Saturday, September 26, 2009

Crazy Chicken Lady

One might think from my lack of blogging, that I've lost interest in Project Food.  The truth is, I've been having a chickenmoon.  Why write about food, when I can be feeding chickens morsels of broccoli, and watching them attack the spears like the little velociraptors from which they are descended?  Why scribe about chickens when I can be experiencing the brush of warm feathery bodies, or watching their pecking-order antics?  Did you know that juvenile chickens do the chest bump?  Did you know that when their feathers come in, it pushes out their fuzz, leaving them homely in the very cutest way? Did you know? Did you? Did you?

These moments of ecstatic discovery have been somewhat offset by moments of piercing anxiety.  Like when, after 4 days of intense research, I decided my chicks needed a Marek's disease vaccine. And the window for getting said vaccine closes at the end of week three.  And my chickens were 2 weeks and 3 days old. (Thankfully, Rich rode in on his white hypodermic charger, and gave my girls their shots so that they wouldn't hate me. BIG husband points there...)  Or like yesterday, when a lengthy sojourn on engendered paranoia that maybe ALL my chickens are roos.   Even my sexlink.   Are those saddle feathers coming in pointed?  Is that chicken taking a taller stance than the rest? Is that comb getting darker?  The answer to all of those questions is thus far "No."  But a chickenmom can worry, right?

One thread on that caught my eye last night was "You know you're a crazy chickenlady when..."  My answer? When your own father calls to ask how the chickens are doing, and what he means is, when do I get my fresh eggs, and what you reply with is a detailed report on each bird's personality quirks.  Or when your new friends at your daughter's school know to ask you about your chickens as soon as they see you, and then they follow up by sending you articles on other crazy chickenladies. Or when you begin to find the smell of the chicken brooder "soothing." Or when you invite your entire neighborhood over to watch you paint the trim on your coop.  Or when your husband, to make you happy, offers to install a webcam inside the brooder so that you can watch your chickens from work. (I said no, so I'm not too far gone...yet.)

I am a crazy chicken lady. It's official.  And I feel no shame. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Sounds of the Flock

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was fretting that after all of this effort on the part of friends, family, and self that I might hate the chickens?  I needn't have worried.  I love them. 

In particular, I love the sounds of my flock.  The gentle, syncopated peeps that indicate chicken contentment.  The peck peck peck of little beaks on the sides of the brooder.  The pit-pat of chicken feet on hardwood, as the flock chases each other across my office. The rustle of wings as the little puffballs attempt to fly. 

I'm told that these sounds will change within the next several weeks.  Peeps will give way to clucks. Pitpats will give way to heavier feet.  So for now, I lie on my floor, eyes closed, feeling the occaisional brush of fluff against my skin, and savor.  I savor the peeps, and the pit-pats, and the rustles.  I savor the sounds of my flock. 

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Meet the Flock: Yubaba

I'm the only chicken named after a Miyazaki villain, Yubaba from the seminal work: Spirited Away. I'm a black sex link (aka, black star), and thus the only chicken who is certain to be a girl. 

Thus far, my personality is a big question mark. I'm the most "conventional" of the breeds in this flock, developed to be a good egg layer.  I probably won't be able to match the other breeds for looks, but I'll pay my way with large, pinkish brown eggs. 

Meet the Flock: Kiki

Hello. I'm Kiki, named after the itinerant adolescent witch from the Miyazaki movie.  I'm a Mille Fleur, a breed that translates as "A thousand flowers."  I may not look like much now, but I'll be a stunner as an adult, each feather edged in a contrasting color. I'll also be tiny, reaching only 2 pounds at adulthood, half the size of the next largest chicken in the flock.

Of course, I'm also a bantam, which means I'm not hope that I'm a girl!

Meet the Flock: Calcifer

Hello.  I'm Calcifer.  I'm also an Easter Egger.  I'm named after a fire demon...and I do have a firey nature with the flock.  I'm currently top chicken, much to Lord Yupa's chagrin. 

I'm also striking, with beautiful leopard spots on my back. I'm fearless, which makes me quite friendly with the humans.  I'm officially Libby's favorite today, and I plan on keeping it that way!

Meet the Flock: Yakul

Hello, I'm Yakul. I'm named after a smart, responsive red elk in a Miyazaki movie. I'm a full sized Easter Egger.  Some day, I'll lay eggs that are blue, green or pink in color. (But I'll only lay one of those three colors...I haven't decided which yet.)

I'm not as bossy as my sister, Calcifer, (you'll meet her next), so I'm in the middle of the pecking far. 

There's no telling what I'll look like when I grow up, since Easter Eggers come in every color. But without a doubt, I'll be a looker! 

Meet the Flock: Totoro

Hi, I'm Totoro. Do you like my fuzzy legs?  How about my extra toes?  You can't see them in this picture, but I have two extras on each leg.  This is normal for my breed.  I'm a black silkie; even when I get my grown up feathers, I'll be fuzzy. 

I was the most timid of the flock when I first arrived...but I've perked up, and am now in the mix with everyone else.  

Like Lord Yupa, I'm also a bantam, so I have a 50/50 chance of ending up in the pot.  I hope I'm a girl!

Meet the Flock: Lord Yupa

Hello, my name is Lord Yupa, and I am the cutest bird in the flock.  I'm named after a famous swordsman from a Miyazaki movie (10 points if you can guess which one). I'm trying to live up to that the early days I seem to be in the running for top bird in the pecking order.

I'm a Polish, which means that I'll have black feathers at maturity, with a white mop on my head. 

I like to eat before bed. On my first day at my new home, I got so sleepy that I fell asleep with my head dangling inside my feeder. Today, I fell asleep in a plate of food.   

Because I'm technically a bantam breed, I wasn't sexed at I have a 50/50 shot of being male, and thus ending up in the pot. My family is thus trying not to get too attached to me...good luck with that!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The chickens are here, the chickens are here!!!

I am deliriously happy.  At this very moment, my office is home to six adorable, healthy, hoppy, beautiful baby chickens. 

At this point, I'm going to have to admit that although I consider myself to be a thoroughly pragmatic person, I have succumbed to sentimentality about these animals. (Surprised?)  I didn't want them to suffer a cold, thirsty 48 hours in the US Postal system, so I purposefully ordered my chicks from a hatchery within "driving distance." Fresno. In the central valley. According to Googlemaps, a 3 hour drive away from my house. 

Vastly inconvenient for me, of course.  But far preferable to subjecting the peeps to the indignities of packaged travel. 

My reputation as a hardass will be further in tatters when I reveal the following. On the ride home, I noticed that my passengers (traveling in comfort in a vented box on the floor of my passenger side) would peep with distress if the temperature in the car crossed below 90 degrees.  So I rode home, through the 105 degree central valley, without AC. Every now and then, when my face began to throb, I would allow myself a brief blast of 75 degree air.  Then the peeping would start, and I would resignedly turn off the AC...and step on the gas.

Not surprisingly, I made it home in 2.5 hours. No incentive like imminent heatstroke to inspire one to travel beyond the speed of sound. 

Anyway, chicks and I arrived home safely, despite my warp-speed travel.  Thanks to my tech-savy husband, the babies were installed in a cozy, temperature-controlled brooder (set for 95 degrees, donchaknow). My daughter, rescued from bedtime by our arrival, was beside herself with joy.  And I was filled with the satisfaction of having realized a dream that was months in the making. 

Have I mentioned I'm happy?