Redneck Chicks At The Ranch Pen

In spite of my dark mutterings about hatchets and stew pots, my old hens have decided to mostly retire from the egg laying business and devote themselves to pursuing the stray grasshopper and luxuriating in dust baths. With all costs factored in, Gramps and I have been paying about twenty dollars a dozen for our eggs.

Seized by thrift and a hunger for eggs, I forgot how busy my schedule is at this time and shot off an order to Ideal Hatcheries in Texas–the surprise special, a grab bag of chicken breeds at a discounted price. The last surprise special I ordered grew up to be the worst laying hens ever and I had promised myself NEVER to be surprised like that again. Unfortunately for me as a middle-aged person, the memory ain’t what it used to be and I forgot what I had promised myself. The upside is, when the pullets start laying next spring, I can hide my own Easter eggs.

Hmmm…what was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

I had ordered a surprise and that is just what I got. For those who don’t know, you can actually get your chickens in the mail, but the mail carrier either isn’t allowed to haul them around in his car like the Beverly Hillbillies, or else he doesn’t want to listen to them cheeping, so at daybreak one day, the young lady at the post office called, wanting me to pick up my chicks. Surprise! Because I had forgotten the little gals were coming, they were essentially like the dove Noah sent out from the ark–they had no rest for the soles of their feet. Other than their small shipping box.

The pullets took up emergency shelter in the laundry basket in our house, but I needed to do laundry. The chicks had to change residences and the only place that was going to be protected enough was inside the hens’ run where raccoons couldn’t reach them. However, the hens posed as much threat as the ‘coons. Some people who aren’t around animals impart human emotions to them, which is usually a mistake. Lots of animals are just hard-down mean and old hens are some of the meanest. Most of the time, a helpless, human baby can be placed in a group of humans in safety, but baby chicks amongst the hens? No. The old hens will peck them to death. Chickens are where the term “pecking order” comes from, I believe, and newly hatched chicks from the Ideal Hatchery of Texas are WAY down in the pecking order–in fact, they look like chicken nuggets to the hens.

Aside from the danger mean, old biddies pose to them, newly hatched chicks have a need for heat. In nature, they are protected beneath their mother’s wings where it is just the right temperature. Ideal Hatchery chickens have to have a heat lamp or they will bunch up seeking warmth until they actually suffocate and trample each other. Their heat lamp can’t be in just any old place, either. If the hens can reach it, they will peck the bulb and break it, or–like the giant-brained hen I had one time–they might stand beneath it until it melts their feathers. In addition to heat, the young chicks need plenty of special feed, called chick starter, and fresh water–which they will not get if the old hens have access to it.

As a result, I sent out an emergency call to the nieces, JA, and TL, who in true good-hearted redneck girl fashion, rushed to help me whack together the shelter you see above, using old wire gates, pallets, paneling, truck tire rims, bungees, zip ties, wire, and feed sacks. We were proud of our building skills until we realized the little puffball chicks didn’t have enough guts (literally) for the wire barriers to prove an impediment to their freedom–they squeezed right through the holes. We spent a lot of time racing around, trying to capture the runaways, giggling while we darted this way and that with old hens squawking and scattering. We had a wonderful time and eventually got most of the holes plugged up by leaning old boards against them.

The chick on the right is making its gutless escape through the wire

Aw. Maybe that’s why I keep ordering the surprise specials.

All that trouble to eventually get this:

And finally just for fun, Danni’s nemesis, THE GREY HEN who flies like an airplane (almost) and eats eggs as fast as the other hens lay them while never bothering to lay one herself:

As always, thanks so much for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy one of my favorites of David Wesley’s, Whom Shall I Fear.

Top Five Ranch Pen Posts Of 2013–#4

As I mentioned in the last post, for the rest of December I’m simply posting the five most viewed Ranch Pen blog posts of the year.

#4, A Charming Young Chicken Farmer In Southwest Oklahoma, was one of my very favorites, too, so I’m definitely not surprised that it came in the top five. Blondie’s teeth are growing back in now and her brother is nearly three-and-three-quarters-years-old, but this post comes at the handiest of times because our charming young chicken farmer turns seven-years-old this week. Happy, happy birthday, Blondie!

