Friday, June 1, 2018

Cannibal Chicken Update

We've managed to get our daily egg tally up to 5 or 6, only when we're able to check for eggs every 15 minutes or so, especially in the morning. One day, we brought in 8 eggs because I checked so often, I practically caught them before they hit the floor.

Chris is letting the hens out of the smaller chicken yard so they can eat the weeds during the day. They love it and they repay us by laying eggs in places where we'll never find them. A few hens have stayed loyal to the nests in the chicken house and that's where we get our eggs each day. One black and white Barred Rock hen has become broody. She sits on the nest all day and, as soon as another chicken lays an egg near the nest, she tucks it under her. She's as loyal to those eggs as Horton the elephant was to his.

For better or for worse, most of her "eggs" are golf balls.

Yesterday I went out and heard the distinct cackle of a hen in distress. Our broody Barred Rock was running towards the gate, towards me, making all sorts of racket. I crouched down and she actually came up next to me and continued cackling. Huh. Our hens are not pets. They are used to us and know we feed them, but other than that, they can take us or leave us. I've never before had one come to report a problem. I figured I'd better check things out.

Sure enough, some rude hen had stolen her nest and was sitting on HER golf balls - I mean strangely shaped eggs. 

I thought about it for a minute and realized our broody hen was WHY we were able to keep some eggs from getting eaten each day. She was protecting them. Oddly enough, she doesn't seem to mind when I pick her up every 20 minutes and take the real eggs. As long as I leave the golf balls under her, she's happy.

I shooed the other hen off the nest and let Ms Broody happily hunker down on her eggs again. We've got a good thing going with her and she deserves a little reward.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Landscaping and Gardening on a Budget

It's time to work in the garden and there isn't a better way to spend the day... until it gets too hot, anyway. Chris has the main vegetable/flower garden in hand and it's looking better than ever this year. We have dozens of buds on the rose bushes and almost as many on our columbine. We've been adding arugula to our salads and juices already. Arugula grows so well and will come back every year, too. Kale is coming up quickly as is our lettuce, and the seedlings are doing well. 

Our budget for gardening, landscaping, and such is essentially non-existent, but it's amazing what can be done without spending a lot of money. We've been fortunate to get free seeds and seedlings from Denver Urban Gardens this year. I added the link because I suspect many families who would easily qualify don't know about the program. 

In our attempts to tame the rest of the back yard, we've started adding some easy care gardens which will thrive even in our hot, dry summers. Sedum comes in many varieties and will grow almost anywhere. To fill in the new garden beds, we can simply dig up small bunches of what is already growing well in other beds. Hen and chicks, ornamental strawberries, speedwell, thyme, and other ground covers should fill in the gardens and, if all goes well, we can thin them out in a year or two and have more to plant in other spaces of the yard. 

We started on this last summer and our first garden is doing well. Two more are in the works. The landscaping materials have come via Craig's list and - from their FREE lists. This is when we realize how many very generous people we have in our community. Granted, maybe it's easier to give away some extra landscaping stones rather than try and sell them, but it's still a nice thing to do. We try to do the same when we have something extra.

Two years ago, someone close by had topsoil to give away. We drove over for numerous pickup loads and the grandkids enjoyed helping out, too.

Last summer we made a pathway. I hadn't found the supply of bricks at that point, so the pathway was made with various odd chunks of broken concrete. Not the easiest thing to work with and the pathway is rather... rustic, but on the plus side, those chunks of concrete aren't going anywhere. It was mid summer by the time I picked up 200 brand new bricks from a house in Westminster. We wanted a patio and I knew 200 bricks wouldn't be enough, but I got them anyway. I knew we would use them.

A few weeks later, there was another ad for free bricks, this time from the renovation of an old 1888 home in Globeville. The man who owned the home took one look at our small pickup and he started loading up his huge truck with bricks, too. He not only gave us the bricks, but he made two trips to deliver them for free. I gave him eggs, fresh garden lettuce, kale, and arugula in return. Now we have a pile of over 600 old bricks in addition to the 200 new ones and about a dozen or so large retaining wall bricks. Time to get to work.

I admit, I went a little crazy on the free stuff. Chris finally gently suggested we had enough landscaping rocks and bricks to last us for any number of projects. Sadly, I had to agree. That was last summer, though, and yesterday I picked up some bricks which had been cut at various angles. The small garden cart they were in was also part of the free deal. I'll use them because this year we're putting in a patio.

The small brick pathway by the porch and the new brick porch by my studio have been our practice projects. We've already begun clearing the space for the patio, with the help of our grandchildren. They're moving across to Maine in a week so we all enjoyed spending the time and working together. Here's the new garden bed they helped with today. 

Somebody else is excited about the garden! 


