A Chicken Named Dog

Adventures with a Flock Family

Author: bill@achickennameddog.com (page 1 of 2)

Garlic bread

Day 18–Final Part

I have related the events of day 18 in our hatching attempt last fall, and I have outlined some of the differences in approach that we identified for our second attempt this last spring.

A little over six months apart, I can’t even begin to calculate the odds that on the same day of our egg maturation that we would, again, be faced with a power outage.  We beat the odds.  On Day 18, the power went out, again.

The storm came through at a little past 9:00 in the evening, dumping buckets of rain in a matter of seconds.  As we looked out the front door of Grandma’s house, I suggested, seeing the rain blowing sideways, that we wait a few minutes before loading the car to drive around the block to our house.  In five minutes the storm had blown through, the rain had stopped, and the power, flickering at first, went black.

Racing around the block we noticed that branches and leaves littered the road, and our neighbor on the upper corner (we live in the middle of the block) had a sixty year old pine tree lying across the power lines.  Grabbing a penlight, we confirmed our fears that the incubator was off with a temperature reading of 90 degrees–already a full, ten degrees cold.

With no power, no indication of power returning anytime soon (there would be more trees across the roads all around the neighborhood) and no backup generator, I grabbed a raincoat and boots, Becca grabbed a heavy winter coat and with chicks in the incubator, we began driving around with the heat on high angling the lid to catch the hot air.

Driving around we were able to survey the damage of what, we would learn later, was a “tornadic event.”  The news and weather service would not call it a tornado (perhaps for the sheer, straight winds that were also detected), but there were lots of twisted debris going all directions. Driving around we were also able to determine that the power knocked out all of the gas stations, Wal-Mart and the regional Meijer stores.  When the low gas light came on in the 4Runner, this became an issue.

Realizing that the power would be out for quite a while, gas running low in the 4Runner and Becca sweating buckets in her winter coat, we opted to devise a plan B.

Plan B consisted of finding a source of power.  Our options were limited: Papa had a small generator that he couldn’t get to work, and I remembered a auto-power converter that would plug into a cigarette lighter/power source in the car and allow a house plug connector to be powered.  We started with the generator after I searched the house for a half hour looking for the power converter.

Another half hour later, after using all of the gas in our mower can on the generator that would not start, I was, again, looking for the power adapter.  I gave up.  We borrowed Papa’s Yukon and continued to drive around, this time looking no only for gasoline, but also a handy little power converter.  It was not 1:00 in the morning.

Just shy of 2:00 in the morning, we decided that if a gas station was open in the area (only one that we could find), it was definitely not carrying a specialized power adapter.  So we carried the incubator into Grandma’s house, updated Tori on our search and looked to come up with a new plan.  Five minutes later I was locating the adapter in the location that Tori indicated that it would be.  I should have started there to begin with.

With our car out of gas, we backed up the borrowed Yukon, plugged in the adapter toThink 1 takes a look an extension cord and plugged in the incubator.  With the heat from the car and Becca’s constant attention, we had maintained temperature to within a few degrees of optimal.   By waking up and starting the car a few times during the night, our ramshackle power work-around carried us through the next morning when power, thankfully, was restored.

All eleven eggs made it hatching.

Hardy freebies


This last spring one of the garden catalogs offered a “free” bulb (we had to pay shipping).  So, I took a chance and sent back the card.

A few weeks later I received by $6, free bulb, which I promptly put in a good spot to get it planted.  Three months later I found the bulb in a box.  A week later it was planted–there were some follow-through issues.

The bulb (it might technically be a tuber) lay dormant to the point I was convinced I was cheated in a marketing scam (ignore the four month delay in planting–I was working myself up into a good, self-righteous state).  Then after a good soaking rain: sprouts.

So, my free elephant-ear something (I have lost the description) is now growing next to the first garden box.  Yay for hardy freebies.



Pole Beans are coming in.

This year, in our experiment with hardscape (see Amish Ikea post), we constructed two parallel trellises for pole beans.  Even at over 6 feet high they weren’t tall enough, so, you may have guessed, we strung between the two for an arbor effect.

Stringing line between two trellises makes a pole bean arbor.

Stringing line between two trellises makes a pole bean arbor.

The effect is in full bloom.  It looks wonderful.

Stanley likes apples


Well, he likes the leaves. He did not, though, like the actual apples when offered for a treat.Stanley eating apple tree leaves

We are still looking for a good treat to help train him. So far he takes to a leash fairly well. The goat harness came in today, so we will see how that helps in leading him around.

Can goats eat “stickers”?

I grew up in West Texas where we called these little toe terrors “stickers”.  They were the bane of barefoot fun, and I was deeply saddened to see them this far north. They have shown up, in small numbers, in our garden, and each year I try to cull and kill them into extinction.  They are winning.

The official flower of Texas

The official flower of Texas

As we were taking Stanley on a tour of the garden today, watching him sample all the plants (weeds only right now), I offered him a sticker plant. He ate the whole thing like it was a pod of peas. Hi did not seem to mind the pokey “peas”. Is this ok? I would love to get him these terror peas, but I am unsure of his gastric health. I mean, they say that goats eat everything, but does that mean everything? Will he self-regulate?

Meet Stanley. He’s a goat.

Pappa, as part of his campaign for state circuit judge, has been making the rounds to the local fairs. Last Thursday he sat in on the 4H small livestock auction.

“Oh, that poor boy is not getting a good price,” he says and starts bidding up his animal. Shortly, after the auctioneer shouts “sold!” does Rebecca lean over and say to him. “You just bought a goat.”

I got to the fair shorty after, and we wondered off to check out the


poultry when we stumbled on the goat and sheep pens. Finding “Kid Rock” wasn’t too hard, and we started talking to the young 4Her about his goat.

