peace negotiations

Well, it’s been 4 days, and we remain at a stand still with our peaceful flock integration. Gloria is still acting pretty freaked out / curious / territorial / excited whenever we bring the new girls out (a few hours each day). I tried once to open their door, and poor Alberta got a couple of hard pecks from Gloria for her audacity in leaving her cage, and Frances was extremely worried about her the whole time (well founded, I guess). Alberta seemed unphased and unharmed, but I freaked out and screamed at Gloria… even though I know that she is a sweet hen, and this is part of what they need to do. I couldn’t help it… they are just so little and I feel so protective! So I’m going to give it a few more days before attempting any real contact again. And in the meantime, here’s how I’ve set up our peace talk conference room:

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Quite intentional side-by-side feeding and watering, and even a shared “dirt bath” patch. Frances and Alberta both seemed to relish their first real dirt baths:

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I don’t know why, but I love how this pic turned out. Happy Feathers!

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dream house

Now that we seem to be expanding our chicken family, I’m thinking it’s probably time to invest in a bigger, better coop. In about 10 weeks, we’ll have 3 laying hens, and I think expecting them to share one nest box is a bit much to ask. Even our two hens had some dramatic moments with this arrangement. Also, I’m sure they would appreciate a roomier, dryer pad in the winter. This local builder (Animal Houses) that I’m thinking of hiring makes these walk-in coops especially designed for Portland weather, and they look really sturdy and cute to boot… complete with 3 nesting boxes. Pretty sweet, right? Now… is the paint job worth it? It’s crazy cute. But will it protect the wood and make it last longer?

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meet & greet

So far so good! Today’s first meet & greet went very well. We had the new girls out under a guinea cage top for about an hour this morning. There was lot’s of curiosity and excitement all around, but nothing aggressive or obsessive. Gloria was REALLY cute with all of the noises she was making, sounding equally nervous and excited. She only pecked at them a couple of times through the bars, but very quick and equally startling on both sides. And it also seemed to help that we shared their food with Gloria. They will all need to eat the grower mix together when they start living together anyway. I didn’t realize that pullets who aren’t laying yet can’t eat any layer food, or the extra calcium could build up and kill them! We will just have to make sure Gloria has access to oyster shells out of reach of the babies. I’m so glad we are doing this now… I think they are all going to get along just fine. And we are quickly falling in love with the babies. They have been letting us hold them and pet them and eat out of our hands and have been giving us lots and lots of kisses. Alberta especially is a very confidant lover girl. At first I was worried that she was going to bully Frances because she kept pecking at her beak, but Frances seemed to tolerate it… then I realized she was just licking crumbs off her face after eating… grooming her. I’ve never seen that with any of my birds before. Super cute!

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new girls in town

Introducing…. Frances and Alberta! In the interest of promoting all of our hopes and dreams for the future of our backyard, I wanted to choose names that went well with Gloria for our new 10 week old pullets. So I went with characters from the “Frances” children’s books by Russell Hoban: “Bread and Jam for Frances”, “Bedtime for Frances”, etc. In the stories, Frances and Gloria are sisters, and Albert (a boy) is Frances’s best friend. So Frances is our black & white Barred Plymouth Rock (Gloria is also part Barred Rock), and Alberta is our Gold-laced Wyandotte. There were also some beautiful Brahma pullets in the same coop at the store that were tempting, but these two were the most curious and interested in me, and the first two at the door when the shop owner opened it. They were practically begging to come home with me. :-) Interestingly enough, as I was settling them in, Gloria started squawking outside… I wonder if she could hear them? (They still cheep, which is super cute!) So we will let them get settled tonight, and then tomorrow we will have our first short introductory visit with Gloria. Wish us luck!

Gloria Dilemma

…and Gloria makes one. It’s been a little over a week now, and I can’t tell if Gloria misses her sister or not. She is acting pretty normally, and laying eggs almost every day (she usually stops when stressed) but is she lonely? I’m especially concerned about this Winter… will she need a friend(s) to keep her warm and cozy? I’m looking for advice here. The more I research it, the more the process of introducing chickens sounds completely intimidating and stressful to all humans and chickens involved… including possible illnesses, injuries, fights and drama, not to mention the expense. We would for sure need another coop, especially for the introductory period. So… I’m wondering if the end result would be worth it, or if Gloria would just be happier to live out the rest of her days alone (with visits from us and neighborhood cats / birds / raccoons(!) of course. Any ideas… advice… pros/cons welcome!

backyard chicken in coop

Soothing Surprise

After my rough week losing Cleo, I feel like I won the lottery today! Brace yourself for an interesting family connection: My Aunt called last week to tell me that my cousin’s wife’s sister has a small flock of sheep, and doesn’t know what to do with the fleeces. My Aunt told her about my spinning, and she offered to GIVE them to me! So today I received my first “sample” in the mail: 2 gorgeous Romney lamb fleeces, one white and one black (9 lbs. of wool!).

black and white romney lamb fleeces

I was so excited, I couldn’t even wait to wash them… I had to spin up a couple of locks “in the grease”. I just carded them up and spun them with a woolen long draw, which was crazy easy, since the staple is so long. The lanolin on the wool probably helped too, and now my hands feel SO soft. Here’s my first little test skein. It’s so soft and light and dreamy!

romney lamb handspun woolen yarn

Now I’m going to do more experimenting with processing and spinning techniques for this. First I’m washing some of it in just cold water to make it a little cleaner, but keep the grease, and some in soapy hot water to remove the grease… I wonder which I’ll like working with better? Then I think I’ll try combing some and spinning it worsted, as well as more carded woolen.

Then I really need to make something(s) amazing with all this loveliness! Starting with something special for the giver. ;-)

 

Farewell to Cleo

We are all very sad here… we lost our sweet hen Cleo this morning. Two days ago she became egg bound with the biggest egg I’ve ever seen her lay. When she tried to push it out, she prolapsed her vent. It was very messy and awful looking, and we couldn’t get the egg out, so we took her to the emergency vet. They were able to get it out, and get her vent pushed back together and sewn up, and we hoped she would pull through. Yesterday she spent the day resting, and only drinking water, but this morning she was very lethargic and didn’t want to get up or even drink water. I planned to take her to a local avian vet as soon as they opened, but she died in the car on the way there. I’m not sure why, there must have been internal complications, but to me it felt that she was ready to give up on this life… as if she was saying enough is enough! I never want to lay another egg again! So I hope she’s in a better place now… a heaven where she can free range her days away… only lay eggs if she wants to and it’s easy for her… and perhaps be reunited with her sister Fluffy. We will miss you always, sweet Cleo. Rest in Peace.

Here’s a gallery of our favorite moments we captured with Cleo: