Swimming with Dolphins, Manatees & Seals

Since I’m not home on the farm but vacationing in Mexico for spring break with my family, I’ll post about the animals I see when I’m away.

Today we drove to a place about 15 minutes away from where we are staying and went swimming with dolphins, manatees and seals. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were all pleasantly surprised with the program and how much we got to interact with all of the animals. We spent almost 4 hours there, and most of those 4 hours were spent in the water with the animals.

There were 2 adult dolphins in the tank with us and 2 baby dolphins! They were so adorable, and the mom’s would occasionally swim off to check on what their babies were doing and then come right back. We all got to kiss the dolphins.

We all got to be pulled around by the dolphins while holding on to their dorsal fins.

And we all got to do this, too: We lay in the water in a flying superman position with our legs locked, and the 2 dolphins came up from behind and literally pushed us up out of the water like we were waterskiing. The power of these animals was quite extraordinary.

Then we moved on to the manatee tank. There were five manatees in the tank, the youngest one being only 2-1/2 years old. They sucked in lettuce leaves like vacuums and their little whiskers were the so tickly when you kissed them!

This was the smallest manatee, at 2-1/2 years old. He rolled onto his back and let us hold him in our arms.

Then we got to all swim around the tanks with them with heads of lettuce and they’d come up and eat a few leaves from you, then move on to the next person, and come back for more in a bit. They were so large, so gentle, and so sweet.

The last visit was to the seals, and we all enjoyed them more than we anticipated.

She tried to give Everyone a french kiss.

It was a really fun and informative morning. This is something the kids have been dying to do, and I think Jim and I were excited about it, too.

I can cross that off the Bucket List.

And the Spring Predator Loss Begins

I’ll try not to dwell on this, but it’s an unfortunate fact of farm life.

Late last week there was a raccoon wandering around the edge of our property in the afternoon, Now a raccoon out during the daytime means a) it’s rabid or b) it’s got young to feed. Either one isn’t good. I set the dog out after it and it wandered up the hill across the street. I knew it would be back though, and I’ve been keeping a watchful eye out.

Monday morning my husband was leaving for work and called me on his cell to say that there was a dead chicken at the edge of the next-door neighbor’s property. I went out and discovered one of my Buff Orpington hens, head removed and body ripped open. I suspect somebody driving by scared the thing off. Poor little thing. I have a few Buff’s, and they are lovely, gentle birds and good layers.

It makes me so damned mad. Unfortunately our town does not allow the discharge of guns of any kind, or I can assure you I would happily blow its head off.

Tonight when I did a head count at lock up I was down another hen. I may just sit out there and rip his head off with my bare hands.

On a lighter note, and I certainly hope nobody was eating when they read that, I’ll show you some farm photos I took today.

This is the view from my computer desk. The old chicken coop  has a sunny front porch that is a favorite lounging spot for the goats. Today I caught all 4 of them having an afternoon siesta, and I got the photo through the window.

And Rocky seems to get bigger every day. He’s starting to crow more, which is unfortunate — for him mostly — as I won’t be able to keep him if he starts making too much noise. It wasn’t like he did any good keeping the raccoon away, right?

Rocky surveying his domain.

And I am telling you, Gracie is the happiest goat alive. She always appears to be smiling.

A Smiling Gracie

Chickens Still Don’t Look Good Wet

As a follow-up to a post from last September, “Chickens Don’t Look Good Wet“, I would like to once again prove that fact. We had some nasty weather at the end of this week, and the farm was quite unhappy. Chickens just look miserable when they are wet.

A muddy, wet white cochin just can't look good.

It doesn't matter the color of the bird, no chicken can carry off the wet look well.

Heading inside where it's dry.

And the goats despise rain and mud. They would come out to eat only, and then headed straight back into the relative dryness if their stalls.

Kiki heads inside.

Kate's going to see what Kiki and Grace are doing.

