Baby Steps…and Baby Invasions

So, before I fell super sick, we were working on about 2463 projects, all of which are in various degrees of planning or completion. Although most of the daily “stuff the Mama does” has gone undone in my absence, we have been making some progress on some other things.
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The tractor is once again operational. We’ve upgraded the starter and alternator to a 12 Volt system, and as a result had to put in a new ignition switch as well. Figured if we were going to replace it, we might as well prevent the problem from occurring again. Once my honey got all that done, the first of the produce beds got disced, so we are one step closer to planting!

If the weather would only cooperate a little more, it would be lovely. We had a series of unexpected crazy weather days last week. As in, literally 68 degrees one day and wet slushy snow the very next morning. We lost some plant starts, not enough to make me cry, but enough that it was a loss. One of our favorite local farms, Bennett Orchards, got hit far harder than we did. After a six hour stint of temps in the 20’s, despite smudge pots and helicopters, they lost their ENTIRE 2016 peach crop. We pick and buy bushels of peaches and blueberries from them each year for canning, I’ll miss them a lot this year. Thankfully, so far it looks as if the blueberries came through the freeze.
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And our Flemish Giant Rabbit doe appears to have some surprises in store for us as well. She has taken up fur pulling and nesting, and trying to rip my fingers from my hands when I feed, water and clean in her hutch, so it seems she may have already been bred and kits may be imminent. She’s not typically nasty, the rabbit growling and snarling are kind of scary.

The off-the-farm work boss called us last week to remove a large swing set from one of their rental properties, due to concerns about its age, insurance, and the potential for injury to some vacationer’s child. Since the components of the swing set were pretty well thrashed, we decided to save the frame to build a new chicken coop / tractor. I’m hoping to get a jump on that project this weekend, we’ll see how I feel.
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Ryan’s personal 7-egg incubator that he waited so patiently for has epically failed to hatch anything at all. It will likely be trashed after one more attempt with just a couple of eggs to insure that it’s incubator error and not ours. That was a disappointment, but he took it in stride. Having new babies hatching in the big one softened the blow. The season’s next large incubator hatch is due Sunday.

We’ve been peddling a few chicks from home, it’s been nice to have clients and visitors to the farm again. With me being sick, that extra few dollars here and there has sure been a help, too. Our first two hatching egg sales on Ebay have been completed (with a third preparing to sell in just a few moments)  and Ry’s birds now hopefully have offspring growing in Massachusetts and Oakland, California at a school!

We have some new breeds of chickens / chicks. Some Silkies, Lavender Aracaunas, and Blue Laced Red Wyandotte bantams have arrived! The first four of our Black Copper Marans chicks are doing quite well, too!

In our most exciting and happy news, one of my grown children’s families will be coming on the 7th of next month for an extended stay. The babies are invading! They’ve been toying with the idea of a permanent move up this way for quite some time, and recent events in the neighborhood they live in gave them a few more reasons. Dad’s already secured comparable work locally, and my girl and I are making plans for some much needed support for her, and possibly school. I’m excited to have a partner for the shop, and it looks like her artistic and crafty talents may get a pretty serious workout this year. Additionally, the extra hands around here will be a blessed relief, and I think we will make much more progress than I planned on for this year! Now, to figure out where to put six more bodies in this camp!

Hope everyone is enjoying the change of seasons, hope things are going well for all!

 

 

It’s Alive!

Well, I’m alive. Although I have spent the last week mostly wishing someone would relieve me of that burden and put me out of my misery.

It started with what I thought was a stitch in my side. Like normal people get from running. It usually passes after a few minutes. I figured it was just the fat lady smoker who swills coffee and diet soda version of the same. Only it didn’t pass. It got successively worse over the course of a week.

After over an entire week of being borderline bedridden with sporadic fevers, a wracking cough that reduced me to tears, the energy level of a sedated slug, and the uncanny ability to lose the capacity for breathing before reaching the end of the hall, I finally decided Monday morning that I’d had enough.

T was somewhat relieved. I think being afraid that the ever growing pile of dirty dishware in the sink was going to either breed wildlife or result in an invasion by the EPA, or FEMA, or whomever the heck condemns your home when the dish fairy, laundry fairy, and meals and general care fairy can’t function on the most basic of levels for entire week was a driving factor. Possibly the horror of having to exist on takeout and whatever can be pan fried, grilled or blackened, and (GASP!) having to match his own socks helped too. At any rate, after having to stop halfway across the pasture with tears rolling down my face and plead with one of the horses to allow me to lean on her long enough to catch my breath drove me over the edge and I came to the conclusion that an ER trip was in order.

