Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Spring Babies Are Here!

We have babies galore around here. This place never feels more like a real farm to me than when all the spring babies arrive. Chicks, ducks, geese and kittens fill the cornucopia of fluffy love around here these days.

(For the record, all these wee critters make us total kid magnets. You can hear the longing, pining, aching in the cousins' voices when they say, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, I wish I could come vizzzittttttttt......" when they learn of our new arrivals.)

But I digress.

Introducing our new little mousers Bijou and Stella:

Stella is the little fluffball on top. Isn't she pretty? Doesn't she have that natural feminine grace? Doesn't she look like the sweetest sister ever?

Yeah, well, she's not.

She's a he.

But we didn't find that out for a few days after we started calling him Stella, when Macy figured she and the kittens had spent enough time together that it was OK to start looking up skirts. Upon discovering we needed to get a pair of dungarees for Stella we talked a little, shrugged our shoulders and decided we wanted to call him Stella anyway. In a nod to his masculinity, we've expanded upon his name, however. He is now Stella the Fella. I hearken back to Johnny Cash's thought-provoking classic, "A Boy Named Sue," and figure there's a lesson in there for all of us. I just hope Stella doesn't come after me in a bar fight some day.

Bijou is a girl, for sure. Lest you think this is a weird name for a cat, you should know that other cat names around here have included Noodle and Two Buddy. I had to put my foot down when the kids were insisting on Miss Momentum for a puppy name. I explained there was no way I would be calling a vet to make an appointment for Miss Momentum Walker. It's bad enough making appointments for Noodle & Two Buddy Walker. Adam points out every time I grumble that Two Buddy has literary allusions - yeah, I don't care. It's still weird.


So, now we have precious new mousers who are about to be moved outside to join their barn cat pals, the aforementioned Two Buddy and Noodle.

Speaking of outside - that's where we have our new duck and geese snuggled down. Pictures of those little creatures are forthcoming. For now, you'll have to be satisfied with an introductory look at our new chicks, who are presently chirping and skittering in their brooder box in the kitchen.

"Shhhhh, close your eyes. Then they can't see you."

Oh, sorry, it appears they were just blessing the food. Way to spoil a reverent moment.

OK, we'll come back to them when they've finished eating.

Actually, they were just sleepy babies. I don't know why they fall asleep on their feet at first, but it's so funny to watch them swaying, eyes closed. It's a little nerve wracking, too, because in those first few days, you find out if you ended up with any sick chicks, and the standing there with eyes closed, looking miserable and swaying can be some of the first signs of a sick baby. We've been lucky that all of these are hardy, healthy little fellers. Now they lay down to sleep. Not sure what marks the transition from standing to laying. Just part of growing up, I guess.

You have to be very watchful of these little ones the first several days, looking for any signs of illness. Something you have to especially be on the lookout for is pasty butt. That's the very scientific formal name of a chick condition where their little poopers get clogged with poo, a condition that can lead to death. So, we're keeping an eye on hineys around here. Day before yesterday we found 3 of the chicks had pasty butt, so we held their tiny hineys under warm water until everything loosened up, then very gently wiped at the, umm, stuff, until it fell away. You have to be super gentle with the wiping because their hiney membranes are so delicate at this stage, it's easy to tear them. Ouch.

The little chicks settle right down while you're holding them under the running water, and close their eyes. It could be from humiliation (back to the "if I can't see them, they can't see me" thinking) or sheer relief at the warmth of the water and the removing of what has to be a very uncomfortable, if not painful, blockage. I used to be a little grossed out by this process, but now I just want to provide relief to the poor things, so I try to look past the poo to the healing. It gets me through. Anyway, I'm glad only 3 of the 15 have had any trouble, which we quickly fixed. We're getting past the stage where we'll need to be on the lookout for the poo clogs, and then I'll be able to give up diaper duty for another year.

Here's one little sweetie warming back up after being de-pooped.

"Nothing to see here folks. Just drying off and getting warm. She'll be fluffy again in no time. Keep it moving. Keep it moving."

Gotta be grateful for those Mother Hens that emerge young, watching out for their fellow chicks from day one. These are the friendships forged in steel, I tell you.

We picked our chicks up from the Feed & Seed on Friday, when they were 3 days old. We have 15 of them, and we're going to investigate which breeds they are since they were marked "Hatchery Choice - Pullets," which tells us they're all girls (hens) but not their breeds. I'm hopeful the orangey-yellow ones are Buff Orpingtons, because they are such great moms and in the past, they've seemed to have nice, calming dispositions. With luck, some of those stripey girls will be Aracaunas, which lay the blue or green eggs. Those super pale yellow ones could be Leghorns, which lay white eggs pretty much every day, which is nice to count on.

It'll be fun to watch this little flock grow into their personalities and quirks. We'll name them as their characters begin to emerge. And we'll hope the new improved chicken yard means we'll get to keep this flock to a ripe old age.

Love from the farm,

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