My baby chick is still alive!

I wrote yesterday about hatching an egg, so there was no way I couldn’t write tonight with at least a quick update. It’s been a busy day with both work and chickens, but I had to let you know that my baby chick is still alive! I am surprised, though I had a little hope when I saw the strength of that baby trying to help me hatch her. Still, the odds aren’t great, but I am a little bit hopeful.

This is the strong, pretty baby. She runs circles around everyone else and is just the perfect little gray chick. She’s pretty black on her back, though you can’t tell very well in this photo.

The thing that makes me hopeful is that my baby chick keeps improving. She’s still behind the strongest chick, but I think it might be a little ahead–at least even–with Hector’s other egg that hatched perfectly fine. She’s so cute too. So yellow. Okay, so I have to be sure to not get too attached through, right?

Oh, and I have to tell you something that is going to sound mean, but I mean it in the dearest way. The second Hector baby chick is the ugliest little chick I think I’ve seen. I mean, she’s still cute, but I thought something was wrong with her at first. Then, I realized she just has coloration that makes it kind of look like she has an oddly wide mouth. Kind of like a baby bird, I think.

I think. I only saw her for a few seconds. She hatched last and is running a little behind. She won’t leave Ruby’s feathers very much. I’ll try really hard to get pictures tomorrow.

Poor Ruby, she’s a saint. I watched her for a long time today, and those baby chicks crawl all over her, under her feathers. I can see little waves in Ruby’s feathers as they crawl around on her.

Today, I hatched an egg…

Day 21 of 21

Ruby made it to the end, though she looks a little worse for wear. Right now, she has three babies, but I have only had a good look at two. It’s very chilly outside, even in the garage, so all of the babies are tight under mama.

Both of Hector’s eggs hatched, and Bianca’s baby chick just couldn’t hatch all of the way. So after promising myself last night that I would only help a little and let nature take its course, when I saw the egg this morning, I thought it was worth a try to help. It looked like it may have been just stuck in the egg because the egg cracked and the membrane stuck to the chick (though I am not sure if there wasn’t some earlier issue). Still, that seemed fixable–maybe.

I had read some years ago about how to carefully hatch a baby chick from an egg, but I was pretty nervous about it. Baby chicks have skin so thin and fine. It’s very easy to hurt them. Plus, there is the sad reality that most chicks you have to hatch will not make it.

But in this baby’s case, I could see some strength. I thought, since it pipped and Friday and still had some strength on Sunday, maybe there was hope. So, this morning, while Ron did all of the morning chores, I sat in the bathroom light and, with tweezers, hatched a baby chick.

It was both terrifying and magnificent. When I had first eye free and it saw me, it definitely gave extra wiggles. Truly, it helped the whole time though, which makes me a tiny bit hopeful in a fairly hopeless situation. That baby wiggled and wiggled while I carefully peeled back shell and egg membrane one tiny piece at a time with a warm, wet paper towel helping when the membrane was dried and stuck. I hurried as fast as I could, but since I had to be so careful, I am worried about how cool it got–I mean on top of everything else.

We will see what happens. It did manage to fluff out, which is a good sign. However, it is not moving around like the other baby chicks. I am pretty sure it will not make it.

Ron asked me today what I thought its chances were.

“Maybe 50-50,” I said but then thought better. “Maybe just like 70-30.”

I didn’t have to tell Ron which side was 70. He knows. That little golden chick is an underdog for sure, and I always love the underdogs. I’m trying not to let myself love this one though. I am realistic about what will likely happen.

But I am happy overall that Ruby has her babies. She has had a tough broody period. I am glad for her to finally be a mama. This morning, she started eating the baby food and just ate for a bit. Thank goodness!

Ruby is better…and other stuff

Day 18 of 21

I think Ruby is better. Well, at least her eyes look good. I really, really hope those babies hatch soon, but I took extra good care of her today. It was very hot today, like 94 degrees, so I fed her grapes and other treats throughout the day. I fed her grapes five times today. She ate them all every time–and ate some bread and eggs as well.

We had baby chicks arrive at the post office today, but they are Freedom Rangers, for food. This is hard for me, but my family eats chicken and my dogs eat chicken. And because I know how chicken are treated if I buy chicken at the store, I commit to being the best meat chicken caregiver I can be, though my heart will be broken in the end. These chickens will be treated so well every second of their lives, until they have one bad moment, and Ron and I researched and researched (talking to both a vet and a neuroscientist) about the most humane way to cull a chicken.

That’s a hard thing to write about. It’s a hard thing for most people to think about. In fact, I think most people don’t think about it at all, but I think it’s important.

Ron and I have talked about going completely vegetarian when our son is grown, but we will always have at least one Great Pyrenees–and they need meat one way or another.

