Tag Archives: chicks

Keep the Change, Ya Filthy Animal

I love raccoons.

I grew up in the country, and just like every other average American kid I had my share of pets.  There were dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, squirrels, a leopard gecko named Yoda, and more dogs and cats.

Oh, yeah, and raccoons.

raccoon-garage

Don’t all kids have raccoons?  They’re absolutely awesome, so all kids should have them.  They purr a lot like cats, and are much more social.  Cats are jerks, and only care about you when they want to.  I don’t remember our raccoons ever walking just out of arms length, then sitting down to mock us while we stretched out to try to pet them.

I think my dad isn't smiling because he's super embarrassed by how short jean shorts were in the 80's.

I think my dad isn’t smiling because he’s super embarrassed by how short jean shorts were in the 80’s.

I don’t remember the timeline, but I had pet raccoons at several different points in my childhood.  At one time, we had four that were fairly young.  They were in a cage that my dad built, and we’d have to move the cage every once in a while because they would start digging their way out.  One morning, though, they were gone. My mom said that she watched the mommy or daddy raccoon come several mornings to try to dig them out, and she was watching the day that they got away.  She said she felt so sorry for that raccoon mommy or daddy, knowing how hard it was trying to get it’s babies back, so she let them go.

raccoon-family

Apparently my mom even took a picture of the four little rascals getting away!

I was so mad!

Forget the precious momentary connection between and human and raccoon parent, and the unrelenting love for their furry children…  I wanted my pets!

I got over it eventually, though – probably because we had another pet raccoon soon after.

raccoon-david

I got a little raccoon crazy around that time, doing a school project on them, which included going to school with a tail and mask.  I thought I remembered a random fact from third or fourth grade – that raccoons have no salivary glands – but I just googled it and found it to be false.  Don’t judge – we didn’t have the internet back then.  They often dip their food into water, but apparently that mostly only applies to raccoons in captivity (which ours obviously were).  The German word for raccoon is Waschbär, which literally translates to “Wash Bear.”  I also did a school project on Germany.  And on UFO’s, but that’s beside the point.

Anyhow, this is all a really long setup to a much different, darker story.

A couple raccoons have been hanging around our house at night, eating our cat food.  You might wonder how I knew it was raccoons that were eating the food…  I know because we would flip the lights on and stare at them from a foot away through our kitchen window, and they would just look at us like we were waiters asking how their meal was going.  “Needs more water,” I could hear them say.

My wife didn’t like it one bit because she has a soft spot for our cats.  Because of this, I’d try to sneak out a different door with a BB gun to scare them off.  Usually, they’d hear me approach before I had a clear shot and would run off – but there were the occasional times that I unleashed the fury of my 1991 single-pump Daisy.  The gun is apparently strong enough to kill woodpeckers (oops!) and carpenter bees (that’s right – they call me eagle eye), but it’s only enough to freak out an unsuspecting larger animal.

They’d usually just come back thirty minutes later or so, after all the lights went off in the house.

When they really started bothering me, though, is around the time my chicks started disappearing.  It’s one thing to eat our cat food; it’s quite another thing to eat our chickens.  I wouldn’t have have minded it as much if they just ate our cats instead – those guys are freeloaders, and don’t give me any eggs.

So, one night I again went out with my Daisy BB gun, this time staying far enough back to make sure I could get a good shot off.  I assumed that if I could shoot it square in the face, it would be a little less brave approaching our house.  I stood on a chair to line up the shot and…

Bang – right in the face.  And it was the cutest thing ever.

The raccoon looked up in my direction; it couldn’t really see me because the light was in it’s eyes and I was still in the shadows.  It raised it’s hand and rubbed it’s head in a “Why would you do that?” kind of way.

Unrelated “First World Problems” meme – this is how the raccoon looked while rubbing it’s head

But it didn’t run away.  So I pumped again, and shot it once again.  Still, it just looked out in the shadows, wondering what in the heck was going on.  I shot it again and it finally ran off.  Cleary, the Daisy wasn’t packing as much of a punch as I thought.

I went inside, and less than ten minutes later the little punk was back.  Usually, I would give it a little grace, but this one was just mocking me.  So I pulled out the big guns.

Well, by big guns, I didn’t actually get a gun.  In order to take a shot, I’d have to aim towards the house, and I’m not that confident in my middle-of-the-night-with-the-house-as-the-background target skills.  So I got the next best thing: my crossbow.

