Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chicken Rehab 2.0

I've only been raising chickens since February of 2016. I am no expert. But since then, I believe I have learned a lot - I went from no experience or knowledge to at least a novice level... which is something. But as every newbie comes to realize eventually.. there are some things you just have to do; simple basics, that if forgotten, can have severe consequences. I... did not lock the run.

Today was Thanksgiving. Towards the end of the evening, as our guests were about ready to leave, my friend said to me that she heard my chickens ... screaming!? I grabbed my flashlight, my shoes, and my dog to run outside and find them all scattered throughout the yard... all but one had fled the coop. I scooped about six of them in my arms ran to the coop to put them back in, found one injured badly, and rounded up the rest... but I was one short. Something had attacked them, injured for sure the one, and the other that was unaccounted for - I was convinced it had been eaten and dragged off.

My friend's son (who was helping me comb the yard for the missing hen, OR signs of her death) pointed at the moving bushes - where our girls love to hide away. I began kicking the bushes, in an attempt to flush her out... And from the top of bush, came a large thing, landing between our feet - THUD! A possum plopped and writhed frantically - only to run away into the night! There was the fiend - the blight of my hens! That stupid possum had attacked them - and our poor hen, Ginger, while she narrowly survived, had suffered the consequences of my mistake.

We searched the yard one more time... just as we had given up, I heard a cluck and saw a different bush move. There was my missing hen! No injuries, just scared and tucked away. I put her back in the coop, locked the run, made sure if that blasted thing came back, it could not get inside... and went to attend my injured girl.

My friend's son held her as my children grabbed an old towel to wrap her in. They also fetched other old towels so that our dog's kennel could become our instant chicken rehab center. Our emergency triage has come in handy now, at least three times. We had a system - the children knew what to grab, and so did I. My friend held Ginger in her lap, wrapped in a towel like a burrito - as I mixed up my homemade "chicken pedialyte". That particular concoction saved our chicken Dot, not a week earlier when she became severely dehydrated.

As my friend held Ginger, I began to assess the damage and look for any wounds. Her comb was ripped half off, her left eye was bloody and swollen... she was drooling a bit of blood, her nasal passages were clogged with blood and dirt, she was breathing through her mouth quite heavily... she was in shock, and in pain. I cleaned the wounds with warm water and peroxide, glued her comb back on, fed her some "chicken pedialyte", gently tried to clear her nasal passages with the tip of a fork... and we played pass the chicken trying to keep her warm and safe until I knew she was alert enough to be left alone in the emergency triage kennel. And that's when it hit me. Never in my life, did I think I would be sitting at my dinning-room table, doctoring a chicken - and my family - children included - be perfectly calm, capable, and have a semi-system in place where it's medical needs could be met.... How did I get here? How did this become normal?

Since February, I guess quite a bit has changed. We bought nine chickens, hatched chicks by borrowing some fertilized eggs and a determined brooding hen, were gifted a hen, lost a chicken due to illness and not knowing quite how to help it, butchered and ate one annoying rooster that we had raised, and doctored several of them multiple times; nursing them back to health... And in all that time, none of them had been attacked. None of their injuries were because of our failure to do something as simple, as locking the run/coop.

Meatloaf: She was the best chicken. If you opened the back door, she would run to you. Her chunky thighs would jiggle as she leaped with glee! She was this beautiful golden-red, with feathers that were tipped in white; like a lace collar around her neck. She would follow you. Sit on your lamp. Eat from your hand. Cluck and talk to you even. No, she was not hand-raised... we bought her from a Craigslist Ad. She was in bad shape, along with the others. We were just kind, and nurtured her (and the rest) into good health... and she was forever grateful. I am not sure how she ended up wounded. I am assuming she and another hen fought, and she was pricked in the thigh, the wound was attacked by flies... they laid their eggs in the wound, and that is how she contracted fly-strike. A nasty and horrid thing. The eggs hatch, the wound becomes infected and left untreated kills the animal. We tried to flush out the wound and gut out the maggots... give her baths to clean the wound - but we were too aggressive... not knowing exactly how sensitive chickens actually are. I call them my babies... yes because I do love them as pets, but also because, that is exactly how they are. Babies have an enormous amount of strength for their size, and yet are super fragile... Chickens are the same. Fragile, resilient, feathered babies. Although Meatloaf died, and we're still sad she is gone... we did learn a lot from her death. The main lesson was: Do what you can, firmly but gently... and let the chicken, time, prayer, and God do the rest.

