cob oven mouse

Right outside our door, we have a stacked rock structure (future cob oven) wrapped up with tar paper (it’s not a good look).  But for one tiny mouse, it’s a dream home.He must be traveling on the ledges of rock inside, all dry and safe behind the tar paper, and he pops out from under the skirt of paper to hang out on his porch… have a look around…

Testing the limits of my camera, 5´away. Nice.

go for a forage, within 4″ of the door…

I sat and watched for awhile, and he/she has three doors!  He pops in and out like an electron, then boop!  Pops out one of the other doors.    Happy little mouse.   Not in our house!

Door number 2

New pig procedure

It didn’t take long for us to figure out a better way to use two lengths of electric poultry fence.  Making a vast circle of space with both lengths is not it.   That merely makes it approximately twice as hard to move them as it was with one length of fence.

The answer (blindingly obvious), is to set up the fences in two circles, like the digit 8, so that when it comes time to shift the pigs, close them into one loop of fence, pick up the other loop and peacefully relocate it.  Then, or later, move the pigs into the newly placed loop and move the second section of fence.  Drama free.

The added benefit is easily being able to separate the piglets for dinner time.  Did someone say dinner?  Oggg, oggg,ogggh!

First HW LEAPS into the pig yard.
Fence open, how it is during day.

(First there must be scratching)Now HW is closing the gate. Pick a side, Pancakes!  They do pick a side, and sometimes switch; they know the drill.  Shortstack is smarter.  It’s raining, I’ll take the house side.

Securing the gate.
Turning the fence back on. This is a very thorough step by step…

Then the pigs wait VERY impatiently for the food to be prepared, and served.  Whheeeee, Whheeeee!

One pig is inevitably briefly disgruntled.
She’s got hers!
There you go!

They’ve had they’re own bowls their whole sojourns here, and they used to get fed on opposite ends of the yard, but still, the first pig finished wolfing down their food goes to see if the other has any left, so thievery happens, and Shortstack has been at the losing end of that contest.  This is far better.

Now Shortstack is even more pleased about dinner (hardly possible) because she gets to relax through her whole meal.  I think she’s just a slower eater.  Likes to savour.

Goats in Christmas trees

HW set up our tree, and I decorated.  To recap, last year, I lamented the lack of an angel to top the tree, and he said “We don’t need an angel…(thinking pause)…  We ought to have a goat!  Because that’s where a goat would be.”

Yes, yes it would.  (If you are not in the know about Goats in Trees, a magical world awaits you).

So last year I set about acquiring some ornament sized goats.  It wasn’t as hard as you might think  (Etsy is etsellent).  I got eight handmade wire and wool goats, from two different craftswomen.

And here they are!  My conclusion:  A.  This is definitely the Christmas tree of my dreams!  and B.  I need about twice as many goats!

Back to Etsy…

They perch in the tree quite, surprisingly, well on their little wire feet.  Just don’t jostle the tree!  Or they all fall out, like fainting goats (also a thing).  And they look authentically goatish and smug.  Plus the tree looks authentically lean, as if the goats have been pruning.Best Xmas tree ever!!!

Goats from Bondurant Mountain and BeaBeo.

 

*** A reader contribution!! :) ***

Tune for Tree Goats:

Climb every mountain, ford every stream

Follow every byway, ’til you find your tree.

 

A tree that will give all the green you can eat

Many days of your life it’s the ultimate treat!

 

Climb all the branches, most can hold your weight

Tiptoe on the thin ones, now’s not the time to faint.

 

Climb high and higher, bleat to the skies

Look down on the low ones, you have won the prize!

 

By I. K.   [With a respectful nod to the original:]

All well

Let’s shake the hen and see who falls out?Phew!  There’s two!  The crushed egg chick made it, and is totally fine.  It doesn’t always turn out that way.

There’s three.  The youngest is a brown one.  So tiny.  It’s inside the box, cheeping.  Hey, it just got cold! Mom responsibly goes back in her box to sit on it. And the other two chicks find their way in.

Later we got rid of the box.  That’s too cramped for her to be going in and out of.

 

no-kill windows

I tried something new to protect the birds from the windows.  I used to have gift wrap ribbon dangling and fluttering – it works well, but not 100%.  One or two birds still struck the windows every year, and that’s a sickening thump I could live with never hearing again.