Also, today, on my way to get baby chick food, I saw something on the side of our road. When I got closer, I could see it was a baby raccoon! When I got closer, I could see it holding its little hand out toward nothing, like just this reaching out for anything.

I pulled over and could see the little baby raccoon was in really bad shape. Just as I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, my neighbor, a farmer and a Forest Ranger, pulled up and hopped out of his truck. He had gloves and a box. His wife had seen the baby on her way to work and called him to come get the baby. I was so relieved. He said, “”Something must have happened to the mama.” Then, he added, “Don’t worry. I know what to do. I’m a farmer.” That’s really what he said! I just smiled and nodded.

Anyway, he said he knew of a rescue in Portland, and he would make sure the baby got there. He said we should look to see if there were others–and there was one more! This one was hiding in the tall grass about five or six feet away. When my neighbor picked up this baby, I could tell this one was in much better shape.

I had just a little hope for the poor first baby when I saw the sibling snuggle up. The first little raccoon really did perk up a bit. You could see relief come over his or her little body. I sure hope that baby makes it. It’s a worry though because it was in pretty poor shape.

When I got back into the car and drove to get the baby chick food for the new chickens, I cried–the hard kind of cry.

A Ruby Worry

Day 17 of 21

Last night, I heard Ruby talking to her eggs. I love this part. I love the way the mamas and babies communicate with each other before the hatch. It’s fantastic to witness. When we used to incubate eggs, I would sing to the babies in the last couple of days. Poor babies though. They probably hatched and thought, “well, this is the worst mom ever, but we’ll have to made do.”

But I am very worried about Ruby. I fed her eggs this morning and feed her some kind of breakfast every day, but she’s not eating or drinking enough still. She’s a thinner bird anyway, but she’s very thin right now. Then, this evening, when I went to check on her, one of her eyes was stuck shut.

I scooped her up, found two new Juliet eggs underneath her (Juliet is a little cowbird), but the fertile eggs were fine. I carried Ruby around forever, trying to find Ron for help holding her, as Ruby is not a good patient. When I couldn’t find him, I checked her eye as well as I could, and I pried it open. Once I did that, it seemed fine. I am not sure, but think she is so dry and crinkly that her poor eyelids stuck together. Poor Ruby! I have to feed her more each day. She’s a little picky though. I just have to keep making scrambled eggs, I guess. Sometimes, with work and everything else going on, it’s hard to make Ruby a separate breakfast every day, but I had better figure it out. Poor Ruby has me worried.

I am worn from the worry about her and Anna Maria and Antonio and now Schumann’s bumble foot is back, which means I didn’t get it taken care of well enough the last time, and we have so many broody hens. So many. So many. Sigh.

I gave Ruby a duck egg for dinner, and I left cut-up grapes in her crate. I also made her walk around and get some movement. Hopefully, things will be better tomorrow. Cross your fingers those babies come early!

Just a day on this farm…

Day 13 of 21

Today was so full, but it was a good kind of full: I went for a walk with a dear friend; I washed about 80 eggs (I still have a little more to go); I taped and painted the doors on our house (this has been on my list for 4 years–4 years!); and I candled Ruby’s eggs for the last time. From now on, I leave them alone–unless Ruby steals more eggs.

When I candled her eggs, I went ahead and checked the new eggs from Juliet as well. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, Juliet had been laying eggs in Ruby’s crate, and Ruby was just like, “I’ll take that.” She was supposed to be on 3 eggs. She had 7! I was very curious to see if any of Juliet’s eggs were fertile. Not a single one of them was. I don’t think Juliet lets either of the roosters mate with her very often, maybe never. Isn’t that interesting?

Oh, in other interesting news, I noticed that Bianca and Rooster hang out together a lot. This makes me wonder about Bianca’s egg that is developing. I wonder if Rooster might be the daddy. It would be cool if he was. I’ll try to write in a few days about what I know about the genetics in each of the three eggs we have developing under Ruby. Thankfully, they all seem to be developing well. Hopefully, we will get all 3 babies. Surely, we will get 2 babies. Cross your fingers for us–both me and Ruby.

The day has been long. I was out in the garden picking lettuce for dinner (our first night of salads for dinner!) while Ron and our son were moving really, really big rocks from a garden expansion to make room for more corn. And it was getting dark–it gets dark pretty late now.

We are getting so close to the Solstice. This will be the first Summer Solstice in 4 years that I will be able to celebrate and instead of working on the Solstice release of the journal. Of course, writing these words makes me a little sad. I loved those issues. I realize I want the Farmer-ish journal to live so much. I just don’t have the capacity anymore. Maybe one day, I can figure it out and get some help.

For now, I am really, really, really looking forward to a magical Solstice.

