June 2007


In my previous post, I mentioned that two of our chicks so far were blond and one was black.  This is fairly common for us because of the way our coops are set up. 

The three Buff Orpingtons are in their own coop in one part of the yard.  Because my sister doesn’t like eating fertilized eggs, those three hens don’t have a rooster with them. 

When we started keeping chickens again, after not having any for a long time, a friend gave us two roosters, one mostly pure Rhode Island Red (Jack) and one a mix of Rhode Island Red and Black Ausralorpe (Chubb).  We were also given chickens from two different people.  One flock was pure Black Ausralorpe; the other was a Black/Red mix. 

Anyone who’s kept chickens knows that when you have two different flocks, it’s almost impossible to combine them into one flock without bloodshed.  So, almost from the beginning, we’ve been working with three different coops. 

As we’ve hatched out chicks and our flocks have changed around, the different breeds have gotten mixed up, as well.  The Buffs are still purebred, but none of the new chicks will be.  Victoria (the new mother) is a pure Ausralorpe, as is Meggie, but they share a coop with Jack, the Rhode Island Red rooster.  And some of the chicks she’s hatching out come from the third flock, which is a Rhode Island Red/Black Ausralorpe blend. 

As a result, the chicks that are hatching are cross breeds.  Some are more Reds (the blond chicks), and some are more Blacks (the black chick), but none of them are truly purebred. 

At some point, I would like to raise chicks that are either primarily Buff Orpingtons, or else pure Buffs.  For now, though, without a Buff Orpington rooster, and with the Buff eggs unfertilized, anyway, that just isn’t feasible. 

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As far as I know, there are three chicks now, two blond, one black.  The blond ones are more Rhode Island Red (from the rooster); the black one is more Black Ausralorpe.  Sadly, the Buff Orpingtons are separate, and don’t have a rooster with them, so none of the chicks will be Buffs.  (Can you tell which breed is my favorite?) 

The black one was being shy, and one of the blond ones disappeared back under Victoria before I could get the camera, but the third chickie was a little camera hog. 

Shy at first:

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No, wait–here I am! 

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Victoria didn’t seem to mind the pictures too much, but I didn’t want to disturb her with the flash, so I didn’t try to take too many. 

If you look close, you can see the black chick behind the blond one in the second picture. 

We had our first chick hatch out this morning!  I only caught a glimpse of its little head poking out from its mother and heard its cheeping. 

Victoria started setting on the one egg, and we didn’t put the other dozen under her until she had been on the first egg overnight, to make sure she was actually setting.  I expect the others will start hatching out tomorrow.  I know not all of them will hatch, because some of the eggs have broken over the weeks.  Last time I had a hen setting on a dozen eggs, some broke and some never hatched, and we got five chickens (one rooster and four hens) out of the clutch.  I’m hoping we’ll have a similar rate of success this time. 

We have some fabric that was given to us that is some of the ugliest fabric ever created.  (And it was given to us for just that reason, so no worries that I’m offending anyone by saying that.)  

The point is, it was free and useful.  In fact, just yesterday, my sister used a large piece of it to “carpet” the ramp in the chickenhouse.  (Their roost is raised up off the ground, for critter protection, and the ramp helps them get up to it.)  The older chickens, who can pretty well fly (well, flap, anyway) can get up it okay, but when Tory’s babies hatch out, I’m afraid it will be too steep for them.  Having fabric on the ramp instead of slick wood will give something for their little toes to grip to get back into the safe place. 

 Similarly, the fabric comes in handy when I’m putting a patch under embroidery on my jeans.  You never see the fabric, so it doesn’t matter how ugly it is.  But it gives a solid base to anchor the embroidery to.  You don’t get very far when you try to embroider in a hole! 

Frugality to me means using whatever you have, and if you can get something for free, finding a use for it.  This isn’t fabric I would want to wear or turn into items around my house, but it has use and purpose and value–when you take the time to see them. 