Farm Inventory

The last post I did on Combs prompted me to do a “chicken inventory” of sorts. It’s no wonder I get confused with all of the different breeds that I have. You’ll see how similar some of them are to each other. It’s fun to have a variety though and provides a rainbow of egg colors in the cartons.

Cheenah is still hanging in there, although frankly the long-term prognosis is not good. She has no use of one leg at all and can't walk. Today she spent the day out in the wheelbarrow enjoying the sun where she was protected and safe.

The snow drops are blooming in the woods behind the farm.

My Buff Brahma is a tiny, sweet chicken.

Ash is my Black Australorp. She was the crazy chicken that went broody last year and laid on infertile eggs for months before finally abandoning the nest. She was one dedicated wanna-be mom.

My one Silver Laced Wyandotte. This was the first breed of chicken I ever owned, and I had 25 of them! They're decent layers, but aren't friendly as compared to some other breeds.

This is Roo, my Partridge Penedesenca. She was a strange chick, and I was convinced she was a rooster, hence the name Roo. I thought she had splayed leg and almost put her down when I transitioned them out into the coop from the basement brooder as a chick. She could barely walk. She still walks with a funny, marching step. She's a very timid chicken but lays beautiful, very dark brown eggs.

I have several Welsummr hens. They are a little bit shy, but lay wonderful dark brown eggs and love to free range in the woods behind my house.

My Golden Campine is a smaller-sized hen that is also on the shy side. She lays large white eggs, and her single comb has gotten so large that it now falls to one side.

The #1 egg laying chicken for commercial egg farms, these are a good breed to have, if a little ordinary. They're friendly, don't mind confinement in caged areas if need be, and are reliable, cold-hardy egg layers.

A Rhode Island Red hen. These were the egg-laying breed used until the Red Star breed was developed that replied them. They are a nice, all-around chicken to have and are very cold-hardy and great layers.

My one White Leghorn lays large white eggs. She's a smaller-sized hen with a large red comb. I've read that petroleum jelly on the combs in the winter helps prevent frostbite, but this winter that hasn't been too much of a concern.

My Delaware could possibly be my least favorite chicken, but that is just my personal opinion. Most people swear by this breed. Whenever I find a chicken eating an egg, it's usually her, or she's at least at the head of the line in the group doing it. They are a average sized chicken that is a very reliable layer.

My White Plymouth Rock is a nice dual-purpose chicken that is a good layer of large brown eggs.

My Partridge Cochin is a sweet feathery chicken with feathered legs and lays brown eggs. All Cochin's are terrific mothers.

I cant tell if Paula Deen is a bad example of a Blue Cochin or a bad example of a White Cochin, because she isn't completely white and tends more to grey, but she's a friendly, sweet chicken, although I think she has angry eyes.

My pure White Cochin is a lovely chicken. All Cochin's look to me like they are wearing victorian dresses with bustles in them.

I have only one Silver Cuckoo Maran. She is a nice hen that lays glorious deep brown eggs. She is considered a "chocolate" egg layer, which is what they call the really dark brown eggs.

A Barred Rock hen on the left and a Dominique hen on the right. The only discernible difference is the combs; the Barred Rock has a single comb and the Dominique has a rose comb.

I have two Dominique hens. They are large docile birds that lay brown eggs. With their rose combs, they are cold tolerant and hardy.

Romeo, my Dominique rooster.

A Barred Rock hen has a single comb.

Rocky, my Barred Rock rooster.

My Golden Laced Wyandotte is a beautiful chicken with a small rose comb that lays brown eggs.

I have two Patridge Chantecler hens and they are lovely large birds that are extremely cold hardy with very small combs.

I have two Blue Andalusian hens. They are a Spanish breed that is very shy but still curious. Both of mine are not very good examples of the breed, as they should be a much darker color. They lay beautiful small white eggs.

I have several Buff Orpington hens. They are a sweet, gentle bird that is a reliable, cold-hardy layer of light brown eggs.

And this is what the roosters do all day long. No hen is safe.

