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Saturday, May 21, 2016

If it's not broody, it's balding!

There are just some days on the homestead when you just have to stand there, eye rolling to the point they might just get stuck that way, hands on your hips and say, " OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!"
Does this shadow make me look fat?

The past two weeks have been downright silly on the farm.  The weather has been dry, mixed on occasion with deluge.  The severe weather, with tornadoes and softball size hail (yes, SOFTBALL) fell within two miles of our old place, where they also had 10 inches of rain in two days.  Us, nothing, but a really cool Quint Gold Sky with a triple rainbow.  The reason we've had no rain is that we've planted more trees, which means we've had to haul water.  ::hands on hips, roll eyes::

We've also bounced between 80 and 36'.  The reason it got so cold was that I took all the windows out of the coop for the summer AND had tray upon tray of vegetable seedlings on the deck ready to plant.  ::hands on hips, roll eyes::

The new tractor, Hansel, acted up on me too.  He's a dream and been doing a great job helping me get rid of what has become known as the "dead elephant" in the hayfield.  The "elephant" is a giant, steep pile of dirt that was left behind when they dug the septic tank.  The problem is that it is too steep to mow and too steep to take the harvester over to mow hay.  When it is dry enough, I nibble away at it, placing the reclaimed soil in needed places in the fields.  Well, Hansel kept blowing a fuse, the SAME 5A fuse.  In fact, this last time, it blew the first time I started it after the nice worker drove an hour out here to replace it.  The company came to pick up Hansel and he was gone for a week.   ::hands on hips, roll eyes::

(Turns out a simple loose wire was rubbing the harness and blowing the fuse.  Problem fixed.)

It's amazing how much you miss your tractor when it isn't home! But the little tractor, Gretel, does a great job hauling around the trailer for odd jobs, so I focused on those.  One of those projects was to gather the old 18 inch glazed drainage tiles that we found in the field when we moved in.  They were from the 1880s and really cool, but we had no idea what to do with them, and they were constantly in the way.  I took the tractor and trailer down to the bottom of the hill.  The 30 inch long pipes weighed a ton and all had a date with the 4# engineers hammer. 

The first strike rang out like and old dinner bell across the valley.  Humpf.  While the darn things would crack, chip, or crumble if you looked at them cross-eyed, when you WANTED them to break, no go.  I cinched up on the hammer, invoked Casey Jones, and with a mighty whack split the standing 30 inch 30 pound pipe in two.  The weakest bit falling in a slow motion arc, towards the front of my squishy pink ankle.  Oh, ya, there was swearing, and blood, and a deep razorblade perfect gash.  Dag blast it. (I will spare you the gory photo.)

A quick check for extra bits of old potter in the wound, a splash of cringing water and a wrap with the ever present bandana, and one quick call to the doc (the kind that can actually help you~~Doc) about WHEN a tetanus booster is needed (am due next year, but will not wait that long) and I was back to work.

By this time of the game, my hands have been on and off of my hips so many times in situational amazement that I should have shoulders the size of a linebacker.  Oh wait.....

And it gets BETTER!

As you may remember, Daisy had a clutch of eggs.  They are getting along beautifully. 
Daisy with Andy, Helen, Ellie, and Bea
We had the cancelled zoo chick order and a gifted mini Zap from a friend.  Mini Zap has turned out to be a French BLUE, just like his daddy.
Ernest, Barney, and Thelma Lou
  The goofball three were in my way in the barn, and with the nights a little warmer, I moved them to the city bitty coop in the yard, which required a makeshift run.  This would also allow the three to be outside and get to know the rest of the flock and vice versa for a couple of weeks.  So no drama there, right?

Well with all these baby birds chirping around the place, the hens started getting ideas in their little bird brains.  13 hens and it was a contest among them to see who could drive me the most crazy.  Violet went first.  Let me tell you, when a giant bird that is huge and fluffy on a normal day decides to go broody, she expands like a peep in a microwave.  Suddenly a normal, sitting hen turns into a growling, flat as a flounder beast, who after her first beak snap at your fingers expands like she is hooked to an air compressed.  Seriously, she completely filled a 13inch square nest box.   ::hands on hips, roll eyes:: BANNED TO BROODY PRISION!

