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Friday, September 27th, 2013
2:39 am - New Blog Site!
From now on, I'll be using Blogger instead of LJ. The new Jack's Henhouse/Velvet Sparrow blog is here:


I've transferred all of my old LJ entries over there. I'm in the process of revamping my chicken and origami websites; blog and websites will all be incorporated into one area and a universal look from now on!

For now the old chicken site and origami site are still in place until I can finish thrashing out the new look.

current mood: bouncy
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Sunday, September 1st, 2013
11:20 pm - Yup...
Yeah, the watermelon was pretty much a scary, scary thing after the chickens got done with it.

current mood: scared
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Saturday, August 31st, 2013
8:50 pm - How To Feed Your Chickens A Watermelon
First, properly prepare your melon.

Then, place watermelon within range of a flock of chickens. There will be much milling about and chickspicion. The huge, intimidating-looking rooster with 4 inch spurs will keep a cowardly sensible distance from the scary melon at first and let the hens go first.

Finally your huge coward of a rooster will dare to approach.

This can only get funnier as they eat down into the horrified melon and REALLY have to stick their heads in there.

I figure by tomorrow it'll be truly zombie-like.

current mood: amused
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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
2:50 am - Uhhh...
I think I'm dead, or should be.

Gotta say this graph from our local Air Quality Index station at a park about 1/2 a block from our house, according to http://nvair.ndep.nv.gov/ showing our air quality from 8/22 to today, is one of the scariest things I've ever seen.

According to this, on the 22nd, when I took the pictures of the yard I posted, our air quality went from 13 at 11AM, to 31 at noon, to 201 at 1PM, then ROCKETED to 985 at 2PM, staying there for 5 hours before dropping to the still-insane-but-better reading of 228.

After experiencing it that day, and the subsequent choking levels of our air, I'm tending towards believing it. Other highlights include AQI readings: 8/23 336, 8/24 355 and 8/25 427.

Right now we have a reading of 343.

Anything over 300 is classified as 'Hazardous', the worst category for air quality there is. I feel like I'm living in Beijing.

current mood: shocked
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Saturday, August 24th, 2013
12:38 am - In Which My Life Hooks A Sharp Left And Goes Offroading Into The Ridiculous
So because of the massive amounts of thick, nasty smoke from the Rim fire near Yosemite, we had to take the extreme step today of bringing ALL of the animals into the house.


Including 4 cage birds, a dog, a bunny and 50 chickens. Thank God I do not have horses.

To say that this was neither easy nor joyously experienced by all is a massive understatement.

We prepared by clearing out anything chickens could break/accidentally choke to death/poop on and laying out our handy thrift store sheets to protect the floor and furniture. Some of my paint cans came in handy, as did the roll of blue painter's tape.

Weedcat at first stayed by the back door and stared unhappily at the ceiling until I caught on and turned off the ceiling fan. None of the others gave a hang about the thing, but he did. They all stood around looking like they were politely waiting for a bus, no doubt wondering what the Hell was going on. We plied them with various goodies to keep them occupied and distracted until it got dark enough for them to roost.

Which they did on my kitchen island, table & chairs as planned. The youngest babies hied themselves up on the island early on and stayed there. We have two broody banty hens at the moment and they were NOT happy being away from the nest boxes, but we'd tried to accomodate them by draping the sheets so there were dark hidey places for them to go sit.

Meeko liked this paint can.

Finally they were all tucked in for the night...

Wait...what's that up there...?!

Oh, fantastic, it's Pele, who considers herself Queen of the Wild Chickens. After a struggle and much outraged Pele squawking, husband unceremoniously grabs her and puts her on the ground, where she remains...

for about 5 minutes. Then, right in front of my eyes, she flies from the ground straight up to the top of that cabinet again.

This time she got a military-style wing trim, which put an end to her adventures.

Lord, at least the dog behaved.

current mood: tired
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Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
6:23 pm - Yech....
So thanks to the Rim fire at west end of Yosemite, which has been vomiting smoke into our valley for the last 5 hours, we've gone from this:

To this:

Just plain nasty. So glad I moved out into the country for fresh air...

current mood: crappy
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10:39 am - I Has A Crop!
Harvesting it took all of 30 seconds, mind you...

