Saturday, January 31, 2009

Winter in Michigan December 21 - March 21

Two Little Snowflakes
Way up high in the winter sky,
2 little snowflakes caught my eye.
Down to the ground they fell without a sound.
And before very long,

It was snowing all around.


We had 15 hours in the entire month of January above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

10 Days Old

I have never had a hen hatch out chicks before, so this is a lot of fun for me. Broody (who is only 10 months old) is doing such a great job of keeping these little puff balls alive and well during these terribly cold, winter nights. They are in the barn, in a 5' x 5' box with two heat lamps on 24/7. Often when I go out to visit, the chicks are running around looking for little treats that I drop in when they are not looking. The thermometer on the floor of the brooder box reads 50 degrees F, and there they are, skittering around as if it was in the 90's F!

I believe Khan (Cuckoo Maran) is the proud papa of all of them.

I placed the eggs of two cuckoo maran hens, three cochins, (buff and/or partridge), two ameracaunas, and one large white egg. I believe the white egg was from the black minorca hen.
So, in effect, I know I will have 2 maran purebreds, and I can already see the feathered feet of three cochin/maran mixes. One of the ameracaunas didn't hatch, and I believe the yellow chick is an ameracauna/maran and then one of the chicks is probably a minorca/maran. I wonder if they will turn out looking like mutts?

These two enjoyed posing.
Click on the images to see more details.

Can you see the feathers on the feet of the larger chick? Click on the picture to see better.
I am hoping I get a lot of hens from this batch.

The white one is far ahead of his/her siblings with feather development.
I think it may be an ameracauna. I have a white ameracauna hen in my flock.

I think I can see feathers on this one's legs too.

The Great Escape!
She can run, but she cannot hide.
She pooed on the floor too.

I leave you with this photo.
Sometimes you can see three chicks up on this perch.

Thank you for visiting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Too Cold for a Picnic

As I wrote in an earlier post, I am building two children-sized picnic tables for my school's fundraiser, which occurs in February. Out in the Green Barn, I have a nice workroom, complete with all of my tools. However, right now I have a brooder taking up 50% of the floor space, and it is really cold out there! So, I got out my little portable propane heater and lugged everything I needed into the garage. It wasn't much warmer in there!

I cut all of the pieces with my chop saw and then took the first pieces to assemble into the family room so I could figure out how to assemble the table in a warm place. Who writes instructions? It seems as if the person writing the directions for most of the things I have had to assemble has never put one of the things together, or doesn't speak English as a first language. No offense intended to anyone out there.

Here are a few shots of the project:

My favorite construction pencil. I stepped on it.
(you could tell that already, couldn't you)

Great inventions. I love my blaze orange square. It's hard to misplace.
I have seven tape measures. I guess you could call that a collection.

The table taking shape. I don't know what I needed the flashlight for.
Maybe I was looking for a pencil.

Hey, that looks like a picnic table! I don't know how it will look when finished.

The moms of the third grade are planning on decorating it somehow. Maybe they'll paint it, or just stain it. The battery in my portable drill died before I could tighten all the screws, so if you look closely on the table top, you can see a few of the screws needing attention.

I am getting a yen for some warmer weather. Anyone want to join me for a little picnic?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


No words can describe this...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy Birthday!

This morning, at 6:30, I went to the barn for the usual routine of turning on the lights, doling out some scratch and then going in to chat with Broody. Someone else, besides Broody was talking up a storm! I could hear a little peeper coming from underneath Broody's mass of poofiness.

I picked Broody up to meet the birthday chick and this is what I saw. This little chick was lying there, head and neck sticking out, looking around.

After work, Ruth and I went straight to the barn and I picked up Broody to see what we would see. This looks like a little Cuckoo Maran, with a little brown on the wings.

I think you would agree with me that this is a pretty cute little chick. I think I already have a name for "her." I'm thinking Gladys. I'll explain more of that in a second.

These three eggs are pipping (red arrows). The chicks have a little egg tooth on their beak which is designed to crack the shell and allow the chick to breathe better. After the pipping begins the chick could be out in an hour or in a day.

Broody looking at her fine work. And probably wondering what the heck is that fuzzy thing doing in with my eggs!

