Saturday, January 24, 2009

That ain't no barn owl.

So last spring, our Great Horned owls left. Their babies must not have made it, and they took off. A few smaller owls moved in and I kept studying them thinking "Those don't look big enough to be Great Horneds. Maybe they're the babies." My husband thought they were simple barn owls just moving in to fill the void left by the big owls. I think he was right.

For the last few weeks we've heard incessant hooting once twilight hits. It's beautiful until you notice one of your kittens has gone missing.

A few days ago, I saw one sweeping out of a tree into the field. It was amazing to watch. Until I noticed another kitten was gone.

They've been here two weeks and we've lost two kittens. The rest are now hunkering down in the barn and under the massive, protective tree between the barn and the house. Only the momma and Ghandi go out now, and they don't go out after dark. The first year we were here I watched the largest Great Horned owl go after Ghandi. I remember that. So does Ghandi.

So the big boys are back. I'd forgotten how big they are. It is awe-inspiring. But I'm keeping an eye on my kittens. I think they've learned, though.

Have you ever been looked at by an owl whose head looks as if its as big as yours? Let me see if I can find a picture from our first year here...

OK, all I could find are some pictures I took of their babies, but you can get an idea of the size of the adults, since these are babies and they're as big as barn owls. There are two in this picture.

But more cranky than barn owls. Look at those eyes.

Just looking at those pictures makes me feel warm and frost-free. Sunlight bouncing off the pine needles... I remember I was cleaning out my rhubarb patch that day and I was hot. I've nearly forgotten hot. We need warm weather again. Only three more months - that's nearly around the corner. Or not. *sigh*

Friday, January 23, 2009

So after I dissed my Ameraucanas, I found a gorgeous green egg in the egg nest. I had a hold-out!

Here's a sample of the eggs I find in a day -

Directly above the green egg is the tinted egg that I'd been getting from another Easter Egger. Barely tinted green enough to notice it's not brown, but not exciting. The green egg in the center is really vibrant, but my camera skills are sub-par.

To the right of the green-ish egg are four very light brown eggs. These are from my Buckeyes. They're really lovely, but so light.

The next two eggs are the typical brown shade you'd find in the grocery store.

The next three are the deep brown laid by my Marans, the 'chocolate eggers'. Once again, the vibrancy just isn't there in the photo.

I was surprised to find I was getting 12 eggs a day from my 24 birds, this being winter and all. Then I found out that my husband was turning the light on in our shed when he got home at night to chore, sometimes forgetting to turn it off, and turning it off in the early morning when he went to work. My poor birds must be so confused.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It is c-c-c-cold here.

Following are more frost pictures than you ever wanted to see.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chickens and hilarity.

It's not that the chickens themselves are hilarious, it's that hilariousness seems to just happen around them.

The other day we went out to get eggs. The girls each brought something to put their eggs in. Hannah brought the egg-basket, Ains brought ... well, she brought a fuzzy orange purse. You have to be born with style like that.

But this post is not about egg receptacles. This post is about egg depositors and the discovery thereof by my two-year old.

I've casually mentioned that eggs come from the chickens when she gathers with me, and once, when we saw a chicken sitting in the nest I told her to leave the chicken alone because she was 'laying an egg'. She's two. I didn't think she 'got' where eggs came from.

So while I was feeding and watering, Hannah started gathering eggs. I'd dumped some hot rolled oats into a few of the feeding pans (it was COLD! and I'm a softie) and the chickens were gathered around those eating like mad. I couldn't see Ains helping Hannah and didn't want Hannah to hog all of the eggs, so I said "Ains, do you want to get some eggs?"

"Yesh." she says. So she leaves off playing with the kittens and walks over to the chickens. She walks up behind one of the Marans, picks up its tail (it squawks), looks at its bum and then moves onto the next chicken.

I forgot all about egg-gathering fairness and just watched, bemused, as my little one walked around pulling chickens bums up to eye-level and they *let her*. They were so into those hot oats, the most reaction she got from the inspection was a 'squawk!' before they went back to eating - usually before their feet even hit the ground again.

Then Ainsley turned to me and said sadly "No egg." I have more consideration for my daughter's feelings than my cats. I didn't laugh nearly as hard. Though I wanted to. Lordy, did I want to.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another neighbor visited.

We've known we've had these neighbors for years. They're noisy neighbors, and the kind that, while you're always keeping an eye out for, you hope you'll never see. Desert surrounds the farm that surrounds us, and we've known they're out there in the desert. We've heard them for three years but never seen them.

The other morning, I looked out the window and saw him running down the wheel line. I ran out the door as fast as I could, stopping only long enough to slip on my husband's flip-flops by the door and grab - like any good blogger - my camera.

My main thought was to just get into his line of sight and make him nervous enough to keep moving past the goat and sheep pen without pausing. Mission accomplished. I should have received an award. I froze my frickin' toes off.