Flock Shaming

Two days later, Flora pulled the same game.  The problem is, I only have one broody breaker box and Violet wasn't done yet.  So Flora just sat in the coop nest box, being about as friendly as a stepped on nest of ground hornets.  ::hands on hips, roll eyes::

  By the time Violet was broken, Flora had been broody for a solid three days, but then she was  BANNED TO BROODY PRISION!

Then we waited, and waited, and waited.  She only got more adamant that she was going to be broody and wanted eggs to sit on. At day 8 of Flora being broody, it was Olive's turn! ::Hand to hips, roll eyes::

We've broken Olive before, and she's quick to break and quick to lay again.  So we took Flora out and put Olive INTO BROODY PRISION!

This left me with a really mad hen in a nest box.  We decided that if she wasn't going to break, why not give her two, just TWO, of the last of Zap's eggs.  At 10 days old, it was a LONG shot that they were fertile, but hey, why not. On day 5, we snuck out and candled  them.  DUDS.  Clear eggs and a stuck broody hen.  NOW WHAT?!  ::hands on hips, roll eyes::

More eggs!  I called other bird brains (fellow chicken farmers), no one had eggs.  Either their hens had stopped laying or they had just sold out at market.  I called 7 and no one had eggs.  So I called a hatchery that was just an hour up the road.  They said come on up and pick up some chicks to sneak under her. 

We set up the large grow out pen in the barn and moved Flora and her DUD eggs into the nest box there while I drove two hours to pick up a white crested polish, a barnvelder, a silver laced Wyandotte, a partridge cochin, and a speckled Sussex.  Late that night, The Boy and I snuck out to the barn in the total darkness.  He lifted her with one hand and stole the eggs with the other. As he held her up, I put all five chicks under her.  She snuggled down, the chicks stopped peeping and Flora started to purr.  Crossing our fingers, we went to bed.  In the morning, she would either have accepted them, or there would be disaster.

The next morning when I went out to feed the flock, I went into the barn to check on the newest little family.
  Flora was literally climbing the walls to get away from the chicks (hey, we've all been there) the chicks were cold and chirping for a snuggle, and wait... there were only 4!  From somewhere in the deep dark corners of the barn there was a lonely chirping. UGH, Flora scared them so much, one panicked and found a way out.  Now I have to hunt for a tiny chick.  She was hiding under the ratchet rake for the tractor and covered in cobwebs.  So that was a failure.  Flora was sent BACK TO PRISION, and the chicks back to the chick pen and the warmth of the electric hen.  ::hand on hips, roll eyes::

 It took another 5 days to break Flora.  The Broody breaker was no sooner dry from her stay and Meriwether went in for a day stay.  She's no longer in, but I'm not convinced she's done faking us out.  In fact, she's spent all day in a nest box growling at her friends.  ::hands on hips, roll eyes:: 

She was lying.  It took her another three days in Prison to Break.  ::hands on hips, roll eyes:::

This whole time, I'm watching my own egg house production drop like a rock.  I first blamed it on the fox attack, but it kept dropping.  At one point we were down to 2 eggs a day!  This is NOT the way to act during farmer's market season girls!  What's the deal-io?  THE MOLT!   ::hands on hips, roll eyes::
My post broodies weren't laying, and the molting girls were taking a break.  We have feathers EVERYWHERE!  EV...ER...Y...WHERE!!!!  Even during their daily dust baths are loaded with fallen, loose feathers when they get up.  I guess it's their version of the ring around the tub. 

All this chicken shuffling forced a plan to build a chick house/broody house way sooner than I expected.  But that's another post!

Monday Night
We just had 2.7 inches of rain in 20 minutes and hail the size of peas and almost dimes for three minutes. WHY?! I Finally got around to planting 150 feet of sorghum and 80 sq Ft of sunflowers today.  ::hands on hips, roll eyes::


  1. Caryl, This was so much fun to read the rest of the story!!!!

  2. Oh my gosh Caryl - I am sitting here with my hands on my hips rolling my eyes. You sure do like hard work girl :D