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29 08, 2014

Moving Cheese – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-08-29T06:00:14-05:00August 29th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

This is the season of change.  Kids go back to school, husband goes back to work, and my piano students start back up.

It can be a very stressful time for those who don’t like change.

One year when I was teaching preschool, we got a new director. One of the first things she did was have us all read the book Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson, M.D. It talks about change.

When they rearranged my grocery store, I told Beekeeper Brian they were “moving my cheese.” One morning someone parked in my normal spot at the swimming pool, and my friend said “So they moved your cheese.”

Some people, me included, do not like to have our cheese moved.

I’ve discovered that humans are not the only ones who have trouble handling change.  Our dogs are pretty set in their routine.

I usually put their kennels in the living room where they sleep and then I let them go outside while I go to close up the chickens. When we come in, I take down the gate between the kitchen and the living room and they go straight to their kennels.

One day last week, I took down the gate before I went to let out the chickens. Sometimes stepping over it in the evening is too daunting a task.

This was very confusing for Bella.bella's cheese She ran straight to where her kennel normally is and walked around in circles. Then she went to look for it.

I had a very hard time getting her to go outside first. Finally we got everyone settled for the night.

The good thing about Bella is that she has a very short memory so there is no danger of her being permanently traumatized by the temporary change in routine.

I’m not taking any chances, though.  No more moving Bella’s cheese.

25 07, 2014

Frizz, the Second – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-07-25T06:00:24-05:00July 25th, 2014|Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A guest blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One of our most famous chickens is Frizz – a Cochin bantam who looks like she stuck her beak in a light socket.dry frizz

She is a small bird who makes up for her size with attitude.

She and Samson, a bantam rooster who has feathered feet, have lived with the big birds for quite some time.

This spring, we moved them into the bantam side.  We then incubated Frizz’s eggs in hopes of duplicating her unique look.

We had success:frizz 2-ed

Frizz the Second is a bit more timid than her mother, but then she is still young.

We have several friends who are now keeping chickens. One has asked about purchasing bantams from us.

Rachel was willing to let Frizz the Second go. I am not.

So we are hatching more eggs. We’ll see what comes out.

20 06, 2014

Therapy Chickens – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-06-20T06:00:37-05:00June 20th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Guest blogger, Miller Farm Friday|1 Comment

By Guest Blogger Chicken Wrangler Sara

We had a student from Uzbekistan living with us last school year. He was very quiet and spent most of his time in his room.

He came out to see the International Space Station pass overhead one night. Another time he came out to see the chickens hatching.

We had set quail eggs, bantam eggs and chicken eggs. Three bantam eggs, one chicken egg and one quail egg hatched. chick with brooder Over the process of several days, Andrey would check the incubator each morning to see the progress.

He helped me move them out to the brooder in the garage, and we stood to watch them for quite a while. He took pictures as I did.

He told me his sister had a chick one time.  She really loves animals.  He was going to send the picture to her.

It was a rare glimpse into his life far away and made me think how animals could be good for the soul.

A friend is involved in a therapy dog program that sounds wonderful. She and her dog go to the hospital to visit sick children.

We considered training one of our dachshunds to be a therapy dog and decided chickens can have an equally calming effect on people.

Watching the little quail try to hide under the bigger chicks made Andrey forget how hard it was to be so far from home. Holding the baby chicks could melt away any stress from the day.

frizzle chickOne of the bantam chicks is a frizzle – its feathers are sticking up all over just like Frizz’s feathers.

I can’t look at it without smiling.

So now, whenever I am overwhelmed, sad or just need a break, I step outside for some chicken therapy.


18 04, 2014

Breakfast in Bed – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-04-18T06:00:16-05:00April 18th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

We have regular routines on Miller Farm.

I get up, swim, let the dogs out, and let the chickens out. Then I feed the dogs and the humans. In the afternoon, I repeat that last part – feed the dogs and feed the humans.

Recently, Bella started barking about 5:30 p.m. and continued until I feed her supper. This was not a welcome addition to my routine so I began to pay close attention to see if I could figure out why she had started this.

I discovered that some mornings, Bella goes directly to the couch without eating her breakfast.