But it counts, damn it, IT COUNTS. Out of three tomato plants this is the only tomato so far. Our soil here is so very laughably poor, even WITH adding bagged garden soil, compost, etc. But I'll keep after it, with work (and pulling trash out of it) it can only improve.

Since I had so much free time open up after this, I actually thought ahead for a change and made little chicken & vegetable broth discs for use in the upcoming cold months for the dog and the chickens.

Once they are frozen I'll pop them out of the muffin tins and store them in a bag in the freezer, then when I need one just grab it. This winter one of two of these mixed with warm rice will make nice treats for Dusty and all our assorted chickens.

Lastly, last evening after the afternoon thunderstorms had passed we had a lovely sky.

current mood: bouncy
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Saturday, August 17th, 2013
2:42 pm - Wait, Wait, WAAAIIT!
I have to admit, when I found the FIRST piece of rebar driven into the ground like freakin' Excalibur, I growled imprecations at the previous tenants.

Last night when I found the second, I whimpered.

There is no doubt in my mind that each of these is at least 6 feet long and was meticulously and maliciously painstakingly hammered into the ground just to screw over the future homeowner. They aren't in line with the sprinklers so I doubt they are marking out anything to do with them. I also fully expect to find more of the things.

Nearby these two chunks of ankle-breakers are the two wads-of-concrete-with-rotted-wood posts postholes I uncovered. None of them line up so it's pretty clear they are unrelated. Now I have to figure out WHY they hammered rebar into the ground with such malevolent enthusiasim.

Whatever the answer is, lord it can't be good.

current mood: crazy
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Friday, August 16th, 2013
7:49 pm - Unexpected Visitor
So tonight I'm watering my pitiful little plants, trying to get them to grow and not die AGAIN...and after I water my China Doll plant I see this gal:

Even though I splashed her a bit she remained where she was, although she wasn't exactly blending the best.

Nuthin' like a great big bug on a little bitty plant.

current mood: amused
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Friday, July 19th, 2013
10:53 am - Oh...HI!
This was suddenly flying around my kitchen at 11PM last night:

And yes, he really was the size of a hummingbird. I spent an hour looking for him, wondering the whole time if I'd really seen him or what...finally found him perched on the broom and blending. Sneaky bugger was trying to gaslight me.

After his photo session, I captured him carefully in a cup and released him outside to go thump around someone else's house.

current mood: shocked
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Monday, July 15th, 2013
11:24 pm - Uh...OK...
So I was cutting up an old ruined 1950's science book for origami paper the other night...

Someone has clearly never seen a King crab before, or a Horseshoe crab either for that matter. For while the illustration is correct, the text is not.

Besides, everyone knows that King crabs are really yummy, yummy sea spiders.
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Sunday, July 7th, 2013
9:23 pm - Oh, Dear...
'Tis the fire season, and this was the view tonight from my back yard.

This fire started the other day from lightning strikes--there were actually two, one is out or almost so, but today it got windy and this one is getting more troublesome.

The view from the end of our street, lots of people were standing in their yards taking pictures:

The flames are just cresting the hill and moving towards us, the bright orange spot in the middle. It's about 7 miles away from us, luckily the wind is blowing the smoke away from us otherwise it'd be all kinds of nasty. On the far right is smoke from a secondary fire just getting going tonight, sparked by this bad boy.

This is one night I would be OK with the breeze dying away.

current mood: anxious
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Friday, June 14th, 2013
3:42 pm - I'm...I...I'm DONE?!
So another day of raking up juniper branches, picking up trash...and suddenly we look around and realize...

...we're done.

It takes a minute for this to sink in and for us to realize it's true. The branches and trash are cleaned up and gone. Granted, we still have a bunch of juniper stumps to dig out, my pond I want to install, the sprinklers to repair and the yard to replant since it it now pretty much a blank canvas, but the major cleanup is done!

Trash Lasagne by the back door? Gone.

