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.

Talk about Comfortable

Today, Trixie was supposed to come and look at Apache’s feet, but Drew stole the show. I had gotten both of the horses, in preparation for her arrival, and Apache was quietly waiting for us in his pen. As we walked up, we couldn’t see Drew. Where was he?

having his spa day

Yep, he’d decided to just take a nice nap on the warm sand. That’s a sign that a horse is comfortable with the people he’s around. The best part is that he didn’t jump to his feet when we approached, like most horses would. As prey animals, they are always alert.

Zzzz

The fisr thing Trixie did was check out the big paint’s head, because it seemed sore. Drew got up and watched that intently, standing close so I could rub him. Trixie remarked that Drew really seems to be a people horse.

Apache’s feet are looking great, by the way, and he’s looking more and more normal. He even shrunk a horseshoe size. As he was being a model farrier client, I realize that I had lost Drew.

It’s more cozy over here.

He shifted again and really fell asleep, with fluttering eyelids, and deep, deep breathing. That was one comfortable animal.

I feel safe here. It’s where my food lives.

We could not stop laughing as he kept snoozing away even when Apache was finished and left. His little lips were quivering like he was having a nice dream. Damn, it was cute.

Melts our hearts.

Once we finally got him up, he got some spa treatment, as Trixie massaged his gums like she had done for Apache. We think he liked it.

It tickled!

He then let his front hooves get trimmed, but still was no good on the back, so Trixie is gonna come tomorrow and work on his issues again. He still walks a little. Funny, and we want him all ready and happy for training.

I guess I’m in love with both these equine wonders. My heart swells with love when I see how much progress we are making together.

Chickens and Snakes

I heard a loud noise last night from the chicken coop, and this morning I discovered something had gone after Babette. Her head is a mess, but she seems okay. In case Bruce did it, I separated her from the others, except Star, who is still setting on her eggs.

Good news

But it is not all bad! Blanca, the True Blue hen, finally started laying yesterday! What beautiful eggs she lays. Sky blue! Now we’re just waiting on Betty the Easter Egger to give us some green eggs, and Billie Idyl.

When I was out fetching the horses, I spotted this snakeskin, most likely a rat snake. It has these cool ribbon-like segments, I guess from its belly. I’m glad Trixie liked it as much as I did.

Well, this was fun. My new laptop is also a giant tablet. I typed this from my chair, with the computer flat. I am fancy now.

Chicken Newsflash

I haven’t written much about the chickens in a while. They have been blessedly normal and fine for quite some time! The only thing that has been bugging me is how long it has taken for the new bunch of hens to start laying. All I can figure is the few weeks of really hot weather may have delayed them. The older chickens, on the other hand, have been moulting, so there sure are a lot of feathers all over the place.

Pretty little egg

On July 27, there was one egg laid with an unfamiliar pattern on it, but nothing since then. Today, however, there was another pullet egg, on the ground, with some interesting spots on it. So, someone has started up.

The makings of a feather bed

I’ve been getting four eggs a day lately, and I have a suspicion that Blondie, the Buff Orpington, may already be laying normal-size brown eggs and I just don’t realize it’s her. She has very red comb coloration now, and has for a while (that is a sign they are ready to lay). There should be some colored eggs at some point, since I have an Easter Egger and another breed that lays colored eggs, but those two haven’t started.

I’m a grown lady. By the way, Henley, who is behind her, hasn’t laid an egg in months.
No idea why.

The other chicken news is rather predictable. Once again, Star, the world’s most persistent chicken mother wannabee, is broody. I thought about it today, and went ahead and stuck one of Butternut’s eggs and one from either Bertie Lee or Springsteen under her. We’ll not miss those three eggs, and if these hatch, well, Star is already setting in the cage where she can raise the chicks. We’ll see!

Leave me alone. I’m in my box.

In pool news, the guys seem to have finished the rebar today. The highlight is the shape for the fire feature. I will be interested to see what is next.

Ready for flames and lights.

Right now, I’m busy holding onto rocks for grounding, trying to look my best, and exuding positive vibes. It’s always a good thing!

This little rock has an S in crystals in it. Suna power!

New Chicks Are Laying, I Hope in the Right Place

There’s good chicken news all around. First, Star’s three days of solitary confinement seem to have worked, and she is now running around and acting like a normal hen again. That’s just in time, because this morning I found a new egg, on the ground, over by where the new hens hang out.

