Have You Ever Had to Apologize to a Chicken?

Well, I had to tell our beautiful Easter Egger hen, Betsy, that I was sorry I’d been putting her down for so long. I was telling everyone what a useless hen she was, because she hadn’t laid an egg yet, and I’d had her a long time. I mean, even little Billie Idyl was finally laying.

How dare you doubt me? And look, I have pale ears, which means pale eggs!

But today when I went to look for eggs, she was in the box, sitting like she was going to lay! And she kept making those noises hens make when they’re working on an egg. I was all excited that finally I’d get a beautiful green egg. Nearly all of these hybrid chickens lay eggs of some interesting color or another.

I also have a fluffy butt.

An hour or two later, I checked back in and found a gorgeous blue egg…which I knew was from Blanca, the Whiting True Blue hen. And there beside it, was this little darling.

It’s darker than ivory, but lighter than tan.

That is a light brown egg. In fact, I’d gotten a light brown egg every day for the past three days, thinking it was one of Billie Idyll’s that was just a little darker than usual. Betsy HAD finally started to produce, along with the rest of the newer chickens, who think it’s now spring.

The new ones are on the right.

I’m sorry, Betsy. Now all four of last year’s hens have laid eggs, and good ole Star is also laying. They are going to be all surprised when it gets cold this weekend. But I’m happy to be getting enough eggs again that I can share them with Lee’s brother, who loves eggs almost as much as I do.

In other news, we still have interesting bugs, not only a wheel bug (I love those), but also one of these guys, a painted hickory borer (or a mesquite borer, but it matches the hickory one better on iNaturalist).

And in just a bit of horse news, Sara and I are feeling good about our horses. She and Aragorn came over today, and he was so calm and centered! He has made a lot of progress in his ability to come here to visit. He even trotted calmly and collected. What a guy. And Apache did extremely well today in the round pen. Sara was impressed and just smiled so much at me. I felt good. He’s still not good outside the pen, but he was doing his stopping and backing so well. I just wanted to acknowledge that improvement.

No horse photos today, but here’s where I wish I could ride.

Our animals are such a source of joy, and we really need it right now. Everyone seems to be getting sick, no matter how hard they try to stay safe. Traveling friends are faring the worst, and it makes me so concerned. The flu is also going around here now. Great. But all my family and friends who are struggling are finding support from their communities. I’ve had some good reminders of that lately and am very grateful.

Goldie has a head as big as at least SOME horses.

Mostly Cheerful Chicken News

The chickens have informed me that I haven’t shared much about them in a while. So, since they are acting extra cute these days, I’ll update you on their ups and downs.

I feel pretty

The best news is that one of the chicks we hatched, Peeper, seems to have made it through to a happy adolescence. She was three months old on December 7 and is quite large for her age.

You can see my green tail feathers and how my comb is already coming in.

It is hard to get good pictures of her, because she’s so dark. She has her dad’s green tail feathers and cute little ear tufts, while she has most of her mom’s brown coloring. I can’t wait until spring to see what color her eggs are. I’m guessing dark olive green, since Buttercup lays dark brown eggs and Bruce is an Easter Egger rooster.

I may be mottled, but I was FREE!

The sad news is that we have lost two hens this week, in unrelated incidents. Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, had lost most of her feathers in the molting season, but was starting to get them back when the freeze hit. I think she may have gotten too cold, given that she was the lowest on the pecking order and may not have been able to huddle up with the rest. Darn. She laid nice eggs.

To distract you, here’s another picture of Peeper.

Babette, the fancy French hen, had been having trouble for months, because Bruce kept pecking at her head when he mounted her. I had her separated for a month or so with Peeper and company, and she seemed all right, but she got let out when I was out of town, and I think she must have gotten pecked too hard. While she never laid more than a couple of eggs, she sure was pretty. I hope I can get another of her breed, the Faverolle.

At least something is productive. The dandelions are out and have little friends.

On to better things! At long last more of the “new” hens from last spring have started to lay. Blondie, who is a HUGE yellow chicken, has been faithfully churning out eggs all season. They are small with little white dots. For a few weeks, hers were the only eggs we got.

I can’t help it if I lay small eggs. I’m a good layer!

But, a few days ago, Blanca, the one who lays the beautiful sky-blue eggs, started back up again. That made me really happy. I guess she just took a short winter break.

