Archive for the ‘animals’ Category


Malone the giant rooster struts through grass.

Meet Malone, the free-range young rooster who has been hanging around at Bee Heaven. He is huge, and has big feet, a big appetite, and big poops. Originally his name was a slang word in Spanish that sounds like Malone, that means big — never mind.

Malone on a mission to seek out dry cat food, while Flash the cat drowses nearby.

Malone showed up several months ago, a refugee from South Miami, where roosters are not wanted. You can have fowl, but not foul mouth fowl. He hails from a farm in Jasper, Georgia, where he was bought as a tiny golden yellow fluffball chick an year ago. Surprise surprise, he quickly grew to ginormous proportions. Nobody knows what kind of breed he is.

Greyling the cat having a few words about Malone’s greedy ways.

Malone started hanging out near the farmhouse carport. He quickly discovered the gourmet delicacy of dried cat food meant for outdoor cats, and also learned the sound of pellets hitting metal bowls means yummy nom noms are served. He comes racing out of the bushes, making a dash for the dish. The cats step aside. After all, he outweighs them by a kilo or two. The only way the cats can eat is if their food is put out after dark, when Malone goes to sleep.

Nobody knows where he roosts. Malone roams around the farm, free as a bird. He started hanging out with Crazy Chicken, another free-range rooster, and they saunter around the farm, scratching for bugs and chatting up hens in the chicken tractors.

Malone and Crazy Chicken.

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A hen lays an egg every day.
True. Hens generally lay around the same time of day, usually in the morning. To get more technical, it takes about 25 hours for an egg to form and travel through the oviduct, causing the hen to lay her egg a little later each day. As the cycle progresses, she will skip a day (hens don’t lay eggs in the evening) and start a new cycle. A group of eggs laid during one cycle is called a “clutch.”

A hen will lay eggs all its life.
Maybe. A young hen, called a pullet, will start laying eggs at 6 months until its first moult. It will then resume laying eggs in the second year at 80% of its previous rate, then 60% of that year’s rate in the year after that. After 3 years, laying drops off. But a hen can keep laying eggs for several years after, just not every day. Older hens usually stop laying eggs, but some might keep laying an occasional egg.

A very big hen lays the big double yolk eggs.
False. A pullet, or young hen, that doesn’t have a regular laying cycle can occasionally lay double yolk eggs. That happens when ovulation happens inconsistently, and one yolk joins the next as the egg develops. (Some breeds will regularly lay double yolk eggs.) Of course, a double yolk egg is much larger than a normal sized egg. Sound painful? Not really. The egg comes out soft and its shell hardens in contact with air.

An old egg will float in water, but a fresh egg will sink.
True! A fresh egg will sink in a bowl of water, but as it gets older, it will start to stand up. A very old egg will float. Don’t eat that one! Inside the egg is a small air pocket at the blunt end. Eggshell is porous to air, and as the egg ages, more air will slowly seep in, and make the air pocket bigger.

The best place to store eggs in the refrigerator is on the door.
False! Keeping eggs in the refrigerator door is bad, because every time you open the door it changes temperature — hot, cold, hot, cold. Always store eggs in the carton with the pointy end down. To keep eggs fresh longer, find a spot for them on the shelf where the temperature is cool and consistent.

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White chickens lay white eggs, and brown chickens lay brown eggs.
Not true! The color of the egg is determined by the color of the hen’s ear lobe. White ear lobes indicate white eggs, and red or pink earlobes indicate brown, blue or green eggs, depending on the breed. Some brown breeds, like Rhode Island Red, will lay brown eggs, but other varieties of brown hens don’t. Cuckoo maran hens, which have black and white speckled feathers, lay dark brown eggs, with shells so dark in color they are called “chocolate” eggs.

So does that mean that green chickens lay green eggs?
Sort of. Araucana hens will lay green, blue, and pinkish beige eggs. They do not have green, blue or pink feathers. Look at their feet! Instead of white, yellow or gray, their feet are blue or green, ranging from pale to deep in color.

Speckled eggshells mean the hen was stressed.
Maybe. Certain breeds consistently lay speckled eggs. Or the dark brown speckles could be tiny flecks of blood that were deposited on the egg as it traveled through the oviduct. It just happens sometimes, no worries. The hen is ok and the egg is good to eat. If a hen is stressed, such as when she is moulting (seasonally shedding feathers) or getting henpecked (ever hear of pecking order? it’s real), she will stop laying eggs for a while.

