Big day

It was one of those days, where I get up for the hens, but am not ready to commit to being awake, so I bargain with myself, Well, I’ll just wear my sweat pants to do the chickens.  It’s like, bringing the comfort of bed with you.

Then the next thing, I stop for “lunch”, and turns out it’s 5pm, and I’m still wearing my sweat pants.  And of course I’m full of ticks, because I haven’t been dressed appropriately.  All day.  Those are good days, though.

I see this is how I come to be found wearing pajamas and rubber boots so often too – the early morning “I’m not really getting up this early, I’m just going to do the chickens and then I’ll make tea” rationalization.  What really happens is HW catches me in the middle of the day and I get a “wrath of god” bossy lecture:  “Little Nibbler, operating power tools in your pajamas is NOT appropriate!  Go get some work pants on, and some real shoes!”  And I can’t really argue with him, at all.  “But I’m just-I only have four more cuts! -Ok fine“.

First thing- chicks on grass!  First day outside for the cheeps.  Mom is beside herself to be on grass. She’s not waiting for the box to be opened.  She was out of her mind excited, cropping grass as fast as she could between clucks.  I haven’t had a salad in weeks!   The little brown one thinks it’s cold on the feet.  She jumped back in.They’ve got her surrounded.  I don’t know if chicks are as interesting to them as birth is to people, or just that they haven’t seen her for awhile.  They all have to stare.

I cleaned a bunch of junk out of the greenhouse and  put in the irrigation, working “with” my sidekick pet chicken Apples.  I’m working.

She still “lives in the house“, but I take her with me outside pretty frequently.  She rides along on my wrist like a falcon, her wings slightly out like she might have to throw them open for balance.  But she doesn’t seem ready to jump off when we walk through chicken land.

She’s a different little bird.   Just watches the others, while they watch her.  What the…?   Is that chicken riding the human?  She moves around the greenhouse pretty comfortably, getting some food variety and real dust baths.

All assembled, and as an added bonus, it actually works.   The lines charged, and it seems to drip evenly.  I wasn’t sure if the passive pressure from the stock tank that catches the water off the GH would be enough.  An experiment.

It’s not.  Half the tank emptied, but it took all day to happen.  The tank fills much faster than that in a good rain, so the drip will never keep up.   I was expecting as much.  I need a little submersible pump to push water.  That’s ok;  I needed one anyway to move water from where I catch it off our roof to the greenhouse where it needs to end up, the part I’ve been doing manually for years.  So done with that.  First I need to measure the head, and I haven’t managed that yet.

Then near the end of a full day I go to just do a couple repairs on the old coops that keep going and going, and discover … four broody hens! Now I have to make broody accommodations in a hurry!  One express broody kennel.  I can make them in less than an hour now.

line up the covered wagons

One hen will go to a friend, one goes in this broody kennel, and the other two – are full size!!

This is new!  I’ve never had a layer hen go broody before.  That’s what the Silkies do.  This is a new world!  I don’t know why I didn’t expect it – Chanticleers are heritage birds; it’s reasonable.   Perchick and Cream Puff, full sisters, broody the same day, different coops.  Perchick is serene, but Cream Puff is all fluffed out, and looks both surprised and irritable, which seems about right.

What to do with them?  A broody kennel is not big enough for them.

I evicted the rooster that was baching it, staying alone in the “temporarily” converted chickery-to-coop, and moved Cream Puff in.  I elevated him to the big coop, making his wildest dreams come true.  He’s been trying to figure out how to get in there for days, and every night after making a hundred circles around the ramp gives up and goes to bed in the wall tent.

I put Cream Puff in the “temporary” coop at dusk.  It’s the perfect size.  I tried to carefully gather her and move her, with her eggs.  Yeah right.  Big flapping drama, chase scenes.  I should have waited another hour.  She’s such a nervous nelly, always jumpy, of course it would go badly.  I should have waited until pitch dark.

I locked her in with her eggs and hoped.  I could watch  her through the gap in the canvas, pacing around, trying to escape.  I’m in a box!  I must get out!  Must.  Get out.  Oh, eggs!….eggs….I’m in a box!  Must get out! 

It’s like a switch flipping in her brain.  From agenda, to egg trance.  Must get out!  Oh, there’s some eggs….eggggggs…..Must get out!  Egggggs…..  Luckily, she settled on the eggs finally.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.  I hope all the action didn’t break her up.