Blanca says she had to keep up with Billie.

And lo and behold, Billie Idyll kicked in, and is laying white eggs every other day or so. She also finally few in some tail feathers. Now we are getting around three eggs a day, which is fine for the winter.

I was just waiting to lay eggs until my tail feathers showed up.

The older hens and Bruce went through a particularly unattractive period in the early autumn, when they molted. There were feathers everywhere. But, now they are looking more like themselves, especially Star. She was looking pretty bedraggled after hatching out Peeper and the other chick, but she now looks like her old self, except all her feathers are gray (she’s the one who had some gold neck feathers).

Bruce is showing you his magnificent tail. Note his ear tufts and Peeper’s matching ones!

Bertie Lee, Buttercup, and Henley are all looking better, too. Henley has more white spots than she used to, which is something her breed does. They are taking their winter break, as is their right. I’m sure they’ll pick up again when the days start getting longer.

We appreciate the opportunity to check out horse poop and take dust baths in the pens.

The only one of the “new” hens who hasn’t laid an egg yet is the extremely beautiful Easter Egger hen, Betsy. I have no idea what her problem is. We got them in the summer, so she should have laid something by now. At least I’ll know when she does, as they will be an interesting color, I hope.

I just can’t be bothered with laying eggs. Can’t you see I’m beautiful?

I’ve been letting them out a little a few days a week. I’m now worried, since I saw a hawk earlier, but they sure do enjoy wandering around. I’ll just be sure to lock them back in if they begin to not come home again. No more garage chickens. They now have a warm place to stay when it gets cold!

We promise we won’t go sleep in the garage, say Bertie Lee, Star, Bruce, Henley, and Buttercup. Looks like Bruce is trying to get Star broody again.

Even though chickens can be a pain to take care of sometimes (like when burrowing somethings get in and eat their food), I enjoy their happy little sounds and their antics.

Thanks, Blondie, Billie, and

Ranchin’ Time

I had fun today getting reacquainted with the ranch and its inhabitants. I sure was glad to see that Peeper, the only chick we ever got past babyhood, is still peeping and growing. She has her comb coming in, and she looks like a darker version of her mom.

The dogs were glad to see me, ranging from black and white to copper and gold!

And of course, I was so glad to see the horses and Fiona. Apache is as furry as a teddy bear, but sound and happy.

I’m not out of condition; I’m fuzzy.

We went for a ride with Kathleen and Mabel. We had a good time until suddenly Kathleen disappeared.

Where did they go?

I looked and saw them zipping away. Mabel was dancing around. Finally Kathleen got off, and we went to check things out. She was waving and Mabel was kicking at her belly.

Kathleen yelled, “bees!” and I saw a bee around Mabel’s legs. It appeared to be a ground bee. They hadn’t bothered Apache, but Mabel must have stepped on their nest! Finally, the bee that chased them stopped on Mabel’s belly and Kathleen killed it with her shoe. Poor horsie!

After that we tried to ride again, but neither horse was remotely interested. They wanted their saddles off and some petting. As did Fiona and Remington, who were out with us.

Enough drama for one day.

Everyone was apparently starving by dinner time, because Fiona kept grunting at the dogs, and when she was done, she tried to drag poor Remington’s food away from him.

Remington is not pleased. Note strongly braced donkey legs

We guess she was tired from her own antics, which included getting into the swimming pool when I was riding. Sigh. And we were worried about the dogs! luckily, the new fencing that should keep donkeys out of the area around the house is being worked on now.

More to come tomorrow! But now it’s time to get some rest, because tomorrow starts another work week. Once again, Anita and I will share an office, except when I have to talk. I’ll show you why she can’t work in her own house in the next post.

Sunset, dog, and ranch stuff.

Two Things under Control

Getting two things under control in one day is sort of miraculous for me. I’m on one of my rare “get things done” kicks, and wow, I’m doing great. In addition to the big things I have taken care of, I’ve also scheduled the movers to take my stuff from the Bobcat Lair to its storage location, made a plan for dealing with all that stuff once it’s in Cameron, filled out my timesheet on time like a good employee, updated all my kanban board cards, and drafted two new job aids for work. Go me.

Two weeks old!