Big for a first egg

It’s a different shade of brown from any of the others, so I know it’s a new one. Plus, it’s really not much smaller than the eggs the older hens lay, so good job, whichever one of you laid that! However, the middle of the ground is not a great place to lay. I thought I’d better get some fake eggs to put in the boxes, since I keep taking up every egg I find (to thwart the snakes).

So, off I went to the local feed store. Of course, they didn’t have any, so I sat in my car and pondered other places where I could get some fake eggs. It dawned on me that I have some about ten feet from where I am sitting at my desk right now.

Yes, the bird themed bathroom has fake eggs in it (and non-bird items).

That was quite a duh moment, when I realized I hadn’t had to make that trip into town (though it was good to get gas). I went home and gathered up the fake eggs, as well as some sturdy cardboard boxes. The reason I did that is that the new chickens still seem more comfortable over in the west end of the chicken run, where they were when they first got here. So, I made a few nest boxes and stuck them in various potentially enticing spots. Since it probably won’t rain again for quite a while, cardboard will be fine, and when I figure out where they like to lay, I can get a wooden one made, or buy one.

Blondie is already checking one box out, and Betsy had been looking until I bothered her.

I also took some of the endless supply of grass clippings and fluffed up our other nest boxes, to try to get them interested in laying where the other hens do. I’ve seen them going in there and looking around, so maybe someone else is going to start laying soon!

Enticement

And if my fake yellow eggs disappear then, more’s the better. I’d like to see a snake digest one of them!

We’ll see, as Lee’s dad always said.

The Latest Case of Missing Eggs: Solved

I may have mentioned that the family reported no eggs the entire time I was in Austin last week. I found a few over the weekend, but not the usual amount.

Don’t blame me; I’m not laying yet.

In case the fact that Star had gone broody was making laying hard on the other hens, I set up two cardboard boxes with bedding in them, to make more compartments in the old roosting area. No one used them, far as I could tell.

High-quality nesting boxes

Then on Saturday, when I went to check for additional eggs under Star, I realized that the eggs I’d marked with a star were no longer there. Three different eggs were there. THAT is when I decided eggs were being laid, but consumed. Grr.

I can’t make the grass around the coop die and the big mower can’t reach it. I thought putting the food container in that space would be useful, but…ants came.

I knew it had to be a snake, because nothing else, other than a human, can get in. Then I was worried for Star, since she is setting so dedicatedly on her nest! I must have checked for a snake a dozen times this weekend, and other people were checking, too.

These blurry but happy chickens are eating all the food I had to throw out due to ants. They also eat ants.

So, today, when I FINALLY had a chance to move my butt off my office chair, I went to check the chickens. There were two eggs under Star. Good. Then, I went back, because I was thinking that perhaps if I set the new nesting boxes I put in sideways, the hens might like them better. I moved the one on the left, and heard the weirdest sound. I carefully peeked in the other box, and there, under the chicken bedding, was a very content rat snake. I KNEW it had to be lying around somewhere nearby, and it was just hiding! I’d probably missed it earlier.

The culprit

I asked the nephew to please eliminate the snake, which he did quite efficiently. As always, I hate doing this, but I know it would come right back if I just moved it off to the woods (previous experience). Besides, I am pretty confident we have a LOT of rat snakes here, so I’m not leading to their extinction. Ranch life is hard. To cheer you up, though, here’s one of our herons in the tank behind the house.

If you put goldfish in the troughs, expect a visit from me, the fish killer.

And…it’s raining again. I’d hoped to go visit Aragorn the beautiful dream horse at Sara’s later today, so I hope there’s a break!

Baby Watch (Chick)

First, I want to thank everyone, especially blog reader Julia, for your helpful comments on yesterday’s essay on not being responsible for the happiness of another person. I hope it’s clear that I will always be available to support and help people I care about; I just don’t have a functioning magic wand to turn that frown upside down.

I’m still brooding over here. Get out of my face, says the fluffy Star.

I read that eggs take 21 days to hatch, so today may be the day Star’s three eggs hatch. I haven’t “candled” them (no tools) to see if there’s a developing baby in there, so I have no idea if any of the eggs are actually viable. If they all hatch, we will have mothers who produce white, tan, and brown eggs, all fathered by Bruce, who carries the gene for blue eggs.

My feathers are all ruffled at the thought of being a daddy, declares Bruce.

If any chicks turn out to be hens (oh please!) they should lay olive eggs. Won’t that be fun?

Yesterday I brilliantly realized I hadn’t gotten chick feed. Oops. I got the medicated kind, because I can’t give a chicken a shot, even though I got a demo once. While I was at the local farm store/boutique/dry cleaners, I got a small feeder and waterer that will fit in the nest box area.

