Tag Archives: urban homestead

Meet the Outsiders

If you managed to find the time to read yesterday’s epic post about our hatch, I mentioned at the end that we would be announcing the names of our new chicks. I also gave some hints:

  • Like our other book & movie inspired chicken names, these babies would get pop-culture names as well.
  • This batch would be named after both a book and a movie.
  • The book was from the 60’s and the movie adaptation was made in the 80’s.

And then Hillary commented and correctly guessed they would be The Outsiders. Either I was too obvious, or Hillary is a really good guesser! The Outsiders will be a pretty perfect name for this crew come flock integration time, don’t you think?

Introducing:

You know, Emilio Estevez’s character in the film. If you are watching them on the Brooder Cam, there are two that have a lot more black on them than the others. Two-Bit has some black but not as much as…

Ponyboy Curtis. The narrator in the book. If you are wondering if we are concerned about naming them boy names, the answer is “yes and no.” Our first chicks were named after characters from the film Cry-Baby, and the only one given a boy name (Cry-Baby Walker, of course) turned out to be a rooster. Realistically, I don’t believe that the names we pick can change the already determined sex, so we went ahead and gave 3 of the 4 boy names this time around. Take that!

Of course we had to have a Sodapop Curtis. She was our last to hatch from egg #7, and she is randomly a ginger! We aren’t sure what to make of how different each of these babies looks and the fact that some of them have so much black. They are all Salmon Faverolles, purchased from a reputable breeder. We have read conflicting things about them having spots of black. Eventually roos will develop black feathers, but the coloring they hatch with should not indicate the sex yet. We are wondering if Soda will end up more mahogany-colored. We are already very fond of her, and I expect she will have some ginger ale related nicknames.

And finally Goldie, the hatchling from egg #2 whose beak was hanging out of that dirty egg for so long. It is worth noting that the two pairs that hatched together also resemble each other. Ponyboy and Two-Bit hatched on the first night, and both have black coloring. Soda and Goldie hatched the next morning and appear slightly smaller and have lighter coloring. Goldie is the blonde with only a hint of grey.

Goldie isn’t named directly after a character, but after the Robert Frost poem Ponyboy and Johnny read together.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

We plan to tell her to “stay gold” a lot, a la Johnny on his death bed.

You can tell they are all definitely faverolles by their puffy cheeks and distinctly funny feet. They have five toes and feathers on their feet.

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Hatch Stories

A number of people checked-in at different stages during the process of our Salmon Faverolles eggs hatching over the weekend. Thanks for watching! This experience turned out to be more incredible and more fun than we anticipated, and I am glad we were able to share it with friends, family, and blog readers via live streaming. If you missed out and want to cut directly to the chase, we now have a live brooder cam so you can check-in on our chicks as they grow.

We have some photos to share despite the fact that we had a card glitch on the camera we used for most of our documentation. We lost a lot of amazing photos and videos. Technology! My only consolation is that I had a lot less photo editing and uploading to do and we will just have to do this again someday.

Friday morning I woke up and went directly to check on our incubator as we knew we were getting close. I honestly didn’t expect to find anything, but immediately noticed the first pip.

“Pip” can be a noun or verb, and we used this word a lot over the weekend as we watched for each chick to first break through its eggshell. Once I discovered things were getting started, I ran to tell Jess, “WE HAVE A CRACK!.” We knew this would take hours, but because she had to go to work and didn’t want to miss anything (and neither did some of our friends) we ran with a suggestion to use Jess’ laptop and Ustream to set up our Hatch Cam.

Here’s what our set-up looked like into the wee hours of the night. Multiple cameras, lights, and the laptop serving as our web cam. Everything was crammed into this little corner as this was the safest spot in our house to keep dogs and cats from knocking it over. We did get multiple reports of our cats making appearances on the Hatch Cam, however!

While Jess was at work I luckily had the day off. Levi even had the day off school but had to take a practice AP exam. I shuttled him around and tried to get things done but spent a lot of time staring at eggs. We had started with 7 hatching eggs that were shipped to us, and from the beginning 2 never developed. We candled them frequently during incubation. In the last week we had become certain that one of the remaining 5 eggs had quit developing, though we left it in the incubator with the others. Our hope was to get those four to hatch. It turns out incubating and hatching eggs involves a LOT of worrying.

