Friday, August 31, 2012

No knitting. At all.

I typically slow down on the knitting in the summer.  I can't knit with cotton very well since it hurts my hands and wool is just to bobdarn HOT.  Added to this is my denial for bifocals and you have a Summer Without Knitting.  It's just as well, as I've been working a lot and studying at the Caduceus Institute.  I got into homeopathy in a round about way.  It's working well! I agree with the philosophy completely and I've seen amazing results in my own immediate family.

The chickens have had some downs and ups.  The six hens were seemingly fine when one chicken went broody (i.e., she wanted to hatch some babies of her own).  She would stay up in the nesting box all day sitting on infertile eggs. She never nipped at me when I took the eggs she was sitting on, but she would only come down to eat once a day and she started looking bedraggled.  After a search on the interwebs and talking to my local chicken experts, I moved her into the hutch where the guinea pig was staying (yes, the guinea came back into the house) for three days.  All the broody hen would do was stand in there looking pissed at me.  After three days I let her out and she rejoined the flock and acted like her old normal chicken laying self.

A few weeks rolled by and I was looking out the window when I saw the formerly broody chicken come down out of the roost, put her head down low and race back and forth the length of the ark.  Then she darted up the ramp and into the nesting box. Damn. Broody again!  One of the women that comes into the shop has thirty chickens and two ducks.  She said she had some fertile duck eggs she would give me to put under my broody chicken to hatch.  She'd done it before and said it worked really well. The only trick being Pekin duck eggs take about a week longer to hatch than chicken eggs; would my chicken continue to sit until the eggs were hatched?  I didn't know but it seemed like the chicken needed to be a mama, she was so determined about it.

The three dirty duck eggs were brought to my house one evening and we put them under the hen.  Stephanie said, "Watch out, she'll peck at you when you try and put them under her." She didn't. I knew she wouldn't, she's never given me a bit of fuss with egg removal, why would she mind if I gave her some?  Broody hen gave a little start and cluck and settled right down on the three eggs that were much bigger than chicken eggs, fluffed her feathers, and gave me a look that said, "Close the door, I've got work to do and you're letting all the warm air out."

After a week of sitting I candled the eggs.  The kids (formerly known as peeps) were excited.  We could see the blood vessels and a blob in each egg.  So far so good!  Every morning I would reach under her and get the four chicken eggs out of the nest and scootch the duck eggs back together.  The other chickens had been treating her like an outcast during this whole affair, but she let them lay eggs in her nest.  I am still baffled by it.

Two weeks or so into this adventure, my partner let the chickens out while I was at work and he went to the dump.  We'd gotten pretty slack about letting them free range over the yard all day.   They were in the woods, in the ditch in front of the house, once we even found them in the neighbor's back yard seeminly happy and fine.  I pulled into the drive after work and while getting out of the car I noticed chicken feathers in the gravel.  My heart gave a lurch and I put Steve in the house. When I went out the back door it looked like a cartoon killing of a bird.  There were piles of feathers around where a bird body should have been and no sign of ANY chickens.  Usually I can cluck for them and they come running.  I clucked and nothing happened.  I opened the top of the ark and found the broody hen sitting on her eggs (and the other chickens think she's crazy!). The next chicken I found was down by the shed, with my neighbor's Lhasa apso sitting by it.  I don't think Moppy killed the chicken, but she sure was happy she found it.  I carried her back to her house and continued my search.  Richard came (I called him, frantic) and we looked everywhere.  Two were down in the woods by the fence that backs up to the neighbor's house and one was on the other side of the fence kind of dazed.  One chicken body has never been found, but my guess is it was carried off by a dog. It was a very sad evening.

I told the human peeps about it and the consensus was it was a very sad thing, but we were lucky the broody hen was sitting on some duck eggs and blissfully unaware of any chaos. We candled the eggs again and could see movement in the eggs!  This time the hen did peck at my hand (very half-heartedly) and we knew the hatching would be soon.  Sure enough, we heard peeping in an egg and 24 hours later we had a duckling! Over the next three days the other two eggs hatched (we were kind of worried about the third egg, it took around 36 hours for it to hatch!) but they are all fine.

Ducklings grow much faster than chicks and are almost the size of their chicken mama at three weeks!  They love swimming in the baby pool every day and go absolutely bonkers over poke berries and tomatoes. Their mama has not kicked them to the proverbial curb, but continues to watch over them and find choice worms and tidbits for them every day.  I tried re-introducing her to the flock but they pecked at her and she was anxious for her "babies".  She may just be an odd ball from here on out and we're fine with that.

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