So I raised my game.   I stretched black nylon bird netting over our windows, on little posts to hold it away from the surface.  I think there’s enough tension on it that even if a bird flies full speed and direct into the window, its momentum will be absorbed before it hits the glass, enough to save it from injury.

More likely the birds will see it readily and the spring rebound will not be tested.

I’m waiting for the chickadees to come stand on my posts to eat their seeds.It’s not a Better Homes and Gardens look.  Not many things are around here.  HW was not impressed.  “What if I did something like that?  Stuck pieces of wood and baling twine all over the house?  I’d be in so much trouble!”  I disagree.

From the inside, it looks like security glass.  The mesh is subtle, but definitely visible.  However, if it prevents wild bird death:  totally worth it.

It’s cool that I can recognize individual birds returning to the feeder now.  The Nuthatch is back, with an offspring and I strongly suspect that it is the Nuthatchling that we met in the summer!  It took me a bit, but I remembered that last year the Nuthatch had a long and steep learning curve using the feeder.  Man, she was bad at it!  But this nuthatch came in like a pro and did some demonstrations, so definitely the same little bird. Watch and learn, youngster.

Winter chicks…

The tell-tale shell!  It’s so cool how the chick unzips the egg much like we would take the lid off a hard-boiled egg.

Snow White was all about rolling her eggs out of the nest today.  She probably knows something I don’t, but I gave her reject eggs to Heather, in the duplex next door.

There’s the chick!  All of them spilling out of the box.

There was another chick as well, partially hatched, but her egg was crushed like it had been stepped on, as if being in an egg isn’t cramped enough.  The membrane was drying out, so the chick was in trouble.  The membrane that keeps them alive in the egg can kill them when they are hatching,  if it dries out.  It becomes stiff and adheres to skin and eyes.  I’ve seen a couple of chicks die during hatching because they couldn’t break that membrane or worked too slow and the membrane suffocated them.  That’s gross and sad.  But this chick, I rapidly grabbed it and peeled it, Cheep!  Cheep!, and popped it back under the dark hen belly.   It was alive but not necessarily well, so I don’t know if it will make it to tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to moving the broodery to a fresh spot and making it all clean for the chicks to grow up in for a week or two.  It’s pretty messy from two hens pooping for a full term.

Everyone else is well.After a year naked, Jean Jacket is sprouting a lot of feathers on her wings, which is excellent.  She must be enjoying her fleece jacketExcept the black really shows the dirt!

There’s the keet in the corner, up on the keet highway.  The keet is very active now, a big hopper and it can fly some too.

Time to groom! Everyone at once now.

 

Keet’s day out!

I was brought out mid-morning to check on the birds because the guineas were putting on an almighty hollering.

The cause?  The guinea chick was outdoors for the first time, having made that big hop up to go through the chicken doorThe guineas were all worked up about it (they’re so familial).  This is the outSIDE!  This is GRASS! (sort of).  The chick is the lone survivor of  a few hatched outdoors, so it may remember “outside”, but it seems it was a big guinea moment nonetheless. Right away the chick slipped through the fence. Here the hens are drawing attention to it- It’s over here!, and it’s barely detectable right by that fence post. Mom came running in, and the chick climbed back in just as easily.

The hen yard is already kind of grim, after freezing, being hammered by rain, and scratched up well.  The chickens loooooove that pine tree through.   They all cluster up under it for most of the day.

This is the Colonel’s flock of girls  – it’s a very large flock, and they group under the pine day all day for a long, relaxed grooming meditation, and often a good perch.  Usually there are 2-5 hens perching in the tree at any time.   I pruned it out for them hoping they’d enjoy it, so it’s very gratifying to have them enjoy it so completely.

Curiosity saved the chicken.

Chicken door!

I installed a chicken door, in the door, of the GH.  Like a dog door, only without a flap.  I kinda do have confidence that hens could learn to use a flap, but to stay on the safe side, no flap.

Is that a … chicken door?

It’s important so that the chickens can come and go without opening the big man door and letting all the heat flow out.  Chickens like to be outside, even in the snow (temporarily), but the point of having them in the GH is to keep them warmer than outdoor temperature.

The hens were very interested, right away.  They always seem curious when the tools come out.  Even though the man door was also open, right away they had to try out the new door.

I have a theory that (the aphorism about killing cats notwithstanding) curiosity is an essential survival trait.  All animals seem to have it.  Bees have it.  Just plain curiosity about novelty.  If we all have it, then our species’ ancestors that survived had it, and it must have helped them survive.  So in fact, curiosity saved the cat.  Certainly the chicken at least.