Was it good for you, babe?

And just so the goats don’t feel completely left out:

Gracie's smiling at me because it's such a beautiful day.

Melina looks like one of those Elephant Walrus lying here on the old coop porch. She has got to go on a diet.

Princess Kate

It was a good day for a nap in the sun.

Kiki naps on a big wooden spool.


I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it until the other day, but while I had thought I had two Barred Rock roosters, I actually have a Barred Rock and a Dominique. They look identical except for their combs. Barred Rock’s have a large single comb, and Dominiques have a Rose Comb. They are both heritage breed chickens, but the Dominique is much more uncommon compared to the Barred Rock.

Rocky, my Barred Rock rooster with a large single comb.

Maia decided we should name this guy Romeo.

My Dominique rooster with a rose comb.

But combs on chickens are a fascinating thing, and can vary greatly. In some breeds, as in the Barred Rock and the Dominique, the only way to tell them apart is by their combs. I find it very difficult to tell the difference between my Patridge Penedesenca (with a single ‘King’s Comb’) and my Welsummers, with their small single combs.

My Patridge Penendesenca with a King's Comb that droops elegantly to one side is so lovely.

My White Orpington has a very small single comb.

My Dominique hen with a small rose comb.

My Black Australorp with small single comb.

It can really be hard to figure out what these breeds are sometimes, but I’m pretty confident that this girl is a Silver Cuckoo Maran with a single comb to one side.

Does anybody have any hairspray? My comb is a mess.

I bought a stalk of brussel sprouts in the bargain bin at the grocery the other day. Melina was completely hogging it.

I wormed all the goats today, so they were all a little pissed at me.

Melina and Princess Kate were enjoying the beautiful weather today.

Grace and Kiki on the play ramp.

The Truth About Those Eggs You’re Eating

This is a re-post of an article I wrote and published here last March. I’ve done a lot of research and read many books on farming, but researching for this post was probably one of the more disturbing things I’ve done. But the reality is everybody needs to read it and educate themselves on the subject.

This is the post that nobody is going to like. Nobody wants to read. Nobody wants to even hear about it. But the truth is that most people aren’t aware of it, so I’m going to tell you, like it or not.

Chickens are big business. There are far more of them in the world than any other bird – approximately 26 billion in 2008 (don’t ask me who counted them, I certainly didn’t….) They are a large and important source of protein in human diets across the world, both for the meat and for the eggs.

People also like eating both; they are popular foods. And in order to satisfy the demand for cheap, reliable sources of both eggs and chicken, they are mass-produced all over the world.

Over the past several generations, the traditional farmer has all but disappeared to be replaced by “factory farms”. This term applies to all forms of animals that we eat. Chickens; both egg and meat chickens, pigs, cows and fish. Between 1955 and 1975 flock size in a typical egg factory rose from twenty thousand to eighty thousand birds per house as production learned to stuff and stack the cages. Just as the cage brought a Brave New World for laying chickens, it brought the end of an era for family farmers. The automation of feeding, collecting, and removing wastes made human labor and thousands of family egg farms obsolete. And it did so quietly and quickly. In 1967, 44 percent of commercial layers were in cages; by 1978, 90 percent were in cages

A natural chicken, wandering around in a flock outside with good predator protection and a rooster to protect them, might live to be 10 or 14 years old. In the modern egg factory hens only have a lifespan of around a year and a half. Generations ago, eating chickens was a luxury for people. Most farmers kept their chickens for the eggs and only ate the young roosters or the older hens that stopped laying productively.

The average egg on your grocery store shelf is anywhere from one month to six months old. This is not normally the fault of the grocer, but of the egg producers, who keep them in cold storage until they are needed.

If you buy just regular eggs at your grocery store – not labeled “organic”, or “free-range” — they come from a factory farm that looks something like this.

