A year ago today, a little redheaded gelding named Sue came into my life.
He’s taught me patience, he’s taught me strength. He’s taught me to remember to breathe. He’s taught me how to have a conversation without saying a word. He’s taught me what an amazing gift whole hearted trust can be. He’s taught me that I can’t muscle my way through life and that sometimes I just have to relax. He’s taught me to face my fears (and his) head on.
I’ve been bloodied, I’ve been bruised, I’ve laughed until my belly hurt. We’ve run from lightning and toward puddles. We’ve even competed in two shows. My car smells like a barn, especially when it gets hot outside. I do too… and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I am so happy that I became Sue’s person on March 27, 2014… I can’t imagine a better horse for me! I’m also amazingly lucky to have a wonderfully supportive husband who has backed my adventure 100%. I truly do have the most fantastic life! I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!
No one died today (can’t wait until I don’t have to start a post with that) and the walls are up, so I thought I’d name another.
Meet Eagle. I think she’s one of the Barred Rock chicks, but it’s really hard to tell… the remaining unnamed chicks are all very similar in coloring and I have a feeling I may have some of the breeds wrong on the others. Her name comes from the fact that she is the first chick to roost… she flies on top of the feeder and settles in there, like an eagle in it’s nest. In fact, she spends most of her time up there looking down on the other chicks.
Today was wall day… Mike and I headed down to the orchard with my walls strapped to the back of the truck. They went up pretty easily. Well, with one confession… we did put that front wall on backwards at first. But it was quick and easy enough to fix! I am blown away… it’s like a real structure now! Solid and everything lined up… I can’t believe it! Not bad for someone who has never built something in her life!
Today was day two of the chicken coop project… as the sun set I had one very smashed finger, two bruised knees, four strong walls, and a borrowed screw gun. My neighbor (who is a contractor) intervened when he heard me hammering angrily… mentioning that I might “have more fun” if I borrowed his screw gun. The man is an angel… it was definitely easier!
Today’s goal was to get the walls finished. The first wall I tackled was the hardest… the wall that would have the door for the people to get in and out of. There was just a lot of measuring and cutting.
The next walls I tackled were the two side walls. Each of these will have a window, complete with shutters to keep the elements out. I’ve decided that I won’t be putting a glass window in… just screening it with hardware cloth and then adding functional shutters. Much of my chicken research has said that ventilation in coops is notoriously bad… people are so worried about their girls getting cold that they don’t provide a healthy respiratory environment. So, I’m counting on those feathers to do what they’re designed to do and I’ll use the shutters to keep the rain out.
And, the chicken door wall. This one is the one I’m most proud of. It looks deceivingly simple… but for someone with zero experience building things, I think I did a pretty good job. I had to Youtube how to cut at the 15 degree angle, but I got it! This will be connected to the run and will have the door the chickens will use to get in and out of the coop.
That little lip is intentional… since the roof is designed to slope towards the chicken door, I’m going to put a little gutter on and get it to drain into a barrel… that way we’ll have reclaimed water for the garden!
Finally, the finger. I got frustrated with the screws (pre-neighbor intervention) and started using nails… was doing a great job (hammering hard) when the nail wobbled and I smacked my finger. I hate to say it, but I said some choice words that are not appropriate for use on Sundays. I dripped blood around the garage (now muttering those choice words because my finger went numb) and then went inside to wash it out. I slapped a band aid on and headed back out to dominate the nail. True hardcore carpenter style. I think I’m gonna make it through the night, but wouldn’t be surprised if I developed one of those really cool black finger nails.
Next up… we attach the walls and get to work on the roof! I can’t wait for it to look like a real structure!
Today I started on my chicken coop. My husband was super cute… he came down “to make sure I got started and show me tips and tricks”. I think he wanted to help a bit… he ended up spending the afternoon with me. It was nice to work together!
First, I cut and framed the wood for the floor… then covered it in 3/4 inch plywood.
That was the easy part… then we drove it down to the orchard (where the coop will be) and started trying to figure out exactly how to get it seated on the piers… it took some digging, measuring, and leveling, but we eventually got it!
I know it doesn’t seem like much, but let me tell you, that was the hardest part of this whole project. It’s perfectly seated on the piers, is perfectly level, and is braced. That spaced underneath is intentional… it’s a place for the chickens to go to get shade or get out of the rain (if they want to be outside the coop). I am so happy!
Tomorrow… the walls!
While we were moving things around, I noticed how amazing my lavender looks right now:
I leave you with today’s chick pic… I have a chick who already likes to roost… she hopped right up on top of the feeder and settled in!
Very good news from the Blankenheim homestead today… no one died. So, I’ll go ahead and name two more.