Chicken coop and rest or property visible! I'm pretending not to see the work still to be done beyond the fence, for now. I think my brain would crack if I thought about it too much. One hurdle at a time.

Surviving cypress plants thinned out and being suffered to live as cover for the chickens for now.

None of the juniper stumps greened up once we cut them back, lucky for them.

There DOES still remain the gigantic old concrete posthole next to one of the big stumps to remove, though.

I figure it'll be some time in 2040 before I stop gnashing my teeth and cursing the previous tenants of this place. Especially since I realized that it has been a solid year since we started the work on this part of the yard.

current mood: accomplished
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Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
3:42 am - My Mother Has Impeccable Timing
...and has for years.

When my daughter was a baby, I could practically guarantee that the minute I was elbows-deep in a poopy diaper, the phone would ring and it would be mom. My husband and I got to the point where we'd joke about it--until it really, truly started happening all the time. I even told mom about it and asked her to just wait 5 minutes whenever she wanted to call me.

Today was no exception. I'd spent the morning cooking and baking, not doing a whole lot. Later on I went out, intending to resume pickaxing the trench around the small run, and instead discovered that Wiggles, one of our tiny Belgian d'Uccle hens, was covered--and I mean covered-- in blood. Her head, neck, breast, legs and feet. So much so that I couldn't tell where it was coming from, her head or her foot. I did see that she kept scratching her head, though. She'd been fighting with another hen, the little snot.

A quick check revealed no other bloody combatants, so I scooped up Wiggles and headed for the house to take care of her. Meanwhile I'm getting a good coating of chicken blood, too.

As I near the house, I see my kid at the back door, and she cheerily sings out, 'Grandma's here!'

Oh, PERFECT. She has to show up now. My mother already thinks I'm crazy for keeping chickens, and this little episode won't help. Oh, well, into the house I go, telling my confused mother as I sail right by her that I've got a bleeding chicken and will be with her in a minute. Myself, my husband and the kid go into the bathroom to clean up Wiggles and try to play 'Where's All That Damned Blood Coming From?', which takes us a few minutes. Poor mom probably thinks I'm performing a ritual sacrifice in there or preparing that chicken for dinner at this point.

Eventually we get Wiggles fixed up and discover that she was missing her face muff feathers on her left side, which while this gives her a rather lopsided look and she's sporting a raw patch there, isn't serious. So we dry her off and set her down to roam the living room and dry out for a few minutes before she goes back out into the coop.

My mother, meanwhile, is standing there trying to hold a conversation with me while Wiggles twines around her feet asking to be picked up--obviously she felt that mom needed to be wearing gore like everyone else--and my mother politely ignores her and pointedly tries to not stare at my chicken-blood-smeared shirt. All this while the kid is excitedly asking grandma if she'd like to play with the older chicks, and is helpfully on her way to let them out so they can run around the living room like complete psychos. Thankfully I was able to head her off before my life suddenly morphed into some kind of retarded version of 'The Egg And I'.

But lord, mom has impeccable timing.
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Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
12:34 am - In Which I Commit A Chicken Faux Pas
So the day after we seperate Yoya, our broody mama, from her 6 week old chicks, I go out to make sure she's OK. It's 100 degrees and yesterday afternoon she had been getting bullied a bit by the other chickens upon her return to the flock, which made her hide in one of the nest boxes. I want to make sure she isn't continuing to hide and risking dying from the heat.

Uh huh--sure enough, I look and find her in one of the nest boxes, huddled down. I try to shoo her out.

She ain't movin'. I shoo more energetically, pushing her towards the opening. Nope. OK, she needs to drink and get OUT of there. I end up grabbing her none too delicately and lifting her out. I place her outside the row of nest boxes, but damned if she doesn't just instantly try and climb into ANOTHER one.

Dang chicken! I scoop her up before she can and carry her out into the run, as I do so she's practically lying in my arms. I set her down next to the waterer so she can drink. She sort of hunkers down, fluffed up, right where I place her and doesn't want to move. I'm worried. I gently prod the backs of her legs in an effort to get her to take a step or two.