I got all worried last night that newborn chicks would fall out of the nesting area. So, I put a rectangular, wood sign up across the entrance that should block the chicks but let Star climb over and get out to eat adult chicken food.

I have to keep up my strength for protecting these chicks, if they hatch, says Star.

I hope to get some help with a better system soon, but I did my best! Now I just have to stay patient. I drank a lot of liquid patience (that’s what my new coffee mug from the Bling Box says) this morning, to reinforce it.

Obviously, I’ve been using this mug as hard as I can!

I’m really glad there are these positive and interesting things going on at the ranch right now, because my anxiety levels are absolutely through the roof. I just keep going outside, looking at the life all around me, and breathing. I’m trying to work on the things I can affect and let the things that are out of my range of influence just drop. That’s what Lee said a Stoic would do.

The distraction today was how many different pollinators were buzzing around the false dandelions over by the chicken run. I saw at least four different kinds, ranging from tiny hoverflies to a long-horned bee about the size of a honeybee.

It’s a big bee.

We have also had very, very large ground bees or something like that flying around. They are different from bumblebees in that they hover and dart around very fast. On iNaturalist, they identified one of my photos as a bumblebee and one as a carpenter bee, but judging from the behavior, I think it’s the latter.

I do know what my last photo is, because I managed to look it up. It’s Carolina bristlemallow with seeds. They look so interesting, don’t they?

I’m sincerely hoping you have something interesting and maybe even fun to distract you from whatever challenges you’re facing today. We’re all in it together, and I’m busy trying to make my own happiness over here. Sure I am.

Summertime Is Coming and the Chickens Are Laying

I hear y’all like my ranchy stories, so here’s what excitement greeted me when I got back to the ranch today. Since no one had picked up eggs, the first thing I did was check the top of the garage fridge. There were at least three eggs per hen, but 5 white ones. Little Henley had gone into overdrive! I’m guessing she laid two in one day. Wow. One was tiny compared to her usual eggs.

One of these eggs is teeny!

Then I went to find Bertie Lee’s eggs. But there were NONE where I found the last bunch. So I looked under everything. Voila! There were 7 eggs, one broken, in the original corner where she first started hiding her eggs, on an old mop. Let’s hope she keeps this location up.

All 19 eggs I found.

That just left Big Red. The little darling had laid two while I was in Austin. Oddly, they were two different colors. That led me and Sara to wonder if she’s really two hens, but they never appear in public together. That’s plausible, right?

So many shades of brown!

Now I am about ready to sell or give away some of the eggs. We have lots now!

There are other signs summer’s coming around here! I’ve seen scissor tail flycatchers already. Another summer of watching their beauty has commenced! And the intensely fuchsia wine cups on our property showed up. I’m relieved.

My favorite jewel of a flower. Look at all the pollen!

I’ve saved the best for last, though. My favorite violent murderer bird is back! I really missed the loggerhead shrike when it left last year. I haven’t seen it. But it’s handiwork is easy to see.

Loggerhead shrikes impale insects and save them for later. This is a female grasshopper, because you can see her wings.

I was never so happy to see two dead bugs in my life!

Beautiful scarab on barbed wire.

Yeah, it’s hot already. But I’ve got my two red buddies, Apache and Big Red, to entertain me. After my long week, I just sat and watched them this afternoon while Sara worked with Ace. As always, being with them helped. It’s yet another way I can maintain my equilibrium.

My buddies in peace.

Hope you have a peaceful or fun weekend. I have a Zoom wedding to look forward to.

Where Do Easter Eggs Come From?

Not bunnies. Not baskets. Nor roosters! Not even from capons (see below). Most of them come from the grocery store or the drugstore, as far as I can tell. This question is just an excuse for me to talk about chickens…again.

It ruffles my feathers to think I’d try to lay an egg!

It’s been quite a time in my chicken-raising career, but it seems like things have settled down. I finally seem to have a bunch of hens and dear Bruce, who have stabilized and aren’t getting eaten by anything. I did see the harrier out yesterday, though. Beautiful hawk, but I’m keeping my eye on it.

I do want to get some more hens soon, as soon as the henhouse gets set up to keep young ones separate for a while. I now know which kinds to get, anyway. Tough ones.

Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing if the eggs Star is setting on will hatch. I’m hoping they’re hens, since I don’t know how to caponize (castrate) a cockerel (young rooster). I have no idea if anyone around here does it as a service. I did read, though, that capons make great brooders and surrogate mothers, since they have hen hormones, but don’t lay eggs. The things you learn on Wikipedia!

I actually caught star out on one of her daily food runs recently. She is all fluffy, I guess from sitting all fluffed up on the eggs. I took a peek at the eggs, and they all look fine. I debated removing the dud egg, but didn’t want to confuse her. I’ll remove it when and if the others hatch on the 15th!

Even a good mom needs a break sometimes.

It just makes me happy watching them explore the area and down massive quantities of insects. We always seem to have plenty more, so I don’t think they’re ruining the ecology out here (it’s mostly ruined by herbicides the tenant ranchers put on the fields, anyway).

Henley says to leave her alone. She’s NOT sociable.

It’s so relaxing to just sit on the grass or in my official chicken-watching chair and enjoy what they do. And I guess I’ll always be looking for egg stashes, since I think that darned Bertie Lee may have gone somewhere else now that I took all her supply from under the work bench.

None of these ranch hobbies are inexpensive, but I do get a lot of joy out of the animals, and I think that’s what counts. They got me through the quarantine by giving me a purpose every day and something to do that forces me outside in the fresh air. I’m pretty grateful for the chickens (and the horses) for that.

If you celebrate Easter, I hope you enjoy your eggs, whether from a hen or from a rabbit that poops out chocolate ones. I haven’t had a chocolate bunny in years, though I do manage to snag a creme egg on sale after Easter every so often. They are tasty!

I hope you also are experiencing some hope for the future. I am, because it’s actually raining over here. Rain brings flowers and keeps those tanks full!

You don’t think I’d make it easy on you, so you? Says sassy Bertie Lee.
Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, reminds you that black IS beautiful, as are her pinkish eggs.

So tell me! What is bringing you renewed joy and hope this season? I’d love to hear from you! I’d also love to knit you some washcloths, if you feel like being a supporter of this blog and podcast. Click the support button on the main podcast page, or hey, you can even send me a voice message about what brings you joy and hope from there!

All the Hermits of the Hermits’ Rest send you lots and lots of virtual hugs and support, however you may need it.

The Great Hen Detective Strikes Again!

Take THAT, Bertie Lee! You can’t fool us forever! You’re just a chicken, and we are human hen detectives! I think they could start paying me for this egg-finding work. Yep, I finally found where Bertie Lee is currently stashing her eggs. I say currently, because I only found ten. Of course, she could have just started again after finishing molting, or after the cold episode. I don’t know. I’m not a chicken.

Look at all those sort of dirty Bertie eggs! And one very clean Henley egg that was just laid.

Lee helped on this one, because yesterday he said he saw her coming out from behind the work benches again. He thought maybe she was laying in her old spot, which she’d gotten chased out of. So, this morning, I decided to look even harder than usual, and used the step ladder to climb on top of the sturdy old workbench. I looked down behind it, and there they were! Eggs!

Bertie Lee tells Bruce that she’s glad the garage is such a mess, because it’s easy to hide eggs in. Her eggs are secretly under that white cabinet.

Of course, they were in a really hard-to-reach place, as Bertie Lee is a smart hen. She survived the 2019 and 2020 hen attacks that lost us a lot of our flock. I found the perfect egg-moving device however, our fishing net. I was able to carefully roll them forward and get them, without injury to me or any eggs. Well, two of the eggs were cracked, but I think Bertie must have done that herself, since the mess was dried up.

When I brought the eggs in, I immediately tested them for viability by seeing if they floated, just like I did a couple of days ago when I found Big Red’s egg stash. These were all in GREAT shape, with only one looking slightly iffy. I put it in with Big Red’s, along with a couple others, ready for becoming deviled eggs for Easter!

Bertie is trying to tell Buttercup to hide her eggs better, but Butter is focused on bugs.

Now I have seven hens capable of laying, and six of them are active (I hope; I couldn’t find Springsteen this morning, and she’s the low chicken in the pecking order). Theoretically, I may have enough to start giving eggs away again. And I can’t wait to see if Star hatches any baby hennie chicks! She’s still in there, setting away.

She knows she’s my favorite. Don’t tell Buttercup.

What a great way to start a day off! The Sherlock Holmes of Laying Hens strikes again! I’ve already had my personal Easter egg hunt.

