Sunday, April 27, 2008

Built To Last

It was about this point he realized building a flat shed-style roof would have been much, much easier.

What do you do when you run out of rungs on the ladder and you're not a professional roofer? Build a makeshift scaffold. The ladders below are strapped to the rafters then a 2x4 and an old ladder found in the barn are wedged across the top. At that point the fearless teenager could perch himself handing over the shingles the wife schlepped up the ladders. Of course by the time we worked all the kinks out of the assembly line the roof was finished. We decided we'll all be keeping our day jobs.

So the roof, complete with ridge vent was finished for somewhere around $40, the cost of the ridge vent. The tar paper was here in the barn and the 40 year warranty shingles were leftovers from my parents house. We're pretty sure we're the only ones around with better shingles on their chicken coop than their house. Nothing but the best for our girls. Thanks Mom!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Goldilocks and the Three Ladders

She tried them all and not one of them is just right.

Lucky for her, she married Superman. He can just fly up there armed with a paint brush.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shhhh, Don't Tell...

but I think he likes them. Why else would he impersonate Superman to lift the roof in place?

Tolerate my insistence that the trim reveal be the proper measurement just because I studied drafting and it would drive me crazy if it were an inch off?

Build frames for antique windows when buying new ones would be so much easier?

And check in on them every morning before he leaves for work? Yep, I think Mr. "I'm not a pet person" actually likes chickens. But let's keep that between me and you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eyesore No More

No? How about less abandoned looking then? Lipstick on a pig?


It started out as a training exercise in the subtleties of paint application. The kid lasted about half way through before claiming to need a break. Cramp in his hand. I repeatedly tried to explain it's less work if you really load up the brush with paint, but he just pushed harder. It's no wonder he needed a break. He did enough work to have painted the whole thing himself.

We've decided this little barn isn't worth it's weight in salt so a $10 gallon of paint is just a bandaid until we find time to deal with it. It does look better from a distance. Way, way back.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Legend Livezzz

Who would have thought choosing a name for a chicken would be so hard? Especially given the rest of the cast of characters were named so easily. Fortunately for us there are clever people like you around to come up with something perfect.

After some initial confusion, we feel pretty confident at this point in the game that we have two roosters and five hens. Here's the lineup.

Hermie the Early Bird, our first born. Her name was chosen by the kid before we knew what we were looking at.

Sammie, again named by the kid but this time a name that could be either male or female. Smart kid.

Socrates really liked the rolled up sock in the brooder and was so named by the engineer. We've wavered on this one for a while but were 90% sure she is a she even though she has a cream colored beard.

There's something about Mary. Nice hair!

Beth, our special needs chicken, started off slow but is catching up in a hurry. Named by the engineer.

Hawkeye Junior, in honor of his father who sadly passed away the same day Junior was born.

and finally...


When Zorro decided to hatch there were no ifs, ands or butts about it. He was up and out of his shell faster than any of the others. Then he flung about in the incubator causing a ruckus, stomping on other chickens and kicking other eggs. So much so we had to take him out right away. Combine that with his cute little black face mask and legendary coloring and you couldn't have come up with a better name for this guy! Congratulations Bethany! You are the official winner of the Front Porch Indiana Chicken Watch 2008 Name-That-Chicken Contest!

And thank you ALL for your wonderful entries. It was actually a really tough decision. You guys are great and had us laughing all along. Keep those creative juices flowing, we're going to need them. Since these little buggars are so entertaining we've decided we can't part with the boys so uh, we uh, ordered 15 girlfriends for Zorro. Hey, what can we say, he's a ladies man.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Boys and Their Toys

The engineer finally bought himself a fancy new pickup truck.

**pause for laughter to stop**

Okay, so it's not fancy or new. And yeah, it might have been manufactured before we were even born, but it runs great and will fetch all the lumber and other supplies we could ever need. And you know what? It can even fetch goats! And hay and feed and fencing for the goats! AND make an interesting conversation piece. What more could you ask for from a farm truck?

The young gentleman that we purchased the truck from was quite the character. And he had plenty of toys. A tour of his barns was a lot like touring a tractor mueseum, I counted at least eight. Did you know Porche made a tractor in the 50's? He had a 1940 International crew cab truck, most likely the only one left in existance. A 1926 Chevy pickup, a mere two years older than him he pointed out, he rebuilt the cab on himself. He retired from Allison Transmission back in the seventies and has been busy tinkering with his toys ever since. After we were there for a while his wife of sixty years "buzzed" him in the workshop to get back in the house and eat his sandwich.

I see now I'm going to have to find one of those buzzers...

