A Housesitting Staycation, or Fun with Chickens

Navah and I had been planning to take a camping trip one weekend before our wedding - just to take a break from the wedding planning and job searching (for me) and long hours (for Navah).  But the weekends filled up so fast that before we knew it, there wasn't a weekend free.  Luckily our 2-week housesitting gig for a friend is out a ways from Burlington in a beautiful home on a nice-sized piece of land with a gorgeous garden.  

We decided to take the opportunity to give ourselves a little overnight staycation.  So from Friday evening until Sunday morning (when Navah had to head back to work), we lived it up retreat style at our temporary abode.  

Friday night I zipped out to pick up our friend's CSA farm share (super big bonus of housesitting) and made a meal plan on the way back.  The fresh whole chicken in my bag got my mind rolling, and I knew exactly where it was going. 

Skillet fried chicken.  Corn on the cob.  Slaw with carrots and apples. 

I met Navah at the door with a piece of fried chicken in my hand. 

It was like our wildest dreams come true. 

I suppose it's sort of rude of me to share all that with you and then tell you that there won't be any recipes.  But I haven't mastered the art of taking photos when I'm covered in batter and fried stuff.  So that'll have to wait til some other day. 

For now, some pictures of the live chickens we hung out with over the weekend.

So that's Flappy up there, loitering around the kitchen door and squawking for some grub.  During the day, she's the chicken envoy, popping in at random intervals to see if she can score some sunflower seeds or granola.  We're an easy sell.

Willie, on the other hand...

But luckily for the chickens, he doesn't make the decisions.  Or go outside. 

So they can eat in peace.

Jammer's only allowed out with extreme supervision.  He wants to chase the chickens, and we're not sure what he wants to do after that.  So he mostly hangs inside with Willie (whom he is both scared of and wants to play with).

We have to do a little creative tossing of the food to make sure that Rita and Matilda (the two that we took care of when they were baby chicks) get some since they're littler than the others and get bullied pretty intensely.

This gal's unhappy with the favored treatment they're getting.

We also made our way over to a beach on South Hero for a couple hours of beautiful views and perfect temperature water.

And we got a visit from this beautiful little dragonfly.

We closed out the night dining on leftover fried chicken and watching Moneyball.  It was a perfect staycation, if a wee bit short.  

What did you do this weekend?


Reuniting with the Chickens

We're housesitting for the next couple weeks for some friends, which has us out in Colchester, Vermont (about 20 minutes from Burlington) in a gorgeous house with a huge yard and a bevy of chickens.  And two of those little gals are - you guessed it - our friends from back when we were chicksitting!

Look at how big they've gotten!

Makes an auntie proud.

These pictures are horrible. I only had my iphone and wanted to take some photos outside, but we discovered very quickly that Jammer wanted to chase after the chickens and, not knowing what he would do if he actually got to one, we needed to get them into their house asap.  Hence the poor lighting and fuzzy quality.

They sleep in their little hen house at night - to keep them save from predators like foxes and weasels and dogs, and in the mornings, we let them out to bop around the yard each day.  Our young gals are the two smallest and not able yet to fly to the top of the hen house. These bigger and older ladies rule the roost from above.

And then there's the one matronly gal who desperately wants to hold onto her eggs, and has no qualms about pecking my hands raw to protect them.  She even pecked a hole in the gloves I was wearing to try to save my poor fingers.  I did get them, but neither of us enjoyed it!

So, hopefully these next couple weeks will give us some (apparently much-needed) chicken education!  (And I'm sure there will be more pictures to come!


Quiet on the Home Front

We had to give them back. The family we were watching them for came home, and we packed everything into the car and shook up some hand warmers and put them into the box and drove the baby chicks out to two very excited children. And for the last few days, we've been commenting on the quietness when we wake up in the morning - not in a happy way. We miss the cheep cheeping. We miss walking by the two little fluffy gals and hearing their little feet skitter around the cardboard box. 