They are mostly kept in small cages, and cannot move around or stretch their wings fully. 70% of egg-layers are either in crowded barns or cages. A normal and legal cage is 20 inches by 20 inches, and contains 4 or 5 birds – sometimes up to 10 birds per cage;

Cages are made from wire, to allow droppings to go through the cage, and they are sloped so that the eggs roll out for collection;

On average, a layer produces 340 eggs per year;

The cages are stacked on top of each other in sheds, and many contain tens of thousands of chickens. 70% of battery layers are in sheds containing 20,000 to 100,000 birds, and they are incredibly noisy. Hens are often over-fed and given drugs and supplements, as with meat chicken.

And if you think you’re doing yourself — or the chickens a favor by buying “certified organic”, “Free-Range”, “Cage-Free”, or “Free-Roaming” eggs, they probably are coming from a factory farm that looks something like this:

Black Eagle Farm, a “cage-free” operation in Virginia, houses 48,000 hens. Platforms are designed to cram as many hens as possible into the building. This is a typical large-scale commercial operation being advertised as “animal friendly.”

All of this discussion about the realities of organic egg production got me wondering about the various labels on my egg carton. Here are definitions of some of the most common, courtesy of the Humane Society:

Certified Organic: The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, and are required to have outdoor access, but the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is undefined. They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing.

Free-Range: While the USDA has defined the meaning of “free-range” for some poultry products, there are no standards in “free-range” egg production. Typically, free-range hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have some degree of outdoor access, but there are no requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. Since they are not caged, they can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. There are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Cage-Free: As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. They can engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting and spreading their wings. Beak cutting is permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Free-Roaming: Also known as “free-range,” the USDA has defined this claim for some poultry products, but there are no standards in “free-roaming” egg production. This essentially means the hens are cage-free. There is no third-party auditing.

Male chicks, who are of no value to the egg industry, are immediately killed. They are either tossed into garbage bags, left to suffocate or to be crushed, or are macerated in high-speed grinders.

Dumpsters full of male chicks. They are normally thrown in alive and just left to die of suffocation or starvation.

For the female chicks, after birth they are kept in grow out buildings for about 20 weeks. They are often kept in dark except at feeding times.

I am going to quote directly here from a website I found by Wesleyan.edu by an anonymous writer that visits to a Connecticut factory chicken egg farm:

“Inside the Battery Shed”

By Anonymous

The first visit…
“We went in the other night, through the manure pit door. We had to step over a dead hen in the doorway. It was Shed 7 based on our counting. We quickly changed our clothes and boots in order to maintain biosecurity. (Such measures were necessary because the stress from living in overcrowded, dirty conditions impairs the immune systems of battery hens making them very susceptible to disease. Furthermore, the overcrowding of the hens encourages the spread of contagious diseases, so it is important that every one who enters the shed be free of contaminants).Immediately I was surprised to see a number of hens resting atop the huge piles of shit. A part of me was glad for them, those free from cages, but also sad. I knew that they would soon die of thirst. There is no water to drink in the manure pit. Before entering I thought we would be heading straight up top, in a hurry to see the infamous battery cages; I was struck by how much there was to see below. Live hens, dead hens, and demolished hens. There was at least one bird smashed to smithereens with head off, legs off, feathers lightly spread. I cannot imagine what could have caused such violent destruction, but I hope she was dead before the deconstruction of her body. We tried to record the cruelty, the haunting atmosphere. I took many photos, but I know that only a visit can portray accurately the battery cage shed.

The Manure Pit

We climbed the ladder up, getting dust on ourselves, and there we were staring at the battery cages. There were cages upon cages, upon cages, upon cages. Stacked four high with six rows with cages on either side of a row. Later we counted 381 cages in a length, making 18,288 cages per shed. The average seemed to be five hens per cage, making 91,440 hens per shed. 13 sheds means over one million hens at the farm. The cages were measured roughly 16 inches wide, 21 inches deep and 18 inches high. 2.33 ft2 for the hens to share. No room to flap wings.