This lesson helped us with Ginger a few months back. We came out one morning and she was just sitting in the yard. She wouldn't move. She couldn't walk normally. She was hobbling in pain if we forced her. I scoured the internet for possible reasons and remedies... She could have a blocked egg in her duct/vent and die... She could have injured her leg and be attacked because of weakness by the other ladies and be cast out and possibly... die. She could be constipated, get backed-up, and ... you guessed it... DIE! (Can you tell I am a Mom and all the worst possible scenarios and even the not that bad ones all end in death?)

We went with probability #2, and injured leg. We bathed her and let her soak in a warm tub of water... massaged her legs and tummy. Gave her baby Tylenol... left her alone. Second day; same thing... soaked in a warm bath, massage, Tylenol... let her rest. Day three, had her soak... but on this day, it was time to check if probability #1 or #3 was the cause... it was time to check her vent and duct (I am not sure if the correct term is 'duct', but that is how I visualize and explain it)... When she was in the tub, all calm and relaxed.. we got to know one another a little better, the gloves came on; and I earned my Chicken Proctology AND Gynecology Degree. No stuck egg, and no backed up bowels. So on day four, I did nothing. I let her decide if she was ready to run, hobble, limp.. do nothing. And she decided she would rest. Day five... she hobbled. Day six, she limped, and day seven - she ran!

A while after she was back on the mend... Dot (one of the chicks we raised) needed our intervention. This was actually, just this past week! We thought she had escaped the yard or was carried off by a chicken hawk. She was nowhere to be found for 3-4 days. As we prepped for Sabbath, my husband found her. She had been under a bucket in the backyard. We think, our 4 year old had put her there and forgot... whether he did or he didn't - it did not matter. She was severely dehydrated, weak, and unresponsive... but alive. I panicked and I figured, if people are dehydrated they need I.V. ... but I don't know how and can't do that for a chicken! She had not only, not been able to get liquid, but she hadn't eaten as well. What do people need - some sort of electrolytes. That's a pretty universal concept... so I figured, we'd try it out. I also knew if someone is dehydrated or has stomach flu, to do liquids slowly - let them adjust. So we went with that. I made a mixture of real maple syrup, water, and poly-vi-sol... It had the water to hydrate her, the maple syrup to give her some sucrose/energy, and the poly-vi-sol to give her immune system a jolt of vitamins in place of solid food. Will this work? It's worth a shot. I stopped all Sabbath prep and sat on the back porch as my daughter helped me hold her close. We took a water bottle with a small nipple and filled it with the "chicken pedialyte" and gave her a few milliliters at a time. First it was every 5min per hour... then... we let her rest for half an hour, and started the process again, every 10min for an hour. At this point she was still limp, but blinking and breathing at a better pace. We wrapped her in a towel and set up the kennel triage inside. We placed her by the water-feeder and put a cup of feed in the kennel, in case she developed the urge to eat or drink. We again put into practice what we had learned from Meatloaf. Do what you can, let the chicken do the rest. By morning, she was more responsive. She fought us when we tried to give her the "pedialyte". She did take it though, she just wasn't happy about it. By evening, on day two, she drank some water on her own. Day three... she was a Chatty-Cathy and had eaten some grain. Day Four she was back outside with the rest of the flock.

And so, we're hoping the same gentle, but firm treatment will help with Ginger... I've messaged multiple forums asking questions, searched several websites and blogs for advice and ideas. Should her comb not heal, we can amputate it - but I would prefer if we could save it, that we would...hence the glue. She was in obvious shock, and I would be too if a giant rat tried to eat me in the middle of the night! But the shock seems to be dying down... and she is resting as peacefully as we can make her. We've done what we can, for the time being... tomorrow we will try fluids again, and see if her breathing has improved. We'll check if any forums have replied to my messages... and try to keep the house calm - and let Ginger, and God, do the rest.

So as Thanksgiving comes to a close - I am thankful for this journey. I am thankful for my chickens... thankful that my children are learning right along with me. I am thankful that out of the tragedy of the one, we have been able to help save the others - and I am thankful for my friend alerting me to their danger - thankful for my friend's son helping me find and gather the others to safety.... and I am thankful that my stupidity did not result in the death of any of my girls.

The coop and run are locked. Ginger is resting. The rest of the flock is safe for the night... our Thanksgiving was filled with good friends. Our tummies are full. We have a roof over our head. And we're still learning and living on our Urban Homestead.

The Okie Campbell Clan

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One Hot Summer & A Bowl Of Matzo Ball Soup

It's been quite a summer. Our garden came and went. We finalized a curriculum for the children for this next year. Entertained the idea of buying a few farms. Figured out things with Cub Scouts for next year. Went camping and fishing together. Made new friends. Saw old friends and family. It's been a good few months. And I am excited to see what the Autumn Season brings.