First one through!

I’m going to have to put another on the opposite end doors, but I have yet to do the deer netting on the other  hen yard.

At this time of year?

I have two broody hens.  Why.  Why now?  Anyway, a broody hen is about the stubbornest thing there is, so all I can do is give them eggs, see what they can do.  Maybe they change their minds when it gets colder.

The chickery is a duplex again, with the Oreo’s mom (white) and one of the Heathers,   each with a box, sharing the “yard” and snack bar. I covered the chickery with canvas, I was thinking to reduce light and distraction, and especially reduce the chance of birds falling in, because all the birds like to perch on the edge of the chickery.  They switch boxes multiple times a day.  They come out to eat, or poop, and then the other hen comes out, and the first one back gets on the first eggs she sees.  This used to provoke very loud outrage, but now they’ve both learned to just go find the other box, and so far they are pretty responsible.  Snow White’s a proven mama, she raised the Oreos (now gigantic and disrepectful).

Guinea roosts

I hung sticks up for the guineas’ roosting pleasure.  They’re tied off to the purlins about 7′ up, and they swing a little.  The guineas seem to love it, but they are exceedingly coy about being captured on film using it.  I can see them through the plastic up on their sticks.  I can sneak up and catch the last two still holding on, just before they fly down.  But they won’t let me see them all roosted up on it, and they aren’t using their sticks to sleep at night yet.  Still sleeping on the header of the door.

The baby guinea has a new talent.  It can hop up on the baseboard now and run along it behind the ribs. It’s a chick sized highway.

Winter jacket

Jean jacket hen gets a new fleece jacket today.  I took her jean jacket away a couple of weeks ago, in the rainy time just before they went in the greenhouse, and immediately felt sorry for her, seeing her no-necking with the three feathers on her back standing up, for insulation.  She’s having a hard time regrowing feathers.  Lots of them seem to be broken off.  She’s a low chicken, but I haven’t seen her being mated or beat up on, she’s just in hard shape.  Her feet are in bad shape, her wing feathers are sparse.  She was bad off when she got here, and it hasn’t got much better for her.

Poor thing, those raw wing tops.

Anyway, she must be as comfortable as possible, so she gets a winter jacket.

She seems mildly pleased with it

Then the looky-lous come.

What’ve YOU got?  Hey, Sylvia’s got a new outfit!!
– She does?  I gotta see!  – What, this old thing?
Be honest.  Does this jacket make me look fat?

You see, she looks like she feels pretty good about it.  She got inspected (no pecking), and just hung out on the hay bale for a bit.  Cozier now.

HW says she has to have a crest on it. Like a big C, for … Chicken!!

BTW, the chicken who sits, er, sat, has made a total recovery, stopped dragging her butt, and is now indistinguishable from all the other tail-up chickens.  Yay!

Pants day!

There comes a day in the life of every Silkie chick, when they get their pants.One day, out of nowhere, they appear to be wearing little feather short pants.  So cute!

Photobombed.  That’s a Chanti teenager.

These chicks gave me a scare this morning.  I couldn’t find them anywhere, couldn’t hear them either, and I found their mother in the big coop with the grownups, where she’d slept – no chicks!  I was looking everywhere for bodies.

Then I found them alive and well, foraging behind a hay bale with the teenagers, quiet because they were busy, and content.  I think they slept in the little coop with the teens, and mom decided to take the night off of chick care.  Left ’em with their older siblings, babysitting.

Hello! Forgetting something?

The chickadees returned a few days ago.  Four of them appeared.  One of them danced around in the specific place where the feeder was hung last year, and then stared firmly through the window at us before a big swoop in front of the glass and departure.  It couldn’t have been a clearer message without throat clearing.  Excuse me!  Time for the feeder!

It’s kind of amazing, they understand that the food has to do with us, in the window.  That’s a big cognitive leap for a brain the size of a pea, that’s already full of nest engineering, seed extraction techniques, vocalizing, and maps.

I obeyed, and hung the feeder, full of the seeds I grew, but they didn’t come back.  They’d probably gone directly to the next stop, where someone was more prompt about putting out the winter seeds.

Until today!  A squad of chickadees at least 8 deep (they’re hard to count), arrived all at once.  I didn’t know that chickadees were so “flocky” either.  I thought they were more independent.