I decided they would either break the news I was going to croak, or help me do so. Or at least let me know the reason why I felt like it was imminent and necessary. I had serious visions of small creatures inside my chest and lungs with little sharp pointed objects stabbing the bejesus out of my innards every time I tried to draw a breath. I walked in with the reasonable fear that a chest tube was in my future. I’ve had that joyous rodeo once in my lifetime, and I really don’t care to enjoy it again.

Three hours and a series of chest x-rays later, my doctor (why do I always get the one who looks like a 13 year old Doogie Howser?) swept back into the room with his nurse-y entourage to tell me I’ve developed… Pleurisy. What?

I have managed to get an archaic condition that, Monday, I was lulled into believing had gone the way of, say, rickets…scurvy…polio…Only me. Sigh. Scurvy is likely next, since the last citrus I ingested was probably in a margarita and I’ve been alcohol free for the better part of a year.

You see, pleurisy, if you’ve never shared the experience, is what happens when foolish women (or men) get a cold, and continue to work themselves like dogs. Then it descends into bronchitis, and she keeps on truckin’. Then it reaches the edge of pneumonia. The lining of the lungs becomes so irritated and inflamed in spots that it becomes like sandpaper and causes sharp, shooting pains in the chest every time you attempt silly things like movement, or breathing. You want to punch people in the face if they successfully manage to make you laugh. Coughing fits will turn you into a quivering puddle of tears on the bathroom floor while you beg for someone to just.come.kill.me.now.

So, the verdict is in. I’m not going to die and they’re not going to mercy murder me. I’m sent home by Doogie with a pile of prescriptions including steroids, anti-imflammatories, painkillers, and some fancy new cough suppressant “pearls” designed to disable the cough reflex nearly entirely. And strict instructions to rest and set a follow up appointment with my regular Doc that I will likely ignore. It’s spring, I’m now wayyyy behind, and if these do the trick I’ll be too busy playing catch up with more than this blog.

I am going to try and get a post up today to catch up on all the happenings during my week of forced silence. Hope all is well with everyone and spring has finally arrived.

 

Happy Hatch

My lovely other half purchased me some very pricey and sought after hatching eggs lat month, and we (mostly me) have awaited the hatch day pretty anxiously. Eggs started pipping on Friday, the day Ryan was due to come home and the grandmuffin patrol was due to arrive, so it was pretty cool that they got to be here for the grand event. We had babies hatching Saturday and Sunday, and the final late bloomer finally fought its way out late Monday.
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We incubated a bunch of our own eggs from our birds (including a couple from our Marans, and the dozen shipped Black Copper Marans eggs T bought for me. Buying and incubating shipped eggs is always a risk. The seller can handle them and pack them perfectly, but there’s no way of telling what sort of care they receive between buyer and seller.

Post office handling procedures and temperatures can vary greatly. Eggs can be jiggled, juggled, dropped, shaken, tossed, smashed, scrambled, X-rayed, and depending on the time of year, frozen or overheated. They can arrive perfectly packed and intact and be completely nonviable. It’s always best not to “count your chickens before they’re hatched”…but even more so regarding shipped eggs. A hatch rate on those of 50 % should be considered a raging success.

So with two of our Marans pair’s eggs, and 12 of the shipped ones, and a little over a dozen from our Reds and Aracauanas in the tray,I was hopeful but trying not to be unrealistic. For some reason, the Aracaunas are usually always first. The eggs are a tad smaller, but true to form, the first one to pip (small hole) was a blue egg. We upped the humidity in the cabinet and went to go pick up Ryan. By the time we got home, several of the brown eggs had begun to show pips, and lo and behold, one of the dark shipped eggs!
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The waiting is the toughest part. Patience is not a virtue I was provided with in great heaps. The grandbabies arrived late Friday evening, and we had some progress, but still no chicks. Saturday morning, my eldest granddaughter, Teagan, got up with the sun and she and I trudged out with flashlights and Wahooooooo! We had the first of the fluffy butts scrambling around in there. We must have made twenty trips over the course of the day, and one by one, chicks started making their way out of the shells. Great fun for the kids to watch. Of course, the first thing they want to do is open the door and retrieve the new babies, but you can’t. While chicks are trying to break their way around the shell enough to “unzip” it, the humidity has to remain high. The second you open the cabinet door, all of it is sucked right out in a great big WHOOSH, and before it builds back up again, you can rather effectively shrink wrap your hatching chicks in their own shell membranes. They will dry out and stick to the chick’s fluff, acting like a super glue of sorts that prevents them from any further movement or progress.