I’m the Sherlock Holmes of Nesting Hens

This one had us laughing much of last night. You may remember that not too long ago, I used my chicken detective skills to discover that my Hermits’ Rest hens had decided to start laying eggs in an artificial Christmas wreath on top of our garage refrigerator. I’d looked high and low, but finally saw Springsteen up on the fridge in the middle of the day, looking very much like she was laying an egg. Now everyone lays there except Bertie Lee (mystery location) and Star, who’s brooding three eggs in the nest box, where they are supposed to be laying eggs. I just climb up on the fridge every day and retrieve the eggs. Not an elegant solution, but it works.

There’s one more chicken, though. Big Red lives with Apache and Fiona, and I hadn’t gotten an egg from her in over a year. Hmm.

I think I’m a horse.

What’s Red’s Story?

Well, once upon a time about three or four years ago, there was a chicken coop and run over the cabin on the greater ranch property. At one point, two people decided to raise some chicks, and got like two dozen production red chicks and two dozen black meat chickens. It was fun to watch them grow and grow. (Here’s a link to a longer story from 2018; podcast listeners can search for chickens on the blog and find it.)

I really loved these guys.

Soon we were getting a LOT of eggs (I say “we” because I took care of them when their caregivers were out of town). I dutifully trotted them up to the neighbors’ storage area and labeled them, where they got sold at farmer’s markets.

Fast forward, and one partner stopped coming around, the residents at the cabin moved out, and I ended up being the caretaker. More babies arrived, some we bought and some that came as gifts. I became the half owner. We ended up with Americaunas, barred rocks, leghorns, and more and more. I sure enjoyed all those chickens, and enjoyed selling my half at work.

Yep, the neighbors had a LOT of chickens back in the day. That’s Buckbeak, the nice rooster, in the center.

At some point, an owl began systematically eliminating the chickens, including the wonderful rooster we had back then. Sniff. I felt powerless, because there was no roof on the chicken yard, and a hole in the door to the coop, which allowed owls in. But it wasn’t my coop, so I couldn’t exactly work on it. The other partner was going to make the hens all into sausage, so I took over as the queen of the dwindling flock. It was sad.

I decided to let nature take its course (which was awful, with so many dead hens), and to just get myself my own chickens at my house, with an enclosed coop, where they would be easier to care for and less vulnerable. As we know, the joke was on me, because we still lose chickens to predators over at our part of the ranch, though we have been working hard on keeping the chickens safe…at least when they are young. The old ones insist on living outside.

Well, I thought all the chickens over there were gone and stopped feeding them. But, soon we realized there was still ONE old chicken left. That’s Big Red. She outlived them all. She was out scrounging for bugs and grain over by the horse area. That made sense.

Plenty to eat around here! (August 2020)

We’ve enjoyed her antics with Fiona and Apache, especially when she drinks from the big troughs. We never found any eggs, but once found her laying an egg with no shell. That led me to start bringing some chicken feed over to her, which we give her when we feed the horses.

She’s a fine hen, and that’s no bull. (This beefy guy is behind our house.)

Once she started eating, she began to look better and better. She doesn’t look at all like an “old” hen, and she’s friendly as heck. She made it through the cold weather, too, and had a nice warm place to hide out. For the past few weeks, though, we’d been wondering if her improved nutrition has enabled her to start laying. I put on my detective hat again.

I’ve been looking in various spots, like the storage area, the cattle pens, etc. No eggs. Then, day before yesterday, I heard an odd noise in the old chicken run. There was Big Red, scratching away. Hmm, I hadn’t seen her over there in a long, long time.

So, yesterday, on a whim, I decided to take a look in the nesting boxes where the hens used to all lay. Oh my goodness. There were 9 lovely Big Red eggs in there!

What??? Eggs!

Well, of course. The great egg detective figured out that the eggs were in the egg boxes. Go me!

Which egg in the Easter basket is not from Big Red?

I took the eggs home, curious as to whether I’d found fresh eggs or ancient eggs. I tested them in a bowl of water, and while none of them floated (which means they aren’t old, rotten, bad, and such), a few of them were iffy. They are marked for future hard boiled eggs.

It’s hard to tell, but this is a picture of the eggs NOT floating.

My guess is that, at her age, Big Red is laying a couple of times per week, so these eggs may be from about the time the cold weather event occurred. I’ll be checking daily from now on, so I’ll know how often she’s laying. I’m so surprised and pleased that she’s still churning out eggs, especially since the production hens tend to lay a lot for the first year, then pretty much stop after their second year. Way to go, Big Red!

Now Suna the great hen detective needs to solve the Bertie Lee mystery. She should still be laying…somewhere.