chickens

7 Moments to Remember

7 Moments to Remember

A collection of my favourite daily moments in the last 1-2 weeks.

A Random Series of Un/Fortunate Events

Last weekend, the clocks sprung forward an hour for Daylight Savings Time. Ever since, "springing" out of bed has been out of the question for me. I've felt tired all day, every day, and am really hoping that this weekend will help me make the final transition into the new schedule. The spring time change is always the worst for me, but seems worse than usual this year, not sure why. (Anyone else wish that the almighty "THEY" would pick one and stick to it, for-crying-out-loud?!)

Maybe the tiredness is accentuated because the weather simultaneously went from "warm and sunny" to "freeze-your-knackers-off and gloomy", which doesn't help at all.

Despite that, the week has plugged on at it's normal, relentless pace. The boys are in another round of swimming lessons for three days a week until the end of March. Unfortunately, it is in the morning this time around, which really messes up our school schedule on those days. By the time we get home, not only are we past their brains' peak operating times, but they are also tired from the swimming. Some days, my pokey middle child hasn't finished his "morning" subjects until 5 p.m.... or later. The other two are sometimes not far ahead of him. It can make for kind of a long day, not to mention that we are falling further and further behind in our "afternoon" subjects of history and science. Thank goodness we are not Alberta-government-aligned in those ones!

Last fall, I joined a ladies Bible study group to do a study on James by Beth Moore. We just finished it up this week (crammed an 8-week course into four months :-D), and I am so thankful for what I learned through it. It has helped me to become much more proactive in my faith, in the sense of not only seeing the need that surrounds me, but looking for ways that I can actually do something about it. It can still be frustrating to see so much wrong in the world and feel so inadequate for the task of making a difference--but I can still make a small difference. And the small things that I can do might just make a big difference in the life of somebody. We never know what long-term impact our small actions can make on the world, whether for good or for bad. The study also inspired my assignment for Week 2 of the songwriting course I am taking from Berklee professor Pat Pattison, which you can read about here.

Last weekend, I cajoled Jason into doing a renovation project that has been on the back-burner since moving into our current trailer. When we moved in, the linoleum throughout the house needed to be replaced. The addition was done before we even moved anything into it (by yours truly, I am proud to say), and at the same time as we purchase lino for that project we also bought laminate for the larger boys' bedroom to cover the disintegrating 35-year-old linoleum that was there. We got a great deal on the flooring through Spirit River Flooring (it really does cost less, there!), partly because we weren't being very picky about colour, partly because they had a sale on laminate at the time, and partly because the saleslady was very sympathetic to our situation of having to replace our home because of the mould issue, and did the best she could for us on the price.

Fortunately, when we purchased the first trailer, the previous owners had just put laminate into the smaller bedroom in that trailer, and they had three leftover boxes that they gave us. That bedroom is almost identical in size to the room Jude currently occupies, so we figured we would have more than enough laminate to do the floor in there without purchasing anymore, even if it meant lifting some out of the old trailer.

However, despite getting Noah's and Jabin's room done last spring, and having the best of intentions to get to Jude's "fairly soon," it didn't happen until this Sunday past. However, once we got started on the project, it only took a few hours to empty the room (including taking apart the bunk beds), lay the flooring, and move everything back in. Jude got to bed a little late, but since it was the first day of the time change, he probably wouldn't have fallen asleep earlier, anyway--night owl that he is. The three boxes of laminate were the perfect amount to cover the floor, so we didn't even have to lift the "used" stuff. :-)

It's nice to have that project out of the way. It seems that stuff like that doesn't happen in the summer, because it is way too hot indoors. Maybe we should look at getting a window-mounted air conditioner this summer, because frankly, I am kind of amazed we got through last July without my guitar cracking and without all of us turning into little pools of water and minerals in our beds.

At any rate, while Jason was cutting floorboards outside last Sunday, he let our Alaskan Malamute (who is now a 17-month-old "teenager," with all the grace of Goofy in a China shop, and the self-discipline of a two-year-old), Thunder, run free. During the warmer weather we were having last week, we had been tying him up to prevent untimely chicken deaths as we let the chickens out of the coop to enjoy the sun. The snow, at about three feet, is high enough that these excellent flyers don't feel that the run fence is a particular hindrance right now.

Jason was keeping an eye on him, but it doesn't take long for this speedy dog to be on top of any little thing that he thinks might entertain him, which was the case with one unfortunate hen who strayed outside the run. Jason interfered before she died, but since Thunder had been tossing her around like a football, she lost all but one scraggly little tail feather, nearly all the feathers on her back, and several square inches of hide, as well.