The murder weapon

The murder weapon

I got in the exact same position and kind of took aim.  Because it was dark and I was fairly close, I couldn’t really use the electronic scope.  There are three red dots in the scope, and choosing the wrong one would definitely embed an arrow into my shed or my exterior wall, so I just judged where it was aimed as if I wasn’t the one holding the crossbow.  X/Y axis sort of thing.  Squeeze the trigger, and…

Bam.  Perfect shot.

The raccoon looked up when it heard the trigger, otherwise my arrow probably would have been a direct hit to the face.  As it was, though, it went through its chest, then through it’s gut and out its butt.  It was obviously a little terrified and jumped off the shed attached to the house like it was committing suicide.  It ran out in the woods, limping and scraping the arrow on the ground.

Then I realized that it still had my arrow.

I started following it, knowing that if I lost it in the moment, some other animal would drag it and my arrow away before the morning light.  I used my phone as a flashlight, and following the sad sounds of a dying raccoon, its eyes reflected back at me in the distance.

About the same time, my wife came out to see if I’d gotten it – and I realized there was no possible way I could finish the little dude off with my crossbow – so I sent her to the garage to fetch an axe.  She came back with it, and I traded the crossbow for the axe and made my way into the underbrush.

The... other... murder weapon

The… other… murder weapon

It was freaking out, and I felt bad because it was definitely suffering.  Still holding the phone-flashlight in one hand, I try to finish the job with a swoop of my axe.  Unfortunately, a one-handed axe swoop while the other hand holds a flashlight is not very accurate, and I pretty much just chopped at it enough to insult it.  So I turned the axe around to bludgeon it until it was gone.

It was sad, and I felt pretty bad because I like raccoons.  I was also sad because the meat was so messed up that I wasn’t even going to attempt to clean and eat it.  But something enjoyed it, because the next day I came out there and all that was left was a puddle of fur.  (I should have gotten a picture of that, but didn’t think about it until later)

The other raccoon learned its lesson, apparently, because it stayed away for a long time.  It has recently been showing up again, though.  Which stinks, because I really do love raccoons.

raccoon-david2

day-in-the-life

Dark Times: A Hen’s New Outlook on Life

I should be updating my blog a lot these days, because I have fewer obligations – but I seem to be filling my time with other on-grid things.  I need to remedy that.  But this time, I’ll again share a guest post from new notes that I found scratched in my chicken coop:


Day 437

I won’t lie.  I’m glad the chicks are gone.  They were really annoying, and sometimes they’d try to eat their own food.  I’m bigger, so of course I should have first dibs on anything they would want to eat or drink.  Anyhow, they disappeared – one by one.  I’d go to my perch for the night, and I’d wake up with one less annoying cheep cheep rattling between my ears.  Eventually, there was only one, and Farmer thought it would be a good idea to put it in here with us.

We showed Farmer who’s boss.  We’ll never tell him what really happened to it.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep


Day 440

RooTwo disappeared last night.  No notes, no calls.  I think he was the father of all those chicks, so either he was afraid of everyone finding out how much of a deadbeat dad he was, or maybe he went out looking for them.  Either way, more food for me.  He wasn’t nearly as nice as Roo was.  RooThree has some really cute tailfeathers.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep

Hmmm....

Hmmm….


Day 452

Farmer put a big perch out in front of our coop today.  At first he was riding around on it, cutting up all of the green stuff growing in our playground, but then it stopped tossing the green stuff around.  I don’t know why he does that to begin with – the green stuff tastes better without cutting it.  And every time he cuts it, it’s harder to find bugs.  Farmer is really selfish.

He stopped it, and kept reaching under it.  He was really insistent on trying to get something underneath, even with big metal sticks – maybe there was a big worm under it or something?  Eventually, he sat back down on it, but it never made the loud noise that it used to make.  He covered it up with a HUGE blanket that doesn’t let water through.  I checked it out, underneath the blanket – it’s pretty comfortable.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep

Lawn mower still won't run. Don't tell my dad - he would be ashamed of me.

Lawn mower still won’t run. Don’t tell my dad – he would be ashamed of me.


