April 2014 archive
Our ranchette seems to be afflicted with a rash of unplanned pregnancies. I pestered Boot City a few days ago to get the eggs away from our broody bantam hen. The last time she was broody she hatched 6 or 7 chicks. They were adorable. Until they grew up and pecked one of their brothers nearly to death and then had to be separated. Too many roosters in a small space makes for a lot of drama. So now we have 3 random bantam rooster habitats that are a pain in the neck to take care of and they don’t lay any eggs!
I went to check on said broody hen tonight and guess what I found?
We won’t know for a few weeks of it is a hen or a rooster. I really hope it’s a hen. When I asked Boot City about this little bundle of joy he told me he had found it yesterday. Why he wouldn’t share this delightful news immediately is beyond me. Actually, it doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s always irritated by people who act like any birth is a glorious event (human or animal, in his eyes they aren’t all glorious events) regardless of circumstances.
Do you see how it has fuzzy legs? When it grows up it’ll have feathers down it’s feet. It’ll be cute. Bantams are miniature chickens and when the roosters with the feathered feet fight with each other we call it tickle fighting because they look so cute jumping around. Until there’s blood. Then it isn’t very cute anymore and they have to be separated.
Can you see the chick here with it’s mum?
Happy hen mom
The baby snuggles up under it’s Mom to stay warm. They can’t regulate their own temperature until they have feathers. They generally are fully feathered at about 6 weeks. They won’t lay eggs until at least 14 weeks, but with bantams it is more like 26 weeks before they lay eggs. The purpose of bantams are to be cute. They don’t really lay many eggs and their eggs are teeny tiny. They are like Italian Greyhounds, no real purpose in life other than to be cute.
This is the whole fam-damily. Three hens and two roosters live in this little chicken house. These roosters actually get along quite well. I don’t think we’ve ever had an issue with them fighting.
Bantam chicken family
Everyone should think happy thoughts/pray/meditate whatever it takes for this chick to be a hen. Her life would be much better (and probably longer) than if she’s a he.
Do you know what the world needs more of? I’ll tell you; cute baby animals. After a super busy week at work, one of the rougher weeks for Boot City with the weather man (I’ll explain that in a later post, but it’s a pain issue) and a somewhat sickly horse it was pretty fun to be able to pop into the ratty old barn and get a glimpse of these cutey patooteys.
Already sneaking out. They didn’t learn that from me!
They are a few days older than 5 weeks and mama cat had hidden them for the first 4. So not nice of her to hide them. Boot City found them after they were a few days old, but she had them in the ceiling of the barn so they weren’t exactly easy to get to. I, of course, reached into the insulation where they were hidden to see how many there were and snuggle them. Mama cat promptly moved them to where I couldn’t reach. Rude.
She seems to be fine with sharing them now. When I go into the room where they live she talks to them and they all come out to see her, then see me and freak out hissing. It is quite adorable and funny.
The babes are already learning to eat big kitty food.
The harsh truth out here in the country is that we go through a lot of cats. I think we’ve had about 15 since we’ve lived here. It is difficult to get them to stick around. Even the ones we’ve spayed and neutered found a reason to go out and either find a new home or become coyote bait. Two of the ones we loved most got hit by cars on the road in front of our house. Our sweet neighbor got them off the highway before they were a gooey icky mess so we were able to bury them properly. Now that is a good neighbor.
A couple of these munchkins are spoken for. One goes to a new home next week. And it ‘s a good thing because it appears that our other female cat is going to pop in the next week or two with her own batch of kittens. I’m not going to lie; I love having little kittens around to play with. Seriously, how can you resist this face?!
Sweet, furry kitten.
I know the more responsible thing to do is to get them all spayed and neutered and that is the plan for the mama cats once the kittens are no longer nursing. Hopefully we can get a group discount at the vet.
Kitten snuggled on a tractor implement.
Tis the season for hound shows and last weekend I helped put on the Southwest Hound Show here in Texas. I should start with a disclaimer that I am very much a novice when it comes to hound shows. I’ve only been to a handful of shows and they have all been in Texas. Every year I learn a little bit more about the hounds and what judges look for. Having grown up showing Quarter Horses I have a very basic understanding of conformation (hounds really aren’t THAT different from horses, right?!) and my experience actually watching the hounds hunt has added some understanding to my basics. But they remain very basic basics.