Our egg production is down a bit at the moment, because Victoria is setting and it’s summer, so things are a bit slower (even chickens like a bit of a break!) but we’re still getting four or five eggs a day, which is quite a lot, for a family of three, if you don’t eat two eggs apiece for breakfast every single day.  🙂 

 Eggs are wonderful because they’re an excellent source of protein–and because they’re so inexpensive!  (With egg production down, but the chickens still eating, the cost of our eggs has risen to probably $0.75 or so per dozen (from 2/$1), maybe a bit less than that–but that’s still remarkably low, for a good source of protein. 

Even more than that, though, I love eggs because they’re so versatile.  Fry them, scramble them, hard boil them, soft boil them, add them to a salad, devil them, make an omlette out of them…the possibilities are nearly endless.  You could eat eggs every day, and never get bored of them. 

It’s really sad how much this concept has fallen out of the public awareness.  If something is worn or torn or damaged, we tend to replace it automatically–even if the damage is only cosmetic, and doesn’t actually affect the item’s functionality. 

Case in point: I tore the knee of one of my jeans the other day.  So are they a write-off?  No way!  It was a nice straight tear, so a little flat whipstitching kept it from tearing any farther.  (A stitch in time saves nine, remember!)   But the fabric around the mend is still very weak, so I’m probably going to put in a patch inside the jeans (you can put them on the outside if you want; I prefer embroidery to patches, so my patches go on the inside) and embroider them as I have time.  The inside patch gives them added strength, so they don’t tear further, but the embroidery will reinforce the patch and make sure it doesn’t tear away from the jeans.  (Plus, it looks really nice.) 

 Or, consider this: the handle breaks off one of your stainless steel pots.  You don’t have the necessary skills to fix it, and there’s no one around who can do it for you.  Is it time for the trash can? 

Nope.  If possible, continue using it as a pot; just use two potholders when lifting it off the stove.  Or, if that makes you nervous, find another use for it.  We lifted one of our broken pots off with potholders for several years.  Then when we got a new pot as a gift, we “recycled” the old one; it replaced a plastic margarine tub as a water bowl for the dog. 

But sometimes, making do means just living with what you have until a new one comes along.  That towel with the tear in it will still dry you off.  The cup with the chip in it will still hold coffee.  The shirt with the stain on it still offers protection from the elements and a covering for your body.  If you can mend, clean, or reuse something, go for it.  But if not–sometimes the best thing you can do is just live with it. 

 Here’s a challenge for you: find one thing over the next week that you can live with or mend.  A stained shirt, a torn sheet, a shoe with a hole in the toe…all these are things that can be lived with or mended.  Obviously, make do and mend won’t work all the time for everyone; the working woman who gets a stain on her blouse that simply won’t come out probably shouldn’t show up at work the next morning and tell her boss that she’s just making do.  But over the next week, I challenge you to find at least one thing that you would normally throw out and see how you can make it do.  If nothing else, you’ll realize that the world doesn’t end when your sneakers get a little ratty.  Stains don’t spell certain doom.  And some cups are designed without handles. 

 I leave you now with a thought from one of my favorite songs: 

Got some highs, got some lows, but the wise man, he knows what it’s really about/You get by doing without. ~Surviving the Life, Neil Diamond

I was a bit disappointed last week to discover that chickens won’t eat kudzu.  Other animals will (goats, for example, love kudzu), but not chickens, even though they like their greens as well as the next animal. 

Part of the problem may have been that I boiled the kudzu leaves before giving them to the chickens.  Kudzu has many uses (I must post about them someday…) but there’s plenty of it growing along the sides of the road–I don’t want it taking over my house and garden!  Unfortunately, boiled kudzu doesn’t seem to appeal to chickens. 

If we ever decide to bite the bullet and get a goat, we could feed him year-round on kudzu, if we took the time and trouble to store kudzu hay for the winter.  Kudzu is tremendously nutritious (and I happen to think it tastes rather good), even better than alfalfa when it comes right down to nutrient content. 

But chickens won’t eat it. 

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