This was hard to discover as Bella usually takes bites of her food on the couch to eat. I had to watch carefully to see that she was simply lying on the couch and not eating.

Since her bowl was still full when the other dogs finished their portions, they ate her food also. This meant Bella was missing breakfast – the most important meal of the day.

This would explain why she was hungry and insistent on eating every afternoon.

The solution:

bella's breakfast

Bella now gets breakfast in “bed.”

I’m willing to spoil her a little if it keeps her quiet in the afternoon.

The whole scenario reminded me of when the kids were little. They always seemed to be underfoot while I was fixing dinner.  I tried to have some activity ready for this strategic moment as feeding them breakfast in bed did not solve the problem with them like it did with Bella.

4 04, 2014

Expecting Weekend Chaos on Miller Farm

By |2014-04-04T06:00:57-05:00April 4th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

dishwasher2A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Jengo and Miller are staying with us through the weekend. Remember, they are our friend’s two daschunds and visit often. Jengo’s the puppy. We shared lots of fun times the last time he visited.

It’s always a fun time when dogs outnumber humans 6-4.

Then the neighbor texted last night asking if we could feed their two cats while they were gone for a couple of days. Okay, that’s doable. Mixing the cats and dogs under the same roof, not so much.

Since Beekeeper Brian and I were in Abilene at the time, the neighbors just left the cat food on the front porch. When our son Matt got home before we did, he simply moved the bag inside. He’s learned it is better sometimes not to even ask.

This brings the total number of four-legged animals under my care to eight — not counting chickens. We know from previous posts that we have more than 30 chickens including quail.

So this weekend, I’ll be keeping up with thirty-four or more animals if you count all the fowl. Let the fun begin!

I’m sure there will be some interesting stories for next week’s Miller Farm blog.

28 03, 2014

Little House by Miller Farm

By |2014-03-28T06:00:03-05:00March 28th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday, Uncategorized|2 Comments

by Guest Blogger Chicken Wrangler Sara

Several weeks ago our new neighbors moved a playhouse into the space between our houses. They intend to move it into the backyard but need to remove the fence and rent a forklift. It’s an adorable little house.

little house2

One morning as I was loading my things into the car to go to work, an older couple was standing in the neighbor’s yard admiring the house. They asked me if the neighbors were selling it.

Now there is a real estate agent in town who shares my name and I have actually taken her phone calls in the past. I, however, am not interested in taking her job.

I explained that the neighbors had recently moved in, have five children and were probably still asleep, but I would check with them later. The couple had retired and wanted a play house for their grandchildren. I wished them luck and went on to my real job – teaching music.

The house has been there for about three weeks now. It isn’t bothering me and there have been no more sales offers.

Bella, our dachshund with short-term memory issues, continues to bark at it every time she goes outside. And every time I explain to her that it is the same house that has been there and barking will not make it go away.

I used to think it took a lot of patience to deal with children. Now I realize that dogs are much more challenging.

7 03, 2014

Guest Chickens – Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-03-07T06:00:13-06:00March 7th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Our soon-to-be neighbors stopped by last week to see if they could leave a child’s playhouse in the yard between our houses. They would have to temporarily take down the fence (the infamous privacy fence, that is) to move it into the back yard and planned to do that after they officially moved in.

That was no problem.

They also brought their chickens and wondered if we could keep them with our flock until they could build a chicken coop. This was also no problem.

They were already in a cage so we simply moved the cage into the back yard and planned to put the chickens into the coop after dark. We’ve discovered that chickens loose all their memories at night so when they woke up they would think they had always lived in our coop. chicken guestsThe only drawback to this plan was the dachshunds.  They were fascinated by the new chickens and while they could not actually get to them, their barking was very stressful for the birds.

So we moved the cage into the chicken yard behind the shed. It was much calmer for the chickens.

Now those of you with chicken experience may have noticed that the darker bird is actually a rooster.  Our neighbor assured me it was a friendly rooster and indeed it was – until it came time to clip wings.

Wing clipping is an event at which I have only been the holder of the chicken.  Rachel or Beekeeper Brian always wielded the scissors.