Suddenly she stands erect and walks away a few steps...
...and in her place is a lovely, large, fresh egg. Oh lord, I interrupted her while she was trying to lay, poor thing!

I grabbed up the egg and spent the next few minutes following her around, showing it to her, praising it/her and apologizing profusely. Yoya just kind of stared at me in a witheringly disappointed way--like I shouldn't be left alone to be roaming about unsupervised--and walked away.

current mood: ditzy
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Monday, June 10th, 2013
2:22 pm - With Sincere Apologies To Edgar...
`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black poop plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'

...quoth the pigeon,
'What...? Wait, is that something shiny?!'
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Sunday, June 9th, 2013
1:33 pm - Carson Valley Days!
What a huge difference from slick, regulated, large budget big city parades to those in small towns. I think I prefer the small town variety.

Our parade started off with a walk/jog/run up the parade route and back. Since they had to close the highway for an hour before the parade started anyway in order for traffic to clear, they ran a race.

This lady made everyone grin and got a huge cheer. I love people who are fearlessly silly. To her credit, she ran the entire race.

Even dogs participated!

Then the parade started. The cops had their glamour cars out...

...including their monster truck!

As parents we felt morally obligated to cheer LOUDLY for the school buses, much to our child's disgust. Which only made us laugh all the more. They did a nice serpentine down the street.

The good lookin' cowboy banner carriers got loud fangirl shrieks from the crowd around us.

Although the float for the swim center had NOTHING whatsoever to do with swimming and received well-meant but confused applause.

By the way, a 'float' around here consists of the following elements: Your buddy Jim's pickup, the neighbor farm's flatbed hay trailer, your kids and their friends, and the kid's cobbled together costumes and construction paper decorations. Plus maybe some of mom's gingham tableclothes. Hardly anything store-bought, just lots of creativity, group effort and imagination. Plus as they proceed, friends and family members along the route yell out hello's, family members run out and hug participants, friends walk along with the truck driver and have conversations...

It's awesome.

The local roller derby girls raided their closets for the weirdest stuff they could find and skated along with huge buckets of candy for the kids.

These girls were good. They'd get up a bunch of speed, then go down on one knee and quickly slide to a stop RIGHT in front of the kid they'd picked out, candy at the ready. The kids were awestruck. Nothing but style.

Also, they were recruiting and I had to sternly remind myself about the state of my knees and left ankle, cause OMG I'd love to do this.

The local gymnastics studio was a hit with their trampoline-on-a-truck. Lots of the floats were an insurance company's nightmare. The guy in the sumo outfit was great, the guy perched on the sign over him took over right after this.

The local public health office float was one of the nurses' cars with posters from the clinic taped to it, including the one with the BIG SCARY NEEDLE made of a cardboard gift wrap tube. Don't ask me who thought that having a poster with a big, scary needle hung in a clinic thought it might be a great idea.

The guy with the WWII era motorcyle was cool with this little one, who ran out with his aunt and STOPPED him so he could touch the bike.

His mom was sitting next to us, she nonchalantly said, 'Yeah, he loves motorcycles...'

The guy swung around for a better picture later on.

One of the local off-road clubs, with the judge's stand in the background.

The judge's stand, by the way, was another flatbed hay truck with a few chairs and what seemed to be a few people of all ages rounded up at random to serve as judges. We watched them setting up the two canopies, they were too wide for the trailer so the each of the poles at the rear are supported by two chairs borrowed from the local casino, stacked on top of each other. Like I said, insurance company nightmare. It mostly worked and only one of them started to slip off near the end of the parade. Everyone just ducked down and ignored it in a hilariously 'Meh' way.

Vintage tractors!

Another homemade float.

..except I'll bet 'even' the tractor could spell better.

Tiny and cute!

Bigger and NOISY. Oh my God, was it ever loud. The round thing on the side was a spinning flywheel of death, just begging for you to stick yur hand in there so it could eat it.

*juvenile giggle*

The local theater company had a trailer set with a saloon scene, with a full-blown bar fight going on. No safety gear of any kind, fall off the trailer and everyone'd just laugh at you and help you back up.