The SW Hound Show has two categories of hounds that are shown; Americans and Crossbreds. Generally the American hounds are a little stalkier than the Crossbreds. That is about the extent of my knowledge of their differences. Mind you there are many differences between hounds of the same breed dependent upon the territory they are bred to hunt and what quarry (fox vs coyote). The classes are also split between dogs (males) and bitches (females). The announcer had quite a good time announcing the bitches’ classes.
“Bring all your American Bitches to the ring”
Different judges have different preferences and the judge for this show seemed to prefer the leaner hounds. As with any type of “judging” it is very difficult to stay consistent all the time and at times he wavered from his pattern of choosing the leaner hounds, but even my novice self caught on to this preference. I don’t recall if he gave a full explanation, but I would venture to guess it has something to do with what his hounds look like and what is their quarry. He is from a hunt in Virginia that exclusively hunts foxes. In Texas we generally hunt coyotes.
Showing American Hounds
The judge looks over the hounds as they walk around the show ring, then each handler brings their hound to the center of the ring to show them to the judge. This involves both standing up the hound to judge the conformation as well as to have the hound run back and forth on the boards to judge their movement. Correct structure, straight movement, no major lumps and bumps are all important. The biggest difference between the hound shows and “other” dog shows I’ve been to is that the hounds are working dogs. They don’t get baths or have their nails clipped before the show. Many of them have scars and scratches from disagreements in the kennel or excitement on a hunt. This is probably my favorite thing about the hound shows. These hounds are for reals. One of the officers from the Masters of Foxhounds Association was at the show and he told us at dinner one night that 2 of the top 5 sled dog packs at last year’s Iditarod had fox hound blood in them. Fox hounds are badasses.
The judge evaluating a dog hound
I would be remiss if I left out the Junior Showmanship class. Can you imagine anything cuter?!
All the Junior Showmen and girls were winners!
Last, but certainly not least, was the pack class. This is where the huntsman gets to show off how well his or her hounds respond to commands. The hounds are taken into an open area and are judged entirely on following commands. It is absolutely delightful to watch the trust and admiration the hounds all have for their huntsman. The huntsman has the assistance of one whipper-in (basically one other person to help keep them contained). At this show they took the hounds down to a designated spot then returned to the judge. What a beautiful way to end a lovely day. I’m sad I won’t make it to the big hound show at Morven Park in Virginia this year, but hopefully next year it’ll fit into my vacation plans.
The pack at work
We have about 60 laying hens right now. Some are older chickens who don’t lay prolifically others are young hens who have only been laying for a few months. It works out to about 40 eggs per day we collect right now. That is a lot of eggs! We have quite a few friends who get eggs from us, but there are still plenty leftover. My thought was there would be no better way to use up some eggs than to have our friends’ kids over to dye Easter eggs!
Busy Easter egg creators.
I hard boiled about 5 dozen eggs in hopes the kids would have plenty to dye. Our chickens are a variety of breeds so our eggs vary in color from white to tan to brown to blue and green. This made it even more fun to see how the egg colors would turn out. About 15 kids made it to the party so they had plenty to dye. Some of the kids had dyed eggs before, others had not. Dyeing and decorating eggs is one of my fondest memories of Easter from my childhood so I love creating this memory for our friends’ kids.
Lots of colors to choose from!
Along with dyeing eggs some of the little ones had better ideas of what to do ith the eggs. This little guy, barely a year old, was far more interested in partaking in farm fresh hard boiled eggs!
And this future farmer was enamored with the John Deere tractor. A little man after Boot City’s own heart! Every time we have kids out to the ranchette there is a crowd of them on the tractor at some point.
The littlest biggest John Deere fan!
We treasure these times with the kiddos before they are too cool for us. I never tire of watching them running after chickens, trying to catch baby goats, getting their food stolen by the hound dogs, and generally still discovering their surroundings. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry sometimes that our friendships would grow distance as our friends have families and their activities and interests diverge from what we did together when we were in our 20’s. Gatherings like this just confirm that true friendships don’t go away, they just change and mature like we do.