Day 457

I love the new perch!  I always try to sleep there, but for some reason, Farmer comes out every night with a glowing stick and grabs me.  He puts me back in the coop.  I don’t think he understands that I WANT to sleep on the new perch.  I’ve made it my own – I’ve been laying eggs there, and pooping in it a bit just to show that it’s mine.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep


Day 464

Farmer keeps dumping big buckets of food right by our coop.  Well, I say food, but I mean old crusty, soggy food.  But – it’s still food!  There’s so much I don’t even have to worry about sharing!

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep

In retrospect, I think I was just attracting other animals with these scraps...

In retrospect, I think I was just attracting other animals with these scraps…


Day 482

RooTwo was definitely the father of all those chicks.  RooThree has been here by himself, and we’ve been sitting on eggs for a LONG time.  None of them are hatching.  In fact, after we’ve laid on them longer than we needed to, Farmer took them out and threw them in a bag.  Some of them exploded when they fell into the bag and smelled TERRIBLE!  

Looks like RooThree is not very good at his job.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep

It smelled like it looks

It smelled like it looks


Day 485

RooThree is strutting around like he’s the cock of the walk, but none of us really eggspect him to pick up where RooTwo left off anymore.  He used to have some gorgeous tail feathers, but it seems like he loses one a day.  Is premature tail baldness a thing?

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep


Day 490

I don’t like where this is going.  RooThree is gone.  Is everyone being invited to some bawking party without telling me?

I’m in charge now, and even Farmer can’t change that.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep

They were aggressive with me, but they'd stay by my side - even staying near the window when they could see me inside!

The new head chicken (Peepnelopeep) was aggressive with me, but they’d all stay by my side – even staying near the window when they could see me inside!


Day 493

Ummm…  Bruuke, one of the other girls, disappeared yesterday.  Not sure what happened – we all left the coop for our daily buffet when Farmer opened the door.  I didn’t see her last night, and when we woke up today we found that she never came home.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep


Day 496

Things are getting weird.  The hairy white one is gone.  It’s definitely not a party, because SHE wouldn’t have been invited before me and Henrietta.  Honestly – nobody liked her.  None of us even knew her name.  I’d be glad that she’s gone, except that I’m not sure what’s happening.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep


Day 499

It’s down to me and Henrietta…  The other girl, Rebeaka, was acting paranoid yesterday, but I didn’t think anything of it.  Kept saying “they’re coming back” and “I just know it’s my turn.”  I don’t know what that means, but apparently she knew.

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep


Day 505

Farmer doesn’t open the door anymore.  We just sit here and scratch tic-tac-talon into the ground.  Henrietta is always scratches and I’m always eggs.  I want to be scratches.  Why won’t Farmer let us out?

Clucks and Scratches,
Peepnelopeep

Unexpected Chicks! Part Two: The Bad and the Ugly

At the end of my last post, I had seven adult chickens in my chicken tractor, and nine new chicks in a temporary brooder.  The brooder is literally just a storage container with a heat lamp hovering above it in my garage – because 1) I’m busy and 2) I’m cheap.  Cheep cheep.

I’ve been planning for some time now to build a glorious permanent coop and spacious chicken run that is split into four quadrants.  I’ll rotate the chickens through each of the run quadrants, so that they’ll eat everything in sight in one section, then move through the others while vegetation grows back.  At the same time, my plan is to allow one quadrant to double as my garden (or a portion of it) because the chickens will fertilize it and because I plant to cover it with netting to keep birds out of the run anyways.  The garden would move through each quadrant as well, so the the chickens could eat the old plants and scratch at the dirt, basically tilling the soil, composting and fertilizing it for me.

But that’s the future plan.  Immediately, I had nine chicks crawling on top of each other with nowhere to go.  To make matters worse, I was out of town here and there, so I was constantly just figuring out what to do with them immediately, rather than long term.

They were ok for a while.  Early on, they need to stay warm anyways, so they would be fairly cuddled up even when they didn’t have to be due to space.  It didn’t take long for them to simply have nowhere to go, though.  And a couple of them figured out how to get out of the brooder (which had some chicken wire laid on top to give the false sense of a ceiling), so I’d sometime find a chick on the outside looking in.  They’re extremely territorial, so even when they escaped, they really just wanted to get back in, which was prevented because of the chicken wire.

My first bright idea was to put them back in the chicken tractor with the adult chickens, since they were a little older and I thought they might be able to fend for themselves.  Not a good idea.

