Tag Archives: backyard farm

weekend chickens

We’ve had some actual, bona fide sunshine here in Olympia this week. Fingers crossed it keeps up. This, of course, means chicken photos.

Leave it to Levi to accidentally behead or precious squirrel. At least no real animals were hurt.

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chicken check-in

We still have the chickens separated for the sake of quarantine.

Katniss & Primrose are still inseparable.

And they are growing like weeds.

Unfortunately, the weather has been mostly terrible so they have been pretty cooped-up. They need a lot of practice exploring the world, because they have a lot to learn about it. It’s so strange to have babies in the house again. They are getting braver and testing their wings little by little. We have read that we need to quarantine them for 30 days, but I’m not sure how easy it will be to keep them separated for so long. We are anxious to see how Pepper & Lenora treat the little ones, and to get these ladies out of the brooder and into the world.

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Lavender Hens dilly dilly

Thanks so much for your kind words about Ramona Rickettes. Your sentiments help us get through rough spots and we appreciate it.

Today, I bring another chicken update.

Over the past month, we have been discussing adding to our flock. Even before Ramona passed away, we needed two more birds. We researched our options: chicks-by-mail via USPS, buying chicks from a feed store, buying hatching eggs, getting older birds, etc. We scoured craigslist, mypetchicken.com and breeders’ websites for hours. I have called just about every farm store in a 100 mile radius to talk to them about chicks. I made plans to pick up day-old chicks, but the chicks died in shipment. None of our options seemed like the right fit.

Some history: Years ago when we started planning our future as chicken keepers, Krista and I became a little obsessed with a British breed, the lavender orpingtons. They are like standard orpingtons, fluffy and docile and dependable layers, but they are a very strange color. We did some research and learned that there was only one breeder in the US actively improving the lavender orpington. We couldn’t find a single breeder in our state. Those were the good old days when I didn’t think I would drive to another state for a chicken. So we put our lavender dreams on the back burner and focused on some more practical breeds for our backyard flock.


Photo from Feathersite.com
They are so pretty.

Last week, Krista saw an ad on craigslist from a lavender orpington breeder who sounded competent in her ad. If you’ve ever looked at chickens on craigslist, you know that competent craigslist ad-writing is not a prerequisite for chicken husbandry. I placed a phone call and we found ourselves in the car lickety-split. After a harrowing experience with traffic in Bellevue and several conversations about how we would never, ever willingly move to that metro area, we found ourselves at a 10-acre farm some 30 miles outside Seattle. It was dark when we arrived, so we took charge of two sleepy young pullets and brought them home.

Welcome home Katniss and Primrose!

They are such a peculiar color. I can’t wait to see them fill out with fluffy feathers. We’re very smitten. They are being quarantined in the brooder for a while because biosecurity is important. It’s very sweet to hear the peeping and talking of young chickens in the house again. We’re spoiling them with cuddles and treats so they will be trained to worship us like the big chickens do.

Speaking of the big chickens, stay tuned for our experiences with flock integration. The pecking order is very real and merciless, so keep your fingers crossed for us.

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R.I.P Ramona Rickettes

I know a lot of our new readers are here for the food, but the heart of our operation is really the animals that live with us. I need to share a few words about our recently departed hen, Ramona Rickettes. When Krista went out to let the chickens out yesterday morning, she found Ramona lying still and quiet in the run. There was no sign of violence or illness, just a quiet bird lying down like she was taking a nap. We spent a long time trying to guess what went wrong – was she egg-bound and we didn’t notice? It seems unlikely since we spend a lot of time with them, but it’s possible. Could she have eaten something sharp or poisonous? Did her heart give out from the excitement of a rare sunny day? We’ll never know, we can just re-double our efforts to be vigilant, re-read all the books and hope we’re better at spotting problems in the future.

She was supposed to be a Welsummer, but through a fateful mix-up, we got a Speckled Sussex instead. She was an extremely cute, spirited chick who grew into a beautiful speckled bird. She reliably laid lovely light brown eggs. She was one of the best models during the early days of chick photography.


