Monday, June 14, 2010

Bird Swap Weekend

It was a very eventful weekend, with a friend of mine driving down a four hour trip to attend a bird swap with me. She arrived with a bunny, a baby raccoon, and a dozen hatching duck eggs for me to put into my incubator. It was so full that I had to candle the eggs inside and remove a clear (an infertile egg) to fit all dozen of the new ones.

At about 3:30 in the morning, my alarm went off and we managed to somehow stumble out of our beds and put on real clothes and eat a cup of yogurt before Mils arrived. He came to the last swap with us, and he was somehow insane enough to come to this swap with us too. It was an hour and a half away, in Charlotte, Michigan. Sara followed us there, which turned out to be a very good thing as we didn't go straight home.

The swap was all right, but certainly not nearly as big as the swaps on the west side of the state. I would say maybe half the size and the vendors did not have very much good stock. There were a lot of quail at a nice price, which pleased Sara, but there was not a single female peacock for sale, and NO babies at all. Disappointing, as that was on my list.

What else was on my list was to find a companion for Sunshine, the goat we got at the first swap of the year. Here's a lovely pic of my dad feeding her a bottle.

And if you're wondering why she has black duct tape all over 1 ear, it is because she tore the tag out of her ear, ripping it clean in half lengthwise. Poor thing! But she doesn't seem to mind and in fact gets up to quite a lot of mischief at Liz's house. She climbs on everything and follows her new mommy around everywhere. She also likes to steal things....

After all the climbing and the stealing and the following, the line ended up being drawn at headbutting the dogs. It was time to get her a companion to play with so that she could learn to be a little more goat and a little less kid. So at the swap this weekend it was our mission to pick up a friend and we found the same breeder Sunshine had come from, with 2 goats left. Of course we picked another goat with some damage done; the dehorning had failed slightly and she will now have just 1 horn. But she's still darn cute!

They seem to be getting along so far!

So with the goat taken care of and put in her new home, we turned to catching the peacock we had bought at the first swap. His name is Malik and he's a very pretty boy but he flies very well and we don't want him to fly away from his new home. So he chased him down (through much wing buffeting and kicking) and clipped his wings. He was very offended.

I would feel bad for bringing such an indignity (*snirk*) on him, but he has been crying about going outside to the outer coop since we brought him home. When we finally had his wings clipped and set him down outside, he laid down on the ground and told us he was DYING from injured pride. So we booted him onto his feet and he wandered the coop exploring every nook and cranny. What a silly bird.

Of course the second goat was not the only thing we bought at the swap- I also managed to snag 13 araucana mix cheeps for $10 from a man with a whole lot of different sorts. They are super cute, but we were afraid to put them in with the helmet heads, since they were a week or two older and might peck at the little guys. Apparently I need not have worried- Megatron makes a wonderful mommy, sitting on the babies and keeping them herded together.

Speaking of the firstborn cheeps, here's Megatron and Fox now that they are growing in the feathers on their heads. A few more weeks and we'll be able to tell who is a boy and who is a girl!

I dug up the pictures of mom and dad for the cheeps, and this is what they all SHOULD look like when they are grown up:

So that's where we are at with previous adventures. Currently I have eggs in my incubator again, although this time they are a mix of polish chicken and pekin duck eggs. The duck eggs are actually a lot more work than the chicken eggs, to where I have to up the humidity and I have to spray the eggs with water 1 time per day to keep them at the right moisture level.

This weekend I candled about half the incubator and it was rather disappointing. I had previously handled the 1st batch of 9 polish eggs and had tossed 3 clears. This time I candled the 1st dozen duck eggs and only 4 were fertile and growing. I candled the second batch of 8 polish eggs.... and there was not ONE that was fertile. Bummer! Liz says that the barn was extraordinarily hot that week, though, so the chickens may have been too busy trying to stay cool or the eggs may have started incubation before she took them to store them for me. I will crack them open in the kitchen tonight and check for fertility, which will give us a better idea of what happened.

I still hold hopes for the remaining dozen duck eggs and the 5 newest chicken eggs. They will be old enough to candle in about a week.