*Just as I was finishing up this article, the thunder and lightening started and it began to hail. We can never take anything for granted in our gardens here in Colorado. I think we got lucky this time. Our plants look undamaged.

oh, hail

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Cannibals, Golf Balls, and Mustard Eggs

We were naive when it came to keeping animals, almost as naive as we were about having children. This didn't mean we thought it would be easy, we just knew we'd be up to the challenge. It would be fun.

Nobody told warned us that chickens are cannibals. We learned it quickly enough, as soon as one hen cut herself on a sharp bit of fencing. We rescued her in time, but just. A feeding frenzy had begun to form around her.

Nobody warned us that chickens sometimes eat the eggs, too. Once they start, it's a hard habit to break, and ours started this summer. Finding an eaten egg now and then is frustrating enough, but to find only one whole egg in a nest of egg shells and sticky remains is maddening. It's not like we're not feeding them enough already!

It became a crisis the other day when I watched one hen pull another one off her nest so she could peck open the egg. I swore. Loudly. I chased all the chickens out of the chicken house and went in and swore some more. My husband decided it was time to consult the experts and get some advice. He googled it. These suggestions are supposed to work because, as everyone knows, chickens are really stupid.

We tried putting golf balls in the nesting boxes. The idea is, if they peck at the golf balls, they don't get anywhere and don't get the reward of eating an egg. It didn't work. Seems our hens figured out the difference between an egg and a golf ball and started their own golf tournament in the chicken yard. Smart asses.

We then blew out a few eggs and filled them with mustard. We let the hens peck them open. Supposedly, hens do not like mustard and this would clearly teach them to avoid eating eggs. However, the hens quickly figured out which eggs were stuffed with mustard, ate the other ones, and offered the mustard eggs for sale on Craig's list as a delicacy.

It was suggested that the hens might need more protein in their diet. I was wondering why they wanted to read the back of the chicken food bag. The advice given on the internet was to feed them some cat food. This will give them the protein they are lacking and they will not need to eat their eggs. They love the cat food. They like it even more with eggs.

The last suggestion was to eat the chicken who are eating the eggs. This would be hard to do. Literally. Ever butcher and clean a chicken and get it ready to eat? It's gross, smelly, and makes you want to become a vegetarian or at least continue buying chicken already packaged and ready to cook. Besides, we have chickens so we can get eggs. If we eat the chickens, we wouldn't get eggs.

We have one more thing to try. A YouTube video shows how to make nesting boxes with painting trays - you know, the trays where you pour the paint when you're using a roller. A 5" wide board was placed on the back side of the tray and this was further blocked off by a wall. The idea is:

Chicken lays an egg. Egg rolls down the tray and through a slot just big enough for eggs and into the deep end of the paint tray where they are kept out of beak's reach. Theoretically, this should work. It means spending the next few weeks trying to figure out how to build the new nesting boxes, but if it works, it'll be worth it.

Maybe. I won't count my eggs yet.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Puppy Family Reunion

Family Reunion! Two of Bennie's three brothers came to play yesterday and the pups had a marvelous time. They knew each other almost immediately, played, wrestled, came back and checked in with us every few minutes. They remembered us, too. I got very enthusiastic greetings from both Cooper and Simon!

These pups came to us in April of 2016 when they were 5 days old. They had been left as newborns in a cardboard box under a dumpster. This is the first time these three have been together since Cooper was adopted in July of 2016.

Thank you to Emma Reinhart for permission to post her photos.

What's a puppy reunion without the ritual butt sniff? 

Bennie gives Cooper some love.

Cooper sitting with Emma.

Bennie and Leroy wandering off while Cooper does a great photo bomb

Leroy still wears the same size collar as he did at 3 mos. He weighs 8 lbs, which is what Bennie weighed at age 3 mos. Bennie is now 16.5 lbs and Cooper is 12 lbs. I love Cooper's grin on this one! You can see Leroy's cleft paw on this one. It certainly hasn't slowed him down at all.

Greeting their human mama!

Cooper is a beautiful dog.

Cooper here, too.

Leroy giving me some love.

Chris and Leroy

The pups, age 2

They still sat very well and waited for their treat!

What good pups!

Cooper and Leroy

From our first week with the pups. Eyes and ears were still closed.

From this pile of puppies to those active smiling dogs.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

My Shadow Pup

The wee beastie needed a foster home. Something about his photo made me email and say we'd take him. He's tiny. He's cute. He had hair that was begging for either some hair gel or a collar with spikes. He had short hair all over except for a long Mohawk which extended from the top of his head all the way down his back. It was a totally different texture, too, kind of like a horse's mane. We're almost positive he's part Chinese Crested. 

Clyde won our hearts by asserting himself and letting us know he was going to win us over. What could be more lovable than a pooch who comes to get you to show you he pooped in the hallway. "See, foster mama? There it is. If you don't want to clean it up, I'll happily eat it."

Thankfully, pooping in the house was one of his few bad habits. He followed me or Chris around all the time, sometimes leaping up so high, I could catch him in mid air. Occasionally he would get really excited as he followed me and he'd leap up and nip my bum. He was trying to be affectionate. 