You can safely leave them right in the incubator for up to several days after hatch, having just absorbed the rest of the yolk inside the egg, they are born with enough nutrients and hydration on board to bear that quite well, so there is no huge hurry to get them out. When doing so endangers the rest who are still trying to hatch, it’s counterproductive. Additionally, the ones who have already hatched will “help” others out of the shell, sometimes by directly pecking at it, and sometimes just the act of scrambling around over the other eggs does the trick.
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Our first ever Marans chick hatched here about 2:30 Saturday afternoon. We ended up Sunday with a grand total of 16 new babies, 3 Aracaunas, 3 Black Copper Marans, and 10 Rhode Islands. We had one Marans baby expire trying to escape the shell, and one of the Reds as well. I was thrilled to pieces with the hatch rate of our own eggs, and satisfied to pleased with the shipped eggs.  Given the time of year, it’s a perfectly acceptable percentage, and I would buy from that seller again. The Marans babies from her eggs are from the french line, and were all hatched with perfectly feathered little legs and outside toes, a fantastic sign of a good breeding line. Additionally, as our first test hatch of the season, our rate on our own eggs was stellar, and well above our self restricted mark for selling our own hatching eggs. (Shipping on eggs can sometimes cost the buyer as much or more than the eggs. We won’t sell and ship them if we do not have a hatch rate in the 90’s.)
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Teagan and I moved the babies from the incubator Sunday morning into a brooder box in the house for the head count and mandatory chick cuddling.  We commenced with our day, breakfast and an Easter Egg hunt for our family’s week late bunny visit. We left the additional eggs in the incubator, you can just never tell what sort of late bloomers will appear.

Monday morning as I made my rounds, I checked with the light before opening the door to turn the new tray of eggs, and there was a new pip in one of our own two Marans eggs.  Turning was postponed, and by lunch, one more fuzzy baby was in there waiting. Once it dried out, I moved it into the brooder with the rest. (And Ryan’s one older single chick from the feed store, who is too small to go outside yet.)

So our hatch was a success, there are two new trays of over a hundred eggs in there now. Ryan’s small indoor incubator with seven eggs is due to hatch this weekend. It’s a test run, the first one for that incubator, so we’re guardedly optimistic. If there’s a hatch, I should be able to get some decent photos to post , as that one has a clear domed top.
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We’ve also posted the first of our new hatching egg auction line on eBay.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful spring week, and did NOT wake up, as we did yesterday, to a bunch of frozen white slop!

 

Grandmuffin Madness

I’ve been a little lax with the posting of late and I apologize. It’s been an uber-busy week.

Terminal broke-ness resulted in me actually having to go and work this week…like, GASP…outside the farm. It was heinous and horrible, but necessary, I’m afraid.  Good timing, though, with my wee man being out of town. Cleaning super funky rental units crawling with insect life that the tenants chose to not take with them for the move for your part time boss will distract you from anything else you’d be prone to put at the top of the whine list. Like missing your 8 year old, who’s off on a Dad visit.

I joked with the boss this week I was going to fire his exterminator and put diapers on a tribe of my chickens and turn them loose in the next one to deal with the insect pets. I’ll call them the “cockroach containment unit”. Environmentally friendly. Chemical free. What’s not to love? Oh, yeah…free feed in the form of pestilence and disease with six legs. Ok, maybe NOT my million dollar idea.

But Friday, all was once again right with the world, Ryan was back home, and my eldest and her hubby and brood of four girls were coming for the weekend. I have been covered up in glorious girly grandmuffin madness all weekend long.

Sometimes I feel like since we didn’t go anywhere or take them to DO anything that I’ve failed at Me-mawing. But the weather was icky, it rained all day Saturday and today was a frigid windy mess. And I found out that as usual, I worry too much, because they mostly just had a blast.