The hens in cages this Connecticut Factory Egg Farm

I was shocked by the amount of defeathering. Some of these birds were naked, with highly irritated skin. The feathers they did have were hard and brittle. So dry, but everything in there was. (At the time I had never held a healthy chicken. I have since had the opportunity; the difference is startling.)

With the crowded condition, the chickens have nothing left to do but pick at each other, often to death.

The hens can sense tension, so we took every effort to remain calm. They did not react to flash photography, or mind me measuring their cages. We walked the whole length of the massive shed. At the front we came to all the egg collecting machinery. I wondered, how much human involvement is there?

At the front we found a mortality chart: 70 hens died in that shed alone that day. Multiply this by 13 sheds on the farm. That is a lot for one farm, but with over a million there, what are a few hundred dead ones to them? We continued observing and investigating, and eventually made our way back to the rear of the shed. There in a corner we found a barrel half full of dead hens.

The Coop Mortality Chart. Only 70 that day. The mortality rate at these factory farms is horrifying.

Surrounded by all this death, suffering, and blatant cruelty you would expect, you would hope one would be in tears, and by the end my companion was, but for myself those feeling were forcibly put aside. The conditions were so horrible, how can one be compassionate and walk around in there? Tears come more easily now in reflection than while inside. It is just too overwhelming. With almost a hundred thousand hens in that shed alone it is hard to realize their individuality. I got the feeling inside that I wanted to liberate them all, every last hen. For most of the birds it is too late. Their feathers fell off long ago, and have never known a freedom they could even dream of. The struggle is more personal than ever. I will keep going back, keep investigating, keep liberating until battery cages are banned, an antiquated horror.”

One week later…
“We went in again the other night, same shed, same routine. I thought that since I had done it once already it would be nothing, I was prepared. I could not have imagined the conditions would be so much worse in just one week. The half a barrel of dead hens had exploded to three full ones next to a huge pile of dead hens. There were as many as six or seven dead hens lying in one aisle. I could not believe there were even more: a few milk crates full and more barrels at the far end. Dead hens were left in cages too. I was shocked by it all. And the live hens had no feathers at all. How could it have gotten so much worse?

Barrels full of dead chickens. They die from mutilation, starvation, respiratory distress from the air conditions in the sheds, and a multitude of diseases

There were flies swarming around us at times, and rats, dead and alive. With so many dead hens around, flies and rats are not too surprising, neither is disease. It is as if the farm management was mocking our careful efforts to for biosecurity with their complete disregard for keeping out potential contagions. The time we spent in there went by so quickly as we tried to record the horrible conditions. We spent so little time paying attention to the hens in cages because everything else was so bad. I cannot stress enough how much worse everything was than in my last entry.

We helped a hen free herself from being stuck in the bars her cage, allowing her access for food and water again. Helping that one hen helps me deal with the lingering reek of chicken shit that the laundry could not eliminate.”

One and one half weeks later…
“Last night we went back to the farm, the factory farm. We headed straight to “Shed 7,” again through the manure pits. Immediately we were hit by the smell and saw the familiar piles of shit. Then my friend looked up and exclaimed, “The chickens are all gone.” There were no more chickens. To be exact, there were still some around on the manure. I went over to one and she just sat in the corner near a pile of snow as I approached. I picked her up and realized why she had not moved. She was sitting on an egg. After all that time in a cage in which her eggs would roll away from her she still wanted to sit on her laid egg.

We then climbed the ladder upstairs. At once I was glad I had a dust mask, as there was so much ammonia it was difficult to breathe. We moved quickly, but stopped many times to photograph rotting hens in cages. We recorded as many as we could, but eventually we had to move on; the ammonia was too strong. The hens that remained decomposing in the cages were in a state I was hardly prepared for. Thinking of it now brings back the indescribable smell of the sheds. We made haste back down. I never thought I would find the air in a manure pit so refreshing.