They’re back!!

It’s nice to see a chickadee that was around all last winter, still alive and returned.   Maybe with some offspring, teaching them where the winter hunting grounds are. We don’t see very much of them through the summer.

Poopstruck

In the morning you always have to check on the chicks.  They can get in trouble, get stuck in the coop, whathaveyou. They’re creative.

This morning one guinea chick was gone, no body, no ideas:(  Now the last keet has no little friends to grow up with.  And the white Silkie chick was MIA too.  I went hunting in the small coop, yep, she was in there, in the corner, and I poked her, and she came scampering out.

Covered in shit.

Her mom just looked at her as she ran by.  I don’t know how hens can be so expressive.  They’re masters of body language.  Like, what have you done NOW? and/or That’s gonna get all over my feathers when I have to sit on you!

This chick took a direct hit between the shoulders.  A big, wet poop.  I can’t say I’ve ever had to deal with this before.

It was time for a washing.

I thought I could get some water and a washcloth and wipe her down, but now, it was beyond wiping.  It was all under her wings, down her back, dripping down sides.  Pretty much only her head was clean.  She got a thorough bathing, and because their feathers are yellow when wet, I wasn’t sure she was really clean.

As wet as the day she hatched.

She enjoyed the bathing, by the way, nice, warm water.  So then I thought I’ll let her run back to mom and mom will sit on her until she’s dry and warm again, right?

Run back to mama!

So she runs, shivering, and then mama is reluctant to settle on her.  The little chick is huddling, and standing on tiptoes, trying to push herself up into her fluff, crying, but she wasn’t getting the warming she needed.

Hey, I’m cold! You see what that lady did to me?

Plan B then. I grabbed her up, stuck her in a pocket (it’s so automatic now.  I can stick a chick, or several, in a pouch or pocket, or down my shirt, and they instantly go quiet – dark and warm?  No further questions).  It’s when they have a head out and can see what’s happening they cheep like the sky is falling.

I brought her back to the house, wrapped her in a washcloth, and stuck her under the covers with HW (Huh? What?  I hear a chick…).  He didn’t object to the excuse to stay in bed.

There was some mild, curious cheeping for a bit:  I say, this seems irregular.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you!

Then the  chick conked out for a long nap.  Very long.  Very quiet.

I peeked.

Oh, I’m awake. I’m just not going to say anything to ruin this.

Eventually she wiggled out of the washcloth and went for an exploratory crawl with her little talons (Hey!  Ouch!).  She came out fluffy as anything, and passed the sniff test, so I returned her to mom in the greenhouse, who also smelled her!

HW (skeptical):  How do you know that she smelled her?

Me:  Oh I know a smelling when I see one.  She leaned over, beak an inch away, and then was satisfied and resumed her business.  It was a sniffing.

Never a dull moment.

Greenhouse peace

I hope it means the guineas are happy to be in the GH, that they don’t spend half the day yelling anymore.  They are much quieter.

The GH is a chaotic scene littered with debris- just the way the birds like it.

The hens and guineas pretty much completely ignore each others’ existence.  They hop through the door right next to each other, graze, and show no sign of noticing each other.  All the chickens notice each other, all the time, though.

It’s colder now, so the layer hens, who still have their coop outside, drift inside, to where it’s warmer, while all the teenagers like to hang outside.

Four little chicks are alive and well.  Two guineas and two Silkies.  So cute.The two hens who were broody are sort of co-parenting the chicks. The one who seemed to stay broody changed her mind and is now the main Mom (after the other being the main Mom for at least a week).  Now they tend to hang out together with the chicks. 

Oh, just hanging out!
I don’t think I’m going to get my clothes rack back
What’s that, a box!? We love a good box.

 

Fire-spitting guinea mama

The hens are perching in the pine tree- hilARious!  They’re so implacable and smug up there.  Yep, we’re totally real birds.

The former Oreos are officially massive.  They’ve  turned out to be much if not mostly Copper Maran.  Both very handsome.  This will will my new big boss rooster.   Provided he can figure out how to mate the ladies.  He’s been having some issues.

Before

Here’s guinea mama, and her chicks peeking out from behind her tail.  They’re hard for me to see, every day – their natural protective camouflage while they are small.They she goes, erupting like the Hulk (only very, very quickly).  Think you’re going to look at my chicks?!

After

You got another think coming!