She’s in there, but fully alert

The Silkies moved effortlessly, of course.

Perchick must wait until tomorrow for me to build her an eggery.  She’s hoarding all the eggs in B coop.

 

All aboard!

Another guinea down.  This morning she was sitting in the greenhouse like she wasn’t ready to leave yet, and I looked at her twice, and had a feeling, from her posture.  When she let me pick her up I knew it was bad.  I tucked her in this corner, gave her food and water, which I’m sure she didn’t touch, and the other two stayed by her, doting.  She just seemed to be breathing a bit hard.  An hour later, gone.  Such a pretty bird.  The feathers around her neck are lilac coloured.   If this is some weird bird illness going through the “flock” (2 of 4 in a week), then I’m going to be out of guineas just like that.   That would be so strange, they spend all day out in the wild buffet, how could they be healthier? All hope rides on the remaining hen. In the chickery, the yellow chick is part duckling.  She spends all her free time on Mom.  Every couple minutes she’s jumping up there.  Usually a chick barely stays up on Mom long enough to get a picture. Mom shrugs her off by bringing her head down low and tipping up her wings, so the chick falls off.  It’s funny, obviously a deliberate dump off.  That’s enough. It’s time for a grass recognition lesson.They are all bouncing around, and they have little wingtip feathers already, but I caught them back in the box hiding from the sun.Thinking about jumping up again. Very attentive students.  Back up!   It’s time for a little doze.It’s out of focus, but it’s just too cute!

Chickens in trees

And otherwise being funny:I’d like to call this meeting to order…. They sure love their pine tree.

Yesterday was rainy.  A good soaking, the kind where the water table seems to rise to the surface of the earth.  My GH eavestrough is working (first rain test), and the tank was filling faster than the tap was running inside.  The Silkies had hairdos, the way they get when their heads get wet.  Most were huddled grumpily under their rain tents, but there were a few brave ones wandering about.  The wet chicken gets the worm.

The guinea solution

I’m so pleased to have sorted out the guineas.

I’ve tried so much.  Building them a sky coop

well come to think of it that’s about it.  And giving them roosting apparatuses, like the laundry rack.

They’ve tried lots of things.  Roosting on the sky coop, roosting on top of the greenhouse, roosting in the trees, and roosting on my apparatuses, like the laundry rack.  They are choosy, and illogical, and stubborn.

But I’ve got it.  They are accustomed now to living in the greenhouse all winter, and they have their stick swings where they sleep.  So I’m letting them continue to use the GH in the summer.

In a reversal of form, at night when the chickens get locked up for their safety, the guineas get let into the greenhouse.  The GH which is off limits to all unrestrained chickens, because they would unleash devastation in minutes.  And have.

Not so the guineas.  They’re different.  They don’t do the so entertaining but v. destructive chicken scratch dance.   And they have different tastes.  I wasn’t 100% sure about the guineas around the baby tomato and cucumber plants, but I thought maybe I could just trust them, and cautiously tested my theory.

The guineas use a chicken door that I open at night just as I close the chickens.  The chickens all go to bed before the guineas do.  The guineas hop in, file down the aisle, and fly up to their roost.  They’re very content about it.  I leave the door open and they let themselves out in the morning before I come out for the hens.  It’s working!

The big test was the pepper plants.  I was out early the first morning, crouched watching them secretly through the opposite chicken door.  They flew down from their roost, milled around, gave the peppers a thorough visual inspection (Something new here!), and left, following the leader out their door.  Success!  Awesome.  Before long, the starts will be too big to harm anyway,

This should reduce their mortality rate this summer.  Guineas have a way of kicking the bucket in frequent, creative ways.  They make up for this tendency by producing vast clutches of keets when they reproduce.  It evens out.

I only have three birds now.  I gave half my guineas away some weeks ago, and then a few days ago, I came home late for the magic moment to let them inside.  Finding their door shut, they had resorted to flying up on top of the greenhouse.  It was cute when they did this last year, until the owls discovered the buffet.