But let's talk about the greatest thing on this float...


Cactus Guy's costume was an old cardboard box covered in a single layer of green bubble wrap with TOOTHPICKS STUCK IN FOR SPINES. Disney, I've seen your expensive parade costumes, are you paying attention?

The resident steampunk group's vehicle was powered by biofuel.

I'm thinking this thing sees time out on the playa at Black Rock every year for Burning Man. The thing on the back was a HUGE water cannon that had more than enough range to reach everyone.

Cool old fire truck. This one is mostly covered under a tarp during the year, they broke it out for the parade, tho.

The democrat's float. Mostly polite silence from the crowd with a few, 'Aw, poor misguided souls' sighs. They smiled in a disheartened way and waved their flags, but had clearly forgotten the candy to toss out. We felt bad and cheered for them, which got a big grin out of the driver.

The republican's float, complete with obligatory Reagan poster and a COVERED trailer. This float got the biggest roar from the crowd all day, which was a bit creepy. They'd roped in the Boy Scouts to hand out candy.

The Red Hats. The horse and wagon are the same one we rode at the local ranch that does the fall festival every year. Horse sporting nifty hat, as is the supportive husband on the bike bringing up the rear.

Sadly right about then my camera battery died, I missed the last 1/4 of the parade. Next year we may participate and load the Jeep with chickens and stick a 'Jackshenhouse' banner on it and make people wonder what the Hell we are on about.

It's tempting...

current mood: amused
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Thursday, June 6th, 2013
4:12 pm - Sonic Is A Momma!
Our first chick, from egg #2, has hatched!

All four of the other eggs have pipped, and should hatch tonight or tomorrow!

current mood: bouncy
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Monday, June 3rd, 2013
1:37 am - RIP, Brand New ReptiPro Incubator!
So...with one week to go before hatch, my new damned ReptiPro 6000 incubator failed spectacularly. It had been having problems holding temperature, dropping to 97 or shooting up to 102, despite being set at 100 degrees. The temperature fluctuations were becoming more and more frequent until two days ago, when it stopped heating altogether and instead chose to start making weird, electronic, 'gonna kill you in your sleep' smells.

I'd already contacted the ReptiPro folks and unfortunately they are out of stock until mid-June. Ack!

Time for a work-around!

Her name is Sonic and she's a Golden Laced Giant Cochin, she is a hatchmate of Yoya's and luckily went broody about 3 weeks ago. The 5 eggs from the incubator are under her now, it's all up to her for the next week. The only other alternative is the old styro incubator, but I trust Sonic over it as long as she doesn't abandon the eggs. With the way the ReptiPro had been freaking out, I don't hold out much hope that any of the eggs will hatch, but we'll see.

The only other alternative is me walking around with eggs in my bra for the next week.

Sonic passed the acid test today when she emerged from the box to eat, drink & poop (broody hen poops rival skunks for sheer stink power). After a few minutes I gently redirected her to the box...she eyed it warily, but spotted the eggs...and after a minute of disapproving clucking, reentered the box to sit on the eggs.

Atta girl, Sonic. The ReptiPro may have a cool blue light, but MY unit features growling & fluffiness as standard equipment. Not to mention it's an automatic egg turner!

And YES, I emailed this goddamn pic to the ReptiPro guy.

current mood: annoyed
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Thursday, May 30th, 2013
1:39 am - Fun With Baby Chicks
So we let the chicks run roughshod over the living room the other day...

My husband made the mistake of falling asleep on the couch.

Yoya deciding what she wants to watch while husband becomes a baby chick playground.

'Whatcha doin', dad? Ya trying ta sleep?'

That man can sleep through anything. Luckily they were kind and nobody pooped on him.
Later on they were back in their brooder box.

Yoya photobombs the kids.

And decides to come out!

...then changes her mind and jumps back in again.

current mood: amused
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Monday, May 27th, 2013
8:46 am - Hatch #2 Is On!
I candled the eggs in the incubator last night and found several with viable embryos, so we're 'Go' for our June 7th hatch! Hopefully we'll get some chicks with Weedcat, our splash Giant Cochin roo, as a daddy.

