Leaving Chickhood Behind – The Hipster Chicks Move Out of the Woodshed


On Saturday evening, I went into the woodshed with the bag of dried mealworms.  The chicks know this bag of deliciousness on sight and gathered around for a treat.  Valerie and Squawky, who are not shy, ate some delightful treats right out of my hand while the others blissfully pecked them off the floor.  Then Valerie, as she often does, hopped right into my hand.  That’s when I closed my hand around her and shoved her into the cat carrier that my wife, Kathy, was holding.  I also nabbed Squawky before she could run away and put her in the carrier with Valerie.  Both chicks cried out continuous shrill peeps of fear and alarm, and the others scattered for the corners of the woodshed.  We carried these two little girls down the hill to the pole barn and released them into the new coop that I’d prepared for them.  The time had come for these nine-weeks-old chicks to take the next step towards henhood. 
 
Life So Far for the HIpster Chicks:  They hatched on June 6 and were put in a transport box - I picked them up and drove them to their new home.  Their first week was in the big blue bin - mostly under the heater.  Then they moved to the plastic kiddie pool, where they started roosting on top of the heater.  Finally, at about three weeks old, the kiddie pool went away and they had full run of the woodshed - until last Saturday!

I Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What I Like - And I Like Chickens!

Fair Use: Photograph of Hahn/Cock in situ in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA - To discuss artwork and to illustrate the appearance of the work in its context in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Last weekend I finally found time to make a pilgrimage to the cool new gimongo chicken sculpture that has been installed in the Twin Cities.  The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has added sixteen new pieces as part of its recent multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion.  One of them, Hahn/Cock by German artist Katharina Fristch is a giant blue fiberglass rooster standing on a steel base – the base and rooster top out at 25 feet. 

Fristch likes to incorporate not-so-subtle ironic humor into her works, and she's best known for Rattenkönig/Rat King, a group of enormous black polyester rats, shown at the 1999 Venice Biennale.  This is her second edition of Hahn/Cock.  The original was on display in Trafalgar Square in London as part of the “Fourth Plinth” project.

The Hen Pen Project


“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
C. Northcote Parkinson

In 2011, as I was reaching the end of my working years, I decided to go part time.  It was wonderful!  All of a sudden, I had extra days to work on my bazillion projects here at the ranch.  It was great for a while, but it was only a matter of time before those extra days also gave me the opportunity to think up even more projects.  Soon, my project list, instead of getting smaller, was actually expanding! 

Then in 2015, I retired.  That also was wonderful!  I once again had extra days every week to work on projects.  Guess what happened next.  Yup.  The project list got even longer!  And now I’m out of options for adding more days to the week unless I start making my own calendar with a ten-day week! 

Meet the Flock Roundup – May & June, 2017

Meet Veronica the Easter Egger, a prolific layer of green eggs. Veronica's in her 5th year and was the only Easter Egger of her generation to lay continuously through this past winter. Such a hard worker! And very pretty to boot!



Spring Non-Chickens



Chickens are not the only birds we feed here at the ranch.  We’ve got a collection of birdfeeders by our house to feed all of the feathered denizens of the woods around us as well as those who just stop by for a snack.  We serve sunflower seeds and suet and add sugar water and jelly to our summer menu.  Our arrangement with the birds is that we provide food for them and they provide entertainment for us.  Win-win, right?  Regularly glancing out the window to see who has stopped by for a snack is just part of life. 

When our kids were young, they learned all of the birds’ names—and not just the last names (e.g. Cardinal, Grosbeak) but also the first names (e.g. Carl and Carla Cardinal, Gary and Mary Grosbeak).  Of course, there were many cardinals and grosbeaks, but the males were all Carl and Gary and the females were all Carla and Mary—this system only presented a problem when multiples birds of the same species would show up at the feeder at the same time and then we could just say that Carl and Carla were entertaining guests.

Watching the birds at the feeder happens the year round, but it is especially fun in the spring as we wait for the first appearance of our migrators and the occasional glimpse of the birds that briefly stop by as they migrate through.  With the Fourth of July behind us, we’re moving out of the spring season—nests are built, eggs are hatched, and fledglings are getting ready to leave the nest.  On to summer!  Here are a handful of springtime bird pictures that I’ve taken over the last several years. 

Rose Breasted Grosbeaks are usually the first spring arrival at our feeders.  They winter in Central America and Northern South America and are ready to chow down on some sunflower seeds when they show up.


The Afton 4th of July Parade

My thoughts while doing the Afton 4th of July Parade: “Beautiful day!  The rain they predicted never materialized.  It’s maybe eighty degrees – a little warm in the sun, but perfect in the shade.  Blue sky with just a few little fluffy clouds and just enough breeze to keep the streamers on the float fluttering.  Perfect spot in the staging area in the shade of some towering cottonwoods.  My spot is in the last third of the parade, behind the string of classic Corvettes and in front of 'Tony Jurgens for House of Representatives' and Pinky’s Sewer Service.  My support crew folks show up en masse, Kathy arrives in the truck with the buckets o’ candy and the Silke hens, we get them transferred to the float and we’re underway.  There are a few folks lining the street right outside the marina, but when we turn the corner onto Main Street, we are engulfed by the throng—solid masses of people lining the street and actually spilling over the curb onto the street in several places.  The crew is busily handing out candy to eager youngsters—it’s obvious that the $85 worth of candy is not going to get us through the route!  This is the epitome of festive!  The noise:  music, shouting kids, sirens, hot rod engines!  My boombox is belting out the chicken-themed hits, but nobody can hear it in the midst of the general cacophony!  Everybody loves us!  Kids smile and point at the little hens.  When the parade halts on occasion, moms bring their toddlers close so they can see the chickens close-up.  I get lots of 'Hi Randy!'  and 'Way to go, Randy'—I don’t know any of the people shouting my name, but 'Randy’s Chicken Blog' is displayed prominently right on the float!  We drive Main Street, turn at the coulee, drive Main Street again, and then it’s all over.  But what a memorable day!"

The thoughts of Emily and Courtney the Silkie hens while doing the Afton 4th of July Parade:  “Aaaaaaaaarrrrgh!  Squaaaaaaaaaak!  What is going on???!!!  The crate we’re in shakes around.  We seem to be moving!  Who are all these people?  Why do they keep pressing their faces up to the crate?  It is so noisy and scary!  When we get back to the coop nobody will believe our horror stories!  We will never forget this day!"

But they did just fine.  Once they got settled in, they handled it just like seasoned professional chickens!  I’m ever so grateful to these little hens for helping out with the parade.  I couldn’t have done it without them!  And I’m also grateful for the support and assistance of my seasoned professional crew:  Katie, Eric, Madeline, Josh, & Kathy!  Thanks guys!  You were very brave in facing the hordes of candy-crazed youngsters!  You too were vital to the success of this endeavor!

Without further commentary, here are a few pictures from the day.


Afton: A Town! A Parade! A Chicken Float!


Welcome to Afton, Minnesota, USA—my hometown!  Afton is a diminutive and bucolic town located on the pristine and federally protected St. Croix River and is one of Minnesota’s oldest towns.  Back in territorial days, when there were no ferries or bridges crossing the river, there was (and still is) a large sandbar, the Catfish Bar, which allowed for an easy and shallow crossing.  Afton formed at this crossing point.