A wall?

The baby guineas were running around on the wrong side of the greenhouse plastic again, sounding like car alarms.  Mom was beside herself, throwing herself at the wall trying to attack me while I scooped up her chicks.  The chicks are funny.  Catching them is the hard part, but then I can stuff them in a sleeve, or pocket, or fold, and they instantly go quiet and still.  Oh, cozy!  Zzzzzzzz.  

That means plugging holes around the perimeter just moved up the priority list.  They won’t last long once it’s cold, slipping out like that.

I was planning to build a wall, harhar, to separate the guineas from the chickens, because the guineas move so fast, en masse,  they zoom through like a guinea train and all the other birds go bursting and squawking into the air.  Because there’s so many guineas, that’s a big train.

But I’m rethinking the wall.

Everyone is getting along so well.  The guineas are exceptionally quiet, with hardly any yelling sessions.  I assume that means they are content.

They’re sleeping on the ground, too.  The guinea mom loves this hay bale cave, and then the other guineas pile on top.

 

It’s HUGE!

The pigs’ latest move was especially exciting.  We made a two-fence loop (two lengths of 100’+ electric net fence, connected for one extra long circle), which makes their space, just Huge.  Good for us, they’ll last a little longer in there before we have to move them.They were extremely excited.  Didn’t see them all day, they hardly touched their lunch apples, they were finding so much to eat underground.  With the two fences, you can’t see the whole space at once.  It loops into the brush and also into the pasture.  They can get a good sprint worked up with that length.  Can’t see where they are most of the time either, except they come out to say Hi.    Hi.

Chicken Disneyland

Finally moved the layer hens into the fold, and surrounded them with fence, and draped them with bird netting, so the birds are all confined now, and all safe!  Ahhhhhhhhhh…hhhh….In the morning before opening we moved their coop (that’s a heavy coop full of birds) to the end of the greenhouse, made a yard with snow fence, and then let them out.  These birds have spent the whole summer, if not their whole lives, unconfined, so the first order of business was to keep them entertained and convince them that the party is inside the fence.  I need them to not be fixed on jailbreak, until I can get the bird netting in place too.  Pretty II and III were right away up on the coop, longnecking for a way out.Here you go!  Hay bales, kale, eggs, pumpkins!   They were entertained.  They didn’t know what to focus on.  Then I got the bird netting up, a string from the GH peak to the pine tree anchoring the bird yard, and the sides tied out to the fence. I got a “helper” wading around in the big clump of netting.  Not helping!  Bird netting requires the patience of a saint and is no fun at the best of times, without helpers with talons.Once we had full enclosure, then I could open the GH door and allow contact between the tribes.  The guineas and all the teens were already living in there.

Out come the guineas, right away up on the coop.  They can see the netting though, they know they can’t fly up in it.  No interest in “escape” though, just investigating.  They quickly made a game of running outside and jumping on the coop, and then running back inside the GH.  Last one on the coop’s a rotten egg!

The total peace was remarkable!  I was expecting some squabbling, some frantic fence running, but there was nothing.  The layers took a tour inside the GH and came back out, settling under the pine tree.  The teens came hopping out in their own time and milled around, the guineas found a pile of hay they liked… The great integration was notable for its complete lack of drama.  The layers decided they really like the pine tree, piling up under it in a lazy grooming and sunning bird pile. Inside, the birds are flaking out in their hay piles.  The teen Chantis are just impossibly cute. Both pairs of chicks are alive and well, phew!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the GH, there’s the other yard, but I don’t have netting for that yet.  These birds will be temporarily put inside the GH and this yard blocked off, until I get my netting.  Then there will be a three part chicken world- two covered yards and the GH between, until the snow limits them to only the GH.  That should give them plenty of space to organize themselves in.

The point of all this is to protect them from aerial predators, as I’ve learned the hard way that my chickens start getting struck in daylight in November.  So I have to have them “in” Nov 1, or else.  At night they are in their safe boxes, but the daytime threat has to be managed come November.

The guineas have been suffering already from night attacks, and that’s because they are half wild and roost outside, sometimes in ill advised locations.  I haven’t been able to help them without the GH.

Finally, I’ve got them all safe; I can sleep!It’s really funny how chickens can’t resist a hay bale.

They get so excited.  Stand on it, peck at it, lean on it.   The possibilities seem limited, but put a hay bale in with some birds, and immediately they’ll have it surrounded.

