Sunday, April 12, 2009

Molten B's

It's now March and the 3 B's are molting. We've discovered how vain these Polish hens are, as Lil' B can't even bear to look at the camera during a photo shoot. While I tell her she's still a very pretty B, she doesn't believe me. She sulks ands asks for cheese. Just hearing the cheese package opening gets the B's very excited, and they forget just how disturbing they look right now. I do feel like I've neglected them of late, as I'm back at my day job after a 2 1/2 year absence. So now I have 3 jobs, my own business (truedecor), Project Manager remodeling our commercial building in Georgetown (we're moving our entire picture framing operation there) and back at Picture Source/Art Club as General Manager.

Working 60-70 hours per week does cut into cuddle time with the 3 B's, so they've resorted to re-establishing the 'pecking order'. At first, it was B Master B all the way, but now B Diddy and Lil' B are throwing some smack of their own. That's impacted each B in an unfortunate manner, as each one has taken a hit to their new crest feathers. So I've been both nurse and referee of late (when I'm actually home). B Diddy was the first to show evidence of picking, and I'm happy to say she's recovering quite nicely. Lil' B has suffered the least, but I have spent some time healing scalp wounds. But B Master B is faring the worst, I've removed many damaged feathers and have had to deal with multiple feather cysts. I'm not sure why my B's get some many cysts, but I do remove them as they form. Bottom Line, the 3 B's are high maintenance B's!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The 3 B's visit the farm

To the bemusement of all, the chickens quickly went to work ridding Aunt Betty and Uncle Jimmy’s garden of bugs.

As we headed east on I-90 towards Montana with our two mini Aussies and 3 polish chickens my wife looked vaguely amused. At least that’s what I went with as twilight approached and we began to climb Snoqualmie Pass with a jeep load of animals. In 1910, my great grandfather homesteaded in Charlo, Montana, the heart of the Mission Mountain valley. Every August since I can remember, we traveled to "the ranch" for a family reunion with the Steindorf clan.

B Master B strikes a pose against the Mission Mountain Range.

Married, living in Seattle it became more and more difficult to make it over each August and before I knew it, almost 10 years had passed. As August neared, the family hinted strongly that we were long overdue for a visit. Point taken, we packed and headed east. The 3 B’s were 6 weeks old at this point and weren’t old enough to stay home. What better place to take them than to the family homestead? The urban chickens could see how their country counter parts live. As we arrived at the ranch and began to unload Uncle Jimmy (think George Bush Senior’s twin but ultra liberal) pointed out that the city folk had brought the only livestock on the ranch. Apparently, the homestead while a working farm was now without any farm animals.

Uncle Albert hypnotizes B Diddy at the family picnic. Uncle Albert is an expert Chicken hypnotist.

The urban chickens’ arrival was a big hit with the family Steindorf and I think we will go down forever in infamy. Now we aren’t just the city folk; we’re the incredibly ECCENTRIC city folk. Not sure what we’ll do for an encore.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Buy cage free only

The European union will ban caged hens for egg production by 2012. Will Obama bring real change?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

'Lil B is surely enjoying her 1st Super Bowl. Her Godfather Big Mike is sitting right below her and they are both for the Cardinals.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

'Lil B is a total lap chicken. She will curl up with you for hours.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To the Beach

Since the 3 B's were growing up just as summer was getting under way, they became well adapted to traveling the 90 minutes it takes to go to the beach. We spend those not so lazy summer days on Harstine Island, merrily slaving the time away on landscaping, oyster growing or gardening, all in preparation for a rare visit from friends or family.

One weekend I decided to head to the beach a day early, as the weather was good and my schedule was free. Darnell planned to drive down the next day. After a long day of enjoying the Puget Sound (working), I went inside to relax, enjoy a beer (maybe two or three), and watch a little tv. I put a blanket down on the sofa so the B’s could watch too. The B’s like tv. The next thing I knew it was 3am. The B’s were crashed on the sofa, they seemed comfortable enough, so I left them there and crawled into bed. They are such well behaved chickens – they didn’t move through the night. Fast forward to the following evening. Darnell has made it down, it’s late and I’ve got the B’s settled in on the sofa for the night. Darnell looks at me skeptically, suggests I put the chickens in the kennel (where they belong she tells me). I assure her they do not move in the night and that they LOVE the sofa. Well, as luck would have it, I was awoken by my fair wife in the night with some language I won’t repeat. B Master B had decided she wanted Darnell to know just how much she had missed her. There in the middle of the night, as my wife lay in bed sleeping, B Master B decided to fly up and land on her chest. Apparently my wife doesn’t like to be woken from a sound sleep by a chicken. That, of course, was the end of the B’s sofa slumber beach parties.