The first pip seemed to get the tiniest fraction bigger as the day progressed, and I watched and waited for the others to start. Luckily, there was still action. You could hear them peeping through the shells. Even the web cam could pick up the peeps that were heard through the shells and through the incubator. The eggs also moved! It was so incredible. Sometimes it was a tiny twitch, and sometimes those little eggs really rocked. You could also distinguish between the peeps that were from pipped eggs and the more muffled peeps from inside in-tact shells.

The egg that had first pipped was #6. Awhile before picking up Levi, I discovered bits of broken shell underneath egg #1. It was breaking through the bottom and could barely be seen. I announced that discovery to the web cam audience and Jess at work. Then I brought Levi home so he could confirm that it wasn’t my imagination. We had two pips! And then several more hours of peeping and jiggling but not much else. Jess made it home from work and barely missed any action.

We went grocery shopping to make sure we all would get dinner, and on the way home my mom called to report she thought there was a crack on top of egg #2 visible on the web cam. That egg was sort of to the back of the view, and I had already had one other viewer think the shadow from the lid was a pip. We were excited to see if there was a change. When we got home, there was nothing visible on top of egg #2, but I decided to turn the incubator around and discovered not only a pip on the bottom but a beak sticking out! I don’t know how long we had been missing out on that!


Egg #2 with a beak hanging out.

This was especially good news as this was the only egg that we had not caught in the act of wiggling much at all. Now we began to wonder which egg would go first, and when would lazy egg #7 finally pip? The suspense! Luckily, egg #7 had been really kicking around most of the day so at this point we grew more confident about getting four chicks.

As it got dark out, egg #6 (our first pip) started to make serious progress. After they pip, they zip a ring around the egg that they can then kick apart.

We didn’t take our eyes off the incubator once the zipping started. While #6 was zipping, suddenly #1 (the one that had the broken shell bits underneath it) got very active. That egg was rocking back and forth and started to zip. It looked like it was progressing a lot faster than the one we had been watching make slow progress all day.

And finally, #6 opened up!

It’s a wing!

And out came a foot!

It’s a whole chick!

There are a few videos of #6 emerging and that is where our documentation glitch occurred. We lost all the pictures and videos after that, sadly. I mostly wish we had the photos and videos of them getting up on their feet and squirming around in there together.

While we were busy watching #6 emerge, #1 went from starting to zip to hatching immediately after #6. Some viewers at home noticed #1 was also out moments before we did! Suddenly we had two chirping, wet chicks inside the incubator with the other eggs. They would rest for a moment and then cheep and wiggle around, even going on top of and over the eggs. They would wake each other up like infant twins. It was incredible.

We were up until very late watching the new babies and waiting to see what would happen with our other two eggs. At some point there was the excitement of the final egg, #7, pipping as I watched. Sometime between 1 and 2am we decided to take a nap and check on them in a couple hours. Nothing was happening, so we slept until morning. First thing in the morning we added water through a couple little tiny holes in the incubator lid. We had two completely dry fluff balls and wanted to make sure there was plenty of humidity so the two pipped eggs wouldn’t be stuck in dried out membranes. We could not open the incubator to remove the baby chicks until they hatched!

I continued to fret over egg #2, whose beak had been hanging out for approaching 24 hours and the membrane around the pip looked very dry. All my motherly worry was for nothing. About 12 hours after the first two hatched, the second pair did the same. While I ran Levi to go volunteer at the food bank, Jess watched #2 finally hatch. And shortly after I got home #7 hatched before my eyes. Every single moment of it was amazing. Once all four were out, we pulled a still wet #7 out for a quick photo shoot. Those pictures we didn’t lose.

Behold, the contents of egg #7:

We will be back with video, day old chick photos, and baby chick names. We thought we wouldn’t be able to tell them apart at this point, but they are each actually very distinct. Now is your chance to guess what book or movie we named them after. Our first baby chicks were named after characters from the John Waters movie Cry-Baby and our two Lavender Orpingtons are named after The Hunger Games books. I will give you two hints: a) these babies are named after a book that was also made into a movie. b) the book was published in the 1960’s and the movie was made in the 80’s.