I came back in the evening and two of them were gone.  I assume they ventured too far away from the flock (or technically, the clutch of chicks) and were a predator’s dinner.  But even worse, two of the chicks had been shown who was boss in the chicken tractor…

bald-chick

Yes – you’re looking at that right.  One (or more) of the other chickens took the skin right off of it’s head.  I’d like to think they were just getting a jump on preparing a boneless, skinless chicken breast, but the reality is that they were simply laying down the law.  I found that one balled up in a corner under the ‘stairs’ up to the coop, terrified.  The pecking order is real, folks.

I felt terrible, and wondered if the little guy (or girl – I can’t tell) would make it through the night.  Luckily, it did!  By the next day, its head was fairly scabbed up and healing well.  I frantically searched for another broody box so I could separate the two wounded birds so that they didn’t get sick, then infect the other healthy chicks.

chick-segregation

I found a shelf that I had taken down from the garage, threw some newspaper down, and laid the shelf on the ground.  It gave them probably ten times the space, but they were just chirping at each other, hoping to be reunited.

As they grew, I knew that my temporary pen was still…  temporary…  I kept putting off the eventual permanent coop, and trying to figure out what to do in the immediate timeframe.  I even tried to let them outside again – not necessarily into the chicken tractor with the others, but just outside to roam free.  Unfortunately, the same scalping occurred, and I knew i couldn’t do that again.  But, man, were they stinking up my garage.

disgusting-chicks

I ended up building a step between the brooder and the chicken tractor, which was pretty much just a fenced in run without a coop.  It was a simple frame with chicken where stapled around it, with a piece of wood laid across the top to give them a little shelter.

temp-run

Apparently, I didn’t staple the chicken wire enough, though…  After the first night in their new outdoor home, I found remains of two of them where a predator had pulled them through the spaces between the wire and wood.  Well – one of them had been mostly dragged through the spaces, while the other laid decapitated in the corner.  That’ll teach me to think “close enough.”

I stapled every inch of the chicken wire to the wooden frame, and assumed all was well for the remaining five chicks.

The next morning, however, I came back out to the same sight – the only variation being that two had been pretty much eaten through the chicken wire.  Whatever had done it (I think a raccoon or a possum, because of opposable thumbs.  I’m betting on raccoon.) had grabbed them in the corner and probably munched one what they could, even with the wire separating them.

If I were a chick in this redneck run, I’d be terrified to close my eyes.

I assumed the reason the predator got the chicks is because the chicks gather in the corners of the frame, so it had to be easy for them to reach in their hand for their dinner.  The other chicks would have basically blocked in the victim – and chickens are surprisingly calm at night.  I’ve had very skittish birds allow me grab them with no trouble after the sun went down.

So – I stapled feed bags all around half of the frame, so that the chicks could gather in a safe, covered portion.  No way anything would happen now!

temp-run-closed

Wrong.  The predator returned and literally peeled back the corner of a feedbag as if it were tupperware, keeping his leftovers fresh from the evening before.

temp-run-escape

I was down to two chicks.  I then thought I was losing them because chickens generally roost at night to avoid predators, and I had no roost.  I figured I could add a roost so that they would stay away from the corners, and the predator wouldn’t be able to reach them.

temp-run-roost

Nope.  The next morning I was down to one chick.  For some reason, the newly deceased chick was drawn to the edge of the frame instead of the safe metal pipe in the middle of their covered shelter.

I decided I need to completely rethink my temporary run.  And for the time being, because the other chickens had been around the chicks for the last few days and had gotten used to them, I figured it was time to put the last remaining chick in the chicken tractor.

This worked.  It was obvious that he was an outcast, but there were no blood-drawing fights. Anytime I went out to check on them, the others were out and about, enjoying the cage-free, free-range, non-GMO bugs that were available to them.  The chick, however, would be pacing inside the coop, wondering when the monster’s claws would find  him.

A few days into him integrating into the coop, I thought I would help nudge him outside to enjoy the benefits that the others already knew.

That was the last I saw him.

But hey – I’ve got a couple chicks going broody again!

Unexpected Chicks! Part One: The Good


Taking eggs from chickens is a little strange when you think about it.

Obviously, an egg forming in a chicken’s body and then ending up on our plate is magical or whatever, but I’m talking about the actual experience of getting the egg.