But possibly the most exciting news of all is that I took a chance and I ordered a few hatching peacock eggs. I understand that shipped eggs are less likely to hatch because the mail people do not handle the packages as delicately as they should (and the auto sorter machine is rough on them as well :/ sigh) but I am hoping I can get at least 1 hen to hatch for me. That way I could give Malik a mate, and perhaps he could be allowed to wander the farm. It would also be nice to raise a little peahen at home, to be hand tame.

On an unrelated note, I took my guild to their first Naxx 10 and successful MC run this week and they actually did better than expected and everyone had a lot of fun. I am pleased with this, as it gives me hope for future raids. We shall see how it goes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

So today is the day that my first born cheeps are going to their new home out at the farm. The buff polish chicks are a little more than a week old and the blue polish chick is about 2 weeks old.

Let's roll back and see where this started. This STARTED when my mom's friend, Liz, wanted to get some polish chickens for her new farm. She's already raising meat chickens and some straight run egg laying chickens, but she wanted something crazy to go in with them. So, when the bird swap rolled around, Moon and I set off on a mission to find some cheap birds for her. We ended up with 2 breeding pairs; two blues and two buffs. The females are really nice quality, and they have been egg-cellent layers so far. I think they are up to 1 egg each per day!

Which of course is a lot of eggs. So Liz decided, why not try to hatch some out into more chickens! Just for fun, to see what we'd get. So I happily obliged and set up an incubator and a brooder box in my room.

This is how it was originally set up in my room, with the incubator to the left (it's just a cheap Hovabator incubator) and my home-made brooder box on the right.

Above are the 5 eggs we determined to be fertile, after a candling session at 10 days. Next time I will try to make a video of what that looks like, as it will surely be awesome. Now, we started with 8 eggs total, but I expected the first 4 to be clears because the cocks and hens were separated. However, one lonely egg was actually fertile and would later hatch. You can see the one separated from the other four because the first 4 were given to me 4 days before the others, so the others were still being rotated by the automatic egg turner (the big yellow thing).

I will say, the automatic egg turner was a fantastic investment. I did spend a day hand turning the eggs when I thought I would have to take it out because of the difference in hatch dates... but it turns out that you can remove racks from the turner and leave enough space for chicks to hatch without disturbing the rotating eggs. Pretty darn cool and removes a large stress element for both me and the chicks. Since I didn't have to keep opening the top of the incubator, the temp was able to stay pretty stable. Well, until I later fucked it up by doing something stupid anyway.

Moving on! I knew I would need a brooder box for them, but I just don't have the space to hold anything that would be appropriately big. So I spied on all the boxes that we get coming into work every day that we just recycle in the hall, until I saw one that approximated a 10 gallon aquarium. I knew I had a 10 gallon aquarium lid, a snake heat lamp, and sawdust bedding from when I used to own mice. All I would need is a pair of feeding boxes like you'd hang in a bird cage, and I'd be set. So I picked those up from Meijer and trooped home to make myself a brooder box.

The first thing I did was tape up the edges so there were 1) no holes and 2) no 'sharp' edges. I don't know if you've ever had a cardboard cut before, but it's like a paper cut from 50 pieces of paper. So I duct taped the edges and then duct taped the bottom all the way around, and up on the sides a bit. Why the bottom and sides? Well, they're still chickens and last time I checked, cardboard is porous. So I figured, I want to re-use this box, better make the bottom able to be cleaned easily without stains or anything. So here is what I ended up with.

As it turns out, a reptile heat lamp is just not quite enough to keep the cheeps from shivering. Even with the last folding flap on the right side folded down (instead of cut off) to retain heat, the box was still too cold. When the cheeps hatched, I ended up scooting my sacred heating pad underneath half the box to keep the bottom warm enough. Unfortunately I was dumb enough to lay the other half of the heating pad against the incubator, which raised the temp by a few degrees- and the margin of error is not large here. The two dark colored chicks took the brunt of my mistake, paying with their lives. I think. That or the shift in genetics that was made by changing the parents' locations was a bad one.

At any rate, the first cheep hatched 22 days after I put it into the incubator and I was horrified to discover just how absurdly ugly chicks are when they are first born. Thankfully they dry out and become fluffy and cute, but man. That first day is monster movie material!

