Weekend Highlights

What a great, if gray and rainy weekend! Hopefully, it will be our last weekend as a twosome, and we had a lot of fun…doing exactly what we do every weekend. Garden work, farmer’s market, chicken coop building, cooking, and watching movies.

apple struedel muffins

Apple strudel muffins from Practical Paleo.  These were so good. Thank God they’re healthy, as we ate 12 in two days. Baked goods, even grain-free ones, are no match for us.

kale

Farmer’s market kale with red onions.  Amazing dinner – kale, roasted sweet potato and parsnips, a fried egg and some thinly sliced pork chop (1/4 chop each) with balsamic vinegar. So simple, so yummy.

6 week old chicks

Our chickens are almost too big for the dog crate!  On a whim, we put a dowel in for them to roost, and the birds are obsessed with it.  There are always a minimum of 2 hanging out on it, and it’s pretty adorable when all of them are there. 

chicken coop

Our chicken coop is ALMOST done!  It’s so amazing how talented and brilliant my husband is – he saw a few photos, and designed this coop from photos. It’s sturdy, beautiful, streamlined, and elegant. He is such a badass.

If at first you don’t succeed, replant your seedlings. I tried a few varieties of tomato and tomatillo (pictured) and three types of kale. The rest I’ll either direct seed or buy as starts, as I do not have enough faith in my soil block medium to invest the time and energy into a bunch of seeds at this point. However, we have at least one tomato seedling, so 1 out of 60 ain’t bad. 

tomato seedlings

PS anyone with experience – does it look like the block medium is too chunky? I think it is, but don’t have enough experience. 

Finally, dinner highlight was definitely cheeseburgers with slow-cooked onions and kale salad. 

cheeseburgers

My mom comes today, and will stay until baby is born which is just too exciting.  My mom and I are so close, and she will be at the birth which is just awesome. Provided I don’t go into labor in the next six hours and have a 1 hour and 45 minute labor like my sister did. Which, I have to say, if that happens I will not complain.

Chewy

What To Look for in Chicks

Our chicks are now five weeks old, and are basically smaller versions of chickens.  They have finally moved out of our bathroom into the garage, and I think we are all happier for it (especially Chewy, who was having such anxiety about exactly WHY she was not allowed to eat the chicks, when they were right there in her territory.)  Of the seven chicks we bought, six survived, thrived, and seem happy as little birds can be.  Here’s what we looked for to make sure the chicks were as healthy as possible when we bought them.

1. Clear Eyes

clear eyed chick

It’s important to make sure the chicks eyes are clear, not at all opaque or cloudy.  They should look curious and alert, not sleepy or disinterested.

2. Clean, bug free feathers

clean feathers

It’s also important to make sure their feathers are clear of mites and lice, and look to be in generally good condition.  This particularly applies to chicks younger than two weeks, as once they hit the two week mark, they start getting their adult feathers and look a little bedraggled. 

3. A clear vent (butt).

clear butt

Yet another important trait to look for is a clear vent (rear end) that has no fecal matter blocking it, and again, no small bugs of any sort.  Pasty butt usually has to do with being exposed to environmental triggers such as too hot or too cold a temperature, and can signify stressed out chicks.

4. Chicks who are active, curious and annoying.

While it can take a day or so for the chicks to settle fully in to their new home, when they do, they should be interested in their surroundings, their food and water.  If using a heat lamp, they should be scattered around the brooder, not huddled under or away from the source of heat.  If using a heater, they should be in and out from under it, getting food and playing around and returning under it to rest and sleep.  It is quite normal for them to lie down for a while, even on their sides (scary the first time you see it) but they should also hop up when prodded.

Of course, none of these are guarantees for survivors – we checked and observed each chick carefully, and still lost one after two days to unknown causes.  However, especially if picking up your chicks from a feed store, these qualities give you a fighting chance for healthy and thriving chicks who will contribute to your homestead. 

Welcome to the (Hen) House!

When I was about 10, my mom and I went on a whim to a pet store.  Already, I’m sure you can guess this was a truly terrible idea.  We walked out with Mitzi, a 4 month old dachshund who had been living in the 2’ x 2’ box for a month.  She was needy, adorable, and totally batshit crazy.  I’ll never forget my mom calling my dad on the way home, saying, “I just did a really, really, really, really, really bad thing.”

Mitzi the dachsund

(Photo curtesy of my mom, Terry Berenson, San Diego animal photographer extraordinaire!)

That line has become a joke in our family, although I never expected to use it myself – this time, for coming home with seven small chicks. 

chicks

In all fairness, we knew we were going to get chicks, and had been planning on it for years. However, we also planned to wait on adding any new animals to the “flock” until baby van der Hoorn is born in oh, 5 weeks.  But, one look at these speckled sussex chicks, and we couldn’t resist picking up 6.  Plus the one extra unknown breed, named Rando Calchickian, because, hey, she would have been left all alone without them!

chick

Unfortunately, one of our chicks failed to thrive and died after 3 days.  It was heartbreaking, especially because there was nothing we could do – we tried sugar water and all the usual treatments, but unfortunately chicks just aren’t as hearty as other young animals, particularly before they’re feathered. 

chick

However, the remaining six seem to be as hearty as can be.  They are ridiculously silly, adorable, and fairly loud. I do look forward to having our bathroom no longer smell of pine shavings (covering the paper towel you see in the photo above), but for now, it’s quite fun to go hang out with the girls on the edge of the tub.

As we learn more, I’ll post more about the process. However, if you have the chicken itch, I couldn’t recommend Harvey Ussery’s book, The Small Scale Poultry Flock, more.  I’ve read parts of it over and over, and it really tells you everything you could possibly want to do with chicks, chickens, and other fowl.

Have a great weekend!