Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Goodbye Harry

It is with much sadness that we bid goodbye to Harry Potter, the best guinea pig a family ever had. He will be missed. In the end, though, he obviously was in a lot of pain, so we are glad that he is free from that now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Attila the...Rooster?

Well, folks, we have found the crowing culprit. We embarked on our campaign to find the crower last night. After the chicks went to sleep, I sneaked out to the coop and chick-napped Audrey, the partridge with the suspiciously erect tail. The chicks sleepily complained a little as I nabbed one of their compatriots, but they were not sufficiently awake to put up much of a fuss.

I carried Audrey to the solitary confinement chamber (aka the old old brooder box) that I had prepared in the garage. She peeped a little on the way to garage, calling for her sisters. Once I put her in the brooder box, she must have fallen back to sleep very quickly, because I did not hear anything from the garage other than the crickets.

This morning, I got up very early to listen at the garage door. Nothing. I tiptoed in to the garage to take a peek. Audrey sat there quietly. I wondered if the cricket commotion might be intimidating her and keeping her quiet. But I can't do anything about the crickets in the garage. I felt terrible for imprisoning Audrey, but it had to be done.

Eventually, I got impatient, and stepped out onto the patio to listen for noises from the coop. I wasn't sure if the residents there were up and about yet, and was about to go closer to take a look, when....


...came from the coop. I ran over to see if I could figure out who it was. Ally was standing there, with Melanie and Lily settled in the dust by her feet. Ally looked straight at me, opened her beak, and said,

"COCK A DOODLE DO!" Again. Right to my face.

"Aha!" I said. "Caught you!"

So we have our culprit, caught him red crowed, so to speak. I went to the garage to release Audrey back into the general population. She was very happy to be back with her friends. We are keeping an eye on them all for any further rooster behavior, but Ally will have to find another home in the next day or two.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The Crime: At 6:51 this morning, a crow was heard in the vicinity of the coop. Upon approaching the coop, Complainant (me) realized that had she been 1 second earlier, she would have caught the crower in the act. As it was, however, she could not tell which of the chickens (who now sat there innocently awaiting their feed and water) had made the forbidden noise. Complainant waited a good ten minutes, delaying the start of her morning run, hoping to hear a repeat of the noise, but was unsuccessful. The suspects (see below) ate, drank, made many innocent sounding peeps, a few clucks, and settled down on the perch.

Further Evidence: On Monday morning, Rich gave testimony that he distinctly heard "rooster-like noises" coming from the coop area. Complainant and children kept a sharp ear all Monday for a repeat of the noise. Nothing was heard until this morning (see above).


#1. Attila the Hen (aka "Ally"):
Ally is a Bantan cochin with barred rock coloring. "She" was the first to feather out in the group, and she is the only one with fully developed comb and wattles already. She has never exhibited any herding or bossy behavior toward her companions. Ally was the first to start making a grown-up kind of chicken noise, letting out a choked bra-GAWK at least 2 weeks before anyone else started making that noise. Complainant has read online that barred rock females feather out much earlier than their male counterparts, therefore, she has always assumed that Ally was indeed a "she." But was all that feathering a carefully planned disguise?

#2. Jackie (aka "The Beast):
Jackie is a standard-size Partridge Cochin. Like Daisy (#3 below), she was acquired separately from the bantams, and spent her first week with another family. She was originally ordered from a mail order hatchery and is supposed to be a female (although I hear mistakes are occasionally made). Although she is the biggest out of the entire group, she is also probably the least bright and definitely the least popular. If chickens had mean girls like the ones in "Heathers," Jackie would be the Martha Dumptruck of the flock. Jackie never bosses anyone around and never leads; she is definitely a follower. But is all that meekness just a cover?

#3. Daisy (aka "Daisy Duck"):
Like Jackie, Daisy is a standard-size, acquired separately from the banties. She is a Buff Orpington, which have a reputation for being gentle and friendly. She is the only non-cochin in the flock, which means she is the only one with feet and legs that aren't feathery. Although she has never been observed to boss others around or even to peck anyone, it did seem as though she was making an early run for the top of the pecking order. She is often out in the front of the flock and others (particularly Audrey, #6 below) follow her around. lately, Daisy has been on the receiving end of pecking, particularly from Melanie (#4), but also from Lily (#5) and even Ally (#1). When she gets pecked, she lets out a loud honking type noise that makes her sound more like a duck or a goose than a chick. If Daisy were a rooster, why would she (he?) let these little bantams peck at her (him?) like that? Or is he (she) just waiting until he (she) is full grown rooster to fight back?

#4. Melanie:
Melanie is a blue cochin bantam, and until recently, was generally believed to be the youngest of the flock because she was much smaller and her feathers took so long to come in. Now she is the same size and her feather development has caught up. Melanie has the fuzziest legs in the flock, making her look like she's wearing gray fuzzy harem pants. She's among the most daring of the group, always willing to come close to the humans and peck a shoe to see if it's edible. Melanie has lovely eyes and does not mind being held. She never showed any bossy behavior until about a week ago, when her apparent campaign to terrorize Daisy began. Recently, she has taken to sneaking up behind Daisy and goosing her in the tail, causing the big yellow bird to jump about a foot and honk and then run away. Is it just innocent pecking order fun, part of a coup d'etat ... or rooster behavior?