Sterling has the least appropriate registered name of any horse I’ve ever owned. Queens Black Tie. I don’t remember his bloodlines and I don’t know Thoroughbred lineage very well, but his name really says absolutely nothing about him. Which is why his barn name is Sterling. At least it indicates his color! When I bought Sterling nearly six years ago Boot City and I thought it appropriate to give him a barn name that matched his personality and was derived from something to do with where the breed originated. The modern thoroughbred originated in England and he’s grey so we landed on Sterling. I think it fits him quite nicely. Don’t you?
Sterling looking dapper
He’s seven years old now and has become quite a lovely horse to ride. I consider myself an advanced rider, but when it comes to jumping I am definitely more towards the beginner skill level of knowledge. I’ve had Sterling since he was a yearling and for the most part have taught him everything he knows. This is why it is somewhat of a miracle how lovely he is to jump. The horses I jumped when I was a kid were all Quarter Horses with cowhorse bloodlines and one in particular was a really dirty stopper. He’d go up to the jumps like he was going to go over no problem, then slam on the brakes at the last second. Not the best way to build confidence in a 13 year old kid learning to jump. That and my cowboy Dad wasn’t the most supportive of my love for English riding.
Ready for a ride
Sterling and I have been taking lessons at a jumper barn not far from where I live. The same barn I bought Coco from. Kayce has a lot of patience with my ingrained habits to ride with really long reins and going much too slow. My hope is that by the time Coco is old enough to start riding and jumping Sterling will have helped me advance my knowledge to a point where I won’t inhibit her progress and talent. I took Sterling to a few regional shows last year and plan to do the same this year. He’s jumping 2’9″ rather easily now and his lead changes are delightful. But the best part is that he’ll jump pretty much anything I point him at, unlike Giorgio!
The view from up here. We have a lot of yucca on our property.
Growing up in Montana I never really understood the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. As I write this it is 39 in my hometown with a forecasted low of 19. April meant snow showers a lot more often than rain!
Texas spring weather is a lot more true to the saying! When I left work today it was pouring rain. By the time I got home it was sunny and lovely and clearly hadn’t rained at the house. My trusty iCellular weather app made no indication of rain in the near future so I rushed to feed the ponies so I could ride Sterling (gotta give him 30 minutes for his food to settle, its like swimming when you were a kid). I had barely scarfed down my leftover pizza and it was thundering and lightening then raining and hailing. I mean it was RAINING! The water coming off the roof of the house looked like a well planned waterfall.
So, I missed my ride. I did however get some fun pics of the farm after the rain. We were too busy holding Guzzi during the thunder to get any pics of the actual rain and hail. Hopefully my car doesn’t have any dents…..
I hope you enjoy the photos. The light after evening spring rains is the best. And even though my photography skills are still lacking I got a few good ones.
My favorite times of the day at home are in the early morning just before the sun rises and at night just as the sun sets. I had errands to run after work today (and to stop and see a dear friend whose house I left THE camera at over the weekend) so got home just in time for dusk. Animals are always pretty active just before the sun sets.
The chickens are busy just before the sun sets as this is one of their more vulnerable times. Coyotes are pretty active at sunrise and sunset and the chickens show a more keen sense of awareness at those times. That and they are gathering up to go to bed.
The rooster gathering up his lady friends.
People often ask us how we train the chickens to go to their coop and the truth is we don’t train them to do anything. It is amazing how hard wired they are to do what they do. They have a 6th sense (it’s called survival) to go to where they perceive to be the safest place at night. When we first got chickens we were worried they would roost in trees or other various places where we didn’t want them to roost. Never ever have they roosted anywhere but in the barn. Often in places in the barn we didn’t intend them to roost, but safe nonetheless. There is even one who sleeps on a spotlight in the new barn by herself every night.
Do you see the white hen landing on her roost for the night?
Pablo was exceptionally helpful with chores tonight.
This is Pablo. He’s famous.
I couldn’t resist photos of the horses. I know I’m biased, but they are beautiful!
Jaguar and Coco
Sterling and Noelle
And, of course, the sunset. This view never gets old.
Pink sky at night, sailor’s delight!