Category Archives: The Chicken Challenge

Lesson 396 – The power of one chick

We’ve had a lot of rain up here in New Hampshire (we’re just starting to see some glimpses of sun this afternoon). Rain makes for wet ground and chickens don’t necessarily like getting their feet damp. They’ll try to get up high away from it all, When it rains, you’ll always catch most of the birds roosting on whatever they can find, as long as it’s not on the ground.

That includes our littles.

Here is a picture of one of the babies roosting.

brilliant chick

What you don’t see but what is truly amazing is that this particular roost is about 3 feet off the ground. At some point this little bird had to make the decision to fly up to a skinny stick way, way, way over her head so that she could sit on it to keep dry from the puddles gathering below. The very first time she tried must have been incredibly frightening. But she did it anyway.

That’s some leap of faith. Continue reading

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Lesson 390 – One little chick flew the coop today

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to hold on to things (and yeah, I can hear the sarcastic “Oh really?” all the way from here.)

Many, many years ago, my son Griffin got interested in calligraphy. That year’s Christmas he got a calligraphy set and in the evening when I went to bed I found this note on my pillow.

I kept it. (did you really think there was even a remote chance I would not?)

This morning, after days of packing, writing lists, re-checking the lists, verifying the lists (are you sure you packed it?) my son left to begin his freshman year at RIT. Other than for school trips and a short stay with an Aunt, he has never been away from home. Continue reading

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Lesson 389 – Surviving Hurricane Irene with the flock

I know that a lot of you were worried about us during the hurricane Irene that came up the east coast this past weekend. To be perfectly honest, I was also worried. When you have 6 kids (and 40 chickens and 3 dogs and 1 rabbit) you learn to take storm warnings very seriously.

Before the storm came we stocked up on food for the animals, water, and this most amazing brand of Kettle corn. And then we hunkered down for the winds, bring it on Mother Nature.

Our entire flock retreated to safer places, the chickens to the roost, the rabbit to the shed, and the kids and the dog to the PlayStation room.

First the heavy rains came. The holes dug by our chickens for dust baths quickly filled up.

Then the rain started to collect and was threatening to go over our house’s foundation (that’s a cinder block that’s fully submerged there near the side of the house – and yeah, we have cinder blocks by the side of our house.) Continue reading

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Lesson 386 – a bird of a different feather

It probably comes as no surprise that I find chickens to be beautiful. Like snowflakes, each one is just slightly different enough from the others to make it an individual within the flock. (even our twins Simon and Garfunkel are distinguishable from each other – Simon has an extra little toe and Garfunkel’s top hat lies a little flatter than Simon’s.)

Just take a look at the gorgeous patterns on the backs of some of our juveniles. Now remember that all of these guys have the same father (Rocky Road) but you can definitely tell that they have different moms.

First we have this white slightly speckled one.

Here is another white feathered chick, check out the design on this one. The white chicks are the largest of our juveniles and one guess is that their mom is probably one of the ISAs (a type of chicken that is bred for hardy egg production.) Continue reading

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Lesson 385 – Our rabbit is a chicken

Our rabbit is a chicken.

No really. Vivian’s cage is kept in the dog pen area (the better to keep her safe from neighborhood predators) and so she has a first hand view of the chickens when we “take them out to pasture” (which is fancy talk for letting them roam in what is now considered the wastelands (literally) of the pen.) When the girls do not have Vivian out playing in the rabbit yard play-pen (which also doubles as a baby chick playpen these days), the rabbit is attentively watching the chicken activity from the safety of her perched cage.

Hey watching chickens beats whats on the Disney channel any day.

Trevor was out with the chickens yesterday and asked what would happen if we let the rabbit loose with the birds? Continue reading

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Lesson 384 – oh my, how you’ve grown

In the “my, how the little ones have grown department” I’m going to show you before and after photos of one of our “newborn” chicks.

This one is clearly the largest of the batch and although I’m not 100% sure, I have suspicions that she is really a rooster just waiting to break out in song. Not only is she large in size but she has humungous, dark yellow feet and while one of my sisters also has very large feet, in a chicken, this is usually not a good sign with regard to hen-domness.

Here is she at just a few weeks old when we let them play in the pen for a bit. By the way, we do have grass in our yard but the chickens have stripped the pen clean of any type of vegetative growth. It’s amazing to think that before we had chickens, we used to have to mow inside the dog pen. Continue reading

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Lesson 382 – this is a tough one to write

This is a tough one to write.

We are one less member of our flock today and the lost member is, you guessed it, our littlest one – Alkaia. She’s the one who lived, the one we pulled out of her shell. The tiny warrior who fought back.

