alOha ; )
We've been very busy in our new space, the Hive, and being on so much land has us thinking of all kinds of projects - buying old trailers and fixing them up, mixing cement and stone and building one of those Mayan saunas that we fell in love with in Guatemala ... but the first outside project has become an impromptu hen house ; )
These girls just kind of flew into our laps .. It was late in the day, and juwels and I had just done the loOp from the down town post office (missed closing by minutes .. then off to the main post depot on the other end of town) then to the UPS depot ... so we were hot, and tired (many days build in the anticipation of these depots .. and the time their locks go Click.)
But we (luckily) decided to make another stop and pull off at the Natural Grocers anyway .. for .. asparagus, I think. And as I was walking out, I bumped into our friend Derek, wearing a sleeveless shirt and smiling and no doubt visualizing a gardening patch or compost heap back at the Clay Casa (our last Winnie parking haunt / where I wrote about these very chickens .. not knowing they'd be ours a few months down the road).
We chatted in the sun before juwels came out, and Derek mentioned that the community thought they might have to start thinning the chicken flock. They had 14 birds now, including the grown up chicks they'd nursed through the winter. Feed costs were getting high and grazing grounds, low.
Then he said, "Hey - do you guys want some chickens??"
"Yeah," I said with no hesitation.
We'd cared for some in CA, and miss their little songs and routines, the dirt baths, bug hunts .. and let's not forget delicious eggs ; )
"Well," juwels said, "we'll ask the guy who owns the ranch, and we'll let you know right away. It shouldn't be a problem, so save them for us, okay .. no chicken soup."
"Cool - or - you could just come by and pick some up now and ask later??" he said.
We both laughed, but he didn't, still smiling and nodding. We said we'd call him soon .. But even after we got the okay, we still had some nesting to do for the girls. The fence would have to be secured a little better, hen house built, straw bedding .. we had to roll out the red carpet for these little ladies ; )
Dean and Derek, "chicken delivery .. did somebody order some chickens?" and Gina, Queen of the Hens, came to see our new Hive and support the ladies (they were part of their original flock).
That fist day, we didn't have their house quite dialed in yet, so they slept in the wire cage on the deck at the foot of our bed. (we've been sleeping out under the stars almost exclusively these days .. either on the roof of the Winnie beside the solar panel or on one of the Hive decks. Such deep sleep in the starlight with the sound of bats flickering overhead. : )
As you can see in the background, our multi-medium recycled building pallet: barn wood, floor boards, and scrap metal were still laying around in the development stages as we tried to visualize their house. Besides two boxes of screws, we didn't buy a single supply for this project ; )
Chickens are very curious creatures, and that first day (maybe because they slept up on the deck and we were up there too) we had to shoo them back into the yard with an old broom. They loved the yard right away.. and the plentiful jumping grasshoppers this time of year, and later in the day, they made a little hideout far under the big deck and pouring room. This was alright by me ... although, it presented a little more work that necessary to find their eggs (video to come. )
We also hadn't decided on the bulk food we'd buy for them (juwels is still researching the perfect organic blend) so they had cereal with me that first morning, and water melon ; )
Here chick chick chicky ...
These were the chickens at the bottom of the pecking order at the Clay Casa. Always picked on, intimidated out of the best compost and food scraps, and being not as pretty as the other hens, they were first in line for the chopping block. So imagine their delight when they arrived here from their old dirt lot - grass and terraces and bugs and no bullies! Maybe they think they ended up in the soup pot after all ... died and gone to chicken heaven ; ) It must feel like a chicken retreat for these lucky lil ladies ; )
These girls LOVE their watermelon!
Such efficient eaters ; ) They'll eat the stringy pulp right out of a banana peal.
And skilled hunters ... a chicken never looked so scary until you've seen them through the eyes of a grasshopper.
There are so many salvaged boards and barrels, fencing, fittings and about anything else you could need for a building project around this ranch. Owned by a demolition contractor who hates waste - he's amassed pallets of stone and wood and steal supplies that anyone can (re)use ; )
After rolling the empty barrels down the hill to the Hive, juwels had the idea to build the foundation off an old table that we'd kind of inherited with the space. It was big and heavy and wobbly, but with a few well placed 3 inch screws and a little leverage, we were in business ; )
We built up - knowing that we wanted a sun room on the first level for first thing in the morning chit chat before we woke up and let them out, and up top would be the roost for sleeping and making their offerings ; )
And juwels had to paint the beams since they didn't blend with the other old wood we'd found.