#5. Lily:
Lily is a black cochin bantam. At first, she was thought to be Melanie's sister, but they have developed at very different rates so that seems unlikely. She now makes the same bra-GAWK noises as Ally, but is way behind Ally in comb and wattles. She is never the first to go anywhere or to get anything, so she is probably fairly low in the pecking order. She has never shown any aggressive tendencies, although lately she has sometimes participated in Melanie's torture of Daisy. When she was very little, she enjoyed being held in human hands and actually sought out being held on some chilly evenings in early June. Now, she remains one of the easiest to catch and pick up. She has the posture of a female, but her neck feathers are very shiny black and may be pointy like a male's. Is her gentle demeanor just an attempt to throw off our suspicions?

#6. Audrey:
The Complainant is very afraid to report that this chicken is the one she suspects the most, because this one is one of her favorites. This was the chick that she first picked to bring home. The lady at the farm where we got the bantams picked this one up and gave her to Complainant to hold, and Audrey hunkered down and went to sleep in Complainant's hand, melting her heart. Audrey is smart and audacious (according to Mathboy), assertive but not aggressive. She has never shown any herding tendencies. But she does look very different from the rest of the flock, with her feathery cheeks and her upright tail. She is the only chick who has not been heard to do any bra-GAWKing, still peeping like a songbird. Although said farm lady thought Audrey was a partridge, further research has persuaded us that she is an Ameraucana, which is pretty cool. (Go here and click on the picture on the far right in the top row. That's Audrey, all right.)

Investigatory Intentions: Since it seems to be difficult to get out there by the coop early enough to find out who is the culprit, the chicken detectives (us, in case you were wondering), plan to separate one chicken per night and make that one sleep in the brooder box in the garage. The thought is that, eventually, we will find one that greets the dawn with a crow and it should be easy to hear it if it is coming from the garage.
Could Audrey be the one? Is there only one? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

August is here

Yeah, that's my title and I'm sticking with it. So it's really boring. What's it to you? If anyone wants to brainstorm some blog entry titles for me, go right ahead. Yes, kids, I'm talking to you.

July flew by in a haze of heat and humidity here at Maison Sydney. I am hoping that August will be a little cooler. I know that's very silly of me. But I can hope, can't I?

Last year at this time, we were starting to get excited about the upcoming Disney trip. This year, we are starting to get excited about the upcoming Ocean City trip. We are beach bound on August 28th, and the kids cannot wait. When we get back, we will have just a few days until the start of the school year. But that's all still a month away.

We don't have much exciting to report about July. I did finally finish a bigger and fancier chicken tractor for the chicks.
chicken tractor
This was meant to be lighter and easier to drag around the yard. Unfortunately it turned out a little flimsy and the wire ends on the bottom frame tend to catch in the grass, so it really is not easy to move at all. Last night, after I finished it, the kids and I carefully carried it to the back of the yard near the coop. One of the joins popped out in transit, so need to re-glue that one. Rich and I need to figure out a way to make it more stable and smoother to move. But, for now, they can enjoy it in its present position.
chicken tractor 2
It was hilarious when we first tried to put them in there. Catgirl carried Melanie out there and put her down and turned around to walk back to the coop to get another chick. Melanie flew right over her head and beat Catgirl back to the coop. This happened a few times. They seemed terrified of the big cage. In the end, we had to carry them over one at a time and close the door to the tractor to keep them in until we needed to open it for another chick. But once we had 4 of them in there, the other 2 did not want to be left behind so they followed. One thing we have noticed is that the chicks hate to be separated. Once a couple of them go somewhere, the rest of the always follow. Are they chicks, or sheep?
We were able to watch them enjoy the grass while we ate dinner. Afterward, Rich saw a hawk swoop down, obviously thinking he could get a nice chicken dinner, only to veer back up into the sky when he saw that he was thwarted by my chicken wire contraption. Take that, you predator! Haha!

In other news, Mathboy and I have started running. We're doing the "Couch to 5 K" training app on our iPods (C25K). It's a very gradual training program that has you alternate running and walking for approximately 30 minutes total. Doane Academy has a 5K run at the end of October, and we both want to participate. So far, Mathboy is doing great, and is already on day 2 of week 4. Seeing as how I am a lot older and heavier than my son, I am going slower than he is. I don't want to hurt myself and have to stop. That would not be productive. But yesterday I bought real running shoes, and this morning, I started week 3. It went very well! Either week 3 is easier than week 2, or having real running shoes made a big difference, or both. :o)

Also, we finally painted Mathboy's room late last week. It was time: the faux clouds and the space-themed wallpaper border were fine when he was 5, but now that he's going on 14...? Not so much. For some time, we have known that it needed to be done, but were completely overwhelmed by the job it would be: taking down all those karate certificates, and class pictures, peeling off the wallpaper, patching the many little holes in the wall, unloading the ginormous Ikea bookcase, unloading the computer desk so full of junk that he can barely use the computer....

Plus, we needed to agree on a color. Mathboy wanted dark green. I said no. Rich said he was old enough to make up his own mind. Sigh. In the end, we bought 4 or 5 samples, and painted splotches around on the wall to see what we all could live with. For a while, the running joke was that we should just get more green samples, do splotches all over the entire room, and call it Camo.

I do not have complete "after" pictures yet, because we have not rehung the pictures on his wall yet, but this is what we have so far.

Here is a "before" shot, from over the winter:
Mathboy's window!
Look: SNOW! Remember snow? Remember that it was cold once?

Here is a "before painting" shot, after we had taken down the wallpaper border and patched many, many,many nail holes in the wall and prepped for painting:
painting: before
Like the splotches?

Here's his room "after painting, and the purchase of new bookcases, curtains and bedspread:"

Still gotta hang those pictures up. :o/