We were given a new chicken this summer. An Americana that 'E' absolutely loves. 'E' named her Henny-Penny; and the chicken lays blue eggs.

And speaking of chickens: Out of all the chicks that Pollo hatched - three made it to adolescence. We're not sure what happened to one of the chicks. One morning we had four, and the next there were three....

We were unable to correctly sex the chicks when they were under a week old. So, we had to wait until they were teenagers to see how they began to change; and what they would be. We ended up with two roosters, and one hen. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. Between the Warner Brother's and their sister, Dot, and Henny-Penny; that brought our total number of chickens to 12... and now, I have butchered my first chicken; Wakko; taking our ranks down to 11; and I am unsure how I feel about that.

I've always eaten meat; and I have killed fish for food before... but nothing I have ever raised myself. I made a few minor mistakes processing the rooster, but not so detrimental that we couldn't eat it. We ended up with a delicious matzoball soup in the end... But the emotional processing within myself is the real thing that took the most work. To see a living, breathing, annoying, anarchy loving rooster in my arms one minute - and within a few hours - chicken in my soup - is something I will not easily or ever forget.

I already had a respect for animals; and the desire to give our rescue chickens the best life they could have; but it made me wonder and question the lives and deaths of so many other animals who die daily for our consumption.

I look at meat in the store differently now. Can I slaughter my own food? Yes, I can. Do I want to...? Not really...  This entire process made me very thankful for the store... I do however respect greatly the farmers who are going back to basics - raising their own livestock and by-passing the meat industry... but not everyone is so fortunate. Not everyone has the freedom, ability, knowledge, or monetary stability to raise their meat and slaughter it humanely.... but we do all have the ability to demand and shop according to our desires. More and more companies are taking notice of the consumer's wishes... after all, WE control what they do because they can't make a dime without us. We matter. Our voices matter. Our shopping choices matter - and if you have the ability to shop for better products, than I would encourage you to do so...

I am thankful to have learned the skill of butchering and processing a chicken. It is probably the most used meat source in our home... I do need some more practice to perfect said skill, BUT, I know I have the ability to do it... and I know now, more than ever, I want to give my hens the best life they can have - and to make sure - should any of them ever make it to my plate - to not waste any part of them - and to make it count. But, I do think for the near future, I will be sourcing my meat from the store; and making better shopping choices...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cheep - Cheep - Peep!

Well - here they are! Moma and babies are doing well. The kids and Built ramps for the little guys. Now they can come and go with Moma as much as they please. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It's Been A Journey

Five months ago was the last time I made a blog post. Wow. It doesn't feel that way; although I suppose being so caught up in life does that sometimes...

So, what have you missed on the Campbell Urban Homestead?

Our chicken's feathers grew in! FINALLY! We even added a few more girls to the Clan. Colonel Mustard, Early Grey, and Blu'. They are Bovan Browns. They were in much better shape than the first batch - and the original six have accepted them without hesitation!

We bought a dog to guard the chickens. Our intent was to create a series of firewalls that anything would have to penetrate if it wanted to eat the hens or the eggs... First, they would have to make it through our fencing... past the dog... past the run, and lastly, in the coop itself. Our dog is half basset and half collie. He is lazy inside... he just kind of lays there and does nothing... and - He is active outside! All in all he is a nice dog... unfortunately, he doesn't really guard anything - so he has transitioned into an inside pet and sometimes stays outside with the girls.... He was staying outside sometimes unattended - and we noticed some eggs being crushed a while back. We couldnt figure out when it was happening or by what means.... finally we found the dog in the coop... He has a taste for eggs. *sigh* So if he is on guard duty, we have to put him on a chain, that can reach the run door, but not inside the coop... otherwise he has to be inside with us. It is unfortunate - but he is a pretty nice dog and does love the kids. So he has that going for him!
E's chicken, Meatloaf died.... she had fly-strike... we tried to aggressively clean out the maggots and the wound. It was really bad. She did not make it - and E was heart-broken... So our ranks went from 6... to 9... and now down to 8... That leaves: Nugget, Pollo, Charlie, Spinnie, Ginger, Blu', Colonel Mustard, and Earl Grey.

So while the death of Meatloaf was sad... we do have some life springing back to our place! We have our garden which went from meager - to outrageously blooming - to struggling in the heat... and we have CHICKS! How was this accomplished without a rooster? How did a virgin birth happen in our own very back yard? Well. I will tell you. But first. Some back story!

