick constipation, and it's deadly.

So I have become obsessed with chicken butts.  I stare at those butts every time I check on the girls.  I love to see them poop, because then I know they're not blocked up.  It's a little like how new mamas can become obsessed with the contents of their baby's diapers.

I have to keep reminding myself of the conversation I had with our chicken-keeping friend when he brought over the chick feeder and waterer.  I think he said he's only lost 1 chick out of the hundred-plus he's raised, and that was during shipping.  He told me to just keep them warm, and make sure they have plenty of food and water.  Which I am doing fabulously.

And now, some chick pictures.

So fluffy!
Edie (for now)

Rocky and Austro

Lovely, Red.  Well, at least we know you're not pasted up.
Toasty-Crunch and Red
Are you tired of me talking about chickens yet?  Ha!  It's my newest obsession, but not to worry, the intensity will fade, and hopefully the anxiety will, too... I do wonder if there will come a point when I won't feel chicken anxiety, or will it always be there, lurking underneath?  Time will tell, I suppose.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chicken names

The chicks have arrived, and now, for the first time ever, our household consists of more girls than boys.  At least that's the hope.  Chick sexing is an inexact science: more of an art, really.

Bubby and I were talking about names this morning.  Austro, Rocky, and Red have stuck.  The names really seem to fit the birds.  MC seems to be a little uncertain about Toasty Crunch--I guess we'll have to see if she grows into the name.  And then there's the Easter Egger.  She looks and behaves nothing at all like an Edith.  Edie, maybe, but not Edith.

So Bubby was trying out names, and suggested Egger, to which I responded Edgar, to which he countered Edward.  Edward?  Really?  When I suggested that Edward wasn't really a girl name, he said that Red wasn't really a girl name either, and neither was Rocky.  Which is when I realized: two of our chicks are named after our college friends, both of whom are women, despite the masculine-ish nicknames.  I wonder if the others should be named Blonde Kid, Wiggly, and Bert?

I think the girls like it here.  They figured out their food and water quickly, and seem to like snuggling up under their "mama hen."  Everybody survived the night--we didn't hear a peep from them.  More pictures soon, but for now, I'll leave you with these...

We had a long drive after picking the girls up, so I brought along some chemical hand warmers, which I placed in a sock, to keep them warm.
From left to right:
Red (Rhode Island Red), Austro (Black Australorp) (both by the feeder), Easter Egger (by the water), Rocky (Barred Rock), Toasty Crunch (Cinnamon Queen)

Rocky, Red, and Austro, snuggling under mama
(the Easter Egger is behind and to the right of Austro)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chick day and our "mother hen"

Y'all!  We're picking up our chicks today!  Bubby's skipping school--I sent a note to his teacher that read, "[Bubby] won't be in school on Wednesday because he will be picking up chicks.  Baby chickens, that is..."

Since we don't have them yet, I thought I'd show you how the coop is progressing, and a few pics of the empty brooder, as well as explain the whole press-n-seal thing

So on the weekend, we were able to work on both AKD's Eagle project and on the coop.  Actually, during most of the Eagle project work, I was lazing about down by the river, throwing rocks in (I told the boys I had to go to the bathroom, which was true, but then I the river).  Normally, I like to limit the number of rocks I throw into rivers, being concerned about erosion and such, but since this river is soon to be at the bottom of a lake, along with all of the rocks and the river bank, I don't feel bad at all.  Throw 'em all in there, I say.  It was a lovely day, and only one of us got muddy.

Sunday was dedicated to the chicken coop.  We got the roof on, and suddenly it seems like it's almost done--even though in reality, there's still a lot of work to be done.  MC rocked as Sawblock's helper for most of the day.  He's quite a bit taller than me now, you know, which helped a lot.

Bubby and I also did a lot of staining, including staining all of the remaining lumber...on the ground.  So. Much. Easier. on the ground than in situ.

Bubby and I set up the brooder last Thursday and Friday.  It's a big cardboard box set on top of one of our bathtubs.  I lined the bottom with puppy training pads ($1 for 3 at the dollar store), and we put about 2 inches of pine shavings on top.

Bubby carefully placed the feeder and waterer in the brooder, putting the waterer up on blocks to hopefully keep the shavings out of the water.

We did borrow a feeder and waterer from some of our chicken friends, but they were pretty big for the space, and given my obsession with jars, I think these are more appropriate.