My small coop has three nesting boxes, so anytime I swing by, I lift the little roof I made over the boxes to see if there are any presents for me.  There’s always a lot of poop, often some eggs, and usually a chicken screaming at me.

Think about it…  It’s as if you’re minding your own business, sitting in a public restroom, when the entire ceiling lifts up and a giant peers in each of the stalls.  I’d scream, too.  Creep.  But the screams don’t seem to deter him – he awkwardly keeps looking, completely disregarding your personal space.

Even weirder, the giant grabs something that others have left in the stalls.  And you know that he’ll come back for what you leave as well.

Sorry – this is simply where my mind goes.

I’ve had a number of chickens go broody over the summer, which I did not anticipate.  If I haven’t already said it, a broody chicken is one that simply wants to sit on eggs for the purpose of hatching them.  They’re quite determined to stay there once they start – you can pick them up and move them (as long as you’re not deterred by their screams) and they’ll go right back to the nest.  They will forego eating and drinking for the sake of sitting on the eggs.

At first, I only had one broody chicken.  For a week or two, she sat there by herself, staring at the wall.  I looked up how to ‘break’ a broody chicken and found that it’s difficult, because it’s a hormonal stage.  Basically, the underside of hen heats up, and when she’s not sitting on eggs she wants to be.  In one video I found, a family dunks the belly of a broody hen under chilly water for a few minutes, lowering her body temperature.  Apparently, when the temperature of her belly is lowered, she just forgets that she was broody.

No such luck for me.  After sincerely freaking my hen out (she got me as wet as I got her), and finally getting her mostly under water for five minutes or so, she makes a bee line right back to her nest.  I tried this multiple times, and it never broke her.

Not long after that, other hens went broody.  I only have three nesting boxes, but I’d sometimes peek in to see two or even three hens in one box – totaling four or five broody hens at a time.  Though I don’t know if all of them were truly broody, or if a couple of them were faking to be part of the ‘in’ crowd.  Apparently – like sneezing – broodiness begets broodiness.  Some farmers put curtains over their nesting boxes to prevent non-broody hens from seeing their broody sisters – that way they’re not tempted to join in.

Anywho, eggs need to incubate for twenty-one days before they hatch, and as I was strolling by the coop one day, I heard a few tweets from the coop.  And since they don’t have access to my wifi (#TwitterYolk!), I opened up the nesting boxes to find a cute chick tucked under a hen’s feathers.  The hen was even more scream-y than she was before the hatching.

new-chick

Right before a chick hatches it eats the yolk, so it doesn’t need food or water for a couple of days.  Because of this, and because I figured the hen knew what to do better than I did, I just left it alone.  One hatched chick can encourage the other unhatched chicks just by moving around and tweeting.  Well – as long as the other chicks are following its tweets.  (#AnotherTwitterYolk!)

The next day, I found this!

two-chicks

The order of events is fuzzy at this point because it was a few months ago, but another hen hatched two more eggs right within the next couple of days.  Around the same time, I started putting chick feed in the broody boxes, because there was really no other way to get them to eat.  (Side note – the other hen had apparently stopped eating while broody, because its beak was elongated and pointed down.  I put food right in front of her and she had a hard time eating, but the next day her beak was back to normal size.)

The chicks started jumping out of the broody boxes, which caused the hens to also jump down to protect them.  Because there were four chicks and two hens (and one “aunt” – a hen who stopped going broody and was basically trying to act like the mother of the first two chicks), there were some fights.  At one point, I noticed that one of the chicks was bleeding, most likely because the rival hen wanted to show it who was boss.  Because of this, and because I was hoping that the hens could show them how to scratch and eat from the ground, I put them all outside.

chicks-outside

They did pretty well – they were always close to their respective hen, and it was really interesting to watch the hen act out what she wanted the chicks to do over and over.  (By the way, I keep simply saying “hen” rather than mother because the hen who hatched them isn’t necessarily their biological mom.  Whoever is sitting on the egg when it hatches is identified as its mom.  So I might use “mom” from here on out to make things easier.)

All of the truly broody hens had completely abandoned the unhatched eggs because they had to take care of the chicks, so I put the rest of the eggs in my incubator, just in case some were on the brink of hatching.

Because I had to put them back in the coop each night (the chicks specifically – the hens would follow), and then put them outside again the next morning, it wasn’t necessarily the best situation.  There was a little bit of chick feed in the coop, but the adults kept eating that quicker than their own feed, so the chicks were having to fend for themselves.