This summer we visited family and friends up North, and had house sitters. Before we left, Pollo started brooding. I had heard of this... but did not think it could happen when there are no roosters around to help. I was mistaken. It can happen. It did happen. Pollo was DETERMINED to hatch not just her own eggs... but everyone else's eggs and even the ceramic eggs to boot! We tried breaking her of this habit, but it didn't work... She is nicknamed Loco Pollo for a reason! She fluffed her feathers and puffed out her chest and tried to hatch anything she could lay on. So; we left for vacation and let our house sitters know she was insane and when we came back - she was still brooding.

'Sir I' had Day Camp with Cub Scouts - and I decided while he was away I would talk with some other chicken ladies and try to gather some advice. I spoke to Yochannah and Lia about different techniques to get her to stop... when Lia suggested I give her what she wants. It will be great for the kids to learn about eggs and chickens and see life hatching before their very eyes! So... with her help, I decided to get some fertilized eggs and I was going to give them to Pollo - WITHOUT telling the Hubs or the kids... we were going to have chicks and everyone would be surprised! Pollo would prove us all wrong. She would have victory. She WILL hatch her eggs! And she did.

On June 22nd we gave Pollo her eggs - and by that point Lia's hubby had spoiled the surprise for mine (some weird macho "gotta look out for my friend being tricked" feelings were happening). So while Mr. J spoiled the surprise, my Hubs was actually totally cool with it - and the kids got to know too. We of course watched The Magic School Bus so we could see how eggs are made and how chicks are born! (It's a classic. I highly recommend.) And we got out the calendar and counted out twenty-one days.... We knew the chicks would have to hatch this week - and TODAY was hatching day! We started off with five eggs... and ended up with four that remained un-crushed and uneaten during the three week period. Because they are so new, I did not take pictures or handle them - but I will very soon. We have two yellows, one speckled, and one black. Pollo is bonding with her adopted babies... and we are so excited to see these little guys grow!

Now... we have to chick-proof the coop and run. They will need ramps or steps to be able to get in and out of the nest, in and out of the coop... in and out of the run. So tomorrow, besides cooking, cleaning and running errands. I need to fashion some ramps for these little guys and try and make their new life as comfortable as possible.

Shalom From The Campbells! Yah Bless.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Yes, I Went There.

We collected egg #3 today! And then, we sat like creeps for 20min waiting to see if any of the girls were going to lay some more... it made me feel like such a peeping-Tom; and weirdly enough... I am OK with that? Sitting down for a while watching the chickens eat, roost, and nest is quite calming.... especially when they're wearing sweaters. Yes, I went there.

It got below 25 last night, and I was worried that with the combination of minimal feathers and not knowing if they were cold weather hardy, they might get too cold. The last thing I wanted, was to wake up to frozen chickens ... I prefer them roasted, with a nice rosemary-lemon glaze... Haha, just kidding... (or am I?) Seriously, though. I have no idea if they were kept outside or indoors... and it IS February... I am hoping by next winter their feathers will have grown in, and they will no longer need a little extra help.

See how bare their necks are? I just feel awful... The poor little..small things... AH! I think after this sweater episode, I might just be one of those weird chicken ladies... I said MIGHT. Not that I am... or that I intend to be... you know, it's not like my kitchen and dinning-room is decorated with roosters and chickens... everywhere....

MOVING ON!!!!!!!!!!

I am excited by the third egg this morning. I took a picture of eggs #2 & #3 in the carton ... you can see from egg #1 (which we lost tragically after 5min) the gradual differences! The shells are getting thicker and stronger, the color is getting darker... They love their new feed, and I think are quite happy. I can open the roof in the morning and tell them to wake up, and they go out to the run, one by one, and have breakfast... we're forming quite the little routine! I want to collect at least 3 more eggs before we eat them. I want all of us to be able to enjoy our eggs together...

I am very encouraged and excited. I love these girls! I am already starting to be able to tell the difference between them (even without the sweaters and tags) - but seriously... who doesn't love a chicken in a sweater?
'Pollo', looking fierce!
Ginger in her Pink Fleece Vest
How did I make chicken sweaters in one afternoon? Trial and error of course! I went to our local Thrift Shop, and bought 4 stocking caps & 2 newborn sweater vests... in coordinating colors to their tags. I cut up the vests and tried them on Nugget a few times, until I was able to get the general measurements I would need. I then took those measurements and transferred the idea to the stocking caps. With a few cuts here, and a few stitches there... I made make-shift chicken sweater vests and took advantage of their lethargic nature in the dead of night (thanks for the tip, Lia!)! They woke up to wearing vests, and surprisingly were pretty cool with it; as cool as they could be with a giant snatching them in the middle of the night and playing dress up... See, I told you these chickens were making me creepy....  The vests aren't gorgeous, and Meatloaf has tried to unravel hers, but considering I didnt know what the heck I was doing, and considering this was my first time making anything for a chicken - I think I did pretty well! It saved me time knitting them, and it saved me money from placing an order from someone else doing them.... so... all in all, I think it was successful.