Tori’s text was short and to the point, as it came in about that time: “Pappa doesn’t want to butcher the goat. Can I keep him?”

Stanley is now penned and quartered with Bruiser the anti-social rooster. We shall see if that will be enough companionship for poor Stanley.

How do you raise a goat?

I hear “Tweetin” around here…

Hi All: Our tweets now appear in our blog!  Yay.

Technology has been tamed, just a bit.

And all the chickens say, "tweet, tweet."

And all the chickens say, “tweet, tweet.”

Our Twitter handle: @AChickenNamedDog.

Garden Boxes from Amish Ikea

We decided this year that we would experiment with some hard-scape in the garden with trellising and garden boxes.  So, taking a cue from the local Community Garden, we built some garden boxes with lumber milled at a local Amish sawmill.

When purchasing lumber from an Amish sawmill, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  First, the measurements are true cuts.  That is, you actually get a 2 x 8 x 12 if that is what you want.  If you compare the measurements to a box-lumber store, you soon learn that a 2 x 4 is not 2 inches by 4 inches.  From the MIStupid.com site (truly inspired name):

2x4s are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches. When the board is first rough sawn from the log, it is a true 2×4, but the drying process and planing of the board reduce it to the finished 1.5×3.5 size.

We purchased “rough cut” 2x12x8 and 2x8x8 for the boards.  That is, 2 inches wide, 12 and 8 inches deep and at least 8 feet long.  By standing the boards on their sides, the total height

Stacked and ready for assembly.

Stacked and ready for assembly.

of the garden bed would be about 20 inches high.  This should provide a good height for reaching in and working the plants.  I also planned to make the box 4’x8′ so that the reach across would not be too onerous.

Another aspect of purchasing from an Amish sawmill is that they do not adhere to the same work schedule or supply lines of, say, a Lowe’s.  I placed my order, and five weeks later got a call.  They had part of my order cut.  It seems that they were having supply issues getting logs big enough to cut the 12″ wide.  They were also having some issues getting in pine logs.  Where the Community Garden opted for oak beds, I chose pine.  It would be lighter to build and move by myself and just a tad cheaper.

They are also “rough cut,” which means you should probably handle with some strong work gloves.  They are not the smooth boards from the box store.

The final benefit of buying from an Amish sawmill is the price.  I ordered enough lumber to build a dozen 4’x8′ boxes (3 each of 4″x”12″x8′ and 4″x8″x8′ with enough 4″x4″s to cut into corner posts).  Total bill: about $300.  Cha-ching.

We also learned, as we loaded up our 8 foot, single axle trailer, that the Amish cut their lumber long so that you can square the ends up to your desired length.   That means we had boards that were, on average about 9 feet long.  The 4x4s were even longer (14 feet).  Simple math should have told me that the center of the weight would be behind the axle, which in hauling violates the rule of thumb that the weight should either be before (closer to the hitch) or over the axle.  We were back-heavy.

A single-axle trailer, when back-heavy, will begin to fishtail at about 45 miles per hour.  Panic ensued.  Brakes applied.  Trailer did NOT lose its load, flip the truck or cause any other mishap.  We drove slowly home, thoroughly chastened.

In order to build the boxes, I need to cut them by the power outlet and haul them to their

By using a paddle-bit, the recessed holes prevent legs from find the ends of the lag bolts.

By using a paddle-bit, the recessed holes prevent legs from find the ends of the lag bolts.

garden home.  I chose, since I was hauling by myself, to borrow from Ikea and make ready to assemble kits.  I squared and cut to length by the power pole, drilled pilot holes in all the ends, bored out a recess (to prevent the lag bolts from sticking out of the side) and assembled the small sides to the corner posts.



Ikea-inspired, the end awaits its sides.

Ikea-inspired, the end awaits its sides.


I am then able to haul them to place and with a cordless drill bolt them together.




Layered with wood, chicken straw and dirt from the city compost, our bed is making fine tomatoes.

Layered with wood, chicken straw and dirt from the city compost, our bed is making fine tomatoes.

They are, I must say, a big success.

We love our garden beds.

Day 18 — Part II

After the failed attempt with the incubator, we stepped back and reevaluated our approach.  Borrowing an old and used incubator, that was, itself, on the cheap side, was probably not a strong start.  Not have dedicated power was another.


Winter raged on taking the total of our chicken time.  We needed to ensure adequate water, shelter and support for the record lows accompanying the “polar vortex” and the frequent dips and stays below zero.  With the snow, though, also came the hatchery catalogs with their lists of interesting breeds and stories of chicken glory.


Would a Black Jersey Giant rooster get along with Sonny our Rhode Island Red?  Would a hen?  And look, the Blue Laced Wyandotte is a very pretty twist on the Silver Laced Wyandotte.  Would Dog the Hen, our Silver Laced Wyandotte, like a playmate?


It soon became clear that we would need to try and hatch again.  So, we went shopping and


This is like the new incubator, with circulated air and a humidity gauge…much better.

researching.  It turns out that the incubator we initially used has a long failure rate, even though it is preferred by the local farm supply store.  We decided to order online and Tori proceeded to begin gathering eggs.


The first batch went in, and we duly noted each egg’s characteristics, parentage and overall disposition.   Three times a day we would turn the eggs from an “x” to an “o”, note the humidity and generally check their status.  The days rolled on, and the candling indicated germination.  Joy was abundant.


Statistics say that the chance of the same exact scenario happening at two separate instances are, when controlled for the very factors that caused the first instance, are very small.


We beat the odds.  On day 18, six months later, another storm rolled in, and the one factor we could not control for stepped in again.  At 9:00 in the evening, the power went out.  Again.


to be continued…


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