Originally, I attached quart sized jars to both the feeder and the waterer, but I decided to go with a smaller, pint-sized jar for the water, so if the babies tip it over, there's less water to spill.  The lower center of gravity makes it less likely to tip over as well.

The other thing one needs for baby chickens is heat.  The babies need temps of 90-95°F in the first week, with gradually reducing temps in subsequent weeks until they're able to regulate their own temperatures.  To accomplish this, most people use a heat lamp, but I decided to go another way.


I'm using a heating pad.  The idea is to form a little cave for the chicks to huddle under.  If they had a mama, this is the way she would keep her babies warm, by huddling them under her body.

I cut a piece of metal garden fencing to fit our heating pad, and placed it between the pad and its removable fabric cover to serve as a frame.  Then I sewed the cover shut, and I covered the whole thing with Glad press-n-seal (that's to keep the poop off our heating pad--and by the way, press-n-seal is BPA-free).  I'm using empty toilet paper tubes to protect the cord from pecking.  As the babies grow, I will bend the fencing to make the cave higher so the chicks will still fit.

You can see the grid of the fencing through the fabric in this picture

I'm using the 2x4 on the side to restrict the space and to keep the heating pad from collapsing if the babies decide to jump up and down on it.  As the height of the cave increases, the width will decrease, so I'll add more 2x4s to the side as needed.  

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, but what about fire?  Is it safe to place a heat source directly into combustible materials like that?  

Consider this: heating pads for home use are required, by law, to only reach temperatures up to 176°F, and in fact, the highest temperature my heating pad reaches is 140°F.  In the brooder, my heating pad will not be warmer than 100°F.  Wood burns at a temperature of well over 450°F, so using a heating pad in the brooder is actually quite safe.  

The chicks will stay in the brooder until it's warm enough for them to be outside, which we're anticipating will be mid to late June.  As they get a little bigger we'll add a few enrichment items to the brooder, like perches and dirt (for grit).  We also have a window screen handy to place over the top if they start hopping high enough to escape.

We are so excited for our chickens.  Stay tuned--next post, I'm sure we'll have pictures!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tale of the Penitent Thief: A Review

Almost nothing is known about the two men who were crucified beside Jesus.  Why did one ask for forgiveness?  What would cause him to do that?  What if there was a history there?  What if he had crossed paths with Jesus before the fateful day of both of their deaths?  That's the premise behind Tale of the Penitent Thief by Don Willis, and I was intrigued.  So I read it.

And I was so disappointed.  I could have overlooked the multitude of misspellings, grammatical errors, and extra words that made no sense in context, if it had not been for the glaring historical mistakes.  I cannot believe that a person who claims to be a Christian, writing a work of Christian historical fiction, would know so little about Jesus' story.  Jesus is one of the most written about historical figures ever.  From ignoring the shepherds completely, to skipping Jesus' family's flight to Egypt, this book is full of mistakes.  I lost it when, in chapter 11, Joseph told the main character that God said something that Jesus wouldn't say for another 30 or so years.

The story itself was not horrible, but the writing was.  And the twist at the end?  I didn't see it coming--a good author would have foreshadowed enough that even if I hadn't seen it coming, I would have seen it in retrospect.

Bottom line: this book could have benefited greatly from a good proofreader, and research.  Don't bother.

I receive this book for free (thank God I didn't spend money on this) from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Menu plan for mid-May

Hey everybody.  Sorry I'm late again.  I think this means I need to acknowledge that life is about to get busy (or, ahem, has already gotten busy), and the menu posts will be a bit more sporadic for the next couple of months.  Don't worry, though, friends.  If you're in need of menu inspiration, just check the archives.  In the meantime, just in case I don't get to it next week, I've got two weeks of menus for you today.

I forgot to tell you last week that I did finally get that pizza sauce done.  Yay!  Now we're all set for several months of yummy homemade pizza.

We're supposed to have Sunday night stew today (on a Monday--how scandalous!), but last week I forgot to get turnips, and then I subsequently forgot to get them again every time I entered a store that would sell such a thing, all week long.  Tomorrow, then, I guess.  Today, my version of comfort food, which, for some reason, isn't as comforting for the rest of the people around here.  Oh well.

This week:

Week 2 (with decidedly less detail):

Friday, May 5, 2017

Coop Update

Hey everybody.  Chicks will be here in 5 days!  Here's what the coop looks like now.  On Friday and Saturday I spent many hours precariously perched on the hen house floor, and then a ladder, while staining the frame...and my hair.  I do like the color, though, especially in contrast to those two bright blue posts.