Yes, I went there ; but I'm cool with it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Homemade Chicken Feed; The Okie Campbell Clan Way

My husband and I are part of a co-op... we ordered 380# of grains/seeds/nuts to make our chicken feed. We researched several types of feed... varying from fermented, mash, sprouted, cracked, wet, dry, organic, pellets... etc.

It was cheaper to make our own.... by a long shot. While a large investment upfront, we're going to save in the long run. There is also, of course, the added bonus of knowing exactly what is going in your chicken's feed. Now, most people I've spoken to, do not recommend buying and making the feed in such large quantities - since different grains require different kinds of storage and also have different shelf lives... however, this feed mixture is not only for our chickens, it is also to sell. With that in mind, we decided to go ahead and order such large amounts...

Below is the recipe we used, along with the nutritional contents of each grain/seed/nut. We put the amount of pounds we bought, as well as "parts" so if you decide to make it, you do not have to buy 50# of this and 50# of that... Just as long as the ratios are the same, you should be fine!
And yes... that is a shovel, mixing the feed, inside a giant wheelbarrow. A lady uses only the best possible tools to accomplish her task! If you look closely, you will also see a 55 gallon drum with an air tight seal where we will be storing the bulk of the feed.

Okie Campbell Clan: Chicken Feed

- 2 part golden wheat berries (50#) $40.50
- 2 part white wheat berries (50#) $40.50
Carbohydrates 32g 11% - 44%
Dietary Fiber 24% - 96%
Protein 11% - 44%
Calcium 2% - 8%
Iron 8% - 32%
- 2 part sunflower seeds (50#) $62.16
Fat 110% - 220%
Potassium 25% - 50%
Carbs 9% - 18%
Fiber 48% - 96%
Protein 58% - 116%
Vitamin 1% - 2%
Calcium 10% - 20%
Vitamin C 3% - 6%
Iron 41% - 82%
Vitamin B-6 95% - 190%
Magnesium 113%
- 2 part oat groats (50#) $19.38
Fat 1%
Potassium 4%
Carbs 11%
Fiber 18%
Protein 12%
Calcium 1%
Iron 7%
Vitamin B-6 5%
Magnesium 21%
-3 part yellow split peas (75#) $50.37
Fat 2.3% - 4.6%
Potassium 55% - 110%
Carbs 39% - 78%
Fiber 200% - 400%
Protein 96% - 192%
Vitamin A 5% - 10%
Calcium 10% - 20%
Vitamin C 5% - 10%
Iron 48% - 96%
Vitamin B-6 15% - 30%
Magnesium 56% - 112%
- 2 part whole corn (50#) $31.08
Fat 12% - 24%
Sodium 2% - 4%
Potassium 13% - 26%
Carbs 41% - 82%
Protein 32% - 64%
Calcium 1% - 2%
Iron 25% - 50%
Vitamin B-6 50% - 100%
Magnesium 52% - 104%
- 1 part hulled barley (25#) $15.20
Fat 6%
Potassium 23%
Carbs 45%
Fiber 128%
Protein 46%
Calcium 6%
Iron 36%
Vitamin B-6 30%
Magnesium 61%
- 1 part raw peanuts (30#) $39.64
Fat 110%
Potassium 29%
Carbs 8%
Fiber 48%
Protein 76%
Calcium 13%
Iron 37%
Vitamin B-6 25%
Magnesium 61%
- 0.2 parts food grade diatomaceous earth (5#) $10
silicon, calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, and other trace minerals (this supports healthy heart, liver, bone function, as well as a natural pesticide/cleanse)

Weight: 385#
Total Cost: $308.83
Price Per Pound: $0.80
Our hens will eat, on average, 4oz a day.... that averages out to $0.20 per day to feed them.

I should also point out, that we will be offering free-choice oyster shell and free-choice grit weekly, and at the hens discretion... I will be more familiar with the amount they will need/want once they start a regular routine and diet.

Chickens need calcium galore in order to produce eggs! Why? Because it takes calcium to make egg shells! In fact, picture this... for every egg shell created, the chicken would have to have consumed the calcium equivalent of 2 1/2 egg shells; just to produce the one! So if you do end up making your own homemade feed (like mine, or one similar) make sure you substitute or add oyster shell in a bowl or a pile on the ground... something/somehow they're able to access it easily and eat it at will! Some people even crush the left-over egg shells that most would throw away, and feed their chickens the left-over egg shells, instead of oyster shell. I know several people who do this, and it works for them! Just make sure you crush it in small enough pieces the chickens won't recognize it's an egg shell, but large enough pieces they can peck and eat it... about the size of a pea or corn kernel should do it.