I had to throw my hat at them until they flew down and scampered inside.  Oh, door’s open now!  But there were only three.   Was the third lost, bedded down in the field, in some brush?  The light was very dim, and I’m looking around the field, and I see it, like a grey rock as usual, but it’s still… stone dead.  And cold, dead in the afternoon.  No injury.  Another mystery death.  It was one of the cocks.  The remaining three seem perfectly content together.  Any day the hens will fail to show up at bedtime and there will be just the male coming home to roost for a few weeks.

I really threw them for a loop last night.  We got a frost, and anticipating same, I covered the four rows planted in sensitive stuff with row cover.

Wow, the guineas could hardly get down the aisle for staring, tiptoeing along, heads low and necks at full extension, suspicious of the strange white stuff.  And more, they needed herding out in the morning, they were so freaked out by it, not wanting to step on it and flying back and forth across the greenhouse, afraid to land.  Happily for their nerves, the long term forecast is saying a week til the next frost, if that forecast holds.

The chicks are ready to play, but mama is not giving up on her eggs quite yet.  They all came out periodically to eat and scratch, but she went back on her eggs.  There was almost a third chick, but it didn’t make it through hatching.  At least these two will have a friend I love it when they do this.

Broody?  Or laying an egg?: (It was B.  Laying an egg.)

Where there’s life, there’s cheeps.

This morning on chicken breakfast rounds, I discovered tragedy in the broody box.

A chick!  But it was spilled out in a corner of the box, belly up, wings and legs splayed out, eyes closed, beak open.  Very bad.  It was still alive, barely, and I stuffed it back under her, immediately.  Its legs stuck out straight.  A minute later, after tidying up, I rearranged the chick to tuck the legs in.  Its eyes were still closed and beak open, gasping.  This is usually the sign of imminent death.

But an hour later when I checked, lifting up momma’s front to see underneath, the chick was all life, jumping around tap-dancing on the other eggs. Cheep cheep cheep! Yay!  Recovery, due to the magical properties of momma hen heat.  I found her in time.

At lunchtime, there were two!This one was wobbly and still damp. It just kind of sunk, flattened, into the hay, falling asleep, and momma settled onto her.   This is good.You can still see a closed eye.By evening, the two were nimbly bopping about.   Momma jumped out to recon when we rearranged her living situation – now in a chickery – but went right back on the eggs. The remaining four eggs show no signs of pipping, unfortunately, but two healthy chicks are better than one or none.

One  is a blue egg, Puffcheeks or Cheeks’ offspring, and one brown- total unknown.  Hatching eggs from my layer flock is a mystery gift bag.  Almost all of them will be crosses of one kind or another.

Bloom

The quince is a blaze of hot pink.I have one little tiny magnolia bloom starting to open.  Cute.  I’m pleased that it survived the winter.  It’s covered with little green buds.Outside, the chickens are doing very well at large.    Even the wretched roosters are acting less like weirdos, finally.  The Colonel keeps them at bay from the hens, but they are part of the general flock now, and have even been observed food clucking (which the hens totally ignore).  I got something good!  I really do!  Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?

Actually, there’s been a surprising usurpation! One of the new crew of roosters has unseated the Deputy.  It’s the one that immediately left the others when they first arrived, started lurking around my fenced off Silkie flock, and wouldn’t sleep in the coop, making me think he was different.  I’m not with them.  I’m meant for something better. I referred to him as the one with a brain, and let him sleep where he wanted to in the greenhouse (next to the big coop where all the ladies lived).

He has become number two (with hard work and struggle no doubt), and the Colonel tolerates him up in the middle of the hens with him.   He looks very, very pleased with himself.  The (former) deputy has switched to trying to boss layers around.

The hens perch up in the pine tree, which is adorable.  A few will get up in the branches when the flock is all hanging out under there.

 

Apples in the greenhouse

I took Apples on a field day.  I needed to spend some time broadforking the greenhouse, and thought she could do with some enrichment.  Even the world’s meekest chicken needs a little time out of the box.

I carried her out and set her down in the middle of the greenhouse, and turned around to shut the big doors because it was windy.  I look back – no chicken!  I go to the other end to shut those doors, all the while looking for her. I can’t see her anywhere.  I get back inside and start looking behind the things still piled around.  Nothing.  I start panicking a bit – I turned around for two seconds!

Then I found her.   It seems she’s a little bit agoraphobic.