Dead hens left to rot in their cages

We went to another shed. The chickens were in better shape here than in “Shed 7,” but the cages were so full: up to ten in a cage! The hens were already suffering from feather loss. Ten hens will not last long in a cage so small. The nature of the cycle became clear to me: fill the cages with ten hens and then once half of them have died empty the shed and start over again.

We then went to another shed. This shed was further along in the cycle. Greater numbers were dying each day according to the mortality charts. There was more feather loss. Dead hens in cages, even an extremely decomposed hen in a cage being sat upon by the remaining hens. It was all so draining; it wears on you. A couple of hours inside was as much as we could handle, and we left on edge. I cannot imagine what it takes to work there, or rather what you would have to lose.

I left eager to share my experience, to share my newfound knowledge. I had no comprehension of what the conditions for hens were like before our investigation. Even now, I still cannot begin to imagine what life would be like being spent entirely in a battery cage.”

This was a very difficult post for me to write. Researching for it was heartbreaking. But if people don’t educate themselves to the horrors of factory farming it will continue.

Move a muscle. Change a thought. Write a letter. Educate yourself. Get some of your own chickens.

From what I have learned by both attending the Young Farmer’s Conference in December of 2010 and researching for this post, the only way you can be certain that the eggs you buy have  been raised in a humane, loving environment where they truly get to free-range on grass and bugs as nature intended is to either buy your eggs locally from a farmer, or buy eggs with an “Animal Welfare Approved” stamp on them. You can click on the link to them here and find a listing of local suppliers in your area. After taking their seminar at the Young Farmer’s Conference, I would qualify right now for the guidelines they have for getting the Animal Welfare Approved certification. Perhaps when my new chicken coop and goat barn are complete I will apply.

Anybody that lives near me can see my chickens and goats roaming around the yard freely eating food as God intended them to. I have never had a chicken with a disease or health problem. I have never had a problem with feather-picking, as this is an indication of overcrowding and boredom. I am proud that I raise my chickens in a way that makes them happy. They are happy to see me and run to see me when I come around the corner. They make me happy.

So if you’re driving down the road and see a sign for fresh eggs, by all means stop and buy them. I can guarantee they were raised in better conditions than the chickens that provided the eggs at the grocery store were, and you’ll be helping a struggling local farmer at the same time.

This post was awful. I’m going to end it here with some of my happy chicken photos.

My chickens free-ranging in the woods for tasty things to eat last week.

Free ranging around the yard.

One of my favorite roosters ever. The wonderful Mr. Pocket. What a character in a pint-sized package.

And We Have a Winner

I had 15 entries in the naming contest for my poor injured Barred Rock hen. The random number generator I used gave me a number of 3, so the winner of the set of linoleum print chicken cards is Leilani over at Tales of a Clyde Woman  I’m waiting for her to send me her address so I can send her a set of my linoleum print chicken cards. Congratulations Leilani! While she had a cute story full of fond memories in her suggestion comment, her final recommendation was the name Cheena, after a favorite cuddly chicken she had growing up. Thanks to everyone for participating and for some great name choices. I think I’m going to keep a running list of names to pick from and I’ll stick all of them on there – except maybe the Wok and Roll that Cyrena submitted.

Well, Cheena, I’m afraid to say, is still showing no signs of improvement in the injured leg. I didn’t end up taking her to the vet – probably because I don’t want to hear what they’re going to tell me. So, she continues to live in a crate, but has been coming out to socialize. My husband’s brilliant idea of propping her between two pillows seems to be working quite well. She was watching a taped episode of Glee with the kids the other afternoon.

And an odd phenomenon i’ve figured out is she will only eat if someone is petting her. As soon as you stop petting her, she stops eating – like having an injured chicken in your house isn’t time-consuming enough – this one is completely spoiled.

And sometimes I’ll just prop her up and she’ll happily sit there while I puts around the house.

Here she is watching some stupid show the kids were watching today. I guess when your life is suddenly reduced to living in a crate and being unable to walk, watching TV is pretty great.