Farm interns Donna and Jon pack eggs.

A blood speck next to the yolk of an egg means that the egg is fertilized.
Not true! It means that a little bit of blood got inside the shell as the yolk was developing. You can tell if an egg is fertilized only if you hold up the egg to light (candling) to see if an embryo is forming. The egg needs to be incubated in warmth (under the hen in a nest, or in an incubator) for the embryo to develop.

An orange yolk is more nutritious than a yellow yolk.
Mostly true. But, some breeds, like the araucana, lay eggs with a light colored yolk. A deep yellow or orange yolk egg generally comes from a pastured or free range hen, which has a chance to eat a variety of nutritious things, including plants and bugs. Marigolds have carotenoids which make egg yolk color darker. An orange yolked egg is not necessarily fresher than a lighter yolked egg.

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Durian the cat liked to follow me around on the farm and tell me things. I will miss our conversations.

Durian the cat is dead. He was killed in his sleep the other night by a wild dog that crawled under the car where the cat was sleeping. The dog went for the cat’s throat, slashing its jugular, and the cat didn’t have a chance. It was dragged by the dog to the other side of the carport and left to die.

Durian was one of the many cats that lived at Farmer Margie’s farm. She and her husband Nick have taken to sleeping lightly, with one ear open for any sign of approaching wild dogs. Even in his sleep, Nick heard barking and went out into the dark night at 1:30 am to drive them away.

Outside, he heard a cat scream, searched, and found the lifeless body of Durian. It was a thrill kill. Those wild dogs had blood lust and killed just for the sake of killing. They might have come to kill chickens, and found the cat instead. They ran away when Nick came on the scene.

Those wild dogs were once somebody’s pets. Small, cute, pampered. Or maybe yappy, nippy and unmanageable. In any case, their owners decided they had enough. Why dump dogs out in the countryside instead of take them to the shelter where they can be adopted? Some people foolishly think that domesticated animals can “fend for themselves” if left to run loose.

And they are partly right. Wild dogs do learn to fend for themselves. Their instincts kick in and they kill. Rats, possums, chickens –and cats. Sometimes to survive, and sometimes just for the thrill — the sheer wild crazy excitement of tearing a victim animal apart.

The killings at Bee Heaven Farm started a few years ago, and increased in the past several months. In an earlier attack back in October, wild dogs tried to get at chickens that live inside a mobile coop called a chicken tractor, but the dogs didn’t succeed. Farmer Margie lost dozens of chickens in similar previous incidents this year and last, and as a result egg production is way down. Animal deaths on the farm are not only heartbreaking but also have an economic impact.

But dog dumpers don’t think about the effect their heartless act of shoving an animal out of a car will have on others. Margie is not the only one to suffer losses this year. Her farm manager Sadie wept when wild dogs killed her pregnant pig, right in broad daylight. She tried to run them off but it was too late. In fall, Hani Khouri the cheesemaker had dogs attack several pregnant goats. The does survived the attacks, but later gave birth to stillborn kids. Hani was upset and heartbroken for days. I’m sure there are plenty other attacks that happened in Redland this year that I haven’t heard about.

Durian relaxing at home with his loved ones. Photo by Rachel Pikarsky.

It’s only a matter of time before a dog will lose its fear and attack a human. Farmer Tim Rowan had dogs menace him on his farm, more than once. Now he carries a gun whenever he steps out of his house to work in his field. Even I had a run in with two large dogs that wandered onto Bee Heaven Farm at dusk a couple years ago. I heard a deep throaty growl, turned and saw the dogs. I yelled and managed to run them off, but my heart was racing with fear, and I had dreams about the encounter for nights afterwards.

Next time a wild dog attacks — and there will be a next time and a next time — I hope and pray the victims are not animals I know. Durian was a sweet, much-loved pet, and was my animal friend, too. My heart grieves for his senseless death.

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Hungry critter

Hungry muncher in the bunch of dill.

Anybody have an idea what kind of caterpillar this is? It showed up in the bunch of dill that I was arranging when I came to photograph this week’s share. Despite the attention from my camera’s giant glass eye, the hungry caterpillar kept on munching. I put it on a plant outside the barn. Keep your eyes open because there could be more lurking. Margie said she spotted another caterpillar and picked off another one in a different bunch of dill.

I also heard a cricket chirping in my share box! Haven’t found it yet, and not sure where it is. Always an adventure with farm food!

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