Did you also know that chickens don't have teeth? They need a type a special type of gravel-ish looking thing, tiny stones that they eat; called "Grit". (Grit and Sand are not the same thing!!!! Gravel and Grit are NOT the same thing!!) This is especially important if you are feeding them whole grains and seeds. The 'grit' grinds their food down into small enough pieces for them to digest. If your chickens forage and roam your farm or backyard freely, they usually don't need grit as often as some others might. Take mine for example... since they are new to us, and we to them, I want them to associate their run & coop with safety - so that by time we do let them out to forage and roam our yard, they will be accustomed to going back in at night time.... but until this time happens, and until they are free to roam for natural grit themselves - they will need me to supply the grit for them. So please keep this in mind, as you assess whether homemade feed is right for you, and right for your chickens.

Well, that's all for now! I am hoping to spend a good amount of time with our hens tomorrow (today I spent most of the morning and afternoon running errands and completing different tasks). I am tired, sore... and excited for what tomorrow may bring... Shalom, from The Okie Campbell Clan!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Starting Our Urban Homestead Adventure

Over the past few years, I have tried to develop homesteading skills.... anything and everything from making yogurt, gardening, canning/preserving food.... making my own soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, lotions/balms...

My desire for 2016, is to put these skills I've learned into more every day practice. I want to can more this year, concentrate on the garden... stop buying toothpaste all together. Lotions and balms (and chapstick) take minutes! I just have to set aside the time to do them... so that is my personal goal and challenge for our family... to become more self-sustaining  - and the next chapter for this adventure.... is livestock.

Yesterday, we purchased chickens! We are now the proud owners of, six Bovan Browns! We assembled the coop and run a few weeks ago, anxiously awaiting their arrival! Here is the coop and run we purchased on Amazon:

We added a tarp over the rabbit cage (which we are using as a run) so their food will be protected from getting wet, and also allow them a little shade.... since putting this together, we also added bales of hay all around the outside of the coop, so they can have a little more insulation in the colder weather. The inside bottom of the coop has pull out drawers, so we can scoop the droppings out, similarly to a catbox.... and the nesting boxes are filled with fresh hay to keep them warm, and the eggs dry. The coop also has three levels of wood for them to roost (the ladies love it!) and I can access the coop from the roof, or nesting boxes, on either side... Over all - I am very satisfied with the coop & run... the run is actually quite roomy. I can fit in it (if I have to) to clean and replenish food, and for the six hens, it provides plenty of room to romp and explore.

Nesting boxes... with ceramic eggs
Tri-level roosts

Ceramic eggs (encourages egg laying)
Our lovely rescue chickens (Day 2)

Spinnie (L) and Ginger (R)
We debated for a while whether to buy chicks and hand raise them... or to buy adult hens from someone. We ended up purchasing six 15month old hens, from a guy on Craigslist. Now, I know Craigslist isn't always reliable... and the guy kept changing the dates the hens would be here; but he did so because of the weather and seemed genuinely concerned with their health. While he would not be delivering them personally (his co-worker/associate would); I did seem fairly confident the chickens were legit - he kept me updated on their progress, guaranteed the breed, and age... and called me several times to confirm pick-up times, location, and pricing.

When the lovely ladies, finally did make their way here, via a truck carrying hundreds from Arkansas... I was so saddened to see just how many were stuffed in the cages... hundreds and hundreds of them... piled all together, being taken out by a hook/prod, held by their feet, dangling ... and thrown into whatever crates and cages that belonged to their new owners... My hens were put into two cat carriers... three in each for the drive home.

When we got home, the hens in the first carrier were alert, awake and squawking. The second carrier, were all huddled together, asleep..... I think they may have fainted? Can chickens faint? Either way, they were exhausted.... We put the carriers in the backyard, on the porch... and I got some yarn, and scissors. I decided, JUST in case they escaped, I better trim their wings, so they can't fly away... so I had to take them out, and that's when I got a good look at the poor darlings... Wherever they came from... their life hadn't been pleasant. They're missing the majority of their feathers... one has a cracked beak, another has a wounded wing... they are bald on their back, most of the back of their necks and a few have bald necks -  so much in fact you can see the pouch where they store their food at the base of their throat. They were also; absolutely filthy. I grabbed them by the feet to coax them out, and once I did, I tried to sooth them, and hold them gently... but the three in the first crate, were just terrified.