Rhubarb, Climate, and Fertility

Day 9 of 21

I can’t believe Ruby is already on day 9. I had better get to the feed store and get some chick starter feed for her babies. They will be here before we know it. Of course, we only have three eggs developing, so I hope we have babies soon. Ruby is definitely devoted, so we should have at least a couple of babies hatch.

Ruby is doing well, though getting thinner. I did figure out that I can get her to eat cut-up grapes, which helps with her hydration. She’s so cute sitting in her dog crate, so focused. I’m excited for her to have babies.

I also cut up rhubarb for the first time today and made muffins. It’s so great to have rhubarb again. It’s been slower this year than in years past. I think because it’s been cooler. Everything is growing more slowly than in the past five years or so for sure, but I am very thankful for the cooler weather.

Last year, at the end of that miserable summer with all that heat and no rain, I told Ron it would sure be nice if we could get a break from all of this climate change and have just a summer every now and then that was more normal. I am hoping the universe said, “wish granted.” I mean, I hope so.

And I’ve been thinking all day about the poor fertility with our hatching eggs. It’s a bit of a surprise to me because I see Rooster and Dvorak being pretty busy out there. But I looked closely today to try to see if I could discern a little more about what is going on.

This is what I learned: Rooster is polite and old. Dvorak is fairly polite, which is fantastic for a young rooster. He’s really a great rooster overall and won’t bother the ladies too much if they tell him know. Every now and then, he gets determined, but overall, he doesn’t harass the hens. I am so grateful for him.

I also learned a bit more about the Salmon Faverolles. They are very quirky chickens. They are sweet but also aloof, like very unusually so for a chicken. In fact, I have never seen an aloof chicken (at least not to this level, as chickens are usually fairly high strung), but all four of the Faverolles are this way. I need to write more about them, as I have some stories. But the main thing I learned from candling these eggs and studying the flock today is that the Faverolles are not allowing Rooster or Dvorak to mate with them. That’s very interesting. It’s not usual at all.

The Sweetest Video

Day 6 of 21

One more day until I can candle Ruby’s eggs! She is doing well. She had a lot of scrambled eggs today, so that was great for her. I accidentally sat a carton of eggs I had just packed up down on a low table and ran to help my kiddo who had a bloody nose. When I got back, Bairre had taken the carton of eggs off the table, dumped them, and was eating what he could. I managed to scoop up almost everything that was left and save those eggs for the chickens.

I don’t know if I will candle Ruby’s eggs tomorrow or Monday–maybe Monday. When I do, I will be sure to make a video.

And, speaking of videos, I accidentally took the sweetest little video ever. Ron was getting soil ready for planting potatoes, and the ducks were helping. In particular, our duck, Anna Sophia, was helping. She’s the duck who lived in our house for several months and fell in love with the cello. She’s been hanging out with us extra this spring, and it has been a joy.

I went outside to video her, and I am convinced I accidentally captured a tiny moment of the magic of this place on video. I hope this makes you smile.

A Cold May Night in Maine

Day 3 of 21

It’s been cold here today. It sleeted or snowed or something for a little bit earlier. I had to wear a coat and hat on our walk with the dogs today. Thankfully, we just have our cold-hardy vegetables in the ground, but I’m worried about my flower pots. Maybe I should bring them in. I had better.

It was a lovely day overall though. I am in love with Maine in the late spring.

When I first moved to Maine, my officemate at the university told me, when I was complaining about Maine winters, to “just wait” that the springs and summers were so beautiful that it would make the long winters worth it. I told him I thought that was just because the winters were so terrible that, by comparison, everybody thinks the springs and summers are awesome.

And then May came, and I understood.

There are apple blossoms literally everywhere, in the trees, floating across country roads, on the cars in town. The greens are so vibrant. We have so many magnificent trees here in Maine that it feels a little wild, like Maine still keeps some of its wildness and just will not be tamed by humans.

It’s beautiful here.

On our walk today, I took pictures of some of the apple and pear blossoms, and when I got home, I got this picture of Rooster under one of our pear trees that is maybe my favorite picture of him. Isn’t he so regal? He has a regal personality, and the coolest thing is that, after all of these years, he trusts me. He is like me and trusts almost no one. I rarely “show my soul.” Rooster is the same.

He also worries like me. Today, Ron was trying to cut down an infested branch in our neighbor’s tree. He was up way too high on the ladder, and I was holding it but was very scared. It was not a wise thing to be doing, and Rooster was letting Ron know. He kept clucking at him the way he does when he’s trying to tell the flock to behave better, to be safer.

I told Ron that Rooster is my people. Ron laughed and agreed. I am so glad Rooster is still here. He’s so old, but he seems determined to hang in there. I am grateful to have him.