The June hatch should happen right about the time the current chicks are ready to go out into the flock, so the timing should be perfect!

current mood: happy
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Thursday, May 16th, 2013
2:34 pm - Pancakes Over Reno?!
So last night while making dinner, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw this lenticular cloud formation in the distance, hovering over Reno:

A few minutes later the colors had deepened a bit:

...further cementing my theory that Reno is a gaping Hellmouth.

Also, fired up the ReptiPro incubator today in preperation for setting another clutch of eggs tomorrow morning. If all goes well and there are embryos when I candle them on May 17th, hatch date SHOULD be June 7th. So far I've gathered almost 2 dozen from our large breed chickens (no bantams this time around), hopefully we'll get some big chicks from our flock this time!

Right now we've got 2 broody hens setting--Sonic, our golden laced Giant Cochin and Pompadour, one of our gray Giant Cochins. Both are mature enough to be moms. The little d'Uccles have dropped their broodyness and are slowly getting un-grumped.

current mood: enthralled
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Thursday, April 18th, 2013
12:18 am - Lockdown!
We've started the final three days! The brooder box is ready, as is the styrofoam incubator we'll have standing by as a chick-dryer-outer if we need it.

The eggs on the very bottom of the incubator are the current hatch. The eggs on the upper shelves are the next hatch, staggered for two weeks after this one.

The concentric rings are where I marked the progress of the air cells during incubation to make sure the eggs were on track. Usually I'd only do it 3-4 times, but with the new incubator I wanted to be extra cautious. The shot glass holds water to keep the humidity correct, and the little thing on the right is a hygrometer. The upper shelves have their own thermometer/hygrometer setup.

We've tested the cam and everything is as ready as it's going to get! When I did the final candling yesterday, I saw lively, squirmy chicks in all 15 of the eggs except two--these two may be late quitters, or merely fashionably late--I'm leaving them in the incubator to give them every chance. This morning one of the eggs peeped at my husband when he spoke to them, and wiggled energetically for me when I talked to them.

current mood: excited
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Saturday, April 13th, 2013
1:05 pm - Round Two...
Set another 14 eggs in the incubator, we'll have a staggered hatch this year. These should hatch 2 weeks after the first group due April 20th--this group, if they develop, are due May 4th.

All of these should have our splash Giant Cochin roo as a daddy. In a week when I candle this group I'll be able to tell if anything is happening or not!

current mood: busy
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Thursday, April 11th, 2013
12:23 am - Ten Days To Go!
We're on schedule for our annual Chickam live web broadcast of our baby chick hatch set for Saturday, April 20th! Just in case, we suggest checking the UStream Chickam page starting two days before that (April 18th) in case the little stinkers are early, which has happened in the past. It'll be here--if you tune in and see eggs, that means the hatch is starting! http://www.ustream.tv/channel/chickam2008
We started with 40 eggs, and had 15 develop into healthy embryos!

We got 15 eggs from a local family, the breeds include light Brahmas, Golden Polish, Leghorn and Sicillian Buttercups, some will be mixes. Twelve of those eggs developed along with three eggs from our Belgian d'Uccle chickens. We had set some of our large breed eggs, but due to the fact that I hadn't foreseen hugely winterized fluffy butts on both our roo and the girls...none of those eggs developed and turned out not to be fertile!

So last week our Giant Cochin roo and all the big girls each got a VERY undignified butt feather trim. They were properly outraged at me trimming their nether regions but at least now, when I do an egg breakout all or nearly all of the large breed eggs are fertile, so it worked! I plan on setting a few large breed eggs in the incubator this Saturday, if they work out they should hatch two weeks after the first group, around May 4.

We also currently have a total of three broody hens, one of which may be elected to be mama for the Chickam chicks. One of the broodies is our gray Giant Cochin hen Yoya...the other two are tiny but fierce bantam Belgian d'Uccles, just fate having a chuckle at our expense, I'll wager. We'll see if any of these ladies works out!

current mood: bouncy
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