I know I’m going to have to deal with the reality of the situation here pretty soon, but I just can’t do that quite yet. Maybe after the weekend.

Rocky was looking for her today.

And this silly thing thought she’d go and finally face her fears and talk to Beyonce.

But I think when she finally got ip close and saw how big she was she chickened out. Ha! Get it…chickened out.

Frolicking Goats

Goat Line Dancing

First I want to say that I think that perhaps that old groundhog Punxsutawney Phil should be fired and perhaps my chickens should be hired, because their egg laying is predicting an early spring.

They were all taking a really relaxing winter break at the end of December – when I was getting a measly 1-6 eggs a day, but all of a sudden they are laying faster than I can collect them. I got 29 the other day and have been getting over 2 dozen eggs daily all week. That’s crazy for this time of year, but I’ll take it. I’ll also be able to start up Free Range Friday’s* again

But today we had a cold day, and perhaps the chill in the air put some frisk in my little Kiki’s hooves, because she was full of piss and vinegar today.

It's taken a long time, but Melina is actually very fond of both Kiki and Grace now, but does seem to have a particularly soft spot in her heart for Grace.

I got some good clips of Kiki and grace playing as only goats can play together. It’s particularly funny when Princess Kate, my brown and white Tennessee Fainting Goat tries to join in the fun, which she does so in her rather stiff-legged way. But truly I have to give her an A+ for effort – she’s not much of a frolicker normally. Also entertaining is Grumpy Melina shaking her head no at all of their childish antics towards the end of the video.

And to update you on my injured Barred Rock hen, she’s eating and drinking well, and she laid an egg today! I was so excited to find it in her crate.

I’m afraid her left leg shows absolutely no sign of improvement though. I may break down tomorrow and take her to the vet. I think she’s a little depressed now too. I guess I would be too if I were in her situation. But Jim took her out of her crate tonight and set her up between two pillows on a towel, which was a great way to prop her up. She seemed to enjoy it.

Bullet takes his job very seriously here on the farm and insisted on keeping an eye on her.

He’s a long dog.

Notice how much closer he is now? He was doing the little creep crawl as I was feeding her.

And so passes another day on the farm.

* Free Range Friday’s is a weekly email blast I send out to my mailing list of local people where they can come on Friday’s and buy fresh eggs and anything else I may have for sale, like canned jams or my honey.

A Naming Contest for My Injured Barred Rock Hen

I’m sure you’ve heard me say how the goat’s hay racks are a favorite nesting box for the chickens. They practically have to take numbers like a deli counter to get their turn in there. It doesn’t happen often, but when the hay level gets very low (because certain piggy goats who shall remain unnamed have been eating too much), sometimes the chickens have trouble getting out of the racks when they’re done laying.

Such was the case last night when I went to lock up the farm. A barred rock was stuck half in and half out of the hay rack. I eased her out of there and held her for quite a while to stop her shivering. Then I tried wedge her between two hens in the coop, but she couldn’t grab onto the branch. I took her inside for the night.

She watched some of the Super Bowl in Jim's office, but she was really tired.

I put her in a small crate in the mudroom for the night.

Maia holds her while I get a crate out of the garage. That child makes the oddest faces.

This morning right after I fed the farm I took her out and put her down to see if she was OK. She couldn’t walk at all. I picked her back up and we sat on the porch for a while so she could watch her friends. I wish someone was taking a video of the goats crawling all over me while I was just trying to have a peaceful moment with my chicken. I had my camera with me, so it was fun to catch some of the morning antics.And let me just tell you, it was not easy to take pictures balancing an injured chicken on my lap with 4 goats mauling me.

The morning gossip around the water bucket was all about their injured friend.

Rocky tried to make the moves on Paul Deen and the showdown began.

Rocky hi tails it out of there. Score one for Paula Deen.

But she goes chasing after him in case he didn't get the message the first time!

Nobody saw that, did they?

What do these ladies talk about all day?

