Chickens! Today I had the camera out. Winter gets so boring for chickens, stuck in the pen when it's cold and all the greens are withered and sour, bugs are deep in the tree bark, and the only thing left to eat is little worms under big piles of leaves. I supplement their winter feed with fresh veggies, which is easy since I get excited and tend to overbuy produce I think looks beautiful. Today they got some lettuce and tomato with a little bit of bread.
They heard the back door and burst out of the hen house cackling so loud that the neighborhood dogs started barking, flew exuberantly into the wire, and settled into a crowd by the pen door. Snack time is always such an exciting event. Some day I'm going to catch them on camera coming out of the pen to graze, sometimes a couple of them will fly right across the yard. I used to have a duck that would do that, too, and he just missed plowing my head one day.
Some days they get leftover squash (the seeds are *yum*) or a little bit of canned corn, maybe a handful of leftover shredded cheese. On really nasty cold days they get a bit of raw burger or canned tuna with the goodies because between laying eggs and staying warm, they burn through calories and nutrients like crazy. We buy top dollar vegetarian chicken feed because I'm allergic to so many foods and can't touch cheaper feed with vague ingredient lists (plant protein...??) that I break out and itch, but chickens are born carnivorous and ready to work hard for their food scratching through forest litter, so when they stand around in a pen they sometimes don't eat as well as they should because, believe it or not, they get bored, and scratch grains like cracked corn, milo, and wheat just don't put up a good chase, even though they are yummy. Chickens move almost continually unless they're sleeping or do a freeze pose on alert, and they'd rather pick through every molecule of dirt in their pen than sit around talking about what's on tv while they munch. They're actually kind of destructive because they like staying so busy. So I try to make it interesting, and they keep churning out big pretty eggs. When all else fails, we toss in a flake of straw for them to kick around, or a bag of delightfully clean new dirt to dust in.
Since I so rarely post about the chickens, I imagine most of you who have actually followed this blog since last summer have probably forgotten their names and what kind they are. Every new flock gets a theme, this flock was named after television characters and personalities. The golden laced wyandotte right up front is Nadia G. Fancy, huh? I never had 'laced' chickens before this year.
The mahogany colored one up front in this next one is a speckled sussex named T'Pol. She doesn't lay as heavily as the others, but makes up for it by being our buddy. She follows us like a cat until we're afraid we'll step on her feet, but she doesn't worry about standing on our feet all the time. She's our biggest critic, too, will always come let us know what we're doing wrong or what we're supposed to fix. The white hen by her is Myka, a cross between Delaware and New Hampshire that is called Indian Rivers. I really like her, she's calm and fluffy and lays super big eggs. She also has such a deep voice that she sounds like a goose honking when she clucks to herself.
Mary Margaret (aka Snow White) wound up not being very snow white at all. You can't tell in this one, but she's got a big black spot on her back, like Snoopy, black freckles, and black legs. White chickens generally have yellow legs, but she's an austra-white, a cross between a black australorp and a white leghorn, a super layer. She's petite and a real pig, probably because her body is so busy turning everything she eats into eggs, there isn't a speck of extra anything on her. She especially craves extra protein more than the other hens and will shove them over getting to any meat I take out once in awhile. I think regular layer feed doesn't have enough protein in it for her. Sometimes when she gets mean and picks on the others too much, I think she's just cranky with food cravings, and all I have to do is take out a little bit of raw burger for her to wolf down and she's fine for a few days. I've never had a problem with my chickens picking each other's feathers out, and I think the raw meat helps with that.
Morgana is a silver laced wyandotte and almost never takes a bad picture. I've never seen such a photogenic chicken, maybe it's the black and white contrast. But she's also our dumbest. I don't know if she's just laid back or doesn't care, but she's nearly always the last one in because she gets stuck on the wrong side of the door and can't remember or figure out how to walk around like the others do, a real 'bird brain'. She's also much slower to pounce on goodies or find worms in the leaves, but she lays beautiful big eggs and she's gorgeous, so she's my favorite. I can't help it. I'm usually not that shallow.
I've also got an easter egger but missed getting her picture because she was inside on a nest, and I was too cold to stay out any longer. Her name is Amy Farrah Fowler, and just as quirky as the one on tv.
This last month has been a bit busier than I'm used to. I've been writing on other blogs, contributed copy to a couple other websites, and I've been a lot more distracted with 'real life' since both my daughters are manufacturing new humans. Still making it to the fitness center, but complications came up and a doctor has told me to stop all upper body workouts until I see a neurologist. I thought at first that I was working out wrong and triggering fibro flares up my neck and shoulders, but when my face and head started going numb last month (no added pain there), doctors started getting excited. I said maybe it's stress, they said stress doesn't do that. So far they've ruled out a few big scary things I didn't even know existed, and still doing tests, but nothing has gotten worse and I have such a weird history that I'm not going to worry about it. They put me on prednisone just in case, so I've been wound up for days not sleeping and I'm about ready to get off this stuff!
Still not very good at getting self pix, but I got this one a couple of weeks ago at the fitness center.
Also found a few pix in my phone, was out on such a pretty winter day, got up to nearly 60, then plunged 40 degrees later that afternoon and snowed. Didn't get snow pix.