The one day Hubby was able to work on it last week, we framed in the nest box and wall.  I think the plan is to get the roof on this weekend, and get as far as we can in framing the other walls.  At the moment, there's no rain in the forecast, so hopefully we'll be able to get a good chunk of work done.

One of the remaining walls will have the chicken door and the other will have the people door, so we've got a bit of planning to do for those.

I'm hoping to get the brooder set up later today.  My success depends on me remembering to buy Glad press-n-seal when I'm picking up some other things in town.  Yes, press-n-seal.  You'll see why.  Maybe Tuesday.

In the meantime, AKD's got a little project going on, too.  OK, a not-so-little project: he's building a play fort at our local state park.

Isn't this a great picture?  The boys got the posts in and the bottom framing done last weekend.  I think the upper framing is going on this weekend.

And in other news, our apple trees have buds on them.  Aren't they lovely?  We're hoping for a good harvest this year--we're almost out of applesauce!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cleaning truth: Clutter attracts clutter

I've been hearing (reading) this phrase a lot lately: clutter attracts clutter.

And I've kind of mumbled to myself, yeah, whatever.  Clutter attracts clutter.  I'm sure it's true, but whatever.  Not sure how that's relevant to me.

But then I started paying attention.  My current decluttering/cleaning mentor, Dana of A Slob Comes Clean, says that we should do our dishes every day, and if we do our dishes every day, we will find that we are much more likely to not let dishes pile up on the counter or in the sink.  Because if we have a nice clear countertop and sink, we want to keep it that way.  But if there are a few things hanging around, it's like permission to dump things there.

I started paying attention, and it is so true.  When my counters and sink are clear, I will wash the knife and cutting board I just used right away, but if there are other dirty dishes in those areas, I won't (confession: I put the cutting board in the dishwasher, but you get the idea.  I deal with it right away instead of letting things pile up).  This is why, if I go to bed leaving a few dirty dishes on the counter, in the morning it looks like a restaurant threw up in my kitchen--dirty dishes everywhere.  They multiply.  Not really, but leaving dirty dishes around invites other dirty dishes to join the party.

My washer and dryer, which are in our mud room/passageway to the garage/the way the family most often comes into the house, are a natural dumping ground.  A flat surface right where we're coming in to the house?  So convenient.  So hard to resist.  But here's the thing.  When those surfaces are clear, all of us are more likely to take our things to where they belong.  But when there are a few things left on top of the dryer, the family's subconscious says, huh.  This must be where we put stuff.  Guess I'll just leave this here.

I think this is also true on a broader scale. You know that phrase, a place for everything and everything in its place?  Used to drive me crazy, because I had lots of things that I didn't really have a place for.  A place for everything seemed like an impossible goal.  But now I know, thanks to the container concept, that everything can and should have a place.  If it doesn't, it's clutter.  Or if it's definitely something you use and need, then there is clutter somewhere else that needs to be moved to make room for that useful something.

So if I have just one thing that I'm not sure what to do with, I am much more likely to either find a place for it or get rid of it, than if I have a bunch of things I'm not sure what to do with.  Decision fatigue is real, and a bunch of items that need to be given a home are overwhelming.

What do you think?  Does clutter attract clutter in your home or workplace?

If you are not a stellar cleaner by nature or by nurture, I strongly recommend Dana's book: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind.  If you are a person who wonders why something that seems so effortless for other people is so difficult for you, Dana is your our people.  Her ideas make so much sense for the cleaning impaired (because she is one of us), and her writing is easy to read and down to earth.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Menu plan for the week of May 1

Happy May day, y'all!

I printed the last elementary school menu today.  Yup, six more weeks of school.  And that reminded me that I haven't made our dinner menu for this week yet.  Sorry about that.  As I sit here typing on a cold a rainy Monday morning, I still don't have a complete menu set for the week.

It's because this week just seems to be so much in flux.  Will Bubby actually have soccer practice this week, or will it be too wet on the fields?  Will Hubby and I actually go on our date?  Will AKD go to bike check, Boy Scouts, or a town meeting on Tuesday?  What's happening on the weekend?  How many people are racing on Sunday?

I just don't know.

The printing of the last school menu also reminded me that pretty soon I'm going to have to be feeding my kids lunch on weekdays (or at least making sure that we have food in the house that they can feed themselves).  Let me know if you have any clever summertime lunch ideas for me.  Scratch that.  I don't need clever--I need easy, nutritious, and filling.

Here's what I've got for this week's menu:



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