So, one at a time... I tied a piece of colored yarn on the right ankle. They each got a different color, so I could identify them, until we get to know one another better. After that, I had the kids help me hold their wings up and out, so I could trim them. That's when I started seeing some with a few more injuries... needless to say, this process was difficult; they did not want to hold still. But we got it done one at a time - and placed them in the run, with the door to the coop open.

It was interesting to see that the two carriers of chickens, had formed two little groups... The Meanies (the alert hens) and The Niceys (the exhausted ones). The Meanies (White, Dark Red, & Green) were tagged and put into the run first... and by time I got The Niceys (Pink, Orange, & Purple) tagged and placed inside, The Meanies had went inside the coop, and The Niceys were too afraid to go inside... so I had the kids help me fill the feeders.... one with egg-laying mash (I am waiting on my co-op order, so we can make our own feed).... one with water... one with grit... and one with oyster shell. I don't think I saw any of them eat... they were so scared... and eventually, by sunset, they were all inside the coop; asleep... except for one... the one with the Pink tag. She was alert, awake, and trying everything she could think of to trot around the run and find an escape. I had my seven year old son climb in the run and try and corner her, so he could get her in the coop for the night... but she was relentless! He finally cornered her and got her inside the coop... and closed the door with a vengeance! She would stay put; whether she liked it or not! A few hours later, my husband and I went outside, and as I was telling him of our would be escapee... I turned on the flashlight, and looked inside... all of the hens were huddled and asleep in a nesting box, except one.. THE one with the pink tag... who was asleep on the floor, almost as if she had a good pout and put herself to bed unwillingly. We decided to name the one with the Pink tag: Ginger... from the movie 'Chicken Run'. If anyone has seen that movie, you will recall, how Ginger is the ring leader and helps instigate the escape of the chickens, from the farm...  And so ended Day 1 of our Urban Homestead Adventure... we had bought, tagged, and sorted six chickens... and even had to chase one and put it to bed.

Day 2: I woke up to get my daughter ready for school. As she was dressing, I went and opened the door to the coop. While the hens were awake enough at 7:15am... they wouldn't leave the coop! So I left them be, until around 10am... they were still inside... I decided to open the roof and shew them out, from the inside. Well it worked! They all ran for it! I closed the door behind them, so they were forced to explore the run.... and then they found the food! We let them eat and drink for about an hour... and then I sent my seven year old son in the run... he caught them all today... and one by one... we held and petted, and assessed each hen.

Pink: She was the escapee... She is now called Ginger. She is gentle, but feisty - when she wants down, put her down... otherwise, very nice

Red: My three year old boy named her Spinnie (I guess he has it in his mind she likes to spin, or maybe he wants to spin with her?) She is feisty - but tolerated being held - don't touch her comb or neck, that's when she looses it

White: My eldest son (the seven year old) named her Charlie..... Charlie is one of The Meanies... she finally gave in to being captured and held... but she was a pecker... she kept pecking everything - eventually settled down... but still liked to peck at anything new

Purple: Her name is Meatloaf... my daughter (6) wanted to name her some princessy thing, but made a joke about a chicken being called Meatloaf... so the name stuck. Everyone thinks its hilarious, not so much my daughter, though... Meatloaf is a flapper... has to flap, all the time... she got out of my son's hands and winged him in the face with her wings, kinda like a kitten scratch - she's nice enough, doesnt like being held much

Green: The one with the green tag is like, one of the sweetest ones ever.... her beak is broken, and it was hard for her to peck at mealworms, but she got the hang of it... My husband loves her. Her name is Nugget... My three year old broke the bag of mealworms so we just said what the heck, and dumped the bag in a bowl... we left it in the run and Nugget saw it and went to chow down! Broken beak or not, she liked the treat and was the first one in the bowl!

Orange: Gosh... she is speedy! My eldest couldnt catch her... and she is scrawny. She has almost no feathers on her neck.... We finally caught her and she was a doll, just kinda freaks out at the idea of humans. I suggested we call her Speedy or Flash... but my husband said he wants to name one. He thought of Ponyo... Chocobo... but we finally settled on 'Grande Pollo' or 'Pollo' for short... "Grande Pollo" is a family joke, and it's especially funny since Pollo is the scrawniest of them all!

We played with the girls today... got them used to us, and us used to them... it was nice. We even got a surprise... one of them laid an egg!