The biggest thing I remembered to do today has been to get my flu shot and COVID booster scheduled. I figured if I was scheduling, I might as well just get it over with today. I might feel sorta icky over the weekend, but I think I’ll be able to power through like I did last time. And since I’m going out of town next week (why yes, I am going to Colorado to hide out in a condo and continue to work hourly, but with better scenery and food), I wanted to be as safe as possible while traveling.

Ready for my jabs

The other thing I did isn’t quite as big in the health department, but I have two little chirpers who are very happy with me, and one big squawker as well.

It’s good to see the floor.

Yesterday, I watched Star once more knock over all the food and water dishes in the baby chick cage and I just had enough of her. She didn’t seem happy, and she wasn’t actively caring for the chicks anyway. So I shooed her out. At first I had her in with Babette, but I noticed Babette would not leave the top of the cage, even to lay an egg, so this morning Star went back to the big flock.

Not Babette, but I was happy to see Blondie using the chicken swing!

Let’s see how long she goes laying eggs until she gets broody again. I hate to tell her, but she doesn’t get to raise chicks when it gets really cold outside. She was really happy to get out, as she was molting away in the little cage and desperately wanted to take a dust bath. I’m glad I made her happy.

Now that the Black Chick and the Brown chick have reached the mighty age of two weeks, they have their own quarters. I took the opportunity at lunch to clean Star’s mess up, so they could actually see the floor of the cage, and get to their food and water. I have them both hanging, which means it is a lot harder to knock them over. The only thing is, I believe I have the world’s cheapest hanging chicken feeder and waterer, in the most flimsy plastic ever. I figure it will last long enough to get these guys into the bigger area (i.e., soon as they are too big to squeeze out of the fencing).

We can now get to all the perches!

It was pretty unpleasant doing the cleaning, since I had to scrape it up. I couldn’t just slide the bottom out and wash it, because the chicks would escape. Next time I will put them in a box or something, if I have a helper.

Look at me! I’m up high!

I feel a lot better about the chickens, and there is a lot less stink now that Star is out. And I am all sure I’ll get all my other annoying chores done, like changing my driver’s license address and registering to vote in Milam County, where, alas, my vote will rarely count.

Well, darn it. The internet went down hard over here in Milam County for a few hours. That meant I couldn’t work, even after I got my shots. I assume someday this post will upload.

Arrivals and Departures

The population of the Hermits’ Rest is always changing. Today there’s someone new who arrived and someone old who departed. No one died, to put a spoiler in there.

Pet me once more

Dear old Granny, the skinny old mare with the inability to properly eat grass, has been sent off to hang out with Dusty and Kathleen’s other horse at the farm in Yorktown. She can wander around and squirt and quid all she wants, hang out with cows.

Enjoy your new friends!

I must admit I’ll miss her bony old self. She is awful with other horses, but she’s a real sweetie with people. I enjoyed hanging around with her, and gave her lots of love every day.

New resident

This little guy just moved into Lee’s pond. It’s one of our many baby bullfrogs from the spring mating fest.

I like my rocks.

He’s not as friendly as Granny, but he isn’t too afraid of people. Somewhere around here is a little toad, too. Lee found it in the house and put it back out.

I’m a toad.

Another new arrival is this skink. I think they are really cool. I’m not sure if we have one or multiple. I’ve spotted skinks a few times in the last couple of days.

One other visitor I have no photos of, but my guess is it’s a pocket gopher. I hadn’t seen any here, but Sara had some. I guess they hiked over here to enjoy chicken food. I blocked the holes last night, and lo and behold, there was a lot more food left this morning. I may end up just sharing my fancy chicken food with them.

Stay out of our food!

And in other chicken news, I tried letting Babette back in with the other chickens. An hour later, she was all bloody-headed again. Darn. So, she’s back in her isolation ward.

I’m a delicate flower. But at least I’m finally laying eggs regularly.

Apache has normal eyes again, and the dogs are fine. That’s it for our comings and goings.

Chicken Wrangling Success

Good news for me! I think I have the situation with Star and her week-old babies under more control now. Lee went out and got me the same feeder and waterer I had for the previous chicks that had gotten thrown out accidentally. I got those set up, and no matter how hard the dang mama hen tries to scratch at the water, she can’t get into it, and at least when it’s pretty full, she can’t turn it over and ruin everything in the cage.

This place is a mess (I have cleaned up).

The chick food also has stayed nice and dry and pristine since I got the feeder set up. Star’s food is still in a dish, and it seems okay now. She just likes to scratch. So, I gave her some scratch today. The chicks seem to like it first, unaware that they should only be eating medicated chick food.