Happy Birthday Gladys. I hope you're a pullet.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


With the help of our school district's foundation, I was able to purchase this incubator. It is the Hovabator Genesis 1588. I also purchased the automatic egg turner. Now I have both natural and mechanical egg hatchers!
This is what the automatic egg turner looks like:

(Both photos courtesy of Home and Barn Basics Web Site)

I'm so excited about having this incubator as now I can hatch out my own chicks at a considerable savings. Two fifth graders in my school approached me about hatching chicks for their science fair project. Normally, Michigan State University is a great source for fertilized eggs, but they are in the process of changing their available breeds and they would only have white leghorns available. However, Angelo, who is the manager of the poultry farms at MSU referred me to his boss' parents, who happen to own and operate the Eagle Nest Hatchery in Ohio. I immediately called them and spoke directly with owner Kay Karcher, who walked me through all of her available breeds. With Kay's help, I decided to order fertilized eggs of 12 Rhode Island Reds, 12 Black Sex Links, and 12 Light Brahmas. All three of these breeds will lay nice, big brown eggs and the roosters (which I am expecting at least 18) will grow into 4-6 pound fryers in a short time. The fifth graders are especially goofy about the name Black Sex Link. The reason they are named that is they can be gendered at the time of hatching because the hens are all black and the roosters have some white or gray on their heads. These chickens are also known as Black Stars, but the fifth graders are leaving the original name. (The things that make us giggle!!)

The fifth graders will oversee the entire process and they will be in charge of the incubator, which with their teacher's permission, will be located in a quiet place in their classroom (is there a quiet place in a fifth grade classroom?). They are planning on setting up a twenty gallon aquarium with a heat lamp to display 5-10 of the newly hatched chicks throughout the duration of the science fair.

My insanely jealous third graders are only appeased by my promise that they will be able to name a chick, hold them and cuddle with them before they head to their home in the green barn.
More School News
Each year, my school holds a Family Fun Night. This is a fun-filled evening of free games and food and also an auction, which is our PTO's main fund-raiser. Every year, the teachers each donate a special item, like lunch with your teacher, or in my case, Gym Night for 20 kids. We eat pizza, brownies, Skittles and then play fun games in the gym and/or outdoors, if the weather cooperates.

This year, I am also offering a "Farm Basket" of goodies from our farm. I'm not sure at this point what I will put in there, but it will include eggs, blackberry jam and syrup, Crab apple jelly, grape jelly, tomato sauce, apple butter, apple sauce, and anything else I can coax out of the ground. I want to make soap like Kim over at Achorn Farm, and would love to paint like Laura over at Laura's Watercolors, or make fabulous jewelry, like Gwen over at Desideratum, but I think I'll stick to more basic things.

I did, however, find the plans for a fun looking children's picnic table and am planning on building two of them to auction off. I was thinking about painting them white and then decorating half of the table with MSU (Michigan State University) colors and the other half with UM (University of Michigan) colors.

Drawings courtesy of

I may have to build some more of these to have around the farm!

If Broody is successful with her first hatch attempt, I will have chicks this Wednesday or Thursday. I will let you know next week how that goes.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Meet Broody. She spent the entire month of December trying to hatch everybody's eggs. At first I thought she was injured or sick, but then I realized that she might be getting broody. Broody hens are not all that common as that instinct has been bred out of most of the breeds of poultry. Many breeds of chickens will think about brooding, but then give up after half an hour, or two days, and go back to scratching around and trying to eat whatever the other hens seem to be eating. Every day I had to move her off of the favorite laying nest and make sure she got some food and water. She would then walk around squawking and making a lot of noise, which would inevitably start the choir. If you have never heard twenty five hens yelling at the same time, you ought to add that lovely experience to your "Life To-Do List"!

Broody is a partridge cochin. This breed is one of the broodiest. If you want to have a couple of broody hens around your place to hatch out and raise chicks, then you should add a few cochins to your collection. Besides, they have a lovely temperament and are beautiful as well! I have a buff cochin who waits each night at her perch, just before I turn off the light, for a hand-delivered night supper of grain.

Here she is hogging the favorite nesting box. The other hens would just climb in here with her and lay their eggs and she would gladly cover them with her poofiness.

So, I moved her upstairs into the brooder, favorite nest and all. Before I did that, I collected eight of the largest eggs to see if she could actually pull this off. I know that hatching chicks in January is nearly insane, but she wouldn't give up and I am willing to give it a go. I put a heat lamp over her to warm things up and also to keep her water from freezing. She seems very content. I have never seen her off the eggs, but her water keeps going down and her food needs replenishing. Her due date is either January 14 or 15. I'll let you know!

Broody doing her thing!

Uh Oh! Minky (Ameracauna) has been acting broody as well! This is her "Touch these eggs and I'm gonna kick your butt!" posture. She also has a nice little roar to go with that. When she roars, that prompts the choir to kick in again and they sound so lovely.

Having hens wandering around the farm with little chicks in tow sounds so perfect to me. I have a feeling that round one of the brooder instinct will go to Father Winter,
but you just never know!