Meet Blondie, my eight day old Gold Sex Link chicken (I think… it’s very hard to tell the Gold and Red Sex Link apart… especially since the other is now no longer with us for comparison). She’s a little bit shy, but once you get her in your hand, she likes to hang out! I love her pretty blonde feathers!
Meet Stretch, my eight day old Rhode Island Red chicken. She is by far my favorite. I gave her the name Stretch because she’s always craning her neck to see over the other chicks. She comes over and will eat out of my hand. If I put my hand in the box, she’ll peck at the diamond in my ring. This little girl is most definitely the leader of the flock. AND, get this… she SINGS. It’s the most beautiful little sound. I love her!!!
I came home today to find one of my chicks had died. I don’t know exactly what it was, but she was cold and had been gone for a while. Thankfully, it wasn’t a case of the other chicks pecking her to death… she must have been sick or weak or something.
I had planned on starting on the coop tonight but was a bit bummed and decided to save it for later this week.
I’ve been hesitant to name the chicks thus far as I’ve heard from multiple people that bad things can happen to your chicks. According to Jason Price at Modern Farmer, “At least one of your chickens will die a horrible death”, via random disease, predator attack, or in his case, dog-he-was-pet-sitting-attack. If you know me, you know I get attached, and fast. So, for these first few days, I’ve tried to remain emotionally unattached, which I’m failing miserably at.
Without further ado, I introduce you to the first two chicks I’ve named.
Meet Legs, my six-day old Feather Legged Cuckoo Maran. She will eventually lose all of that black down and develop black and white speckled feathers. She’s a bit different than the Brown Cuckoo Maran you will meet later, in that she has feathered legs (hopefully you caught that already from the breed name). You can see them starting to grow in the picture. Thus, the name Legs. I can’t wait to see what she looks like when she gets older!
Meet Chip, my six-day old Welsummer. Her full name is “Chipmunk” because she very much looks like a chipmunk when you look at her from the top down. She is very similar to the Speckled Sussex… in fact, I had to do some research to be able to tell them apart at this point. The key differentiation seems to be the legs… the Welsummer has pinkish legs while the Speckled Sussex has yellowish legs. You learn something new every day!
Over the past few years I’ve thought off and on about getting chickens. We live on a little over five acres and with the exception of the land right around the house, we let most of the property remain natural. We’ve got a good chunk fenced off for Shadow and another chunk fenced for my orchard. Every spring I’ve seen the sweet little chicks at the feed stores, but haven’t quite been ready to take the step. My sister went on Thursday to get some of her own… and it finally spurred me to get some of my own!
I ended up getting a variety of breeds and colors… some of them look very similar as chicks, but will look very different as adult hens. None of them will be meat birds… we’re just looking for eggs.
Rhode Island Red: an American breed of chicken known for it’s egg laying and hardiness.
Barred Rock: (also known as Plymouth Rock) a breed of chicken that originated in the United States and is a cold hardy bird. They lay a light brown egg that can have a hint of pink. I got two of these ones.
Gold Sex Link: a breed of chicken whose color at hatching is differentiated by sex, which makes it very easy to tell a hen from a rooster.
Brown Cuckoo Maran: a breed of chicken that originates from a western region of France, known for their dark brown eggs (and fine meat quality).
Welsummer: a Dutch chicken breed from the small villiage of Welsum, known for being friendly and intelligent.
Red Sex Link: a redder version of the gold sex link (see above)
Dominique: considered America’s oldest chicken breed, known for their meat and brown eggs
My little chicks look nothing like the pictures above. You have to use a red heat lamp because chickens are naturally cannibalistic and if for some reason one of them has any blood on it, they’ll peck it to death. The red light helps to hide anything that might trigger peckfest. That said, my garage looks like the red light district… and we have windows, so it shines outside.
Here are the ladies (well, hopefully all ladies) without the red glow. They were a little agitated because they had been taking a nap and I woke them up.
I decided that I am going to build my own coop… I have about a month before they are ready to leave their box and I have picked out a section of the orchard (that way we have double fencing) that I think would be perfect. I want to build a functional coop with a HUGE run. I can’t wait!!!
This past weekend Mike and I attended the Amador Vintners “Behind the Cellar Door” event. As we do every year, we rented one of those big white vans and had someone as the designated driver… they ONLY way to go in my humble opinion!
We ended up at nine different vineyards: Sierra Ridge, Drytown Cellars, Young’s Vineyard, Terra d’Oro, Cooper Vineyards, Karmère Vineyards, Shenandoah Vineyards, Dobra Zemlja, and Borjon. I will say that after NINE stops, I had to go home and lay down… there is only so much wine a girl can drink! It was a blast!