Saturday, June 24, 2017

Clown Car

After my traumatic experience with Henry the rooster, I thought it would be best to seek an alternative method to get the chickens from the coop and into the freezer. Nancy did a little googling and found a small country meat processor not too far away. They were very helpful, even offering advice on how to transport the chickens.

Following their advice, I woke up at 04:00 and headed to the chicken coop with our medium size plastic dog kennel. With calm assurance, I visualized plucking the chickens from the roost and placing them in the kennel with no issues. Well, as I quietly walked up to the coop door, one of the roosters lit up with a huge cock-a-doodle-do! Great, now they are all awake! I quickly turned off the outside security light and waited a few minutes to let them quiet down. Sure enough.

As I opened the coop door, I realized it was now too dark inside and I couldn't see a thing. Looking for a work-around, I found if I ducked down low I could see the silhouette of the roosters' comb against the dim predawn light coming from the windows. One by one, I collected the roosters and stuffed them in the kennel. Thank goodness, no big issues.

Being fairly sure I had seven roosters, I went to move the kennel onto the Jeep's hitch rack. Oh my gosh! That kennel now weighs like 60 pounds! As I tied the kennel down, I see three roosters just staring at me through the wire door. They sat in there, not moving or saying anything, looking like they knew exactly what was going to happen all too soon. I couldn't take it, so I went inside and tried to eat breakfast. Not feeling very hungry, I just had some coffee. Before I was even ready, it was time to take the roosters to the processor.

I was greeted by two very friendly guys. One guy, I'm sure with great understanding of the emotional trauma I was enduring, tried to make small talk about his Jeep and mine. The other guy walked up with two big bird crates and told me to put the birds in there. He told me to be careful because they may try to fly away. Yeah, I mean, who wouldn't try to fly away right before... you know. As I began to take the roosters one at a time out of the kennel and place them in the crates, it was like a nightmare. One by one. They just wouldn't stop coming out, like clowns from a clown car!

Saturday, June 17, 2017


Yesterday. I cleaned out the hutches and did a little housekeeping on the bunny box. Ends up there are seven beautiful bouncing baby bunnies in the box with eyes open, and some adventuring out into the big(ger) new world. All appear to be in great health. Sexing and naming will be in a couple days. A cup of coffee says it will be 4 does and three bucks. We'll see!

To make it an over-the-top day, one of the hens popped out the first egg! Not sure who it was, but one hen gave kind of a peculiar look when she was asked about it. Nancy said the egg was small, light brown, and kind of heavy; maybe it was egg concentrate?

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Oh my, what a beautiful morning. The sun rising brightly over Lake Michigan, casting it's rays through the forest's new leaves with bright green splendor. The cool, moist morning air, a comfortable porch chair, steam gently rising from a warm cup of coffee. Ah, life is good... until its time to butcher the chickens!

I know, I know! This day has been coming since the day the fluffy little chicks arrived, but who thought it would come so soon? The Rhode Island Red roosters are as handsome as ever, but man, are they getting mean! And the crowing? Wow! I think we are going to have some angry neighbors if I don't do something, and I mean, right now. It's time to separate the men from the boys.

The dilemma, at least in my mind, has been how I am going to do this. After much research, it seems the cone method may be the most respectful way to dispatch the chicken, but the hatchet and stump method is so popular. Then there is the "broomstick" method. Pondering this for quite a while, I realized my sharp ax was at work and I haven't made a cone yet, but I do have a long metal rod. Hmm. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed a rooster and the metal rod. What followed next is now just a black, foggy, personally traumatic experience I will not soon enough forget.

Following the 'execution' of the broomstick instructions, I quickly found myself staring down at one part, and holding up the other part. All of a sudden, and much to my surprise, my end began wildly flapping its wings. In amazement, I quickly let go. As I stood there, I observed the headless chicken fly away. Then it went to the ground, jumping and flapping like - yes - a chicken with it's head cut off! Then, like in a bad horror movie, the icken jumped up and flew right at my face! My hypothalamus quickly kicked in with Walter Bradford Cannon's described response signals to my pituitary gland and adrenal medulla. Without even thinking, I swatted the icken away with great speed and force. The icken then flew and jumped down a small hill behind the barn and ran right into an opening in the big log pile and out of sight. In the sudden silence, I stood there in amazement and shock and thought, "Oh great! Now what?"