I sat with her on my lap for a bit, savouring being able to really hug a chicken (they mostly do not prefer it), then cuddled her next to me on the hay bale, then got up and went to work, and she started to poke around.

She didn’t go far.  She found a little corner behind the hay bale to scritch around, looking out at me, or through the plastic at the action outside.

She rapidly garnered herself a suitor.Hey baby.  I ain’t never seen feathered feet like that!

He bobbed and strutted back and forth, thoroughly frustrated.  She settled down to wait for her ride back to her box, where she ate like she’d just done a workout.  I hope she’s a little more exploratory tomorrow.

Sunny bird times

I have a guinea who’s been taking an interest in the former skycoop, now grounded.  I don’t know if she’s the mother who raised a brood in it, or if she was one of the brood.  I was born here.

However, she’s been spending time in this little coop every day, very much making herself at home, like she’s rocking on her front porch watching the world pass by.      And sometimes she has company.  The others hang around near her.Then there’s the Silkies.  They love a good pine tree.  They’re like a pile of pompoms, little fluffies lounging and snuggling in the dappled sun.

The shuttle

Every night there’s a risk of frost I bring in the seedlings from the tomato safe.  Now most of the tomatoes are planted in the GH, so there’s only one wheelbarrow load, plus two flats of peppers etc.

Since the big Benadryl freeze fiasco (well, and before), I carefully check the weather and if it’s dipping, it’s shuttle time.  There’s also a pile of flats occupying the windowsills in the house, and they get set out on the deck during the day, which is a short commute.The more mature tomatoes that have already been put in the ground get tucked in to a cozy frost blanket, just in case.  I think the last frost has passed (May 10), but watching the long term forecast just in case.Hard to believe these little babies will be 8 ft+ tall in just a few months.

Early gardening…In the outside garden, the garlic is off to a proud start; the perennials are wide awake; half of it is planted but it’s still mostly brown.

Sweeping a thick blanket of mulch off of a bed, making worms dive out of sight, and directly planting into moist dark soil, is infinitely satisfying.  No-till is working out exceptionally well.

evening snacking

Evening is a peaceful time.  Chicken peace ebbs and flows.  Early morning is not peaceful at all.  Afternoon  is a long siesta, usually broken by a period of ruckus, and then late evening is time for some mellow scrounging before bed.A cooptime snack. Here come the guineas.  They get right in there.  So different, yet so accustomed to living with chickens. At this time, the Silkies are all mostly in bed. The guineas are so cute, grazing in the lumpy field in their pair bonds, looking like rocks.

Oh no!  I took a pile of pictures of Silkies, feathers glowing backlit by the evening sun, and expecting to post them, I find none of them are there!  Some error.  :(  It was a sunny day and the the birds were fuzzy and adorable hopping around in the grass.

Still potting up some small starts, and little Apples gets excited. Every time the dirt comes out, so does she.  She likes to knock over a pot and kick it around (I give her one to play with).  She has developed some extravagantly feathered feet.Little chamomiles

Final notice eviction

Today was transplant day in the greenhouse, so the chickens were officially OUT.  They took it pretty well.  I expected sad puppy at the door behaviour, but they have spent enough time in transition that they were pretty content outdoors.

However, the forecasted 1mm of rain was a bit more than that, and earlier, so just like last year, transplant/eviction day was a big rain day (complete with  thunder).

So I spent the morning running around hastily throwing up rain and wind shelters for these birds that haven’t seen the elements in months to hide under.   The big birds are all just fine in rain, but Silkies don’t fare so well when they get wet, the little hair chickens. After this hasty contriving I got the three fowl weather hen tents out of mothball and repaired them and put them back in action too.  They are quite effective.  Just as attractive.  Nailed that tent city esthetic. I even put the converted chickery in the mix, and they loved investigating that (finally! we get to see inside!), but didn’t shelter in it.  The stock tank hay bale cave was a hit.

The rain came and went, and as it let up, the hens would disperse into the grass and surroundings, and then the rain would start drumming down again and all at once, you’d see them on the run, (even the guineas) legging it back to get under some kind of roof, where they’d crowd together, with no necks, quietly waiting.

After that, I brought my camera into the greenhouse for transplanting, (57 tomatoes – cue Heinz jokes) and completely failed to take any pictures at all!  Next round.   There’s more to plant.