 

 

Livin’ in the greenhouse

Spent the day redoing the emergency windstorm work to rights (baseboard, bolts, adjusting all plastic- no small job), and installing everyone in the greenhouse.  Alas, one tiny guinea chick was found dead in the morning, possibly of exposure.  It was cold, but still – odd to keel over in the GH, mom right there.

The two broody Silkie hens co-hatched two chicks.  What with all the competition and apartment swapping, there is no apparent parentage of the two new chicks.  Even the hens don’t seem to be clear.  I installed both of them in the chickery with a broody box and new eggs.  This is for their comfort, for protection from the amorous roosters (How I have longed for you!), and the teenagers who pile in at night.  No one wants teenagers around, even your own.

Broody hens are so funny, they act like it’s Christmas when you give them eggs.  Eggs?!  You shouldn’t have!  Cluck cluck cluck, and they settle right on, like they’re slipping into a warm bath.She’s been sitting on eggs more than a month, and she’s still thrilled about it.

The cohabitation seems to be great for the chicks.  One mom seems pretty into mothering, but the chicks can go in the box anytime to second mom for a warming, which they do.   I think I’ll have a nap with you now.Especially when Mom A is getting down in the dirt bath.  We’ll leave you to it.  We’ll be in here.They all pile in the box at night.  TOO cute!

Before I took their box away, the teens were playing house in it:

A box? Let’s all get in!

The guinea chicks are so tiny, smaller than the Silkie chicks, perfectly camouflaged, and slippery.  After the morning death, I was keeping a close eye and an ear open for their car alarm cheeping, and sure enough, one slipped under the baseboard.  There it is outside on the wrong side of the plastic.  Mom tried to give me a good thumping through the plastic.

The greenhouse is chaotic and messy.  I strew hay bales around for them to distribute, make it less of a mud hole.  They love a good hay bale.

Here we have a guinea perching on the chickery, all the teens, Silkies and Chantis, chilling on the hay bales, and the Oreos, now big grown birds, visiting.
From the other direction. One teen perching, and the guineas, Hey, that’s OUR clothesrack.

It was a stressful day, because it was beautiful outside, and all the teens were determined to get outside in it, and were sneaky and extremely clever about slipping out behind me.  I’d herd two back in and three would come shooting out.  But there were no attacks, and I got everyone back in the GH eventually.

Late in the day, Mama got out with her chicks!  I didn’t see how.  The guineas all seemed to be fixing to roost at large, so it was time for another chicknapping.

Now with only two:(
Mom’s stopping for a snack on her way back in

Then all the other guineas trooped in.

Mama found a real nice spot in the corner of the bales to bed down.She has a very interested observer.

Almost all safe now.

Windstorm

The day after the greenhouse move, with the baseboard incompletely secured, I went pressing apples for the day, feeling pleasantly assured that the worst was all done, and that I could get to the finishing touches the next day.

At night I got a phone call: “Have you heard that we’re supposed to get 90km/h winds tomorrow?  I was thinking of you and your greenhouse….”  Closely followed by, “Should I come and help you?” because this friend is that thoughtful and kind.

The winds rose in the night, and by first light, the endwalls were already pushed off the base, framing pulled apart, the bottom edges of all the plastic were free, and losing the greenhouse completely seemed rather imminent.

In the next two hours, the winds rose further, the rain started sheeting down, one of the corners tore completely loose, our friend showed up at the perfect time, and we gained the structure back, securing it bit by bit to get through the storm.

I don’t think we ever did get 90kmh gusts, although parts of NS got up to 130.  In the moment it was a panic action, doing what most needs to be done.  We were soaked and struggling with everything wet and muddy and fighting against us.  In retrospect, if the wind had continued to go up instead of pausing and then abating, as it did, or if help had not come, the whole thing could very easily have tugged itself free and gone for a sail.

In the midst of it all, chicks!

The telltale shell!  She’s got a chick in there:)

And outside, I discovered the squad of guineas huddled around the base of the walnut tree.  Among them, three tiny chicks!

I discovered the hen setting, with a couple hatchlings, a few days ago (Yay, I thought she was dead!).  They stay on the nest a couple days before the mom and chicks rejoin the flock.  But what a day to join the flock!