To make a long story not so long, the end of the day found a plastic bag in the fridge containing two chicken breasts and two drum sticks. Later in the evening, I opened the fridge to get a beer, thinking some ethanol might help me to the end of this traumatic day. Then I see it. On the plastic bag someone wrote, "Henry, 6/6/2017"

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cigar Box

June 2, 2017 was just another day, other than the fact we became grandpa and grandma again! Well, sort of. Betty, our awesome black New Zealand rabbit, became a mom to what looks to be eight beautiful bouncing baby bunnies. We haven't got a solid count yet due to giving Betty some privacy and recovery time. Identity crisis resolved. Happy birthday bunnies! So where's the cigar box?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Preponderance of Evidence

A while back, I was unsure if Betty was actually a Betty or a Barney. If you recall the Barbie, Betty/Barney incident, Barbie bared no baby bunnies, so the situation has become even more debatable. In an effort to rectify this identity crisis, I determined the benefits of the probable outcome exceeded the possible risks. So this afternoon, I put Betty/Barney in Bucky's cage. A few minutes later, Bucky was d-d-d-d-d-d-doing his business, not once, not twice, but three times he delivered the goods, falling over on his side after each time. So if Barney is actually a Betty, on June 1, we should see a preponderance of evidence and end this identity crisis.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Party Horn

The chickens are 9.29 weeks old today, and barely juvenile at best. As I was going through morning chores this morning, I hear this loud and very strange noise. All I could think of is maybe one of the chickens stepped on another one or something. Ah, no worries, so I continued to open everything up to feed and water everyone.

As I was tending to the rabbits, there it was again. I walked into the coop to see who was still in there. Hmm. Just one rooster and a hen. Then, I see and hear this, like a broken party horn.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Whole New World

Last night Nancy and I got back from a 7 day vacation in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area to see a little bit of the Great Smoky Mountains. This morning, when I went in to feed and water the chickens, I about freaked out. The chickens grew so much I hardly recognize them from just last week! Right about... now, the chickens are 7.71429 weeks old, and they are taking up more space than ever! Hard to believe they all came in that dinky little box in the mail such a short time ago.

Speaking of space, so if each chicken needs about 4 square feet of personal space, and I have 28 chickens, that would mean I need, um... lets see. That would be 1/28 = 4/X, so divide, no, multiply 28... then see if, no wait... um, that means I need, um, uh, 112 square feet of chicken spaces. Well now, the coop is about 10 feet by 8 feet, so that would be, um... yes, 80 square feet of chicken spaces. Crap! That means I'm 32 chicken spaces short!

In light of this factuality, I decided to get a temporary pen up outside today so the chickens have the necessary spaces for personal boundary. The permanent fence is supposed to start tomorrow, but I haven't purchased the 5"x 8' posts yet. Well, three 3"x 7' posts and some extra chicken wire later, the temporary pen is up, and just in time. Like popcorn from the top of the popper, the chickens came popping out of the pop door. Standing briefly in the doorway, it's as though they were thinking, "Wow, this is like a whole new world!"

Monday, March 13, 2017

Five Weeks Pondering

Barred Rock hen at 5 weeks
I am at a loss for words today. I spent some time in the chicken coop before getting to work in the shop. The chickens are really growing up fast. Kind of weird actually. Good thing humans don't grow this fast. Chickens are pretty amazing creatures.

I can't seem to stop thinking about the whole circle-of-life thing. Here on my knee sits a wonderful creation, soon happy to provide me with delicious eggs for frying over easy, and for making my world famous pancakes, for Nancy's delicious pumpkin bread, and for Tim to continue making the great Severn traditional recipe of home-made sticky rolls for the holidays. Yup, eggs are a wonderful thing.

But then there are chicken sandwiches, with Hellman's mayonnaise and a pinch of salt. And, of course, there is broasted chicken, fried chicken, and the ever-popular "wings". This situation certainly gives gives one pause to think.

Yup, I love chicken!

What? Oh. Nancy just told me there's no eggs in her pumpkin bread, or the Severn sticky rolls. Oh well. But I know they are in pancakes because I make them.

I still love chickens...

Friday, February 24, 2017

Awkward Beauty

Awesome Rhode Island Red at 2 1/2 weeks.
Now comes juvenile awkwardness as the peeps are all popping feathers. Though I wouldn't miss this for anything, I find myself looking forward to seeing them mature into what God created them to be. Wait, this sounds so familiar. Oh yeah, I think it was when my kids were growing up...

Anyway, the peeps are flying down and back through the coop, chest-bumping each other, playing with a ping pong ball, up and down on the roost bars, quietly peeping as a flock and generally having a great time. So much fun to watch and interact with! I should have had chickens a long time ago...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Obituary Announcement

Catherine Barred Rock, age 1 week, died on Saturday, February 11, 2017, at her home in Oostburg. She was born on February 5, 2017, in Webster City, Iowa, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Barred Rock. Catherine is survived by her five siblings. A private family ceremony will be held on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at the Black River Rabbit Hutch Crematory in Oostburg. The family would like to extend a special thank you to the staff at Black River Rabbit Hutch for the comfort and care given to Catherine in her final day. Condolences may be expressed online, below. In lieu of flowers, a tiny chicken memorial for Catherine has been established at the Black River Rabbit Hutch.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Peeps Arive

"Hello, is this Ken? This is Phil, from the post office, um, your chicks are here." At 06:13, zoom-zoom to the post office. Back door. Ring the buzzer!

So Phil the postman gives me this little box, barely as big as a shoe box. From it, emits these little "peep, peep, peep" sounds. At last, the 28 chicks have arrived! I rush home, gently holding the box and talking to the poor little peeps that have been quarantined from life for, I don't know, maybe 48 hours and 23 minutes, give or take.

As I drive home, I think of the awesomeness of God's creation contained in this little box. Therein awaits the little gems over which I have great responsibility as their caretaker, accountable for providing clothing, food, and shelter. Okay, maybe not clothing, but heat lamps, 18% chick feed, and clean water. All the things necessary to sustain these precious little lives under my roof.

Oh, and the free "rare exotic chick" they talked about really is just a chicken, not some gorgeous brunette from some far away land sent to pleasure.. well, never mind. She's cute anyway.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lagomorphologist Not Needed

Today I decided to let two of our black New Zealand rabbits, Betty and Barbie, out of their cages to play on the floor while I did some work in the barn. I thought it would be nice for the bunnies to get out and play with each other and maybe bat a ping pong ball around. So I picked everything up off the floor, moved the extension cord for the heat lamps out of reach and made a barricade to contain them in the 10' x 10' area where the rabbit hutch is. Yup, looks like this will work just fine.

I got Barbie out of her cage, held and pet her for a couple minutes and set her down on the floor. She seemed to really enjoy the extra space as she calmly hopped around checking everything out. Yup, looks like this will work just fine.

Not being sure if the two had ever been together before, I got Betty out of her cage and held her for a few minutes so she could see Barbie was on the floor. When Barbie hopped to the other side of the area, I placed Betty on the floor. The two looked at each other for a few seconds and continued investigating the area. Yup, looks like this will work just fine.

Seeing that everything was going smoothly, I stepped over the barricade and was about to start working again. Wow, this is going really well. Then they hopped over and began touching noses, checking each other out. I thought that was pretty cute, so I got my phone out to take a picture for Nancy. I looked down for maybe 5 seconds to unlock my phone and turn the camera on. When I looked back up, boy was I surprised!

Barbie suddenly lay flat down on the floor right in front of me. Then it happened. I mean from the time I stepped out, to well, this, it was maybe a minute. Thing were going so well, but then this. I quickly realized, as sweet as she is, Betty isn't a "Betty", she's a "Barney"! And proud of it!

I was so astonished, since I thought they were both girls this whole time, I forgot to take a picture. As I was regaining my composure and futzing with my phone, a flood of of scenarios began running through my head about what 32 days from now might look like. Then they start doing it again!. Bam! This time I am ready. I start rolling video. Barbie is flat as a pancake on her belly, and Betty/Barney is climbing on to give it a second try. Then a third try! Jeepers man! Suddenly I realized the scenarios playing in my head may all come true if I don't do something right now!

I put down my phone and picked up Betty/Barney - whatever - to take a look at, you know, him. Yup, looks like Betty/Barney is a little lumberjack. After I put him back in his cage, I picked up Barbie to check her out. In a side-by-side, I have to say Barbie is in fact a girl, and Betty/Barney is actually a Barney. Just to be sure, I took Bucky out of his cage to checked him out. Crap! Bucky looks just like Barney. One good and maybe telling thing is there was no "blue dress" stain on Barbie. Would there be? Who knows. I should probably just plan on getting a few more cages, sooner than later, because you don't have to be a Lagomorphologist to figure out what just happened.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chickens Ordered

I ordered baby chickens today from McMurray Hatchery! Since I prefer to eat fresh eggs, fresh broasted chicken, and salted chicken with mayo sandwiches, I ordered 6 Buff Rock hens, 6 Barred Rock hens, and 15 mixed Rhode Island Reds. That will give me 18 freezer chickens and 9 layers. Oh, and Bonus! I got a "free rare exotic chick", for free! Um, I hope they mean "chick-en". Must be. I mean it was free, right? I told my son Tim about it. He asked, "Do you just get her for the day, or what?"

After spending quite a bit of time going to YouTube "U", I think I'm ready. I just ordered a "kill cone". Wow, that's something I never thought I would say, or even know what it was. Life is somehow becoming less sterile that it always seemed to be, in a new way. Yup, this is good. Soon enough, I will experience a different kind of reality, at arms length.

New Zealand Rabbits

December 30, 2016

In the quest of finding something new and different to do, I decided to walk a less risky path, to do something more antitheses of my last 30 years, something very basic. Since I have never walked in the shoes of a farmer or rancher, I thought it might be worth experiencing at least a tiny piece of what I think is an underappreciated life and career. Farmers and ranchers feed the entire world. What would do without them? I'm thinking many would go hungry!

So after a lot of research, Nancy and I drove about an hour to go look at some black New Zealand rabbits for breeding stock. When we arrived, we looked around the large farm and saw hundreds of rabbits, including black, white, and red New Zealand, California, Silk, and a few others. The rabbits looked like they have been well cared for, and the three black New Zealand rabbits the seller offered were perfect for what I want to do.

Having prepared the 6-cage hutch in our barn ahead of time, the rabbits were able to move right in when we got back home. I am very excited and looking ahead to the coming Spring, actually March 15 and 29, when I will breed the two does. Around April 15 and 30 we should have two bunny batches out of the ovens.