The Brown Chick shows their new feathers coming in and their pretty eyes.

They seem fine and dandy, however, bright eyed and flapping their wings like they already want to take off and fly. Luckily, their wing feathers have not grown in very much. I guess they’ll be taking off sooner rather than later, though.

The Black Chick is probably a gray chick, but the wing feathers are pretty dark.

Ha! They can fly all they want, but they can’t get out! Hooray! They will have a little platform to stand on, a perch, and such. They already seem to like the little tree branch I put in there for them.

The rain has been pretty persistent, but the chicken cage has just gotten a little damp, which is not bad at all.

Rain damaged fire ant nest looks like it could be in the Grand Canyon area.

The rain has led to some interesting things outside the chicken world, like fire ants building interesting looking nests (yes, I’ll get rid of them, but sometimes they are fun to look at).

And the pool guys are back today. I guess yesterday was too rainy. In any case, I’m glad the chickens are okay and the horses have shelter. I’ve ordered even better feeding and watering stuff that should come in soo, so maybe the chickens will be fine for a while.

Lunch hour is over. Time to go make some documents.

The Chicken Family Annoys Me

Of course I am glad that Star managed to hatch two chicks. And I am proud that we made a fairly safe place for them to live and that their real feathers are starting to come in. But, wow, they seem hell-bent on making things difficult for themselves.

We’re innocent, honest.

The big culprit is Star. She has consistently overturned every food dish I put in the nursery. So, baby food and adult food are just scattered all over the place. I guess they have no trouble finding food.

But, that’s not all. The chicks were having trouble getting to the first water dish I gave them, so I put in a saucer. The Black Chick and the Brown Chick (no real names until they get older, I decided) get all excited whenever I add water. That’s because the moment I pour in nice, fresh water, Star jumps in it and begins scratching in it, getting it dirty and spilling it. I’m sure she has her reasons, but that is really annoying.

Mom, you spilled all our water. Again.

The chicks have their own little things. The cardboard border is down, thanks to Star, so of course the chicks try to get out. The good news is that chicken wire is too small even for 4-day-old chicks. They also like to get between the cardboard and the wire. At least they can get back out. I did try to fasten the cardboard with some metal, but that didn’t work. I will find some duct tape and use that next. I’m gonna outsmart those fowl.

Drink the water, don’t stomp in it.

I’ve been trying to get by on stuff I already had here, but it looks like I am going to have to go to the feed store and try to get one of those little chicken waterers and HANG it, so they can’t turn it over. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with food. The thing I am using is obviously too easy to overturn. I guess I’ll get one of the plastic chick feeders, too. They all got thrown out when the garage was cleaned out last month, and I have no one to blame but myself for that. I think I did it.

I’m sure I’ll get all this chicken stuff figured out, and maybe when the rest of the family comes back again, I can get more ideas or help. In the meantime, I get to figure out what to do with the chickens so I can clean the cage. Hmm.

Consistency is Dull

Sorry, y’all, but there’s not much new around here. The two chicks are still with us, so that’s fine. I’d like that to stay boring.

Dang, we can’t get out.

The pool guys are still tiling. They spent a lot of time smoothing the edges, but did get some edging cemented in. They are so careful. That makes me happy. They also work like 11 hours a day. Ugh.

They were just leaving when I took this.

And the horses are fine. I’ve been so tired this week that I haven’t done much with them, but today I took Apache and Fiona out for some fun. First, Apache got to try out the new poles in the round pen. He tried to avoid them at first, but then started to have fun trotting over them. He even cantered really nicely for a bit!

Reward time.

We went for a good walk, practicing good manners, and exploring. Of course Fiona came along. She seemed to enjoy the view.

Whee

It really seems to me like these two have as much fun as I do wandering around and checking out all the different plants, hills, and trees.

Let me out!

And the promised house offer has not happened. Not surprised. No news is no news!

So yeah, it’s not exciting. The blog visits have plummeted. But, I’m employed, I have friends and family who care, and I’ll keep on keeping on, with a good attitude. Thanks for reading, all right of you.