I kidnapped her chicks.  She was soaked and looked miserable, and didn’t have much fight in her when I snatched them up.Then I brought them inside and used them to bait their mother into the greenhouse.  It took a little bit.  The chicks were just fine with being held – cozy! so I had to massage them to make them cheep, and then mom would bristle up, try to locate them, and charge.

Once she was in, she was like hmm, ok, it’s dry in here.  Perhaps I’ll stay. There’s food.

The little brown chicks are so small and brown they are hard to see in the mud.

Family portrait!  All the Silkie chicks and the Chanticleer chicks, and a hen, all in the dismal mud hole of the greenhouse.  With the multipurpose clothes rack.All of them are checking out the newcomer.  Who’s that!? Happily, all the rest of the guineas came into the greenhouse voluntarily at night, because mom was in there.   Well, sort of.They’re on the boards nailed up to keep the doors on. I had to tap a couple on the tail to make them jump down.  I need to close the door now guys. 

Greenhouse, moved.

It was miserable, it was hard.  We almost lost it.  It’s over.  It’s been a rough week.

The verdict is in: it takes just as long to move it as it does to put it up in the first place; the few places where time is saved, particularly that holes are already drilled and not everything needs to come apart, are cancelled out by the places where it takes more time to undo and redo, like wrestling ribs onto pins that have been twice-pounded.  A nightmare.

In theory, a simple series of steps:

Undo all the wiggle wire, drop the skin off to one side.

Detach end walls and lay them down inside.

There’s the pile of associated crap- gutters, gutter mounting lumber, baseboards, doors, screen doors, etc etcPull up one side of mounting pins, and drive them again one greenhouse width to the side.“Walk” the greenhouse over like a 26 legged spider, dragging the endwalls along with.  Remount on pins.Reskin.  Stand up the endwalls.Do all the wiggle wire, reattach baseboards, doors, etc.

A simple series of steps…

In my head.

Hahaha!  Each step beset by setbacks, unforeseen time-consumers, irritations, and risk of injury.  Miserable.

In the space vacated by the greenhouse, the chickens moved right in for a good dirt bath. Least they’re having fun.

Then came the wind….

 

 

 

Training coop subdivision

Guinea update:  they did all survive the night, and again skipped dinner (thus not giving me the opportunity to attempt to trap them again) and went to roost where they did night before last, which they also survived.  So I’m just moving the GH as fast as I can to put them in it.

It will still take awhile.  I’m interested to see whether it will take longer to take it down and then put it up again than it did for me to put it up in the first place.  If it were a house, then it’s always faster to just build a new one.  I’m thinking the GH could be faster to move than it was to build new, but we shall see.  I’m also weaker and less healthy than I was the first time.

I was in there half the day ripping it out, which meant a party of epic magnitude for the young chickens that live in there, the kegger that will not be forgot.

They were always underfoot, interested in the volume of green mass I was dropping to the ground, and the climbing and rummaging and scratching was such as had never been seen before.  So good the room was mostly silent, with all the chicks individually occupied throughout.  They know every inch of the GH, it is their whole world, so change must be very interesting to them.

Come dusk, I was still working, so I got to see the goings in.   I’ve been stuffing the chicks in the coop every night, and although there’s plenty of room, they squabble all night.  What the?

So I tried something new.  I tacked up cardboard, dividing the coop into apartment A and B, and I put a hen in each one.  One (mud head) is legitimately broody, I can’t tell if the other one is for real, but she’s acting as if.

Apartment A
Apartment B (true broody)

As it got dark, the Chanticleer chicks went to bed first, and they all came along one at a time, long-necking and then hopping up in with Mom.

Is that Mom in there?

Or two at a time.

Is it A or B?

This one chose wrong. And tentatively settled in.

And then, RRTROWWR!  She came bursting out, having been forcibly ejected by the resident hen.  So she‘s been the nighttime rabblerouser; she doesn’t like the chicks of another colour.

Let me try this again.  Is it door #2?
Don’t make the same mistake I did.

The Chanticleers eventually all loaded in, to the right apartment.It’s very cozy in there.  I don’t know how they do it.

That left the Silkies out, who much later started to think about bed, and went trouping around, looking like they might consider the possibility that they might sleep somewhere other than a pile in the corner.

I spent some time trying to marshal them towards the coop, and grabbed a couple and tossed them into Apt A, but they kept missing it, and going around it, then going under it, and a few hopped in on their own, yay!  Definite progress.