Today I wonder if the B's miss the beach or did it even make an impression? The dirt there is different, air is salty and they really enjoyed picking salal berries and huckleberry. They are still just chickens I'm reminded with a look of wtf from the wife.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Greenlake Take II

It's still sunny (when it's not foggy) in Seattle. This often seems to happen in January, where we experience a sustained high pressure system, and 1-2 weeks of fog and sun. The B's have really enjoyed the sun this week and we feel for the freezing B's out there, lot's of chitter chatter of comb and wattle frostbite on the backyard chickens forum. The 3 B's don't have to worry about that, they live in the house when it gets below 30 degrees (until I run electrical to the coop) and install a heater. These look like a reasonable route to take for that purpose.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


On a super sunny Sunday, 'Lil B chills at the park. We were at Greenlake Park which we live near and please note, chickens can be fed at the park, which pleased 'Lil B.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's In

'Lil B and B Master B were not moved during Obama's swearing in, they simply wanted to know when they'd get cheese. Sometimes they eat paper towels.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Urban Coop II

As anyone that has remodeled knows, things rarely go as planned and even more rare, finished on time. As I worked away on the B’s coop, I realized that this indeed was the case. This was one project that was going to take a while. In the meantime the 3 B’s were flourishing and had outgrown their plastic box, prompting a move into Blu’s kennel. Blu is one of our mini Aussies. He wasn’t impressed with the B’s living in his home and appeared to be joining ranks with my wife, giving me the occasional stink eye. As I continued to work away on the coop, things like Labor Day needed to be celebrated, taking time away from the completion. We packed the B’s up and took them down to the beach for the holiday weekend. I think they enjoyed themselves immensely, until they were spotted by one of our resident bald eagles. Quite amazing that they understood the urgency of cover as we frantically rounded them up. Instead of the typical game of chase, with lots of bob and weave, they bunched together and waited for the calvary. I like to think they are smart, but as their instincts have evolved over thousands of years, anything to do with life preservation took center stage. Sensing panic is one of them.

Finally, in late September the coop was complete minus the predator security screening. I announced to the wife that the B’s would soon be living in their new crib. I thought Darnell was going to do back flips. I think she may have shed a tear. Not so fast, I had to tell her. The B’s would be staying in until the predator security screening was put in place. As the end of September neared, the 3 B’s Crib was complete! Inside, they have a nest box made from a wine crate, perches to roost and their very own sectional sofa. The flooring is 12X12 tiles over plywood and the doors are barn style sliders made of plywood and steel. I’d like to see a rat chew through 3/16” steel plate! Nothing left to chance when it comes to the 3 B’s. A celebration was in order! The coop was done and the Ravenna farm house had offically turned 100 years old this year. So the grill was rolled out, the invites sent, and friends and family came to celebrate.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunny Day

B Diddy & Lil' B bask in a glouriosly sunny Seattle day - then they took a dirt bath.

Friday, January 16, 2009

More Cheese Please

Like I said, when cheese is out, the beggars stand at attention!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Urban Coop

The B’s were thriving. They seemed very content indoors, always finding interesting places to roost. The days were flying by, the B’s were growing, and before I knew it summer was almost over. Summer had definitely been a distraction. It’s easy to put things off when it’s 80 degrees out and the beach is calling your name. One day (with some help from my wife) I realized my days were numbered in the house if I didn’t move the B’s out. After scouring the internet for coop designs, I looked to Seattle architect Tom Kundig's work for inspiration. Why should my Urban B's live in a coop that resembles a shed? They’re 'special' chickens and they needed a 'special' home.

