Monday, April 26, 2010

Culling the Herd

Long ago, in October 2009, I rushed eggs up to my neighbor Sheri's incubator. I thought I would let 2 of my "girls" sit on eggs until they hatched. One Thursday night I went out to the coop and saw a sweet little, fluffy chick. Warm maternal instincts flooded through me and I could hardly wait to go out the next morning to see how many more chicks had hatched through the night.

The next morning I lifted up the hen to check on the baby chick and any new baby brothers or sisters that may have emerged and ...didn't find a one. It took me that long to look up into the mother's face...only to see a barely hatched chick dead and sticking out of her beak. Not only was that one dead, the little chick from the night before was nowhere to be seen.

Gulp. I pulled the remaining eggs out from under the cold-hearted and cruel/non-instinctive mother hen and took them to the incubator. Sheri watched over them for me and when the babies were born, we brought them up in a box with a heat lamp. Only 3 of the chicks made it. Out of all of those chicks, only 1 was a pure-breed Ameraucana.

The three were pals as is the case with any chicks that are raised together. High school friends of mine came to visit and named the purebreed, Mary. I tagged the two other ones #102 and #103 with foot bands, the first time I have ever done that.

As my luck would have it, the other two chicks grew up into strapping young-buck ROOSTERS!!! DANG! Right now they are sitting in our dog, Tasso's, crate on their way to Western Farm where I will happily sell them.

After a long and hectic week I relaxed in the back yard by letting the chickens out of the pen to run around and munch on the grass. I watched as both #102 AND #103 had their way with the same hen and then Dad/Ivanhoe would join in. It was a too much for me. is the trip downtown!

For some inexplicable reason my pictures aren't posting right now. I will share images when I am able.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Catching Bee Fever

You might be wondering how the bee keeping adventure is going...GREAT!!!

I have now attended 3 of the 4 courses, taught by bee expert and mentor to most of the county, Serge Labesque. He is literally so revered and well-known here in Sonoma County that you don't even need to mention his last name. He has raised bees for years and has created modifications to standard bee boxes/hives that are now known as "Serge-Style".

Every night after class I call my brother, Pat, to tell him what I learned that night. (I saw Pat's hive in December and knew if he could do it, so could I!!!) We have discussed what size "super" to use (Serge recommends using the medium size because the weight of the larger boxes are too heavy to handle), whether or not to use queen excluders, a screened level that keeps the queen from being able to move up into the next level of the super. Serge DOES NOT believe in the excluders but most bee keepers think of them as standard equipment.

I am so revved up after class that I have to take something to help me sleep! The day after last weeks class I was burning up the wires by emailing my bee keeping girlfriends asking them things such as "nucs", nuclear bee families with unborn queens, where is the best place to buy supplies both locally and online, who treats their bees with powdered sugar (a no-no in Serge's book) and so on.

There is SO much to learn. The one point Serge keeps driving home: respect the bees and what they naturally do. Don't interfere. I like that philosophy and will do what I can to uphold it.

Supplies can be found at:
Western Farm Center
Dadant & Sons, Inc.
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
Glory Bee Natural Foods and Crafts

Thanks to Carolina Bees and for the photos.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

So Long, Boys!

We finally did it. We finally captured the hens-turned-roosters and took them down to J.P. at Western Farm Center. As you might remember, Farmer Jeff bought me 5 little female Ameraucana chicks for Mother's Day and, lo and behold, 2 of the 5 turned out to be ROOSTERS!!! Not just any roosters, but loud and clumsy-lover roosters!!! These guys were the bad boys of the pen, jumping on, or at least chasing, all of the hens. Poor Jericho and Bruce were out-gunned/out-muscled by these two characters.

I announced to Farmer Jeff, as we were getting ready to go to Western Farm today for feed, that it was time for these guys to go. NOW. Farmer Jeff thought it might be fun to capture THEIR capture on film/photo. You can see that it was not an easy proposition!

The first one, Duke (the-hen-formerly-known-as-Duchess) was easy to get. He was in the coop and I just walked in and grabbed him as he was attempting some sweet talk with one of the girls. He was not a problem. The next one was.

Sophocles (the-hen-formerly-known-as-Sophia) was another story. I strolled up to him in the pen and thought I would just pick him up. NO...not going to happen. I ran around that damn coop, flapping my arms like giant wings, making every attempt to grab him. First I tried cornering him, then I tried...cornering him and then tried...cornering him again, only to have him fly over my head! Farmer Jeff was laughing so hard he could barely take pictures!

I finally corralled him into the coop and was able to grab him by his ankles. At that point, like all bad guys in bad fiction, he went limp, became compliant and stopped struggling. He really didn't have much choice! As you can see, he is a real beauty. I thanked him for being with us, told him he would go to a home where they really wanted him. I hope that is the case. When we got down to Western Farm, we saw many other roosters up for sale. He was the most handsome boy down there, as well as his brother. This breed is just regal. They can't help it.When we got back home, I was able to sweet talk Farmer Jeff into putting up a board over the coop window. It just has a screen and flimsy curtains, which is just not enough protection for our cold nights. Last night it got down to 25 degrees!!! That is DAMN cold for us little hot house flowers in California. Actually, I am the hot-house flower having grown up in San Diego, but I am adjusting to stronger seasons and freezing temperatures. The gray hen is Eleanor Roosevelt and the white one is Martha Washington. They are both Ameraucanas.

I leave you with a picture of Sophocles. Goodbye, fair Prince!

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