As soon as I’m done updating the blog, I’m going to write a strongly worded letter to the good folks who make Superglue. Their product has nothing on what King Julian produces. I figured the bathroom would be an excellent place for him to recuperate after his play date with the eagles, since nothing sticks to linoleum right? OMG. It took me hours to clean that up, and I had several inches of straw down! A paint scraper was involved. It’s a good thing we’re in the middle of renovating our bathroom, or I might be vexed. Seriously, he even managed to poo on the wall. On the WALL! It would have been less work to flap on up to the toilet and use that then it was to hover like a feathered helicopter and open the blast doors, so to speak.
After two days of being woken up by King Julian’s braying, Gene said he was well enough to go back outside. Today was the first time he’s ever met Sean Paul, Marley, and Puff Daddy, but it went well, once all the a$$ kicking was done. Even without most of his feathers, he’s still the biggest rooster on the block. I went to check on them just a little bit ago after I put everyone to bed, and the three other roosters were all sleeping on the floor, while King Julian was kicking it on the roosting bars, surrounded by his girls. It’s good to be the king.
In rabbit news, I’ve been working on trying to bunny-proof the Bunny Ranch. I haven’t gotten very far though, because stapling chicken wire to the ground is hard to do one handed. It’s hard to do two-handed, which is why I think I’ll hand the project off to Gene. The rabbits are getting a little cranky, though; I think they miss being able to hop around downstairs, even if it is all muddy and yucky. I’m going to change Claire’s name to Bitey McFangfang, because every time I reach in their cage she takes a chomp. Apparently it’s not an uncommon situation, since lots of people posted that question on the Internet. To remedy the problem, I’m supposed to slowly put my hand in the cage to feed them, so they don’t perceive my arm as a threat. I’m not sure what about my timidly opening the gate, then shrieking and throwing their food at them when they lunge at me is threatening, but whatever. Clearly the author of that article never had a fifteen pound rabbit hanging off his forearm by its teeth. And the growling doesn’t help. I’m seriously considering having people sign a waiver before they come visit us. (Sure, the bathroom is the second door on the right, don’t startle the rooster though!)
Hell has officially frozen over here at the farm… Gene is letting me keep a rooster in the house! Of course it’s just on a temporary basis; poor King Julian got to soar with the eagles yesterday…. until they dropped him. Our neighbor found him early this morning, and now he is recuperating in our master bathroom shower. He lost over half of his feathers, and was so shivering and cold from being outside all night that even Gene couldn’t deny him the luxury of indoor living until he gets better.
In another outpouring of unexpected charity on Gene’s part, he decided to give poor Thanksgiving a reprieve, mostly because he didn’t want to butcher in the monsoon-like weather we’re having. I never thought I would find myself ecstatic over the fact that it’s raining, but I must say I hope the weather around the end of December continues with the same theme. Maybe then Gene will just give up on his misguided idea that the poor defenseless turkeys are destined to be dinner. I suggested that we roast a nice bald eagle or two, but apparently there is some type of law preventing that. National symbol status aside, those birds had best start treating someone else’s backyard like a giant buffet or it’s going to start raining lead.
Since King Julian is living it up indoors for the foreseeable future, I moved Marley and Shawn Paul out into the main coop. They are fitting in well with the girls, and have already made themselves at home. I plan to move Fluff Daddy and Puff Mama out soon as well, then the ducks can start sharing the kennel set up with the turkeys. So far the ducks haven’t seemed the slightest bit interested in having any sort of roof over their heads, in fact Paris, Nikki, and Bedonkaduck all sleep on top of the kennel roof no matter what type of weather we’re having. Harvey and Claire are similarly oblivious to the cold. One night was so frigid that everybody’s water froze, so I tried putting a heat lamp in the Bunny Ranch. Claire hated it – she ran around in circles making a weird shrieking noise until I took it down.
They have turned into bunnies of substantial size, large enough to leap up three feet. They love to jump on top of their hutch, so now they enjoy three levels of ranch living space. For some reason they hop over to me every time I enter the bunny ranch, and when I’m staring at them at eye level, they seem almost too big. I made the mistake of going in there empty handed the other morning, and when I reached in to take their water bowls out Harvey expressed his displeasure by sinking his teeth into my hand. Now at a minimum I bring wheat thins with me every time. Gene said I should have smacked him, but since Harvey can’t use words, how is he supposed to tell me he’s hungry? I think he made his point rather well.
The thing I hate most about this time of year, besides the below freezing temperatures, near constant rain, and cold dreary wind is the fact that it gets dark promptly at five o’clock. That means I leave for work in the dark, and come home to find the critters have pretty much put themselves to bed. I then have to grab a Coleman lantern, hang it from my cast, and go about dispensing food and water in the dark. I think it’s going to be a very cold winter, based on how shaggy Princesses Fiona and Buttercup have gotten. I’m amazed the ducks still enjoy swimming in their pool; just looking at them frolicking in the water when the temperature is two degrees above freezing makes me shudder. We are going to have to rig up quite a few electric water warmers if this keeps up. Either that, or give the ducks ice skates. And on a totally related note, did you know you can buy knit booties and hats for chickens??? How cute is that?