Ready for rain

Tomorrow is greenhouse planting day, so today I reinstalled the famous greenhouse gutter (ok, it’s not famous, I’m just smug about inventing it).  Or at least, the framing for the gutter.  That’s the part that requires walking around inside, that needed to get done before the plants go in.  I put it off after moving the greenhouse.  The gutter will just clip on afterwards.It went very well.  Smooth, just took time.  All sealed up, chicken tight.  I’ll be happy to not have to remove it again for a couple of years.These lazy birds will have a rude surprise tomorrow when they’re finally shut out.  I will have to put a couple of hay bales outside for standing on.  Guaranteed they’ll be staring in the door at us all day.  And just like last year, it’s supposed to rain, but not very much.  So no sympathy this time!

The walnut tree is leafing out.

Two down

Brown bonnet is broody, the second hen to go.  That means it’s time to renovate the covered wagon, since my original design proved to not hold up to chickens jumping all over it, and the “door” broke off from metal fatigue from all the bending. So it got a new wooden front, and a flapping door held on by twist ties.

Back in the greenhouse, BB was waiting in the box she’d been put into so I could make renovations.   She’s not a nervous first time mom.  She calmly rolls with anything, even being put in a little box.

I’m in a box

She just barely even fits in this box.I made the best nest I could in the kennel.  Looks inviting to me. Then put her in it.  Again, calm under scrutiny.And then draped her with canvas.  The lighting is really nice in the kennel.  A dim glow.  Bright enough to see by, but just.  Gotta see what you’re eating.  As soon and she got her broody snack bar, a bowl of water and food, she was most pleased, and tucked right in.The looky-lous want some.

I can see you eating in there!

Outside looking in

The five outcast roosters are spending their days gazing through the plastic wall, or fence, at all the fun the others are having, and the hens prancing around.Their coop is in the edge of the woods, but they have gravitated, in a group, to the side of the greenhouse.   They haven’t investigated too far.  Not far enough to find the end of the fence.  It’s only one section now, to deter them from getting at the rest of the flock (it doesn’t take much).  There are enough roos in the mix, and I don’t want any of these guys’ genes. They’re just dumb, aggressive galoots; they spend all day scrapping with each other.  Not even pure Silkies.  Maybe not their fault they aren’t good for anything, but still.  What do I do with them?!

I can’t even caption them.  All I get is Duhhhhh.  Hen.  HEN.  Fight!  Duhhhh.

On the inside a couple of the new roos have shown that they have a brain, and some gumption, and have essentially self-selected for inclusion in the main flock (for now, until I make some arranged marriages).  Oddly, it’s only the black roosters that have distinguished themselves.  In my flock, the white roosters are the clever, trustworthy ones (the Colonel is a hero among roosters).

The insects are back

First bumblebee window rescue of the year.  There will be many more.    The mosquitoes are back, but they aren’t at plague proportions yet.  The blackflies are back, with their horrible parasitic bite, like they are drilling into your skin with their head, which is what it feels like.   The ticks are back, but are either just beginning, or my guineas are shielding me from the full horror show.  The bittern is gallunking; the peepers are singing.  It is almost time for the screen doors, the window screens, and the secondary line of defense- the mosquito bed tent.

But for now, it’s still just cool enough and just not buggy enough, to have doors and windows wide open with the air rolling through, which means bees might bumble through too. The chickens are still fully utilizing the greenhouse.Especially the Silkies.  They are quick to learn where they go to bed, though.  That’s good.Outside, I have to get a fence around my new garden (old greenhouse site), before the hens clean up all the resident worms.  They’ve been assiduously working at it, churning and breaking up my mulch quite nicely, but I want to keep my worms, thank you.

serene afternoons

The chickens are getting used to living both in and out of the greenhouse.  That’s good.  You’re supposed to implement change slowly with chickens, let them get used to one thing at a time.  I was transitioning the GH today, hanging the screen doors (this year with orange snow fence to better help pollinators find the doors, cleaning out all the winter chicken crap- all the ugly snow fence and sticks, and the greenhouse looks bright and spacious again.  Just hay, the composting coop cleanouts in the feed sacks (not sure what garden they’ll go to), and the tomato safe.