But then it was obvious the moment we dropped them off that they're where they belong. Those two kids scooped them up just like they held baby chicks every day of their lives. And while they don't, it's not too far from the truth. The family has seven chickens, some of which they've raised since they were as young as two weeks old. Of course, this time the little gals they were holding (Rita and Matilda - we got the honor of naming them after our poop heroics) were just about a week old. But they didn't seem one bit phased. While we were super concerned about whether the ladies liked being handled and worried about traumatizing them, the chicks seemed calm and relaxed in the tiny hands that so confidently held them. 

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that because I only had the camera on my phone, and it doesn't take in-motion shots all that well. 

But we did get a few pictures of the grown-up chickens and got some hands-on experience with what happens when a chicken gets handled a lot from the very beginning. 

You get to hold them like this. 

This fuzzy gal is a fast-forward version of Matilda (the little black chick) will look like when she grows up (though, of course, black).
And pet their fuzzy little heads. 

So - not that you would've thought anything different - this little chick-sitting stint has just strengthened our resolve. We're more excited than ever to move into our own house (not that that'll be happening any time soon) so we can order some little chickens and not give them back to anybody. 

One day we'll have gals like these bopping around our yard and pecking at our back door asking for some sunflower seeds. (Yes, these girls actually do that.)


Baby Chicks!!

In our efforts to become as Vermonty as possible, we agreed to chicksit some baby chicks this week while their owners are away on vacation. Specifically, we agreed to hold and pet them as much as possible so that they'll get used to being handled by people. I know. It's a rough life we lead.

The two little chicks arrived yesterday, and we've been basically unable to take our eyes off them since. Even though all they do is eat, poop, and sleep, I could watch them for hours! They're two funny gals.

Please disregard my music in the background. I wanted you to be able to hear their little cheeping.

One is a black silkie, and the other is a buff brahma bantam. They're both supposed to be one-day old, but I suspect that the buff brahma bantam is a bit older - she's kind of a bully.

They don't love to be held, and in fact, when we reach our hands in the box to pick them up, they cheep cheep cheep with all their might and run around like crazy. I suspect they're warning each other - INCOMING!!!!

But once we hold them for a few minutes and gently pet their ridiculously soft little heads, they fall asleep in our hands. I know. Rough, rough life.

I was very worried about how Jammer would respond to them being here and whether I was going to have to watch him like a hawk. But as far as I can tell, he has no idea they're in the house. Weird, because they're just sitting up there on the kitchen table in a box. I'd assume that he could hear and smell them, but he's paid them no mind. Mostly he just seems a little sad that we're not paying more attention to him.

We still love you, Jammer!
There has been a bit of drama since they arrived.

Mild discussion of poo ahead - turn away if you can't handle that sort of thing. (No poo pictures.)

Baby chickens sometimes have this issue where their little poo hole, or "vent," as it's called, gets clogged and they're unable to relieve themselves. It's called "pasting up" and can cause death if it's not addressed quickly. We thought that might be happening with the little black silkie because she had some stuff crusted in that region, and she wasn't eating or drinking and just seemed way more lethargic than the other.

We called the woman that we had picked them up from, and she said that it probably wasn't happening and that sometimes baby chicks take a while to catch on to what they're supposed to be doing - i.e. eating and drinking.

That assuaged us for a bit, but before we headed to bed we were both still worried. We hadn't ever seen her poop, though the other had been a little pooping machine. So, much to the little silkie's dismay, we lifted her up and cleaned her rump (for the second time) with a wet paper towel. Everything is very small down there, and I was still having a hard time figuring out what was going on and whether things were clear. After a little more internet reading, I very carefully did what this website suggested and cleared the blockage. (And got confirmation that things had definitely been blocked - gross!) But the change in her behavior was instantaneous - happy little chick running around and drinking lots of water!

I felt like a hero, but we read that once this happens with a chick, it's likely to happen again. So we're watching her closely and even got up in the middle of the night to make sure things were looking okay. Nothing like cleaning poo from a chicken's butt at 3:30 in the morning. Helicopter parenting much?

Anyway, so far so good!

I'm sorry for the low quality of these pics, but I thought you'd definitely want to see them! It's very challenging to take pictures in a box, and I can't take anything worth looking at when the heat lamp is on, so I grabbed these really quickly while I turned it off for about 30 seconds, though you can tell that it's still on in the video.