We had eggs hatching in the incubator and we wore a trench of a path from the back door to the incubator / brooder shed with flashlights checking on the progress of hatching peeps. Teagan, my eldest granddaughter, the self proclaimed “chicken mama”, spent a large portion of her weekend on egg collection duty and incubator watch. She takes these duties very seriously.
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We had Easter Bunny tracks through the kitchen this morning, and a two acre egg hunt this afternoon. We’ll be running over the un-found eggs for months to come with the tractor.image

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I occasionally refer to my grandgirls as feral children when they’re here. In the most loving way, of course. Mostly because they walk through the door with the confident assurance that they know exactly who is running the show from that point on, and it is no one over 4 foot tall. They have one of two speeds on this farm at all times. Full tilt boogie and comatose exhaustion. There is no happy medium.

The shoes come off for the duration of their stay and the dirt begins accumulating on tiny faces. The back door never stops swinging and is rarely shut properly. There is very little that a pouty face and threatened tears won’t get you. Or get you out of. Or tiny arms slung around your neck, laden with motives because why should we not have candy before breakfast? The popsicle stash ebbs and flows in great waves. We eat what we please, we play till we crash from exhaustion, and then we get up and do it all over again. Bedtime? What’s bedtime? Pap and Memaws = anarchy. We have soup for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. There are toys in every square foot of the house and stray socks and blankies and stuffed animals, and we all love it. It’s completely unorganized chaos. It’s glorious.

And thankfully, my daughter and her husband accept that. Or they’re just tired. Either way, I love them so much for allowing me to turn their kids into a tiny tribe of anarchists when they come through the door. I miss them already.

 

 

 

Squishy Egg

This morning, one of our Rhode Island girls laid a soft-shelled or “squishy” egg. This is a fairly common occurrence, especially in newly laying pullets, or can sometimes indicate a calcium deficiency in a hen. So I thought I would take a minute and cover egg issues for those who have yet to have the joy of reaching into a nest box and shrieking like a teenaged girl when your fingers touch something, well, gross.
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Squishy eggs: Often a new layer issue but can be indicative in an older hen of a calcium deficiency, or something lacking in the diet. Our particular completely squishy egg had no white, only yolk. No chance of hatch, and I’ve personally never attempted eating one for fear that bacteria could have made it through the membrane.

The next day a second, half squishy egg was laid by likely the same hen. The portion of the shell that was complete was so thin you can see in the photo where my finger went through it, simply by picking it up. This one was all white. No yolk.

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Wrinkled eggs : These can happen when a growing pullet is just starting to lay, or if there’s been some upset or interruption during the egg forming process…the egg can come out with little ridges, usually only at one end. Perfectly safe to eat, and we’ve had them hatch in the incubator as well.d117c0d2_22466_100_5470.jpeg

Under / oversized eggs: Under sized eggs can be from the size of a marble on up…again, usuall newly laying chickens, or sometimes an aging hen. They can be perfectly normal inside, all yolk and no albumen (white), or the reverse, no yolk with all albumen…these are sometimes referred to as wind eggs, fairy eggs or fart eggs.  The over sized variety will often contain a double yolk, and very rarely, an egg inside another egg. You can safely consume all of the above, should you desire to. However, undersize eggs will almost never hatch, because they only contain albumen or yolk, rarely if ever both.  Hatching double yolkers “twins” can be done, but is very rarely successful.

Wind eggs: see above…an egg with no yolk. Never tried eating one, but they definitely will not hatch.

Blood Spots: Little blood spot in your breakfast egg? No worries. Lots of people think this is the indicator of a fertilized egg. It’s not. It’s the result of a tiny rupture in a blood vessel in the oviduct of the hen during the formation of the egg. Scrape it off gently with a knife if it grosses you out, carry on with breakfast as usual.

Lash Eggs: Ok, these are just gross and usually very bad news. Not for anyone with a weak stomach, you can read a fantastic article on them Here: Lash Eggs explained. If you find an egg shaped mass with layers of icky, squishy content, this is probably your suspect. Generally caused by a disease called salpingitis. Prognosis for a hen with this condition is poor at best.

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Ashy Eggs: These are eggs that are laid with a chalky or ashy appearance, like a film of sorts over the usual color of the egg. Not a big deal and I’ve both eaten and hatched them.

There are all sorts of abnormalities that can occur during the formation of an egg during its travels through the oviduct of a hen. Most of them shouldn’t alarm you, but lash eggs or a hen that continually produces abnormal eggs should be cause for immediate quarantine or culling, and a vet consulted if the hen is a pet.

~Lisa