On top of that, because they’d be awake in the morning well before I let them out, there were still some rivalries and fights that I couldn’t stop.  I ended up putting the chicks in a little brooder box so that I could keep them safe and fed.  And not long after that, two more chicks hatched in the incubator!

brooder

Over the next week or two, three more chicks hatched in the incubator, totaling nine chicks!  I definitely didn’t anticipate having that many…  Heck – I didn’t anticipate even one hatching, because I still only have the one chicken tractor.  I’ve been planning on building a stationary coop for a while, but just haven’t had the time or motivation.

So – I figured as these nine chicks started growing, I’d quickly need to find the time and motivation.  And you’ll have to wait until the next blog post to see if that happened!

Bee Aggression, Chicken Detective

A lot has happened since my last post – here’s a quick list:

  • I was away from the real world at Camp Loucon for a week
  • My band shot a video (we’re actually not appearing in it, and I was just the guy holding a sweat rag for between takes)
  • We realized out that our construction loan was expiring in August, so we scrambled to get everything in order to refinance the loan to a normal mortgage.  (Don’t worry, Dave Ramsey – it’s a 15 year, and we have more than 20% equity in it!)
  • Part of what we had to get in order was the house.  So, we quickly tallied up what we had to get done to have an appraiser come by.  Another list!
    • We had to pour the concrete for our front porch and sidewalk
    • We had to fix the septic tank cover that broke when the concrete truck drove over it while pouring front porch and sidewalk (which involved me pouring a literal ton of concrete – yes, over 2,000 pounds – after my uncle helped me form a new tank lid)
    • Putting all the hardware on the kitchen cabinets
    • An immense amount of painting, staining, and polyurethaning
    • Lots and lots and lots (and lots) of general fixes around the house
    • Cleaning
    • Anything else not mentioned above that might make a big difference in an appraisal
  • Multiple trips to various county government buildings to pull or file forms needed for closing, requested from my bank AFTER they needed them, which has resulted in pushing back our closing date twice.

On Friday we got our final inspection from the county, and the day before we had an appraiser come out.  So – barring anymore stupid requests from our bank (we’ve not had great experiences with them, so I won’t link them or give their name – ask me if you want to know who to avoid), we’re DONE!

Back to what I know all of you have come to see…

My Bees are Trying to Kill Me

I guess it’s only fair that my bees are ramping up their venomous attacks on me, considering I kill a few of them each time I move their homes…  When I first got stung, I had fairly minor swelling (not to mention a fever and convulsive shaking), so I assumed that future stings would give me less of a reaction.  On the contrary – I’ve been swelling way more.

First – how I got stung:

A few weeks ago, I was inspecting my hives like any normal computer programmer does.  It’s been a surprisingly cool summer in middle Tennessee, but that’s not to say it’s cold, but rather low 90’s.  When I do my hive inspections, I wear long sleeves, long pants, long gloves and a bee veil.  As such, I get very hot.  And I sweat.

There have been a number of times that I have mistaken sweat slowly dripping down my leg as a bee, and had to calm myself down at the thought of a tiny stinger zeroing in on my nether regions.  “That’s sweat moving down, David,” the inner dialogue usually goes, “bees would start at the bottom of the pant leg and move up.”

But this time…  This time the sweat was moving up.  Wait – not sweat.

I honestly didn’t know what to do.  At first, I just thought I’d leave it alone – it crawled in, so maybe it will crawl out.  When it got to my inner thigh, however, I knew it was time for action.

I swatted my leg out of sheer terror.  No plan, just swat.  It’s obvious what the outcome of that would be (though I didn’t think of that at the time), but I’d much rather she sting me on the thigh while waltzing up my leg than pretty much anywhere north of there.

After I had sat the box full of bees down, I ran through the woods trying to get far enough away to…

…take off my pants.

Well, not all the way, but enough to get the stinger out of my inner thigh and allow the dead bee to roll out onto my sock.  It had to be a funny sight – a guy completely covered from head to toe except for the exposed underwear.  Or creepy, at least.  Good thing my neighbors aren’t too close.

I finished the rest of the inspection after tucking my pant legs into my shoes.  I’ve heard other beekeepers suggest wrapping duct tape around your pant legs, but I was always under the impression that it was to prevent ticks.  I will soon add duct tape to my beekeeping equipment.