But I could’ve almost sworn I saw a white one dart into Apt B, which is already suffering overcrowding.  I groped around but couldn’t find her, until I took a picture.Aha!  Lower right, the couchsurfer.

I have some confidence that they will all go to bed tomorrow, or definitely the next night.  Unless the hens decide to switch apartments.

Got ’em!

Caught the guineas under the netting tent, finally.  Went like clockwork.  When I came out to serve supper a few were even perching on the clothes rack.

I said I was going to build them a perching rack like a fish drying rack, and HW said “Why don’t you just stick the clothes rack out there?”  Why not.

I subtly herded the rest into the fence, which surrounds a scrubby patch all the birds like to hang out in, and closed them in with the last section of fence.  I closed in more than the guineas, though.  Three Silkies were in the fence too.

I had to hang out until they started looking for the exit, and lift up the fence for them to duck under.  They slipped right out like it was prearranged.The guineas at first weren’t too fussed about being captive, but got increasingly noisy and agitated, yelling for half an hour and doing perimeter laps.

The netting isn’t visible, but it’s draped down to the ground on most of the edge, and tented up between the GH peak and a tall post, so I feel good about their safety now.  I figure once they have a good night on the clothes rack, they’ll be back tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, inside the GH:

Progress?No.  Backsliding.  Empty coop.  All birds trying to pile in on the broody.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.  The guineas escaped.  They got over the snow fence and under the netting, and did so so close to dark that they’re roosting now in a really bad, exposed place on the edge of the field, because they don’t have time to get to somewhere better.  They get dumb and fumbly in the dark.  I was holding the flashlight so they could fly up into the branches, and it was still a catastrophe.  They hate me.  I’m mad at them.

Some days.  You try your best to take care of the things, and they’re smart enough to outsmart you, but not smart enough to accept your help.

worry

Loungey pigs.  They’ve been rooting well, but sort of avoiding the big rooty area in the middle that I need them to work, asap.  She’s digging herself a hole so deep she’s almost below grade now.I closed the small coop a touch too early.  There was a latecomer.

Excuse me!

I dropped the ramp again and du du du – trotted right up!

That’s better!

The guineas are killing me (poor choice of words).  They are getting picked off and I can’t help them.  The downside of being wild and independent.  There was an owl picked one off the GH;  I knew lining up on the GH was a bad idea, but I thought if they slept on the coop, right by the wall of the GH, they’d be ok.  Nope.  And since, they’ve been moving around in the forest, because they don’t return to any roost proven not safe.  They were roosting in a big apple tree, which I thought was a great choice, nice safe spot, and it was for a few days.  But last night there was another event, and I didn’t get a chance to count them today.

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to make a safe spot.  I sewed together two widths of bird netting to make a strip wide enough, and draped a big canopy off the end of the GH.  I set it up with electric fence at the base, they went in, I closed it up, and found that guineas slip handily right through the electric fence.  Then I was after deer fence, and the co-op said they had some, until we went to buy it and they didn’t.  Then I finally get some (very attractive orange) snow fence tonight, get it all set up, feel good about it, and the guineas choose to skip dinner.

T-minus one week to move the GH and get all the birds in for good. 

Fall in the mud

Having a mud bath late afternoon at this time of year?  It’s not that warm. They’re into it, though.And after a good restful mud flop, it’s time to go ruffle up one’s hay bed.And then get food stuck in your forehead hair. The Colonel got into the greenhouse today, laid down the law.  I left the door ajar while I was cleaning coops, and then there was a kerfuffle inside, and then there was a bigger kerfuffle outside, as the Deputy seized the moment and tried to seize the Colonel’s hens while he was otherwise occupied.

Funny, I tried and tried to get the Colonel to go in the greenhouse a month ago and fertilize the GH hens, but he wasn’t having it then.

Back to coop training: Well, that looks exactly like yesterday. The Silkie chicks are all This is what we do, we huddle up in a pile on the floor, and the Chantis are cramming themselves in the broody box.  I’m sure Mom loves that.  She’s still got her mud dreads, I see.

Coop training II

The answer (to how many went in the coop on their own tonight):

One.

Mom.  She probably remembers well living in a wooden box, and is right at home. 

Chick roundup night two went better, the last Silkie chick (different one) left running around found its own way in quite rapidly.

All the Chanticleers were piled in the cardboard broody box with “their” mom, who’s trying to work on the next batch.  They aren’t so sure about this coop business.

 

 

Happy about living naturally