And of course the chicken hangers-on.  All of them crammed in the one shadow in the room, when they could be out in the breeze.They are intentionally or not keeping the broody hen company.  She’s in that box in the tomato safe.

Yeah, I’m with you.

One of these things is not like the other.Feisty little Annie Smith Peck hangs with the big girls.  She’s so funny!  She’s been different from day 1.

The breeds get along so well, now that the greenhouse is without borders.  They mix right up, and are so cute lounging together.  But when the food comes out, the layer hens become greedy ravening animals, so the Silkies need to be segregated in order for them to get a fair chance at the food.  I don’t want to keep them cooped up, but they have to be separate, to survive.   They’re slowly drifting outside. 

We’ll take shade wherever we can get it
See those bags in the corner?
I found a chicken butt jammed in here at night, too.

Roos of the woods

Eviction is in progress.  We lifted the coops out of the greenhouse, and I’m “encouraging” the birds to all transition to living outside now. You’d think they’d be all gung-ho to spend all their hours out of doors and get their vitamin D.  But no, they are resistant to being encouraged.  They all find their way back into the hot house by the afternoon.The GH is at its worst these days. It’s (past) time for it to assume its primary function, sheltering growing food, so high time to move all the chicken related detritus out. 

Creative egg laying. There’s no coop anymore!

Outside, the wretched roosters have taken over Charlie coop.  They’ve adjusted pretty readily to outdoor living, but they decided not to stay in their adapted chickery coop.  Charlie coop, the former skycoop, was occupied by one lone (homegrown) rooster, the others having all graduated up.  And then, the wretched roosters decided to move in.  All at once.Out you go, guys. The world awaits.

 

Unexpected visitors

I was shifting recycling at the house door when there was suddenly a great flapping of wings.  And then 20′ away on the our path, there was a young duck couple!So cute!  She’s so very well disguised. They were obviously young, obviously a couple, and so confused, wonking away.  wonk.  wonk?  wonk! 

Why did they land right here?  I know the paths are just big long puddles these day.  They pattered back and forth, following each other around, and then, woosh! They burst back into the air.

Bunch’a house sitters

The chickens like to stand around all afternoon on top of their houses.  All of the houses are fair game.And a bale sitter.  I love this hen.  The little silver adventurer.  She’s the best.  She needs a name. Cream Puff.

They are just, just about to get evicted from the greenhouse.  And those old dusty poopy houses will get a good rinsing in the next rain.  And then the birds can’t sit around all afternoon indoors.  They’ll have to play outside.  Right now they wander around outside for a few hours, and then, like they’re slacking off work, they wander back into the GH and flop around.  Off duty. Time to scratch, ladies, it’s spring!

Lush

There’s that green.  The world is overwatered right now and the grass is growing with all its might.  Expect to see it in the eggs soon – the chickens are free range again (fair weather only).  

HW comes home and says ” Where’d all these starts come from!?”  “You grew these?”  Yep, they’re the same ones as were there yesterday, and the day before…  “They’re so big!”  Yes, they are.  And so green.  Ready to go outside.

I was shuttling tomatoes and set a box down for one second to empty the wheelbarrow….oh…oh!  Here they come, creeping.  Is the hand faster than the beak?  No, she got a leaftip!

Well, I’m back

Back on track.  I survived my alarming and exhausting 5 days of wretchedness.It started out a big rain day.  Only Cleopatra is out there wading for worms.  The barred rocks say Nah, too wet for us.

The first broody hen of the year has her own box, finally.  She’s been determinedly trying to warm eggs in the prime nest box of the big coop for a week, but I haven’t been able to manage getting her her own box.  That means that the big hens have been laying eggs right on top of her some of the time.  Some of the others have clearly been put off by the little witch always in their box and started piling eggs in another corner.  She settled in to the box well, considering the risky daytime move.  Often hens will flip out at the move, certain that their eggs are really where they last left them.  She’s inside the tomato safe in a private box, and I’ll build her a kennel asap.  This will be much more peaceful now.

Inside, I potted up a pile of various melons, cukes, and peppers, and I had a little helper.I expected her interest; she’s come trotting out of her zone for potting up occasions before.  She likes picking around at the dirt, or maybe just something different.  Just like a cat.  Whatcha doin’?

I’ve kicked some dirt around.  Pretty good, right?

