Friday, October 28, 2011

RIP, Henny Penny

I promise that this isn't becoming a chicken blog, but we had chicken tragedy strike last week! I was out running some errands and upon returning home, discovered one of our hens dead on our driveway. I jumped out of the car and ran around to the backyard and found one wire side of our coop ripped away and the rest of our hens wandering around the backyard. When Rob got home, it was like chicken CSI out there and he ended up deciding it was a good-sized dog that did it. It was a daytime attack, so probably not a nocturnal wild animal like a raccoon, and there is no way a cat could have done the damage to the coop. Also, our hen was killed but not eaten, which seems more consistent with a domesticated animal. It looked like the dog grabbed onto the chicken wire with its teeth and pulled until the fence staples holding it to the frame popped off. I had a bit of a panic attack this morning when I heard barking outside and suddenly thought, "Wait, none of our neighbors have a dog." I rushed out to our backyard and indeed, there was a dog there! Barking and going crazy! The repair job Rob did with sturdier wire and a lot more fence staples seemed to be working, but of course I ran him off. (Our garage is in our backyard; we do have this pretty metal gate over the driveway but had not been in the habit of opening and closing it every time we drove a car anywhere.) It seems very likely that it was the same dog who murdered poor Henny Penny.

So now we have lost one of our hens to a violent end. I feel mad and a bit sad about it. For us, the chickens occupy a space somewhere on the spectrum between pet and vegetable garden. Losing her was not like losing our dog a while back; they just aren't smart enough to really bond with you like a dog or cat or whatever. I do feel sad that we didn't protect her better and that she died a violent death, however. It was Henny Penny who died, the Buff Orpington who was our first to start laying and who we had just cured of being broody. A short life she lived, a fuzzy little chick a mere 6 months ago:


So what else has happened around here besides death? We had the first parent-teacher conference for Grace, where her teacher said she is a good friend and has a great love of learning. We are about two months into kindergarten now and I feel good about our decision to forego the magnet school in favor of our neighborhood school. Grace is really happy there and she has made great strides in reading and I like the community involved in the school. I talked to her teacher about the math being too easy (I think she could have easily done this work a year or more ago) and we'll see if the teacher can make some adjustments to help Grace develop more.

This is also spirit week at Grace's school, with days for dressing up differently all week culminating in them wearing their Halloween costumes today. One of the days she was supposed to dress like a nerd. I don't think she's ever heard that word so she asked me what it was and I told her it was a smart person who was good at things. "I guess we are all nerds then, sort of," she said. Yes, sweet Grace, we probably are. Rob had a bit of ire about the whole thing and I see his point. We want small children to think achievement in math and science and/or wearing glasses is something to be mocked? Anyway, our first thought was to get a child-sized Three Wolf Moon shirt, but then Rob had the fabulous idea to dress her as Steve Jobs. Voila! Wonderful, if I do say so myself.

Our church is changing its schedule and this weekend will meet for our main worship gathering on Sunday morning for the first time, as well as moving to a bigger venue. We had been meeting at 4pm on Sundays, which was AWESOME. Sigh... It will help with some logistical issues and make things more accessible for some people so generally it is a good thing, but oh, how we will miss our relaxed Sunday mornings... I am thankful we had over a year off from the normal routine, but this weekend it is back to working to get everyone out the door at a certain time. Last weekend we took our final relaxed Sunday morning to go out to breakfast at a great little place we can walk to. A) I love that we live somewhere with great places we can walk to and B) I love love LOVE going out to breakfast.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hormonal Fowl and Staples

One of our four hens went broody. Not all of our hens have even started laying yet and yet one of them decided that she would like to incubate some eggs and hatch some little chicks. She sat in the nesting box all day, even when there were no eggs there, all hilariously flat and short and spread out. Apparently this is a hormonal thing; the hormones of this particular hen must be a bit wonky because she started laying eggs a month before we expected her to and now, the broodiness. Apparently the likelihood of a hen going broody varies from breed to breed (our broody hen Henny Penny is a Buff Orpington, a breed known for a tendency to broodiness) and there are a variety of things one can try to cure a hen of this habit. We tried removing her from the nesting box several times a day and letting her run around the yard for a while. It seemed to work for a while, but a few hours later, I'd always find her back upstairs. We ended up raising the ramp of our coop (which looks like this, as a reminder) during the day with them all downstairs to force her away from the nesting box upstairs during the day. Then one evening, we forgot to lower the ramp to let them upstairs for the night and they spent the night (fortunately, a warm one without predators around) down on the grass. Ever since, Henny Penny has been cured! Right now, in fact, I can look out the window in our computer room and see four well-adjusted hens strutting around downstairs.