I am not sure which hen laid it... and while it was a nice surprise... it was at the same time sad... The shell was so very thin... so fragile. These girls were not getting the proper nutrition or care; but that is going to change. I am excited about our rescue chickens. The gentleman on Craigslist, got them from someone... and paid someone else to deliver them... I have no idea where they originate; but I know now ... they will have a happy home, and we'll take good care of them! So stay tuned for future adventures; staring: The Okie Campbell Clan, Ginger, Spinnie, Charlie, Nugget, Meatloaf, & Pollo.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Being A Pastor's Friend

Trying out new churches is always an exciting and uneasy road... Will they be a Biblical church? Will the pastor keep you engaged and challenged to grow more? Are the people friendly? Is the congregation going to be cliquish? Will you be able to build Christian, Bible-based friendships and a community there?

These are just some of the questions, common questions that go through people's minds when they are searching for a church home and congregation to which they can belong... If they find a church they want to plug into and one where they feel they can call 'home'... they start to branch out and make friends. As a woman, I would often look to the Pastor's wife for help in this department... kind of like a den mother in a college dorm... perhaps she would be able to introduce me to people, be my friend in exploring this new community; help me find a place to fit in...

Some pastor's wives, do just that; they are very hands on with everyone, darting to a fro, like an angelic hostess of a party from long long ago... making sure no one is left out, that everyone is included. Others simply are pleasant from a distance, they have their established friends, and are kind to everyone but let the congregation do the work of inviting and engaging the newbies... While I have experienced all sorts of pastor's wives... some loud and energetic, other soft and still... I have never been a pastor's friend, or a pastor's wife's friend... I've been a congregant or an acquaintance, or had a family member be a friend to them... but I have never had the privilege of knowing a pastor on a personal level, outside of a Bible Study or service. That is... until now.

For ages, and from my limited point of view... the Pastor and his Wife, have always been "the standard" to achieve... they are always looked upon as the model of how our homes and hearts should be designed. They are godly men and godly women, who have a great responsibility on their shoulders and an unprecedented expectation of Christian Perfection. Sure, we all know they ARE human, but they must be so much more, right? When they get angry; they calm themselves... while they are tempted by things of the world, they are strong enough to not be swayed (but oh, when those pastors are... when they falter, how we are so quick to dismiss them as no longer men who have obtained a higher plateau of faith, but now... are muck beneath us)...

I must admit, I have been guilty of thinking these things about pastors (and their wives)... that because they have people's souls and households to help guide and encourage - that they must be above all reproach... that God must have given them such spiritual success and achievement that we can only hope to obtain... and those pastors who betray their God and their congregations should be shunned and dismissed for they failed... but how human, is a pastor (or his wife) allowed to be? At what point can their human nature no longer be tolerated? When does their humanity disqualify them to be respected?

I've always viewed my pastors (and their wives) from the outside; looking in... oh how perfect they all seemed, and even when they had rebellious children, they managed it all with such grace and dignity... I never saw the pastor lose his cool... and spit spiteful things at his wife and his children... I never saw his wife disrespect and humiliate him in front of a guest... I never saw the pressure of outside family matters swell him with despair and sadness so deep, he would fall to his knees and cry like a babe...

I never saw these things, until I became the friend to the pastor's wife. Being privileged to know her, as my friend, I have been privy to the beauty in their personal relationship... and the ugly. I've seen them fight, I've seen them repent... I've sat in awkward silence during an argument, and I've sat watching their marriage and family blossom before my eyes... I've seen the struggle to get dinner on the table, and get the schoolwork done with the kids... the chores and housework... I've seen the very same, and very real struggles in my own life and marriage, mirrored in hers. The fights with inlaws... the disagreements with adult children and extended family... I've seen all of it, the good and the bad...

And I realized something... I am in a place of great honor. I not only have the pastor's wife as my friend... but I am honored to be privy to those moments behind closed doors, where their humanity is revealed and their character is seen most clearly. Pastors and pastors' wives  are people... and while we subconsciously know they are human, I think a lot of us, myself included, look at them with rose colored glasses... and when that humanity pokes through - we often look away disgusted or angry... and we shouldn't. We should instead view them with great sympathy and encouragement. They are facing the same struggles we are... the same temptations... the same marital problems, the same child-rearing issues - all of - and I think, sometimes more... I think they are scrutinized and idolized more than we realize. And we, are doing it to them....

If you are privileged to be your pastors friend, then you know what I am talking about... if you are a congregant or an acquaintance, I pray you would cut them some slack; and remember they are human too... Encourage them whenever you get an opportunity. Pray for them.... show them grace and love as you would like to be shown...

Being like your pastor should not be your goal... for they are as equally flawed as you. Instead, continuously striving to be more like Christ, should be the common goal you and he (they) share; on a road together; a journey of sanctification. And I am honored, to be on that same road, as my friend the pastor... and my friend, the pastor's wife....