So, needless to say, "Rosie" (as we have now dubbed her) has been spending the last several days in the house in a large plastic storage tub that doubles as a brooder for small batches of chicks. She is past the critical stage--she didn't go into shock and die, and after several bouts with hydrogen peroxide and colloidal silver, the wounds have closed up and appear uninfected--and yesterday, she even started walking around in her little tub, eating stuff, and clucking gently at us when we checked on her. If it weren't for the missing flesh at a most inopportune location as far as roosterly "affection" is concerned, I'd actually send her back out today. As it is, I'm wondering, How long will it take for a chicken's hide to grow back?! I guess we'll see. The poor thing will have to be in "solitary" for another day or two, at least.

Well, you're pretty much caught up, and that's enough rambling for one post. Happy Thursday, friends!

Calling Beowulf

Further developments: the coyotes (or whatever they are) have started laying siege to the small "chick" tractor.

I know, because the Rubbermaid Roughneck container containing their food, which I keep snugged up to the side of the tractor to prevent the tarp from flying around, was not only flipped on its side, but the lid was off and the food spilled out. Further inspection revealed several tooth-mark punctures in the lid.

The tire used for tarp-anchor on the other side was also flipped over.

The huge, 6 cu. ft. bag of pine shavings that was also being used as tarp ballast/dog digging deterrent had been dragged several feet away, with puncture marks in numerous places through the plastic. (The bag weighs around 50 pounds or more, would be my guess.)

And the outer layer of poultry wire on the "front" of the chicken tractor was completely mangled. The inner layer was stretched, but had managed to hold.

So, that's why Sunshine was barking last night... Every time I stuck my head outside into the dark (we have no outside light right now) I could not hear any kerfuffle, so I figured she must have been barking at the fireflies. (Yes, fireflies. In my thirty-something years as an Alberta girl, that is the first time I have seen fireflies here.)

Tonight's plan: "Tether the dogs close enough to the chicken coops to actually fulfill their purpose as guard dogs, but not so close that they can molest the poultry themselves."

We'll see how it works. My only fear now is that I may find a mangled dog in the morning instead of a mangled coop. I'm not really sure what made all those teeth marks, after all.

By the way, that "tie the dead chicken around the dog's neck" thing? I'm giving up on that. It never works. They only eat the chicken. Lesson learned? I think not.

Epic Fail

Since I am only in my second year of chicken farming, and the monetary investment into the project far outweighs the benefits received from it, when I have a loss, I feel it. Not just in my pocketbook--I am still attached to the darn critters, because they are my responsibility.

Now granted, I no longer weep when I find a dead chick from confusing causes in amongst the healthy ones--an event that, thankfully, has been rare this year. And the only deaths of adult birds that I weep at are the ones I inflict myself.

In fact, I am emotionally hardened enough already that I don't really cry when the deaths are inflicted by another sentient being, either. But not so hardened as to feel nothing. Oh, no--there are definitely other emotions evoked.

Like anger.

This week has seen some serious losses to my flock. The flock that we spend money, time, and effort on so that WE can have the benefit of our labours, not some random passing coyote who realizes that these dumb, domesticated birds are much easier hunting than the other prey he might find in the trees.

I should have 20 adult birds. I only have 12. The numbers have been dwindling at the rate of about one a day.

Jason has been working on digging the post holes for a permanent, enclosed, fortified-against-wildlife chicken run, but it is slow going in our gravel-pit of a yard. Also, he is away on a work trip this week, so hasn't been able to take advantage of the ground softened by rain, and I have been too busy to do the same.

We can't get that thing finished fast enough. I managed to get a "temp" enclosure of orange snow fence and electric-fence-posts up around the coop the other night (the soft ground certainly helped with this project). It has, so far, mostly managed to fulfill its purpose of keeping the chickens inside, out of the trees where they are "sitting ducks", so to speak. At only three feet tall, the soft plastic wasn't animal-proof by any stretch, but I hoped it might be a deterrent for the coyote.

Nope. Two more today. I could see the remains of their struggle right on the border of the fence, little feathers scattered about as an enraging reminder that something else was profiting at my expense... and probably laughing at me, too.

You know, I know Roald Dahl has us all sympathizing with a chicken-stealing fox in his classic story, but in my heart, I am really with Boggus, Bunce, and Bean. Those darn foxes, coyotes, and other critters have no right to the fruits of my labour!!

However, despite the staggering losses to my adult flock, my chicks have been okay so far, as they are always completely enclosed in our other, smaller chicken tractor, within which they are warmed by a heat lamp, protected from the wind, and get to see fresh grass about once a day. When we first got the chicks, Sunshine (our golden retriever) proved that although she seemed to have overcome her need to chase adult chickens around, she had just as keen of an interest in these new little appetizers as Koda had with last year's newbies--at four days old, she managed to dig a hole under the chicken tractor and extract at least one chick before Jason caught her in the act, little brown body still in her mouth.

Koda had been spending a lot of time kennelled, unless we were outside, since he has a tendency to wander off to the neighbours' to visit his buddies if left alone outside for longer than ten minutes. However, Sunshine had been free to wander around (ideally, protecting the yard from thieving coyotes). Since that incident, they have both been on detention.