Cheep Cheep, and Such

Sheesh, today was a dang busy one, but at least it’s mostly good. I had a lovely dinner last night with my friend, though it was bittersweet. The restaurant is in the location where my favorite neighborhood Chinese restaurant, Hao Q was, before the really fun woman who owned the place, Hong, passed away.* It happened during COVID, so Anita and I didn’t even know. In any case, it’s now a Filipino restaurant, and pretty good.

Smiling women with cute hair.

Anyway, Chriztine and I laughed so much at each other’s stories (how I had burned hard boiled eggs yesterday morning, how she went the wrong way on the one-way street across from my former workplace, etc.) and guessing what the ingredients were in the extremely interesting frozen dessert we just HAD to try (there were beans, that we knew).

I do love the neighborhood in Austin. That’s Elvis the cat, on a roof. I think that’s Elvis. It may be his “brother.”

I worked and worked all morning in the sparkling, clean house, wishing an offer would come through, but, as of this writing, it has not. I did get to see my son, who is being very patient with keeping the Bobcat Lair house so pristine. Anita is growing weary, though. I feel bad for her having to do all the showing work, caulking and other optional but helpful things.

I did get to see two neighbors and their dogs! They were glad to see us, too.

I zipped back to the ranch as fast as I could, knowing that those chicks were due to hatch at any time. I rushed over to feed the chickens, then noticed Star was NOT in her nest. Oops. Babette was looking a bit nervous (well, she always does, actually, but at least her head is healing).

Something’s wrong!

Then I saw Star, under her cage. I looked in her nest and saw only one egg. Hmm. Wait a minute. I stuck my hand under Star (earning her wrath and some pecks), and discovered two little fellers. They had hatched and thanks to Star messing with my cardboard border, they’d gotten down.

Little chicks!

They could easily get out of there, so I couldn’t leave them. I ran to get Lee, and we proceeded to engage in a pretty darned funny (in retrospect) battle to capture Star and the little ones. I gave Lee a stick to prod them, and I got Star in the cage, but didn’t want to latch it so I could put the chicks in.

While I was around the back of the henhouse trying to catch the little ones, Star got back out, and she and Babette ran around and around, to Lee’s annoyance. But, he stuck with it, and I was able to get both chicks in the safety of their cage.

Getting Star a second time was NOT easy. I hope I didn’t hurt her, but I do think she lost some feathers. Finally they got in there, I put in new water, chick food, and adult food for Star, who I hope will start eating now.

I’ll just go ahead and eat this chick food.

Meanwhile, the saws were buzzing away over by the pool. The guys have put a smooth plaster edge around where the tiles will go, and have started putting in the limestone ledges around the pool. Lee said they did a lot of smoothing yesterday, too. I guess the tilework will take a while!

I’m getting the hang of the new job and am making some handouts and such. I’m glad I got useful sort of quickly. I just need to get enough sleep to have energy to do more with Apache in the afternoons…it will come.

There’s a lot going on with many of you readers, so I want to let you know I’m thinking of you and want to hear from you. Being a part of a community of kind and thoughtful people means so much to me.


*Please read the wonderful messages on Hong’s memorial page. You’ll get the idea. She knew everyone’s name, their favorite dishes, their wine preferences…everything. She was a total hoot, too.

Pretty White Things

While I’m pretty tired from the amount of meetings and learning I’m going through, I’m grateful to be surrounded by kind people and fun friends, including the non human ones.

Ready for his closeup

Lee took this beautiful picture of Carlton today. I need to frame it! Between him and Gracie, there’s a lot of white dog beauty around here.

Gracie taking over the big bed.

One more white thing is very new! Billie Idyll has finally laid an egg, and it’s a big one for such a small chicken. And it’s a lovely, creamy white. I wish Henley hadn’t stopped laying, so you could compare it to her extremely white eggs.

Compared to a Buff Orpington egg from Blondie.

Good ole Billie did good! Yay funny-looking hen!

You think I look funny, you should see Babette’s head! No wonder she’s sticking her chicken butt out.

I think this means just Betsy, the Americauna is still not laying, though since Babette got bopped on the head, she quit. I have quite the collection of merely decorative hens at the moment.

Betsy is upper left. She’s big enough to lay!

But they all bring peace and joy to the ranch, and that’s what counts. I’m glad for all the white, tan, red, brown, black, and spotted creatures around here.

My eggs may be small, but they’re the bluest.

We are still checking Star every day for chicks. They have food and water in case they hatch when I’m in Austin.

Bonus pic, because I love them.
Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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