Enjoy this post from September again.

IMG_4024

Blondie, with her best chicken, Sage

Today, we here at The Ranch Pen are excited to host a special friend and delightful young chicken farmer who also happens to be Gramps’ and my oldest granddaughter, Blondie.

Blondie is the daughter of Son #2. She has a brother, Git’R’Done, who–according to her–is three-and-one-quarter years old. Blondie is six-and-a-half years old and is homeschooled by her mother. She is in second grade and claims her favorite subject is recess break–wait. No. Literature, she meant. One of her favorite things she has done in school so far is catch butterflies in her net and study them in her insect book. She is also learning to play the piano. To demonstrate, she hopped onto the piano stool and ripped out A Birthday Song, I believe it was called. In spite of some annoying interference by her brother’s toes on the keyboard, she persevered and the song turned out beautifully.

Danni: To begin…When did you first become interested in chickens?

Blondie: (speaking in her charming southern drawl) Well…when you got a batch of your chicks when I was little, Nana.

Danni: Where did you get your chickens?

Blondie: We ordered them from a hatchery catalog then picked them up at the post office.

IMG_4019

Danni: You have several chicken breeds here. What are they?

Blondie: (she consults with her mom) New Hampshires, Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds…what are those kind you have, Nana?

Danni: Brahmas?

Blondie: Yeah. Also, Golden Laced Wyandottes and Delawares.

Danni: Do you prefer the chicks or do you like these, now that they are hens?

Blondie: The hens, I guess, because I can see Sage’s feathers, now.

IMG_4022

Danni: What are some of your other chickens’ names?

Blondie: (This takes a while as she shuffles through the hens clustered around her, pointing to each one) Well, there’s Sage, Speckles, Wild Eagle, Lady Salt, Lady Pepper, Croissant, Golden Lace, Big Momma.

Danni: Which of the hens are your favorites, and why?

Blondie: Golden Lace because she lays pinkish-brown eggs. Sage because she has a sweet look and is calm. She lets me give her kisses.

Danni: (flinches. Ew.)

Blondie: (doesn’t notice) Wild Eagle lays green eggs. Croissant has some pretty, twisty deals to the back of her neck.

Danni: Which of the hens is your least favorite?

Blondie: Well…I don’t really have any. I like them all.

IMG_4026

Danni: How do you care for your chickens?

Blondie: Every morning we dump their poopy water and give them fresh. They poop in the water and dip their toes in it, too. We give ’em food in their feeder and collect the eggs every day, too. We clean their coop once a month. No. Maybe a week. I don’t know.

IMG_4027

Danni: How many eggs do you gather each day?

Blondie: Maybe fifteen? Sixteen? Maybe twenty.

Danni: So, what part of chicken keeping do you enjoy most?

Blondie: Collecting the eggs and picking up the chickens to love on them.

Danni: (flinches again. Ew.) Except for the Brahmas, my chickens aren’t nice like yours. They fly all over the place and don’t lay many eggs. Why do you think that is?

Blondie: Well, we picked ours up lots as chicks. I think ours are so sweet because I cradle them in my arms like babies. (her eyes flash) And I don’t like boys catching them by their tail feathers!

(She launched into a tirade against a boy named Lucas which was hilarious, but for the sake of brevity, best not included here.)

IMG_4029

Git’R’Done, who would never pull a chicken’s tail feathers

Danni: Do you think my chickens should go in the stewpot?

Blondie: No.

Danni: So you’re not interested in helping me with that project?

Blondie: No, because I don’t like to see blood, and chickens scared and dying with their heads cut off.

Danni: I see. When do you think would be an appropriate time for people to butcher chickens for food?

Blondie: Well, we could butcher chickens that were already dead from sickness. Or if they walked out in the road.

IMG_4016

Danni: What are some of the other dangers chickens face out here in the country? (aside from her Nana stalking them with a hatchet, illness, and speeding cars, that is)

Blondie: Well, Trace, our dog grabs them. And racoons. Disease. Maybe cats. Our rooster Little Guy died from something.