Lewis is seven weeks old now and we have reached the end of our new-baby meals. What a huge help that has been! Is there anything nicer to have a lovely dinner arrive at one's house when evening rolls around after a day of navigating life with a newborn and other small children? For a while there we were actually up to our eyeballs in food, because there were a number of weeks where we still had our CSA share. The last pick-up for our CSA was in early October so the slightly overwhelming deluge of wonderful organic produce has ended. What a first-world problem-- too much delicious, organic food! Whatever shall we do? And we haven't even really started in on the meals in the freezer from my baby shower.

Today Violet had staples removed from the back of her head. Yes! Staples! From my precious little girl's scalp! Last week, she was climbing over the arm of an upholstered chair and fell, hitting her head on the way down first on the wall, and then on our wooden baseboard/trim. The trim in our 1917 house is pretty thick and tall and substantial and it cut the back of her head. At first, I thought, "Oh, poor Violet, come here for a hug." In hindsight, she was crying more than usual for a tumble, but that wasn't my first thought. When I saw that she was bleeding, I thought, "Oh yes, the scalp bleeds so much when it is cut." Then I found the cut and thought, "Oh crap. That is not part of the human body that is supposed to be out in the open." It was only about 1" long but it was very deep, split wide open, and you could see the fat. Blech. She was really upset and in pain, and in adrenaline overdrive, I gathered all three of them up and headed to the urgent care place. Rob couldn't come because he had patients scheduled all afternoon, but he put a plea out on Facebook and a sweet friend from our church met me there to help manage all these children. They numbed Violet's scalp with some gel stuff and after about 5 minutes, it was obvious that she had forgotten all about it. They left the numbing gel on her for about 20 minutes and then took us back to put the staples in. Apparently they use staples instead of stitches under hair because you don't have to shave the area to put them in; they scar a little more but it doesn't matter because it will be under her hair. She had four staples put in and just cried a little during the last two, more from the weirdness of the sensation than from any pain, I think. After a day or so, she totally ignored them and her cut has healed very well. She cried a little more during the removal of the staples today than when they put them in, I think because she wasn't numbed up at all, but she did very well and her hair escaped without getting all matted or becoming dreadlocked or anything. So, all in all, a not-terrible conclusion to our family's first medical emergency type thing. Not that I am going to start encouraging climbing the furniture or anything.

I notice that in my last post I went on and on about a baby swing, and then immediately afterward I became obsessed with researching and then buying a double stroller. Ah, the siren call of baby gear... I am very happy with the double stroller we got (this one, in turquoise, with the second seat, which came for free on a promotion that they were running earlier this month) and I have since cooled on the idea of a baby swing. I am normally a huge babywearing person and I don't think Violet even got in a stroller until she was 8 or 9 months old, but the 1-mile walk to fetch Grace from school was turning out very uncomfortable with my newborn babywearing options, pushing Violet in my cheap jogging stroller. Once Lewis has head control, we can move to the Ergo or similar, which is quite comfortable even on long walks with a toddler, but for now I have a borrowed Moby and pouch and ring slings, none of which were cutting it for me.  Anyway, I spent waaaaaaaay too much time and energy researching which double stroller to get; it is a big enough purchase that it stresses me out that I will pick the wrong one. I did eventually decide and now I am the proud owner of our first "nice" stroller, which is awesome. A daily-use stroller is something that it is worth spending money on for good quality, I am coming to believe. Using it makes walking through the neighborhood such a nicer experience and I have a rain cover and all the things I need to use it in all weather, so I am going to do my best to keep up with the non-fossil-fuel commute for Grace through the whole winter and in all weather. So apparently you can solve some problems by spending money.