She also distressed the lighter blue with a little brown paint, brings out all the wood grain and super quick and easy to do ; )
In the flats of barn wood, we found this little mummy .. pressed flat. Not sure if he flew in here for his last hours, or if he'd been trapped in the tear-down way back when, but he was perfectly preserved and creepy cute.
Roost flap - done. Roof slats - secure ... we're nowhere close to being done ; )
None of the chickens had names (not even from their past home) and we decided that we'd let them come naturally. This little girl now goes by marixa ; ) Named after a friend of ours/ a past worker bee at Pollen Arts. She's sweet and inquisitive .. the chicken and the girl. Always the first to lay her daily egg, and a lover of water melon and dandelion greens ; ) She helped me with an alternate view ... just making sure the wires would set nicely in her new sun room.
As the solid wood walls started to go up, and the thing was becoming real, we were both so smitten with it, that we wanted to sleep inside this old gypsy cabin/ wagon/ bazaar for the first night ... when it wasn't quite chicken ready (no lower door) and the straw was still in the bail. We couldn't figure out who'd get top bunk, so we just went back to the bed in the winnie .. I did lay inside though. It smelled like an old boot house, and felt a little like a coffin, perfect size ... maybe we'll be buried in it someday ... ; )
These old salvaged barn wood planks have the most heavenly pine scent on the cut edges .. like every Christmas that ever was. We just couldn't stop smelling it ; ) Juwels has a little piece of a pine knot on the rim of her piano, and smells it between songs ; )
Juwels has a few bins of old table legs and flashings for just these kinds of occasions ; )
Wire - stretched and secured ; )
As we were putting up the front door, I said something about cutting a moon or star out of the door ... moon was too outhouse-ish and star too country, so she settled on a sun ; )
Penthouse suite - pre-straw.
There's something about this photo, the perspective, and seeing the coop with that long roost door propped open like a stout wooden wing, that makes me think that it could fly ... chitty chitty bang bang ; ) I don't see it hovering, smoothly, like a UFO, but rather laboriously flapping those wood wings and just jerking upwards, hens inside laying eggs from fright as it leaves the pull of gravity ; )
Juwels just kept saying, "it's never going to be this clean again." ha ha ha .. love her ; )
The most adorable little chitters come from that upper level when the ladies hop up there to lay. I can see the whole yard and roost from my desk and pouring table, and the first few times I'd see a lady waddle up there, I'd have to drop whatever I was doing and go spy on them ; ) Too cute.
We keep adding thicker and thicker layers of straw up there, but as they scratch and bundle their little nest, it always turns out to be wood planks below the fresh egg. I was sitting out there on the rocks the first time Marixa went up there, and I actually heard the egg hit the wood, like, plunk. .. I almost died. I almost died ..
Chicken view ; )
We added a few more steps on this inner ramp to the loft .. they like it much more now ; )
Our lock is just a drilled hole and a hinge pin. The door was warped, so the tension keeps everything pinched up tight ; ) Love not having to go to Home-D at the end of a project ; )
Feathering the nest with soft golden straw ; ) Look at how intrigued they all are, "what's up, pops?" They wear the funniest little feathered short shorts, and seeing them run across the yard or rock hop on the terraces like mini T-Rex's always makes me smile ; )
Home sweet home ; )
Dry run - they weren't done grazing in the yard yet, and they let us know that right away, so we let them out a little longer. But at night, as if it always was, they knew where their home was and went right up to bed.
Chicken on the right, name: Midnight ... because she goes to bed a good hour past when the other hens have turned in. Left: Magic ... her name comes from a long and misleading story, brought about by my mischievous little brother and a Giant goose egg that he planted in the roost while we were away in Sedona .. It's a pretty funny story .. I think I'll save it for a face book post as we're about to head out of the hot-hot hive to do a little sailing just as soon as I push "publish" ; )
That's Midnight, protesting her early bedtime ... when we're here at the Hive, we let them turn in when they want, but on field trip days, we put them away before dark/ hungry racoon time ...
But there's always tomorrow ..
These little girls have become beggars, too, (juwels is to blame for this). We've taken to eating our meals under the cherry tree with our bare feet up on the textured trunk, and after they received a few handouts, they'll practically jump on your lap or perch on your arm if they see anything to their liking ... especially white rice ; )
That's all for now. There's so many little details and philosophical questions these ladies have shown me already beneath their cherry tree, but I'm going to sign off for now, and you'll bee seeing more of our feathered children later ; )