Danni: A person has to be pretty tough to raise animals out here in the country. What are some of the dangers you face?

Blondie: Dogs can jump on you. You have to see chickens die sometimes. Once, a chicken pecked my back and left a red mark.

Danni:  I hate it when that happens. Do you know any chicken jokes?

Blondie:  Yes. Why did the chicken cross its feather lines?

Danni: (feather lines?) Um…

Blondie: Because it had to go to the bathroom!

Danni: (laughing) Did you make that up?

Blondie: (with a big, gap-toothed smile) Uh-huh.

Well, thank you SO much, Blondie, for the awesome interview. I’m so proud of how you take care of your chickens I could just bust my buttons.  God bless you all the days of your life and enjoy this Tom T Hall song I used to listen to when I was your age, The Song About A One Legged Chicken. (I didn’t include the song this time so I could post a Christmas song, but you can listen to it on Youtube.)

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it, and God bless all y’all, too. I’ve chosen Jackie Evancho singing Silent Night because Blondie is a little girl who likes to sing, too.

[youtube.com/watch?v=PGjByOI9Iqw]

A Charming Young Chicken Farmer In Southwest Oklahoma

IMG_4024

Blondie, with her best chicken, Sage

Today, we here at The Ranch Pen are excited to host a special friend and delightful young chicken farmer who also happens to be Gramps’ and my oldest granddaughter, Blondie.

Blondie is the daughter of Son #2. She has a brother, Git’R’Done, who–according to her–is three-and-one-quarter years old. Blondie is six-and-a-half years old and is homeschooled by her mother. She is in second grade and claims her favorite subject is recess break–wait. No. Literature, she meant. One of her favorite things she has done in school so far is catch butterflies in her net and study them in her insect book. She is also learning to play the piano. To demonstrate, she hopped onto the piano stool and ripped out A Birthday Song, I believe it was called. In spite of some annoying interference by her brother’s toes on the keyboard, she persevered and the song turned out beautifully.

Danni: To begin…When did you first become interested in chickens?

Blondie: (speaking in her charming southern drawl) Well…when you got a batch of your chicks when I was little, Nana.

Danni: Where did you get your chickens?

Blondie: We ordered them from a hatchery catalog then picked them up at the post office.

IMG_4019

Danni: You have several chicken breeds here. What are they?

Blondie: (she consults with her mom) New Hampshires, Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds…what are those kind you have, Nana?

Danni: Brahmas?

Blondie: Yeah. Also, Golden Laced Wyandottes and Delawares.

Danni: Do you prefer the chicks or do you like these, now that they are hens?

Blondie: The hens, I guess, because I can see Sage’s feathers, now.

IMG_4022

Danni: What are some of your other chickens’ names?

Blondie: (This takes a while as she shuffles through the hens clustered around her, pointing to each one) Well, there’s Sage, Speckles, Wild Eagle, Lady Salt, Lady Pepper, Croissant, Golden Lace, Big Momma.

Danni: Which of the hens are your favorites, and why?

Blondie: Golden Lace because she lays pinkish-brown eggs. Sage because she has a sweet look and is calm. She lets me give her kisses.

Danni: (flinches. Ew.)

Blondie: (doesn’t notice) Wild Eagle lays green eggs. Croissant has some pretty, twisty deals to the back of her neck.

Danni: Which of the hens is your least favorite?

Blondie: Well…I don’t really have any. I like them all.

IMG_4026

Danni: How do you care for your chickens?

Blondie: Every morning we dump their poopy water and give them fresh. They poop in the water and dip their toes in it, too. We give ’em food in their feeder and collect the eggs every day, too. We clean their coop once a month. No. Maybe a week. I don’t know.

IMG_4027

Danni: How many eggs do you gather each day?

Blondie: Maybe fifteen? Sixteen? Maybe twenty.

Danni: So, what part of chicken keeping do you enjoy most?

Blondie: Collecting the eggs and picking up the chickens to love on them.

Danni: (flinches again. Ew.) Except for the Brahmas, my chickens aren’t nice like yours. They fly all over the place and don’t lay many eggs. Why do you think that is?