She was best friends with Pepper Walker, and you rarely saw one of them without the other. They were closer friends than any of our other birds, and I feel especially bad for poor Pepper, who has lost her kindred chicken spirit.

I know she was “only a chicken,” but what a chicken! She was one of our first chickens, and she brought so much joy and life into our backyard. Thank you for the cuddles, Ramona, and for your peeps that grew into squawks. Thank you for quiches, fritattas and poached eggs on toast. Rest in Peace, Ramona Rickettes. You were a funny, beautiful bird and we miss you so much.

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mystery feathers

I have a question about chicken feathers. Not when they get all ruffled like Ramona here. I love when they do that. My question is about Pepper Walker.

Chicken experts, please tell us novices – why does my chicken have whiskers on its butt?

None of our other ladies have these sticking out, hair-like feathers. I thought this might be a temporary thing, but they seem to be sticking around.

You know what is not easy to photograph? Tiny hair-sized feathers on your chicken’s butt. They sure enjoyed the glimpse of sunshine we got in the afternoon.

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a little chicken update

Freshly washed eggs. Our ladies have muddy feet lately.

I am happy to report that we haven’t had to buy eggs since Lenora first started laying. I keep enough on hand that we have plenty to pull out for an egg heavy recipe when needed. See that brown pointy one in the middle? Pepper finally started laying! Her eggs are a very slightly different shade of brown than Ramona’s. I think the only reason we can tell them apart is she is still new at this and they are on the small side.

It’s about time, Pepper!

It’s cold, grey, and wet out but at least it isn’t freezing. Everything is covered in a layer of wet leaves.

The chickens love the okara we give them sometimes after making soy milk.

I love watching them get messy faces. Usually they wipe their beaks on the ground to clean up. This continues to be funny each and every time.

I tried to get a picture to share, but today they decided to take a different approach – shaking it off.

We are still keeping the ladies locked up when we can’t be outside with them. No luck catching a raccoon at night in the trap we borrowed. At this point I think it is unlikely we will. Our neighbors have had their flock outside free ranging just over the fence and haven’t had any attacks, so perhaps we will get brave and things will go back to normal soon.

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Loss

It’s been a rough week for our little backyard farm.

On Christmas Eve, Jess discovered that one of our hives had died. We decided to look for a bright side. There is a ton of honey left to harvest. This will make it easier to move the hive to a different spot as planned. We still have one surviving hive, and we can get more bees in the spring. We’re not sure what happened, although Jess’ theory is that on the day I was stung by several bees she may have somehow killed the queen in her haste to get the thing closed up.

Yesterday, just as our Christmas cheer was winding down, Levi said he heard a chicken noise in the yard and went to investigate. I made him stop and put on his boots because I didn’t want him running outside in his new slippers. The chickens make crazy noises all the time, it wasn’t dusk yet, and a few of the chickens were visible from the door. I will probably always feel guilty for making him change his shoes, even though it is very unlikely he could have saved our precious Hatchet-Face.

Levi returned from the yard a few minutes later, visibly shaken, announcing that Hatchet-Face was dead. I was completely stunned. I ran outside and stood over the huge mess of feathers, just staring at her for several minutes. I couldn’t believe she was gone, even though most of her body was right in front of me. Only the neck was missing and her head was unrecognizable. We’re pretty certain a raccoon was the culprit. What a terrible waste. I am trying to tell myself that it was probably over very quickly.

We were so fond of that goofy bird. We know that keeping chickens means dealing with loss and often short little lives. I just feel so cheated, though. She was our little heroine; the runt who outgrew her flock mates in the end. Despite her rough start in life she was delivering us a beautiful blue egg almost every single day. I have never seen another pure white Easter Egger with dinosaur green legs like her before. It never failed to cheer me up to look outside and see the way Hatchy ran across the yard with such gusto, or the funny exaggerated head-bobbing as she walked. We would be heartbroken to lose any of these ladies, but this just seems so wrong. We were talking about it today, and both realized that in the end it makes sense that she was the one to get picked off because she was a loner (a rebel), often off exploring by herself.

Rest in peace, Mona “Hatchet-Face” Malnorowski. We already miss you.

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