Ruby is doing well at Day 3 of her journey. Every day, I feed her some breakfast scraps because she’s so devoted to her eggs that she won’t get up to eat and drink much. I’ll have to write more about that tomorrow, but I made her eat a little, though was not able to get her to drink. I’ll try again in the morning. I did pull her out of her crate to get her to walk around a little because I haven’t seen her off the eggs for two days. She squawked about it and went right back to her eggs, but at least she moved around a little.

PS I just have to add one more sweet Rooster story. If he hears you sneeze, he makes this worried sound and checks on you. Every_single_time.

My Afternoon with Arwen

Yesterday, I spent several hours with Arwen, just me, some plants, and Arwen, and it was great.

We used to buy hanging baskets of flowers to hang all around our property in the summers, but hanging baskets can be a little expensive. With that in mind, I started saving the pots and hangers and just buying individual plants and planting myself. The other perk of this is that I love doing it, so it’s a win-win. I bought enough flowers for six hanging baskets yesterday for $65. If I had bought the ready-made hanging baskets, the total would have been $240.

It took me an extra while working on these baskets yesterday because our hangers have rusted and died. I had the idea to use twine and just make my own hangers. I like the look a lot better, but it took me some hours to make that plus get the flowers planted.

I was just starting to feel lonely when Arwen made her appearance.

Arwen has had her wings trimmed, but she is still smart enough to get out of the chicken area and hang out in the driveway. Arwen has always been one of the smartest girls I have ever seen, even when she was a baby. I kind of marvel at her, so I was glad to see her.

She just sat with me for awhile, checking everything out, but then she decided she wanted to peck at my flowers. I told her “no.” Our chickens know “no,” but it will only work for a little bit with the stubborn ones. Arwen would stay away for a few minutes but then couldn’t resist the flowers and would be right back in the middle of them.

Finally, I got up and got her some treats. “You eat your treats and leave my flowers alone.”

She accepted this deal, and all was well–until she ran out of treats. Chickens will train you after just one time of getting treats, so she knew what to do. She went right back to my flowers, and I went right back to give her more treats. We did this three times.

Finally, when she was back into my flowers the third time, I got up and told her a big no and ran her off. In a few minutes, I heard her behind me digging holes in the flower bed, so I got up and ran her off from there.

After this, she looked pretty pouty and went to the door the chicken coop to be let in. She was like, “Fine. I’m leaving.”

So I got up one more time and let her back into the coop. I was sad to lose the company but glad to not be getting up and down waiting on a chicken.

It was great to get that one-on-one with her though. Arwen is the last baby Rooster will likely ever have, and she is the last baby we are going to have on our little farm for a good while.

Arwen is our baby. I think she knows it.

Busy Season

Day 336 of 365

We are into a tough time here on the little farmstead. I love spring, but my goodness, it brings some work, and we have some added unusual situations this spring.

We are not sure what to do with Anna Maria. We even considered trying to make her a house duck, but I don’t know if she can do it. Plus, she will forever hear the call of her people from the window and will want to go out there with them. So, we have to keep thinking.

It’s also planting season for Ron, which is always kind of epic. I need to get the berry bushes pruned, and I have to finish pruning the pear trees before it’s too late. It may already be too late. On top of this, I ordered peach trees and more blueberry bushes because I am determined to make an edible landscape around our property, but I don’t even know where they can go. We have a lot of shade from a lot of trees. So I have to study our property and the sunshine and then dig. The soil is so rocky that Ron will have to dig the holes for the trees, but I can probably dig the holes for the blueberry bushes.

We also have rats in the chicken coop still, and they have done some fairly serious damage. Now that the weather is warmer, as soon as we are able to get to it, we have to take down the inner wall, maybe for good, and Ron will have to replace some of the boards on the outside.

Oh, and as I write this blog, I can hear Ron watching a video in the next room. He is learning how to treat trees for brown tail moths because we have those too. Thank you, climate change.

When I write this down, I feel a little panicky about being able to do all of this between work and homeschool, but I assume we will get it done–always later than we had hoped but always done.

In the meantime, I am doing a pretty good job of getting my essays graded for work while I sit in the bathroom floor with Anna Maria. We had a duck in the house before for several months. Her name is Anna Sophia, and she loved the cello. Today, I played Anna Maria some of Anna Sophia’s favorite music, and she really liked it. Ducks seem to like the low cello sounds a lot. In fact, I found a cello YouTube channel and used my laptop as a duck sitter while I was making dinner tonight. The music keeps Anna Maria from quacking and quacking, and female ducks quack very, very loudly.

The cutest thing was that I could see her through the reflection on the screen watching my computer over my shoulder, but when I would turn around, she would turn her head like, “you can’t look at me.”

*Also, I feel it is important to note that we had Anna Sophia for about a year and a half before Anna Maria came into our lives. And Anna Maria’s name was already Anna Maria. We didn’t rename her. I thought you might wonder why in the world we had an Anna Sophia and an Anna Maria.