Blondie: Well, we picked ours up lots as chicks. I think ours are so sweet because I cradle them in my arms like babies. (her eyes flash) And I don’t like boys catching them by their tail feathers!

(She launched into a tirade against a boy named Lucas which was hilarious, but for the sake of brevity, best not included here.)

IMG_4029

Git’R’Done, who would never pull a chicken’s tail feathers

Danni: Do you think my chickens should go in the stewpot?

Blondie: No.

Danni: So you’re not interested in helping me with that project?

Blondie: No, because I don’t like to see blood, and chickens scared and dying with their heads cut off.

Danni: I see. When do you think would be an appropriate time for people to butcher chickens for food?

Blondie: Well, we could butcher chickens that were already dead from sickness. Or if they walked out in the road.

IMG_4016

Danni: What are some of the other dangers chickens face out here in the country? (aside from her Nana stalking them with a hatchet, illness, and speeding cars, that is)

Blondie: Well, Trace, our dog grabs them. And racoons. Disease. Maybe cats. Our rooster Little Guy died from something.

Danni: A person has to be pretty tough to raise animals out here in the country. What are some of the dangers you face?

Blondie: Dogs can jump on you. You have to see chickens die sometimes. Once, a chicken pecked my back and left a red mark.

Danni:  I hate it when that happens. Do you know any chicken jokes?

Blondie:  Yes. Why did the chicken cross its feather lines?

Danni: (feather lines?) Um…

Blondie: Because it had to go to the bathroom!

Danni: (laughing) Did you make that up?

Blondie: (with a big, gap-toothed smile) Uh-huh.

Well, thank you SO much, Blondie, for the awesome interview. I’m so proud of how you take care of your chickens I could just bust my buttons.  God bless you all the days of your life and enjoy this Tom T Hall song I used to listen to when I was your age, The Song About A One Legged Chicken.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it, and God bless all y’all, too.

[youtube.com/watch?v=FzZ4AR6Ridw]

*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like him and I appreciate whoever did the illustrations to go with the soundtrack then posted it to youtube.

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My Chickens Live in a Bus

A barn housing chickens raised for meat (calle...

For my first blog post ever, I want you to know what kind of ranching outfit you’re dealing with. My chickens live in a schoolbus. I just didn’t want anybody laboring under the impression our place looks like the swanky outfit above .

Gramps (his code name) and I didn’t really see eye to eye on converting a school bus to a chicken dwelling. I thought the bus was tacky, he thought it was cool. This is us discussing it.
Gramps and Nana yelling

Throughout rural America,  hands are raising with many more questions
about old schoolbuses. Do I see a hand from Missouri? Yes, I do.IMG_1269

IMG_1270

Go ahead, Hon, name please? Huh? Okay, Lovinia,  what’s your question?

“I sure like the color of a nice ol’ schoolbus. Do you think I should order yellow chickens this spring? Maybe Buff Orpingtons? I also like school bus yellow so much, I’m thinkin’ of colorin’ my hair to match. Have you got any thoughts on that?”

Yes. Don’t do it. Go for it with the Buff Orpington’s, though. They’re mighty fine chickens.

Allrighty…from Oklahoma. (Okay, I know this guy. This is gonna be good.)

Name, sir?

“You know my name, Danni, and my ol’ back ain’t what it used to be…cain’t you unbend enough to let me modify that chicken bus with an automatic manure spreader?”

No.

And one last question from an anonymous Okie woman in the back row. Yes, ma’am, speak up?

“Would an old schoolbus work as a doghouse for the hubby?”

Oh, bless your heart. It certainly seems like it should if it doesn’t leak, but I couldn’t say for sure since I’m not familiar with your bus.

But what do y’all think?

  • Are little chickens who live in a schoolbus smarter than their peers?
  • At college age, do they perform better on their SAT’s, or are they just plain dumb?
  • In your opinion, is an old schoolbus sitting out in the yard a crime against the color coordinated everywhere, or do you think it’s cool, too?

Please answer these pressing questions in the comment box below.

Until next time, enjoy Dailey and Vincent doin’ By the Mark, and God bless y’all.