Yeah, sometimes he could be a wee bit annoying, but then he'd curl up next to one of us and be so calm and so sweet. He was also easy to forgive. He and Bennie got along beautifully. 

I'm glad Clyde was with us for awhile as we were able to work with him on house training, sitting on command, staying when we opened the front door, and "you can't come in until you pee and poop. No, I didn't mean eat the poop!" I think it was my tone of voice which caused him to drop what he was planning on having for snack. By the time he was adopted, the bad habits were starting to fade away. With some work and a lot of love and attention, he'll be a fantastic wee pet. I already miss him.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Puppies

Bert and Ernie joined us right after Halloween. Ernie went to his forever home just before Christmas and Bert, just after Christmas. They came to the rescue with mange, something I wasn't prepared to deal with, so they stayed at the care center for the first couple of weeks. Our last pups had just left and we had been puppy free since the middle of August. I wasn't ready for more

Then the email came. Three dogs needed foster homes. A tiny six year old chihuahua and two twelve week old Maltese mix puppies. After checking with the powers that be in the house (my husband, who said, "it's up to you" and my daughter who said, "when?!"), I wrote back and said we could take either the chihuahua or the puppies. I was kind of hoping for the chihuahua.

We got the puppies. At about 2 and 3 lbs, they were tiny fluffy white and cuter than cute. There is something unreal about Maltese puppies. The way they cock their head, the way they bounce around the house, the way they curl up on our laps; they look like stuffed animal toys come to life.

They had finished the medication for their mange, though they were still on antibiotics for secondary infections. Their fur was thin and Ernie had bare spots and scabs. They smelled awful. They needed regular baths with medicated shampoo, We bathed them daily for the first month. Ernie needed to wear a sweater or jacket to protect his delicate skin, And they both needed to play.

Ernie decided he liked to help me with my knitting. It made it a challenge to finish those slippers, but he looked awfully cute. It's amazing what you can get away with when you're a cute puppy.

Bennie didn't quite know what to make of the puppies at first, but he eventually warmed up to them and took on the task of keeping them busy. Or was it the puppies keeping Bennie busy? 

The pups were guests of honor at the Santa Speedo Dash in northwest Denver. Emma is holding Ernie here because Bert met his forever mom and they spent the whole time getting to know each other. Bert came back with us and spent the holidays at our house.

Our grandchildren gave Bert a bath on his going home day. He was one clean puppy!

We're without puppies now and Bennie is an only dog again. It's nice to not have to worry about trying to house break wee ones and nice to sleep in. I think we'll be taking a break from having fosters for awhile.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Dog Who Didn't Want To Be Adopted

We are used to getting attached to the puppies we foster. It's inevitable, especially as we often have them for 3 months or morel We tell ourselves we can't keep all the puppies we fall in love with or we'd have dozens of them and we can't keep fostering newborns if we have too many of our own. So we plod along, taking care of the wee beasties, falling in love, and saying goodbye.

Sometimes one of the beasties snuggles their way into our hearts in a special way. Sometimes they are the ones who get attached to us. We tell ourselves, it's the breed; certain breeds will bond quickly and be very loyal to their humans. We know this.

We think we have everything under control, then one little pup jumped on my lap and rested his head on my chest, looking up at me as if to say, "I love you Mommy". He followed me everywhere and, when visitors came, made it clear he wanted nothing to do with them. 

It was charming, but we were concerned, too. We knew we couldn't keep him, so what was going to happen when it came time for him to be adopted?

The first attempt failed. The adoptive family came to meet him and we handed him over. He fought to get away until they finally put him down and he ran straight to Emma's lap. Not completely satisfied, he even barked at them.

It's the breed, we tell ourselves. Don't fall for it. It's just a loyal breed. He'll get attached to his adoptive family, too. But how will he ever be adopted if he won't go to anyone else?
At the big adoption event, we were sure a cute little Min Pin like him would be adopted. Instead, there were so many people and so many dogs, he was overwhelmed. He seemed to melt into us so he wouldn't be seen. When others tried to pick him up, he cried and fought to get away. I fought back tears. What were we doing here? It felt like we were abandoning our baby!  

This was dangerous thinking. What happens if a dog doesn't want to be adopted? Do they stay a foster dog forever? I'd never heard of that happening, not with our group. On the other hand, he did get along so well with all of us and Bennie.... and... and... 

Finally, Emma and I needed to leave. It was a pre-arranged family gathering, but it was the excuse we needed to leave the little pup there at the adoption event. There was one staff member who seemed to understand the pup's needs and we entrusted the wee beastie into his care.

Half an hour after we left, little pup was adopted. So much for loyalty. Without us there, he went to other people just fine. I wasn't too offended. The rescue group (Life is Better Rescue) took a photo of him with his new "Mom". He looks happy. We're sure he'll bond with her very, very quickly. 

It's the breed.