Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jim's Flock

Two and a half weeks ago, Jim made the decision to start a flock of poultry. His goal is to move away, even if just a little bit, from dependence on the grocery stores. After talking to some friends who've raised farm animals for food, chickens for eggs and meat seemed like a good way to dip our toes into a new level of self-reliance.

It started out innocently enough, with an order for a dozen chicks from the local feed store. Poultry raising is popular here, and certain birds have a waiting list, such as the Aricauna hens that lay blue and green eggs. We have six of those, and four golden Wyandottes. They're all pullets and we can expect them to lay eggs beginning this fall. Here are most of them the day they came home:

A sweet yellow Aricauna:

There isn't much that's cuter than a sleepy baby chick.

Unless, of course, you're talking about baby quail:

Jim did some reading, and discovered that while we seem to have made good choices for our chickens, quail might be a better choice. They start laying eggs in six to seven weeks, and any excess roosters we might have are ready to eat in about the same amount of time. So he headed out to Sterling Meadows Hatchery to pick up a few. Yeah, a few. As in fifteen. Jim is ga-ga over the quail and when three of the first tiny chickies passed away a few days apart, he replaced them with 9 more. We've got a total of twenty-one of them now, and we know that when they're older and we discover how many of them are roosters, the quail flock will necessarily have to be pruned. Our variety is a Coturnix quail rather than bobwhites. Some are goldens and some are tuxedoes. The "feed dish" they're using in this picture is the lid from a Pringles can.

An inch and a half of adorableness:

Last weekend, Jim attended a class at the Hatchery about brooding. I admit I suggested that he might want to consider getting a Silkie chick or two *next year* but evidently I didn't make myself completely clear on the "next year" part, haha, and Jim came home with two blue Silkies. I apologize in advance for the diabetes-inducing sweetness of the following image.

Silkie hens are famous for brooding the eggs of other breeds of chickens who've had the brooding instinct bred out of them over the years. They come in other colors, but the blue chicks were the only ones available at the time. Jim's on the list for the next unclaimed golden one. They remain fluffy throughout their entire lives because they don't have barbs on their feathers, so they keep that downy texture. They have blue/black skin and meat, making them unpopular for eating in America, but they're considered pretty tasty in other countries. They also have five toes instead of the usual four.

Go ahead, little chickie, get used to sitting on those eggs.

The chicks all seem to like James, who's holding a Silkie here. Silkies are good pets and we're having no problems working on socializing them, since they're just so darned adorable and so soft you can barely feel them.

It won't be long before there are two coops in the yard - one for the quail, one for the chickens - and fresh eggs on the table. Yes, the first eggs we get will be so small we'll need a dozen per person, but that's okay. We'll get to the full-sized eggs before you know it.

Now, will someone please help me get the Super Chicken theme song out of my head???

Wow, it's been a month since my last post!

It's been a long time since I posted last, but that doesn't mean nothing's been happening. Au contraire, mon cheri, it's because I've been too busy to post.

Let's see... Where shall I start my update? I believe I'll start with this morning's 4.7 earthquake. Since I've only been in small, wiggly earthquakes, I still think they're cool. This is the second one I've felt, the first one for Jim, and James slept through it. In his defense, it was at 4:00 in the morning and he was on the ground floor, so I can't blame him.

And oh yeah, you probably figured out from that last paragraph that James is home from college for the summer. Yay!! He brought home lots of happy memories and dirty laundry and I couldn't be happier to have him around again.

The migratory birds are back, and we have ducks and terns and the occasional seagull on the lake. There was a beaver swimming in the lake one day, too. The grass and trees are greening up nicely, and that delicious signature Alaskan smell is in the air. Someone released four or five domestic rabbits and we see them around sometimes, especially this one that spends half the day, every day, in our yard. I told Jim he should pretend to be Elmer Fudd and set a trap for it.

Jim and James saw some wild caribou while they were out running errands one day last week. I wasn't with them, and am sorry I missed seeing them in the wild. After seeing the racing caribou at the Rondy, it's been a goal of mine to see the Kenai herd, but I've sadly managed to miss them so far. Well, spring isn't over, and I'm still keeping my eyes peeled.

After a lot of fun discussion on Facebook and through emails with my friends, I finally named my fur business. Look for the website for Smiling Otter Studio to be available soon. My task has been to make children's hats for Northland Furs in Soldotna, and I found out I'll also have some in Northland Wildlife Studio in Sterling. Lee says she'll be sending samples to Alaska Fur Exchange in Anchorage to see if they want to order some as well. I'm hoping to have a second project added to my responsibilities soon so I can have some variety. I've had my first paying fur work in the form of two bear pelts that needed repairs before being rugged. They were a lot of work which didn't pay much and the smell of bear was hard to take after a while, but if offered another bear pelt to do, I'd grit my teeth and smile and say "Yes, please; thank you very much." Anything I can learn at this point has benefits beyond the money, and who am I to turn that down?

The main thing keeping Jim busy lately has been his new flock of quail and chickens. But they're going to get their own post soon, so I'm not going to tell you anything about them just yet. You'll have to stay tuned...