Her wings are fine and her right leg is fine. Something is wrong with the left leg, but it does not appear to be broken or dislocated. She does not appear to be in any pain. I’m just going to let her rest. She did not eat or drink all night, so this morning I gave her some water with a small syringe I have just for these occasions. By this afternoon she was drinking on her own again. Tonight, on my friend Sue’s advice, I mixed up some layer pellets with hot water to make a mash. To that I added a little chopped up fruit, vegetables and some yogurt. I had to really stick her beak into it for her to get a little taste of it at first, but then she happily ate quite a bit.

She's finally eating.

Chillin' on the couch with me this evening. This is what happens when other family members take pictures...blurry.

And through it all, the goats obliviously eat.

So I thought I’d have a naming contest for her. I don’t have names for all of my chickens. I’m too old to remember that many names. But this one certainly deserves a name. A good name. She’s a barred rock hen and she’s very calm and gentle. Send me your name suggestion in a comment. I guess to be fair I’ll have to choose a name with a random number generator, so don’t send in anything nasty or inappropriate. I’ll send the winner a set of my hen linoleum prints cards as a thank you.

Life on The Farm

In the continuing saga of strange eggs laid here on The Farm, the other day I got one that was striking in one unusual way.

Perhaps the girls were envious of belted galloway cattle.

Or perhaps they had a hankering to feel closer to the British Saddleback pig.

How they could be envious of these two animals having never laid their beady little eyes on one before is beyond me. Yet there it was, right in the nesting box.

Belted Oeuf is what I'll call this breed of chicken. (Oeuf is French for egg.)

It’s pretty common to have lighter markings on an egg, but this wide and distinct belt was a new one to me.

Having bid farewell to noisy Corn Flakes the rooster on Tuesday, I can now safely talk without offending him. The truth is he was a lousy rooster. King Strut was a good rooster. A rooster’s job is to protect his flock. They keep a vigilant eye on the surroundings and warn their flock of any dangers. They are the last one in the coop at night when they are sure that everyone is accounted for. They find tasty morsels of food and let the ladies have first crack at them. King Strut did all of these things. Corn Flakes was greedy and selfish. One of the first birds in the coop at night to claim the best roost. He leisurely made his way out of the coop in the morning and proceeded to jump on top of hen after hen, holding them down by their neck as he forcefully fornicated with them, and would push the girls out of the way to get to the best food. Really, he was no gentleman at all, and good riddance to him.

It is always fascinating to watch the hierarchal system of roosterness take place. Literally the day that Corn Flakes departed I noticed on several occasions the larger of the two Barred Rock roosters up in high places – on the compost bin, and up on the goat’s ramp. I had never seen this bird anywhere but on the ground before, yet there he was, appearing to be surveying his domain for predators and keeping his flock of ladies safe. I noticed at dinnertime that night he was up on the goat ramp again, surveying for danger while his ladies ate, forfeiting the most tender morsels of food. This morning Maia fed the farm so I could sleep in a bit, and she said he was the first one out of the coop and carefully watched as all the ladies came out for the day. How these tiny-brained birds instinctively know that the head honcho is gone and it’s time to take over fascinates me.

Ladies, there's a new man in charge.

Oooooh. He's kinda handsome. I like the black and white much better.

But then it happened. I was sitting at my computer this morning when out the window I saw him jump up onto the top of the fence.

He’s going to do some free-ranging I thought to myself.

Then all of a sudden he arched his back in that familiar rooster way and COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!

A little wing flapping to show everyone who’s the new boss…

And another COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!

Well, that didn’t take long.

I’m pleased to say that was the only crowing I heard all day. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time now though.

He got into a little test of wills with one of the girls a bit later though.

I believe she was saying something like "I belong to Corn Flakes", and he said something macho like "You're my girl now!".

She gave him a strong peck in the face and the battle ended. I did see them free-ranging together later, so I guess they worked it all out.

It’s not very creative, but since he’s a Barred Rock I think I’ll call him Rocky.