We’d peacefully “worked together” like this for about an hour, and she’d perched up on the edge of the box for a better view, when suddenly:

Ta DA!

I’d almost met my goals of the day, so it was fine.  I finished up around her, and there was a little potting soil left.

I’ll take it from here.

All in all, we made a right glorious mess, but all the little starts are very happy in larger homes.  My start factory has turned the corner now, from still having seeds to begin or divide, to the starts heading out the door.  Cell blocks are being retired.  We’ve passed peak start, in other words.

I’m very pleased this year with my experiments in fabric potting bags, from China, and also homemade, but that’s another post.  All cleaned up.  I left her in the tub (she seemed happy).Two hours later.

I was watching for signs that she was hungry, needed a hand out?  But no, wriggle wriggle.  At three hours she started looking over the edge and I lifted her out.  She’s going to have some sleep tonight.  What a big day.

She’s all grown up now.  Any day she’s going to lay an egg.

I’m going to make it.  I’m better today.  There’s so much to be done!  The first broody hen of the year needs some privacy and coddling; calls, emails, cleaning; starts need to go out, get potted up, and divided, galore… things have been growing even while I’ve been down, and there’s been much emerging. The peanuts are popping up.

Most amazingly, these cells of pie pumpkins are TWO DAYS OLD!  3″ tall!  Astonishing, nay, aggressive seedling vigour.  Yesterday I saw them break ground, like these just did.  Outside, it’s pouring rain and grey.

 

Siiiick…

I’ve had an unusually horrible cold(/flu?) since my birthday.  I feel like death warmed over. I can’t even read, because my eyes ache.  So no blog post today.  I’m out of pictures to post.  Just one happy chicken, demonstrating the use of the chipped paths we were working on in better times.

It’s warm and rainy and time for gardening, but…I’m useless.  The chickens get to enjoy some more time sheltering in the greenhouse from the rainy weather though.

Grub Generator

Warning- gross factor!   This post is about dead meat and grubs, although there are no grubs pictured!

I made a fancy new grub generator.  The original was effective but very, very primitive.

I got this one’s refinements from watching youtube videos, but used a big rubbermaid tub, because I had one, and I didn’t think a big bucket is capacious enough. Plus a few adaptations I made up.

First, the access portal for the flies.  There’s a hole in the side of the bottle.  I assume this is to limit both smells escaping and rain getting into the meat chamber.The flies get in through the bottle to lay eggs that colonize the dead meat.

On the inside of the tub, there’s a vacuum cleaner hose with a bunch of holes cut in it (that part is a bit tough), held onto the side of tub with zipties.  It’s arranged at a slight angle in a spiral around the tub, for the grubs to climb along on their bid for freedom.  Because they do that.  Yep.

It’s a grub escalator.  They will climb to the top like pilgrims, and then drop out, into the catchment bottle.  Surprise, no guru!I found it best to stab two slits through the side of the tub to attach the zipties.   You can see by the zipties on the outside how the vacuum hose makes a full spiral to the bottom of the tub.This vac hose was perfectly suited for this purpose, I’m quite sure unintentionally, and the catchment bottle slips on and off the hose, with a little duct tape gasket, for those days condensation inside the bottle enables the grubs to climb the walls.Best to draw a veil over the current contents of the grub generator.  All the chickens that died of natural causes this winter are in there, now thawed out.

NB: I strongly recommend installing the vacuum hose and zipties…spiraling all the way to the floor of the tub… while the tub is empty, and clean, before putting in the old, dead…thawed…carcasses.  Trust me on this.

The protein of the dead critters will be transformed by the action of the blowflies and other detritivores, their life cycles turning offal into top flight chicken protein.

I’ll leave it to all the other info out there to explain how awesome this form of recycling waste is, and how it helps reduce, not promote unsavory insects, and how much it’s good for the hens.  There’s loads of excellent and thorough info out there, starting with the black soldier fly fan club.  This is just my design, and I’m pleased with it.  I plan to make another to rotate between.

I can just picture my hens lurking around the tap all day.

Goodbye guineas

I finally packed up some guineas for life in a new home.  I sewed up a net out of the bird netting and experimentally caught a rooster with it.  That was as easy as lightly dropping the net over the rooster, who just looked around and fell over, confused.