Wow, if you read this whole thing, you really should leave a comment. Thanks everybody!

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The Littles

It’s about time for an update on our flock integration! We have taken to calling our segregated flock “The Bigs” and “The Littles,” and it just stuck. While they aren’t best of friends yet, I am happy to report we have made major progress. Go Team Littles!


The Littles


The Bigs


The Littles again – are you seeing the theme here?

When we last left off, Katniss & Primrose were being bullied by Pepper and, more tragically, were really bad at being chickens. Perching and scratching and basic chicken life-skills seemed to be daunting to them. We were told our Lavender Orpington pullets had been free-ranged on 10 acres. In retrospect, what breeder of expensive chickens lets them run so free? I’m pretty certain they never spent a day outside until they met us, and I was convinced they were permanently stunted.

The little hidey-holes I built them (Pepper demonstrates above) proved to be the solution we needed. Instead of getting cornered in the run when being bullied, they miraculously became adept at jumping on top of the boxes where Pepper leaves them alone (mostly). They still spend a lot of time hanging out on top of those boxes, but little-tiny bit by little-tiny bit, Pepper is less interested in bullying them and they get braver.

After the Littles moved outside, Pepper spent the first few long days we were away at work in solitary confinement inside the coop. We would arrive home to a happy little flock of three. Lenora and The Littles would be together, eating and acting like regular chickens. And as soon as Pepper was freed, she would chase Katniss & Prim up onto their box. Sad, but soon they were more confident and Pepper no longer needed to be separated. Baby steps.

They have started hitting important milestones like going up the ladder and going down the ladder. I can’t tell you how much we love chickens we don’t have to put to bed or wake up in the morning. However, they have been putting themselves to bed in the nesting boxes, which has caused some confusion for all parties.


Pepper laid an egg in the hidey-hole because her favorite nesting box was occupied. Pepper has never laid an egg anywhere but the nesting boxes before.

Other new chicken-like behaviors: running, jumping, scratching, eating scratch from a human hand, and just today I found them dust-bathing. Now, if only they could start spending time as a foursome before our flock grows again.

I leave you with my favorite chicken shot from recent days:


Levi & Lenora

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Flock Integration: Can’t we all just get along?

Poor little Katniss and Primrose. They’re beautiful, certainly, but sometimes that’s not enough. They seem to be inadequate at being chickens. They aren’t comfortable with basic chicken skills like “scratching and pecking at the same time” and “perching on a stick.” There are certain chicken behaviors that I believe(d) to be inherent to “chicken-ness” but these two are continually teaching me that in fact not all chickens have survival instincts.

But we’re fed up with having chickens in our house and I started to have nightmares about them starting to lay while they still lived in the brooder, so they got booted out to the coop. We’ve been nervous about flock integration. The “pecking order” is a very real thing, in that chickens actually peck each other to establish a social hierarchy, sometimes injuring or killing each other. It turns out that our concerns were not unfounded.

Lenora, queen of the roost, could not care less about the little chickens. She’s got a really busy calendar and so much to do. She can’t be bothered with some little newbies and simply ignores them 99% of the time.

But Pepper is another story. My theory is that Pepper is second in the pecking order, and she has more to lose with the integration of new birds. She definitely doesn’t want to play second fiddle to younger, smaller, dumber birds. Or maybe she just can’t respect them in their inferior chicken-ness. I’m no chicken sociologist, but either way, this is the face of our bully bird.

She chases them and tries to peck them; they cry desperately and run. No one has drawn blood yet, so we’ve been trying to stay out of it and let them work it out themselves. It’s painful to watch, though. I want them to cuddle up and sing Kumbaya, you know? Until we get there, we’ve been free-ranging a lot to distract Pepper, and Krista built some hideouts for the Littles to escape to.


Unfortunately the Littles don’t seem to be smart enough to hide inside the boxes yet, but they learned to stand on top when Pepper gets aggressive — which is progress! Two days ago they flapped and squawked and tried to fly through the fence when she came at them. Keep your fingers crossed for some peace in the hen house soon.

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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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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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