From a purely practical point of view, this really comes as no surprise. She’s always been fragile and even at almost 2 months old was still wobbly on her feet, behaving in ways her siblings did not. She was skitterish, flighty, and often ran to the safety of others at the suggestion of a shadow. Continue reading

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Lesson 381 – Members of our photogenic flock

Recently a friend of mine, Em (the very same one who gave me the Geeky gal chicken) came to visit so that she could take some photos of our chickens. She spent about an hour communing with the birds out back and ended up taking some amazing shots of our girls.

Photo Credit: Emily Bersin

This is Jerry – yeah I know, she’s a girl with a boy’s name but she was also part of a pair named (of course) Tom and Jerry. Tom turned out to be a rooster who got re-farmed (Sunday Dinner) leaving us with this our lone Light Brahma.

Jerry wears the most amazing black feathered cloak that is truly worthy of any Harry Potter story. She’s a cautious but gentle bird who prefers to situate herself neither in the front nor in the back of the flock but instead right in the middle where she can scratch and reflectively peck with no one bothering her. Continue reading

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Lesson 379 – Chickens in the rain

We have a good old fashioned summer rainy day in New Hampshire. It’s the perfect day to send the kids to the laundr0mat with all the dogs’ bedding and for putting children in bathing suits to play outside. This afternoon I’ll be making a large pot of chili and after that I’m looking forward to starting a new book.

I love rainy days, they give you a chance to sit back and exhale. There’s nothing that can be done about the lawn today, can’t really scrub any floors because they won’t dry, so you might as well kick back and do some organizing and play a board game or two.

Chickens, however, are not so keen on rainy days. It disrupts their daily rhythm, they can’t quite get a handle on whether they are supposed to be in or out.

Although it sounds like the beginning of a good joke: Here is the answer to “What does a chicken do in the rain?” Continue reading

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Lesson 375 – update on our littlest chick – Alkaia

Time for an Alkaia update.

As you might recall Alkaia is the tiny chick who lived. She is the one who was too weak to get out of her shell and so (against protest) we helped her out. She survived but then rejected her yolk a few hours after her birth, not a good thing for a newborn chick to do.

As a result of all this life trauma, she continues to have stunted growth. She eats and drinks and joins in with the other chicks’ activites but she is still what I would consider to be in a fragile state.

Here she is pictured next to one of her sisters born one day before her. You can see that her sister is well feathered, is roughly twice the size of Alkaia, and is quite steady on her feet.

Big and little

Alkaia (in the foreground) is much smaller, still has quite a bit of down mostly around her head (which I find fascinating) and if she is spooked will tumble over her own feet (just look at those tiny toes). But she also comes to me when she sees me and willingly jumps into my hand so that I can carry her around. If she’s excited, she calms down immediately when I hold her to my cheek and make clucking sounds. She may be a chicken but she’s part of our family.

If this little chicks were born to a wild flock (is there such a thing in the US as wild flocks of chickens?) there is no doubt that she would not have survived. But she wasn’t born in a wild flock, she was born into our flock. I think the God of chickens knew what he was doing when he sent her to us. We seem to have a thing for animals that need a little bit more help in life. Our dog Digger is blind (he can see some movement and light), deaf, and has about half his teeth. He also walks funny, sneezes a lot (he has a fistula from his jaw to his sinuses), and smells really, REALLY bad.

But all that doesn’t matter because we love Digger.

Everyday we carry him outdoors (he can no longer tell the depth of steps) and once he’s done there we lead him to the food and water (of which the location is NEVER changed because then Digger wouldn’t be able to find it). He then finds his bed and spends much of the day sleeping (and loudly snoring.)

Every night we carry Digger up to a human bed, the kids take turns sleeping with him as his hair has thinned and he can’t keep his body temperature up. A shivering Digger is a very miserable Digger.

We do this, not to prolong agony (I’ve always said, the day that dog is in pain…) but we do it because it’s not a burden. We owe Digger a comfortable life for the many years of joys he’s given us. He’s still bringing us joy.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Alkaia, her lack of feathers will be a problem in just a few short weeks as we head into the New Hampshire fall but rest assured, she will be taken care of. I’m not sure of what exactly we’ll need to do but if we need to keep her indoors we will, if I need to order a handmade down coat for her, I’ll be on the phone in a minute. If we need to feed her separately (as we are doing for one hen who is getting pecked on this summer) we will. I’ll do what it takes to take care of her.

After going through so very much to get here, I’m thinking she’s deserves the best care we can give her. It’s what you do for the members of your flock.

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