Immediately, the sting was just annoying, but not too swollen.  The next morning, however, it took up my entire thigh.  I drew a sharpie line around it to keep an eye on the swelling.  I popped benadryl and used a topical antihistamine cream for the next few days – and eventually it went away.

So, on my next trip out to the hives, I started out by tucking my pants into my shoes.  (Still need to get that duct tape)  All went perfectly during the inspection, but when I was taking off my gloves I didn’t realize I had a bee in my elbow pit.  When I bent my arm, it knew of its impending doom and went out in a blaze of glory.

Day One:

beesting1

“Arm Selfies” are a thing, right?

 

Day Two:

beesting2

Sheesh – looking at them back to back makes me think I might have actually had a bad reaction.  I haven’t learned my lesson, though – luckily.  At least it takes a day to swell, and not a few minutes.  That’ll give me enough time to drive to the hospital if needed.

Again, benadryl and antihistamine cream, and I’m right as rain.  Though I have discovered that non-drowsy benadryl causes me to sleep for a very, very long time in the middle of the day.

CHICKS!

teenage-chicks

Er – wait…  Not really chicks anymore.  These are like…  Chickens.  Or at least fowl teenagers.

They’re not full grown yet – they hatched about a month ago, and it could be a couple of months before the hens start laying – but I’m amazed at how fast they have grown.  Before I left for camp, they definitely had grown since the furballs hatched – but when I got back, it seemed like someone replaced them with larger, feathered creatures.  I wish I got a better picture – but hopefully you can see just how huge they’ve gotten compared to the feeder.

I had to give them a bigger box and put a bit of chicken wire on top because they would flap their wings anytime they’re nervous.  A couple of days ago, I went out to the garage (where they’re staying now), and one of them was standing on top of the box.  Luckily, I think it was scared of its newfound freedom, and was just walking around above the other chickens, not wanting to let them out of its sight.  There was a fairly small opening on one side of the box where the chicken wire was too short, so I had to cover it.

I’m not a Murderer!  …I think…
[***Warning – pictures of dead chicks ahead***]

After the remaining eggs sat in the incubator a day or two after they should have hatched, I decided to play detective to see if I could find out why they didn’t hatch.  What I found was a fairly interesting progression of chicken development.

dead-chick1

Ok…  So – I might have killed this one.

It’s pretty much fully developed, and I think it died just before eating the yoke (which busted when I cracked it open).  Heck – the picture looks like it’s ready to chirp.  But it won’t chirp.  It will never chirp.  I blame myself for opening the incubator too much.

After that, in the order I opened them, they get smaller and less developed.

dead-chick2

dead-chick3

dead-chick4

dead-chick5

They might have died for any number of reasons, but one reason could be that the temperature wasn’t perfect, and that I didn’t have anything circulating the air in the incubator.  But this is speculation, which I’m probably not even close on.  Some detective…

It’s probably good that only five hatched, though – because I’m definitely running out of space in the current brood box.  I started building a chicken tractor on Saturday, and I’m fairly close to finishing it.  (I wanted to finish this post before adding anything about the chicken tractor, so that I have two blogs rather than one at 5000 words)

Because of everything that’s been going on my world, I probably wouldn’t have been able to build the chicken tractor sooner, which means they’d all be sitting on top of each other right now.  Currently, they’re merely sitting very, very  close to each other.

[Actually, I’ve already moved them into the run on the chicken tractor, which is unfinished, because it’s taken me almost a week to finish this post…]

So – next time you tune in, I’ll have a bunch of fun pictures of building a chicken tractor.  I promise, no pictures of dead chicks.  Well – unless one of my chickens dies and I feel like it’s worth posting a picture.  But even then – not a chick.

But I’ll leave you with a teaser on the chicken tractor production:

wood

chick-banner

I’m Officially a Farmer

It took every ounce of willpower in me not to make a title like “I’m Surrounded by Hot Chicks” or the like.  I mean, that would probably get more hits from search engines…  I’ve already warned my wife that I’ll be using puns like that often from here on out.

I’ve got chickens!

Late Friday night, I thought I started hearing chirping sounds from my incubator – which I found a little strange, because none of the eggs had hatched…  I checked and rechecked, and each time I stood silently by the incubator I heard nothing.  As soon as I left the room, though, the little high pitched sounds drifted around me.