Fortunately, we had an existing 5' x 7' concrete pad in a great location, perfect for the coop. It is on the south side of our house and backed up to the fence separating our front and back yards. I imagined the B's happily clucking the days away, scratching about the coop or lounging on the deck - yes, my design included a wrap-around cedar deck complete with "roost rail". The hen house included a sectional sofa in the sitting area of the hen house (the B's really seemed to enjoy their time on our sofa). I sketched and planned the coop elements based on aesthetics, ease of entry and cleaning, and the needs of the B's (feeder, waterer, roost, nest, etc.). When the B’s arrived there was no established timeline for completion of the coop. I'd told Darnell the chicks would live inside for a maximum of 6 weeks. I wasn’t counting, but we were well beyond that. I was pushing my luck for sure.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chicks in a Box

There’s no turning back. The chicks have arrived by mail. Hannah, a fellow chickeneer and most helpful godmother to the B’s, lends the basics to set up the B’s brooder box. It doesn’t take long for Darnell ‘the wife’ to stop ignoring the fluff balls. That said, she still has plenty of interesting comments for me. Babies, puppies, and even chicks seem to know that the quickest way to ensure survival is to charm the pants off the large creatures around them. Lil' B cracked the thin layer of ice surrounding my wife by immediately falling asleep when placed in her hands. Even Darnell couldn't be peeved while trying to work with a chick crashed out on her laptop (at least that's how I saw it).
Chicks grow quickly. As B Diddy made her first successful attempt at flying out of the brooder box my wife shot me ‘that look’ and just shook her head. Two weeks into the B’s coming to live with us, I asked Darnell what she thought the B’s would look like in the following week. Darnell’s father is a poultry broker so it seemed a logical question. She looked at me, laughed and said she didn’t have a clue. She explained that on the occasion a baby chick had been brought home when she was young, the cat had gotten to it before it ever reached this age. I then asked what she and her sister’s had named their baby chick. "Why KFC, of course." I’m thinking that may have had something to do with the early demise of the Samuelson girls’ baby chicken.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cheese Please

Living in the city with chickens, you get a lot of questions. What do they eat, How do they lay eggs without a rooster, Where do they live? I explain that they eat chicken feed, of course. I explain the birds and the bees – that roosters are needed for breeding, and most importantly, I explain that they are no longer living in my kitchen (I want to stay married) and now, live in a fabulous coop in my backyard.
Back to the chicken feed. The 3 B’s eat their chicken feed but it doesn’t excite them they way it used to. Did I mention they’re spoiled? They’ve developed a taste for cheese, specifically a shredded four cheese Mexican blend. I don’t know what other urban chickens are into from a culinary perspective, but the B’s LOVE cheese. They know the sound of a package of cheese being opened and look towards the fridge longingly when they’re in the kitchen (don’t tell my wife). They gather underfoot when the fridge is open – even squeezing the dogs out of the way. I read several books on raising chickens initially, so I knew that while a chicken’s main diet is supposed to consist of their feed, it’s also clear they’ll eat most anything. No, the B’s are not vegetarian. Chickens by nature are omnivores. Gallus gallus, the Southeast Asian jungle fowl that today’s chicken descends from, will eat seeds, insects and even small animals. Small animals. Impressive. I doubt those wild fowl have access to cheese. Watching the 3 B’s, I’d say the Gallus gallus don’t know what they’re missing!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Peeping Box

Peep, peep, peep. As I approached my wife’s home office with my noisy, 2 day old fuzzy new friends – Peep, peep, peep. - my wife lets out a ‘that better be something from Archie McPhee’s’ (a well known local joke shop). Peep, peep, peep. As I enter her office, I share with her it’s better, much better. The package, with the help of the trusty US Postal Service, is not from Archie McPhee’s, but from – we have our very own baby chicks! The LOOK, not good. You see my wife has a look that can kill. She’s famous for it. She can stop me in my tracks. She can stop her father in his tracks. She can stop most anyone in their tracks. She’s scary when she wants to be. She explains it as ‘when she HAS to be’.

Let me fill you in on the details leading up to this. June 2008, the economy is precarious and I’ve just started a new career path- (actually my own company) - a wall d├ęcor import company, and Life is STRESSFUL. Slate had just published an article about the urban chicken movement and my friend Big Mike suggests that the pet chickens I’ve been dreaming of these past 8 years could be a great way to "shake things up". I agreed wholeheartedly. The wife, not necessarily taken into account. This all led to 3 baby chicks being ordered and delivered by mail to start their swank new life in Ravenna. I’m over the moon. The wife, she doesn’t look so sure.