Somehow the above turned into a charming, shiny lump of silver:

To be honest, I'm not very good with things that are freshly alive. I feel the need to poke and prod and make myself annoying. So with no one to tell me otherwise, that is what I did. I poked and prodded and pecked at this newborn thing as soon as I was able to move it from the inside of the incubator. I pecked at the food dish and it scrambled over to eat. I dunked its head into the water dish and it really hated that but it learned to drink.

A few days later, I woke up at the ass crack of dawn like I normally do, and blearily flopped over to my incubator to press my nose to the glass windows on top. I held my breath and listened with all my listening power.... and heard peep peep cheep from inside the eggs that were supposed to be hatching. I bored holes in the eggs with my mind by staring at them very hard, trying to see if they were wobbling and alive. I then had to tear myself away from the incubator and go to work for the day.

Lo! When I arrived home there was a second soaking wet monster in my incubator, this one burnished yellow. It was looking exhausted, but it had been hatched long enough that it was partially dry. So completely disregarding what every source online told me to do, I snatched it out of the incubator and tossed it into the warm, dry brooder box with the silver chick.

There was a war. It was really more of a one sided war as the silver one immediately ran over to the golden one and started pecking at him, trying to figure out what it was. After all, the silver one had been alone in the brooder for days except for my pestering hand. So I had to separate them and I installed an impenetrable wall in the center of the brooder box- a folded piece of paper. With that installed, I poked at the still hatching third chick and went to get my dinner.

A few hours later, I returned to my bedroom for bed, and the last chick that would hatch was rolling around in the incubator. The silver one (which we named Megatron) was trying to find a way over the impossible wall to get to the golden one (which we named Optimus Prime), and Optimus was standing in the water dish screaming at the top of his little cheep lungs. Horrified, I pulled Optimus out of the water bowl and he immediately started making happy noises. So I set him back down, and he flailed himself into the water dish and started screaming. So I took the wall out of the brooder, and Megatron waddled over and began to peck at Optimus. Who shut up. Clearly this cheep just wanted a friend, so I shoved Megatron back to his side of the brooder, replaced the wall, and pulled the third cheep (which we named Fox) from the incubator. It lay on the floor soaking wet and Optimus cuddled up next to Fox and was quiet. Mission accomplished.

Here are all three, at about 2 weeks. Left to right: Optimus, Megatron, and Fox.

Here we are, two weeks later, and I've learned a lot and I'm happy with the cheeps. I am looking forward to seeing Megatron's adult colors, and I want to see if Fox's old-man beard grows into an actual beard or not. Polish chickens all have the poof of feathers on their heads (which are actually attached to a bone crest) but there are some varieties that also have a beard. So we shall see!

They are actually under my desk at work at this very moment, being smuggled to their final home at Liz's house.

And as if that wasn't an adventure enough, Liz dropped off 9 more eggs with me, and there is another bird swap on the 12th of June that we will all be attending. Whoo! Maybe I will get some hatching eggs for fun of some other sorts.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I don't even know where to begin about my weekend. It was a nice, long, four-day weekend.

I guess I will rewind to Friday, which began cool but muggy as my mom and I trooped outside to begin clearing the garage. Our garage has, over the last 10 years, become a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall hole full of shit. Boxes, bins, bottles, a boat, a motorbike, regular bikes, papers.... there was so much stuff I couldn't begin to catalog it all. My dad never bothered cleaning any of it because he swore that it was my stuff... and my sister's stuff... and my mom's stuff. Everyone's stuff but his.

So we were going to prove him wrong and clean out the stuff that was mine- everything that was mine or my sister's would go to my storage facility, leaving his stuff alone. A friend of mine came over to help with the moving of things and thank god he did, because there's no way my mom and I would have gotten all of the stuff moved out in time for me to leave for my eye doctor appointment at 4:30. Instead, we moved out all the stuff, had some delicious chinese carry out for lunch, and then moved it all back in by about 3pm. It was hot and sticky and disgusting work- and we even found a black widow hanging out on an old glass jar. That was pleasant.

Since we finished early, I was able to leave early for my eye doctor appointment, which was very fortunate as I also had a dinner to get to by 5:30 and stuff to deliver to my sister sometime in between those times. I got to the doctor by 4, was out by 4:30, delivered Kelsey's stuff by 5 and was at the dinner right on time.