The guineas did not go that easy.  They are fast, smart, twice as strong as chickens, and explosive.  They took ages to snag and then untangle and pop in a box.

The major, major challenge was getting the right guineas.  They’re all paired up now, and I can’t separate any happy couples.  I had to figure out who is with who, so that I could send them away in pairs. So I was out there watching them mill around together, not unlike watching a pack of teenagers at a mall and trying to deduce who likes who.

Even tougher, after figuring out who’s with who, how to tell them apart later when trying to capture them in a shrieking crowd?  So I was out there sketching the fleshy face flaps that they have with unique red and white patterning (not the same on right and left etiher).  In the end, they made it easy by one pair going in the greenhouse before the others, so I shut them in, and the chase ensued.

One catch ended up bagging a Brahma in with the guinea.  She was not amused.  But the guineas have been moved.  The first shipment are reported to have rapidly integrated with the onsite guineas. New girls! :)  The second shipment is going to be fruitful and multiply as the first guineas in a new place, wanted for their tick eating properties.We’re in a milk crate.  Ok, joke’s over.  Ha. Ha.

wild bird protection success

I love pussy willows.  I was distraught that I cut a big patch down, not recognizing it, and heartened to see how it’s vigorously grown back elsewhere it was chopped off in the past (and I have a fair bit).  The plant is hard to recognize out of fuzzy season.Philippe Petit has a problem still.  Some days he seems fine, some days he limps. Poor guy:(The Silkies are getting out more.  As I predicted, the little silver adventurer is often first outside or out on her own.  Cutie.  And the Colonel is often leading the way out (and the flock ignores him and stays in).The hens are using the great outdoors quite well, free ranging again, but they like the familiar comfort of the greenhouse still, and settle back in inside early afternoon.

It’s time to celebrate the total success of the mesh window protection I used this winter, to protect the wild birds from window collision.  Not one casualty.  We got used to the screened view, and it was totally worth it.   I saw birds sometimes rocketing straight at the window and pull up and veer at the last moment, so clearly they could see it, and it was never tested for its possible bird rebound properties.  That I know of.

 

Roos on the loose

Last night I went to close up the birds and found:two of the wretched roosters out of the greenhouse!  Amazing. They couldn’t figure out how to get in.  Um, we’re supposed to be on the other side of this plastic.

They’ve been free to come and go for days, and just don’t.  They come out for a bit, then run back in to their enclosure. Even though their divider fell all the way down yesterday, they stayed in their corner.  Until sometime in the late afternoon, when these two managed to get out the door.  Minds blown.  So much up!

I don’t know what to do with these poor roosters.  They aren’t even pure Silkies, so I don’t want them mating with my birds.  They have terrible scaly mite that I’ve been treating to make them more comfortable.  They’ve had horrible lives so far and don’t know how to be chickens, although there’s some improvement.  Nobody’s going to want them and I wouldn’t want to give them to anyone.

Seedling disaster

I left the tomato seedlings out in the greenhouse overnight, and most of them were killed by frost.

I wasn’t just stupid enough to forget to bring them in; I knew, 100%, that they had to come in.  However, I had some allergic reaction come on in the evening with a rash that spread quickly all over my body with redness and bumps – strange and alarming.  The benadryl I took for that, that I’m not sure I’ve ever taken before, conked me out like an anesthetic, so that I woke up in the morning howling “the tomatoes!”

I ran out and looked and they appeared fine.  They were just frozen in the posture of life, though, and when it warmed up they collapsed, their structural cells exploded by the frost crystals inside them.  I was sick about it all day.Strangely, there was no pattern to the survivors.  Some tomatoes are standing perfectly unscathed, among their fellows looking like steamed spinach.  Same strain, no pattern to where they were on the rack… a mystery.  Either perfectly intact, or destroyed.  No in between.

I’m hoping that many or most of them will stage a comeback, like they did after the great chicken decimation last year.  Most of them have most of their stalk intact- still firm and upright, and may regenerate leaves in a few days.  I’m sure their roots didn’t freeze.  And we have many smaller seedlings lying in wait in case of just such a disaster, but they will be behind.  It’s a setback, any way you look at it.

Mystery allergy rash was gone in the morning, thanks to benadryl.  I’d rather have the tomatoes and keep the rash.

Happy about living naturally