I thought I might be crazy, because hearing chirping from inside an egg would be a lot like hearing a baby crying while still in the mother’s womb.  Maybe that’s happened before, but I’m not aware.  And it would be very weird.

Around 3am, I was still awake, and checked on the eggs one last time before going to bed, and I did indeed hear the chirping coming from the incubator while my ear was right beside it.  I’m not crazy.  *whew*

I then woke up at 6am to the lively chirping of a definitely hatched chick!  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that the incubator has been in my dining room, much to my wife’s chagrin)  I tiptoed out of my bedroom and found this little guy (or girl) wondering what in the world was going on…

first-chick

My brother had told me not to open the incubator once they started hatching because any drastic change to the temperature or humidity could kill the unhatched chicks (either drowning them because the air bubble inside gets too small, or shrink wrapping them with the shell membrane), and I had confirmed it from websites that I’d been reading.  But in that moment, my excitement trumped any logical thought I had in my head.

I started freaking out because the humidity gauge was reading a little high, and I was scared that the open egg was – well I don’t know why I was scared of the open egg.  I opened the incubator without thinking, and put him in my temporary brooder and grabbed the broken eggshell.  I then had a thought that the egg might need to stay with him (because before they hatch, they eat the rest of the yoke, and I had the thought that maybe they continue to nibble on it), so I googled it.  I would be lost all the time if not for Google.

Google shamed me for opening the incubator, and reminded me that I needed to leave all chicks in the incubator until they were dry and fluffy.  As you can see from the above photo, it was definitely not dry and fluffy.  So I again opened the incubator and put it back inside.  Surely I learned my lesson, right?

I stared at the little guy (girl?) for a while, and then realized it was barely after 6am, and I went to bed at 3am, so if I didn’t go back to bed I would probably collapse soon.  I could survive on three hours of sleep in college – and did often, sometimes resulting in the best test scores of my college career – but I can’t do that anymore at 31.  I’m getting old.

So after a few more hours of shut-eye, I bolted out to the dining room to see what else had occurred.

Not much.

I did see a few eggs with some tiny cracks, which my brother informed me to be called “pipping.”   Basically, the chick inside is pecking at the shell and makes a tiny little hole, and they could hatch anywhere from immediately to 48 hours later.  So, I did what any rational person would do: I stared at the eggs for a very, very long time.

The day before, I had decided that I was going to get a lot done on this day, so I motivated myself to get on with my pre-determined projects.  Literally every 20 minutes or so, I’d hover over the incubator to see if anything else had happened.  Around noon, the second one emerged, and the first knew it was time to establish the pecking order – which I now know to be a very literal phrase.  Kind of the oldest-child syndrome to the violent extreme.

In no time, both of these little dudes were dancing around and climbing all over the other eggs, rolling them around like they were playing a game.  I’d probably be freaking out again, but I’d read that that’s ok, and it, along with chirping, actually inspires the other chicks to hatch.  It took a while longer (while I was busying myself with other projects), but a total of four eggs hatched that day.

I won’t lie.  I opened the incubator a few more times.  I was still freaking out about the humidity, and was terrified that the unhatched chicks were going to die because it was 1% off.  I also got impatient, because one little guy worked on breaking out for hours and hours, and I helped him along a bit.  At first I thought that I hurt him, because when he got completely out he was still connected to the egg by his bum.  I did some more googling, and found out that his umbilical cord was still connected – which happens occasionally – and it would fall off soon enough.  I couldn’t help but think that it was because I tried to step in…

After a lot more checking and rechecking, I went to bed that night.  This morning, I woke up to another chick!

Nothing else really happened – we went to church and when we got back they were all pretty much fighting as siblings do.  Except day old human siblings don’t peck at each others’ faces.  Maybe they would if they had beaks, but luckily they don’t.

Yesterday evening, I moved all five (yes, I know…  I opened the incubator again!) to the temporary brooder because they were all fluffy and dry at this point.  I quickly saw that my brooder is going to be too small if any other eggs hatched.  I’m very afraid that no others will hatch, though, because of my constant overbearingness.  And if they don’t hatch, I’m confident it’s because I killed them.

I started with fifteen, and I’ve still got five eggs left in the incubator, but I feel like hatching five of them is an accomplishment.  And next time, I’ll keep the incubator closed.

Ok, I probably won’t.