Friday, April 18, 2008

We Interupt This Contest to Bring You Earthquake Coverage

No, you didn't click the wrong link. And no we're not on a California vacation. We're still right here smack dab in the Midwest. Not too far from the epicenter. Granted, living in a rickety old farmhouse may have intensified the effect, but when it shook me out of bed this morning it FREAKED me out. We just had another sizable aftershock, it seems chickens don't care much for earth moving under their feet either. How in the world do you folks out there on the West Coast stand this? The last earthquake here was in 1987 and I sure hope it's another 20 years until the next one.

Due to all the earthquake hubub, and more to the fact that I have errands to run, we'll be extending the Give-This-Chicken-a-Name contest through Saturday. Great entries so far, keep 'em coming!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Name That Chicken Contest

There's been an interesting turn of events here during Chicken Watch 2008. The little guy in front here, the last one to hatch, surprised us with his near sparkly silver-blue color. His brothers and sisters are black and gray, just like good Barred Rocks are supposed to look. We're not sure if he's just "special" or if maybe his momma, Lexi, was steppin' out on Ol' Hawkeye. Either way, he needs a name. That's where you come in.

Over the next twenty four hours we need you to put on your thinkin' caps and come up with something suitable for such a fine looking young rooster. We're a low-budget operation here so there won't be any fancy prizes or big checks in the mail, but you will get to put your stamp on a small part of poultry history. How cool is that?! Aren't you excited?

So go forth and come up with something brilliant!!

Oh, and please don't forget to sign your name. You know, so we can jot it down in our chicken naming hall of fame.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Seven, I say Seven Chickens

Who doesn't love Foghorn Leghorn?

We have seven chickens hatched. Unfortunately none of the White Crested Black Polish (wild hairdo) looking ones have hatched. Not completely giving up hope, 'cause stranger things have happened, but I have a feeling our flock will be a party of seven.

We are pretty sure we have three girls, three boys and one to-be-determined. Not every breed allows you to opportunity to figure it out at this age. With Barred Rocks though you can see a difference in their coloring. The other one is a mixed breed which means we can't tell.

Girl Chicken

Boy Chicken

So we'll wait another day or so on the ten eggs that are left and try to keep from falling head over heals in love with these little boogers. Because you know, two of the roosters may have to find another home when they grow up. Or we could just order ten more girls. ;-)

Counting Chickens

Having flashbacks from Sesame Street I really need to get some sleep.

Number five has arrived.

Still waiting on three more, not sure if they're going to make it. It seems to be taking them way too long to get out.

Chicken Watch 2008 - Here chick chick

As of right now we have four hatched and three still in the throws of labor. It's amazing how much they have to struggle just to get out of the shell. You can't help but cheer for them. It's also amazing how long they are dragging this event out. It's like each one has to make it's own grand entrance. We have a flock of drama queens.

After doing a little online photo comparisons it seems Hermie the Early Bird is a girl. We decided we're still going to call her Hermie.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chicken Watch 2008 Update

Hermie the early bird learns to walk while he's waiting for three of his siblings to finish popping out of their shells. The rest are being lazy bums.

Got Chickens?

Hi, my name is Hermie. I just flew in from Georgia and boy are my arms tired!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Let's Get This Party Started!

There's some rockin' and some rollin' and some peepin' goin' on! One is even break dancing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chicken Watch 2008

Well, it's been 18 days since we set the eggs in the incubator. We started out with 32 and after candling we're down to 18 viable embryos. A couple of those are questionable. At least one we know is perfectly alive and well because we could see it moving! It was almost as impressive as my kid's ultrasound.

After turning them 3 times a day, every day, it's now time to leave them alone so the chick will position itself properly inside the shell. Nothing else we can do other than pace back and forth and check the temperature, humidity and maybe boil some water and gather clean towels.

If we're lucky we should start to hear some peeping sounds coming from the eggs around Monday or so. We've moved the incubator to a more private location so we can lock psycho kitty out of the room if necessary. I know it will be necessary. On Tuesday we should start getting some little chicks poking their heads out into the world then we'll give 'em a quick smack on the bottom and pass out the cigars.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Keeping Up With the Joneses, er McCoy's?

While on the way home from town today, I noticed one of our neighbors (neighbor meaning three miles down the road) had some chickens. I hadn't noticed them before because I was always admiring their sheep, or their miniature donkeys.

We live in the middle of hobby farm central. I dare say that within a ten mile radius of our house ninety percent of the homes have some sort of livestock. Just on this road alone there are five horse farms the two miles north of us. When you head south things get a little more exotic with miniature horses, lamas, etc. East of us you have sheep, cattle and more horses. So it's easy to see by not having livestock, we are social outcasts. The chickens are going to help but we need those goats to really fit in!