We make an effort to make sure the dogs get several hours of exercise a day, which is usually pretty easy. When we are outside doing our yard work in the evenings, we let them out, and they exercise each other. However, with the rain for the last several days, I haven't been outside that much at night. Since Koda seems to have been doing better (not running off), and Sunshine had seemed to be less interested in the chicks now that they are a little older, I thought I would just let them run around tonight and keep an eye on them. So, every now and then, I would look out the window and see Koda running around. It should have set off an alarm bell that Sunshine was not there wrestling with him. But it didn't--after all, she isn't the one who runs off.

When I went out to "put them to bed," I was very thankful it wasn't raining.

Because I got to fix holes in my little chicken tractor's poultry wire (she went through two layers!)

And Sunshine gets to spend the night with a dead chick around her neck. I don't know if she got more--the hole which she also dug in the ground under the rear edge (and dragged one through, I'm sure--the holes in the wire didn't seem big enough for her to get through, and the chicks were more interested in staying at the opposite end under the heat lamp) was certainly big enough!

Sunshine had an epic fail tonight. I'm just thankful that it wasn't quite as epic as Koda's--as far as I can tell, she only got a few, (a lot less than 40!) and maybe only the one I caught her with. It's really hard to count seventy-five portable little chicks!

Why do we have dogs again?

(On a more positive note--Koda seems to have either learned from last spring's experience, or has grown past that stage, as he has not attempted poultricide this year.)

Snow Much Fun!

After four days of warm(ish) weather last week, the snow was soft enough that the boys were able to make a snowman.

The Construction Crew

Jude was the foreman of the project, but all three boys participated, and had a total hoot doing it!

Cheetahboy building the snowman
Monkey building the snowman

When they were done, they informed me that it was supposed to look like Daddy (whom we were expecting home from a five-day business trip the next day).

"The straw is his hair, see?" Jude pointed out.

"Ah." I replied.

"Can you take a picture?" he asked.

"Of course," I replied.

Daddy Frankensnowman

This Wednesday morning, we noticed that the cats thought building a snowman was a good idea, too.

Cat and Snowman buddies

On the day of the snowman-building, it was warm enough that I had instructed the boys to leave the chicken coop door open for a few hours so the chickens could enjoy the sun. Noah got a little over-exuberant and hauled a couple birds all the way over to the house and set them in the snow. Jude promptly put them back, but not before I snapped this photo of one of them.

Like a Chicken in a Snowbank

This stunned look says, "What the heck am I doing over here?!! And now what do I do?"

Poor girl.

Oh, the Places I've Gone!

Okay, I haven't been that many places over the last few weeks, but I have been extremely busy--as usual, lots to blog about and no time to do it in. So, I will try to recap:

School

- We have been going strong for three weeks now, and have got to do such fun things as making the colour wheel out of frosting, hitting up the library, painting a giant sun on butcher paper, and doing a field trip to the Telus World of Science. Jabin comes home from kindergarten every day talking about a new friend, and enjoys his "home days", too. So far, so good.

Family

- We spent last weekend in S.L., the official reason being to attend my cousin Riley's wedding reception. It was great, but also a perfect excuse for a "mini family reunion" with my brother and dad. Logan had not been to Canada for almost exactly two years, as he was waiting for his Green Card paperwork to come through, which it finally did about a month ago. Thankfully, we have all managed to travel his direction a few times during the interim--well, all of us except Jason. We had a great weekend of hanging out, playing board games, and laughing--a LOT. I love my family.

"Farming"

- On the Labour Day weekend, our friends B. & L. came out to educate us on the ways of butchering a chicken. L. has plenty of experience from her childhood days on a farm. I had two roosters whose doom awaited them--one for the demo, and one for practice. I'll spare you the grisly details, but considering the fact that I used to have my friend Amanda do all the actual dissecting when we were in Biology together, I'd say I did pretty good. I only felt queasy once, and that was when my attempts at neck-breaking only stressed out my poor boy instead of achieving the "quick demise" I was going for. We ended up using the axe. Anyway, on Monday they looked like this:

And on Wednesday night, one of them looked like this:

(The other one is still in the freezer.)

Kinda scrawny, I know, but there were just too many roosters for my "girls", so they had to go.

I don't quite have the whole garden in, yet, but I managed to save the last of my potatoes from the ravages of my chickens today--the "turkeys" were digging them up and eating them! I still have two of my five raised beds to empty, but I'm not in a hurry to dig up my carrots--they'll keep much better in the ground, for now.

I'm sure there is much more that could be said, but my clock just informed me that the party's over, folks--it's after midnight. I need to get my rest, so Teacher Mommy will be reasonable tomorrow. I'll try not to stay away so long, this time!