Now, Friday dinner is not out of the ordinary for me and my group of friends. Every Friday we go out to dinner and then head to someone's house for pen and paper role playing games. Typically we swap between two very good restaurants. Ginger and Mr Mike's Grill. However, earlier in the week Red Robin had mailed me a coupon for a free birthday burger, which I fully intended to find a way to use. So I'd called up Gabe and had him redirect everyone to Red Robin this week instead. The boys tried to pick up my tab for my birthday.... but I didn't owe anything so they had hard time with that! They did manage to inform our server that it was my birthday, which inspired them to sing very loudly and bring me free ice cream that I didn't eat. But the cherry on top of it was delicious.

I actually stayed for their role playing afterward, but I mostly watched Rusty play a video game full of zombies. I think they were role playing about being stuck in a virtual-reality small town during a festival of corn. It was all very strange.

Saturday we spent most of the day lounging around. Earlier in the week an old friend of mine, one I'd known since elementary school but hadn't spoken to in a few years, contacted me through facebook to see if I wanted to get together for lunch or something. We ended up going to Max and Erma's... the single most child-packed sit-down restaurant on the planet. I need to get her out more, because there's no way we're going there multiple times even if she is a vegetarian. I'm going to try to drag her to dinner with us on Fridays, and maybe even drop in to see the role playing games.

I was able to utilize Netflix in a new and exciting way either Friday or Saturday night, namely to spend time watching a movie with my boyfriend. We found we can watch the same movie at the same time if we pick one that streams directly. We ended up watching "The Ugly Truth" at his insistence, and it was a pretty good movie. I think my boyfriend likes chick flicks more than I do. I later made him watch "The Jerk" because he had never seen it and because it's just crazy. This is a very nice way to spend an hour or two, especially since we are so far apart.

Sunday my mom and I packed up the van and drove to my storage facility. There, we had pull out a bunch of stuff to reorganize it so that all the new boxes could fit in as well. There were three big tupperware bins full of good books. I even found a copy of my favorite book, "The Secret of Dragonhome." I have not read that book in a very long time, but I have read it many, many times.

Once we were done there, I settled in and made a push to level my druid on Wyrmrest Accord. I got about a level and a half, which since I am at the later levels, is quite the nice chunk of experience! I spent the majority of Monday finishing off the character, bringing her up the final two levels to get to 80. I ran my first heroic with my dad as one of the DPS, and it went fairly smoothly except for people doing much more threat than I was capable of doing yet. It's rough starting with no gear! What on Earth did I do when Meillyn first hit 80? I guess she was DPS and it was easier to run instances! Oh well, I will have what I need in no time at all, and I will be schooling the rest of the guild shortly.

Monday was my birthday (I'm 25 now... a whole quarter of a century!) and it was a lovely day indeed. I spent most of it watching movies with my parents- we watched Ghost Ship and Up and a few others. My mom gave me a skein of yarn in cool-color tye dye (purple, blue, and green) and a pair of knitting needles. She also knitted me a pair of wrist warmers out of it while I watched. It was pretty cool, and I look forward to being able to wear them in the winter while I am on my computer. My dad made me his awesome chicken parmesan for dinner and my mom got me the most adorable cake with a little green dragon made of frosting on top of it. All of it was delicious, and overall it was a very relaxing day. I even got to end it with talking to my boyfriend as I was falling asleep. I like those nights.

As for what's ahead? Well, the chicks I hatched out are going to be heading over to Liz's house on Thursday after work. This is both happy and sad- happy because I will finally get to sleep through the night and let the cat back in my room, but sad because I will miss little baby Megatron and Optimus Prime and Fox. Even if Fox has gone completely neurotic and swims in the bedding at night.

This is also an exciting three day work week, as I am taking Friday off to drive to my friend Moon's house for the weekend. She is about 5 hours away from me, living in the wilds of northern Michigan. I think she needs to leave for a more populated place, maybe get a job... but who am I to say. At any rate, we will have a fun couple nights celebrating both of our birthdays with some movies and some alcohol and I'm not really sure which we will have more of between those two. I wish the bluerays I got for my birthday would play at her house. I'd even take Netflix being able to stream on her TV, but her internet connection is so terrible that I don't know if I'll even be able to check my mail much less stream an entire movie. Oh well!

I look forward to this weekend with excitement and look back on the last weekend with happiness. Now all that's left is to get through the in between part!