While I was out gathering up more yard waste for our giant mountain o' rubbish (for scale reference that's a 8' x 8' shed) it occurred to me that our problem of not having a place for the goats to live isn't really a problem at all. We have a perfectly good shed for them to live in. Isn't' it lovely?

Okay, so it's not the most attractive living quarters I've ever laid eyes on. It is nice and dry inside though and if I recall, that's all goats care about. What's even better is that this humble abode is already surrounded on three sides with welded wire fence. And there are old burn pile mounds for the goats to play king of the mountain on. All we would need is one more row of fence and a gate. Sounds simple enough, yes? Then if we ever get around to fixing up the big barn for the does, this wee little barn can remain a bachelor pad for a buck. And besides, the kid already hammered out a fancy new door handle for it.

If we're lucky we might even be able to bribe him, er I mean "encourage his entrepreneurial spirit", into fancying it up even more by painting it this summer. You know, so our goats can keep up with the Joneses sheep.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Barely Moving

We're getting too old for this weekend warrior stuff.

Would you mind rubbing my tummy?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hardworking House Guest

My sister-in-law may never come to visit again. She certainly picked the wrong weekend for a leisurely visit to the farm. We had the floor joists assembled before she even woke up Saturday morning.

Then she helped me haul almost every two by four and piece of plywood to the build site. When we weren't hauling building materials we were fetching tools or refreshments. Even during our down time she and I cleaned up the yard. We made dozens of trips to the burn pile. By the end of the day we had two complete walls, a third almost finished and a spruced up landscape.

We were out bright and early again this morning. Moving a bit more slowly I hate to admit. Our desk jobs certainly don't condition us for these weekend warrior events. Unlike the coop's future residents we are not spring chickens. But even at a slower pace we managed to pump out two more walls and all the roof trusses. And I'll have you know thanks to all that weight lifting I've been doing lately I was able to heave those trusses around like a professional go-fur. Hu-rah. Of course it will be interesting to see if I can even get out of bed tomorrow.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Kidding Around

I want some of these to make cheese. Purty please?

Maybe next year, Dear? Uh, Dear?

Where'd he go?

(Hey it worked with the chickens, so I figured it was worth a shot.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Embryology 101

Because I know you are clinging to your seats with anticipation like we are, I thought I'd share a little bit about the party going on inside the incubator. A little Embryology 101 so to speak.

Before the egg is even laid it is fertilized. (If you don't understand how that works, go ask your Mom.) Right after that, cells start to divide and grow. Between laying and incubation growth stops though and nothing else happens. This gives mother hen a chance to lay more eggs as usual while the first egg just sits there waiting for her. Once she feels she's got enough eggs she settles down on the nest. Or in our case, we put the eggs in the incubator. Not until this point do the embryos start to develop so they will all hatch at the same time. Cool huh?

During incubation the embryos grow like little maniacs, the whole cycle only taking 21 days. If you use a technique called candling, you can actually see inside the egg. A basic high intensity flash light will work. You just hold the flashlight up to the egg while your in a dark room and viola truly live entertainment! Here is a good egg starting to develop at day 4. Photos courtesy of University of California.

Candling also gives you an idea how many eggs won't hatch. We found five last night that have the dreaded blood ring, meaning they're not going to develop. Here is the blood ring.

As we were doing this the guys were either cheering for live ones or giving disappointed "that's a dud" comments for the others. Right now we're down to 27 possible chicks, but 12 of the eggs we were not able to candle because the dark brown egg shells are too hard to see through at this stage. By Saturday the embryos will be starting to put on feathers and we should be able to see something then.
When you incubate shipped eggs, you tend to have lower hatch rates. Getting tossed around at the Post Office can wreak havoc on the poor little buggars. If we get 50% of the chicks to hatch, we'll consider this experiment highly successful. The fact that we've all learned something along the way... well that's just a bonus.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Woman with Super-Human Strength Builds Foundation

Okay, okay, so I nearly fell face first when I tried to pick one of the blocks up. But I DID, try to help. The willingness was there, just not the umph. Seems I may need to bump up my workout schedule a little before I apply for any construction jobs.

The engineer sorted through the pile of concrete block stored by the old barn. I believe they were part of another old building, probably the old milk house, here on the property. They match the style of block on the house. After chipping all the excess mortar off he started leveling out the new coop foundation.

He worked long and hard on Sunday during the spitting rain, in an effort to redeem himself for his outhouse shenanigans the day before. I, on the other hand, got to stay in the nice warm workshop and try to fix up the old windows. With all that heavy lifting, I suppose he's paid his price.

You don't really NEED a foundation for a chicken coop, but after seeing how the outhouse rotted from the bottom and having opossums living under another shed we decided not to take any chances with this one. By the time we're done this coop will be so over-engineered it should outlast us all.