Harvey and Claire don’t seem to mind the freezing weather either; of course, they have packed on enough winter insulation to survive in Antarctica. They have to be at least 15 pounds now. Much to their dismay, Gene blocked off their burrows by driving rebar into the ground. That seems to have cured the burrowing problem; after pressing their noses through the bars and looking at me with sad puppy eyes they finally gave up trying to get out. Eventually we will ring the entire enclosure with rebar. That’s way easier than putting in a concrete floor.
The chickens don’t roam as far from their coop now; they seem content to cuddle with each other and hang out in their winter enclosure. They have also noticeably put on some winter weight, to the extent that pretty soon Gene is going to need to reinforce the roosting bars. It’s really cute to see all 11 of them trying to cram themselves onto two bars; they must do that to stay warm. They have also taken to using the same nesting box, often at the same time. The Fancy Chickens also stay inside their A-frame condo for most of the day. Fluff Mama should start laying eggs any day now, I’ve already found one of those weird “practice eggs” that look like deflated shells. After Thanksgiving and Christmas have transitioned to a higher plane of existence, the plan is to give the Fancy Chickens the run of the kennel coop, and cut a small hole in the door so they can go out into the pasture if they’d like. I wish we could just leave the door open, but the goats love to go in there and eat the chicken feed. I had to shoo Fiona out the other day, and I tried to shove her rear end to get her out the door. In response she would put all her weight on her front legs, and I would end up raising her butt up above her head instead of actually making her go anywhere. She’s like an obstinate two year old. The six chicks in the brooding box are oblivious to the weather, since their environment is temperature controlled. They are at that awkward stage where their bodies are still puffballs, but they have proper feathered wings. Gene said no more chickens after he got me the six of them, but he also said that after we got the flock of Americaunas, so clearly more chickens are in my near future.
This was my first week back to work, so you can imagine the guilt I was feeling about leaving the critters to fend for themselves after a month of dispensing treats and cuddles three times a day. When I got home on Tuesday, I was horrified to see Claire sitting outside the chicken coop. I herded her back into the Bunny Ranch and quickly realized Harvey was nowhere to be found. I looked down and saw they had dug an escape tunnel large enough to make any Alcatraz inmate proud. I spent the next four hours crawling around the backyard with a flashlight wailing, “Harvey, Harvey come home!” I’m sure the neighbors thought I sounded like a Lifetime network movie. I finally found him underneath one of the decks; he popped out when I started shaking grain in his food bowl. Then I spent the next half an hour trying to herd him back home; I finally just scooped him up, which was difficult one handed. I had the brilliant idea of trying to hold him wedged between my arm, neck, and chin, and promptly remembered they have really, really sharp claws. I eventually got them both tucked back into their hutch, and I was so happy they were safe I gave them double rations of apples and leafy chard. I’m sure they learned their lesson. Now poor Gene has to spend his weekend making the lower level of the ranch bunny proof. (And I told him his solution could not involve electricity in any way.)
I’m not sure why the bunnies felt compelled to escape; we’ve gotten a hard frost every night, and rain every day. Everyone but the ducks is already impatient for spring to come. I bailed out their pond over the weekend, mostly because you could smell it before you could see it. I had let it go for a few weeks because it takes forever to bail it out one-handed. I moved the pond liner since there was a lot of rain water underneath it, and discovered a group of small frogs. I was worried they would be crushed when I refilled the pond, so I carefully picked them up and put them to the side. I turned to grab the liner again, and was startled by a high pitched screaming sound from right behind me. I was happier before I knew that frogs shriek as they’re being swallowed by ducks. So much for keeping them safe.
In happier news, Gene finally grew weary of my not so subtle comments regarding how sad and empty the brooding box looked, so he got me six new chicks! About a week old, and sooooo cute. They are Golden Sex-Link; the color of the chick is linked to the sex, so male chicks are white and females are golden. The new chicks bring the grand total up to 21 chickens! Only 18 of them will live in the coop though, the fancy roosters will live in the pasture. Gene said the chicken coop has reached its capacity, so I told him he better start building another one. The woman we bought the chicks from has over 400 (400!) chickens, so she’s making us look like chicken farming rookies.
Gene and I winterized the garden today, and the chickens had a blast running around the turned dirt digging out earthworms and bugs. After struggling to uproot the Tomatonater, Gene made me promise to only grow tomatoes in pots next year. The Tomatonater resembled more of a shrub than a tomato plant, the root balls were huge. My job was to go around with a bucket and pick up all the fallen, squishy, rotten tomatoes. By the end of it, I might as well not have been wearing a glove. Yuck. And I thought the duck pond smelled bad.