Since Rachel moved to college and Brian was at work, it was up to Chicken Wrangler Sara to expand her wing clipping experience and do the holding and the clipping.

It was harder than I expected.

I clipped the hen first and she pooped on me. Fortunately this was a day I did not have to go to work and had time to clean up properly.

The rooster, on the other hand, bit my arm. Actually, it was kind of a pinch since I’m not sure chicken have teeth.

In any event, it was somewhat painful, but I survived.

After the chicken scratch last week and the rooster bite this week, I’m going to ask for combat pay.

The next morning I discovered the hen roosting on the privacy fence.  Obviously, I had not clipped enough off her wings.

That night, while she was roosting in a tree, the more experienced wing clipper Beekeeper Brian grabbed her and did a better job.

Now everyone, including the guests, go into the coop at night.

And stay.

24 01, 2014

Tales from the Dark Side (of the chicken coop) -Miller Farm Friday

By |2014-01-24T06:00:07-06:00January 24th, 2014|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A guest blog by Beekeeper Brian

Warning: The following story is a true account; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It also contains tales of death. If death of vermin upsets you, STOP reading now!

On Monday nights, Chicken Wrangler Sara teaches ladies about God’s Word. Therefore, I pull double farm duty.

Since my bees are snug in their hives, they are not a duty problem.

As you might remember, the chickens go into the coop when the sun goes down every night. However, a chicken wrangler or beekeeper has to go close the door to the coop. We haven’t been able to teach the girls to take care of that.

I went out to keep them safe and close the coop.

You would not believe that living in the city, we would have all kinds of uninvited dinner guest. Word should be out that there are no more dinner parties on the Miller Farm.

Yet, as I drew close to the coop door, I spotted the glowing eyes of an uninvited dinner guest—the chicken eating opossum! possumSnarling Virginia OpossumThis was the fourth opossum this winter that planned to have chicken as his main course!

In case you have never tangled with an opossum, once they find fresh food, they keep coming back for seconds.

Since Chicken Wrangler Sara was not at home to bring me a lead slinger (air-powered since we are in the city), I had to grab what was at hand – my flashlight.

Unfortunately, I only had the small one.

Fortunately, there is a nice rock right outside the coop, which would do the trick. Several hits later, the chicken thief was unaffected!

I needed to find something else. (Don’t be fooled. Opossums play dead, but they do have a very strong tail, which can be used to carry them some place to secure a bigger club.)

I grabbed his tail and hauled him out of the coop, heading for the woodpile. I grabbed half of a wooden bee pallet to use as a club. That was a little more effective at subduing him, but the rascal was still sniffing for chicken dinner.

I spotted a shovel blade by the shed and carried him to the other side of the yard to finish the deed with the shovel blade. It was crude but effective.

The hens were safe for another night, none the wiser that there’d been an intruder intend on eating them.

I posted on FB: opossums 0, Beekeeper Brian 4.

When Chicken Wrangler Sara arrived home, I told her of the evening adventure. All in a day’s work on an urban farm.

18 10, 2013

Chicken Coop Limbo – Miller Farm Friday

By |2013-10-18T06:58:33-05:00October 18th, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|0 Comments

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

I’m afraid we have a problem with inbreeding in our chicken flock.

This latest group of recently hatched chickens seems particularly dumb. They do not appear to know the function of the nest boxes.

I thought at first the “hen in a hive” was boycotting the nest boxes and laying her eggs in the abandoned beehive.

However, I am finding eggs in a variety of places. For example, on top of the nest boxes.

on top nest boxesNo problem.

Out in the yard. Again no problem.eggs in yard

However, when they lay their eggs under the quail cage in the quail coop there is a problem.

quail rail

Eggs on the wood rail require some major contortions in order to collect.

The wood rail going across the coop is where the chickens roost (and poop) at night.  I try very hard not to let any part of me or my clothing touch this rail.  (See previous post on “Fully dressed”)

I can reach over the rail, arching my back as high as possible and stand on my tiptoes and hope I don’t lose my balance.

Or I can crouch low and reach under the rail. The latter method reminds me of a dance – the Limbo.

Collecting eggs these days I’ve decided Miller Farm has its own dance –

the Chicken Coop Limbo.

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