When he was moving off across the far field, I finally remembered my camera and took the only picture I could.

No zooming in on that picture - it gets all pixel-y. But there he is. A coyote crossed the farm and we're not far away from baby season.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Our neighbors, courtesy of Idaho Fish & Game

We live on the original homestead of the farm that surrounds us. Hundreds of acres of farmland, and all but one of the houses within a few miles of us have little wooded areas. Very little wooded areas, but they're there. This combination of farmland and wooded areas gave pheasants a great place to live in the summer and protected places when the crops came down. We rarely went a day without seeing pheasants.

We've lived here three years and this area's been so over-hunted by one of the neighbor's sons that Idaho Fish & Game added our area to the 'restock' list. A few months ago I looked out our window and saw two handsome pheasants strutting around. Now either Fish & Game employees don't realize that you have to put two *different* sexes out to make the population of an area grow or they placed these two plus several hens and the drab brown hens are just better at hiding. It's probably the second, though the first isn't outside the realm of possibilities.

Today, I looked outside our front window and saw this gentleman on our porch.

Now today was so very cold, and so very windy, but I was still a bit nonplussed by what he did next. He sat down, stared at our door, puffed up, and stayed there for several hours until his buddy came by and told him something, presumably that he knew where to score some Brewskies, and they went running off towards our little wooded area.

Now why would he do that - the puffing up on our porch thing? Perplexing. If I were my four-year old, I'd have my magnifying glass out, studying his footprints for clues. And I'd probably come to the conclusion that he did it because he had a fever. Fevers are the cause of everything strange in my four year old's world.

In unrelated news, I got my first double yolked egg! Surprised me from such young birds.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My favorite is none too bright.

Do you see this kitten?

He's my favorite out of Aradia's latest litter. He's aloof at times, friendly at times, and he's shaping up to be a good hunter.

But he's none too bright.

This morning it was freezing. It had been a very cold night. I decided to take a page out of Farmgirl's book and make oatmeal for the chickens. It wasn't going to be a regular occurence, just a treat - and I was curious about how well they'd like it.

I took it out to the chicken coop and poured some in each feed dish. One of the orphan kittens (who are all now well on their way to being teenagers) was following me, so I dumped a small pile for him, not sure if he would like it.

He sniffed at it and recoiled from the heat. He complained at me. He pawed at it and flipped away a hot piece of oatmeal that stuck to his paw. He complained even louder. Three of the younger kittens heard him complaining and came running in. Two of them, upon seeing him cautiously circling it, slowed down themselves and started investigating it. The third, this sweet grey and white one, upon seeing the steaming (apparently delicious smelling) pile of oatmeal, ran up to it and took a huge bite. This was no little nibble. He jumped straight up in the air. Twelve inches at the least. Straight. Up. And then he gave me a dirty look as if I'd planned it all and stormed into the corner to nurse his smarting pride and burned mouth.

There are times in your life when, for whatever reasons - stress or busyness or just lack of hilarity inducing experiences, you laugh and you can't remember the last time you laughed that hard. Which makes you want to cry, kind of, but then you take advantage of the moment and laugh so hard that tears come to your eyes and you get both at the same time. And it feels so good to laugh that hard that even when you notice you're hurting a feline's pride, you just don't care. It was his fault for being so damn cute.

By the way, both the chickens and the kittens loved the hot oatmeal.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My girls are growing up.

Even with the shorter days, I'm getting more eggs.

My Buckeyes have *finally* started laying. The Buckeyes are my emotional favorites, but not my favorite when it comes to the bottom line. They are friendly enough, very intelligent, and have no problem letting one of the kittens know when they're out of line.

They did, however, take a much longer time than my other three breeds to start laying.

These girls, my Buff Orpingtons, were my earliest maturing and have been my steadiest layers.

These girls - my Easter Eggers - have been my challenge. They don't like to be enclosed, they don't like to lay eggs where everyone else does, and they have interchickenal (just made that up) relationship issues. They're like the drunk who is five feet tall but thinks he's ten feet tall until a good punch brings him back to his senses. They pick fights and then three seconds later are running away yelling for mercy.

They also don't have a problem disciplining the kittens, though in their case, it's not so much disciplining as taking out frustration. Neither one of these kittens were doing anything to annoy them besides coming in the pen.

Which I suppose would be annoying to a chicken.

These girls, my Cuckoo Marans, are as sweet as the Orpingtons, and have been right with them when it comes to maturation rate and number of eggs laid.

Because of the cost of feed, I need to liquidate. I have nine Buckeyes and four each of the other three breeds. Which birds I end up with will depend more on which ones sell well around here than on which ones I want to keep. For my current purposes, an egg is an egg.

Though I won't be sad if the Easter Eggers go first. Gorgeous troublemakers that they are.